Thursday 31 December 2020


 2021, is, normally, the year of the cow but for this blog it's the year of the AMABIE

Amabie, is a legendary Japanese mermaid with three legs, who allegedly emerges from the sea and prophesies either an abundant harvest or an epidemic.
According to legend, an amabie appeared in Higo Province (Kumamoto Prefecture), around the middle of the fourth month, in the year Kōka-3 (mid-May 1846) in the Edo period. A glowing object had been spotted in the sea, almost on a nightly basis. The town's official went to the coast to investigate and witnessed the amabie. According to the sketch made by this official, it had long hair, a mouth like bird's bill, was covered in scales from the neck down and three-legged. Addressing the official, it identified itself as an amabie and told him that it lived in the open sea. It went on to deliver a prophecy: "Good harvest will continue for six years from the current year; if disease spreads, draw a picture of me and show the picture of me to those who fall ill." Afterward, it returned to the sea. The story was printed in the kawaraban (woodblock-printed bulletins), where its portrait was printed, and this is how the story disseminated in Japan. (from Wiki)

In other words, those who have seen even a depiction of an amabie will be protected from disease. I still think a vaccine is much better, but you never know, right?

I think this shopkeeper from Napoli best expressed our feelings towards 2020.

So, let's put behind us the terrible year that just ended and find some optimism to hope that 2021 will be better and most importantly healthier.

We hope our blog kept you company this year too.

A special thank-you to everybody who contributed this year: Jean Barby, Luigi Scarano, Jan Kanov, Paolo Sonego, Rodolfo Bräuer, Miloslav Hrabaň (I haven't forgotten), Michael Furry, Zbyszek Malicki, Alvaro Lino, Miro Herold, Vladimir Martinicky, BaronVonRob and Pat Donahue.
We hope everybody else who contributed in the past but not this year, is still a Japanese aviation fan but more importantly healthy.

And finally a HUGE "thank you" to our good friends:
Sinang Aribowo, James Boyd, Devlin Chouinard, Danilo Renzulli, Zygmunt Szeremeta and Eric Vogel.

The latest news of our very much anticipated Eagle Eye #3 on the Mitsubishi Ki-21 "Sally" and the Fiat BR.20, is that it has reached a whopping 160 pages (!) with the most detailed and accurate drawings of the "Sally" ever produced. That's all I will say about the contents for the moment. We promised ourselves that it will come out some time during the first quarter of 2021.  

All the best for the new year to everybody out there. 

Wednesday 30 December 2020

Zero-sen Special #3 - 381 Kokutai

The 381 Kokutai was organized on October 1, 1943, as a fighter-bomber unit. On April 1, 1944, carrier aircraft types and night fighters were added and organized three hikotai, 602 Hikotai with 48 fighter-bombers, c/o Lt Kurosawa Takeo; 902 Hikotai with 24 night fighters, c/o Lt Matsumura Hideo; 311 Hikotai with 48 Zero Model 52 fighters, c/o Lt Kanzaki Kunio. 
The details below are from photos featured in various Japanese publications taken in March 1944, in Toyohashi base, Aichi Prefecture, before the unit was dispatched to Borneo.
And another photo from here.
All the Zeros are Model 52s fresh out of the Mitsubishi factories except for the Zero in the photo above "81-113" which was Nakajima built.
Let's see a few interesting details.
All the aircraft have NMF propellers and spinners and have the last two digits of the tail marking repeated on the lower cowling lip.

No numbers are repeated on the wheel covers and the interior of the landing gear and wheel wells are in hairyokushoku; same color as the undersides of the aircraft.

Note the bomb rack under each wing.
In the close-up below we can see the Type 99 Number 3 Mk3 30kg aerial bomb.
Here's an illustration of the bomb from here, with more details.
In case you're wondering, it's the same bomb Fine Molds includes in their "Babs" kit. 

Note the width of the IFF stripe and the cloth wrapped around the barrel of the 20mm wing cannon.

From the close-up below we can confirm that the wing top hinomaru are with a white surround. As are the fuselage hinomaru
Of interest are the ground crew members and their clothes (check older posts for more details).

AFAIK, noone has released any kit or decals of these aircraft. Leave a comment if you know something.
BTW, the Zero Model 52 displayed in Yushukan, has 381Ku markings. Photo: Arawasi

From Toyohashi to Borneo is more than 4000km, a rather long distance for a single engine aircraft and the Zeros of the 381Ku had to make stops at Kyushu, Okinawa, Taiwan and the Philippines. Once in Borneo they spent their time training and patroling until about August 1944.
On September 1, 1944, the unit had 40 602 Hikotai Zeros in Balikpapan together with eight 902 Hikotai "Gekko" night fighters. 32 Zeros, nine "Raiden" and two 602 Hikotai "Gekko" were based in Kendari and two 902 Hikotai "Gekko" were in Surabaya.  

The publication "Nankai No Umiwashi-tachi" (The Imperial Japanese Navy Air Groups in the Southwest Pacific Theater) by DaiNipponKaiga, features 381Ku photos taken by photographer Abe Tetsuo when he visited Sorong base, West Papua in May 1944. Three Zeros stand out, let's see the details.

The "81-1183" was a Nakajima built A6M2 with cluster bombs under its wings. The hokoku inscription on the fuselage reads "Seram 1". It's highly unlikely the locals actually donated this a/c so the purpose of the ijnscription is unclear. Very unusually, the tail and about half the wing area had been painted in a lighter color and it looks exactly the same with the hairyokushoku of the lower surfaces.

The other photo close-up shows two more A6M2s also with lighter tails and wings.
Unfortunately the photo print is so full of noise that it's next to impossible to discern the tail markings, so we will just have to take the word of the authors; white "81-1146 with a red band under the marking and white "81-1142" with a half white band under the marking. The ends of the cowlings are also a lighter color. This could be either white or hairyokushoku.

Hasegawa has released kit no. 07411 in 1/48 with decal options for "81-1183" and "81-1146".

Rising Decals has released an extra in 1/72 with decals for all three aircraft and resin wing bombs.

 And Sweet has released a set in 1/144.

The book "Tatakau Zero-sen" by Watanabe Yoji, published by Bungeishunju features a number of 381Ku photos taken at Degos airfield, Mindanao, in the Philippines in April 1944. Among them there is one of particular interest, here's a close-up.
It's probably a Mitsubishi built A6M2 with the cowling edge in lighter color and two bands on the fuselage behind the hinomaru. Unfortunately the tail marking is not visible but, according to Watanabe, the particular aircraft was flown by c/o  Lt Kanzaki. The A6M2 looks intriguely similar to the Zeros we saw above based in Sorong and therefore I don't think the illustration below I found on the net is too accurate regarding the colors of the tail and the cowling edge.
As we saw before, the tail should be hairyokushoku and the cowling edge either white or hairyokushoku. I think the tail marking is a guess by the artist.
Behind the Kanzaki Zero is another the tail marking of which is partially visible. Again there is an illustration with some innacuracies.
There is again the problem with the tail color and since "81-163" was a tail number for a Model 52, I believe this aircraft's tail number should be "81-1163".
I would also suggest that both aircraft had about half of the wing areas in hairyokushoku. The radio antenna should be shorter too.
In August 1944, the 381Ku was based on Ambon Island.
The Combat Report of the unit for an action on August 4, 1944, mentions:

07:05 - five Zeros took off (pilots: Tsuchida Katsuya, Oyama Kunio, Yoshimura Kazuo, Kimura Yutaka, Ohigashi (?) Yoshimi) 
07:23 - a B-25 was spotted and was attacked. It emmited white smoke but managed to escape in the clouds
07:50 - returned to base
10:30 - received a report that enemy is apporaching the area and five Zeros took off again (pilots: Tsuchida Katsuya, Oyama Kunio, Yoshimura Kazuo, Kimura Yutaka, Kinoshita ?)
10:43 - attacked an enemy force of 28 P-38s and B-24s
Tsuchida Katsuya made a suicide attack crashed on an enemy aircraft and perished
Kimura Yutaka shot down one P-38
Yoshimura Kazuo was last seen evolved in air battle but failed to return
11:05 - three aircraft returned to base 

The unit claimed two P-38s shot down on that day.

The only reference to that raid I was able to spot was from the site of the USAAF 9th Fighter Squadron "The Flying Knights", here.  

On August 4th our planes again engaged in aerial combat. The 9th escorted B-24's to Liang on Ambon Island and encountered about six Zekes - the Jap (sic) navy's mainstay zero fighter. The enemy planes were flying above our bombers dropping phosphorus bombs on the formation but making no passes at our planes. The primary purpose of our planes being to protect the bombers, our pilots restrained their natural impulse and remained with the bombers rather than be lured away and leave our bombers open to attack by other Jap planes in the area. A P-38 from another squadron was seen at the mercy of a Zeke which was on its tail, so 2 of our pilots, Lts. McElroy and Hufford finally caught it in a steep chandelle, whereupon the Zeke exploded in mid-air. This is the 2nd plane shot down by McElroy; his first being a victory over Babo on 3 June.

This could be either the aircraft of Yoshimura or Tsuchida.

In September the unit had relocated to Menado and the Combat Report of September 2, 1944, mentions:

10:00 - a report arrived that an enemy force of seven B-24s,  two B-25s and two P-38 is approaching, and two Zeros took off (pilots: Kamidaira Teshu, Murabayashi Sadao)
10:25 - Spotted one B-24, the two Zeros launched a combined attack of bombs and machine gun fire. The enemy aircraft was shot down.  
11:20 - two Zeros returned to base
13:00 - four Zeros took off (pilots: Kutami Masayuki, Taura ?, Fukuyama Nobuyoshi, Sakaguchi Masahiro) 
13:20 - started patrol
14:45 - returned to base. No enemy was encountered.

This source mentions:

Having completed the missions against Mindanao, the Fifth Air Force turned its medium and heavy bombers to the Celebes. This strangely formed island, roughly the shape of a "K' with the vertical stroke looped over the whole letter, lies between the Moluccas and Borneo. Although a single island it had been given a plural designation by early explorers who were puzzled by its peculiar conformation. To reach its western extremities would tax the range of B-24's from either Biak or Darwin, but its most important installations were located in the northeastern and southeastern peninsulas where even B-25's, staged at Noemfoor, could attack them. On the long northeastern peninsula which curls over the whole island, centering around Menado, the Japanese had built Langoan, Mapanget, and Sidate airfields. Japanese garrisons and some industrial activity had been noted in the towns of Menado (also headquarters of the Second Area Army), Gorontalo, and Tomohon. At the extremity of the northeastern peninsula, Lembeh and Bangka straits provided shelter for shipping, and Amoerang Bay, on the north coast of the northeast peninsula, was a shipping center. Less was known about the southeastern peninsula, but in addition to the old airfields at Kendari and Pomelaa the Japanese had developed five new airfields in the area-Baroe, Boroboro, Tiworo, Ambesia, and Witicola. As of 1 September the Japanese were believed to have 177 planes in the Celebes.80
A few B-24's and PB4Y's had bombed the Celebes earlier in August, but the first large-scale effort against the area was flown on 24 August by thirty-six B-25's of the 345th Bombardment Group, staging through Noemfoor. This mission successfully attacked merchant shipping in the Bangka and Lembeh straits, damaged the mine-layer Itsukushirna with near misses, and strafed and bombed storage areas at Lembeh.81 Except for reconnaissance planes and night-flying B-q's, the Celebes went free until 2 September chiefly because weather held off scheduled 345th Group strikes. On that date thirteen B-25's from the group tried to attack Langoan airfield, but when their fighter cover did not appear on schedule, the B-25's once again attacked shipping in the Lembeh Strait. On this mission the AA positions along the straits, aided by gunners on the damaged mine-layer, put up a curtain of flak which veteran pilots said was the most intense seen since Rabaul; two B-25's were shot down and two others so badly damaged that they were forced to land at Middelburg. This mission showed that the Celebes were too well defended for medium bombers. 

This source mentions:

2 September 1944:
Lahbeh Strait, Celebes. Thirteen B-25s of the 345th BG attack Japanese installations along the strait. Six of the B-25s attack Lambeh Town and ITSUKUSHIMA. The minelayer throws up an intense barrage of AA fire that shoots down 2nd Lt Lloyd B. Bardwell's B-25D nicknamed the "Mexican Spitfire." ITSUKUSHIMA's AA fire also damages two other B-25's that later crash-land at Middleburg Island, NEI.
Bardwell ditches in the water about 7 miles from Lahbeh Island. Several survivors are seen. 2nd Lt Allan W. Lay flies top cover in B-25D "Hell's Fire". Soon, three Mitsubishi A6M "Zeke" fighters arrive. Two attack Lay's B-25 and the third strafes Bardwell's crew in the water. The Zekes shoot down Hell's Fire. The "Mexican Spitfire's" crew is never seen again.

According to other on-line sources, "Hell's Fire"crashed into the base of Mt. Tongkoko.
"Hell's Fire, #41-30278, 500th Bomber Squadron, 345th Bomber Group, Medium, U.S. Army Air Force. 
Crew on that day was: 
Burgess, James O ~ 2nd Lt, Co-Pilot, TN
Greger, Arthur L ~ 2nd Lt, Nav/Bmb, TX
LaBoy, Raymond A ~ S/Sgt, Radio Operator, NY
Lay, Allan W ~ 2nd Lt, Pilot, MO
Turner, John ~ S/Sgt, VA
Walker, Ray S ~ S/Sgt, AR
Photo from here.

More tommorow.

Wednesday 23 December 2020

Kawasaki Ki-61 "Hien" (Tony), 78 Sentai by Jean Barby

I had this model in my head for a long time. In fact the "Hien" saga in New-Guinea and the melting of some IJAAF Regiments there, like the 68th and 78th Sentaïs has always fascinated me. The very good books of Mr Claringbould on the subject convinced me to give it a try. So this is Hasegawa 1/48th Ki-61-Hei equipped with the Mauser canons, as some found their way to that theater of operation. The 78th Hiko-Sentai changed its tail markings for some bands of the shotai color, like I did, and it seems the rudder was from another plane. I have also used the hairspray technic to simulate the already chipping green under the hard tropical climate. Otherwise as usual, no decals but masks. The Aluminium is AK Aluminium and the greens is Gunze H330.

- Jean Barby -

Wednesday 16 December 2020

Mitsubishi A6M3, 251 Kokutai by Luigi Scarano

 My latest work in 1/48 scale, an A6M3 Zero 251 Kokutai, pilot Takeoshi Ohno.

- Luigi Scarano -

Sunday 13 December 2020

Mitsubishi A6M3 Model 32, Tainan Ku by Jean Barby

Here's my last model, an A6M3 Mod 32 from the Tainan Ku, while on detachment to Buna. The fuselage has survived the war and is now in display in the Australian War Museum in Canberra. This is the old Tamiya model, with raised panel lines but much more accurate than the Hasegawa model. It was fun to bring this old model to a more nowadays standards, engraving, riveting,fitting the superlative SBS resin cockpit in it (quite a struggle indeed) and not using a single decal as everything was done with my own masks. Quite a challenge I must say. I have used the great book "Eagles from the southern skies" as a reference and this is the plane of Buntaîcho from the 4th chutai, Lt Inano Kiku’ichi, left behind when the remain of the detachment returned to Lae. I have used MRP RLM63 color with a lot of white to duplicate the blemished gray green of the "Zero".

- Jean Barby - 

Saturday 12 December 2020

Zero-sen Special #2 - 221 Kokutai pt.3

The air raids against Taiwan were the opening phase of the Battle of the Philippines, and the 221Ku relocated to the Angeles airfield with 60 a/c on October 23. The unit was heavily involved in air defense and launched multiple attacks against the U.S. fleet in Leyte and elsewhere. A small element of seven aircraft relocated to Menado and attacked Morotai at night. 

Below is a clip from the NHK News Collection dated November 23, 1944.
According to the narrator, it features a visit of "Vice Admiral Fukudome, the commander of the Naval Base Air Force, to the base of the Kamikaze Special Attack Corps."
Here's more about Admiral Fukudome Shigeru and his involvement in the Taiwan and Philippines air battles, from his Wiki entry:
After Koga's death in March 1944, Fukudome became commander-in-chief of the 6th Air Base and 2nd Air Fleet, based in the Kyūshū-Okinawa-Formosa district. He later noted that this appointment was out of convenience, arguing that since he had no experience with naval aviation, his assignment to a newly formed air unit must be because of the immediate need for an officer of flag rank. On October 10, 1944, the headquarters of the 2nd Air Fleet moved from Katori in Chiba Prefecture to Taiwan; at the same time as the headquarters move, the 200 Imperial Japanese Army aircraft present in Taiwan were assigned to him to bolster his 100-aircraft fleet, with additional reinforcements coming in later in smaller quantities over time.
In late October 1944, because of the heavy losses of Japanese air units in the Philippines, Fukudome's responsibility was expanded to cover the Philippines as well. He moved his headquarters to Manila on October 22. Another 450 aircraft reached Clark Field over the next two days to join the approximately 100 aircraft that were already there under Vice Admiral Takijirō Ōnishi, who became his chief of staff.

Ofcourse the unit he's visiting is the 221Ku.
Here are some stills of Fukudome and the pilots.

And here are some still featuring 221Ku Zeros.

Although the still above is too blurry we can see that the tail number is "221-??" and that there is a "B" under the numbers. The letter "B" has not been assigned to any 221Ku hikotai.

The Model 52 in the still above carries a 300ℓ drop tank under its belly and one Type 99 Number 3 Mk3 30kg incendiary bomb under each wing. It's the same aircraft in the still below. It's a Nakajima built Zero and the partially visible tail marking is maybe "221-A79". Which would mean it belonged to the 308 Hikotai. Note the fuselage and wing-top hinomaru with darker surround. 

The tail marking of the aircraft in the still below is clearly visible; "221-D66". Carries a 300ℓ drop tank 30kg incendiary bombs under the wings, but note that it's a Mitsubishi built Zero.

The last Zero taking off in the video is a bit puzzling because of the very blurry tail marking, but I think it has a "B" on the tail marking too but more interestingly, the tail cone has been removed. 

In December 1944, the unit was reorganized with six hikotai, 303, 304, 308, 315, 317 and 407 with 288 aircraft. It was the main IJNAF air defense unit in the Philippines and fought continuously suffering heavy casualties. 
On January 8, 1945, the remaining pilots of the unit relocated to Taiwan but the ground crews stayed behind and fought as foot soldiers in the mountains of Luzon.

Below is a photo of a Mitsubishi built Model 52 found at the end of the war at Clark Field. Note that the number "26" of the tail number is repeated on the wheel covers and that the green camouflage is not reaching the tail cone.

Hasegawa has released this kit "09847" in 1/48 featuring 221Ku Zeros.
Here are the painting instructions.
I'm sure you can recognize some of the Zeros we encountered in this mini series.

Antoine asked:
do somebody can id the two cars at the beginning ?
Ford Delux 1938 with suicide doors

And in this still...
...I'm not 100% sure but possibly a 1941 Cadillac Convertible Sedan Cabrio.