Monday 16 July 2018

Nakajima Ki-84 "Hayate" (Frank) - Decals and markings pt. 3 - 1 Rensei Hikotai

And now, the moment you've all been waiting for...Tamiya's 1st decal option.
"Plane piloted by Staff Sergeant Joten Naito of the Kurai Unit of the 502nd Temporary Interception Corpse (March - May, 1945. Nakatsu Airfield)"
We can immediately see plenty of unusual details. The top color is mentioned as "Dark green" in the side view and as "Light greyish blue" in the top view. The bottom color is "blue", the lower parts of the wheel covers as well as the spinner are in red. Note the absence of anti-glare, the hinomaru with square white surrounds, the unusual radio antenna and ofcourse the "rabbit" on the cowling.
As mentioned before it is important to see who said what, when and where.
AFAIK the first time this scheme and markings were mentioned and depicted in print was in the October 1968, No.246, issue of the magazine "Aireview".
That issue featured an article by one of the most respected aviation artists in the world, Watanabe Rikyu (who I was very fortunate to meet in person and unfortunately passed away late last year), based on information and photographic material supplied by Corporal Naito Noboru or Joten (for the onyomi and kunyomi read of Japanese words and names check here).
Naito and Watanabe were both graduates of the 15 Class of Shonen Hikohei, Naito became a pilot Watanabe became a mechanic due his poor, for a pilot, vision. The article explains that Naito flew "Hayate" Model 1 Ko and belonged to the 520 Rinji Boku Sentai (Temporary Air Defence Squadron). The main duty of this unit was intercepting B-29 bombers, and although their nick name was "RinBo 520" their official name was "1 Rensei Tai" (1st Training Unit) and came under the command of the 1st Koku Gun (Air Army). The unit trained young skillful pilots to the new fighter and as it was to be an interceptor unit the aircraft had a white band wraped around the fuselage, near the tail, while also sporting a red line on the tail, the unit's marking. The aircraft were overall "light blue" with dark green "madara" (mottled) camouflage on the upper surfaces with excessive chipping and weathering on the cowling and the center of the fuselage. The light blue was not the standard bright hairyokushoku but more bluish, closer to the German hellblau.
Naito's aircraft had three kill markings which comprised of a white star with a blue circle in the center and a red tail and represented one B-29 shot down and two probables. The bomber was shot down on January 28, 1945 over Shirahama, Chiba Prefecture, the other two were on February 7 over Choshi, Chiba Prefecture, and on March 6 over Oshima.
The propeller, spinner and wheel covers were in red, the color of the "Kurai Unit". The yellow corresponded to the "Yamamoto Unit" and the blue to the "Tokoro Unit".

Watanabe created artwork of this particular aircraft in the fold-out accompanying the article.
In February 1945, over Tatebayashi, Gunma Prefecture, Second Lieutenant Kurai flew against a group of B-29s in a diamond formation and crashed against the leading bomber. The nose of the bomber went up and collided with another B-29. As a result two B-29s were shot down during one attack. Kurai was able to escape with his parachute but bomber fragments cut the parachute cords and he fell to his death.

The B-29 kill record of the "Kurai Unit" is:
Captain Kurai                     --  4 B-29 shot down, 1 probable (2 rank promotion posthumously)
2Lt Gashu                           --  1 B-29 shot down, 1 probable
SgtMaj Fujiya (Fujitani?)   --  1 B-29 shot down, 1 B-29 and 1 B-24 probable
SgtMaj Ogiwara                 --  2 B-29 shot down
Corporal Naito                   --  1 B-29 shot down, 2 probable

Two weeks after the death of Captain Kurai the "520 RinBo" was disbanded and from the remaining members the Shonen Hikohei of the 13, 14 and 15 class were assigned to tokotai units. 48 of them perished in suicide attacks in March, 24 in April and 12 in May. From March until May the "Hayate" of Corporal Naito got a personal marking, a hare. The upper surface were repainted in glossy noryokushoku (dark green) and all the hinomaru got a white square surround.
Below is how Watanabe depicted Naito's aircraft as featured in the article and is ofcourse the source for the Tamiya decals.
The article continuous explaining that there were variations in the fuselage white band. Some planes had one, some two and some none at all. There was a "Hayate" with an eagle marking on the tail flown by Corporal Kuroiwa, a 14 Class Shonen Hikohei.
Watanabe's depiction is below.
After May all the markings except the underwing hinomaru were deleted and a very dark mat black green (kokuryokushoku) was applied; a characteristic of tokotai aircraft. Nevertheless pilots applied their own personal markings before toko missions.
On June 30, Naito got injured on the left leg with rocket fragments during an attack against a Dauntless over Nakachu airfield. Due to his injuries he was not able to fly again. As a side note the article explains that the adopted father of Corporal Naito was LtCol Naito Kunitaro who participated in the aerial attack against Tsingtao.

The Watanabe/Naito article caused quite a stir especially when Tamiya released their "Hayate" kit. The surviving veterans of the unit urged and helped noted aviation historian and prolific author Watanabe Yoji to write an article detailing the history of the unit, correcting the various innacuracies. This appeared for the first time in the September 1990 issue, no. 549, of Aireview magazine. The 12-page article features 21 extremely interesting and detailed photos (before you ask, the magazine is ofcourse out-of-print) which will not be reproduced here due to copyright restrictions.
The article is not a direct reply to the Watanabe/Naito article but offers many details about the "Hayate". From that article we put together the following brief history of the unit.

The organization of the 1st Rensei Hikotai ("1st Fighter Operational Training Unit" affectionately called by the veterans "1 RenHi") begun in the end of March 1944 and was completed on July 22 when the unit was officially established. The base of the unit was the Sagami airfield, Kanagawa Prefecture. The particular airfield, located between the Sagami and Nakatsu rivers, was used by a branch of the Kumagaya Hiko Gakko which was dissolved two days before the 1st RenHi was founded. "Sagami airfield" was the official name but everybody called it "Nakatsu airfield".
The 1st RenHi was under the 1st Air Army and their tsushogo (not their nickname as has been suggested) was Tobu 133 (East 133) or Kon 520 (Navy blue 520); don't be lazy, check the link for more information.
The unit's first commander was Captain Uchitoku Takayuki who changed from light bombers to fighters. On August 16 was reassigned as commander of the 52nd Sentai and later died in a night take-off accident.
The second C/O was Captain Ehara Hideo who took command on August 17, the same day Captain Tokoro Kojiro was assigned as commander of the flight training which commenced on June 30 when the first group of students arrived from the 1st Kyoiku Hikotai ("1st Fighter Training Unit"). They were graduates of the 7, 8 and 9 Type Ko Kambu Kohoshei, also graduates of the 1st Class of Tokubetsu Shoju Minarai Shikan and graduates of the 13th Class of Shonen Hikohei. Some of them had the rank of 2Lt. This first entry of students was split into two kutai (can be simply translated as "group") led by 1Lt Yamamoto Toshiaki and 1Lt Yoshikawa Haruo respectively.
In the middle of summer with more students arriving, a third kutai was organized, the leader of which was Kurai Toshizo who had the rank of 2Lt at the time. On November 30, Yoshikawa was dispatched to another unit so the 1st RenHi had again only two kutai.
The unit had about a dozen instructors and assistant trainers and about 100 students.
The training of the 1st kutai was completed in December having flown Tachikawa Ki-55 "Ida", Nakajima Ki-43 "Hayabusa" and "Hayate". Training with "Hayate" consisted of flying 24 times for a total of about six hours. Taxing, take-off/landing and flying around the airfield was 14 times, the rest was formation flight and basic combat.
The second entry arrived to the unit in the beginning of December and consisted of graduates of 14, 14 Otsu and 15 Shonen Hikohei. They trained with Nakajima Ki-27 "Nate", 2-seat and then single seat "Hayate."

When B-29 bombers started arriving from the Marianas, there were orders to reinforce the 10th Hikoshidan, responsible for the air defence of the Kanto area. The 1st RenHi came under the 10th Hikoshidan and organized two chutai with instructors and assistant trainers, the 1st led by Kurai, the 2nd by Yamamoto. There is absolutely no mention of any "520 Rinji Boku Sentai".
Members of the 1st Chutai were: Kurai, SgtMaj Fujitani and Sgts Kawakami and Oshima. Later they were joined by 2Lt Yoshioka and Corporal Eto (?).
The 2nd Chutai consisted of: Yamamoto, SgtMajs Saigo, Mochizuki and Ogiwara, Sgt Machuyama, Corproral Sakata and later 2Lt Kaneko.
Later some graduates stayed with the unit, became assistant trainers and joined the 2nd Chutai.
Their first battle was when they received signal from the 10th Hikoshidan on November 1st, 1944 and took off to intercept a lone B-29 F-13 on a reconnaissance mission over Atsugi, the area assigned to the 1st RenHi, with no results.
Their first kill was on December 3 when Kurai as leader located a formation of six B-29s over Atsugi on a mission against the Musashino factory of Nakajima. During the attack he was credited with one bomber confirmed and two probables.
In the 1st Air Army there were mostly training units and CO Lt Gen Yi Un (check him out) was particularly impressed by the success and presented Kurai with a citation of "having flown for many hours without any accidents".
Following that incident Kurai sewed kill markings on the sleeve of his uniform and painted one kill and one probable marking on the nose of the "Hayate" he usually flew, making his maintenance crew feel very proud.
After the death of Kurai, leader of the 1st Chutai became 1Lt Hosono. The Watanabe article agrees with the details of the death of Kurai minus the damaged parachute.
While the 1st and 2nd entries of students completed their training, a 3rd entry never arrived and the unit had no chances to engage in combat. In the spring ten students from Akeno arrived to the unit to train with "Hayate" fighters; they were all from Burma i.e. Burmese nationals. The 1st and 2nd entries were all assigned to toko units and until the end of the war the 1st RenHi trained toko unit leaders as well as training themselves in suicide attacks, occasionally employing borrowed Navy vessels, getting ready for the final battle for Japan mainland.

The actual rebuttal to the Watanabe/Naito article came with the January 2001, no. 577, issue of Koku Fan magazine, in an article written again by Watanabe Yoji accompanied by a new illustration courtesy of Watanabe Rikyu.
The story goes that Watanabe Rikyu met Naito two years after the end of the war in the Tokyo company they both worked. A common question at that time was "so, what did you do during the war?" and when they both found out that they were graduates of the same Shonen Hikohei class became good friends. Naito was a particularly kind, friendly and easy-going individual and over a few drinks they shared wartime stories in the local izakaya. Many years later when Watanabe was beginning his new career as illustrator, he remembered these friendly discussions he had with Naito and decided to put together an article. He contacted Naito, got the okay and the article materialized in print. It should be noted that Watanabe was not a historian and did not confirm Naito's story.
As mentioned above when that first article came out it made waves among surviving 1 RenHi veterans who protested that the "Hayate" with the kill markings was not Naito's but definitely Kurai's. The family of the later even had a piece of the uniform sleeve with the kill markings. As a Class 15 graduate, Naito started training in the 1 RenHi from the end of December 1944, so it is unthinkable that he was able to shoot down B-29s in January or even February. One member of the 15 Class from December 10 until February 1945 had flown 34 times with a "Nate" for a total of five hours 20 minutes flight time. From January 24 he started training with twin-seat "Hayate", seven times take off and landing and from March 11 started training with a single  seat "Hayate" completing the same training as the first entry (flying 24 times for a total of about six hours). The earlier graduates of that second entry were 30 students who left the school on March 25, the last students graduating by May.
From the second entry only five remained in the school as assistant trainers. Their names: Corporals Ogawa and Fukushima from the 14th Class, Corporals Kondo and Miyagi from the 14 Otsu Class and heicho Kato from the 15th Class. These pilots did not see any combat with the 1 RenHi. As you can see Corporal Naito is not among them. The 15 Class students were indeed assigned to be trained with the instructors of the 1st Chutai led by Kurai, so until Kurai's death Naito possibly trained with him but he was merely a student, not a member of any "520 Rinji Boku Sentai". Naito graduated from the 1 RenHi some time between March and May and until that time it is absolutely impossible to have had his "own" "Hayate" with his personal marking of a "hare". Unfortunately it is not known exactly when Naito graduated and where was next assigned. 
On top of this, none of the veteran maintenance crew remember any "hare" or wheel covers in some red or other color.
Significantly, AFAIK, Naito's "hare" "Hayate" has not appeared in any other Japanese publication, except for that old Aireview article.
The Koku Fan article featured corrected artwork by Watanabe Rikyu.

All credit for the above information should go to the veterans of the 1st RenHi and to Watanabe Yoji who actually did the research; we only gathered the material and did the translations.

It is beyond bizzare that a serious company like Tamiya continues to this day to release the same old kit with the same decals and wrong instructions, here.

A few words about the hinomaru with the square white surrounds. The square surrounds were not standard and very very few Japanese aircraft had them. Up until the time when official instructions were given to camouflage some of the aircraft when they left the factories, these were usually painted in overall hairyokushoku or NMF with hinomaru without white surrounds. When these aircraft were camouflaged at the depots or at unit level, the ground crew used some kind of stencil (paper, cardboard, cloth or whatever was available) to cover and protect the hinomaru so that it didn't get dirty from the camouflage paint (keep that in mind with your "Hien"). When the official orders were given to apply camouflage to the aircraft at the factory level, they started applying white circles surrounding the hinomaru, this becoming standard. At the unit level, it was next to impossible to paint a perfect white circle around the pre-existing hinomaru and instead opted for the easier white square. This though was too conspicuous to enemy planes and was not widely adopted. It is more common to low level ground attack aircraft like "Sonia" or "Ida" where they wouldn't like their own troops to shoot them.
The two chutai of the 1st RenHi could be considered homeland defense units so it is possible that a few "Hayate" flown by the instructors had white bands, not squares, around their hinomaru but there are no photos to confirm this.

The "Hayate" of Corporal Kuroiwa with the 1 RenHi marking and the eagle carrying a bomb is also suspicious but less than the "hare". The eagle/bomb marking is associated with toko units. It is not clear who exactly and how many graduates of the 1 RenHi joined toko units. There are two conflicting but also agreeing sources.
Model Art #451 mentions that Shonen Hikohei of 14 and 15 classes from 1 RenHi were first assigned to Akeno Kyodo Hikoshidan and from there to the 57 Shimbu-tai which was equipped with "Hayate". On March 30, 1945 the shimbu-tai moved to Shimodate airfield in Ibaraki Prefecture and received their first aircraft on April 10. Training for toko missions was over on May 17 then reached Miyakonojo airfield, Miyazaki Prefecture in Kyushu, on May 24. On the next day they flew their last mission. From the 11 members of the toko unit, seven were originally Shonen Hikohei; their names are known and Corporal Kuroiwa is not among them. Corporal Yamashita's "Hayate" has an eagle with a bomb on the fuselage sides (see FAOW #19, p.79).
Two other shimbu-tai had shonen hikohei from the 14 and 15 classes, the 58 and 60 Shimbu-tai. But MA#451 does not clarify whether they originated from the 1 RenHi or other school.
In the photo caption of p. 121, MA#451 explains that shonen hikohei from the 1 RenHi joined shimbu-tai numbered from 171 to 200.
The veterans in the Aireview #549 do not mention anything about the 57, 58 and 60 Shimbu-tai but agree with the above mentioned caption, only that Shimbu-tai 175 to 178 are mentioned.
In general it seems that the second entry to the 1 RenHi stayed in Sagami, organized toko units, trained for toko attacks and waited there until the end of the war.
This information confirms Naito's account and Corporal Kuroiwa was most probably a member of these toko units but no photos have surfaced to confirm the tail marking of his aircraft as depicted in the Aireview #246 article.

Nohara Shigeru created artwork of the Kuroiwa "Hayate" repeating the Naito's information for the old FAOW #148.
 But after that publication, Kuroiwa's "Hayate" does not appear in any other Japanese publication.
Aeromaster in their 48-040C decal set, released in 1995, included Kuroiwa's plane.

So did SuperScale in their 48-526 set of the same year. 

And while these decal sets can be excused for being old, Montex released in 2016 a set of masks in 1/32 for both the Naito and Kuroiwa "Hayate" perpetuating inaccurate and suspicious markings.



D. Chouinard said...

Very interesting about the colors, especially the light blue. Applied at unit level or that way from the factory?
Also interesting that Watanabe-san and Naito-san graduated from the same class. As such, he got to see things first hand, thus I trust his interpretation of the colors. I have always liked his artwork, a real master.

I also never knew of the black green color applied to tokotai aircraft.

Very fascinating, and I'm sure the next part will be the same!

D. Chouinard said...

This keeps getting more interesting. I was also wondering about the white squares around the hinomaru, I know this wasn't common and it has turned up in error on some color schemes. I believe there was something posted about ti on this very blog.

Hetstaine said...

Great article, very informative for us modelers :)

Anonymous said...

I have the new Arma Hobby 1/72 Nakajima Ki-84 and one of the marking options is for Capt. Hatano's Ki-84 from Ko,3 Chutai 47 Sentai, February 1945.
Would the white squares around the fuselage hinomaru and yellow stripes on the rear fuselage extend to the undersides? After reading your blog post I'm guessing the white squares didn't but I'm not sure about the two yellow stripes?
Many thanks in advance.
Andy King