A rather well-known photo of the 244 Sentai leader, Captain Kobayashi, made in the Chofu base (30 km west of Tokyo) at the beginning of February 1945. The airplane (Ki-61-I Tei, red ’24’ s/n 4424) does not yet have the distinguishing green spot camouflage however, that was corrected soon after. Painted (also in red) victory markings, symbolize five confirmed shutdowns and one ‘body attack’ (black silhouette of a Ki-61 over a B-29). The runover took place during a dogfight on the 27 January 1945, with a B-San formation from the 73’rd Bomber Wing, which was heading towards the Nakajima engine factory in Musashino on the outskirts of Tokyo. After depleting his ammunition supply during attacks on Fortresses (without visible effects) Kobayashi sighted Sargent Masao Itagaki during a runover attempt on a B-29. Itagaki’s attack resulted in substantial damage to the left wing (behind engine number 1) however, the damage did not force the B-San to reduce altitude or speed. Kobayashi flew his Ki-61 (supposedly it was the red ‘295’, s/n 3295) into the left vertical stabilizer of the enemy airplane, completely destroying it. His Hien lost its entire engine compartment and right wing, however, Captain Kobayashi managed to bail out of the spiraling down remains of the airplane and land on his parachute without any major injuries. His only scar (bruised nose) was caused by the collision with the enemy airplane. Sargent Itagaki also survived his encounter with the B-29 and safely landed on his parachute. However, the impact of the collision made him lose his consciousness which he regained only while falling through the cold sky. The lucky B-29 with dozens of shoot-throughs and 2 deliberate mid-air crashes safely made it back to it’s Saipan base.
In the end, its repairs at the base were confirmed to be economically unproductive no as much caused by the critical damage to the airframe itself but due to the fact that the factories in the US were providing a constant stream of new B-San’s for the Airforce.
Ki-61-I Hien, red ’05’ waring the insignia of 37 Kyoiku Hikotai (37’th Army Air Traning Squadron), Matsuyama air base, Formoza (Taiwan), spring 1945.
Similarly to other air training groups in 1945, the 37’th squadron consisted of specially formed instructor flights, ready to enter combat when needed. The distinguishing symbol of this squadron was the tail fin covered in green spot camouflage. The emblem itself (consistent for all the fighters from the 37’th) pictured an adult bird, teaching children how to fly (three red arrows over the bird symbol).
Matsuyama airport, located in the north of Taiwan, was one of the biggest air bases on the isle (currently the same location is occupied by the Czang Kai-szek international airport). Interestingly, this airbase was used by the Navy and Army squadrons simultaneously. This is the airbase in which the 341 Kokutai trained on Shiden fighters. It’s the place where commander Genda formed the famous 343 Kokutai, called ‘Genda’s Sward’ that fought epic battles on their Shiden Kai fighters during late parts of World War II.
Slightly further south in airbase Tainan, the legend of Tainan Kokutai was born.
Due to its strategic location, Taiwan was turned by the Japanese into a massive stronghold (which capitulated only after the Main Islands were surrendered). Before the war started (and shortly after it started) as many as 25 airfields and seaplane bases were formed, 11 of which can be called massive air bases. Due to that fairly often allied forces conducted altitude and ground-attack aircraft strikes by USAAF and Carrier Fleets. Matsuyama airport alone, between March and August 1945, was a target of 9 heavy air strikes (conducted by B-24’s & B-25’s). The picture itself is an encounter between Ki-61 with an F4U fighter from the USS ‘Bunker Hill’ air group.
Ki-61-I red ’05’ survived World War II. Photos of it were made by American forces after the capitulation of Japan.
Today I would like to share with you some facts about an ugly dacking.
The first (and only flying) prototype of the fast reconnaissance airplane Kugisho R2Y1 Keiun. It was designed under the supervision of Captain Shiro Otsuki by the engineering team of the Yokosuka Naval Arsenal (the Kugisho KK works were supposed to be the only factory to start production) and it’s better known in Europe as Yokosuka R2Y1 Keiun.
This airplane was equipped with 2 engines connected inline with producing 3400 KM power output and a wide diameter 6 blade propeller which allowed the aircraft to reach a top speed of 760-780 km/h and outrun any Allied fighter. Unfortunately as in almost all attempts to build an airplane with an engine in the center part of the fuselage (P-39 Aircobra for example) the design team faces issues with power transfer to the propeller and engine cooling. The first issue was solved successfully, however, the second proved to be critical and hard to overcome. First ground tests were not too encouraging and the first flight (beginning of May 1945) was cut short due to rapid oil temperature growth and risk of engine fire. Only a few days later, during a stationary attempt to resolve the cooling issues, the engine did catch fire at the Yokosuka hangars.
The airplane was sent back for improvements to the Kugisho factory, from which it did not return, it was destroyed a week later during an air raid of B-29’s. The second prototype (on the photos in the hangar) was at a very early stage of development and was not completed by the end of WW II.
It’s worth mentioning, that R2Y1 from the beginning was (in the eyes of the Yokosuka testing institute) only an alfa test and demonstration of mid-engined airplane technology. The production version was supposed to be R2Y2 propelled by 2 jet engines.