Sunday 31 December 2017


2018, the year of the dog.

Last year was much much better than the previous one in many respects. Issue #13 of our magazine came out in July and is the best we have released so far. Copies are still available. We had planned one Eagle Eye for this year but it has been rescheduled for 2018. It's going to be a big one! We have also scheduled the release of the first Arawasi T-shirt in January! Help us out by leaving a message with your preferable size (L, XL, 2XL?). So, all in all, stay tuna for our new releases.
We have been thoroughly enjoying the "Rufe" series on this blog and from your reaction we feel you do too. So, more coming up next year. And don't forget to check older posts for updates.  
Four successful modelling contests this year. We would like to thank everybody who took part, voted and left a comment. Rene de Koning, Derek Cooper, Carlo Reita, Cameron "ArchFluffy" Lohmann, Mike Terre, Jan Kaňov, Wind Swords, Jacob Terlouw, Brendan M, Adam O'Brien, Zbigniew Malicki, Fabio Balzano, Calin Ungureanu, DizzyFugu, Leon Kloke, Alex Tran, Mark Jahsan, Fabrizio Tommasini, Jean Barby, Allan "The Kit Slayer" Jeffery, Michael Thurow, Miroslav Zajíc, Michael Furry, James, Hatake, Haku, PianoMan, Panagiotis Koubetsos, Hervik, Bruce S., Charlie, R. Laurent, J. Kimak, Roberto Anderwill, Pat Donahue, Prof. Nemisis Goosehabit, Mikhail Ageenko Gustavo Antonelli, Hub Plott and David Brizzard. 
We received a request for extension so our 6th contest will end on January 15. Nest one will be on "captured planes".
A special thank-you to everybody who contributed to this blog: Dan Salamone, Miro Herold, Vladimir Martinicky, Octávio Mântua, Adam O'Brien and Laurent Chambon.
And finally a HUUUUGE "thank you" to our good friends:
Sinang AribowoJames Boyd, Devlin Chouinard, Danilo Renzulli, Eric Vogel and Zygmunt Szeremeta (wherever he may be). 
All the best for the new year to everybody. Let's hope 2018 is more productive, enjoyable and funny than 2017 especially in this politically charged world we are living. And enjoy modelling!

Thursday 28 December 2017

Japanese Aircraft Online Model Contest 006 - GUSTAVO ANTONELLI

Here are my Japanese Experimental Aircraft models for the contest.
The kits, all in 1/72 scale, are:
• Wings Models, vacuoform kit, Kitsuka, brush painted, home made decals
• Pavla Ki-87, brush painted, based on prototype pictures.
• MPM J8M1, brush painted
• Hasegawa J7W1 Shinden (yes, I love this plane!), airbrush painted
• RS Models Kawanishi E15K, brush painted
• Tamiya M6A1-K, airbrush painted
• Fine Molds R2Y1 Keiun, airbrushed, in a nearly mint fashion right out of the factory.
My best regards and Merry Christmas!
- Gustavo Antonelli -







Sunday 24 December 2017

Nakajima Ki-84 "Hayate" (Frank) by Allan Jeffery

Here are two of my latest Japanese subjects.
The 32nd scale Hasegawa "Frank" built as all my models OOB and the Hasegawa 72nd "Frank" using the most excellent Flying Papas decals kindly gifted by Arawasi entering the floatplane competition.
I was hoping to achieve a worn but not too weathered look to the late war olive colour,my apologies if the colour tone is incorrect. Any feedback from the community regarding the colour will be most gratefully received. 
- Allan Jeffery -

Wednesday 20 December 2017

Nakajima A6M2-N "Rufe" pt. 8 - Kimikawa Maru

Before moving to warmer seas we would like to thank everybody for the kind and encouraging comments for this series. We also received some interesting questions we would like to address as best as possible. This posting is about the seaplane tender Kimikawa Maru which saw much action travelling to the Aleutian and Kuriles islands...and more.
Kimikawa Maru was completed on July 15, 1937 as a cargo ship for Kawasaki Kisen and was placed on the New York line but also travelled to Italy, according to some sources. It was one of the four sister cargo ships of -kawa (-river) Maru the others being Kamikawa Maru, Kiyokawa Maru and Kunikawa Maru.
With the outbreak of the Sino-Japanese war in 1937 a first group of cargo ships were converted to seaplane tenders, including Kagu Maru, Kinugasa Maru and Kamikawa Maru.
Between July and October 1941 a second group of merchant vessels started to be converted to seaplane tenders, including Sanyo Maru, Sagara Maru, Sanuki Maru, Kiyokawa Maru, Kimikawa Maru and others. The last was Kunikawa Maru which was completed as a seaplane tender in July 1942. Nevertheless, contrary to the first group, not all conversions of the second group were completed as planned.
Kimikawa Maru was to have 2X14cm cannons, 2X12cm a/a guns, 2X8cm a/a guns and 2Xtwin25mm a/a guns. Instead she got 2X15cm cannons, 2X8cm a/a guns and 2Xtwin25mm a/a guns, plus two 7.7mm machine guns. Two searchlights were also installed, one of 110cm the other 90cm. The derrick behind the funnel was removed and the rear of the ship was modified to be able to carry and operate seaplanes. A wooden deck was laid out with rails on the sides to handle the seaplanes and a single catapult was installed on the starboard side. The original plan called the seaplane tender to be able to carry a maximum of two "Jake" and two "Pete" on the front deck and two "Jake" and six "Pete" on the rear deck but upon completion on July 6, 1941 Kimikawa Maru had enough space to carry about eight seaplanes, usually six Mitsubishi F1M "Pete" and two Aichi E13A "Jake" on the rear deck and only on special occasions, if at all, on the front deck. 
As a seaplane tender she was accepted by the IJN on July 25, 1941, became part of the 5th Fleet and operated in the Northern Area.
In October 1943 she was converted back to transport and was finally sunk on October 23, 1944 by USS Sawfish
Kimikawa Maru took part in the Operation "AL" against the Aleutians on May 29, 1942 with the Northern Area Fleet and on June 8 unloaded eight "Jake" seaplanes and provisions on Kiska Island.
On July 3 while in her anchorage in Agattu Island she was attacked by USAF B-24 and suffered slight damage due to a near miss but had to return to Yokohama for repairs. 
As we saw in previous postings, Kimikawa Maru started ferrying seaplanes to Kiska from August 1942. Unfortunately aviation and naval sources don't always agree on the dates, the number and the type of the aircraft transported and this makes things very confusing.
The first occasion was on August 14 when five "Jake" seaplanes were transported to Kiska and again on August 31 when the same number and type of seaplanes were ferried.
On September 25, six "Rufe" and two "Jake" floatplanes were ferried to Kiska.

Aviation sources (Izawa) mention that on November 6, Kimikawa Maru unloaded three reconnaissance seaplanes ("Jake") and six "Rufe" to Attu which were to fly the next day to Kiska. The reason for this was the strong presence of US bombers in the Kiska area and let's remember the unpleasant experience at Agattu island. But why didn't Kimikawa launch her seaplanes from the catapult and let them fly to Kiska? The distance between the two islands is less than 400km (240mi). The range of "Rufe" was 1,782 km (1,107 mi) and that of "Jake" was a staggering 2,100 km (1,300 mi). Well, the answer can be found in the page 68, middle caption, of "Maru Special #25" (March 1973): In October Kimikawa Maru received orders to ferry five "Rufe" and three "Jake" seaplanes to Kiska but since the "Rufe" seaplanes could not be catapulted they were left back in Tateyama.”
The photo from Maru Special #25. Note the "Jake" on the right of the photo but also the three Kawanishi E7K "Alf" on the left. We have not discovered any reference of Kimikawa Maru ferrying "Alf" to the Aleutians or the Kuriles but the above caption could mean that the "Rufe" stayed back and were replaced by the "Alf" seaplanes. Note the tail code "X-2". 
I believe the combination of the above offers a clear answer to the question whether the "Rufe" seaplanes could be launched by a catapult or not.
According to this Japanese site which features a diary of the Kimikawa Maru movement, on October 21 the ship departed Yokosuka with five "Rufe" and three "Jake" arrived at Paramushir on October 25, then left on November 2 arriving in Attu on November 6, unloaded the aircraft and returned to Ominato on November 6.
And this site mentions - 2 November 1942: Arrives at Kiska. Offloads her six A6M2-N and three E13A1, then moves to Attu the same day.
November 14 the ship departed after taking on board four reconnaissance seaplanes in Ominato and arrived in Kataoka Bay in Shumshu Island on November 18. The next day, November 19, departed again and at N52.50-E166 catapaulted the seaplanes to Kiska Island. On November 24 returned to Ominato.
Aviation sources and Combined Fleet mention nothing regarding this transport.

Aviation sources mention that on December 25 Kimikawa Maru brought seven "Rufe" to Attu and three pilots also arrived as reinforcements.
The Japanese Navy site mentions that on December 8 departed Ominato arriving at Yokosuka the next day. While in Yokosuka the ship took on board five "Rufe" and eight reconnaissance seaplanes (type? Either "Pete" or "Dave", certainly not "Jake" as the ship could not carry more than four of these) and departed on December 16. After a stop at Kataoka Bay between December 20 and 23, arrived in Attu on the 26th returning to Ominato on January 1st.
Combined Fleet mentions:
18 December 1942: From the open sea at 52-50N, 166E, KIMIKAWA MARU launches four reconnaisance seaplanes bound for Kiska.
25 December 1942:
Arrives at Kiska with destroyer HATSUSHIMO. Debarks seven A6M2-Ns and departs same day.

The Japanese Navy site mentions that on January 19 Kimikawa Maru took on board ten "Rufe" departed from Yokosuka and after being escorted by the captured HMS Thracian until Inubosaki in Chiba prefecture sailed to Paramushir (nothing is mentioned regarding the fate of these ten "Rufe").
After that Kimikawa Maru joined the 10th convoy transporting seven "Rufe", one reconnaissance seaplane, two Tokuhatsu landing craft and four Daihatsu landing craft departing Paramushir around January 28.
Combined Fleet mentions:
13 January 1943: Departs Ominato. Arrives at Yokosuka that same day. Loads eight A6M2-Ns and one E13A1 for transport. Her cargo also includes four Daihatsu and two smaller barges.
31 January 1943: Arrives at Attu. Offloads her Rufes.
1 February 1943: Arrives at Kiska with USUGUMO. Departs the same day. Offloads her Jake.

Here's what we found from original Japanese sources. According to the official IJN plan dated January 22, Kimikawa Maru was to transport seven "Rufe", one reconnaissance seaplane, two Tokuhatsu and four Daihatsu landing craft as well as 700 soldiers. Together with Kimikawa Maru were to be Sakito Maru and escorted by the destroyer Usugumo and arrival date to Attu was to be January 27. On January 24 the Commander of the 5th Fleet ordered the captains of Kimikawa Maru and Usugumo to depart whenever possible without the soldiers. The ships were to be led by Usugumo and deliver the "Rufe" to Attu as soon as possible. On January 26 the captain of Kimikawa Maru radioed the headquarters that the bad weather in the area made impossible to deliver the aircraft and the landing ships by January 29. Therefore the ship was to return to Paramushir to get refueled and then make another effort to reach the Aleutians. On January 28 the captain of Kimikawa Maru radioed Attu explaining that the convoy will depart at 17:00 that day and is scheduled to arrive on the 30th at 19:00. There are no more cables but a report mentioned that after unloading their cargo at Attu, Kimikawa Maru will depart on January 31 at 21:00 to return to base escorted by Usugumo.
Aviation sources mention that on February 1, 1943 six "Rufe" and one "Jake" were delivered to Kiska, agreeing on the date but disagreeing on the location and the number of "Rufe" seaplanes.

According to the summary report of the 1st Destroyer Squadron there were two plans to reinforce the Aleutians. The 1st plan called for troop transport Sakito Maru and auxiliary transport Shunko Maru to ferry provisions to Kiska. They were to be escorted by cruisers Kiso and Abukuma, destroyers Wakaba and Hatsushimo, Kimikawa Maru and destroyer Inazuma (if possible cruiser Maya too). Kimikawa was first to launch her reconnaissance seaplanes to reconnoitre the area, then the planes to reach and stay in Kiska. If conditions were favourable the rest of the ships were to follow.
The 2nd plan called for Kimikawa Maru not to participate but only shipsto make a fast dash to Kiska without any air cover.
The 1st plan was preferable and ships were to depart on February 13 and arrive in Kiska on the 18th.
The two Navy sites agree that on February 9 Kimikawa Maru departed Ominato, made a stop at Paramushir and on February 12 launched (or catapulted) seven "Rufe" and five reconnaissance seaplanes (again "Pete" or "Dave") to Kiska from N52.55-E168 and returned to Yokosuka on February 21.
Nothing is mentioned regarding this transfer in Aviation sources. But the action report of the 1st DesSq mentions that on February 14 Kimikawa Maru and destroyer Inazuma delivered four reconnaissance seaplanes to Kiska. Two other seaplanes were damaged, and one more got lost.
According to the summary report of the 1st DesSq on February 12, the 2nd plan was decided to be put forward, i.e. two transports with escorts to make a dash to Kiska without Kimikawa Maru but from the movements of the various ships it seems that this plan was also scrapped and transports made fast runs separately to the Aleutians each escorted by light cruisers and destroyers.
The original plan needed to be rethought as was shown in the summary report of the 1st DesSq which mentions that the loss of Akagane Maru on February 19 and the elevated presence of enemy aircraft due to the completion of the airfield on Amchitka and also the presence of enemy ships in the area made it necessary to organize a transport convoy protected by the full force of the northern units. This was attempted in the end of February and the operation was named "A". The first group named "I" (1st) included Kimikawa Maru, Awata Maru, Sakito Maru and were protected by the 21st Sentai including heavy cruisers Maya and Nachi, light cruisers Tama and Kiso and destroyers Hibiki, Hatsuharu, Usugumo (there is a question on the presence of destroyers).
From February 27 to March 18 Combined Fleet mentions:
27 February 1943:
Departs Yokosuka in convoy I-21. KIMIKAWA MARU carries six float fighters and three reconnaisance seaplanes.

7 March 1943: Departs Paramushiro in fleet convoy 21 consisting of AWATA, KIMIKAWA and KASADO MARUs escorted by light cruisers TAMA and KISO. Heavy cruisers NACHI and MAYA provide distant cover.
10 March 1943: Arrives at Kiska at 1800. Disembarks 185 military personnel. Begins unloading ammunition and airfield materials, but at 2100 the convoy is forced to depart because of the threat of air raids. The ships depart with much cargo on board.
10 March 1943: Arrives at Attu. Offloads six A6M2-N Rufes. Departs same day.
18 March 1943: Arrives at Yokosuka.
The Japanese documents confirm the above information.
The second group named "RO" (2nd) including Awata Maru, Sakito Maru, Sanko Maru plus the escorts of the first group was to reinforce the Aleutians at a later date but this effort resulted in the Battle of the Komandorski Islands.
A review of the February-March events indicates that the Aleutians were in dire need of reinforcements, preferably "Rufe" seaplanes. Since these could not be catapulted in mid-sea, they had to be offloaded directly on Kiska or Attu and the presence of U.S. forces in Amchitka Island made that extremely precarious. So, it seems the seaplanes Kimikawa Maru carried changed depending on the situation. If they could dash and offload planes on Attu or Kiska they carried "Rufe". If they couldn't, they carried either "Jake" or "Pete" (probably) which they catapulted mid-way.

Below is a map included in the "Air Objective Folder on the Kurile Islands" of the US Army Air Force dated May 25, 1943, featuring the Kashiwabara Harbor on the island of Paramushir, right across Kataoka Bay on the Shumshu Island; the destination of Kimikawa Maru during her trips to the Kuriles.

Combined Fleet has the following:
1 May 1943: Departs Yokosuka. 
5 May 1943: Arrives at Kataoka Bay. 
11 May 1943: American Operation "LANDCRAB" - The Invasion of Attu, Aleutians:...
That same day, KIMIKAWA MARU departs Paramushiro in Vice Admiral Kawase Shiro's Attu Task Force Escorted by cruisers MAYA and KISO, DesDiv 21's HATSUSHIMO and WAKABA. She is transporting eight F1M2 Petes and two A6M2-N Rufes of the No. 452 Naval Air Group. 
The plan calls for KIMIKAWA MARU to launch its floatplanes from a point 250 miles SW of Attu to fly to Kiska, but after the American landings on Attu, she and her escorts are ordered to return to Paramushiro. 
15 May 1943: Arrives at Kataoka Bay, Shimushu Island.
The Japanese Navy site agrees with the above with the exception of six "Pete" instead of eight.
This information is based to a large degree on a plan found in a document released by the 1st DesSq dated May 6.
But as we saw here, according to Izawa, the 452Ku had returned to Japan mainland on March 27 and reorganized on May 18. So the natural questions are: 1. what was the cargo of Kimikawa Maru when she departed Yokosuka on May 1?, 2. if she carried 452Ku "Pete" and "Rufe" seaplanes to be flown to Kiska, what was the point when the unit had already evacuated the Aleutians? Something's fishy here, right? The problem lies in that the Aviation guys check mainly aircraft related sources and the Navy guys mainly ship related and as a result the stories don't always agree.
Well, there are two complementing sources that agree between them in everything and clear completely the air adding on top many interesting details. The first is the book "Kiska - Nihon Kaigun no Eiko" (Kiska - The Glory of the Japanese Navy) by Ichikawa Konosuke who served on Kimikawa Maru as LCDR for accounting and provisions and the second, an article by Furukawa Akira in the book "Kaigun Suijoki-tai" who served as Chief Officer on Kimikawa Maru and as hikocho with the 452Ku.
According to them Kimikawa Maru left Yokosuka on May 1st. Stopped at Tateyama and took on-board eight "Pete" (NO "Rufe") floatplanes together with Hikotaicho Sakamoto Terumichi, pilots/observers and maintenance crew and headed to Paramushir area, where she arrived on May 5 and stayed for about six days. On May 11 Kimikawa Maru departed Paramushir to send aircraft reinforcements to the Aleutians. She was escorted by light cruiser Kiso and destroyers Shirakumo and Wakaba and the plan was to catapult the eight "Pete" floatplanes that she carried as close as possible to Attu Island, let them fly to the island and then on to Kiska. But on the way to the Aleutians they received message that U.S. Forces had landed on Attu. Considering that the Japanese forces on Kiska would be in very difficult position if the U.S. forces took Attu, an order was given the eight "Pete" of Kimikawa Maru to be catapulted and attack the enemy in the Attu area. The rest of the Northern fleet was to join in but the next day there was very heavy fog, the ships were sailing 200nmi west of Attu waiting for further orders and after relizing the strength of the US landing fleet and considering the bad weather that was to continue until the 15th, the order to attack was recalled and all the ships returned to Paramushir. Upon their return to Paramushir they found a number of ships waiting and "Betty" bombers on stand-by. More ships joined in and there were daily plans to attack the enemy forces in Attu but the weather didn't permit them to leave. Finally on April 18 rumours were received that Yamamoto Isoroku was killed and a mood of complete depression spread among the officers, some of them bursting into tears.
From the above, two things become clear: 1. Kimikawa Maru did not carry any "Rufe" seaplanes during that mission, 2. the "Pete" group of the 452Ku moved to Paramushir and then obviously to Shumshu at that time, not "around the end of May". Upon further research we discovered that although the whole unit had returned to Japan, at least three 452Ku "Jake" seaplanes were left back on Kiska and flew daily missions to Attu and back. That would mean that pilots and at least some ground crew were still present during that time and therefore, sending "Pete" seaplanes as reinforcements to provide some aerial cover would make sense.

According to Izawa, from July 1942 until March 1943 Kimikawa Maru and other ships transported to Kiska a total of 35 "Rufe" seaplanes.

Following the capture of Attu and the evacuation of Kiska, Kimikawa Maru was then assigned to support the forces in the Kuriles Islands transporting aircraft and material to Paramushir and Shumshu Islands.
Regarding the ship's movement during that period the "Combined fleet" site mentions:
25 May 1943: Departs Kashiwabara Bay.
26 May 1943: Arrives at Ominato. Resumes patrols along the Kurile Islands chain.
31 May 1943: Departs Ominato.
13 June 1943: Arrives at Kataoka Bay with six Type 95 Kawanishi E8N2 Daves.
But according to the above mentioned book "Kiska - Nihon Kaigun no Eiko", on May 25 an order arrived from the Commander of the 5th Fleet, Kimikawa Maru to unload all the "Pete" it carried at Paramushir, return to Ominato and load six 3-seat reconnaissance seaplanes ("Jake" or "Alf"; not "Dave"). Kimikawa Maru returned to Ominato on May 28, stayed for four days and took on board the 3-seat floatplanes, which belonged to the ship’s own flying compliment, i.e. they were not just replacement or aircraft transported for another unit (ex. 452 Ku). In other words on that date Kimikawa Maru took on-board her own aircraft, she did not carry the "Jake" group of the 452Ku. Apart from the floatplanes the ship was loaded with as many as possible provisions including fuel, food and more than 200 Kuriles based unit replacements and replacement sailors. She arrived in Paramushir on June 3 and this date is confirmed by the "Combat Diary of the 5th Fleet" which places the ship in Paramushir on June 3, Tokyo time/date; not June 13.

Now let's turn our attention to the Kimikawa Maru photos featured in the publication "Maru Special #25".
The photo further higher in this posting with the "Alf" and "Jake" floatplanes is not dated but the caption mentions that the photo was taken when the ship was heading to the North Area. I think it is possible that the photo was taken during the above mentioned May 28~June 3 trip to Paramushir.
Two photos featured on page 65 and one on 67 (also featured on the back cover), show Kimikawa Maru loaded with seven or eight "Pete" and one or two "Rufe" floatplanes. The date given in the caption is April 1943 and the place Ominato. Here are close-ups focusing on the aircraft.

There are two problems, one with the date. All of April the ship was in Yokosuka undergoing repairs. The other problem is with the seaplanes and their markings. While in the top photo the tail markings cannot be discerned, in the other two photos they seem to be "V2-" indicating aircraft belonging to the 452Ku. So, the natural conclusion would be that these photos were taken when the 452Ku moved from Japan mainland to the Kuriles. Let's see when this happened.
According to the "Combat Diary of the 12th Air Fleet" on May 18 the "Pete" group of the 452Ku was on-board the Kimikawa Maru (information that confirms the "Kiska" book naration), the "Jake" and "Rufe" groups are in Yokosuka undergoing training and repairs. These last two groups were to relocate to Yokohama from May 29.
On June 6 six "Rufe" seaplanes of the 452Ku relocated to Ominato and on June 11 these were followed by six more "Rufe" with three "Jake" and two "Pete" seaplanes.
On June 24 ten "Rufe" relocated to Betobinuma in Shumshu.
Another source is the Kodochosho of the 452Ku. Here are all the entries of that period:
May 20 - four "Pete" seaplanes are on anti-submarine patrol in Paramushir. This entry confirms that a number of "Pete" floatplanes were already in the Kuriles. These arrived with the May 11 trip of Kimikawa Maru.
June 11 - Two "Pete" seaplanes on anti-submarine patrol in Ominato. This entry confirms the "Combat Diary of the 12th Air Fleet" and shows that at least one seaplane, probably two, of the 452Ku "Pete" group was still in Ominato.
June 18 - one "Pete" anti-submarine patrol in Ominato.
June 28 - "Rufe" in Betobinuma take-off ten times on patrol or ten aircraft took-off on patrol. This entry confirms the above entry of the "Combat Diary of the 12th Air Fleet" that the 452Ku "Rufe" moved to Shumshu island on June 24.
A most interesting photo is featured in Akimoto's Nihon Kaigun Kokutai Shashin-shu, Shupan Kyodo 1960. According to the caption "Rufe" seaplanes are ferried to the 452Ku by Kimikawa Maru in February 1943.
There are a couple of very interesting details to turn our attention to. First is the very worn looking main float but notice also that the stabilizing float has a solid green paint. The green of the main float looks more like it has been haphazardly airbrushed than the paint has just peeled off. Compare it if you like with the main float close-up here.
The other major point is the tail and the marking. A closer inspection reveals that the rudder looks to have been overall gray with a number 2 in red, then the area around the 2 is camouflaged with a quick hand of green paint by paintbrush and airbrush. Compare the dark number 2 with the bright colored, probably yellow, marking on the rest of the tail.

One suggestion that would explain the look and the markings of this "Rufe" is that it's a spare aircraft, in overall gray, camouflaged in haste and sent to the Aleutians and/or that it has replacement parts like the rudder and the main float.
As we previously saw the 452Ku during their time in Kiska used the tail marking "M1-". Therefore the date Akimoto-san mentions in the caption is not correct, unless this is a spare aircraft that would get the "M1" marking once delivered in Kiska.
Devlin Chouinard created artwork based on our interpretation of the above photo.

While updating the past "Rufe" posts with entries from the daily reports entitled "Japanese Naval Activities" issued by the Navy Department, Office of the Chief of Naval Operations in Washington, I came across a couple "mysterious" ones!!!!
The first mentioned: "U. S. surface vessels shelled 3 radar targets about 70 miles SW by S. of Kiska for half an hour beginning at 0016 X on 26 July [1943]. The targets, shelled at ranges from 12,000 to 23,000-yards were not seen before they vanished."
And the second: "Early 29 July, at 0850 X, a plane made a radar contact on 7 unidentified objects about 180 miles W. of Attu. The contact was lost and a search begun.

[cue music]

Friday 15 December 2017

Japanese Aircraft Online Model Contest 006 - MARK JAHSAN 2

This is the Fine Molds A7M1 done OOB, with Model Master paints and washes. Great kit, I started Sunday, and put the prop on Thurs morning for the pics.
- Mark Jahsan -

Friday 8 December 2017

Nakajima A6M2-N "Rufe" pt. 7 Kuril/Chishima Islands 452th Kokutai

We conclude this series on the "Rufe" seaplanes in the North with the last chapter in the history of 452Ku.  
The 452 Kokutai was reorganized on May 18, 1943 with Nakajima A6M2-N "Rufe", Aichi E13A "Jake" and Mitsubishi F1M "Pete". The "Pete" group with eight planes advanced to Paramushir Island in the Kuril/Chishima Islands around the end of May. The "Rufe" group was in Yokohama (or Yokosuka according to Izawa) training, the "Jake" were in Tateyama also training. On June 24, after a brief stop at Ominato, the "Rufe" group with ten seaplanes advanced to Shumshu Island on the northern tip of Paramushir using a base at Lake Bettobu (in all Japanese sources the location is referred as "Betobinuma" which is the marshes near lake Bettobu). Early July the rest of the planes followed with reconnaissance, patrol and air defence duties. The "Jake" and "Pete" were usually doing anti-submarine patrols.
On October 1, 1943 the "Rufe" group was disbanded. The reconnaissance floatplanes remained in the Kuril Islands from Spring until summer 1944 then returned to the mainland. The 452Ku was in Japan and Taiwan until January 1, 1945 when the unit was disbanded.
We will not tire you with the many Kodochosho entries of patrols without enemy encounters but instead focus on the dates when there were.

July 19, 1943
At 06:25 all the force of eleven "Rufe" took off on patrol and found five B-24 but the enemy escaped in high speed. "Rufe" pilots: Lt Araki, WO Nagase, PO1c Hoshi, PO1c Osa and PO2cs Katsuki, Naoi, Endo, Nagasako, Hamaya, Suzuki and Iijima.
The publication “Combat Chronology 1941 - 1945”, Compiled by Kit C. Carter, Robert Mueller (Center for Air Force History Washington, DC 1991), (hereafter CC) has the following on the day:
7/18/43 Eleventh AF - 2 B-24’s and 6 B-25’s bomb Gertrude Cove and Main Camp at Kiska. 6 B-24’s bomb shipping tgts between Paramushiru and Shimushu and completed runway at Murakami Bay on Paramushiru, which is also photographed. They observe fires among buildings S and E of this runway. Some of observed aircraft take to the air and vainly pursue the attackers.”
The Thousand-Mile War - World War II in Alaska and the Aleutians” by Brian Gardfield has the following on that day's events:
“It was a warm 68° even at 18,000 feet, where the mission leveled off. Over Shimushu (a small island just north of Paramushiro) the weather was broken; a low-lying haze was moving in from the southwest. The Liberators followed the Shimushu coast around to the south side of the island and crossed the narrow strait to Paramushiro.
  Three Liberators peeled off to bomb the air base; three others—Major Frederick R. Ramputi, twenty-seven; Major Lucian K. Wernick, twenty-six; Major Richard Lavin, twenty-seven—made a straight run over the harbor strait, sighting on a big concentration of several dozen warships, transports and fishing vessels. Paramushiro was the headquarters of all Japan's northern commands; it was a big base.
  Startled Japanese stared up, not sure what was happening. At first they thought the planes were off-course Russian patrol ships. But then the bomb-bay doors yawned open and sticks of 500-pounders tumbled toward the air field. The Japanese ran for cover. In his headquarters office, Vice Admiral Shiro Kawase heard the first string of bombs explode on a nearby taxiway and wheeled to the window, incredulous.
  Paramushiro's defenses were not on the alert (even though the American submarine Narwhal had shelled the nearby air field at Matsuwa only three days before). A few antiaircraft guns went into frantic operation, but only managed to fire four or five bursts. Pilots ran to their planes and fired up cold engines, but they would be too late to get up to the high bombers.
  Bomb explosions rocked several buildings. Craters pocked the main runway. Over the harbor, Ramputi, Wernick, and Lavin circled to make a second bomb run on the anchored ships—their bomb racks had frozen the first time, and Lavin was having engine trouble.
  Wernick and Ramputi triggered their bombs by hand while their cameras clicked at high speed. The bombs blew up one ship and damaged two or three others. Lavin could not release his bombs. With one engine feathered, he followed the flight away and shoved his throttles forward, trying to keep up.
  The other flight—Major Robert E. Speer, twenty-eight; Major Edward C. Lass, twenty-seven; Captain Jacques Francine, thirty-four—was just completing its bomb run over the air base. Thick smoke unrolled across the field. Five Zeroes dodged craters, taxied down a secondary (unhit) runway and reached take-off speed. On a nearby lake, twenty seaplane-fighters rested at their moorings, but only two were manned; these chugged into life and swung out onto flat water to take off.
  Speer gathered his planes, circled east and headed home. Lavin, on three engines, fell behind. The Zeroes appeared to be catching up to him, but none of them was fully fueled or armed; they gave up the chase after a few minutes. Speer cut speed to accommodate Lavin, and at dusk the six planes reached Adak in neat formation and landed at regular two-minute intervals. They had not suffered a single bullet hole or flak scratch.”
The July 20, 1943 report entitled "Japanese Naval Activities" (hereafter JNA) issued by the Navy Department, Office of the Chief of Naval Operations in Washington has the following:
The Paramushiru-Shimushu area was bombed about 1120 W on 18 July, by 6 B-24's from Adak. 3 of the planes dropped 12 500-lb. bombs on Jap[anese] ships in the strait. 6(8? smudgy) of the bombs were near misses. The other 3 planes dropped 18 500-lb. bombs on the runway at the airfield. No direct hits were observed but buildings E. and S. of the field were set afire. The runway was estimated to be 5,000-feet long. Another strip, about half finished was seen across the strait at Kataoka, Shimushu, where the base itself was estimated to cover about 1 square mile. Some installations were seen at Cape Miyagawa and Cape Arakata, S. of the harbor. The planes over the strait met 4 to 6 bursts of A/A fire which were all short. 4 Jap[anese] planes in the air made no attempt to intercept. The weather was good with ceiling and visibility unlimited although there was haze over the harbor.   

The July 22, 1943 JNA report has the following:
Preliminary study of photographs taken over Paramushiru and Shimushu on 18 July, shows 2 Jap[anese] seaplane bases at Lake Bettobu, at the SW end of Shimushu. 8 twin-float and 19 single floatplanes were beached or anchored there.
August 12
At 07:15 ten "Rufe" took off to intercept four B-24s. Inflicted serious damage but no enemy aircraft were shot down. At 07:45 all "Rufe" returned to base. Three aircraft, those flown by Hoshi, Osa and Naoi received bullet holes. The "Rufe" group was split into two shotai of five aircraft each. First shotai Araki, Hoshi, Suzuki, Iijima, CPO Nose. Second shotai Osa, Naoi, Hachigo, Nagasako, Hamaya. A group of eight "Pete" and Nakajima Ki-43 "Hayabusa" (Oscar) IJAAF fighters of the 54 Sentai based on Paramushir also participated.
CC: 8/11/43 Eleventh AF - B-24’s, B-25’s, A-24’s, and P-38’s pound Kiska tgts in 11 attack missions. Later, 10 rcn, strafing and photo missions to Kiska are flown by 3 P-38’s, 26 P-40’s, 4 F-5A’s and 1 B-24. 9 B-24’s from Attu drop bombs and incendiaries on Paramushiru I tgts, including Kashiwabara A/F and Shimushu I where Kataoka naval base and staging area are hit. 40 enemy aircraft challenge the attackers, which score 4 confirmed kills, 1 probable, and 4 possibles.”
Gardfield describes:
  General Butler asked Lucian Wernick to lead a second Paramushiro raid, identical with the first. Wernick refused to volunteer for the job; he pointed out that the first raid had only succeeded because it had taken the enemy by surprise. Next time the enemy would be waiting.
  When the second Paramushiro mission took off on August 11, 1943, Wernick was not part of it. The only veteran of the first raid was Major Louis C. Blau, who had been a co-pilot in Speer's flight. Blau led the mission; there were nine planes.
  Paramushiro, and the alternate target at the Kataoka naval base on Shimushu, were overcast at 2000 feet. The nine bombers circled down to make low-level bomb runs—and found that Wernick had been right. The enemy was waiting.
  Puffs of barrage flak smoke covered the sky above the targets, flung up by dozens of ground batteries and every ship in the harbor. Zeroes and Rufes were already in the air and climbing.
  Once again, flame and smoke spread rapidly across Paramushiro. Bombs—incendiaries and high explosives—struck a dozen buildings, a waterfront pier, a cargo ship, warehouses and supply depots. But just outside the savage flak barrage, thirty-seven Japanese fighters waited to pounce on the emerging B-24s.
  Captain Harrel F. Hoffman's Liberator, cornered by Zeroes, torched into a death spin. For the next forty-five minutes the eight remaining bombers fought a running battle with swarms of Japanese fighters—Zeroes, Rufes, Oscars, Haps. They attacked the B-24s from five- and seven-o'clock angles where the bombers' vertical stabilizers shielded their own turret and tail guns.
  Japanese cannon and tracers slammed through every bomber; the fighters made thirty and forty passes at some of the fleeing B-24s. The sky was a chugging battlefield. Lieutenant Robert Lockwood's plane, limping on three engines, was punctured from every angle. His gunners hurled back fusillades, but the B-24 lost altitude. The crew threw everything overboard but couldn't lighten the ship enough—and then, at 200 feet, fuel starvation muzzled Lockwood's carburetors and all three engines stopped dead.
  With instant presence of mind, Lockwood jabbed his con-trols—tank selectors, turbos and booster pumps. The belly turret took a frosting of ocean spray; and the three engines roared into life. Lockwood nursed it forward at zero altitude.
  Lieutenant Leon A. Smith, last plane in "C" flight, was an easy target for the enemy; for more than ten minutes he had three fighters on each wing and four on his tail. His gunners raked the air and Zeroes went down flaming on all sides—by the end of the incredible fight, the American bombers had shot thirteen Japanese fighters into the sea.
  Somehow, all eight B-24s, including Lockwood's, made it back to Attu. Through great good luck and uncanny flying, the mission had lost only one plane.”

September 12
At 08:55 one shotai with two "Rufe", flown by Koda and Nagasako located one B-24 and attacked but the enemy aircraft dropped her bombs and escaped. The bomber received heavy damage but as she was not confirmed as shot down, it is recorded as a probable. According to Izawa Ltjg Koda Katsumi and PO2c Nagasako shared this kill.
At 09:40 a formation of escaping B-24 is located. Following an attack by the "Rufe" seaplanes one of the bombers emitted white smoke the rest also received damage.
At 09:24 a shotai of five "Rufe" flown by Kato, Katsuki, Hachigo, Endo and Osugi located a formation of nine B-24s and B-25s. Two B-24s were shot down. The crew of one B-24 tried to escape with a rubber boat and was attacked.
A third shotai with three "Rufe" flown by Osa, Hamaya and Machise took off later the same day but didn’t locate the enemy.
As before "Hayabusa" from the 54th Sentai took part in the battle.
CC: 9/11/43 Eleventh AF - 12 B-25’s and 8 B-24’s attack Paramushiru for the third and last time this year. 6 HBs bomb Kashiwabara staging area. Shipping is bombed and strafed in Kashiwabara harbor and Paramushiru Straits. 1 freighter and 1 large transport is sunk while 1 transport and 2 cargo ships are damaged. 2 other cargo vessels sustain possible hits. Tgts hit on land include 2 bldgs and a AA battery on Shimushu. Of 40 ftrs giving battle, 13 are shot down and 3 more are probables. 2 HBs force-land in USSR, one with mechanical defect, the other after being hit. 1 B-24 is downed by AA fire. Losses are 7 B-25’s and 2 B-24’s in this most disastrous day for the Eleventh. It will be another 5 months before it is able to strike at the Kurils again.”
Again Gardfield has a few more details:
  “Exploratory missions had probed Paramushiro before the end of the Campaign. Now, as one of his last acts as Alaskan Air Commander, General Butler ordered a full-scale bombardment mission, to hit Paramushiro on September 11, 1943. As a parting shot, it was to prove the Eleventh Air Force's greatest disaster of all.
  The withdrawal of squadrons had left Butler severely understrength. He could assemble only seven B-24s and twelve B-25s for the strike.
  The Japanese were waiting for them. During a 50-minute dogfight against sixty enemy fighters, the Americans dropped about twelve tons of bombs on Paramushiro and Shimushu-To and shot down thirteen enemy planes, but lost three of their own planes on the spot—and seven shot-up American bombers had to crash-land at nearby Petropavlovsk in Soviet Kamchatka. The United States obtained the return of the seven air crews; the Russians impounded the bombers.
  Of the nineteen planes that flew the mission, only nine came home. In one stroke the Eleventh Air Force had lost more than half its striking power.”
The 13/9/1943 G-2 report mentions: On 12 September, Paramushiru was attacked by U.S. medium and heavy bombers. Thirty-five tons were dropped on targets in the Kashi-Wabara staging area and in Paramushiru Strait. Excellent results were reported. Approximately 24 enemy fighters intercepted; 10 were shot down.
Notice how three different U.S. sources give completely different information regarding the Japanese aircraft invloved (40, 60, 24) and the Japanese aircraft shot down (13+3probables, 13, 10). 

Below is a map included in the "Air Objective Folder on the Kurile Islands" of the US Army Air Force dated May 25, 1943, featuring the island of Shumshu. Note the Bettobu lake where the "Rufe" of the 452Nu were based. The island next to Shumshu is Paramushir.

Flight leader Takahashi Masaru who was on Shumshu from July 10, 1943 has the following to say in the publication “Kaigun Suijoki-tai” (Navy Seaplane Units) by various authors, Kojinsha 2013.
It was a very relaxed place and we didn't see much action. Everybody thought that since it was the very northern front we expected to see plenty of combat, but that was not the case. The daily life was peaceful and not that hard with good food, spending time fishing at Lake Bettobu in the morning and having the fish for dinner the same night. The crew were in tents giving the feeling of a camping park. The tents were quite apart from each other to avoid getting hit during enemy raids. Walking around them at night took about an hour and a half. There were 200 IJN members with twelve "Rufe" and six "Pete". The 452 Ku was under the command of the 12 Koku Kantai (Air Fleet). Even though it was a front base nobody really cared to dig air shelters and the air defence facilities were shabby. There were lookouts but no towers. The sentries were just posted on top of hills. The air raid sirens were simple, hand operated. So in general we were not capable to locate the enemy on our own and had to rely on radio warnings from Paramushir. So the officer in charge listened to Paramushir for enemy sighting warnings and then started the siren. The seaplanes were parked around the lake and when they all took off at the same time, they converged towards the center of the lake. Quite scary to look at but the pilots were highly skilled and there were no accidents. The bombers flew at low altitude and at high speed, and the warnings gave us very little time to react. So everybody taking off at the same time was the best way to catch them in time.”

Another interesting source is the book "Kaigun Kosaku-hei Senki" (Battle Diary of Navy Combat Engineers) by Kimura Seishu, Kojinsha 2006. The author joined the 521 Haken-tai (Detachment) in the middle of June 1943 and was assigned to Shumshu Island as a replacement to the troops who were already building the seaplane base on lake Bettobu. There were three main buildings, the headquarters was the one which housed the commanding officers, medical staff, pilots and crew. A different building was allocated to the maintenance crew and a third building to the construction workers and support crew. One of their night pastimes was to listen to Tojo Hideki curse in his messages on the short wave radio but there were also visits by soldier entertainment groups of dancers and singers. White nights on Shumshu start from around July or August which was very confusing to the soldiers who were not accustomed to that.
In the middle of July enemy aircraft attacked at low altitude strafing the place without causing any damage before they disappear. A few days later a number of B-24 attacked and the “Rufe” unit, all veteran pilots, took off almost without any taxing on the water, and got engaged in air battles.
The busiest in the base were the maintenance crew. When the others were sleeping they would get up and prepare the aircraft. After returning from patrol they would maintain the aircraft and except for a few hours rest during midday there was no other rest. The pilots and crew once in the morning and one more time in the afternoon they would take off for anti-submarine patrols or more rarely to escort ships reaching Kataoka Bay. there was no action the pilots would just hang around in the base. They spent their time building wooden airplane models and contests were held.
The lake water was not potable and was used only for washing clothes and bath. Drinking water had to be brought to the camp from a fountain at another location they had to visit with a landing boat.
From early September the weather became very harsh. As Kimura-san very graphically describes, soy bean size hail would not just fall but whip them as if thrown by demons.
From early July the water of Bettobu lake would gradually rise and the buildings had to be relocated twice to get further away. But the rising water reached just in front of the buildings in early September and by the middle of September the base was abandoned. 
According to Watanabe Yoji the "Rufe" group used the  tail marking "V2-" at that time in Shumshu while the reconnaissance seaplane group used the tail marking "52-". In his book “Ginyoku Minami E Kita E” (Silver wings in the South and the North), Kojinsha 2013 there is a not very clear photo which shows a "Rufe", that Watanabe says has the tail marking "V2-111". Recognizing that he probably has access to higher quality material, Devlin Chouinard created artwork.
And Hasegawa has released a kit in 1/48.
There is a small number of photos of 452Ku pilots and "Rufe" seaplanes during their time in the Kurils. Three particularly interesting photos are featured in Watanabe Yoji's "Tatakau Zero Sen - Taiintachi no Shashin-shu" (Fighting Zero Fighter - Members' Photo Album), published by Bungei Shunju.
The first is on page 187 and according to the caption the pilot is "Rufe" unit commander LTJG Araki ready to raise his arm signalling that he is ready for take-off. In the background there are proper wooden buildings so it is safe to assume that this photo was taken in Yokosuka when the "Rufe" unit was undergoing training. Of particular interest is the state of the main float of the seaplane compared to the pristine paint of the rest of the aircraft. Note also how clean the port supporting float is.
Another very clear photo on page 186 reveals many small details. Although only partially visible it shows that the tail markings were yellow, not white.
Another detail is the lack of head rest in the cockpit. According to Watanabe these were removed in order to protect the pilot if the plane flipped over.
Of interest also is the well defined with broad white surround fuselage hinomaru; but those on the wings seem to have the white surround overpainted by hand.

 The not-painted or silver prop spinner is also worth mentioning.
And finally notice a small detail lost to most modellers. The supporting float is quite weathered where the mooring line is attached.

A second photo on the same page shows two "Rufe" seaplanes taking off. Of particular interest is the seaplane on the left.
Note the bands on the fuselage and the wings signifying that this was probably the aircraft of commander Araki. According to Watanabe these were red with white surround; let's remember that Watanabe-san has access to the original higher quality photos. Unfortunately the tail marking is not clear and Watanabe-san doesn't mention what it could be. Devlin Chouinard created artwork with the speculative "V2-101" tail marking, we are sure you will find inspirational.

According to Izawa the "Rufe" unit starting from Toko Kokutai until the end shot down 17 enemy aircraft, with six unconfirmed. During air battles 12 "Rufe" seaplanes were destroyed and ten pilots were lost.