Tuesday 31 January 2012

VIPs - Showa L2D (Douglas DC-3)

Jacob sent us the following:
About a month ago I saw on UTube a Dutch documentary about the Indonesian struggle for Independence.
This documentary had some footage about a "propaganda" trip of the first president of the Republik, Mr Soekarno (Sukarno). He travelled in May 1945 with a Japanese L2D2 in the archipelago. The last three digits of the unit code are XX- 200. The images below are stills  I took from that footage. 
My question is: can that Tabby unit be identified?
Jacob Terlouw / The Netherlands.

We asked leading authority on the subject of units and tail markings Akimoto Minoru-sensei and here's what he replied:
The DC-3 belonged to the Dai Nippon Koku with civilian registration J-BKOM and name "WAKASA"*. It was one of about 40 DC-3s that formed a unit by DNK called "Dai Nippon Koku Choyo Yusoki Tai" (DNK Commandeered Transport Unit) and operated for the IJNAF. The particular plane belonged to the 2nd Choyo Yusoki Tai
Tail number. The second katakana is the first "YU" of "YUsokitai" but the first katakana is difficult to discern. It could be "SE" or "NA" or "CHI" or even a "2". If the first is a "CHI" then it's the first katakana for "Choyo"**. If it's a number "2" then it could signify the 2nd Yusoki Tai.
I believe the photo was taken when Sukarno was visiting Singapore to discuss the details regarding the forthcoming independence of Indonesia.

*"Wakasa" probably refers to the gulf starting from Fukui prefecture and ending in Kyoto.
**"Choyo" is written as "CHIyoUYOU" in kana but it's pronounced as Choyo with stretched "o"s.

We are grateful to Jacob and Akimoto-sensei for their contribution to our blog.

Monday 30 January 2012

Showa L2D (Douglas DC-3)

In the three photos below from the October 20, 1943 issue of "Asahi Graph" female maintenance crew members check a Showa L2D, the Japanese version of DC-3. The group was called "Joshi Gijutsu Yoin" (Female Technical Members) and they are working at the Fukuoka branch of the airline Dai Nippon Koku K.K. in Ganosu airfield.

Saturday 28 January 2012

VIPs - Mitsubishi Ki-57 "Topsy"

The cover of the March 31, 1943 issue of the magazine "Shashin Shuho". The leader of the Burmese Executive Administration Dr. Ba Maw is visiting Tokyo accompanied by a delegation of Burmese officials. The photo was taken during his arrival on a charter flight at Tokyo's Haneda airport on March 18 at 14:00. In the background is a heavily camouflaged Mitsubishi Ki-57 "Topsy" probably belonging to Dai Nippon Koku K.K.
Five months later, on August 1, 1943 the "independent" State of Burma was declared with Ba Maw as Head of State and Prime Minister.  

Thursday 26 January 2012

Nakajima Ki-43 "Hayabusa" (Oscar) - 248 Sentai

According to the caption of this NARA photo, this Nakajima Ki-43 "Hayabusa" (Oscar) was found "on an airstrip in the Korako area, three miles south of Aitape, New Guinea" on April 22, 1944. The location is probably Tadji airfield. 
D. Thorpe included this photo in his monumental "Japanese Army Air Force Camouflage and Markings WWII" and mentioned in the caption: "OSCAR III, 77th Fighter Sentai leader's aircraft. Entire tail is red.
Model Art #395 says the aircraft is a Ki-43-II-Otsu and the unit is the 248th Sentai
The unit was organised on August 10, 1942 at Ganosu airfield in Kyushu from the 4th Sentai. In the beginning it was equipped with Nakajima Ki-27 "Nate" fighters and was responsible for the defence of North Kyushu while undergoing training. In December 1942 it was re-equipped with Ki-43-I and in July 1943 changed these for Ki-43-II. The unit was sent to Papua-New Guinea in October 1943 but suffered badly in February 1944 while stationed in Wewak by Allied attacks and therefore relocated to Hollandia. At the end of March attacks against Hollandia intensified and on April 6, the 248th Sentai had 28 pilots but only three operational aircraft. 
On April 22, the US Army landed in Hollandia and the remaining members of the unit escaped in the jungle where they constantly suffered from malnutrition and disease. 
The unit was disbanded on July 23, 1944. 
The boomerang resembling tail marking was actually based on reed leaves and is broken down as 2 leaves in the front, 4 in the middle and 8 in the rear, representing the unit's sentai number.
The leaf colors changed according to chutai: 1st white, 2nd red, 3rd yellow.
According to Akimoto Minoru the airplane of the sentai leader had a red tail with white leaves while the overall color of the plane was dark green-top, silver-bottom.

Tuesday 24 January 2012

Mitsubishi B1M2b

Pilots and ground crew members start this originally designed by Herbert Smith Mitsubishi B1M2b belonging to the Kasumigaura Kokutai. Photo from a vintage magazine. 

Monday 23 January 2012

Nakajima Ki-27 "Nate"

Two photos from a vintage magazine taken during the donation ceremony of a Nakajima Ki-27 "Nate" at Tokyo's Tachikawa airfield on February 2, 1939. Donations for this aircraft, Aikoku #313, were gathered from about 70 Sumo wrestlers (rikishi/sekitori) and Sumo Association members; therefore it was called "Sumo-go". 
The Sumo wrestlers were all from the Juryo and Makuuchi divisions and one of the most famous Sumo wrestlers of all times, Yokozuna Futabayama, performed the Dohyoiri ceremony. 
For further reading about sumo: 

Sunday 22 January 2012

Kawanishi H6K "Mavis"

Kawanishi (modern name ShinMaywa) was a company with a long tradition in seaplanes and flying boats. One of the most impressive was the H6K "Mavis". The first planes that left the production lines in 1938-1939 were in Natural Metal Finish like the plane in the photo below from a vintage magazine.

Once they started serving in the South Pacific front and following orders from the IJNAF regarding camouflage, "Mavis" flying boats became green-top, gray-bottom like the example below from a war news still.

Below is an artwork example.

And some beautiful artwork by Koike Shigeo of a civilian "Mavis" operated by Dai Nippon Koku K.K.

After the end of the war a couple "Mavis" were found in Yokohama as shown in the NARA photo below.
 According to the surrender regulations the Japanese planes were to be painted white overall and carry green crosses. In the case of a huge flying boat like the "Mavis" it is only natural that this would have been a time-consuming process demanding large quantities of white paint. The results were naturally not beautiful. The "Mavis" in the foreground has half the fuselage and the tail painted white while the rest is left in its original paint. The plane in front of it is in even worse condition with only parts of the fuselage and the top surfaces of the wing painted haphazardly in white. The original caption mentions: "General view showing four Japanese Navy Seaplanes and ramp to the ocean at the Dainippon Arways, Yokohama, Japan. 14 September 1945."   

I think that the "Mavis" in the foreground is also in the photo below offering a clear top view.
Note that the crosses are applied on top of the wing hinomaru. Were they green outlined in white over the red hinomaru or was it just the white outline over the red of the hinomaru contrary to the regulations?

Another rather interesting "Mavis" found after the end of the war is the one below.
The source of the photo is this and according to the caption:
"Mechanics of 3219 Servicing Commando, Royal Air Force (RAF), check the engines of a Japanese Kawanishi H6K 'Mavis' flying boat at Sourabaya (Soerabaja), Java, in preparation for an air test flight. Of interest are the markings added by Indonesian nationalists and the fact that an additional band of blue has been added to the fuselage marking by the Dutch."
Note that the hinomaru on the fuselage and the wing are erased. Instead it has a Dutch flag on the fuselage and an Indonesian red/white marking under the wing. Note that it also used to have surrender crosses on the fuselage and under the wing (outlined in red); the one on the fuselage seems to have been also erased.
So what could the overall color be? Some mention that it was "silver" even though it would have an extremely rare exception since all Navy planes flying in the South Pacific were camouflaged by necessity. Others suggest that the whole paint of the plane was removed. But that would mean a very long and tedious process for no apparent reason.
The same "Mavis" later received British roundels and ATAIU SEA markings on the fuselage sides and was transported to Seletar base in Singapore as can be seen in the e-bay photo below.
Personally I think that either the plane in the photo is in overall white or more possibly RAF crew members repainted it in overall British "gray".

Saturday 21 January 2012

Mitsubishi G3M "Nell"

Cover of the May 12, 1943 issue of "Asahi Graph" with Sea Eagles (umiwasi) stretching right before taking off on a mission. Photo taken by Navy Reporter Terao. An excellent source for clothes and pilot equipment.
The white shirts with the lapel were usually worn by officers, but from October 1942 they were accepted as official for everybody based in hot climates. The life vest, filled with kapok, was officially adopted in 1942 and had a small pocket on the right side for pencils or a small mirror.

Thursday 19 January 2012

Nipponki '46: Shizuoka

Here are some photos of "what-if" models from the 43rd modeling Exhibition in Shizuoka in 2004.

A rather unusual "navalized" Ki-45 "Toryu" (Nick) by Suzuki Shuichi. Note the torpedo and the tail!

A jet version of Kyushu J7W1 "Shinden" made by Tanakai Michio. Hasegawa 1/48th.

A two-engined Zero by Muto Masanori. Hasegawa 1/48th. Not the best model I've ever seen but it certainly looks like the modeler had great fun.

Finally a Zero for those who claim that Japanese planes are boring. Doesn't need much to let the imagination go wild and have fun, right?

Monday 16 January 2012

Nakajima Ki-27 "Nate"

A photo from a vintage magazine taken in August 1941 at the airport of Saigon. The "Nate" fighters belong to the 84th Independent Chutai which kept the red cowling and the red "flame" reaching the tail from the 64th Sentai.

Sunday 15 January 2012

Nakajima Ki-44 "Shoki" (Tojo) by Alexandros Angelopoulos

A really beautiful model by ALEXANDROS ANGELOPOULOS.
It's a Hasegawa in 1/32 with markings for a Ki-44-II Hei belonging to the 29th Sentai.
Alex explains that the top green was worked in two different lighter tones; one with yellow and very little white and the other with a mixture of 30% yellow-70%green. There is a great variety of shades since the tones overlap at places and at others they don't.
The project took him seven months. The Type 100 gun sight was scratch built and he also used resin exhausts and machine guns by Quickboost. All the colors he used were by Gunze, with a hand of future and then polished with different micro-mesh. Then they were sprayed with Mr. Levelling Thinner which gave excellent results.

Mitsubishi G3M "Nell"

A set of "Nell" photos from a September 1941 "Asahi Graph" issue.

On the cover is the dorsal turret with the 20mm Type 99 Mk. 1 Oerlikon cannon. Note the big size of the turret offering an excellent all-round view to the gunner but little protection.

A forward-looking cockpit view. The guy on the left having a "bento" (lunch box) is the reconnaissance observer, on his right sits the commander of the plane. In front of him (the guy without a helmet) is the pilot who seems to have a badge on his sleeve indicating he's either an Itto Koku Heisho (Aviation Petty Officer, 1st Class) or Nitto (2nd Class). Finally the guy sitting next to the pilot is his co-pilot.

Another view looking forward, this one showing the position of the radio and telegraph operator.

And finally a photo showing the interior of the fuselage side blister. In this case the gunner has placed the machine gun in its resting position and is taking photos with his hand held 25cm FLK camera. This partular camera was based on the German Carl Zeiss but produced in Japan by KonishikiRoku (Konica).

Note that none of the crew members is wearing a life vest.
Typical lunch box contents for bombing missions included various "makizushi" (details here)
omelet, green peas and pickled Japanese horseradish. Occasionally it also included milk-coffee or pine apple juice.

Saturday 14 January 2012

244 Sentai - Kawasaki Ki-61 "Hien" (Tony) #4

Stills from the movie "Saigo no Kikyo" (Last Return Home) released in June 1945 by Daie.

The Kawasaki Ki-61 Model Hei seen in the stills was flown by Captain Shoko Fumisuke who was commander of the "Soyokaze-tai" (Breeze-squadron) of the 244 Sentai. The book "Hien Fighter Group" by Dai Nippon Kaiga includes two more photos of "88" without camouflage. According to that book the plane received the camouflage in March 1945.

Ground crew members maintain Hien "88" at Chofu airfield. The date is sometime between March, when the plane got camouflaged, and May when the unit relocated to Hamamatsu. The number "88" on the wheel covers was in red outlined in white.

The green blotches were painted above the white band of the fuselage hinomaru which seems to have an early narrow white ring. Note the open hatch of the cooler control.

Before the aircraft receive the camouflage it spotted a single thick red band between the fuselage hinomaru and the tail. After the camouflage was appled it seems that the red band was overpainted with one yellow stripe in the middle as can been seen above.

The Dragon kit Golden Wing Series 5028 in 1/72 (below), offers decals for the "88" without the camouflage.

Lifelike has released decals in 1/72 and 1/48.

Thursday 12 January 2012

244 Sentai - Kawasaki Ki-61 / Ki-100 #3

The April 1978 issue of Koku Fan magazine featured an interview with Suzuki Shigeru who served as a 1t Lt and was a member of the maintenance crew of the 244h Sentai. Below are some extracts of this interview.
Suzuki-san joined the 244th in August 1944 when the unit was solely equipped with the Kawasaki Ki-61 "Hien" (Tony). Although some units in cold climates like in Manchuria had difficulties, in the milder climate of Tokyo, where the unit was based, the Ha-40 engines started immediately without any difficulty. Maintenance became easier when the 244 changed some of its Hien to "5shikisen" (Kawasaki Ki-100). The Ha-40 liquid-cooled engine was very well-behaved but the maintenance of the liquid pipes was quite hard. In comparison, the maintenance crew didn’t have to constantly worry about the steady liquid flow or whether there was sufficient liquid quantity in the air cooled Ha-33 engine and as a result they were easier to maintain. Liquid cooled engines were very quite making a "suru-suru-suru" sound. On the other hand air-cooled engines made a "butsun-butsubutsun-ba-babaaaa" sound. In other words air-cooled were more "manly" while liquid-cooled were more "feminine". The change from Hien to 5shikishen brought a significant improvement in the performance. It took Hien about 30 minutes to reach 10,000m while it took for the 5shikisen half that time.
Furthermore, Hien had a serious flaw. Right after taking off there were many fatal accidents. Engineers from Kawasaki were brought to the base to investigate the reason for these accidents. There was a problem with the supercharger of the Ha-40 but Suzuki-san doesn’t recall what became with the investigation. In any case these incidents were over once the 5shikisen arrived. Therefore, it is fair to conclude that these problems were not due to pilot mistakes or bad maintenance but instead should be attributed to the engine. The pilots and the maintenance crew placed their full trust on the Ha-33 of the 5shikisen and as a result the engine received many good remarks.
The 244 Sentai moved from Chofu/Tokyo to Hamamatsu in Shizuoka prefecture, then to Chiran in Kagoshima prefecture in order to escort aircraft belonging to "toko" (special attack) units flying to Okinawa. But since the battle for the island was over by the time the 244 Sentai arrived to Chiran, there was actually no need for such escorting missions. Instead enemy airplanes started appearing over Kyushu. During an incident in Chiran, armament maintenance crew had placed an aircraft under a wooden hangar camouflaged with foliage. Since there was no electric light inside the hangar, it was necessary to remove some of the camouflage from the roof so that the daylight could enter the hangar and they could have sufficient light to work on the plane. Unfortunately three overflying P-38s were able to spot them and during the subsequent attack one crew member was killed and all the others were injured.
The fact that the 244 Sentai was not a combat fighter unit may come as a surprise to the reader. Actually the unit was a highly specialised intercepting unit protecting the skies over Tokyo. Therefore the pilots were unable to engage in aerial combat the enemy airplanes and so the unit relocated to Yokaichi (Shiga prefecture) in the Kansai/Osaka region.
One of the main differences between a combat unit and an interceptor unit was that in the first case the unit had a specific flight mission plan and therefore there was enough time for maintenance. For the interceptor unit the aircraft had to be 100% ready all the time although naturally that was not practical. As a result there was a number of spare aircraft in each chutai, which ofcourse they had to be ready at all times. Especially for the taicho (the unit commander) there had to be a spare aircraft always on stand-by since without him the unit would not have been able to take-off and fight. Although the taicho could organize and control the unit from the ground as a rule he was always flying with the rest. Kobayashi Teruhiko had a spare aircraft and flew a lot. All the information was related to his aircraft from the ground by radio and then he passed the various commands to the rest of the unit members in the air.
As an interceptor unit there was no time for rest for the aircraft and the maintenance crew. Immediately after returning to the base, the ground crew refuelled and re-armed the planes getting them ready to take off again.

Tuesday 10 January 2012

244 Sentai - Kawasaki Ki-61 "Hien" (Tony) #2

Below are some stills from a wartime news reel taken at Chofu, Tokyo, the base of the 244th Sentai.
A 244 Sentai Kawasaki Ki-61 Hien taxing for take-off. Note the yellow (?) "89" on wheel covers painted directly over the NM surface.
In this view the difference in the camouflage pattern on the front and rear part of the fuselage is clearly visible. Of special interest is the fact that although the plane lacks a radio antenna mast it is still equipped with a radio but the line is somehow connected directly with the fuselage. Perhaps a way to avoid drag.
The camouflage of the front part of the fuselage seems to be airbrushed while on the rear it seems to have been applied by haphazard brush strokes. Of interest is the quite wide white band surrounding the fuselage hinomaru.
In this last still the tail is visible sporting a white katakana "I" (イ) and maybe the 244 Sentai unit marking although difficult to be sure. From other photos it seems that when the 244 marking was on the tail the aircraft didn't carry any other markings.
The 244 had a special ramming attack section called Shinten Seikutai. At least some of the aircraft of that unit were not camouflaged and didn't have the 244 marking on the tail but instead the tail was all red with the first "letter" of the pilot's last name painted in white katakana. A Shinten Seikutai Ki-61 numbered "73" with a white "I" on the tail, but without the 244 Sentai marking, belonged to gocho (corporal) Itagaki Masao. Although the pilot of this particular aircraft is unknown, it is possible that the "89" was a spare aircraft of gocho Itagaki. If that's the case then it is quite possible the tail to be red with just the white "I".