So what's a Patsy, or a Claude or a Willow or a Jake? Well, they're all U.S. code names for Japanese planes during World War II. The strange thing is, many of these aircraft were named after real people. The naming system used by the Allied Forces really had very logical reasoning behind it. The real names of Japanese aircraft were far to hard to remember (A6M2 Type 0 Ship-based fighter model 21), but by assigning a simple, easy to remember name, many of the aircraft could be identified relatively easily and consistently.
The naming system was developed by Captain Frank T. McCoy Jr. McCoy was stationed in Melbourne Australia with the 38th Bomb group as an intelligence officer. McCoy was teamed with Technical Sergeant Francis M. "Fran" Williams who was the senior intelligence specialist, and Corporal Joseph Grattan who handled the clerical duties of the unit.
The system that they developed was quite simple. Fighters and float planes would be given "boys" names. Bombers, recon planes, flying boats and anything else would be given "girls" names. Further refinement of the system occurred as the system evolved. transports would be names that began with a "T" and trainers would be named after trees. Finally, gliders would be given the names of birds.
Some of the more interesting names and where they came from.
The Mitsubishi Ki-2 light bomber, which was featured in several Japanese Aviation magazines was named Louise after McCoy's wife. The name Frank was originally assigned to a drawing of a picture of a concept fighter found in a Japanese magazine. Of course when this fighter never appeared, McCoy shifted the name to the Army fighter Ki-84, which was quite well known by allied fighter pilots in the Pacific.
McCoy again drew from his background in the original naming of the "Paul" (E14Y floatplane). Initially with the lines of the E14Y, it was thought to be a "Val" (D3A) on floats, hence it was called a "June" after McCoy's daughter. When it was later realized that this was a new aircraft it was renamed "Paul".
Fran Williams kept it in the family also. The name "Betty" was given to the well-known Mitsubishi G4M bomber, and was named after a very attractive American nurse from Bridgeville, Pennsylvania that Fran knew (there is more to the story, but this is a family article). Fran assigned the name "Francis" to the Kugisho P1Y1. The aircraft was reported to be a nimble and fast twin-engine heavy fighter. When it was realized that the P1Y1 was actually a bomber, the spelling of the name was changed to the more feminine spelling of "Frances".
Joe Grattan got the name Ida assigned to the Ki-36/Ki-55 trainer/recon aircraft. Ida was Joe's girlfriend that he left behind and was to marry upon return to the states.
The "Val" (Aichi D3A) was named after an Australian Army sergeant that was a close friend of Major Ben Cain, McCoy's boss. An Australian friend of McCoy's name was "Claude" as was the Mitsubishi A5M series of aircraft. Another Aussie that worked closely with the group was George Vivian Remmington. Remmington was responsible for making the drawings of each aircraft. These drawings would be used in the recognition manuals that were issued for training purposes. Of course the Japanese Navy "George" or N1K was one of the Navy's best later in the war.
There were always exceptions to these naming conventions. The "Tony" (Ki-61) for example was initially thought to be the Macchi MC 202, an imported Italian aircraft. The name Tony was given based on it's Italian origins and retained even after it was discovered that it was a Japanese made aircraft. Another name that was a carryover name was the name Tojo was given to the Ki-44 when it was first encountered in the CBI. The official name for the Ki-44 was the John, but being that the name Tojo was so well known the name stuck.
There are many other stories and if you're interested, get yourself the book Japanese Aircraft Code Names and Designation by Robert C. Mikesh. It is still readily available from Zenith books and contains several very interesting stories.