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:
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.
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.
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.