In this post we will deal with some of the "Sonias" of the various tokkotai or shimbutai (special attack units) and the decal options for them.
But first, let's see a video from the NHK collection with release date (important) April 5, 1945.
According to the narrator:
"Our enemy, the United States, which invaded Iwo Jima, has been approaching our strategic point, the Nansei Islands, with all its might since March 23, and finally partly to the Kerama Islands on March 25. Furthermore, the main force came to land on the main island of Okinawa on April 1.
The enemy combined fleet has been spotted! Here, at the front line air base of our army, the "deadly spirit" is everywhere. In response to this good news (that the enemy was spotted), our kamikaze unit immediately launched. Only 600 km from the southern tip of Kyushu. Our strategic base, Nansei Islands. Will we leave this to the enemy? (If we leave it to the enemy) Land and sea supply routes as well as supply routes to the south areas will be totally threatened. Therefore, the enemy's plans should be canceled. Young warriors laughing brightly, holding the hands of their comrades.
One after another, splendid takeoffs. They shake their wings to say goodbye to their country forever."
The only "Sonia" equipped tokko unit that had flown prior to that date was the 23 Shimbutai. The unit was organized on February 14, 1945, from the Shimoshizu Training Air Division and was initially based at Choshi, Chiba Prefecture, equipped with 12 "Sonias" modified for tokko missions. After completing training the unit relocated to Chiran, Kagoshima Prefecture. On April 1, five "Sonias" lead by Captain Itsui attacked the US Forces south of Kerama Islands. Two days later, the last five "Sonias" of the unit attacked west of Okinawa never to be seen again.
In the photo below Capt. Itsui is standing in front of his "Sonia". The kanji read "shimbu" but the bird above is a golden rooster. According to Japanese mythology, this heavenly bird leads the world roosters to crowing every morning, forcing the oni (demons) of the night to run away.
Decals for this aircraft in 1/48 can be found in the Create 301 set "Special Attack Squadrons" released with the help of Nagao Keishiro of Lifelike decals.
According to the narator, the video is purported to show tokko aircraft taking off on a final mission. As we can see, though, none of the aircraft carries any bombs and none carries the tail marking of the 23 Shimbutai. So, what's going on here? Let's see stills of the aircraft seen in the video.
First we see a line-up of Manshu Ki-79 single-seat trainers with the wheel spads removed. The aircraft in the foreground on the left seems to have had its rudder replaced but the other in the background have a tail marking that looks like a bomb. Very similar to the tail marking of the 76 Shimbutai, equipped with "Nates" but the video is too blury to be 100% sure.
The most interesting "Sonia" above has a tail marking of an unknown unit. It has a bomb rack under the fuselage but a drop tank instead of a bomb. Same with the different "Sonia" below.
The aircraft below could be a Nakajima Ki-27 "Nate" and had an unusual white marking on the tail top. No landing gear covers.
And finally, one more Manshyu Ki-79, without tail marking and landing gear covers.
The majority of the tokko units that were organized at the front, like the Philippines, were hastily put together and their aircraft did not carry any special tail markings. An example is the "Sonia" below taking off from an airfield in the Philippines. Note the huge bomb, the lack of tail marking and the absence of rear gunner.
Those tokko units that were organized in Japan mainland, Korea and Manchuria, were formed from aviation schools or combat units, much like the 23 Shimbutai we saw above. These remained in their "parent" units and airfields until they received orders to deploy, in which case they flew to Chiran (mostly) where they were bombed up before flying to their final tokko missions against Okinawa, for example. These tokko units were not under the constant pressure of the front, and had some time to design and apply elaborate tail markings, mostly for morale boosting reasons. In most clips showing farewell ceremonies of tokko units, the aircraft are without bombs. This means the clips were taken at the airfields of the "parent" units. The vast majority of clips showing bombed up tokko aircraft were taken in the Philippines.
So, what we see in the video above are such aircraft of a tokko unit (or units), based somewhere in Japan. They are taking off to fly to Chiran where they will have bombs attached and then fly to their final missions. Why the Manshu Ki-79 don't have any tail markings? Because they arrived from Manchuria only a few days before departure and there was no time to apply tail markings to all of them.
Another tokko unit equipped with "Sonias" was the "Sekichou-tai". As Nagao-san explains, the unit was organized on November 6, 1944, from the Shimoshizu Training Air Division. All members of the 3rd Training Flying Unit joined this Special Attack Unit, bringing its complement to 18. The unit moved to Delcaremen Air Base on November 16 and was officially named "Sekichou-tai." On December 5, seven Sonias led by Capt. Takaishi attacked enemy forces in Surigao Straits. By January 8, 1945, 17 Sonias - with their crews - had perished in attacks.
Below is a photo of one of the Sekichou-tai aircraft.
And artwork from Model Art #451.
Decals for this aircraft can be found again in the Create 301 set and also in one of the Wingsy "Sonia" kits (check older post).
Ofcourse you can built models of these aircraft without any bomb racks under their belly (the special modification for tokko missions), similar to the artwork above, but then they would just look like "normal" Sonias"...
We hope you found this series to your interest.
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