Thursday 29 February 2024

Nakajima J1N "Gekko" & IJNAF weapons pt. 2

More eBay photos, this time, a most interesting set showcasing the 20mm oblique cannons of Nakajima J1N1-S "Gekko" night fighters and their installation configuration.

Among the destroyed "Gekko" fighters found by the US Marines, there was an extremely rare, unusual, and intriguing example. All Japanese sources mention that only one or maybe two Nakajima J1N1 Escort Fighter prototypes had an experimental system installed, consisting of TWO remote-controlled turrets with TWO 7.7mm machine guns EACH. 

The publication "Moonlight Interceptor" by Robert C. Mikesh and Osamu Tagaya, number #8 in the "Famous Aircraft of the National Air and Space Museum", has more.

The last photo in this eBay set features a badly damaged but fairly intact Nakajima J1N1-S "Gekko" Night Fighter. The tail marking "21-75" is visible and therefore we can conclude that the unit it belonged to was the 321 Kokutai.
More about the unit and the particular aircraft, HERE.

Nakajima J1N "Gekko" & IJNAF weapons pt. 1

A quite interesting set of photos was recently on sale on eBay. 
Let's start with the weapons.
This is a Navy Type 92 Lewis Light Machine Gun. It "was mounted on an adjustable tripod and issued to the Japanese Navy. It is a copy of the British Pattern 1914 Lewis light machine gun." For more, check here.

This is a Navy Type 97 Fixed Machine Gun. "A licenced copy of the Vickers Class E machine gun, firing a 7.7 mm x 56 mm rimmed round." For more, check here.

Next up is a set of photos of Navy Type 99 20mm Aircraft Cannons field-modified and employed in the anti-aircraft role.

More Navy Type 99 20mm cannons. In the photo below the whole tail gunner's position of a G4M "Betty" has been mounted on a frame. Can't really imagine why.

In the photo below, the dorsal turret of a "Betty" has been placed in a foxhole to act as a defensive position or something?
Really weird photos.

Monday 5 February 2024

IJAAF & IJNAF wrecked aircraft - Clark Field, Philippines Pt.6

A few years ago we posted the following video we located on Utube but since has been removed.
Here are some stills from the clip.
First up is the Ki-45 with the kanji "山" (yama) we saw in the previous post. Frustratingly the whole rudder is not visible, so here we can't see if it had a number or something else.
A different Ki-45 without a tail marking is in very good condition.
In the stills above we can see closeups of the "Nick" without a tail marking. No oblique cannons between the pilot and the rear machine gunner.
Note the 27 Sentai Ki-45 in the background. Tail marking without any number.

This very badly damaged all-brown "Nick" has a katakana "マ" (ma) on the tail.

Another destroyed Ki-45 offers a glimpse of its Mitsubishi MK2D Zuisei 21 Ha-102 engine.

The same "Nick" we saw in the background. Also very badly damaged. The tail marking is in yellow which would indicate a 3rd Chutai aircraft. 

The "yama" Ki-45 can be seen in the background and in the stills below. 
Note the two oblique cannons making it a Model Hei/Tei. Note alo the thin propeller warning stripe on the nose.

Radek sent over a quite interesting photo of the same aircraft seen in the clip.
In the foreground, we can see another 3rd Chutai "Nick", not visible in the clip. Next to it, there is the very badly damaged all-brown 3rd Chutai Ki-45 we saw above. Next is a "Nick" with a white 27 Sentai tail marking, 2nd Chutai, and probably a number. And finally, we can see the tail of the "yama" Ki-45. It does not seem to have a number applied on the rudder, it has only the "yama" kanji for marking.
Thank you Radek for your contribution.

I would like to leave a final comment for the 27/45 Sentai markings and the kanji and katakana on the tails. The katakana "ma" and "a" we saw on Ki-45s are numbers "30" and "36" in the iroha numbering system and as we can see in the photographic evidence when a unit tail marking is applied there is usually (but not always) a number to indicate the individual aircraft, not a katakana. So, either just katakana or unit marking +- a number.
As we saw in the 45th Sentai history, when there were very few operational aircraft available, the pilots flew whatever was available without any chutai considerations. We can easily imagine that during the Leyte Campaign for example, when replacement aircraft arrived and were thrown immediately in the battle, there was not enough time to paint unit markings on their tails. We also saw that during Leyte the two "Toryu" units, based in the same airfield, often flew missions together. And let's not forget that during the last weeks of their presence in the Philippines, the pilots of the 27 without any aircraft left, merged with the 45.
I would also like to add the testimony of one of the 45 Sentai ground crew members. When the unit was based in Clark Field and he asked a higher rank officer whether any replacement aircraft had arrived, he got the following answer: "Not yet but go around the airfield and grab whichever planes you can find". 
Therefore, my personal conclusion is that apart from the aircraft with a clear unit marking, all the others without markings or with katakana on their tails were replacement aircraft that were flown by both sentai. Even those with unit markings is not clear if they were flown by either sentai or even a mixed crew. The same can apply to the Ki-45s with the kanji on their tails. It can be said that they were aircraft assigned to a specific pilot but considering the whole situation it is highly unlikely there was time and will to assign specific aircraft to specific pilots. Perhaps at the later stages of the war in the Philippines, the aircraft were split according to chutai or ground crew leaders, and that would explain the multiple "dai" kanji aircraft. We should also consider that some aircraft were probably set aside for tokko suicide missions. All in all, the situation in the Philippines between December 1944 and January 1945, was so frustrating and confusing for the Japanese that it is really very difficult, 80 years later, to make sense of units, markings, pilots, and "their" aircraft. 

Sunday 4 February 2024

IJAAF & IJNAF wrecked aircraft - Clark Field, Philippines Pt.5

There were two "Toryu" equipped units active in the Philippines during the last two years of the war. We examined the 27th Sentai in the previous post. In this post, we will take a look at the 45th Sentai.

The photo above featured in the Don Thorpe and Aircam books, shows a 45th Sentai Kawasaki Ki-45 "Toryu", in pristine condition, with its unit tail marking clearly visible and the number "37" at the base of the rudder. Behind it is the Ki-45 we saw in an earlier post, next to a prop/spinner and a wing, with the kanji "大" (dai) on its tail. 

The 45th Sentai was organized on July 27, 1938, in Manchuria, from the 4, 6, and 11 Dokuritsu Chutai which became the units' 1st, 2nd, and 3rd Chutai respectively. Equipped with Kawasaki Ki-48 "Lilys", the unit was based in Rabaul's Kokopo airfield in January 1943, from where it launched attacks against Guadalcanal. From April 1943, the unit was based in But (or Lae according to other sources) Airfield taking part in the battle of East New Guinea.
In early December 1943, the unit returned to Japan and from the middle of the month started training with "Toryu" fighters at Hokota.
On February 6, 1944, left Japan and four days later arrived at Clark Field. End of February relocated to Wakde Island and spent about a month training and conducting patrol.
End of March returned to Clark Field, and for a while was assigned to ship escort duties. During the period from early July until August, the unit had about 20 operational Ki-45s. End of August the unit's strength was 26 aircraft escorting ships passing through the Bashi Channel between Taiwan and the Philippines. 
During a particularly heavy raid against Japanese-held airfields on September 12, the unit, now based in Saravia Airfield on the northwest of Negros Island, was timely alerted and all its' operational aircraft took off to avoid getting hit on the ground. While in the air, they didn't encounter any enemy planes, but right after the 2nd Chutai and half of the 1st Chutai landed back in Saravia, they were attacked and strafed by F6Fs from the carrier USS Wasp. The "Toryu" of the 3rd Chutai and the remaining half of the 1st Chutai were still in the air and tried to attack the US planes. In the ensuing air battle, two Ki-45s were lost and another was badly damaged when it made an emergency landing. Following this, the remaining operational aircraft escaped briefly to Panay and Palawan Islands. The next day, the F6Fs returned and inflicted further damage to the unit's aircraft that had remained in Saravia.
In the middle of October 1944, the unit had about ten operational aircraft. When the US forces landed at Leyte Island on October 17, the 45 Sentai, based in Saravia together with elements of the 27th Sentai, launched attacks against the US forces. On the 19th, 45 Sentai "Toryu" fighters attacked the US Fleet but two planes failed to return. Following further missions against the US forces, by October 20, the unit had only 4-5 operational aircraft, and by October 24 only one Ki-45 remained. At the end of the month, the unit retreated to Silai Airfield where it received a few replacement aircraft and returned to attack the US forces in Leyte.
During the Leyte operations, the unit's Ki-45s carried 100kg bombs when they were attacking bigger targets like enemy ships or 50kg Ta-Dan bombs when their targets were enemy-held airfields. At that time, the "Toryu" were not organized to specific chutais but every capable pilot flew whichever plane was operational.
During the November 1~23 period, the unit had three aircraft shot down, nine seriously damaged and received 13 replacements but on November 23 the unit had only nine aircraft, only four of which were operational. By the end of November, the unit had lost 18 aircraft and received only eight replacements.
On December 14, 1944, the 45 Sentai organized a tokko (special attack, suicide) unit with ten members and formed the "Koka-tai" (Emperor's Flower Unit) with five members from the 208 Sentai.
By the end of December, the unit had no operational aircraft left, and the remaining pilots only, were transported to Angeles Airfield. Around that time the remaining members of the 27th and the 45th Sentai with whatever Ki-45s could be found, merged and launched attacks against the US forces landing at Mindoro Island.
On January 15, 1945, the unit received orders to return to Japan and did so in the same manner we described for the 27th Sentai.
The unit finally managed to return to Hokota on January 25, where the union of the two sentai became official. In April 1945, the 27th Sentai was disbanded and all its remaining members joined the 45th.

As can be expected, "Toryu" "37" didn't stay intact for long.

Photo from Radek.

Here's another photo from Radek featuring a 45 Sentai "Toryu" found destroyed at Puerto Princesa, Palawan Island, which, as we saw above, the unit used as an emergency airfield.
Unfortunately, the tail number has been removed by souvenir hunters.

Remember this Ki-45, also in pretty good condition?
Sadly, this is how it looked after a while.

As we saw in previous posts and above, there were several Ki-45s with the kanji "大" (dai) on their tail. 
These were not the only Ki-45s found at Clark Field with kanji on their tails.
This one we first saw in the color photo in the "Shoki" post, has the kanji "宮" (miya) on its tail.
The name of the 2nd Chutai commander of the 45th Sentai, was Miyazaki, so it is possible that this was his personal aircraft.

This Ki-45 has the kanji "山" (yama) on its tail.
The name of the 3nd Chutai commander of the 45th Sentai, was Yamauchi, but he perished in October 1944. It could be one of his personal aircraft or, since the kanji for "yama" is quite common in many Japanese names, it could be the personal mount of another pilot.  
This leaves us with the aircraft with the mysterious kanji "dai". After exhausting research, we finally discovered that the name of the 1st Chutai commander was Kamiyama or Koyama which, unfortunately, is no match for the "dai" kanji. So, as of this post, the identity of the aircraft with the "dai" kanji remain unknown.

BUT, there were other Ki-45s in Clark Field with katakana on their tails.
This one has the katakana "ア" (a) on its tail.

More coming up. Stay tuned.

Saturday 3 February 2024

IJAAF & IJNAF wrecked aircraft - Clark Field, Philippines Pt.4

Here's a photo of the same Ki-45s with the "Lily" and the "Shoki" we saw in the previous post, from a different angle. 
Between the "Lily" and the "Hayabusa" in the foreground, is a Ki-45 with a tail marking indicating that it belonged to the 27th Sentai.

The 27th Sentai was organized on August 1, 1938, from the 5th Rentai while in Manchuria. Initially, it was equipped with Nakajima Ki-4 Reconnaissance and a year later exchanged them with Kawasaki Ki-32 "Mary" light bombers. In 1941 the unit was fully equipped with Mitsubishi Ki-51 "Sonia" light bombers.
In July 1944, while based at Sarabia Airfield, Negros Island, Philippines, with more than 20 "Sonias", the unit received three Ki-45 "Toryu" Model Hei and started training with this new type of aircraft.
The unit then relocated to Clark Field and continued training with new "Toryu" fighters but, at the same time, trained new cadets for the "Sonia" bombers.
From the beginning of September, when US forces started attacks in the Philippine Islands, 13 Ki-45 were dispatched to Sarabia Airfield but during a September 13 air raid, all the planes were destroyed on the ground.
By the middle of October, only the 3rd Chutai had enough operational aircraft. The 2nd Chutai which was about to finish its training with the Ki-45, had only one operational aircraft, and the 1st Chutai was only beginning training with the Ki-45.
During the Leyte Campaign, a small number of Ki-45s from the 27th Sentai, relocated again to Saravia Airfield, and on October 26, two "Toryu" took off early in the morning to bomb enemy forces in the Leyte area, and successfully returned to base. In the evening of the same day, three Ki-45s and three Ki-51s took off on a similar mission but only two "Sonias" managed to return. Three days later the small detachment returned to Clark Field to replenish its aircraft.
During a November 19 US air raid against Clark Field, many aircraft were damaged.
Almost a month later, on November 23, 1944, eight 27 Sentai "Toryu" fighters took off from Clark Field to advance to Silai Airfield, south of Saravia, in Negros Island. The next day, three Ki-45 from the 27 Sentai, two from the 45 Sentai as well as an assortment of various types from different units, a total of more than 50 aircraft, attacked Tacloban Airfield, in Leyte Island. 1Lt Kobayashi was hit by anti-aircraft and crashed against an enemy ship. During the following days, the unit continued attacks against enemy positions in the Leyte area, with one or two aircraft.
From January 6, 1945, the targets of the unit were landing craft at Lingayen Gulf. On January 15, the 27 Sentai received orders to return to Japan. Only some pilots managed to escape from the Philippines to Taiwan by using two Ki-45s as transports, constantly flying back and forth. 

The same "Toryu" seen in the photo above with the number "86" on its tail, can be seen in these stills from a color film.

Here's another 27 Sentai Ki-45, but without a tail number.
The sentai marking is probably in red indicating that it belonged to the 2nd Chutai. Perhaps there was a kanji above the marking in white but at the moment the photo was taken it's no longer clearly visible.

Friday 2 February 2024

IJAAF & IJNAF wrecked aircraft - Clark Field, Philippines Pt.3

In the ebay photos that started this thread, we can see two Kawasaki Ki-45 "Toryu" (Nick) in the TAIU area. This is the first one.

It's the aircraft in the red circle in the panoramic photo of the TAIU area.

We can see a full side view of it in one of the photos featuring the "mo" "Shoki" in the foreground. 
As you can see, it has no tail marking so it is safe to assume that it was a replacement aircraft. It's a Ki-45 Hei or Hei/Tei night fighter with oblique cannons (not clearly visible in the photo) and has been moved to a different place than the one in the ebay and the panoramic photos.

This is the second "Toryu" seen in the ebay photos. It's an old Model Koh but I was unable to find other photos of this particular plane to have a clearer picture of how it looked.

Some sources mention that at Clark Field no less than 45 (!!!) "Toryu" were found by the US forces; I feel this number is a bit too high. This is another photo of an older Ki-45 Model Koh
In my opinion, it's not the same aircraft seen in the previous ebay photo.
Note that it has a kanji "大" (dai - big, great) on its rudder. It doesn't correspond to any known sentai marking.

A close-up of the same "Toryu" from a Nara photo, showing the camouflage pattern of the nose, different from the second ebay Ki-45.

A photo of a Ki-45 Model Otsu also found in the TAIU area, with the same "dai - big" kanji on the tail.

Another photo of the same Ki-45 Model Otsu.

The same aircraft in a movie still. 
Note that the fuselage hinomaru looks a bit fuzzy. Perhaps repainted blue? Note also the Ki-45 Model Hei/Tei night fighter in overall brown camouflage.

The two Ki-45s seen in the movie still are inside the red circle in the TAIU area.

One more photo of the Model Hei/Tei. Note the "US" painted in front of the fuselage hinomaru and that it lacks any tail marking.

A different view of the same aircraft clearly shows the two oblique cannons between the pilot and the rear gunner. 
A "Dinah" and a "Gekko" are in the background.

Here's a brilliant NARA photo featuring a Model Hei/Tei night fighter with the oblique cannons removed (you can see the holes) and a white "大" (dai - big) on the tail (not on the rudder as the model Otsu had it). 
Note the absence of the starboard propeller and spinner and the presence of another prop/spinner on the ground on the right side of the photo with the wing of another plane.

It's the same aircraft seen in this photo from the NASM collection but placed at a different spot.

This is the same aircraft seen in the previous two photos from a different angle. 
Note the propeller spinner and the wing on the ground next to its port side.

One more photo of the same "Toryu" with the "dai - big" on the tail. 
These four photos offer a very rare multi-angle view of the same aircraft.

Here's yet another photo of a Ki-45 with a "大" (dai - big) kanji on its tail. 

Another photo of a couple Model Hei "Toryu" with a "Lily" in the background.

The "Toryu" in the foreground of the photo above, was also seen in the color photo found in the previous post about the "Shoki". 
We can see that at some point this "Toryu" too had its hinomaru painted in blue. Note that in both photos no tail marking is visible, indicating a replacement aircraft.

The two Ki-45s standing next to the "Lily" can be seen in this photo too together with the "sa" "Shoki", placed second from left in the lineup.
None of these aircraft are seen in the panoramic photo of the TAIU area.