Thursday 31 July 2014

Manshu Kokugun Hikotai - Manchukuoan Air Force - Interview

Recently Mr. Samuel Hui from Taiwan had the chance to meet a veteran of the Manchukuoan Air Force (MAF), Mr. Su Huan-chung, and was kind enough to pass some questions we had. 
We hope you will find this extremely rare interview translated by Mr. Samuel Hui to your liking.
Readers of our publication "The Eagles of Manchukuo" (HERE) will be familiar with some terms and names. We would also like to apologize beforehand to our Russian friends but we hope they will understand that it would be inappropriate to "censor" some of the answers.
1. How were you chosen to become a pilot? Were there other Chinese pilots with MAF? If yes, how many approximately?
Answer: Originally, I wanted to study medical science, but my family did not have enough money to send me to Southern Manchurian Medical School. For this reason, I decided to get into the Manchukuo Army Academy located at Hsinking (Changchun) in 1938 when I was 17. I graduated two years later from the Army Academy and was selected to receive pilot training at the Manchukuo Air Force School in Fengtien (Shenyang).
2. For how long and what did the training include? What aircraft did you train with? Any training
with gliders? Do you remember any other types at the school that you didn't train with?
Answer: I spent about one and half year to complete my solo flight training. At the Manchukuo Air Force School, I remembered I flew Ki-9 "Spruce" intermediate trainer and Ki-55 "Ida" advanced trainer. Both aircraft were designed by Tachikawa. I do not feel Ki-9 was a very good plane, but we were all asked to fly it before we are allowed to graduate.
3. Were the instructors Japanese? How did they and the rest of the students treat you as a Chinese? Was there any discrimination?
Answer: Most of the instructors at the flight school were Japanese, but they were citizens of Manchukuo as well. They were all very skillful pilots. There were Chinese instructors as well. However, the Chinese instructors were not really qualified pilots since most of them were selected from the Army Academy. I did not feel any discrimination from the Japanese.
4. Were there pilots from other nationalities? Korean, Mongolian?
Answer: As far as I knew, there were only Japanese and Chinese.
5. What were the nationalities of the ground crew? Were there many Chinese?
Answer: Most of the ground crews were Chinese.
6. What aircraft was your unit equipped with? Nakajima Ki-27? If yes, how often did you fly and how was it as an airplane? Do you remember any episodes with the aircraft? Did you see any other types? Nakajima "Hayabusa" or "Shoki"?
Answer: The only fighter I had ever flown was the Ki-27 Nate designed by Nakajima. It was an outdate aircraft and was never capable to compete against the American and Russian fighters we later encountered. I know Japan had many advanced fighters such as A6M Zero and Ki-44 Shoki, but we never flew them. The Japanese never trusted us Chinese pilots. 
Below, a series of stills from a vintage news reel featuring a MAF pilot climbing into his Nate. Note the gun camera mount on the wing.

7. How were the conditions in the 1st Air Unit? How were you treated as a Chinese?
Answer: For most of time, we were treated equal with the Japanese pilots. During the formation flight, the Japanese commander must speak with us through his radio in Chinese instead of his own language. We were paid with same amount of money as well. I think we were treated equally. Because Manchuria was a very resourceful land, we had no problem to receive fuel, ammunition and other supply. I think our condition was even better than Japan.
8. Did you see any action? Do you remember anything about the US bomber raids against Shenyang?
Answer: The mission of the 1st Air Unit was to defend the air space of Hsinking, the capital city of Manchukuo. Since Hsinking was never a target of the US B-29 bombers, I never flew action against Allied bombers. However, the 2nd Air Unit at Fengtien did fight the B-29s. I remembered two Japanese pilots rammed down two American bombers by launching kamikaze attack. We Chinese were ordered to do the same, but none of us were really willing to do. None of us really wanted to die for Japan.
9. Some books mention that on January 1941, 100 MAF pilots near Harbin rebelled, killed their Japanese trainers and tried to escape but they were captured and court-martialed. Do you know anything about this? Did you ever hear of any MAF pilot or ground crew member who rebelled, mutinied and tried to escape?
Answer: Yeah! Most of those who defected to the Communist guerrilla sponsored by Soviet Union were ground crews. Like them, none of we Chinese pilots really like the Japanese, but we hated the Russian more. Two of my friends from the flight school at Fengtien assigned to the 3rd Air Unit were killed because they were not willing to surrender themselves to the Russians.
10. Where were you stationed at the end of the War?
Answer: I was still in Fengtien when the Red Army came in. Because the Russians were too busy in removing our factories back to their homeland our raping our women, I was able to survive from that disaster. Most of the fighters from the 1st Air Unit were captured by the Red Army as well. They were either sent back to Russia or turned over to the Communist Party of China.
11. What happened after the end of the War?
Answer: I eventually joined the Chinese Nationalist Air Force and came to Taiwan in 1949. I was one of the very few Manchukuo pilots to be accepted by the Republic of China. Many others decided to stay in mainland China or became instructors of the newly founded People’s Liberation Army Air Force. However, I was never allowed to fly again since I had served with Axis Powers in World War II. I worked as an officer in office until my retirement in 1964 as a major. When I returned to mainland China in 1992, I was told that all 150 Manchukuo pilots remaining in China after the civil war were killed by the Communist regime. What kind of tragedy is it? Both Chinese governments across the Taiwan strait considered us “traitors”.
A MAF Tachikawa Ki-55 "Ida" ready for take-off.

More MAF Nakajima Ki-27 "Nates".

The Nate below with the katakana (yo) on the tail, was donated by the city of Fushun.

 We are particularly grateful to Mr. Su Huan-chung for answering our questions and to Mr .Samuel Hui for arranging everything.
We are off to a much needed vacation. See you next week.

Wednesday 30 July 2014

永遠の0 - Eternal Zero

A film based on a novel of the same name by Hyakuta Naoki and directed by Yamazaki Takashi.
Story: A young man Kentaro Saeki (Miura Haruma) keeps failing his bar test and does not know what to do any more. His older sister Keiko (Fukiishi Kazue) is a freelance writer. Kentaro and Keiko begin to search for information on their grandfather Kyuzo Miyabe (Okada Junichi) who died in the special forces during World War II. Their grandfather Kyuzo was terrified of death and obsessed with life. Why did he join the special forces? According to his fellow navy soldiers, Kyuzo was a genius and also a coward. Kentaro and Keiko then discovers the shocking truth which has been sealed for 60 years.
One of the best movies I saw recently and a true pleasure for all the Japanese airplane scenes. The story is typically Japanese following the long tradition of the Japanese filmography, emotional without ever becoming cheap, with plenty of action without overdoing it and focusing brilliantly equally on the aircraft and the pilots. It reminded me a lot meetings with veteran pilots where they opened their heart and shared their war experiences in as-a-matter-of-fact narration, without hatred but with plenty of emotion.
Amazing in-flight and on-the-ground scenes, artfully and, most important of all, ACCURATELY depicting Zero fighters (and a most beautiful Jake) without the slightest hint of war glorification (as many feared).
Stellar performances by Okada Junichi and Inoue Mao.
A movie that should not be missed by any fan of Japanese Aviation.

Tuesday 29 July 2014

Artist Kabashima Katsuichi - Akatsuki no Shutsugeki

"Tomorrow morning at ? o'clock, attack the ? enemy base." The CO gave this order late last night. When this order was given, the beloved planes had just returned to the base to rest after doing their best all this time with no pause. The ground crews jumped on the planes preparing them all night to be ready for take-off. Our unrivalled Shoki are taking off in a large formation to attack a faraway enemy base. The "GOW GOW" sound of the engines signify their good condition and lift the spirits of our Wild Eagles. The unrivalled Shoki are taking off in the morning sky to face any number of enemies.
The above is the text accompanying another beautiful pen illustration entitled: "Early morning sortie" by artist Kabashima Katsuichi from a vintage, November 1944, publication,

Sunday 27 July 2014

Japanese Brewster Buffalo by Stefan Müller

Stefan Müller from Germany sent us photos of his excellent Hasegawa 1/72 model of a Brewster Buffalo in Japanese markings. He used the Flying Papas decals (available exclusively through our on-line store; HERE) but he had issues with the white fuselage stripe that was given as straight in the decals but should have been curved instead to wrap better around the fuselage.

And a photo of one of the captured Buffalos. Note the yellow IFF stripe and the red star over the wing gun muzzles.

Friday 25 July 2014

Tachikawa Ki-54 "Hickory" - Mito RHG #3

And finally some shooting practise on the ground starting with the wooden guns and moving on to the real ones.

Type 89 flexible twin machine gun, 7.7mm

Note the Kawasaki Ki-32 "Mary" in the background.

Thursday 24 July 2014

Tachikawa Ki-54 "Hickory" - Mito RHG #2

More photos of in-flight shooting training.
Note the Te-4 or Type 89 flexible 7.7mm machine gun. 

Note also the Kaiten-shiki Shageki Kansa Shashin-ki (Flexible Type Training Camera) Type "Haisu". The camera was basically a copy of the Hyth Gun Camera (HERE) and was produced by Rokuo-sha (present day Konica). More photos of a real camera on the top of the page HERE.

Wednesday 23 July 2014

Tachikawa Ki-54 "Hickory" - Mito RHG #1

The January 1943 issue of the magazine "Koku Shonen" featured a visit to the Mito Rikugun Hiko Gakko (IJAAF Aviation School). The student pilots have just returned from their training flight and give a report to their instructor. A Ki-54Otsu is in the background.

Monday 21 July 2014

Japanese What-ifs & Fantasy

I love experimental, what-if and fantasy aircraft especially if they have hinomaru!
A question was put forward on Britmodeller, here, "what is...what-if?". Answers were quite straightforward in their general inclusiveness and ambiguity. Here are some examples:
"its completely open ended because its often complete fantasy another good thing about whiff is you sidestep the rivet counters lol"
"Basically, anything you want that hasn't been designed or built by a recognised manufacturer."
"What if something was/is different to "reality". Can be as subtle or as ridiculous as you like. Got to town, knock yourself out, have fun. A bit like ...... ' counter factual'  !!!"
To tell you the truth I do not agree with these definitions. I think they give a good excuse once you've done various mistakes with your model, done no research, used wrong colours and markings, then to present your finished monstrosity as a "what-if". I had a similar conversation in a greek forum where some guy slapped any decals he could find (IJJAF, IJNAF & civilian) on an "Ida" (if I remember correctly) and then called it "what-if". Once I noted the mistakes his reply was "It's a what-if, I can do whatever I want".
The above attitude is apparently supported by this answer:
"by deffinition a make believe airplane cant be innacurate lol"
Personally I prefer what this guy wrote:
"i like my whifs to have some basis in reality or at least have some logic to the build..."
Since we have a special love for Japanese aircraft I feel really peeved, chafed, irked, nettled and vexed when I see really bizarre, wide of the mark and plainly wrong Japanese airplane models trying to pass themselves as "what-ifs". 
As I said I love whifers and fantasy models but I prefer to make a clear distinction between the two.
To me what-ifs are aircraft that could have been built, if the war had lasted longer for example. Luft '46 and Nipponki '46* fall under this category. Experimental planes in real combat colours is another example. Aircraft that could have been exchanged between the allied combatants or captured and put into use. Very advanced versions of real designs or even with various advanced or peculiar modifications.
But the important thing is that these models should follow the known painting and marking rules of the airforce they supposed to belong to. Otherwise they are either wrong or should be called "fantasy".
Let's see some examples.
First of all two side views done by our friend Devlin Chouinard of Raiden whifers.
A what-if the Army had used the Raiden in combat.
And what-if, somehow, it was exported to Germany during the War.
Note how possible and accurate are the markings and the paint job on both planes.

A funky Zero-sen model.

Here's an excellent what-if model called "Japanese 335: Ki-300 "Marlene" - Home Island Defense" found HERE. The paint job is perfect and all the markings are correct.

But how about this one called "244th Sentai Anteater"?     

This lovely little Kyushu Shinden whifer with a jet engine has very nice overall paint-job and fairly accurate markings.

On the other hand, although this one looks fancier and the modeler has put plenty of effort, I woud call it "fantasy" since the Japanese never used this kind of camo pattern even for IJAAF planes. It just doesn't look Japanese!

Similar problems with these two Kikka.

On the left, the markings and the camo are wrong for an IJAAF plane and on the right the paint-job for an IJNAF aircraft is also innacurate.
There is also a third category. The what-if/fantasy. Aircraft that never existed, they are completely the result of the modeler's imagination but they could have been built even by a stretch of the imagination.
Here's an amazing model called "The Big Fish". Brilliant in every respect. 

But how about this what-if/fantasy Japanese Mistel combo. Good concept but unfortunately the colours are just wrong.

So, yes, I do expect, as a matter of fact, demand to see accuracy in "what-if" models. Otherwise they should be called "fantasy". And I don't mean to take the fun and the creativity away. I would just like the modelers to show similar respect to the Japanese airplanes as they show to Luft, RAF or US plane subjects. Too much perhaps?
*Perhaps you have noticed that we use the term "Nipponki '46" (Japanese aircraft '46) because the previously used "hikoki '46" (aircraft '46) does not make any sense.

Saturday 19 July 2014

Kyushu K9W1 "Momiji" by AndreyTemnyy

Our friend Andrey Temnyy from Kazakhstan shared with us some amazing photos of his excellent Kyushu K9W1 "Momiji" in 1/72. Enjoy and visit his blog ( for more!