Arawasi contest #8

Friday, 8 June 2018

Nakajima Ki-84 "Hayate" (Frank) - 102 Sentai

To tell the story of the 102 Sentai first we have to start with the 100 Hikodan (Air Brigade).
The order to organize the 100th was given on July 25, 1944. Its origins were the Akeno Kyodo Hikoshidan (Akeno Flight Training Division) and it was put together in about a month after the initial order was given in Kita Ise airfield. LtCol Doi Naoto was Commander of the 100th which was to have three sentai, each with 50 "Hayate" and 142 personnel including 50 pilots. The three sentai were established the same day the order for the organization of the 100th was given and they were the 101st Hiko Sentai, the 102nd Hiko Sentai and the 103rd Hiko Sentai. Each sentai had Honbu (headquarters), Hikotai (air unit with 3 chutai) and Seibitai (maintenance unit).
The tail markings were:
100 Hikodan
101 Sentai
102 Sentai
103 Sentai

In the beginning most pilots had flight experience with Nakajima Ki-27 "Nate" and Nakajima Ki-43 "Hayabusa" but many had just finished training with Tachikawa Ki-55 "Ida". Since no "Hayate" were actually available, training was undertaken in the whole 100th under the command of the 101 Sentai C/O Maj Shironaga. The C/O of the 102 Sentai Maj Kakimi Iwao was responsible with "Nate" training, the C/O of the 103rd Maj Tojo Michyaki was training with "Hayabusa" and the Hikotaicho (air unit commander) of the 101st Capt Suenaga Masao was training with "Hayate"; whenever they arrived. Initially "Nate" and "Hayabusa" were borrowed from nearby Akeno but fuel shortages were so severe that the units could afford only 8 hours training-flight per pilot per month. The C/O of the 101st had to go to the Army HQ in person to manage to obtain enough fuel so that from then on each pilot could fly 15 hours every month. When he asked for a car or two for the staff officers to be able to move around, he was given bicycles.
Conditions in Ise were poor, food was inadequate and for three days in a row pilots had to eat green peppers as it was the only produce there was abundance of; naturally all got sick of green peppers.
Most of the "Hayate" produced by Nakajima were immediately sent to front line units so aircraft arrived very slowly in Ise but in any case with all the units and the aircraft conditions became quite crowded so in the end of November the 101st and 103rd sentai relocated  leaving behind the HQ of the 100th and the 102nd Sentai.
With the beginning of US air raids against the Japanese mainland in December 1944, the 6th Kokugun (Air Army) was established having the 100 Hikodan under its command. Their main responsibilities were still training but also air defence when necessary. Around that time "Hayate" fighters started arriving but still reaching nowhere the originally envisioned numbers. In many occasions the pilots had to go themselves to Nakajima factories in Uchunomiya, Ota and elsewhere to ask for aircraft which then had to ferry back to their units. Most of these aircraft were not in good condition, barely able to fly. The low quality especially of the engines place a big strain on the maintenance crew.
 
A group of 102 Sentai pilots among civilians living near their base. From left to right: 2Lts Inoue, ?, Mitsuno, Arakawa, ?, Yamaguchi.
 
Various sources mention that on January 10 each sentai had 30 "Hayate" and about 35 pilots. Actual training with "Hayate" started from January 1945 and shooting training took place at Ise bay.
Very soon B-29 raids became more frequent and as a consequence air defence missions multiplied leaving little time for training. But they pressed on as best they could concluding their training in the end of February. After that each sentai gathered in Akeno to training for air combat against "Grummans". While air battles were usually conducted with aircraft flying side by side, the pilots practice flying in a file to raise their chances of shooting the enemy. In actual combat training with other Akeno pilots, this proved impractical because the airplanes got entangled in personal melees.   
In middle March in order to participate in the "Ten-Go" Operation (Okinawa Air Battle) the 102nd with the HQ of the 100 Hikodan relocated to Miyakonojo West airfield in Miyazaki Prefecture, Kyushu with toko mission escorting duties. The 102nd together with the 101st, based in Miyakanojo East airfield, became part of the 2nd Kogeki Shudan (Attack Air Group). From April 6 until June their mission was to escort toko aircraft but also the air defence of the Okinawa-Kyushu front, intercepting B-29s. On March 25 the 102nd had only 20 operation aircraft, on April 3 14 and by April 7 only eight.
On April 6 the 100 Hikodan escorted a massive toko attack in full power with all 40+ aircraft under its command. The 102nd contributed about 20 aircraft. All the aircraft of the 100th gathered above Cape Sata in Kyushu and then flew south protecting the sector above the Amami Oshima, especially the Kikaijima and Tokunoshima where toko aircraft used for refuelling and emergency landings.
 
Map from Wikipedia
Although there were no engagements with enemy planes, 2Lt Kanazawa was lost in the Amami island area.
Following this, the 102nd participated in low level night attacks against Okinawa airfields captured by US forces using ta-dan bombs. One such attack was on April 7 when five "Hayate" of the 102nd commanded by 2Lt Morikawa attacked Naka airfield in Okinawa (present day Kadena Air Base). Five more aircraft from the 101st and the 103rd attacked Kita airfield, but of the overall 11 aircraft nine aircraft failed to return to base, one of them making an emergency landing in Kikaijima, the rest were lost over Okinawa. 
 
102 Sentai pilots receiving final instruction before taking off on another mission. (L to R) Sgt Major Hasegawa, 2Lt Ota, Sgt Major Kurihara, 2Lt Morikawa, Sgt Major Honda, 2Lt Arakawa.
 
On April 28 and again on the 29th B-29 bombed Miyakonojo setting five aircraft in flames and inflicting 40-50 casualties.
The 102nd gradually suffered many casualties in aircraft and personnel and at the end of June relocated to Narimasu airfield to recuperate. On July 10 though the remaining aircraft and members of the 102nd were reassigned to the 101st and 103rd Sentai and the unit was dissolved.  
 
Our main source for the above is the official story of the 100th Hikodan entitled "Dai 100 Hikodan no Kiseki" (Following the track of the 100th Air Brigade).
 
There are not many photos of 102 "Hayate" showing tail markings and clear details.
The most famous is the one below, also featured on the instruction sheet of the classic Tamiya kit in 1/48.
According to Model Art #493 the photo was taken on April 6, 1945 when the 102nd escorted a massive toko mission (see above).

Illustrator Nohara Shigeru has depicted the aircraft in the foreground in various publications with different colors but in the same generic fashion.


Actually, on closer inspection, the photo reveals a number of very interesting details. Instead of the Tamiya photo, the version featured in Bunrindo's Vol.1 is much clearer and complete and the close-ups are of that photo. 
First of all something is wrong with the wheel cover color and note also the darker areas on the drop tank.

Ignoring the photo blemishes, a very thin white (?) halo seems to surround the underwing hinomaru. Unlikely, as all underwing hinomaru on Hayate fighters were without white ring, but I think it's an interesting worth-mentioning detail that maybe is or maybe isn't there.

Note the heavy weathering on the fuselage behind the hinomaru.

And last but not least the most intriguing detail is the base of the tail where a number could be there.

The illustration by Katabuchi Shunao in Gakken #46 is far more detailed and accurate.

The caption explains that the top part of the wheel cover was the original of the aircraft and retained the under surface color but the lower part was probably an unpainted replacement from another aircraft. Note that Katabuchi-san opted for a black number "27" on the tail base but more importantly, breaking from the classic white-spinner-white-tail marking depiction, he shows the particular aircraft with yellow spinner and sentai marking. That would indicate that the aircraft belonged to the 3rd chutai, not the 1st. The tail marking looks slightly darker than the white of the fuselage hinomaru but the port side of the aircraft is in the shadow so nothing is exactly clear. I cannot in any confidence declair with certainty the exact number on the tail base but in my opinion "27" is too low for a "Hayate" at that stage of the war. I would suggest "77" instead.
So, as you can see this is an intriguing and puzzling aircraft but let's take a closer look at the Hayate in the background.
The tail marking is not visible on this one but the spinner is most definitely white indigating a 1st chutai aircraft.
The aircraft next to it has a dark spinner and no visible tail marking so my suggestion is red spinner with red tail marking. A number could also be on the base of the tail.
Note that all these aircraft carry the 200l. drop tanks which the Bunrindo caption explains "added 600 km to the aircraft's range, giving it a maximum range of 1,600 km plus 30 min. loiter time in combat."
 
The second 102 Sentai "Hayate" photo, from HERE, was taken on April 12, 1945.

The 6th Air Army, which included the 100 Hikodan and the 102 Sentai, was to participate in the first major IJAAF toko attack (Dai 1ji Koku So-Kogeki or First Massive Air Attack) of April 6 but the various toko units that were to take part were expected to assemble too late. Therefore the 100 Hikodan was ordered to urgently put together a toko group which was organized with six pilots from the 101 Sentai and four pilots from the 102nd, under the name "Dai 1 Tokubetsu Shimbu-tai" (1st Special Special-Attack-Unit). While most toko units were organized under direct orders from the IJAAF headquarters and had names like "57th Shimbu-tai", the 100 Hikodan unit was organized within the unit by volunteers, therefore the "Tokubetsu" before the "Shimbu-tai". By the way, "Shimbu" in Japanese is better translated as "to show the power by wielding force".
The pilots from the 102nd were: 2Lt Hayashi Hiroshi(?), Cpl Ishiga Heiichi, 2Lt Ito Jiro and 2Lt Hayashi Haruo(?).
So on April 6 three pilots from the 102nd, except 2Lt Ito, and five from the 101st participated in the toko attack, none returning to base.
On April 12 the Second Massive Air Attack took place and the remaining two pilots, 2Lt Ito and Cpl Saito Nobuo from the 101st, also took off never to return. In the photo above Ito's aircraft is on the left, while Saito's is on the right. (Note: all pilots received promotion of one-rank posthumously).
Photo below from  "Dai 100 Hikodan no Kiseki". The pilot saluting on the left is Cpl Saito and on the right is 2Lt Ito.

Artwork by Nohara Shigeru for Ito's "Hayate" was featured in Model Art #451.
Note that the artist opted for the number "71" on the tail base but there is inconsistency between tail base, sentai marking and spinner colors.
A close up of the photo does not confirm much of the tail base number but our friend Devlin Chouinard created what we believe is more consistent and accurate artwork.

Another less known 102 Sentai photo I located on-line, HERE. I believe it is a very important historically photo as it is the first that confirms beyond any doubt the tail markings of an 102nd "Hayate".  According to the caption it was taken in Chofu airfield after the war.
Devlin Chouinard didn't miss the chance to create artwork for this aircraft.

Another photo from NARA shows a derelict 102 Sentai "Hayate" most probably in Chofu.
Note the tail marking variation with very thin lines and the color, most probably red indicating that it belonged to the 3rd Chutai. Note also the very heavily weathered tail and that the marking is painted on top without any concern to repaint the tail. There doesn't seem to be any tail-base number although it is really difficult to tell.
 
 
Page 121 of Gakken #46 features artwork showing a 102 "Hayate" in blue top color.
 According to the caption there is in Japan (exact location unknown) an intact rudder painted in blue with the marking of the 102nd. I have not seen or heard of such relic. Perhaps the rudder of this aircraft which was painted incorrectly post-war while in the States? (photo Wikipedia)
 In any case we have found no mention anywhere of any 102nd "Hayate" painted blue so I would take this depiction with a grain of salt. Ofcourse modelers looking for something unusual could very well build a model of the aircraft in the photo above but please don't say it's an 102 Sentai "Hayate" if you care about accuracy. 
 
The "Hayate" of the 102nd have been depicted dubiously, erroneously and misidentified in various publications. Here are some examples.
 
Don Thorpe misidentified the marking. The marking of the 52nd is similar but quite different. Furthermore the 102nd was never deployed in the Philippines.
 
Hashimoto in Bunrindo's Vol. 1 depicted an aircraft with a scheme not confirmed by any photos. In fact in all photos the 102 "Hayate" are seen with uniform top color, without any blotches for camouflage.

Eduardo Cea's illustration featured in his book "La Aviación Imperial Del Japón - Cazas del Ejercito Japonés 1939-1945" is too generic. As we have seen most if not all 102nd aircraft had a number on their tail base which was made up from the last digits of the serial number of the particular aircraft and the aircraft suffered heavy weathering with paint peeling off at places. Modelers should be warned not to overdo this though. Our recommendation is to study carefully the available sources and material if you are interested to depict accurately and as realistically as possible your modeling subject.

10 comments:

David S. said...

Highly interesting article - thank you very much for sharing!

This was one of the units said to have operated blue Hayate, wasn't it?
I don't know much about those or mentioned units in general as I am more concentrated on other campaigns, yet to me the blue Hayate are very good looking and absorbing.

Michael Thurow said...

Although perpetuated many times for decades in publications, on box covers and decal sheets, it is extremely unlikely that 'blue' camouflage was ever applied to Ki-84 (nor to Ki-43 and Ki-51). There is no evidence and no plausible reason for such a deviation from painting practices (and where would the material come from? - dark blue is a rare colour on Japanese planes and not in the repertoire of field depots and front units). The misinterpretation may be caused by poor colour prints with a strong blueish hue or by weathering effects that accentuated the blue pigments in the green. Of course modellers loved this variation of monotonous greens.

The article about the 100th Hikodan is great, George. I'm anxiously looking forward to the 101st sentai history.

Arawasi said...

Hi Michael,
regarding the blue J. planes.
There are no color photos to confirm beyond any doubt but there are reliable eye witness testimonies of blue Japanese aircraft. That's one.
Artists and modelers as you describe really love to depict and build blue J. planes for variety. And sometimes they overdo it. That's another.
Personally I believe that before we dismiss completely and out of hand the suggestion of blue planes we need first to examine the sources. Who says something based on what. As you can see in my posting the artistic suggestion of blue "Hayate" is highly dubious but unless we can ask the Gakken author/artist about the rudder they talk about, personally, I'm reluctant to categorically call bs.
Nick Millman and before him the late Owaki-san is fighting a battle against the blue "Hayabusa". I have not seen any evidence that can refute the suggestion. When I asked Owaki-san he replied that he can't confirm a negative and he repeated what you say (not an official color, not used etc). Again in my opinion we have to examine when this suggestion started, by whom and based on what evidence.
The same applies to the blue "Sonia".
For your information I have in my possession at least one post-war official unit history written and compiled by eye witness veterans who clearly talk about overall blue painted aircraft for toko missions over water. I believe that selectively choosing to dismiss these accounts as "unreliable", "defective human memory" etc is a particularly close-minded and disrespectful approach.
I do not claim that there were thousands of blue J. planes. But I believe that careful research is necessary to refute a claim; not just say no because we don't like something.
I would like to draw your attention to the Shiden-kai trainer. There no photos to confirm its existence only veteran testimonies (AFAIK) that mention that a small number were modified as trainers. Should we dismiss them too and say that no such planes ever existed?
My 2 yen.

Michael Thurow said...

Thank you, George, for picking up the discussion. It would be great if we could shed more light on this controversial subject. I wouldn't dismiss flatly the existence of any of the mentioned planes in blue top colour but it is so unlikely that I personally wouldn't chose the scheme for my models. If someone decides for this option, I will however enjoy with them the striking addition to their collection.

This topic reminds me of the ever-lasting debate about the blue-coloured Mustangs of the 361st FG (with photo evidence and eyewitnesses). Now, after the pictures were computer-enhanced to restore the original quality, it is generally accepted that they are simply olive drab with some colour degradation where the invasion stripes were overpainted.

I'm particularly careful when blue is claimed because the light of the blue sky tends to shift perceived colours. Having been close to green/grey camouflaged NATO jets for several years I still remember (eyewitness!) that the grey appeared more blue than grey. Now imagine the heat of battle and the fear for life...

Arawasi said...

I hear you, Michael and what you say would apply to the purple Rufe controversy. But on the other hand if there are veteran ground crew members who remember specifically painting their Sonias in blue paint that would confirm the blue scheme, right?

Michael Thurow said...

It would be difficult to dismiss, yes! It's easier to prove that something existed than that something did not exist (e.g. the monster of Loch Ness :-)

Anonymous said...

"...he shows the particular aircraft with yellow spinner and sentai marking. That would indicate that the aircraft belonged to the 3rd chutai, not the 1st".

He could be correct, because often in B&W photography yellow shows up as bright white: When the movie Casablanca was computer colorized, the piano that Sam plays in the club is yellow. Everyone thought it was white based on the original B&W film. Thinking the process was incorrect, they researched the film and the piano used was in fact, yellow.

I love these blog articles! Please keep them coming.

Wind Swords

D. Chouinard said...

Interesting conversation regarding color. There are a few greens can appear somewhat blue depending on conditions. I would say that, if you had ground crew saying that they painted the planes blue, that tilts the argument toward the "blue" claim. This differs from just seeing the planes at a distance, or even closer in the right lighting conditions. I'm thinking, if you had to apply a non standard color, it might be different enough to stick in you mind, even after 70+ years.

Color photographs can be problematic. Even in the age of digital cameras, you can have the same age old problems with lighting and atmosphere. With film, even when stored in perfect conditions, can degrade. Many times, these old photos are not taken or stored in optimal conditions, so you are bound to get color shift. I'll also note the 361st. FG Mustangs....

With B/W photos, yellow can be lighter or darker in value depending on lighting and the type of film used. There are also other tricks, white (in shadow) can appear darker than it should because of light bouncing off of a natural metal surface. A particular Ki-44 comes to mind, one a few illustrators depict with a yellow band around the fuselage when it should be white.

In some cases, it's very hard to say with 100% certainty that something did, or did not exist. All we can do is look at the evidence and see how close we can get to the truth.

Michael Thurow said...

I investigated some more and found this 2014 discussion on Britmodeller: https://www.britmodeller.com/forums/index.php?/topic/234953353-mitsubishi-ki-51-sonia-topside-blue/#comment-1513687

It adds plausibility to blue Ki-51/Ki-43 topsides and gives concrete colour recommendations. The argumentation might be extended to Ki-84 but I remain doubtful regarding Hayate blue.

Arawasi said...

Thank you all for your comments regarding blue Japanese aircraft. Very glad you liked our posting regarding the 102 Sentai too. Now, can we go back to the subject of "Hayate", sans blue, please?