Mike Czibovic sent the following email:
Can you tell me if anyone has figured out what the "clover leaf" marking on that 244 Sentai Ki-61 is really supposed to be? Were there any eyewitness accounts that could verify it was a shamrock or clover leaf? Google search was no help. The only known photo is at an extreme angle, so I stretched it in Photoshop to see what it might reveal (see below). It looks to me to be more like an eagle grasping something with its talons. Any thoughts?
The subject is a very well-known one and favourite among modellers for many years because of the unusual marking. The only primary source can be found in the book "Broken Wings of the Samurai" by Robert C. Mikesh, Airlife, 1993. It's only one photo and the caption reads:
"Victory markings on Japanese aircraft were no more uncommon than on American aircraft of the Pacific War. The quantity on this "Tony" seen at Chofu was worth recording through Jim Gallagher's camera. The custom was to credit the aircraft, as well as the pilot since few had their own assigned aircraft. This "Tony" was painted a "chocolate bar" brown all over, with unusually brilliant red Hinomaru insignia. Most remarkably, a large "Kelly-green" Shamrock was painted on both sides of the fuselage. These brightest-of-green shamrocks were bordered in white. The vertical tail surface had the insignia of the 244 Sentai painted in white, and a five-inch band of white around the fuselage in front of the tail surfaces."
I will not post the photo here respecting the copyrights of Mr. Mikesh and the publisher, but if you visit here
you will see the photo and some cool cg artwork.
Below is some nice artwork I found here
, typical of most depictions of the aircraft.
The classic Hasegawa kit in 1/72.
Illustrations of the "Shamrock Hien" have been featured in virtually all the publications on the "Hien", very often with small inaccuracies.
First of all, the most current publication, Model Art #733, features an illustration with the captions explaining that the aircraft is a
"Ki-61-I Tei 244 Sentai 3rd Hikotai Mikaduki-tai (sic, should have been "Mikazuki"), flown by Lt. Chuichi Ichikawa, Chofu, Tokyo, Japan, April 1945"
If the accuracy of eye-witness and photographer Gallagher is beyond any doubt then first of all the aircraft should be chocolate brown, not green and the 244 Sentai tail marking aas well as the fuselage band should be in white as he clearly mentions, not as shown above and in virtually all the illustrations I have seen.
Many illustrators make the mistake to add the fuselage Ho-5 20mm cannons. In the original photo the fuselage cannon troughs are covered indicating that this aircraft probably belonged to a ramming unit.
The "shamrock" or "clover" marking is possible but it should be clear that it is the plant "katabami
" (oxalis corniculata
check the Japanese wiki entry
for better images) which was and is still used in Japan as a family crest (kamon
). The particular plant is very strong, propagates easily and once it takes root at a place it is extremely difficult to destroy. All these properties are symbolized in the family crests featuring the "katabami
". A problem that arises though is that "kamon
" are almost always black/white.
A few years ago I read in a Czech magazine (Revi No. 42, article by Martin Ferkl. Thank you Miro) an article discussing the "myth" behind this particular aircraft. One of the problems mentioned was about the direction of the B-29 kill markings, pointing upward instead of the typical downward. As you probably know I do not want to use the word "myth" but it seems there are more issues with this particular aircraft without necessarily discrediting the photographer's testimony.
-san, who runs THIS
site and is the leading authority on all things 244-Sentai
related, has expressed his doubts on this
page and I hope he has no objections summarizing them as follows:
1. Lt. Ichikawa Chuichi the "Shamrock Hien" is credited to flew a Model 1 Hei (7.7mm machine guns on the fuselage), not Tei, and this particular aircraft, which was destroyed during a night ramming attack on April 15, had killing but no other personal markings.
2. the killing markings look weird in many ways. First of all is the position they are applied. Killing markings were painted in areas where ground crew members had easy access and stable footing, like the cockpit side or the tail of the plane, not on the nose. Perhaps a ground crew member was standing on a ladder when he painted these but still their position is rather unusual. The other problem is that the B-29 images are in freshly painted white and the arrows look like they are painted with crayons. And they are very different from the killing markings applied on the aircraft of Commander Kobayashi.
3. When a 244 Sentai maintenance crew veteran saw the illustration with the "shamrock" immediately commended that there were no aircraft with this marking in the unit.
4. The angle the photographer has taken the photo is also unusual. Where was Gallagher standing? Perhaps on another aircaft? And if the "shamrock" was that unusual why didn't he choose to shoot that instead of the killing markings from that strange angle.
All things considered, Sakurai-san believes that the killing markings and the "shamrock" (if it's actually there) were applied by US personnel and they were not original Japanese unit or personal markings and I agree with him.
Feel free to email us your questions and requests.