Friday 6 January 2012

Aichi D3A "Val"

A vintage photo featured in a February 1943 magazine. The lack of spinner indicates that this is an Aichi D3A1 "Val" dive bomber. 
Note the ropes tying it firmly to the ground and the bearded ground crew guy on the right corner. 
There are two details that hint of the location and the unit. The first is that the wheel covers lack the decoration usually carried by planes belonging to aircraft carriers indicating that this particular plane belonged to a land based unit. This and the ground crew clothes and general setting make me believe that this plane belongs (or belonged) to the 33rd Kokutai
The unit was organized on February 1st, 1942 with the mission to train crew members of carrier attack and bomber planes and patrol the Java and Surabaya area. In the beginning, it carried eight D3A "Val" bombers and eight Mitsubishi B5M "Mabel". During an August 1st reorganization, the unit lost its "Vals" and on November 1st, 1942 changed its designation to 932 Kokutai
If the photo was taken around the time the magazine was released, then the "Val" in the photo could not have belonged to the 33rd ku but perhaps some other unit in the area. Or the magazine used a photo that was taken within the 2/1-8/1 1942 time frame and the plane actually belongs to the 33rd. 

This posting was originally put up on the 20th of October last year but since then Bob Alford made a very interesting comment which is the following:

I would say that the D3A1 "Val" depicted belonged to either 33 or 35 Ku, both of which served in the NEI from February 1942. 
It is similar to a number of images also seen in the FAOW book on the type - groundcrew in singlets, the flat terrain, etc. Not conclusive but circumstantial.
33 Ku became 932 Ku in the 1 November 1942 reorganisation while 35 Ku became 956 Ku. (See also Japanese Air Forces Over the NWA 1942-1945. Self-published. 2010. Pages 40-41)
I tried enhancing the image with what limited facilities I have here and it SEEMS that the tail code of one "Val" in the background is 35-xxx 
Hopefully this will exercise the minds of others and we can pin it down further.
Cheers, and congratulations on a superb site.

Bob Alford
Lampang Thailand 

Yes, FAOW#130, p. 46 has a similar photo which according to the caption was taken in Surabaya and the "Val" shown belonged to the 33rdKu. There is another one on p. 53 too.
Zooming in on the tail in the background didn't produce any clear results. The first two digits could be either a "33" or a "35". Would anybody like to help with the whereabouts of the 35Ku around that time period? 

More information from Luca Ruffato (grazie!):

Japanese Monograph#116 p. 128 reports that 35Ku was established on 1 February 1942 at Takao under 3rd Fleet. 
On 30 March it was assigned to 23rd Base Force but the group had already moved to Makassar-Celebes (Dutch east Indies) since 6 February. 
On 20 June the group was attached directly to 2nd Expeditionary Fleet. 
Detachment operated in forward bases as follows: Jogyakarta-Java (10 to 17 May); Balikpapan-Borneo (28 July to 6 August); Koepang-Timor (6 to 17 August); Kendari-Celebes (8 to 12 October); Waingapoe-Soemba (20 to 28 October). 
HTH, Luca Ruffato

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