Friday 26 August 2022

Mitsubishi ‘Babs’ Volume I by Picarella & Abe

Received the other day my complimentary copy of the latest MMP release, dedicated to the Mitsubishi Ki-15 "Babs". 

Title: Mitsubishi "Babs" vol. 1,  The world’s first high-speed strategic reconnaissance aircraft
Authors: Showzow Abe - Giuseppe Picarella
Illustratior: Giuseppe Picarella
Format: 30X21cm, hardback, 192 pages, all in colour
Photos: 117 B&W
Illustrations: 60 in colour, majority in 1:48 or 1:72 scales
Published by Mushroom Model Publications, 2022

The book has five chapters.
Chapter 1: Japanese land-based reconnaissance aircraft 1911-1935
Chapter 2: Made in Japan
Chapter 3: Strategic reconnaissance – uncharted territory
Chapter 4: kamikaze flight
Chapter 5: Changing the rules of the game

They detail the history of the Japanese reconnaissance aircraft types, the design development of the "Babs", short histories of the units that operated the type, the "Kamikaze" flight as well as the other, little-known civilian "Babs".

This is the only publication on the "Babs" in English, excellently illustrated, with plenty of photos and material. It will be accompanied by vol.2 which will feature more technical illustrations. 


Thank you very much, Joe and MMP for the copy.

Wednesday 17 August 2022

Mitsubishi A5M "Claude" post-war

Radek sent over a quite interesting photo he spotted on ebay, featuring a "Claude" at an unspecified airfield right after the end of the war. 

Unfortunately, the resolution of the photo leaves much to be desired and the tail marking is not clear, so we had difficulty identifying the unit. 
A closeup revealed that the aircraft had no tail cone and more interestingly, had a kanji on the fuselage hinomaru.

We thought we could see the kana for Usa (not U.S.A.) (ウサ) Kokutai, but the unit was a torpedo bomber training unit and had no fighters. More importantly, if the kana are "U SA", they are written backwards, from front to rear, actually "サウ - ???". On the starboard side of the tail, the marking was written from rear to front. The hinomaru kanji also looked a bit weird to me, so we thought of reversing the image.

When reversed, the hinomaru kanji could be "寅" (tora - tiger) and the tail marking would look like it started with a "ya" (ヤ).

There were two possible units that had tail markings starting with "ya". Yatabe Kokutai (tail marking "ya") and Yamato Kokutai (tail marking "ヤマ" yama ).
Confusingly, a document put together at the end of the war listing all the aircraft of the YatabeKu, operational and not, does not include any "Claudes".
Same with the YamatoKu.
So, for the moment, until a clearer version of the photo pops up, we cannot identify the unit and the markings. Maybe our Japanese readers can help?    

Update - Radek sent over the following:

"search a little and found out that it was the Opamma base. And it looks like the photo is correctly oriented in its original state.
The yellow arrow is where the photographer was probably standing.
Red circle - concrete cover
Green circle - building
Blue circle - building with "tunnel"
Purple circle - val
Yellow circle - the notorious photo of a group of aircraft"

Update - Radek spotted another photo of the "Claude", in the red circle.

Saturday 13 August 2022

Questions - Mitsubishi A5M "Claude" in service as Kamikaze

William Tippins asked: "
I've read that Claude's were used as Kamikazes....does anyone have any photographs? Many Thanks!"

At first, I dismissed immediately the suggestion but then I took a look at my Francillon who says:
"After serving in their intended role of advanced fighter trainer, beginning in late 1942, the A5M4-Ks ended their life among the few remaining A5M4 single-seat fighters in kamikaze attacks against Allied ships cruising off the coast of Japan."

Wikipedia, naturally mirrors Francillon: 
"In the closing months of the war most remaining A5M airframes were used for kamikaze attacks."

Hmmm...could it be? Let's see.
Except for the old FAOW#27 and the even older Maru Mechanic #28, there are no other Japanese books dedicated to the aircraft type. In both publications, there is absolutely no mention of any "Claudes", A5Ms or A5M4-Ks, used in kamikaze attacks. 
"Encyclopedia" Vol.1, the primary source for Francillon, does not mention anything.
Akimoto in his "All the Regular", the same.

We also checked Model Art #458, the primary source for all things IJNAF kamikaze related. There is absolutely no mention of any kamikaze units flying "Claudes".  
A thorough online search of Japanese sites also revealed nothing.  

All sources, including Francillon, agree that production of the type had ended in 1940, and at the beginning of the Pacific War only very very few, if any at all, "Claudes" were still in service with front-line units. The vast majority of the remaining aircraft were assigned to "second-line and training units". Akimoto mentions that at the end of the War there were still 38 "Claudes" with various units around Japan but it is unknown how many of them were actually operational.
"Broken "wings" p.71 & 73, includes two photos of a wrecked "Claude" fuselage found in Atsugi Base at the end of the war, Mikesh says that it was most probably used "as a training aid for ground crews".
We also spotted some "Claudes" in Omura, Nagasaki Prefecture, here.

Let's go back to what Francillon wrote: "...kamikaze attacks against Allied ships cruising off the coast of Japan." What could these Allied ships be? Is he talking about the Iwo Jima or the Okinawa campaign? Technically both islands are part of the "coast of Japan" but there is absolutely no Japanese record mentioning "Claude" kamikaze attacks during these campaigns.
There is one other possibility. "Starting on July 14, 1945, U.S. Navy carrier and warships joined U.S. Army B-29's in direct attacks on the Japanese Home Islands." Were any "Claudes" employed during these attacks? Let's see.
Here's what "Air War Pacific Chronology" by Eric Hammel, combined mostly from US sources, mentions (please keep in mind we are talking about Allied Fleets attacking Japan mainland, not during the Okinawa and Iwo Jima campaigns):

July 14, 1945
Against no aerial opposition whatsoever, Task Force 38 carrier aircraft launched from only 80 miles offshore mount 1,381 effective sorties against hitherto untouched airfields and other targets on Hokkaido and northern Honshu. Few Japanese aircraft are located at their dispersal sites on the ground, but the carrier aircraft are able to attack numerous shipping targets and claim the sinking of small ships and landing craft amounting to an estimated 50,000 tons. Also, without opposition from the air, three U.S. Third Fleet battleships, two cruisers, and nine destroyers are able to mount an unprecedented bombardment of iron plants at two locations.

July 15
Unimpeded by aerial opposition, hundreds of Task Force 38 carrier aircraft pummel Japanese air bases, shipping and transportation targets, and an array of other military targets on Hokkaido and northern Honshu. It is estimated that Japan’s maritime coal-carrying capacity is halved by this series of raids.

July 17
Despite bad weather, Task Force 38 and Task Group 37.2 carrier aircraft attack various targets in the Tokyo area, but carrier operations are canceled in the afternoon.

July 18
Despite lingering bad weather, Task Force 38 and Task Group 37.2 carrier aircraft attack various targets in the Tokyo area, especially the Yokosuka naval shipyard, where VF-88 fighter-bombers damage the battleship HIJMS Nagato at her moorings. In the attack, an IJN destroyer, a submarine, two escort ships, and a patrol boat are sunk, and five small vessels are damaged.

July 24
Against no aerial opposition whatsoever, USN carrier aircraft from Task Force 38 and RN carrier aircraft from Task Group 37.2 open a punishing series of strikes against targets in and around the Inland Sea, especially against IJN warships hidden in coves at the Kobe and Kure naval bases. On this first day alone, the carrier aircraft complete 1,747 effective combat sorties.
Among many other accomplishments, the carrier aircraft sink the never-used fleet carrier HIJMS Amagi and the battleship- carrier HIJMS Ise at their moorings at Kure. (The Amagi is also struck by 11 FEAF B-24s based on Okinawa.)

July 25
During the morning, USN carrier aircraft from Task Force 38 and RN carrier aircraft from Task Group 37.2 continue to mount punishing strikes against targets in and around the Inland Sea; and FEAF B-24s attack Kikai Shima and the town area at Tsuiki.
USN carrier-based F6F and F4U pilots down a D4Y a Ki-21, a utility airplane, and 11 fighters over airfields on Honshu between 0610 and 0645 hours; a VF-16 F6F pilot downs a C6N at sea at 0830 hours; a VBF-6 F4U pilot downs a C6N over Task Force 38 at 1822 hours; a VF(N)-91 F6F pilot downs a K5Y at sea at 1823 hours; and a VF(N)-91 F6F pilot downs a B7A at sea at 1850 hours.
Carrier strikes planned for the afternoon are canceled in the face of bad weather. Nevertheless, in only a day and a half, the carrier aircraft have sunk or severely damaged most of the remaining ships of the Combined Fleet—three aircraft carriers, a battleship-carrier, a battleship, three heavy cruisers, two obsolete cruisers, five destroyers, and many lighter combat vessels.

July 28
USN aircraft from Task Force 38 and RN aircraft from Task Group 37.2 mount massive attacks against airfields and naval targets around the Inland Sea. The battleship-carrier HIJMS Hyuga is sunk and other Mobile Fleet warships are damaged at Kure by Task Force 38 carrier bombers. In return for this completely symbolic gain, however, very heavy antiaircraft fire brings about the staggering loss of 133 USN carrier aircraft and 102 airmen.
USN carrier-based F6F pilots down 13 Ki-84s, three Ki-61s, four F1Ms, and an N1K over Japan between 0625 and 0845 hours; and a VBF-87 F6F pilot downs a B6N 7 miles from Task Force 38 at 1711 hours. RN Hellcat night-fighters from HMS Formidable also down three night intruders.
Ens Hugh N. Batten, a VF-83 F6F pilot, achieves ace status when he downs a Ki-61 over Metatsubara Airdrome at 0630 hours, and Lt John W. Bartol, a VF-16 F6F pilot, achieves ace status when he downs a Ki-84 over Ozuki at 0845 hours.
Lt William H. Harris, Jr., an F4U pilot with VBF-83, becomes the last USN fighter pilot to achieve ace status in World War II when he downs a B6N at sea at 1720 hours.

July 29
USN aircraft from Task Force 38 and RN aircraft from Task Group 37.2 mount massive attacks against airfields and naval targets in and around the Sea of Japan and along the northern Honshu coast. An IJN destroyer- escort, twelve merchant vessels, and several small naval combat ship are sunk.

July 30
Task Force 38 and Task Force 37.2 carrier aircraft attack Kobe and Nagoya; more than 60 FEAF B-25s and 319th Medium Bombardment Group A-26s attack Kyushu/Omura Airdrome, four medium bombers attack Honshu/Izumi Airdrome, and escorting P-47s sweep the area; FEAF B-25s and P-51 escorts unable to locate shipping targets off Korea sweep the Sendai area; more than 80 P-47s bomb Sendai; 80 FEAF P-47s attack Shibushi Airdrome and various military and commercial targets at Karasehara, Miyazaki, and Tomitaka; FEAF P-51s reconnoitering southern Kyushu attack trains and small craft; and VII Fighter Command fighter-bombers based on Iwo Jima attack rail lines, airfields, and tactical targets between Kobe and Osaka. 

August 9
After reconnaissance aircraft locate a large concentration of transport aircraft and bombers in the Hokkaido-northern Honshu area, especially at Honshu/Misawa Airdrome, Task Force 38 and Task Group 37.2 carrier aircraft mount an all-out effort to destroy them. It is revealed after the close of hostilities that the Japanese plan to use many of these airplanes to drop or land as many as 2,000 troops on USAAF B-29 bases in the Mariana Islands. An estimated 251 aircraft are destroyed on the ground and another 144 are damaged. 
At 1456 hours, a kamikaze severely damages a USN destroyer serving as a radar picket between Task Force 38 and the coast. Losses are 48 killed and 66 wounded. 
A VF-16 F6F pilot downs a C6N 42 miles from Task Force 38 at 1235 hours; a VF-6 F6F pilot downs a B5N eight miles from Task Force 38 at 1300 hours; VF-88 F6F pilots down two B7As at sea at 1500 hours; two VF-27 F6F pilots down an A6M at sea at 1600 hours; a VF-86 F6F pilot downs a B7A over Task Force 38 at 1615 hours; a VBF-1 F4U pilot downs a D4Y at sea at 1700 hours; and a VF(N)-91 F6F pilot downs two D4Ys at sea at 1835 hours.

This is the first mention of kamikaze aircraft attacking the Allied Fleets.

 August 10
Task Force 38 carrier aircraft complete the destruction of a large concentration of transport aircraft and bombers in the Hokkaido-northern Honshu area. In the two-day action, USN pilots claim the destruction of 720 aircraft, all on the ground.

August 15
At 0415 hours, 103 Task Force 38 carrier aircraft are launched against Tokyo-area targets. Orders to cease hostilities are broadcast just as the first attackers arrive over their targets. While the Allies mount no more offensive strikes, they must nonetheless defend themselves against a spate of strikes, perhaps mounted by Japanese pilots unhappy with the surrender. 
In the final aerial engagements of World War II, a VBF-83 F4U pilot downs a C6N at sea at 0540 hours; VF-31 F6F pilots down four A6Ms and a Ki-43 at sea at 0545 hours; VF-49 F6F pilots down six A6Ms near Mito at 0620 hours; VF-6 F6F pilots down an A6M and two J2Ms over Sagami Bay at 0705 hours; VF-88 F6F pilots down five Ki-84s and three J2Ms near Honshu/Atsugi Airdrome at 0720 hours and three C6Ns over Hokoda Airdrome at 0743 hours; a VBF-6 F4U pilot downs a B5N over Task Force 38 at 1122 hours; a VBF-85 F4U pilot downs a D4Y 15 miles from Task Force 38 at noon; a VF-86 F6F pilot downs an A6M at sea at 1300 hours; and a VF-86 F6F pilot downs a D4Y at sea at 1331 hours. Lt(jg) Edward W. Toaspern, a VF-31 F6F ace, downs two A6Ms off Honshu at 0545 hours. The second of these is probably the last enemy airplane downed by an American fighter ace in World War II. Finally, a 1400 hours, Ens Clarence Alan Moore, a VF-31 F6F pilot, scores the United States Navy’s—and America’s—final victory of World War II, a D4Y he downs at sea. This is Ensign Moore’s only aerial victory of the war. Beginning with an A6M downed at 0825 hours on December 7, 1941, over Pearl Harbor by VS-6’s Aviation Radioman 1st Class William C. Miller, U.S. Navy fighter pilots and carrier-based light-bomber crews have been credited with downing 6,800 Japanese aircraft in the Pacific War. 
Task Force 38 recalls a 73-plane afternoon carrier strike mission when FAdm Chester W. Nimitz, Jr., orders FAdm William F. Halsey, Jr.: “Suspend air attack operations.” Shortly, several apparently uninformed Japanese pilots down four F6Fs on patrol over the coast. 
Pending an actual surrender, Task Force 38 withdraws to an area 100 to 200 miles southeast of Tokyo and maintains its normal wartime routine. 

August 15, is the only date when IJNAF & IJAAF aircraft attack the Allied Fleets off Japan en mass. No "Claudes" are mentioned.
There is one more interesting entry in the book.

February 16, 1945
Despite unfavorable weather conditions, Task Force 58 carrier aircraft launched from approximately 125 miles southeast of Tokyo and only 60 miles from the Honshu coast open an intense air and naval interdiction offensive in support of the impending invasion of Iwo Jima in the nearby Volcano Islands. In addition to Japanese airfields and ports, the carrier bombers and fighter-bombers also attack Tokyo-area aircraft-industry targets that Twentieth Air Force B-29s have not been able to demolish. Task Force 58 loses 60 aircraft in combat and operational accidents.
Ens Robert R. Kidwell, Jr., a VF-45 F6F pilot, achieves ace status when he downs an A5M, a Ki-61, and an A6M near Honshu/Mobara Airdrome between 0800 and 0830 hours, and two Ki-61s near Nakajima Oto, Honshu, between 1605 and 1635 hours;

This is the only mention of an encounter with "Claudes" in the Japan mainland area.


The Mitsubishi "Claude" could carry max two 30kg bombs and one 160 litre drop tank. Online I found that 160 litres are equal to 160kg, so I guess the "Claude" could theoretically carry a load of about 170-180kg. There are no IJNAF bombs of this weight. Either 60kg or the next is 250kg. Again, theoretically, a "Claude" could carry a 250kg bomb, but it would need massive modifications for a one-tonne aircraft to be able to carry such a huge weight.
On the other hand, Kawanishi K5Y "Willows" were assigned to kamikaze units, so I guess if there was a will there would be a way.

In conclusion, I think that either Francillon made a generic statement, since "most" Japanese aircraft were assigned at the end of the war in suicide missions, or he confused the "Claude" for the Nakajima Ki-27 "Nate" or the Manshu Ki-79, which were indeed employed in suicide missions by tokko units.
Personally, I have not seen any photos of "Claudes" assigned to kamikaze units or equipped accordingly. Perhaps those "Claudes" in Omura would eventually be used in suicide missions, but, again, there is no Japanese record of kamikaze units equipped with the type. 
If you know of any kamikaze "Claude" photos, please surprise me!

Thursday 11 August 2022

Nakajima Ki-84 "Hayate" (Frank) by Enzo Acorda

2nd build of 2022! Been working on and off on both the Tomcat and Hayate. Started the Hayate as I needed to rest my eyes from working with TPS colors for the past year and a half and it has also been 2 years since I last finished a prop. This one's Arma Hobby's awesome Ki-84 in 1/72nd scale. Markings of choice are from the 1st Hiko-Sentai based in the Philippines. Many thanks to Tony Feredo and George from Arawasi for their input regarding the actual aircraft and unit. 
The fit of the kit was great! Only issue I had was with the fit of cockpit's upper half which had small steps on the sides of the fuselage. I also found the cowling of the kit to be fiddly to assemble, it was tricky getting everything in there to line up nicely. Other than that, it was a quick, hassle-free build. Engineering was great around many areas like the landing gear, gear doors, fuselage, etc. Though, I could use some more PE in the cockpit besides a pair of seatbelts. 
The markings I opted for were featured on the first page of Model Art 493 which I purchased from Arawasi. These were from the 1st Hiko-Sentai, which saw action over the Philippines. For the paint, I used AK Real Color Olive Brown No.7 and Mr. Color 128 IJA Grey Green. The stripes were painted using Tamiya LP Insignia White and Flat Red. Weathering was done with oil paints. Chipping was done with a mix of dry brushing (for the back of the props), brush and a torn-up sponge. I used Hiro Acrylics Silver for the chipped effects along the wing roots and high traffic areas like the sides of the fuselage, access panels and other hatches.
- Enzo Acorda -

Tuesday 9 August 2022

Japanese aircraft in the Philippines pt.5 - Kawasaki Ki-45 "Toryu" (Nick) - 27 Sentai

The video ends with a closeup of a number of Kawasaki Ki-45 "Toryu" (Nick) fighters, some belonging to the 27th Sentai. We first presented these aircraft here.

And finally, HERE is the source for the whole video.

Sunday 7 August 2022

Japanese aircraft in the Philippines pt.4 - Mitsubishi G4M "Betty" - 763 Kokutai

The video continues with the U.S. personnel landing and taking a closer look at one of the "Betty" bombers they found in pretty good condition.

It's a Mitsubishi G4M2Ab (or Model 24 Ko) of the 763 Kokutai, we first presented here and here.

Friday 5 August 2022

Japanese aircraft in the Philippines pt.3 - Various Wrecked IJAAF & IJNAF Aircraft

The video continues with US personnel getting on a Stinson L-5 Sentinel and flying over several airfields. 

Here are some stills from the clip.

We will post more about the "Hamaki" and the "Toryu" in forthcoming posts. 

Wednesday 3 August 2022

Japanese aircraft in the Philippines pt.2 - Mitsubishi Ki-21 "Sally" - 25 Hikodan Shireibu Hikohan

The video continues with US personnel inspecting three Mitsubishi Ki-21 "Sally" bombers, all belonging to the 25 Hikodan Shireibu Hikohan. The rather obscure unit relocated to Clark Field on October 20, 1944, and took part in the Leyte campaign.

The first badly damaged bomber is a quite old Ki-21 Model 1 Ko, without a tail gun. It has been camouflaged with green paint over the original hairyokushoku and seems to sport a red and white band on the fuselage, behind the hinomaru with a white surround. The tail marking is in red with a white surround and, typical for all the aircraft of the unit, there would be a hiragana under it indicating the individual aircraft.

The second "Sally" is a Model 1 Otsu with a tail gun. The aircraft had a previous owner as indicated by the red angled band on the tail and the most unusual fuselage hinomaru crudely over-painted with white paint. The angled band is a tail marking usually associated with the 61st Sentai during its assignment to Nomonhan in 1939. A very old aircraft indeed.
Typical of all pre-Pacific War "Sallys", the bomber is finished in overall hairyokushoku without any camouflage. In our Eagle Eye publication, you can see "Sallys" of the unit with and without camouflage prior to their assignment to the Philippines. So, the uncamouflaged bit shouldn't come as a surprise. On the other hand, the wing top surfaces seem to have zebra bands in green. Perhaps the aircraft was destroyed before it received proper camouflage? 
Finally, note the two white bands on the fuselage in front of the tail. While the closer to the tail looks natural, the second seems to fall on the hinomaru with the white surround. Perhaps a remnant of the previous unit.
An overall VERY unusual and puzzling aircraft. 

A close-up of the Nakajima Ha-5 engine of the above aircraft.

A close-up of the tail. 

Our good friend Devlin Chouinard created artwork of this unusual "Sally".

The third "Sally in the video is also a Model 1 Otsu, uncamouflaged, finished in overall hairyokushoku.

Arawasi was the first to identify in print the unit marking on issue #11 of our magazine, and more about the unit can be found in our latest Eagle Eye #3, HERE

Monday 1 August 2022

Japanese aircraft in the Philippines pt.1 - Nakajima Ki-49 "Donryu" (Helen) - 95 Sentai

Recently, we came upon a quite interesting video on UTube, featuring Japanese aircraft found destroyed and abandoned in the Philippines and more specifically, Clark Field. We have presented this subject before, HERE, but this video offers "new" information, at least to us. We will present the video in parts, and we will include a link to the source of the whole video in the last post of this series.

We begin with a Nakajima Ki-49 Model 2 Otsu found derelict in San Manuel airfield. 

It belonged to the 2nd Chutai of the 95th Sentai, as indicated by the red angled band on the fuselage, near the tail; a unique way for the unit to identify itself. 
For the history of the unit, there is a forthcoming publication that describes everything! Stay tuned.

The close-up reveals that the aircraft was first painted overall hairyokushoku (gray), and then its top surfaces were camouflaged with green paint and brown spots.