Thursday 1 February 2024

IJAAF & IJNAF wrecked aircraft - Clark Field, Philippines Pt.2

We will continue this series based on the two recently found ebay photos, with two Nakajima Ki-44 "Shoki" fighters.
This is the first time I have seen a photo of the aircraft in the front with the rudder missing.

They are within the red circle of the panoramic photo.

The aircraft behind the rudderless "Shoki" is this one. 
It has a hiragana "も" (mo) on its tail and various publications add that its serial number is #2143.
I think the hiragana "mo" is barely visible on the tail of the aircraft in the photo above. Based on the complete lack of damage the aircraft in both photos have, I'd say that this photo shows the same "mo" aircraft from the port side. It's a rather rare occasion when we can see both sides of a Japanese aircraft. (both photos: NARA)

In this video still, we can see the same "Shoki" but note and remember the fuselage hinomaru without a white surround.

Several other "Shoki" fighters were also present at Clark Field in the area where the TAIU set shop. Here's a different Ki-44, also with a borderless hinomaru.

In this color photo found in Bob Mikesh's "Japanese Aircraft Interiors", I believe we can see the "Shoki" in the previous still, with a yellow hiragana "さ" (sa) on the tail, squeezed between two Kawasaki Ki-45 "Toryu". 
I'm sure you're surprised with the blue-painted fuselage hinomaru, right? According to Mikesh-san:
"Since the field was occupied before the fighting on Luzon had ended, the red hinomarus of the Japanese were painted blue, so that when spotted from the air by Allied fighter pilots, they would not be mistakenly strafed by Allied aircraft."
Another explanation was that the hinomaru were painted blue to repel souvenir hunters and I would add that the deleted tail numbers on the 19 Sentai "Hien" we saw in previous posts, was something that was done for the same purpose.
Based on this photo, we can safely conclude: first that that's what happened at some time to the "mo" "Shoki" as well, therefore the borderless hinomaru, and second that it had similarly brown top camouflage, not green as mentioned in various publications and shown in color artwork.
I don't think I've ever seen any Japanese models with blue hinomaru. Leave a comment if you have.

I can't decide if this photo, from here, shows the "mo" or the "sa" Ki-44 but all the publications that feature this photo say "mo". At the same time they are unaware of the "sa" color photo, so...
The photo source mentions in the caption that this particular "Shoki" belonged to the 22nd Sentai

This is only mentioned in the "Emblems" book by P. Scott. 
I do not know what the source of this claim is. All Japanese publications that include the "mo" "Shoki" admit that they have no idea of the unit this particular aircraft belonged to.
In my opinion, the "mo" and "sa" hiragana on the tails, indicate that these were replacement aircraft that did not yet belong to any particular sentai, and Japanese sources (FAOW, Model Art etc) agree with that. "mo" and "sa" are numbers "33" and "45" respectively in the iroha numbering system, which would be too high for aircraft assigned to units but not for replacement aircraft brought to the Philippines from a depot.
Back to P. Scott's photo caption, the 22nd Sentai is mentioned in all Japanese publications as a unit exclusively equipped with Nakajima Ki-84 "Hayate", no other aircraft type is mentioned. Peter mentions the "red leading edge to the fin, the unit marking". It's a rather confusing statement and honestly, I can't see any "red leading edge", the tail looks evenly painted to me with one color. He also mentions the top "green finish" and agrees with R. Bueschel in that the "mo" indicates the pilot; I disagree with both statements. Perhaps Peter has seen a color photo of this aircraft and therefore can describe the top camo as green, the red edge barely visible under the green and the white "mo". Unfortunately, I'm not aware of any such color photo.

These were not the only Ki-44s found at Clark Field and brought to the TAIU area. The aircraft in the photo is not seen in the panoramic photo and belonged to the 246 Sentai.
The unit was organized on October 10, 1942, came under the 18th Hikodan, was based at Kakogawa airfield, Hyogo Prefecture, and was charged with the air defense of the Hanshin area (Osaka, Kobe). Initially, it was equipped with Nakajima Ki-27 "Nate" fighters organized in three chutai, one of which was originally the 2nd Chutai of the 13th Sentai.
In July 1944, the unit relocated to the Akeno Fighter School and exchanged their "Nates" with "Shoki" fighters. After brief and largely unsuccessful assignments to Taiwan and Kyushu, the unit was based in Itami airfield, also in Hyogo Prefecture, around August 1944. At that time the 246 Sentai had 56 Ki-44s in its strength.
Two months later, the unit relocated to Taiwan assigned to air defense duties without success.
On November 8, 1944, 20 "Shoki" of the unit advanced to Clark Field.
On December 13, a group of enemy ships had been spotted heading for Mindoro Island and orders were given for an attack to be organized. The 246 Sentai was to escort the "Kyoko-tai" suicide attack unit, equipped with Kawasaki Ki-48 "Lilly" bombers. In reality, it was a one-way mission since it was at the very edge of the Ki-44 range. Thirteen aircraft were ready but just before takeoff, new orders arrived. The unit was to relocate first to Silai Airfield at Negros Island to refuel, then meet the tokko unit. But while the "Shoki" were getting refueled there, they came under attack by six P-38s. Four Ki-44s took off immediately but the one flown by Sgt Maj Kawamoto was shot down at an altitude of only 10 meters.
The next day, ten "Shoki" of the unit were patrolling the area around Bacolod airfield, again in Negros Island, when they were suddenly jumped by no less than 30 enemy fighters. Since the Japanese fighters were at the end of their fuel supply and at a disadvantageous position, the commander of the unit, Maj Ishikawa, ordered everybody to do belly landings. All the pilots were unharmed but the planes were heavily damaged.
After that, the supply of replacement aircraft was erratic and the unit was ordered to return to Japan's mainland. In April 1945, the unit changed to Ki-84s and Ki-46-IIIs.

The same "Shoki" featured in the previous photo, revealing the plane's individual number "338" on the wheel cover. It's a well-known aircraft and the subject of numerous kits and decal sets. (photos from here)

The same "338" "Shoki" from a video still. In the background of the video we can see a Kokusai Ku-8-II glider and a "Hien" squeezed between them.

Several derelict 246 Sentai Ki-44s fighters were also gathered in the TAIU area.
In the photo from the Jeff Ethell collection, we can also barely make out the aircraft with blue hinomaru in the background on the right.

1 comment:

ZeroTheHero said...

In regard to the head-on photo of the Ki-44, the heavy weathering of the front of the cowling more closely matches that of the "Mo" Shoki.