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.
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.
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.
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.
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.)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!