Monday 31 July 2023

Kasumigaura A6M2s pt.2

And while you might have thought that the gray Kasumigaura A6M2s were puzzling, wait to see the camouflaged ones!

From 1943, the IJNAF sought to formalize the appearance of its aircraft that were receiving haphazard camouflage at unit level, and the "top green / bottom gray" pattern became official. The IJNAF schools in Japan mainland followed suit and started painting their aircraft in this pattern however they saw fit. It seems that some aircraft received a thorough overhaul and were properly repainted, other schools employed mops and brushes and the ground crews let their creativity loose.

As a result, the Kasumigaura A6M2s we introduced in the previous post, received a top coat of green paint.  
Like the KA-102 we see in the photo below from the book FAOW Special #6.
Note that the green camo has been applied as low as possible on the fuselage and even under the horizontal tail surfaces.

Here's another photo of the same aircraft from the same publication attempting a landing.
Note the yellow IFF stripes and that the hinomaru under the wing do not appear to have any white surround (more about that later).

Here's a photo of a group of three Kasumigaura Zeros from the quite old publication "Nihon Kaigun Kokutai Shashin-shu" by Akimoto Minoru.
The Zero on the right is A "KA-102" which appears to have a different green camo pattern from the cockpit rearwards. In the photo above it has a Mitsubishi green camo pattern, in this photo a Nakajima. Is it the same aircraft featured in the photos above or a replacement with the same tail marking?
The Zero on the left is A "KA-104 but has Mitsubishi-like green camo pattern. There is also a thick slanted band, probably yellow, but it doesn't seem to wrap around the fuselage. The underwing hinomaru is unfortunately not clear enough.
The tail marking of the third Zero has never been deciphered.
In the older FAOW#5, the particular KA-104 has been depicted like this...
...with the artist mentioning that the undersurfaces were trainer yellow, but he has somehow forgotten to add the yellow fuselage band.  

There are two more photos of this (?) KA-104 in flight, featured in the book "Zero Fighter" by Kojinsha.
The photos were taken by LDCR Yanagisawa Hachiro, whom we met in the previous post, on a return training flight from Usa in Kyushu to Kasumigaura, on March 26, 1944. During this flight, in the cockpit of KA-104 was CPO Kuga. 
Note the absence of the yellow fuselage band in both photos.

Here's another photo of A KA1-04 from the book "Tatakau Zero-sen" by Watanabe Yoji.
The photo quality leaves much to be desired but again the yellow band is not visible. Watanabe mentions in the caption that the green camo seems to have extended under the wing.
Note the white surround on the underwing hinomaru and the very dark port wheel cover.

The Ka-104 has also been, horribly, depicted like this.
Very dark underside "yellow", very thin fuselage line, bad katakana KA and lettering in general.

And the 2012 Model Art Profile #12 has depicted it like this

But I believe the illustration by Ibukuro Toyohiko in Gakken's "Zero-sen Perfect Guide" is much more accurate.

Putting the KA-104 A6M2 aside, let's see another intriguing photo, from FAOW#5.
The caption explains that the Zero in the foreground is A "KA-101"!!!  
The author is not sure if it's the same Zero we saw in the previous post and explains that the tail marking is in red surrounded by white and that the undersurfaces are in "yellow".
The underwing hinomaru doesn't seem to have a white surround though and note the very dark IFF stripe. Compare it with the white of the hinomaru or the clothes of the ground crew member.
I'm inclined to say that it is indeed the same KA-101 we saw in the previous post with properly painted cowling, gray undersurfaces, red IFF stripes and black tail marking surrounded by white.

So, as you can see some authors are not exactly sure if the undersurfaces of these Zeros are in trainer "orange" or "yellow", how can we know?
Before the beginning of the Second Sino-Japanese War in 1937, IJNAF aircraft were in general in Natural Metal Finish with hinomaru in four (wing upper and lower) or six positions (wings and fuselage sides). That was the standard. 
From 1937, front-line units started to cover this quite loud finish with various patterns of camouflage culminating in the introduction of Zero-sen finished in overall "gray" (please don't get me started with "what kind of gray") with hinomaru on all six positions.
Although there were differences in the fuselage hinomaru to differentiate between Nakajima-built (fuselage hinomaru with white surround) and Mitsubishi-built (all hinomaru without white surround) aircraft, it should be kept in mind that in any case and for all Zeros, regardless of model, the gray undersurfaces of the wings always received hinomaru without a white surround.
Illustrations from Model Art #510.

The IJNAF trainers underwent a similar transition; from NMF to overall trainer "orange" or "yellow" or "orange-yellow".
The "yellow" trainers now received hinomaru with white surround as a rule. As we saw in the previous post, according to the official Navy painting instructions, while the NMF and the "gray" were considered "standard" colors and did not require white surround, the "yellow" of the trainers and the experimental aircraft was not "standard" and therefore required white surrounds.
Accordingly, all A6M2-K Zero trainers were delivered from the factories in overall trainer "yellow"; not gray.

In conclusion, if the Zero in the photo does not have a white surround on the underwing hinomaru, then it is certainly gray. If it has white surrounds, the the underwing surfaces were painted either trainer "yellow" or perhaps, in some rare and unusual cases, they were painted with the same green paint of the camouflaged top surfaces.
There's another very strong reason why the KA-101 we saw in the previous post is NOT finished in trainer "yellow".

Saturday 29 July 2023

Kasumigaura A6M2s pt.1

Our friend Sergio L. de H. Teixeira left the following comment:

Hi George, thanks for sharing your research and conclusions! But I'm still struggling with the "trainer yellow/orange dilemma". I'm building a Fine Moulds A6M2 (early production) and I want to finish it as Ka-103. After reading and confronting many articles about the matter, I'm really thinking on painting it in this fashion:
- Overal orange yellow, with red IFF stripes and blue/black top cowling, with olive grey/ameiro l/g bays.
I came to this conclusion because Ka-103, like sistership Ka-101, are ex frontline fighters, which were transferred to a training unit; in my opinion the planes went repainted in different times (Ka-103 looks pristine, while Ka-101 looks very weathered, mainly in the cowling and the IFF stripes); I don't think they kept the olive grey/ameiro original paint and their cowling only were repainted and/or the blue back removed, leaving just the upper part. And I think there's a possibility their l/g bays were left in the previous, original olive grey/ameiro color (typical of Mitsubishi built A6M2s).
Of course I'm not 100% sure and I'm open to suggestions.
Thanks in advance.

The A6M2s of the Kasumigaura Kokutai have been a source of both intrigue and confusion, leading to many challenges over time.
Please note that this posting is focusing on the Kasumigaura A6M2s; not the unit's A6M2-Ks or other aircraft types or the Zeros of other trainer units.

Sergio wants to build "か-103" (KA-103) so let's start with this aircraft.
There are many photos, some of very high quality, some less so, of KA-101 and KA-103 in various Japanese publications, most of them showing the two aircraft together but also individually. We gathered the information below from all these publications but especially MARU Extra #23 which has the best quality photos and the most information.
Here's the first photo from Model Art Profile #12. 

The aircraft is an early production A6M2 Model 21 built by Mitsubishi with the characteristic aileron mass balance; a feature that only the first 326 Zeros had. 
The pilot is LCDR Yanagisawa Hachiro (died April 1945) and the photo is said to have been taken around Autumn 1942.
As Sergio noted, the aircraft has a most unusual for an IJNAF aircraft antiglare panel on the cowling.
All sources agree that the aircraft looked like that in order to take part in the movie "Hawai Mare Oki Kaisen" (The War at Sea from Hawaii to Malaya) released by Toho on December 3, 1942. The exact reason and background story are not known but some sources say that it was probably to play the role of an "enemy aircraft".
It seems the aircraft retained this unusual finish while in Kasumigaura for some time.

Here's another photo of KA-103 from FAOW Special #6.
In both photos, it is clear that the cowling antiglare paint was first removed and then it was repainted with the same paint as the rest of the aircraft.

Here's another photo from MARU Extra #23 featuring LTJG Asaeda Kuniomi posing at the cockpit of KA-103.

And another from the same publication with LCDR Yanagisawa Hachiro this time by the cockpit.

Here's a photo of KA-101 from the publication Military Aircraft #12 with some stills from a movie.
Note the red rear part of the spinner. The cowling of the aircraft looks to be in the same very good condition as the KA-103, but that was not always the case. In this photo from MARU Extra #23 we can see that the earlier "black" antiglare paint has been quite roughly removed. 

The other side looks equally bad and note also the bad condition of the IFF stripe. Photo from FAOW #5.

Here's another photo of KA-101 from FAOW Special #6.

And two more with probably KA-101 in the foreground from MARU Extra #23.
What about the aircraft on the starboard side? Here's another photo of MARU Extra #23.
And as we can see KA-102 also had the same unusual cowling. 
But in this photo sequence, it is surrounded by Mitsubishi A5Ms of the Kasumigaura school. 

Before we address the issues of the overall color and others, here are two more photo of KA-101 from FAOW #5 and MARU Extra #23. Note the variety of aircraft types in the top photo.

So, let's talk now about the overall color of these aircraft. It is very important to clarify that Japanese aircraft, Navy & Army, were delivered by the factories painted according to their originally specified roles. Fighters were painted as fighters, trainers as trainers. If a fighter was assigned to a trainer unit, it would have required a substantial effort to remove the original paint (take into consideration the red/brown primer for the Zeros) and then repaint the whole aircraft as a trainer. Then, go through the whole process one more time, if for instance, it was reassigned to a combat unit.
Just repainting the whole aircraft as a trainer over the original factory paint, would saddle it with kilos of paint that, again, would have needed to be removed in case the aircraft changed role. The whole process would have been particularly tedious and would require considerable man-hours that nobody really had. 

One more thing to consider.
The original IJNAF general orders detailing how all aircraft types were to be painted, dated June 1944 but in effect since October 5, 1942, made clear that "...camouflaged aircraft should have their IFF stripes painted kiiro (yellow). Aircraft without camouflage should have their IFF stripes painted red or yellow" Note that "red" comes first.
The orders continue by mentioning: "But trainers, experimental and other aircraft should be painted yellow if the circumstances permit". 
Trainer aircraft did not have IFF stripes because they didn't need them. They were painted in such a way, overall "yellow", so as to be easily recognizable anyway.

So, in the case of the Kasumigaura KA-101, KA-102 and KA-103 Zeros, they were delivered by Mitsubishi in overall gray. If they had gone through the time-consuming and tedious process of being repainted "yellow" as trainers, they would not need to have IFF stripes. The presence of the IFF stripes is a very clear indication that these aircraft, as seen in these photos, were in overall gray, not trainer "yellow". Not to mention that they just don't look like being painted in trainer "yellow".

Another issue is the exact color of the IFF stripes.
In all the above photos, the IFF stripes look unusually dark. In some photos, they seem to be exactly or almost exactly the same color as the hinomaru. Some researchers who, for some inexplicable reason, don't believe in the existence of red IFF stripes insist that either the KA Zero stripes were painted "dark orange" or that the photographic conditions make them look dark. Every single Japanese researcher and author that mentions the stripes, makes it very clear that they were indeed red. Only one mentions in passing they were probably "dark orange".
The above-mentioned official orders clarify beyond any doubt that red paint was to be used on aircraft without camouflage. The KA Zeros do not have any camouflage, and therefore it is only natural to assume that their IFF stripes were painted red because the orders stipulated so and because they look red!
Nohara Shigeru has illustrated KA-103 in the Green Arrow publication as such.

He opted for dark orange IFF stripes while in other publications he insists they were red.

Personally, I prefer the illustration by Ibukuro Toyohiko from Gakken's "Zero-sem Perfect Guide".

Maybe not as dramatic as an overall trainer "yellow" Zero would have been but in my opinion, sufficiently unusual and eye-catching as a modelling subject.

Saturday 15 July 2023

Flying Boat & Seaplane Base - video

Yet, another NARA video, in five parts, spotted in the "Showakan Digital Archive" by "Shu".

This first part starts with a "Mavis" having one of its engines started. 
More about this particular aircraft in another instalment.

Then we are treated to some amazing stills of a Kawanishi Type 2 Transport Flying Boat or H8K2-L "Seiku"(Clear Skies). Only 36 of this huge transport type, which could carry from 29 to as many as 64 passengers, were built until the end of the war, and "Seiku" images are rather rare. 

Unfortunately, no tail marking is visible so it's difficult to know which unit this particular flying boat belonged to. 
Note on the nose the fittings for H-6 radar antennae. Perhaps this one was a "normal" H8K that was modified to a passenger?

The second part starts with a most interesting "Mavis".
Half white with green surrender crosses. We first discussed this particular aircraft, VERY briefly, here.
Be patient. We have uncovered A LOT, much more interesting information which we will present in the last instalment.

After the "Mavis", it's time for one of the rarest IJNAF flying boats; a Yokosuka H5Y "Cherry" (corrected).

Here's the third part.

Starting with a beautiful Yokosuka/Kawanishi K5Y2 "Getabaki Akatonbo" (Willow) floatplane in pristine condition.
The tail marking is quite obscure.

Followed by an Aichi E13A1b "Jake". Note the fittings for "Jikitanshiki" (air-to-surface radar) on the fuselage side.
Unfortunately, the unit marking has been removed and the overcast conditions don't help. 

The fourth part starts with close-ups of the "Emily" and "Mavis" beaching systems.

The image below is a collage of different stills for the "Emily" system.

The stills below are for the "Mavis". 

In between we can see the slipway with a "Seiku" missing a portion of its port wing.  

And then the cameraman turns his attention to one of the green-cross "Mavis" getting serviced and having its engines started.
The name of the flying boat is "Makigumo" (Cirrus Cloud).

The last part of the video is dedicated to the flying boat base.

It's really incredible that the installations survived the war in such good condition.

And now it's time for the whole story.

A month after the surrender of the Empire of Japan, the government worried about the general situation in Taiwan, especially a collapse of the economy that could lead to further social unrest. In order to allay these fears, the Japanese government ordered the central bank to urgently gather and/or print currency and send it to Taiwan as soon as possible.
The mission that received the approval of the GHQ and General MacArthur, fell on the civilian "Dai Nippon Airways" and an experienced crew as well as a thoroughly inspected and maintained flying boat was chosen. Departure was to be from Yokohama, where two seaplane/flying boat bases existed at the time; one military in Tomioka used exclusively by the Yokohama Kokutai and another civilian in Negishi that was used by "Dai Nippon Airways".
On September 9,1945, boxes full of hundreds of millions of yen, weighing more than 2 tones, were loaded on a Kawanishi H5K "Mavis" named, "Kozu" (probably from Tokyo's Kozu Island, J-BPOA) and the crew of seven, including pilots Commander Ohori and pilot Koshida, took their positions and got ready for take-off. 
The first attempt, at 07:30, was not successful. The flying boat was overloaded. But it seems the engines used up enough fuel the first time, so the "Mavis" got lighter and was able to take off the second time.
The crew had received stern orders not to fly, under any circumstances, over Atsugi base, occupied at the time by US forces, and Okinawa Island, and they were to draw a flight path that had to be strictly observed; any deviation of the flight path or passes over no-fly zones would place them at risk to be shot down. Nevertheless, a little while after takeoff a crew member said: "There are some new and amazing aircraft at Atsugi where MacArthur landed! How about we fly over and take a look?" Right after they deviated from their course, they were quickly surrounded by three "Grumman" fighters, that were probably warned by radar. It was only after the elderly flight engineer Takemiya stuck his bold head with a few white hairs out the window and gestured apologies that they were allowed to continue their originally designated course. 
The crew had again the brilliant idea to attempt to fly over Okinawa to see the devastating results of the fierce battle, only to be intercepted by two reconnaissance aircraft.
"Kozu" and crew finally reached the mouth of Tamsui River in Taiwan at 15:50, where they were greeted by a lavish banquet. They returned to Japan on September 13, full of gifts and several dignitaries.
A most interesting article, in Japanese, about the whole experience can be found HERE.
The money transfer mission to Taiwan was repeated on September 15, and this is what is featured in the photo and video. That time the "Mavis" was "Makigumo" (J-BGOE) we saw above.       

As can be seen in the photo above and the video, there were two "Mavis" available, "Makigumo" is in front and another is in the rear. It can be either "Asahi" ("Rising Sun" J-BFOX) or more probably "Sazanami" ("Ripple Waves" J-BFOY).

The photo below features "Makigumo" (J-BGOE) having just alighted in the mouth of River Tamsui, Taiwan, on September 15-16.