Friday, 3 July 2020

IJAAF & IJNAF wrecked aircraft #35 - Guam Pt.2 & Tinian

The wrecks today are a bit more complicated and more difficult to identify.
Let's start with a video first.

In the beginning there is a "Betty" bomber the full marking of which is not clear. It is probably another 1001Ku aircraft similar to the one we saw in the previous post. So, the full marking could be "01-345".

Then there is the wreck of an Aichi D3A2 "Val".

The tail marking is not clear. It's "??2-2?".

Now, let's see another video, from here.

In the beginning and the end of the video there are views of the same "Val" and the tail marking is now more clear "322-2?". 

FAOW #33, has another photo of the wreck on p.75 and the caption explains that it belonged to the 322Ku. Unfortunately the aircraft did not belong to the 322Ku which was a night fighter unit equipped with Nakajima J1N "Gekko", a small number of reconnaissance J1N1-C, only about four "Val" for training (as it was also two-seater) and mostly J1N1-S night fighters. The unit was based at Katori, Chiba Prefecture, during the Marianas campaign.
Another more probable suggestion is that it belonged to the aircraft carrier "Hiyo" which used the tail marking "322" or "22" until March 1944. But the ship took part in the Battle of the Marianas carrying elements of the 652Ku with "652-" as their tail marking.

According to Wikipedia:
"Two months later [November 1943], Hiyō's air group was reconstituted in Singapore with 24 Zeros, 18 D3As and 9 B5Ns; the ship departed Japan for Singapore on 24 November. She arrived on 3 December, loaded her air group and was almost immediately assigned duties as an aircraft ferry. On 9 December, Hiyō left Singapore en route for Truk with several deliveries on the way. The ship arrived there on 22 December and disembarked her aircraft before proceeding to Saipan to deliver more aircraft. The air group was transferred to Kavieng and later Rabaul to provide air cover for Japanese operations there where the fighters claimed 80 victories in exchange for 12 losses."

According to Combined Fleet:
"25 January 1944:
HIYO's air group is transferred to Vunakanau Airfield, Rabaul.
19-21 February 1944:
After losing more than half of his fighting power, the remnants of CarDiv 2's air group, consisting of 15 A6M2s, 14 D3A2s and 8 B5N2s, are transferred to Truk. HIYO's air group is subsequently disbanded.
2 March 1944:
HIYO's aircrew depart Truk for Japan without their aircraft."

Truk is 1000km distance from Guam on a straight line, so, in my opinion, either the aircraft was left on Guam during the ferry duties of the ship at the end of December 1943 or was flown from Truk to Guam around March 1944.  

Another aircraft that can be seen in the video is a Nakajima J1N "Gekko" with the number "28" on the nose and tail.

On the nearby island of Tinian another "Gekko" wreck, a J1N1-S, was found and there is a nice color photo of that aircraft with the number "75" on the nose. 
But also this one.

A number of "Gekko" wrecks were found on Tinian, like this one.
But the tail number is not clear enough. (all three b/w photos from here)

Another "Gekko" with partial tail marking "??-29" was also found on Tinian. This one, according to Japanese sources was a J1N-F with a turret, but it was removed and replaced with oblique firing 20mm cannons.
And finally a J1N1-C with tail marking "21-65" (see MA#510, p.244) belonging to the 321Ku.
It is very possible that all the "Gekko" aircraft belonged to the same unit; the 321Ku. 
The unit was organized on October 1, 1943, at Mobara, Chiba Prefecture, the first IJNAF night fighter unit, nicknamed "Tobi Butai" (鵄 部隊) (Tobi=black kite). After the end of February 1944, the unit was assigned to Katori (Ibaraki Prefecture), Tinian, Guam, Yap, Truk, Peleliu and other places. Their duties were anti-submarine patrol, reconnaissance, ship escort, night attacks and more. The unit headquarters were destroyed on Tinian and on July 10 it was disbanded.

Thursday, 2 July 2020

IJAAF & IJNAF wrecked aircraft #34 - Guam Pt.1

The first thing the U.S. Marines encountered during the landing on Guam on July 21, 1944, was an Aichi D3A2 "Val". According to Japanese sources, it took off from the aircraft carrier "Junyo" and had taken part with 26 other aircraft in the second attack wave during the Battle for the Marianas a.k.a. Battle of the Philippine Sea. They failed to spot their target and on their way to Guam they were attacked by enemy fighters shooting down nine of them.
According to Wikipedia:
"A second air strike of 27 D3As, 9 D4Ys, 2 B6Ns and 26 escorting Zeros was launched around 11:00, accompanied by at least 18 A6Ms and B6Ns from Shōkaku and Zuikaku. They had also been given an erroneous spot report and could not find any American ships. The 652nd aircraft headed for airfield at Rota and Guam to refuel while those from the other two carriers returned to them. A pair of Zeros and 6 D4Ys bound for Rota spotted the carriers Wasp and Bunker Hill en route, but failed to inflict any damage on the American ships while losing 5 D4Ys to anti-aircraft fire. Radar had spotted those aircraft headed for Guam and they were intercepted by 41 Grumman F6F Hellcats. Only a single A6M5, 1 D4Y and 7 D3As of the 49 Japanese aircraft survived the encounter and landed."

I believe the location is the Agat beach on Guam and either the same in very bad condition or another "Val" can be seen in the same location in the video below.

Another wrecked bomber was a Yokosuka D4Y "Suisei" (Judy) Model 12, tail marking "07-117" belonging to the 107 attack hikotai of the 503Ku. The unit had relocated from Truk to Saipan to take part in the aerial battle and some of the unit's bombers made forced landings on Guam. 

Yet another wreck, was a Model 52 Zero belonging to the 343Ku. The unit was organized on January 1, 1944, in Kagoshima and was nicknamed "Hayabusa Butai". Originally the 343Ku was to be an air defence unit equipped with Kawanishi N1K-J "Shiden" fighters, but delivery of the new type was slow and they were mostly equipped with Zeros. Around the end of March 1944, most of the unit first relocated to Tinian, then to Peleliu around the end of May and, finally, to Palau in the begining of June. Some elements left behind on Tinian island intercepted the attacking U.S. forces and then relocated to Guam. The main force of the 343Ku that was based in Palau relocated to Yap to take part in the battle of the Marianas but also used Guam as an advanced base. The unit was disbanded on July 10, 1944, after suffering very heavy losses.
Time for our second video.

The tail marking "01-312" indicates that this "Betty" belonged to the 1001Ku which received this designation on July 1, 1943, as a specialized transport unit and, apart from transports, was equipped with a variety of types including "Betty" bombers.

Sunday, 28 June 2020

IJAAF & IJNAF wrecked aircraft #33 - Saipan Pt.6

And now Group 4.
In the beginning there were only three Zeros in front of the hangar.

Zero14 was an A6M5 Model 52 with tail marking "61-120".

The tails of the other two Zeros (15 & 16) are not clear in the photos. But let's see the third video, of exceptional quality, from here.

From the beginning, we can see that the Zeros of Group 4 are now five.

A nice close up of the engine.

The Group 4 from a different angle.
The third Zero from the left is "61-120" and is under a camouflage net. Note the cowling cover of the second Zero from the left and the spinner. They are the same with the Zero in the photo below.
The tail marking is barely visible, but Zero15 is "8-28".
More photos of the Zeros of Group 4.

Unfortunately, we have found no more information about the rest of the Zeros in Group 4. At least for now.

There is one Zero found in a hangar that is not clear if it was brought out and was placed in a group. Tail marking is "61-125".

And ofcourse, there were Zeros that were too damaged to be of any use.

And some had various parts taken as souvenirs.

As mentioned in a previous post, the aircraft were placed on trailers...

...and were brought to Saipan harbor to be shipped to the U.S.A.
Above is Zero "8-36" of Group 3.
Zeros "61-131" and "8-03" of Group 3.

We discussed in older posts how various Japanese aircraft were transported to the U.S., in our 8-part series "Toraware no Nihonki", here. Some of these Saipan Zeros (13 Mitsubishi A6M Zeros, 1 Nakajima B5N "Kate" and 37 engines, according to Wikipedia) were ferried on board USS Copahee. The total of the Zeros we found in all groups is 18, which means five were left behind. The 1 "Kate" is without doubt "KEB-306" we saw in the previous post. Here's a list of all the Zeros we have identified in this series. 
From the "8" unit: "8-13" & "8-17" (Group 1), "8-07 & "8-34" (Group 2), "8-36" & "8-03" (Group 3), "8-28" (Group 4).
From the "61" unit: "61-197" & "61-180" (Group 2), "61-131" (Group 3), "61-120"(Group 4).
Total 11 out of 18 Zeros.

Let's see how these Zeros were placed on Copahee.
There are two without a tail marking. One more intact Zero on the top left, and another without an engine in the middle. I believe the one without an engine is Zero 10 of Group 2.
Here are the Zeros with their numbers.

There are four Zeros we could not place in the Groups.
"8-24", below is another photo. Note the lack of tail cone.

Another Zero is "61-121". There is also the Zero without a tail number and the one in the back of the photo with a "6" tail marking we can't read.

We know that "8-34" (Zero6) was also on Copahee as can be seen in the photo below and was placed in front of "8-24" and on the port side of "61-121".

Here's another photo of another group of Zeros carried by Copahee.
And their numbers.
We can't read with certainty the tail marking of the Zero on the top right.

So, from the total 13 Zeros on Copahee, we have identified 8 also spotted in the Groups, two that appear only on Copahee and one without a tail marking. Plus two we can't read their tail markings. 8+2+1+2=13. But actually if you look closer at the photos, you will notice there are 14 Zeros. Seven in the first Copahee photo plus "8-34" and six in the second photo. Where's "Kate"?...

Saturday, 27 June 2020

IJAAF & IJNAF wrecked aircraft #32 - Saipan Pt.5

Zero Group 3 is a lot clearer.

Zero11 is a A6M5 Model 52 and has tail number "8-36" with a kanji "" (Oka) above it.

Zero12 is another Model 52 with tail marking "61-131".

Zero13 is not very clear in most photos so it's time for the second video from here.


The video reveals that Zero13 has tail marking "8-03" with the kanji "" (Sen or Chi). Yet another Model 52.

At the end of the video we can see the following aircraft in the hangar.

It's not a Zero but a Nakajima B5N2 "Kate" tail marking "KEB-306" with radar.
It belonged to the 931 Kokutai same as the "Mavis" we saw in a previous post. Actually the existence of  the "Kate" confirms that this particular unit was active in the area and as a result confirms that the tail marking of the "Mavis" was a "KEB", not a "KEA" (901 Kokutai).
At some point the "Kate" was pushed out of the hangar and was loaded on a trailer to be shipped to the U.S.A.