Thursday 28 July 2022

Heads-up! - Mitsubishi J4M "Senden by Mikromir

Ukrainian manufacturer Mikromir, has released in 1/72 two quite interesting kits of an obscure IJNAF X-fighter, the Mitsubishi J4M "Senden". 

The first kit is with the more conventional propeller.

The other kit has a "Sakae thermojet engine". 

Note that the box mentions that the kit was "Made during the russian-Ukrainian wartime".

Wednesday 20 July 2022

Questions - "Black" Japanese aircraft

 Baronvonrob asked: 
"All so very fascinating, but my question is, what actually is the probability of a Black or dark-colored Hayate as shown in Peter Scott's illustration? Years ago, Aeromaster produced a decal sheet depicting a "black" Ki84 of the 57th "Special Attack Company"…any thoughts or opinions would be greatly appreciated"

For a long time, artists have toyed with the idea of "black" Japanese aircraft, especially night fighters, I guess based on the assumption that the Japanese copied the Germans or the US night fighters or something along this line. Black was not an official camouflage colour in the IJAAF or the IJNAF pallet. It was largely not available to the units. All anti-glare panels were very thoroughly painted at the factories before the aircraft were delivered to the depots and the units. Black tail markings (letters, numbers, kanji and kana) were indeed applied to Japanese aircraft but mostly early in the war, before they received overall camouflage. When the aircraft were camouflaged in green, the black numbers would not stand out enough and therefore the crews, in most cases, preferred to apply the markings in white, yellow or red (with a surround) paint.
There are very few eye-witness accounts of black Japanese aircraft, but it is almost certain these were aircraft painted in very dark green paint; not black.
Furthermore, for an aircraft to be painted "black", the process at the unit level would entail the stripping of the original paint and then the application of the black paint. Without a primer, the black would chip, fade and basically disappear after a few missions.
Finally, in one of our very early posts, dated 2013, HERE, we featured a well-known colour photo, where all the IJNAF aircraft including the "Gekko" night fighters, were painted green; not black.
And last but not least, the colour photo below, from the Ethel Collection, features "Hayate" painted green; not black.
Note that a few parts on the tail of the "Hayate" in the foreground, look darker. It's dirt or oils or they are wet from the rain or something. You can see similar dark streaks on the fuselage side. 

Issue #5556, published this year, of the beloved comic "Commando" features the story of the "Black Zero".
Although historical accuracy is not really expected, from the very first page we read of "the black Zero, personal aircraft of Captain Jirai Saito of the Japanese Army Air Force.
An IJAAF Zero?!?!?!? 
The dragon on the fuselage is a lovely and very colourful addition but unfortunately, it's a flame-spewing European dragon, VERY different from Asian dragons. 

Dragons in Japan and Taiwan.

"Jirai" in Japanese means mine (as in minefield), a possible but not common first name for a Japanese. 
Note that the aircraft are A6M5c and supposedly escort a raid against Darwin. A6M5cs started to be produced from September 1944, while raids against Australia were over by the end of 1943.

During one of these raids, a nicely depicted "Sally" is seen getting shot down.
Unfortunately, "Sallys" never raided Darwin or Australia, as we explained in our recent Eagle Eye publication.

The second part of the story, describes an attack against a Japanese "General Moto" carrying the plans for the invasion of Australia. A fictional story, loosely based on the shooting down of Admiral Yamamoto. The bomber carrying the General is a "Betty" on one page,

and a "Hiryu" on another.

As mentioned above, we don't expect the creators to be fanatical about historical accuracy and the Japanese aircraft featured in the story are much better than the yellow Zeros in older publications. But if the creators showed the same care and interest they show for the Allied or even German aircraft, things would look much better. 

So, allow me to end this post by clearly stating that, in my opinion, there were no overall black Japanese Army or Navy aircraft. Dark green yes, black no. Could they have been? Unless some very clear and well-supported evidence is presented to prove beyond any doubt that a particular unit had some of its aircraft painted in black, then I'm afraid the overall black Japanese "Hayate" or Zero fall within the realm of the "purple Rufe"; i.e. fictional.  

Friday 15 July 2022

Questions - IJAAF 1 Sentai - Nakajima Ki-84 "Hayate" in the Philippines Pt.3

And now (drum roll), the biggest surprise of all. Are you ready?

The little-known outside Japan special hardback publication of "Maru" on the "Hayate", dated 2014, 
has a piece by Akimoto-sensei illustrating the unit's marking in the Hata-Izawa manner.

But also, a colour illustration by none other than Nohara Shigeru...hey, what do you know!..., showing a 1st Sentai Nakajima Ki-84 "Hayate" like this.

This artwork is based on the photo we first presented here,
and this aircraft was definitely captured at or around Clark Field. Until "Maru" came out, virtually all publications that feature this photograph or artwork of this aircraft, including those by Nohara, mention that it belonged to the 72nd Sentai and we followed suit. We should have known better.

The 72nd Sentai started to get organized from May 6, 1944, at Kita-Ise (Kameyama) airfield, Mie Prefecture. The organization was completed on September 1, and the unit relocated to Itami airfield in Osaka, and then to Sagamihara, Tokyo, assigned to air defence duties. The 72nd with the 73rd Sentai comprised the 21 Hikodan, and at around that time each sentai had about 40 aircraft in its strength. 
On November 21, the hikodan was re-assigned to the Philippines; the last unit to take part in the previously mentioned "Sho Operation".
On December 3, the move begun with about 30 fighters taking off from Sagamihara, reaching Taichu (present-day Taichung) airfield in Taiwan, in groups. During the relocation to the Philippines, the two sentai of the 21st Hikodan lost most of their fighters either due to mechanical failures or were shot down by US fighters. By December 14, only seven "Hayate" managed to reach Bamban airfield, on Leyte Island. The next day a mission against San Jose was planned but with only four aircraft in flyable condition, it was eventually cancelled.
During the following days, the U.S. forces landed on Mindanao Island, and the 21st Hikodan gathered all its available fighters, about 40 aircraft, from both sentai at Mabalacat airfield, Luzon. From December 18, the hikodan fought constantly against overwhelming numbers of U.S. fighters losing most of its "Hayate" fighters.    
From January 5, 1945, all operational aircraft from the hikodan and other sentai, formed tokko units and were assigned to suicide missions. Until January 12, fighters from the 72 Sentai in pairs attacked enemy ships in the Lingayen Gulf losing all operational aircraft. Three days later, the unit was disbanded.
For a much more detailed history of the 73rd Sentai, see our old Arawasi Magazine issue #10, Autumn 2008.

There is only one known photo featuring a 72 Sentai "Hayate". It was taken in Sagamihara, and the aircraft was one of those that had mechanical problems during the unit's relocation to Taiwan, and had to return to base.

It has been consistently depicted like this (Nohara "Maru").

According to Hata-Izawa, that tail marking consists of a band with surrounds and a number in the middle. Note the white band surrounding the fuselage hinomaru and the different number on the tail.

The overall colour seems to be small matter of debate since Katabuchi Sunao, in Gakken #46
depicts it like this.

Thorpe has shown a "Hayate" of the unit in a rather rough illustration, without and surrounds and with a nonsensical extra number on the bottom of the rudder, borrowed from the 73 Sentai "Hayate".

Let's return to "Hayate" "81".
Katabuchi has depicted it like this.
Note the painted cowling edge that probably inspired Nohara in his "US style" 1 Sentai "Hayate" illustration.

Peter Scott sees different colours.
So, could this Ki-84 belong to the 1st Sentai, not the 72nd, as had been claimed in the past? I think it's possible. The "32" has the individual aircraft number inside the tail marking, "81" doesn't, and I think this is not an insignificant difference. On the other hand, the band, as a tail marking pattern, looks exactly the same for both units. But, the single tail band is stylistically closer to the number "1" than to "72" and makes more practical sense for a 1st Sentai unit marking, than the single colour rudder with bands. 
I have a feeling, everybody made their minds on the 72nd Sentai marking based on the "32" photo, and the 1st Sentai marking based on the "Hayabusa" photos, without further proof to provide confirmation. 

More thoughts. The 1st Sentai was an older unit, the 72nd a very new one. Did the 72nd adopt the band for its tail marking only to realize that the 1st had already done so before them, so they painted the numbers in the middle to show the difference? Could the "32" "Hayate" also be a 1st Sentai aircraft and everybody has got it wrong? Has new information surfaced that indicates that the 1st Sentai changed its tail marking before moving to the Philippines? I'm afraid we don't know the answers to these questions but rest assured there will be an update if we find more.

Thursday 14 July 2022

Questions - IJAAF 1 Sentai - Nakajima Ki-84 "Hayate" in the Philippines Pt.2

Non-Japanese publications seem to prefer a less complicated approach.
Don Thorpe depicted the 1st Sentai "Hayate" in his 1968 "IJAAF Camouflage and Markings" book without any white bands, only the rudder was painted in the chutai colours.

The 1971 Aircam and the later 1997 Schiffer publications on the type, claim to have spotted a 1st Sentai "Hayate", captured in the Philippines. 

Nevertheless, later publications like Tom Laemlein's "Setting Suns" mention that this particular "Hayate" was captured in Okinawa. 
I'm pretty sure I've seen a very short video with US personnel trying to start this aircraft and setting it on fire in the process, but unfortunately I can't spot the video. Will update this post when I do.
Here's another photo of the aircraft.
In any case, Okinawa means that the 1st Sentai proposition becomes unlikely. As we saw in the previous post, the unit was not involved in the Okinawa campaign. There is a slim possibility if one (?) "Hayate" of the unit had to make a forced landing in Okinawa during the unit's move from Taiwan to mainland Japan, but there is nothing to support this. 

Peter Scott in his 1999 book, also agrees with Thorpe and presents the tail markings of the unit similarly. Note the "Hayabusa" tails too.

Eduardo Cea in his undated publication, concurs.

But Leszek Wieliczko, in his 2005 Kagero publication, agrees with Nohara. 

In the meantime, AeroMaster released a decal set in 1/48, including Nohara's suggestion.

MYK Design has released a decal set based again on the Nohara illustration in 1/72.

And another with the Hata-Izawa design to cover all grounds.

Overall, I can't say I hate the Thorpe suggestion. It makes sense and with individual aircraft numbers at the bottom of the rudder or on the cowling side or even on the fuselage side behind the hinomaru, it would look even more realistic. No Japanese, author or researcher has ever adopted it, though.
The Hata-Izawa suggestion is also fairly valid based on the "Hayabusa" tail markings. But I think it starts looking weird once more bands are added to indicate the individual aircraft. What would be the difference between a 1st Chutai (red rudder), 3rd aircraft (three white bands), and a 2nd Chutai (white rudder), 3rd aircraft (three red bands) if all the bands are equally spaced? In other words, it would impossible to tell if it's red on white or white on red. That's the main reason I like the Nohara suggestion the least.
I have to admit that the lack of photographic material is frustrating and perplexing. Although the unit was decimated at least three times, they also spent time in Japan where the crews would have had plenty of time to take snaps with their newly arrived powerful fighters and send them back to family members for keepsakes, like so many other units did. Hata-Izawa in their Japanese version of their book, feature a group photo of 1st Sentai pilots (before you ask, no aircraft are visible). This means they probably located veterans and/or family members and obtained the said material. The fact that all these years no 1st Sentai "Hayate" photo has ever surfaced, clearly means that none was available to all these well-known and prestigious researchers and authors. I would expect that from transport or lesser units, but fighter were the most popular units featured in Japanese magazines and even one photo would have been a big hit.
There is one other possibility. The tail marking has been misidentified! Perhaps the 1st Sentai used a different tail marking than those that have appeared in illustrations. So, there are photos, of shorts, but the aircraft have been attributed to a different unit. Possible? Let's see tomorrow.

Wednesday 13 July 2022

Questions - IJAAF 1 Sentai - Nakajima Ki-84 "Hayate" in the Philippines Pt.1

Enzo, a modeller from the Philippines and Arawasi friend, sent over the following request: 

"Would you happen to have photos of Hayates from the 1st Hiko-Sentai when they were in the Philippines? I am currently working on the new Arma Hobby one and I opted to do a Hayate from that unit. The one I am doing is based off of a profile from the Model Art Book."  

My immediate quick answer was that there are no known photos of the unit's "Hayate" fighters, only two maybe three of 1st Sentai "Hayabusa" which we discussed HERE. Upon further research though, things became more complicated and here's what we managed to gather.

(For the earlier history on the unit, check our older post). The 1st Sentai started changing their "Hayabusa" to "Hayate" either in March or April 1944, while in Tokorozawa, Saitama Prefecture, or Kashiwa, Chiba Prefecture, and spent the next few months training with their new fighters. On August 30, the sentai relocated to Gannosu airfield, Fukuoka Prefecture, and were assigned to Kyushu air defence duties. While there, they were re-assigned to the Philippines and, to prepare, first relocated to Kashiwa, and then, on October 8, the unit reached Gannosu again with 23 aircraft in its strength. Two days later the unit reached Shanghai, and by October 21, all the unit's aircraft including those left behind due to mechanical issues, reached Pingtung (known to the Japanese as Heito) in Taiwan. At that time the unit had 32 aircraft. The next day the sentai relocated first to Malcat airfield, south of Clark airfield, in Luzon Island, and the following day reached Lipa airfield also in Luzon, and prepared for the "Sho Attack", the control of the air space over Leyte Island. At that time the unit had only ten aircraft in flyable condition and with the 11th, and the 22nd Sentai, comprised the 12th Hikodan. On October 24, the attack was launched with only 16 fighters from the 12th Hikodan, which were to escort 3rd Sentai "Lilys" and attack Leyte harbor. Each unit advanced independently, the fighters provided cover for the bombers in the sky over Leyte and landed at Manapla airfield in Negros Island. Meanwhile, ten more 1st Sentai aircraft reached Clark airfield from Taiwan and, altogether using Manapla airfield as their main base, launched repeated attacks against Leyte Island suffering extensive casualties. On October 24, early in the morning, the sentai commander Maj Matsumura Shunsuke, was shot down by U.S. fighters soon after taking off. He was temporarily replaced by Capt Kasugai Toshiro who was also shot down on October 25 during an air battle over Ormoc Bay.
In order to replenish its losses, the 12th Hikodan returned to Japan in November for a month. The 1st Sentai was based in Shimodate, Ibaraki Prefecture.
In December, the unit was ordered to return to the Philippines, but all the new pilots had only just graduated from flight schools and had no combat experience. On December 8, the 12th Hikodan having each sentai equipped with 40 aircraft, started to relocate to the Philippines. On December 17, the 1st Sentai reached Porac airfield from where it participated in air battles over San Jose and was tasked with the air defence of Clark airfield, suffering again grave losses. In January, the whole 12th Hikodan relocated to Taiwan with only 18 fighter aircraft remaining in its strength. In February 1945, the 1st Sentai was reassigned to the 6th Air Army, and moved first to Shimodate, then to Takahagi in Saitama Prefecture, where it was retrofitted and was assigned to air defence duties until the end of the war.

First, Hata & Izawa in their 1973 Japanese edition of their "IJAAF Fighter Units & Aces" and again in the English version of the book, featured the tail marking of the 1st Sentai "Hayate" fighters.

 Akimoto Minoru in his old marking series in the Koku Fan magazine, August 1977 issue, presented the "Hayabusa" tail markings of the unit and only mentioned that the "Hayate" had similar markings. 

In the first Model Art on the "Hayate", #283, dated 1986,

artist Nohara Shigeru created a side view showing the tail marking of the unit with the rudder in red, with two white bands and another white band in front of the rudder, conforming with the Hata-Izawa illustration. 

Three years later, a FAOW on the type was released, #19,

and Nohara presented for the first time a full side view of a 1st Sentai "Hayate".

This time though, the red rudder had three white bands, no band in front of the rudder, and a red edge on the cowling front. The same art was repeated in Model Art #493, that came out in 1997.

Meanwhile, in 1988, Bunrindo released Koku Fan Illustrated #42 

and Nohara contributed artwork featuring a "Hayabusa" and a "Hayate" of the unit.

This time, the "Hayate" has the older two white bands on the red rudder and a white in front of it, but no red edge on the cowling. Of interest is the spacing of the white bands on the "Hayabusa" rudder.

Bear in mind that none of the above-mentioned publications included any photo of a 1st Sentai "Hayate" as proof of the unit tail-marking they were showing in these books. It is safe to assume that these illustrations were artistic interpretations based either on veteran testimonies or on conjectures without any hard evidence. 
Unfortunately, the Hata-Izawa illustration only partially addresses the problem with the individual aircraft and hentai identification. Since the various tail colours indicate that various chutai, the white bands would indicate the individual aircraft and the band in front of the rudder could indicate the various hentai. So, a red rudder "Hayate" would belong to the 1st Chutai, the single white band in front of the rudder would indicate the first shotai, and the two white bands on the rudder indicated the second aircraft in the shotai. But considering that the unit had at some point 30 and later 40 aircraft in its strength split in three chutai, that would mean there were aircraft with three bands on the tail in front of the rudder and three on the rudder. And again considering that these aircraft were quickly shot down in the Philippines, the whole marking system would become meaningless when aircraft from various chutai and shotai were bundled together. I find it very unlikely that ground crews spent their time re-painting tail markings every time an aircraft was assigned to a different chutai
But the biggest problem with the Nohara illustration in the FAOW#19 and MA#493, is that the tail marking looks very similar to the red and white tail marking U.S. aircraft used. The Japanese were ofcourse well aware of that marking as can be seen in one of the many photos of U.S. aircraft in war-time Japanese publications.

Furthermore, the Nohara illustration doesn't address the shotai and individual aircraft identification problem. It is perhaps for these reasons that the Nohara illustration was not repeated in any other Japanese publication.

More tomorrow.