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Ki-61-I Hien, red ’05’

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.

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