Japanese Aircraft Online Model Contest 012

Monday, 12 August 2019

Questions - IJAAF 1 Sentai

Japanese aircraft modeler Georges Vanhove asked:
"Today I am on a Ki-43 /1.
The scheme I chose is for the plane of Major Kinshiro Takeda of 1st Sentai, 3rd Chutai at Hanoï in October 1943.
Depending on the sources the plane is given as either in brown or army Green ....
Do you have any clear information that CAN clarify the matter???"
 
Here's a photo of the "Hayabusa" of Major Takeda, commander of the 1st Sentai from Sept 1940 until March 1943 from the collection of Mainichi Shimbun via Aireview.
 
Nohara Shigeru has depicted this aircraft in Model #395 as below:
 
 
The same photo is featured in FAOW #13 and according to the caption: "This photo was taken in Hanoi airfield featuring a "Hayabusa" Model 1 Hei. The plane belongs to the commander of the 1st Sentai Takeda Kinshiro. Aikoku #710 Teikoku Seimei Dai 2 Go (Imperial Insurance 2nd)." The insurance company was founded in 1888 and is, today, one of the oldest and largest insurers in Japan changing its name to "Asahi Life" in 1947.
The MA#395 caption says that the photo was taken in October 1942 in Hanoi.
 
The 1 Sentai, equipped with Ki-27 "Nate" fighters was in May 1942 in Burma (Myanmar) taking part in the air defence of Rangoon. On May 16 departed Mingaladon airfield, Rangoon and went to Akeno in Japan to change to "Hayabusa". On July 22, the change was completed as was their training with the new fighters and on August 2 returned to Palembang for air defence duties. Beginning of October, 1942 the unit relocated to French Indochina, first in Da Nang then in Hanoi. On October 25 took part in the attack against Mengzi, a city in the southeast of Yunnan province, China,  then relocated to Singapore for air defence duties. On September 24, US bombers attacked Hanoi and the unit became part of the 21 Dokuritsu Hikotai again with air defence duties. In the middle of November became part of 12 Hikodan and was assigned to the South Pacific reaching Truk on January 4. At that time the unit had 49 pilots, 37 fighters and 61 spare (WOW!). On January 9 relocated to Rabaul with 33 "Hayabusa" fighters and took part in missions against bases in Papua/New Guinea.
Our old friend Fuku argued in his site (here) that at that time the unit used a two-tone camo of brown and green. Also, that if the a/c belonged to the sentai commander, it should have the rudder painted in blue indicating the headquarter's chutai. That it's painted yellow with 3 white stripes indicates that the particular a/c belonged to the 3rd Chutai, and therefore maybe to another pilot. Also, that it should have IFF stripes on the wing's leading edge as these became standard around that time.  
Below is an illustration with the suggested camo scheme.
 
 
Personally I think the photo is very clear and the top color is very uniform without anything to suggest the presence of a second color. Also, I don't see any IFF stripe, either on the wing root or the wheel covers. I'm not so sure about the spinner color. It could be either yellow or white. I would lean towards yellow since the chutai color was often repeated there. The props of these early "Hayabusa" were most often silver front with black in the rear. So I would disagree with both illustrations there. Note how well painted the aircraft is with weathering only on the wing root where the pilot stepped to get into the cockpit. Remember that the unit was equipped with very new "Hayabusa" fighters when they went to Vietnam.
 
Here's a nice model built by Scott VanAken.
My objections would be:
1. the front of the prop should be silver, not white.
2. spinner more probable to be yellow instead of white.
3. wheel covers not green
4. underside color "hairyokushoku", not unpainted silver. 
5. top wing hinomaru without white surrounds 
 
In the comments section there is an interesting debate whether the photo above was taken in Vietnam or Palembang.
Will Silk also mentioned that:
According to Arco Aircam Aviation Series No. 15 (Bueschel 1970), color plate A1 identifies a "Ki 43 Ia, 1st Air Combat Regiment, 1st Company, 3rd Squadron, aircraft no. 3, Burma, Dutch East Indies, Summer 1942". The top color is clearly dark green with three red stripes in a chevron pattern aft canopy wrapping around the fuselage. A white combat stripe appears immediately before the tail section. The rudder is red with three white horizontal stripes. Spinner appears as dark green, same color as the fuselage. Undersides are listed as being "standard pale gray" in color. No leading edge yellow identification stripes are depicted.


One thing leads to another so....the markings mentioned in the Aircam publication refer to the photo below.
 
It's an official Army news photo (from the Arawasi collection) taken while the 1st Sentai was in Akeno, Japan. Not in "French Indo-China early in 1942" as the Schiffer publication on the "Hayabusa" says. According to Japanese sources, these markings were not "officially" adopted by the unit but were applied specially for the photo shoot with the news reporter. AFTER Palembang the unit removed these marking and kept only the rudder color  to indicate each chutai and the white stripes on the rudder to indicate different a/c within each chutai. The white fuselage band(s) near the tail also indicate different a/c.
So the whole marking combination of Takeda's a/c could mean: yellow rudder = 3rd Chutai, 2 white fuselage bands = 2 Hentai, 3 white bands on the rudder = MA#395 says 1st a/c or it could mean 3rd a/c. 
I believe this information offers further proof that the photo of Takeda's (?) plane was taken in Vietnam.

10 comments:

Michael Thurow said...

I hope my following interpretation of the Ki-43-I camouflage situation is not too controversial.
In late 1941 the JAAF changed the factory painting policy for single-seat fighters. Instead of applying the earlier Hairyokushoku (ash green colour) aircraft were now to leave the factory unpainted. Ki-43 were the first affected by this change and finished in bare metal (Baker 2000).
Any subsequent camouflage pattern was then field or depot-applied until a further change in policy in late summer 1944 made olive brown #7 standard. Early Ki-43, e.g. in China-Burma received solid top camouflage in green or green + brown before reaching the front line. It seems that the lower surfaces were either left bare metal or coloured in Hairyokushoku or another greyish colour. Original specimens of both variations were found (Millman 2008). The fabric-covered control surface however were doped with Hairyokushoku in any case.
I agree with George that Major Takeda's plane has a solid top colour (green) but in my view could have been left bare metal underneath. Scott van Aken's model does have grey undersides (not silver or Hairyokushoku) and silver prop blades. The spinner should probably be yellow as George states.
Other opinions welcome, thanks, Michael

Anonymous said...

"Note how well painted the aircraft is with weathering only on the wing root where the pilot stepped to get into the cockpit. Remember that the unit was equipped with very new "Hayabusa" fighters when they went to Vietnam".

If this is the case, then that would explain why there is no IFF stripe on the wing as the unit was assigned to Palembang with the new fighter in August 1942 and the directive for IFF markings was also in August 1942. One would have to assume some lag time for the application in the field. This would indicate to me that the photo was taken in August or sometime shortly thereafter. I guess it is possible for those markings to not yet have been applied when they were assigned to Indochina in October but that seems doubtful. Also it would seem that there would be more wear on the plane by that date. So it would seem to me that the photo was not taken in Indochina.

Wind Swords

Will Silk said...

According to Arco Aircam Aviation Series No. 15 (Bueschel 1970), color plate A1 identifies a "Ki 43 Ia, 1st Air Combat Regiment, 1st Company, 3rd Squadron, aircraft no. 3, Burma, Dutch East Indies, Summer 1942". The top color is clearly dark green with three red stripes in a chevron pattern aft canopy wrapping around the fuselage. A white combat stripe appears immediately before the tail section. The rudder is red with three white horizontal stripes. Spinner appears as dark green, same color as the fuselage. Undersides are listed as being "standard pale gray" in color. No leading edge yellow identification stripes are depicted.

To my knowledge, the leading edge identification stripes didn't enter service until mid to late 1942.

Not sure if this helps you.

Best Regards!

Will Silk

Alex Rodionov said...

Good evening.
I think it's a field scheme too.
But look at the nose after an engine cowling. It seems there is a camo border.

Will Silk said...

If you go to Online Model Contest 004, Fabrizio Tommassini rendered this very aircraft in 1/48 scale and cited the date as 1942 Indo-China. Perhaps he has knowledge he could share or direct sources he might be able to offer.

Best Regards!

Will Silk

Arawasi said...

Thank you for your thoughts.
First of all, as you can see from the unit's history, the 1st Sentai was never in Burma when equipped with "Hayabusa". Therefore the "Burma" part of the Aircam publication is not correct.

Second, as you can see in the photo, the people helping with the construction of the airfield (maybe) wear typical Vietnamese clothes including non la hats. You could say this photo was taken in Palembang, Indonesia (therefore the Dutch East India part of the Aircram could be correct) or in Singapore but since all Japanese sources say Vietnam I don't see any reason to dispute that.
Also, check the update in the post.

Third, on p.42, top, of FAOW #13 there is another photo of 1 Sentai "Hayabusa" in flight. According to the caption the photo was taken "end of 1942, begining of 1943". The markings are similar with Takeda's plane and although the photo is admitedly dark, no IFF stripes are visible.

Michael Thurow said...

Great discussion! A few more thoughts:

Following the new directive IFF stripes were painted at factory level and rarely applied retroactively by front units. An obvious example are the A6M3s at Rabaul that still hadn't received any by mid 1943.

Alex' perceived camo border behind the cooling flaps may be some colour degradation due to heat emissions.

The most interesting question is about the chutai etc. colours. Not all Sentai followed the usual colour sequence for Chutai. A good example is the 47th Sentai where blue was a Chutai colour and the HQ flight used white.
MA #395 presents an interesting interpretation on p.3 & p.66 with blue for the 3rd and yellow for the 1st Chutai. Moreover they state that No.1 Chotai and No.1 a/c are identified by 3 stripes and No.3 Chotai & No.3 a/c by 1 stripe. What looks like a printing mistake at first is possibly derived from the picture on p.65 where the leading a/c has 3 stripes a.s.f.
If we follow this logic it may be conceivable that the HQ flight sported white as recognition colour. Therefore, couldn't have Takeda's Hayabusa a white rudder and spinner? This would explain why there is absolutely no difference discernable between the rudder and the fuselage stripes. I actually don't even see any (three) stripes on the rudder!

Food for more research...

Arawasi said...

Michael,
the two MA#395 pages you mention descibe the identification markings when the unit was using the chevron stripes in Akeno-Pelmbang. Obviously the unit changed the system when the chevrons were deleted, after Palembang. If the HQ Chutai used white, they would not be able to use white stripes on the rudder to indicate different a/c. As per other units, they would use red stripes on the white rudder none of which are visible in the Takeda photo. I can agree that the Aireview copy of the photo is perhaps too hard on the shadows and the contrast and I don't see any white stripes either. Perhaps the Japanese sources that see 3 white stripes have a different, more clear copy of the photo. Check photo on p.68 of MA#395 to see the same photo featured on FAOW#13, p.42. The yellow rudder is clearly visible.

Michael Thurow said...

Thanks George.
Yeah, three very pale bars are visible on the FAOW photo which look like shining through a "white-overpainted" rudder (just joking for now). I can still not discern a difference between the rudder colour and that of the fuselage stripes, but - with some hesitation - I buy the general consensus.
Then the MA#395 logic, namely yellow = 1st Chutai and 3 bars = 1st a/c, would make sense for Takeda's plane because he might lead the Sentai with the markings of the first plane of the unit. There may not be a separate HQ Chutai at all or Takeda wanted his fighter to be part of the combat echelon.
As some doubts remain I would probably refrain from building this Hayabusa if I were Georges Vanhove - which leads us back to the start of this blog.
Cheers, Michael

Will Silk said...

Thank-You George for including my leading comment in the text of this article and for going the extra mile to explain the history behind the paint scheme I mentioned from the Arco Aircam publication. As I hope to tackle a Ki 43 I in the near future in either 1/48 or 1/72 scale, this conversation with you and the others has proven extremely enlightening!

Aces High!

Will Silk