In the final post of this series I'd like to present what is available out there regarding kits and accessories that could help a modeler to depict more realistically a Japanese Army airfield. If you know of other sets not included here or you want to leave a comment regarding these sets feel very free to get in touch.
In the 1/48 scale the Hasegawa 2008 release of the Isuzu TX40 fuel Truck is the best around with two accurate in every respect figures of ground crews. The set also includes four oil barrels, two plus one sets of different chocks, a tool box and a fire extinguisher. All very very useful for a diorama of a "Hien", "Shoki", "Hayate" or "Toryu" unit based on the Japan mainland. If you are building a 244 Sentai "Hien" this set is absolutely essential and will enrich significantly your diorama or base.
The other Hasegawa set "Type 97 Sidecar & Type 95 small sedan "Kurogane 4WD [Model3]" is less useful as these vehicles were not common on Japanese airfields. In big schools like Akeno, Tokorozawa, Air Academy or Hamamatsu maybe but not really anywhere else. Overseas, in major airfields like Don Mueang in Thailand...maybe, in a setting where high ranking officers are brought to a transport aircraft.
The Edward set "Japanese Army AF personnel World War II" is another option in that scale. I purchased the set with the thought of using it with the bases of my models for this contest but, although the box art is accurate in every respect, to my great disappointment all the ground crew figures wear pilot boots. Also, instead of the very natural and correct poses shown in the box art, the three poses are much less useful to place on an aircraft and show that it is being maintained. The bicycle is a welcome addition although slightly inaccurate, but the two pilots ready to get on the plane and take off and the officer are all shown saluting. So this set gets very high points for the crisp mold and overall quality but minus points for the inaccurate crew footwear and the limited poses. I guess the mechanics could be shown in different poses after some surgery as various body parts are included separately (that's a gruesome sentence!) and also correct the footwear...but couldn't they just have the mechanics as they are shown on the box cover?
There is also the Jaguar set "WWII Japanese pilot & crew" with actually two IJAAF pilots, one of them tying a hachimaki around his head ready for a tokko mission. Very very accurate and fantastic in every respect although very specific as a subject.
The Tamiya old ground crew set is not bad and actually is the only one with mechanics in tropical or summer uniforms but the poses are limited.
I also don't know what's going on with the buts of the kamikaze pilots and if they are Army or Navy but they look okay except for the green scarf which should be white.
Dan Salamone sent over photos of his airfield models all in 1/48.
Brengun has released a refueling cart and a fire extinguisher, here. Both good aditions.
There are more options in 1/72.
The best available set is from "Red Box" with 14 figures.
Some are very accurate, some have the mechanics with puttees and there is a mechanic with neck cover on his field cap which is 50% correct. This is a really very nice and highly recommended set with very natural poses and good detail.
Czech Masters have a set of "Japanese Army AF Mechanics, WWII (3fig.)" accurate overall but with really bad molding that needs major surgery to bring the bodies to a more natural pose, face etc. Check the guy on the right for example carrying the tool box or the shoulders of the middle guy.
CMK has released two more sets in 1/72 "Japanese Army Pilots (2 fig.) And Mechanics WW II"
and "Japanese kamikaze pilots (3 fig.)"
Special Hobby (or CMK?) have released a set called "Japanese Army maintenance crew with 250 kg bomb". I'm not sure what the whole set is supposed to represent, perhaps they try to move a bomb using a makeshift wood ramp. I've never seen anything like this in photos of Japanese airfields. Looks more like a Vietnam War setting and anyway a scene like this would never take place in Japan mainland. Some of the figures are inaccurate with mechanics wearing pilot's boots, most wear belts, their trousers have pockets etc.
It seems that the above set was inspired by the two photos below found in Maru Mechanic #29 on the "Sally" (thanks Radek).
They show a contraption thought of and used by the 60th Sentai to load 500kg bombs on the bomber. The whole thing resembles a "mikoshi" (portable shrine) used during Japanese festivals (click here to see many more photos and here to see video with plenty of cool yakuza tats).
The old Hasegawa Starter & Fuel Truck kits come with three and two mechanics respectively, one driver the others in various poses. All wear puttees though and the mold is too old with relatively poor details.
In this thread there are photos of amazing figures in 1/72 and it seems they have been released by Orion/Haron but I've never seen them. Does anyone know more and help me get at least one set?
CMK has released a set in 1/32 called "Japanese mechanics WW II (2 fig.)"
I also discovered these three sets of unspecified scale by "King And Country". Beautifully made but the top-mechanic should not carry his water canteen while going to service the aircraft and he looks more like a regular infantry officer. I have no idea what possessed them to make the four mechanics with Viet Cong sandals!
All in all, except for the Hasegawa set in 1/48 and the Red Box in 1/72, there is very little out there regarding mechanics and pilots in a variety of clothing and poses. I don't know why nobody has tried to cover this field. I got yesterday an amazing small set of four figures by Zvezda in 1/72, "German sniper team", with crisp details, easy to build and very reasonably priced. We all know the great German pilot and ground crew set from Preiser. So, the technology is there, so why nobody has ever tried to release a couple of good sets in 1/48 and 1/72?
All photos in this series are from various FAOW and Model Art publications, Koku Fan Illustrated #79 & #80, from the book "Pictorial History of Air War over Japan - Japanese Army Air Force" by Watanabe Yoji, from THIS blog, from the catalogue of Nakata Shoten "Imperial Japanese Army and Navy Uniforms & Equipment" by Nakata Tadao & Thomas B. Nelson and the Arawasi photo archives.
The best reference on the IJNAF uniforms and equipment is the book "Nihon Kaigun Kokutai Gunso to sobi (MA #655)" (AVIATOR UNIFORMS and EQUIPMENT of IJN) by Sato Shigeo & Sato Kunihiko which is unfortunately out-of-print and quite difficult to come by.
The subject of starter and fuel trucks with rare photos of high monetary value, manuals, manufacture histories etc is best left to be covered in a proper article on our magazine.
Thank you all for your interest, encouragement and kind comments.