Saturday, 4 February 2023

Kawanishi E15K "Shiun" (Norm) in Palau

In 2013 we were contacted by "The BentProp Project" and we were asked to confirm whether the Japanese seaplane they found during one of their dives in "a" Palau Island was a Kawanishi E15K "Shiun" (Norm). They shared only the photos attached to this post but we did confirm that it was indeed a "Norm" based on the contra-rotating prop photo. 
Here's a link to their expedition and the source of the attached photos.


We were very excited by the news and after they asked for further support, we shared freely the article we had featured in the first issue of our magazine and any other material we had in our collection at the time. In the article and in our email exchange we made it clear that the tail marking of the 12th Reconnaissance Squadron of the 61st Air Flotilla, or "Shiun Butai (Unit)" was not known.
The unit was based on the island of Arakabesan (A.K.A. Ngerekebesang, HERE) and we asked "The BentProp Project", in full confidence, to confirm that the wreck was in the area around the specific island, without of course revealing the exact location. They replied by saying that the location must be kept secret for fear of looters and they confirmed/revealed nothing to Arawasi. Thanks for the trust guys!
The last email we received from them was a few weeks later asking if we knew what tail markings the "Shiun" of the unit in Palau had. (I like the word "obtuse". I first heard it in the movie "The Shawshank Redemption". Just saying...)
You'll read more about the particular aircraft in the promised special. Be patient!

Check also this UTube video, here.

So, there you have it. There are two "Shiun" wrecks in the Pacific. In my opinion, the Chuuk wreck looks to be in much better condition and should therefore be raised and restored as best as possible. From what can be seen from the video, it is not part of any coral reef or any other natural formation and a scuttled boat or whatever would serve even better as a home to the fish and other marine animals. Of course unlikely that something like that would happen, and so this extremely rare seaplane will be left to dissolve at the bottom of the sea.   

Thursday, 2 February 2023

Yokosuka D4Y2-S Suisei "Judy" by Jean Barby

An oldie of mine built some years ago. I remember the same model built by my old friend Dan Salamone with talent on Arawasi (here). It depicts one of the few modified D4Y2-S "Suisei" (Judy) night fighters with an oblique 20mm gun in service with the 302nd Kokutai based at Atsugi in 1945. The very good Fine Molds kit with a Falcon canopy, MrColor paints and natural dust as the model was on the shelve for some time!
- Jean Barby -

Tuesday, 31 January 2023

Kawanishi E15K "Shiun" (Norm) in Chukk (Truk) Lagoon - video

Our friend Patrick Justiz sent over a heads-up on a most interesting video he spotted on UTube (HERE). It features the wreck of a Kawanishi E15K "Shiun" (Norm) in Chuuk (Truk) Lagoon.



First of all, there is no doubt that the aircraft is indeed a "Shiun"; the peculiar retractable wing float offers concrete proof.

More stills from the video feature a general view of the aircraft and the cockpit.
Note above the contra-rotating propeller with the twin blades 
Pilot's seat
Pilot's control stick
The instrument panel is missing
Rear deck of the pilot's seat
Observer's seat
Classic Navy Type 92 flexible machine gun, on a ring mount
Unfortunately, no tail marking is visible


Arawasi first featured a "Norm" article by Komine Bunzo in the very first issue of our magazine, in July 2005. It has been many years since that first homemade and home-printed issue, and in the meantime, we have gained enough experience and access to many more sources to write  more thoroughly about this much-overlooked type.
So, before you get in your hands a new special on the "Shiun" in print, let's talk about this wreck in Chuuk Lagoon.

Wikepedia mentions:
"...the E15K1 was ordered into limited production as the Navy Type 2 High-speed Reconnaissance Seaplane Shiun Model 11. Six prototype and service trial E15Ks were built and evaluated from 1941 to 1942. Production finally got underway in 1943, but the first operational E15K1s did not enter service until April 30, 1944, when six were assigned to the 12th Reconnaissance Squadron of the 61st Air Flotilla.
On June 1 the first of its Shiuns arrived at Palau Island in the South Pacific."

The Komine article, based on the combat report of the unit, talks in detail about the "Shiun" unit in the Palaus and makes it clear that none of the aircraft assigned and operated by the 12th Reconnaissance Squadron was lost in or around Chuuk. 
Furthermore, the unit was disbanded on August 12 and two "Shiun" floatplanes were to be returned to the Navy Aviation Arsenal in Yokosuka. Could the Chuuk floatplane be one of these two "Shiun"?
The Google map below with the location of Chuuk Lagoon and Palau Islands, shows that the only way the seaplanes could have returned to Japan starting from Palau and stopping at Chuuk is via Saipan or Guam in the Marianas. But Saipan had fallen to the U.S. forces on July 9, 1944, and Guam on August 10, so this return route was virtually impossible. More probably the seaplanes returned via Davao in the Philippines, the same way they arrived in Chuuk in the first place.   


The other "suspect" that could have operated the aircraft is the Light Cruiser Oyodo.
Wikipedia mentions: 
"Like the Tone-class heavy cruisers, the Ōyodo-class ships were intended to be scouting cruisers and hence the entire deck of the ship aft of the superstructure was devoted to aircraft facilities. The weight saved by not fitting torpedo tubes was invested instead in a hangar that could house four floatplanes, with two more stowed on deck, and a heavy-duty 44-meter (144 ft) catapult that was necessary for the new Kawanishi E15K Shiun floatplane (Allied reporting name "Norm") that was intended to perform reconnaissance for the submarine flotilla in areas where the enemy had air superiority...However, the aircraft performed poorly and only fifteen were completed before it cancelled in February 1944. Ōyodo did carry two or three Aichi E13A "Jake" reconnaissance floatplanes during her career."

Many sources (Japanese and non-Japanese) insist that the ship only experimented with the catapult specifically installed for the "Shiun", never actually received any "Shiun" floatplanes and they were never put into action by the ship.
Nevertheless, an article by Ishikawa Koji published in issue #200 (January 1964) of Maru Magazine  mentions:
"...the 14-shi high-speed reconnaissance seaplane was also officially adopted in 1943 and was named "Shiun", but the retractable float on the wing tip often retracted unexpectedly. For this reason, even after the type was loaded on Oyodo, there were frequent accidents when the seaplanes rolled over during alighting, but it was difficult to completely solve the problems due to limitations such as the thickness of the main wings."
"Frequent accidents" and "rollovers" mean that Oyodo carried more than one "Shiun", but did they see any action and were they ever in Chuuk?
  
According to combinedfleet (Imperial Cruisers (combinedfleet.com)), Oyodo on "9 July 1943:
Arrives at Shinagawa. Embarks the troops of the South Seas 4th Guard Unit and material. Departs Shinagawa for Truk with CarDiv 1's SHOKAKU, ZUIKAKU and ZUIHO, escort carrier CHUYO, seaplane carrier NISSHIN, CruDiv 7's MOGAMI, CruDiv 8's TONE and CHIKUMA, light cruiser AGANO, DesRon 2's TAMANAMI, DesDiv 4's ARASHI and HAGIKAZE, DesDiv 17's ISOKAZE, DesDiv 61's HATSUZUKI and SUZUTSUKI."
The whole force arrived in Chuuk and on "19 July 1943: Departs Truk on a troop transport run with seaplane tender NISSHIN, CruDiv 8's TONE and CHIKUMA, CruDiv 7's MOGAMI, light cruiser AGANO, DesDiv 4's ARASHI and HAGIKAZE , DesDiv 17's ISOKAZE, DesDiv 61's HATSUZUKI and SUZUTSUKI.
21 July 1943: Arrives at Rabaul. Disembarks troops, later refuels ISOKAZE.
24 July 1943: Departs Rabaul with TONE, CHIKUMA and MOGAMI, light cruiser AGANO and DesDiv 61's HATSUZUKI and SUZUTSUKI.
26 July 1943: Arrives at Truk.

This is the first mission of Oyodo during which she visits Chuuk Lagoon. 
The ship will stop by Chuuk again in October and early December.
On "30 December 1943: Transport Operation "BO-3": Departs Truk on a transport run to Kavieng, New Ireland with light cruiser NOSHIRO (flagship of Rear Admiral Hayakawa Mikio), DesDiv 10's YAMAGUMO and DesDiv 30's AKIKAZE. OYODO carries 1,000 tons of cargo including several artillery pieces and 500 troops.
1 January 1944: At 0445 (JST), arrives at Kavieng, unloads her cargo with a 2-hour delay as the last vessel of Hayakawa's squadron. After 0842, soon after departure, she and the escorting AKIZUKI are attacked by aircraft from TG 37.2's USS BUNKER HILL (CV-17) and MONTEREY (CV-26). Until 0919 OYODO expends 194 15.5-cm, 240 10-cm and 4640 25-mm rounds. She receives one direct hit (dud) and light damage as a result of near misses, but two men are killed and four wounded. OYODO's floatplane is damaged and cannot carry out the recce flight ordered by RAdm Hayakawa once the attack is over."

Maru Special #5 (March 1976) which has exactly the same information in Japanese, mentions that "Oyodo's high-speed reconnaissance floatplane was damaged and could not carry out...". 
"High-speed reconnaissance floatplane" is a direct reference to "Norm", not of course, to "Jake" or to "Pete".
Furthermore, we read in combinedfleet that on "6 March 1944: Refit. OYODO is converted to a Combined Fleet flagship. OYODO is designed to carry six high-speed Kawanishi E15K1 "Norm" reconnaissance floatplanes, but the aircraft are not as fast as expected and the strategic situation changes before they can be delivered. It is decided to equip OYODO with a shorter catapult and two Aichi E16A1 "Paul" reconnaissance planes, but these are not ready on time either. OYODO receives two standard IJN Type 0 Aichi E13A1 "Jake" three-seat reconnaissance floatplanes."

The above means that Oyodo sailed to missions in Chuuk with the catapult specifically designed for the "Shiun". It definitely carried seaplanes since one or more of them were damaged on January 1st, 1944. And it was after the installation of the short catapult that she received a compliment of "Jake" seaplanes. All this information leads to the natural conclusion that Oyodo at least from July 1943 until March 1944 carried and obviously operated a  number of "Shiun" floatplanes.
Definitive confirmation that the "Shiun" wreck in Chuuk Lagoon was operated by Oyodo will hopefully be included in our forthcoming magazine article. 
Stay tuned!

Saturday, 14 January 2023

A6M3 Mod 32 by Jean Barby


It is a less-known fact that some of the first Mod 32 were assigned to IJN Kido Butai. They lacked the range of the Mod 21 but were faster, and so most were assigned to CAP missions, the doctrine of which had been elaborated after the Midway disaster. The Shokaku and the Zuikaku received some. The experience was not very successful and as we know, most of the Mod 32 were then attached to the Navy fighter groups based on land. They fought hard on the Southern seas front. 
Eduard’s "Hamp" is very good but fiddly to assemble in some parts, mainly the cockpit and the alignment of the undercarriage legs. Nevertheless, it is a nice addition to their Zero range. 
Best regards to Arawasi, cheers!

- Jean Barby - 


Monday, 9 January 2023

Questions

Our friend Octávio Mântua asked:
I am currently starting two new projects: 1/72 Mitshubishi Ka-14 from Fine Molds and 1/72 Hasegawa "Shinden" J7W1.

-As to the "Shinden" J7W1 the kit comes with four fuselage machine guns. But analysing photos available on the internet it seems to me that the two prototypes built never had operational guns. In the photo attached there seems to be some patch that resembles the place where the machine gun would be visible.
Do you know if the prototypes had guns?

- As to the Mitsubishi KA-14, the Fine Molds kit depicts the second version, do you know of any photo of this plane? 

I just wanted to check if the cowling of the plane is the same colour of the fuselage or if there is any chance that it might be black.

Answers
-As you probably know, there are very few sources for the Kyushu J7W "Shinden" and very limited photographic material. According to the old FAOW l02 (Oct. 178), all available photos feature the first prototype of the aircraft after the end of the war. When the war ended, some of the exterior surfaces of the aircraft were damaged and were subsequently repaired so that it could be delivered to the occupying US forces. All these photos show the "Shinden" without any nose guns.


There are two (maybe three) videos showing the aircraft being test flown. (HERE)
They are very damaged films and quite difficult to discern small details, but, again, it seems the plane had no guns on the nose. 
Taking into account that the aircraft was only test-flown three times and the powerplant installation needed further work, it is unlikely any guns were installed at this stage of the type's development. 
According to Japanese sources the second prototype (of which no photos have ever surfaced AFAIK) was about to be finished when the war ended.

-The Fine Molds kit depicts the modified version of the first KA-14 prototype. The original version of the KA-14 prototype had a smooth cowling. There are three photos in Encyclopedia Vol.1 that confirm the box art of the Fine Molds kit.

Wednesday, 4 January 2023

Questions

 An anonymous commentator asked:
"In the BBC series World at War episode 22 at 5 minutes 28 seconds there is an excellent view in the cockpit/bomber position of an aircraft under construction. Looks like a Ki-49. what do you think it is?"

Here's the video:


Let's see...
The twin-engine bomber looks quite small. Could it be a Yokosuka P1Y "Ginga" (Frances)?
Unfortunately, the cockpit canopy of the "Frances" had a different shape and slid to the rear; didn't open sideways. And the landing gear is completely different.

How about a Mitsubishi G3M "Nell"?
On closer inspection, there are a bunch of small windows on the nose of the bomber in the video. "Nell's" nose was quite solid.

A Mitsubishi G4M "Betty" perhaps?
"Betty" had the radio antenna mast on the nose, not behind the cockpit canopy.

Any chance to be a Mitsubishi Ki-67 "Hiryu" (Peggy)? 

Unfortunately "Peggy" had a very "windowy" nose, unlike the bomber in the video. 

Well, the anonymous commentator asked if it's a "Sally" or a "Helen", right? So?
Here are the front views of the two bombers. 

The still below reveals that the bomber in the video has nose windows (indicated by the red arrows) in all the wrong places to be a "Sally". 

My conclusion is that it's a most interesting factory view of a Nakajima Ki-49 "Donryu" (Helen) in the production line.
Thank you anonymous commentator for the interesting question.

All front views by Matsuba Minoru.