Nakajima Ki-43 "Hayabusa" (Oscar)

Wednesday, 15 April 2015

The Reikan of Musashi

The following is a selective translation we did from an article featured in the Maru Mechanic #20 on the Mitsubishi F1M "Reikan" (Pete).
 
The Reikan of Musashi
by Shikada Kanjuro, maintenance petty officer 2nd class
 
  Shikada joined the Musashi crew in September 1943. The organisation of the air group in the ship was different from that of a land based unit. The flight (pilots, observers, gunners, radio operators) and the maintenance crew members all belonged to one unit and everybody including low rank officers used the same quarters located near the hangar and the catapult. In general Musashi had two Reikan per one catapult with 5-6 maintenance crew members. When the ship was scheduled to put in at a harbour a seaplane was first sent out for patrol, alighted and stayed at a nearby Naval base. The loudspeakers of Musashi blared orders to get ready to enter the harbour and the maintenance crew members gathered their tools and things, got on a launch and were sent to the base where the Reikan was.
 
Musashi 1944 (Wiki)

  In February 1944 when Musashi reached the naval base in Tonowas island of the Truk (Chuuk) lagoon the crew of Shikada consisted of seven members who had to do all the work on their own. There were no spare aircraft and they were all very busy and on hold waiting for the orders to launch a seaplane.
 
Musashi and Yamato in Truk Lagoon in early 1943(Wiki)
  Apart from that the maintenance crew were always busy. When the ship was sailing they had to maintain the various parts of the catapult, like the rail, the wire and the control room because they were all exposed to the elements.
  The Reikan of Musashi were there to observe whether the shells of the main guns were hitting their target but in reality they were doing patrol, reconnaissance and other work. When the seaplane was to be launched there was announcement from the bridge: “Hikobuntai Hikoki Hashin Yoi” (Flight Division, Prepare for aircraft launch). The maintenance crew brought the seaplane out of the hangar and gave it a final oil and fuel check, then it was lifted by the crane and placed on the catapult. In the meantime the pilot was getting ready and once the seaplane was secured on the catapult the pilot climbed in and started the engine. The catapult officer prepared the catapult by inserting a powder charge in the firing chamber and gave the okay then the pilot completed his own check and gave the okay signal. Then the flight division commander signalled the bridge that they were ready and once the CO from the bridge raised a red flag, waived it once above his head then lowered it, the catapult officer shoot the catapult. The pilot had to be extra careful to place his head firmly on the head rest. When the plane reached the end of the catapult it was released automatically from the arrestor hook. Then the plane usually waived its wings and flew away.
  The maintenance crew were happiest when they got the order to retrieve the seaplane. During launching everybody was nervous but when the plane returned they were all relieved. When the seaplane is spotted in the horizon gradually losing altitude to alight, the ship is turning against the wind to create a slick for the seaplane to alight. The waves of the Pacific are subdued and for a while the sea is calm. The seaplane alights, the ship stops and the crane is getting readied. The seaplane after alighting is moving close to the ship, the observer is climbing on top of the top wing and attaches the hook of the crane. Shikada and his team did launching and recovery training all the time. After getting back on board the maintenance crew brings the seaplane inside the hangar giving it a thorough check for oil leaks, fuselage cracks and rub the whole plane gently with pieces of cloth.
 
As you all probably know the wreck of the Musashi was located last month by Paul Allen. Below is a photo from HIS site of one of the Musashi catapults.

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