And now (drum roll), the biggest surprise of all. Are you ready?
The little-known outside Japan special hardback publication of "Maru" on the "Hayate", dated 2014,
has a piece by Akimoto-sensei illustrating the unit's marking in the Hata-Izawa manner.
But also, a colour illustration by none other than Nohara Shigeru...hey, what do you know!..., showing a 1st Sentai Nakajima Ki-84 "Hayate" like this.
This artwork is based on the photo we first presented here,
and this aircraft was definitely captured at or around Clark Field. Until "Maru" came out, virtually all publications that feature this photograph or artwork of this aircraft, including those by Nohara, mention that it belonged to the 72nd Sentai and we followed suit. We should have known better.
The 72nd Sentai started to get organized from May 6, 1944, at Kita-Ise (Kameyama) airfield, Mie Prefecture. The organization was completed on September 1, and the unit relocated to Itami airfield in Osaka, and then to Sagamihara, Tokyo, assigned to air defence duties. The 72nd with the 73rd Sentai comprised the 21 Hikodan, and at around that time each sentai had about 40 aircraft in its strength.
On November 21, the hikodan was re-assigned to the Philippines; the last unit to take part in the previously mentioned "Sho Operation".
On December 3, the move begun with about 30 fighters taking off from Sagamihara, reaching Taichu (present-day Taichung) airfield in Taiwan, in groups. During the relocation to the Philippines, the two sentai of the 21st Hikodan lost most of their fighters either due to mechanical failures or were shot down by US fighters. By December 14, only seven "Hayate" managed to reach Bamban airfield, on Leyte Island. The next day a mission against San Jose was planned but with only four aircraft in flyable condition, it was eventually cancelled.
During the following days, the U.S. forces landed on Mindanao Island, and the 21st Hikodan gathered all its available fighters, about 40 aircraft, from both sentai at Mabalacat airfield, Luzon. From December 18, the hikodan fought constantly against overwhelming numbers of U.S. fighters losing most of its "Hayate" fighters.
From January 5, 1945, all operational aircraft from the hikodan and other sentai, formed tokko units and were assigned to suicide missions. Until January 12, fighters from the 72 Sentai in pairs attacked enemy ships in the Lingayen Gulf losing all operational aircraft. Three days later, the unit was disbanded.
For a much more detailed history of the 73rd Sentai, see our old Arawasi Magazine issue #10, Autumn 2008.
There is only one known photo featuring a 72 Sentai "Hayate". It was taken in Sagamihara, and the aircraft was one of those that had mechanical problems during the unit's relocation to Taiwan, and had to return to base.
It has been consistently depicted like this (Nohara "Maru").
According to Hata-Izawa, that tail marking consists of a band with surrounds and a number in the middle. Note the white band surrounding the fuselage hinomaru and the different number on the tail.
The overall colour seems to be small matter of debate since Katabuchi Sunao, in Gakken #46
depicts it like this.
Thorpe has shown a "Hayate" of the unit in a rather rough illustration, without and surrounds and with a nonsensical extra number on the bottom of the rudder, borrowed from the 73 Sentai "Hayate".
Let's return to "Hayate" "81".
Katabuchi has depicted it like this.
Note the painted cowling edge that probably inspired Nohara in his "US style" 1 Sentai "Hayate" illustration.
Peter Scott sees different colours.
So, could this Ki-84 belong to the 1st Sentai, not the 72nd, as had been claimed in the past? I think it's possible. The "32" has the individual aircraft number inside the tail marking, "81" doesn't, and I think this is not an insignificant difference. On the other hand, the band, as a tail marking pattern, looks exactly the same for both units. But, the single tail band is stylistically closer to the number "1" than to "72" and makes more practical sense for a 1st Sentai unit marking, than the single colour rudder with bands.
I have a feeling, everybody made their minds on the 72nd Sentai marking based on the "32" photo, and the 1st Sentai marking based on the "Hayabusa" photos, without further proof to provide confirmation.
More thoughts. The 1st Sentai was an older unit, the 72nd a very new one. Did the 72nd adopt the band for its tail marking only to realize that the 1st had already done so before them, so they painted the numbers in the middle to show the difference? Could the "32" "Hayate" also be a 1st Sentai aircraft and everybody has got it wrong? Has new information surfaced that indicates that the 1st Sentai changed its tail marking before moving to the Philippines? I'm afraid we don't know the answers to these questions but rest assured there will be an update if we find more.