ChapterX: The Aircraft of Tuluvu
(click images to enlarge)

Type 1 land based attack bomber, probably No. 6078

Pappy Gunn's Nell?

Type 2 heavy fighter. Note battle damage and tail markings.

Type 1 fighter with ligntning flash on its tail.

Type 1 Fighter, 1st Hikosentai markings

Takeguchi's Type 3 Fighter?

Marine, marine's best friend, and a Zero.

On December 29th, 1943, Combat Command “B” of the 1st Marine Division primarily consisting of the 1st and 5th Marine Regiments occupied the Tuluvu airfield. Members of the technical air intelligence (TAI) team were soon on hand to inventory captured aircraft. By December 30th more than a dozen aircraft wrecks were found and within a few days additional wrecks and an intact aircraft were found. Most of the aircraft that were potentially repairable or salvageable had been stored away from the East (active) runway and camouflaged with foliage.

This section is an attempt to present a comprehensive list of the Japanese aircraft captured at Tuluvu along with a description and data concerning individual aircraft. For each aircraft pertinent data recorded in the contemporaneous intelligence sources (1) the TAI “pro forma” report, (2) the Captured Enemy Aircraft Report (CEAR), and (3) Japanese Aircraft Makers’ Plates and Markings Report (MPMR) No. 68, “Life of Japanese Aircraft” is summarized. The source is respectively (1) SWPA Technical Intelligence Report No. 220, (2) the applicable CEAR or (3) MPMR. These data are then supplemented by information from a variety of sources in an attempt to shed additional light on the aircraft’s history and where possible tie it into the primary narrative.

The amount and quality of information available on the aircraft varies considerably. Some were very badly damaged and described as “completely demolished” or “burned out”. One was completely intact and at least one other thought to be repairable. Others fell in between. In some cases the fuselage maker’s plate was on the aircraft and in other cases even the serial number had to be derived from less authoritative evidence. These and many other factors assure that any attempt to tell their story will of necessity be incomplete. The aircraft are presented in the alphabetical order of their Allied codename.

1. Type 1 Land Attack Plane (BETTY)

Three navy BETTY bombers were found and contemporary intelligence sources provide us with some of the scantiest information on these aircraft of any of those captured at Tuluvu. Their serial numbers survive and little else. BETTY No. 2836 was spotted in aerial photographs and assessed unserviceable on September 14, 1943. BETTY No. 4758 was photographed and assessed unserviceable on September 25, 1943. BETTY No. 6078 was not identified until Cape Gloucester was occupied and was in a completely demolished state. The only information about it that was provided was that it was camouflaged dark green on upper surfaces and natural metal on lower surfaces.

SUPPLEMENT: No. 2836 was almost certainly the 702 Ku bomber that force landed at Tuluvu badly damaged on September 4, 1943 after the convoy attack near Lae. This was the aircraft of Lt. (j.g.) Kiyoshi Yagita and carried on board Lt. Cdr. Genzo Nakamura, hikotaicho or wing leader, of 702. The aircraft was a Type 1 land attack bomber, model 11 and probably supplied to 702 as a replacement aircraft in June or July 1943 during its final tour in the Southeast Area.

No. 4758 was undoubtedly the 751 Ku bomber that force landed at Tuluvu in a badly damaged state after the September 22nd attack on destroyers off Finschhafen. This aircraft was a G4M1 (model 11). It was produced in April 1943 and probably assigned to 751 in May of 1943 when that unit was training and re-fitting on Tinian. The Group returned to combat from its rest on Tinian barely two weeks before this aircraft was damaged. Aircraft commander was Warrant Officer Hisaji Aoki, shotaicho in No. 2 buntai, and leader of a two-plane section during the attack.

No. 6078 was a G4M1 assigned to 751 at the time of its loss. This aircraft was produced at the very end of October 1943 and was almost certainly a part of either of two batches each of five aircraft completed at the end of October and beginning of November 1943 and assigned to the 11th Air Fleet and subsequently assigned to an air group. Whether it went initially to 702 or 751 is unknown but after December 1st, 1943, all BETTYS were consolidated in 751.

This aircraft must have had an interesting last flight. It seems it was part of an attack unit of four bombers assigned to attack an American task force that had raided Kavieng. Its target was 375 miles east of Rabaul. It ended up in a force landing at Tuluvu late on the night of the 25th a few hours before the Allied landing. This aircraft’s “completely demolished” condition might be attributed to its having been left in the open at the time the final air and naval bombardment followed by ground combat. It was captained by Petty Officer 2/C Ryouhei Senda. The crew was reported safe in the hands of a Japanese Army unit but their ultimate fate is unknown. This aircraft’s prominent position in the open on Tuluvu’s runway made it a landmark for the Marines. It even became the site of a prayer meeting.

Photographs show that one of these aircraft bore the tail number 350 with a band above it across the entire width of the tail (both markings apparently white). Though Allied intelligence considered tail markings important and they were included in the “pro forma” checklist as items to be recorded, the TAI team at Cape Gloucester was in this and other instances less than thorough in describing these markings. This instance is noteworthy in that they failed to record an alphanumeric marking something they usually did in other instances.

Tail number 350 is apparently one of the September losses (likely Yagita’s of 702 Ku). Photographs of what is apparently No. 6078 (the aircraft photographed in the open on the runway) show its rear fuselage and tail completely destroyed.

2. Type 100 Heavy Bomber (HELEN)

A single HELEN was found on No. 2 strip (East Airfield) in a burned out condition. The TAI “pro forma” report concluded that it had apparently landed wheels up and was later burned by the Japanese. Upper surfaces were a mottled green and lower surfaces were unpainted. Its wingspan of 66 feet 7 inches is incorrect for a HELEN (measurement could hardly have been correct given the condition of the aircraft). The serial number was 3297 and date of manufacture May 1943. Engine serial numbers were 876 (right) and 884 (left) also manufactured in May 1943. Armor plates protecting the pilots (approximately 14mm) and dorsal turret gunner (approximately 10mm) were found. Armament recovered was one 20mm and two 7.7mm machine guns in free mounts and the same number and type of weapons found in dorsal, nose and tail turrets.

SUPPLEMENT: HELEN No. 3297 was the sole survivor of the six heavy bombers involved in the 9th FB attack on Arawe on December 16th, 1943. Combat that day took place near Tuluvu. A twin-engine bomber was visually observed there on the 17th. On the 18th a “damaged HELEN” was photographed there. This was a 7th FR Ki 49-II captained by 1Lt. Negi. It had flown from Wewak to attack Arawe but was intercepted off Cape Gloucester. Photographs tend to confirm the TAI team’s assessment that the bomber bellied in and then was burned out. No tail markings are evident in photographs. A good low-level photograph of a HELEN taken on October 22nd at Dagua (Allied term for But-East airfield) shows an aircraft similarly camouflaged with no tail markings. Since tail markings have not been established for 7th FR HELENS during this period these photographs tend to confirm that none were carried.

The “turrets” mentioned in the TAI report do not imply power operated turrets familiar on many Allied bombers but were just more elaborate positions than the simple eye and socket free mounts in the bomber’s side and ventral positions. The tail gun could be retracted inside the aircraft when not in use. The dorsal cannon had a retractable canopy and was mounted on a circular support ring. Standard armament for the first version of the Ki 49-II was five type 89 machine guns and one type 97 20mm cannon (modified anti-tank gun). If this aircraft actually mounted two cannon it would have been a specially modified version. It would be interesting to know in which free mount the second cannon was fitted.

3. Type 96 Land Attack Bomber (NELL)

From this aircraft’s tail number of P-905 and the lack of bomb racks the CEAR concluded that this aircraft had been used as a transport rather than a bomber. It was painted dark green on upper surfaces and unpainted on lower surfaces. The “pro forma” gave the serial number as 397 but the CEAR stated that components indicated that 197 was the correct serial number. This was a Nakajima-built aircraft. A serial number of 197 would establish a production date in early 1942. The aircraft was determined to be in a salvageable condition.

SUPPLEMENT: Many NELL transports called at Tuvulu over a period of several months as late as November 1943. The only NELL known to have been attacked on the ground was Pappy Gunn’s July 28th target. From Gunn’s report it sounds as if this aircraft was totally destroyed. However, a field diary of No. 4 Air Intelligence Unit undercuts this.
It states ten maintenance men worked on Gunn’s victim on a daily basis between July 28th and August 2nd. This is more effort than needed to drag a totaled aircraft off to a bone-yard. Unfortunately there is no documentary evidence as to whether the aircraft was successfully repaired and flown out, whether it was subsequently damaged, or its repair given up as a hopeless cause.

The “pro forma” lists P-905’s cause of loss as unknown and does not describe its damage. Two aircraft identified as NELLS were photographed at Tuluvu as early as August 4th. One of these was likely Gunn’s victim. In photos three weeks later two NELLS were still there and assessed as unserviceable. It is possible P-905 was Gunn’s victim still at Tuluvu months after repair efforts failed. Photographs of this aircraft are intriguing but not conclusive. The right wing is shown attached to the aircraft and not drooping. It has a dent in the leading edge and some evidence of skin damage. There also appears to be a separation just outboard of the engine. Shrapnel damage is evident on the right side of the nose of the aircraft. No extensive fire damage is evident in the photographs but rudder fabric on the right vertical stabilizer is missing. The right engine and propeller appear undamaged. The damage seen on this aircraft is at least partially consistent with Gunn’s version of events. If the aircraft’s wing and engine were repaired or replaced and fire damage was not extensive, the damage to this aircraft is quite consistent with his version. Records indicate maintenance personnel worked on the aircraft. The presence of only a single NELL when two were seen earlier may suggest one was cannibalized in an attempt to repair the second. Then again one of the aircraft may merely have been so badly destroyed in subsequent bombing attacks as to be unrecognizable as an aircraft.

This aircraft was a Type 96 land attack plane model 23 (G3M3). The coded serial number 197 indicates this was the 97th production Nakajima NELL completed in December 1941. The number 397 violates the Nakajima coding system and is invalid. This aircraft was almost certainly assigned to an operational air group in a bomber role before becoming a transport.

4. Type 2 Two-Seat Fighter (NICK)

Three Type 2 heavy fighters were found at Tuluvu with serial numbers 237, 1023, and 1024 according to CEARs. The “pro forma” apparently identified CEAR No. 1024 as No. 1210 based on finding a “10” marked on the aircraft. This particular NICK was burned out and the only information derived from it was that it carried a 37mm cannon mounted on the right side of the belly and was painted a mottled green camouflage. The CEAR identified one of its engines as a type 1 1050 HP engine No. 1878 manufactured in November 1942.

No. 237 was in a “demolished” condition. Its fixed armament was “believed two 12.7 in the nose…one 37mm firing forward. Believed 7.7mm flexible rear cockpit.” No basis for the “belief” is stated. The CEAR identifies one engine as No. 1625 dated September 1942. The aircraft was painted mottled green upper and light grey lower. Like No. 1024 no unit or patriotic marking was noted. MPMR assumes a loss date of 14 January 1943 but assigns the aircraft a life of eight months from October 1942. Thus June (“Jun” rather than “Jan”) 1943 is probably meant.

No. 1023 was, like the other two NICKs, missing an engine but the right engine (No. 1871, dated November 1942) was present. On the whole the aircraft was “in fair condition and complete repair might be possible.” This conclusion was despite the fact that the “ the airplane has been thoroughly strafed and there were numerous strikes of unknown caliber.” The aircraft mounted a single 37mm cannon. Other armament was “thought to be” two 12.7mm fixed and one 7.7mm flexible. The upper surfaces and side were painted mottled green, the bottom light grey. Provision for external fuel tank attachments were found inboard of each engine. Inspectors doubted bombs could be fitted. Despite this they characterized the aircraft as a “Fighter bomber. Probably used as a night fighter.” The aircraft was found on No. 1 strip (West Airfield). MPMR assessed it unserviceable on 22 September 1943.

SUPPLEMENT: The first six Ki 45kai Type 2 heavy fighters arrived in Rabaul in February 1943 as part of an experimental detachment of 5th FR (W.O. Hyakutomi who fought over Tuluvu on September 2nd was originally a member of this unit). These aircraft were reportedly armed with manually loaded type 94 37mm tank cannon reloaded from the rear-seat position of the aircraft. 13th FR absorbed the experimental detachment when it arrived in May 1943. While No. 237 (given a production date of October 1942) might have arrived with the 5th FR detachment, that is not certain. The only other unit known to have operated the Type 2 fighter in the area was the 12th FB.

The fixed armament of two of these aircraft as deduced by the TAI inspectors, namely 2x12.7mm and 1x37mm, does not fits the description of any official service version the Ki 45kai. The “a” version had 2x12.7mm and one 20mm cannon and the “b” version had one each 37mm and 20mm forward firing (per Army Air HQ Secret Order No. 16979, Dec. 1943). The armament may suggest these aircraft were original equipment of the experimental Tokushu Kogekitai (Special Attack Unit) that was so armed. Other evidence must be considered, specifically documents of the 14th Field Air Repair Depot. These show that from January to April 1943 the depot was supplied with five Type 2 heavy fighters and eleven anti-tank guns (the type 94 tank gun was often referred to as an anti-tank gun) in addition to other material (including 12.7mm machine guns). The depot was quite capable of modifying those five fighters as well as others of the 13th FR arriving later with 37mm cannon such as those found at Tuluvu. In addition to a limited amount of production or conversions to this configuration in Japan (twenty according to some sources) an additional quantity may have been converted in the field. The type may be more common than previously thought. Note that the armament described for the Ki 45 Kai-b in the order referenced above (1x37mm and 1x20mm forward) specifies that the Ho 3 20mm cannon is mounted below the fuselage. This is an error. Most published sources correct this to have the 37mm gun below the fuselage and that’s where it was in the No. 1023 aircraft at Tuluvu. A photograph of the 37mm cannon breach block in the rear cockpit exists. In any event, the armament of the Tuluvu aircraft cannot be used to authoritatively determine the origins of the aircraft.

Some sources list the flexible gun on these aircraft as the type 98 7.92mm gun but the order specifies the type 89 machine gun (7.7mm). Finally the order carries the notation “(special equipment)” after the armament configuration adding to the likelihood that the armament was fitted after the aircraft came off the production line. It is possible that the Tuluvu version of this aircraft at one time shared the “b” designation or never received an official designation and had been superceded by the time the December 1943 order was promulgated.

After the initial intelligence reports surveyed the Cape Gloucester aircraft a later report stated: “Until the airstrip at Cape Gloucester was taken, very little was known about NICK, nothing about NICK’S armor.” Photographs of the Cape Gloucester NICK allowed experts to determine that the pilot had only a small 9.5mm thick head plate and a larger 6.5mm body plate protected his back. Both were located behind the pilot’s seat.

It seems virtually certain that all three aircraft reached Tuluvu by September 1943, for after then 13th FR rarely had any NICKS in serviceable condition. On the few days that it did there were only one or two. Between mid-September and the invasion of Tuluvu 13th FR was basically a single-engine fighter unit (Type 1 fighters).

MPMR’s (corrected) June date for No. 237 suggests it might have been among the first two of this type aircraft arriving at Tuluvu. One of these was reported to have been damaged landing there. This is far from clear, however. Two damaged aircraft were in the custody of a maintenance unit at Tuluvu in June 1943. A damaged “light bomber” was photographed there in August. This aircraft may well date from that period.

No. 1023 was assessed as possibly repairable and photographs of this aircraft tend to support that conclusion. Photographs and various intelligence reports record the colorful 13th FR markings on the tail of this aircraft, tail number 23, and fuselage band. Scott’s, Emblems of the Rising Sun (Hikoki Publications, 1999, pp. 78, 108) contains two good illustrations of this aircraft, a color profile and a photo enhancement (but misidentified as to date and place of capture). This aircraft was filled with many bullet holes (“thoroughly strafed”). Three NICKS were probably based at Tuluvu from late July until mid-August. It is possible this was one of those aircraft. Were not published Japanese accounts so explicit that Hyakutomi’s aircraft returned to Rabaul it would be natural to assume that this was the aircraft claimed by 1Lt. Theron Price on September 2nd. That aircraft was badly damaged but not actually seen to crash.

No. 1024’s burned out condition allows us to speculate this might have been the aircraft that landed at Tuluvu under attack by a P-38 on September 2nd. 1Lt. Grover Fanning claimed this fighter exploded in flames as it reached the runway.

No. 237 was a product of Kawasaki’s plant at Gifu (Kagamigahara). The other two fighters were produced at Akashi in March 1943.

In the September 2nd combat the P-38s clearly outperformed the NICKS. This is hardly surprising for, apart from the fact that two of the pilots were inexperienced, after the NICK’S disappointing initial showing in China in 1942 the Japanese hardly expected it to play a role in fighter versus fighter combat. Official flight limitations on airframes up to No. 245 included a maximum dive-bombing speed of 500kph IAS and acceleration of 5g’s. For airframes after No. 245 this was increased to 600kph and 6g’s. Forbidden acrobatics were steep turns, steep rolls, spins and sharp pullouts. These limitations illustrate that the aircraft was not considered a dog-fighter. This tends to contradict some published accounts that assert, “at medium altitudes the Toryus easily outmaneuvered” the P-38 (Francillon, Aircraft in Profile, vol. V).

5. Type 1 Fighter (OSCAR)

Three army Type 1 model 1 fighters (Ki 43) were found at Tuluvu with serial numbers 776, 804 and 808. The first two were in fair condition and the latter was demolished. No. 808’s armament could not be determined but 776 and 804 were each armed with two 7.7mm machine guns. No. 776’s engine was Kawasaki No. 4470 manufactured in August 1942. This aircraft was painted light blue on upper surfaces and unpainted underneath. Rudder and elevator were painted red. The upper surfaces of No. 804 were painted light green and the lower surfaces were unpainted. No tail markings were recorded (TAI inspectors at Tuluvu seem to have ignored most stylized tail markings and reported only alphanumeric details). Its engine was a type 99, 950 HP engine, manufactured by Nakajima, No. 8232, dated July 1942. No. 808 was painted dark green on upper surfaces and unpainted underneath. MPMR (which is not always reliable) gives loss dates of these aircraft as May 30th (808), August 27th (804), and September 1st (776).

SUPPLEMENT: One of these aircraft was most likely the fighter that 1Lt. Yamakawa of 13th FR badly damaged in a force landing on August 27th, 1943. Two single-engine fighters were photographed dispersed in revetments on August 27th. MPMR assesses Nos. 776 and 804 as unserviceable by September 1st. In addition several aircraft of this type belonging to 1st FR force landed at Tuluvu due to mechanical problems during June, July and August 1943. The possible significance of the armament of two 7.7mm machine guns has been discussed in another article by the author on this website and will not be repeated here.

A good photograph (Scott, op. cit., p. 107 [captioned incorrectly as to sub-type and date]) of one of these aircraft clearly shows a lightning flash tail marking indicating it was an 11th FR aircraft at some point (the aircraft in the photograph is presumably No. 804, certainly not the demolished No. 808). This may be the fighter claimed damaged by a B-24 on May 3rd, the same day a fighter was seen at Tuluvu. Thus this aircraft would have been there by May 30th (MPMR’s date for No. 808 and intriguingly a possible typo for May 3rd). It is possible this aircraft was transferred to another regiment and retained its 11th FR livery but also quite possible it arrived there in May just about a month before the regiment left the area (records show 21st Ab had two badly damaged aircraft in its custody in June, this may be one of them). Photographs of one of these aircraft (undoubtedly No. 776) show a dark colored (red) rudder with two horizontal white stripes. This is a version of the tail marking the 1st FR. We can identify two of these aircraft with the 1st and 11th FRs. Unfortunately we cannot state with certainty those were the units to which they belonged at the time of their loss. The 13th FR undoubtedly had acquired one of the Tuluvu OSCARS and possibly one or both of the others, though the existence of their unit markings militates against this possibility.

These aircraft were late production versions of the Type 1 fighter. Popular literature suggests late production versions would be the Ki 43-1c sub-type, a designation that seems to be post-war creation. They were produced in late-November (No. 776) and December 1942 by the original manufacturer, Nakajima, at Ota.

6. Type 99 Assault Plane (SONIA)

Three SONIAS were found on or near the Tuluvu airfield. These bore serial numbers 901, 959, and 1082 (given as 347 in the pro forma report but appearing as this number in CEAR). No. 901 was assessed as destroyed on the ground. It was dark gray, had two 7.7mm fixed wing guns and four wing bomb racks. Engine serial number was given as No. 3602, manufactured In February 1943. It was found on No. 2 strip (East or new airfield). No. 1082 was in a completely demolished condition. Its camouflage was dark green upper and light gray lower. No. 959 presents an interesting and somewhat confusing picture. It is included among the Tuluvu wrecks but the “pro forma” gives its location as Mt. Talawe, the dominant feature south of Tuluvu. It was not inspected until January 27th, 1944 (this date is interesting as at least part of the Gloucester TAI team was on Long Island on this date). No cause of crash was given. It was overall dark gray. Bombing had destroyed its wings and a falling tree had broken the fuselage in two. The report on this aircraft provided considerable detail including oil and fuel tank capacities, armament and noted curved armor plate protecting the oil cooler just behind the engine. The report notes: “This aircraft had just released four bombs from its racks as rusty arming wires were still attached to their positions.”

SUPPLEMENT: Later reports showed that the assault bomber version of SONIA was the most extensively armored Japanese aircraft yet encountered. The pilot’s back was protected by 7mm armor, a 5-½ in. x 14-½ in. head plate and a 13-½ in. x 16-½ in. body plate. His seat bottom was also protected by 7mm armor, 15-¼ in. x 16 5/8 in. The engine bottom and oil cooler were protected by shaped 6.5mm armor plate.

While it would be convenient (and probably correct) to identify all these aircraft with 26th FR which operated the type at Tuluvu from November 1943, it should be remembered that 83rdFCs (though as far as is known this unit flew the recon version) and various headquarters and other units also operated the Ki 51 in the area and sometimes landed at Tuluvu. With that caveat, No. 901 or 1082 may well be the 26th FR aircraft damaged on the ground by B-24s on November 30th (the 26th’s field diary describes one of these as “badly damaged” and another Japanese source uses the term “disabled” while the B-24s claimed two aircraft “destroyed”). Two aircraft of the 26th were reported as badly damaged on the 20th of December. No. 959 was probably engaged on a bombing mission shortly before it met its demise. This was the aircraft mentioned in the radio message from Tuluvu to Rabaul intercepted on December 15th concerning “an Army reconnaissance plane from this base…” The Ki 51 came in two versions, one an armored assault bomber and the other an army reconnaissance (“Guntei”) plane. A forty-four page Japanese aircraft recognition manual captured at Tuluvu describes both types in the same entry with a single silhouette. Both types engaged in similar missions either attack or reconnaissance and were virtually identical. No doubt the distinction between the two types was lost on the navy man originating the message. Since the mission on the 15th was a reconnaissance mission that was successfully completed, it appears No. 959 met it demise sometime after December 15th. It is unclear from available descriptions whether the aircraft crashed on Mt. Talawe or was merely dispersed south of the runway near Mt. Talawe (some reports give its location as strip no. 2). If the aircraft was destroyed on the ground, as seems likely, it was probably one of the two aircraft destroyed on the 20th.

8. Type 3 Fighter (TONY)

Two TONYS were found. One was completely burned out (No. 467) and one was in excellent condition (No. 263). Despite its condition No. 467 was the subject of a fairly extensive pro-forma report. No armament was found but 7.7mm and 12.7mm ammunition was. The engine was determined to be No. 490 manufactured in July 1943.

TONY No. 263 was found on No. 1 or the old strip. Although MPMR says it was assessed unserviceable on August 4th, 1943, the pro-forma report estimated that it had landed and not been moved for three weeks to a month (prior to January 2nd, 1944). A recent flood had submerged the aircraft up to the lower part of the wing. It was painted mottled green on upper surfaces and unpainted on lower surfaces. The engine was No. 252, dated March 1943. Two 12.7mm machine guns and two 7.7mm guns were fitted. Ammunition was armor piercing-tracer and high explosive. Fuel rating was 92 octane.

SUPPLEMENT: No. 263 was produced at the end of April 1943 at Kawasaki’s Kagamigahara plant. It bore the markings of 68th FR and was probably supplied to that unit as a replacement aircraft rather than original equipment. No. 467 was produced at the beginning of September 1943. Both aircraft were the initial Ki 61 production configuration later designated Ki 61-Ia. They were essentially similar versions but No. 467 being one of the last examples of this model would have been equipped with improved fuel tank protection. The early version had fuel tanks protected by what Allied intelligence called “leak absorbing” material (“fire-proof jacket” in Japanese parlance) that was but little improved over that on OSCAR and essentially worthless under combat conditions in the SWPA. In the last several weeks of production a “self-sealing” tank lining of layered strips of absorbent rubber was introduced. This was a great improvement and provided a reasonable amount of protection. Both aircraft would have been equipped with 10mm armor plate protecting the pilot’s head and body. This provided some protection but was to be improved upon in later aircraft. No. 467 was among the last of the Ki 61s fitted with an armament of two 12.7mm machine guns and two 7.7mm machine guns. Shortly after it was produced Ki 61s began to come off the production line equipped with either four 12.7mm machine guns or two 12.7mm guns and two 20mm cannon. The first examples of both types had just reached New Guinea just before the December 1943 air battles over western New Britain were fought.

Given a production date of September 1943, No. 467 probably was not assigned to a unit (68th or 78th FR) until October 1943. October is the last month for which we have reasonably reliable records of air operations at Tuluvu. No Type 3 fighters are recorded as arriving that month. No. 467 probably arrived in November or December 1943. A report of the 6th FD states that two 78th FR Type 3 fighters were missing on the 26th of December. U.S. fighters only claimed one TONY that day. There is tantalizing (but unverified) evidence that the second missing TONY was No. 467. A U.S. intelligence report states that a captured signal form addressed to 4th Air Army and 6th FD from a ground commander at Cape Gloucester contains this message: “KIMURA CHUI of 78 HIKO SENTAI made a forced landing on 27 (December).” The author is not in possession of a copy of the message form or the message itself (if it was ever sent). If a garbled date is accepted as understandable under trying circumstances, then it seems quite likely that No. 467 was the second 78th FR TONY lost on the 26th and was flown by a 1Lt. Kimura. Damaged and left out in the open the aircraft could well have been demolished in the heavy fighting. There was a 1Lt. Kimura assigned to the 78th in late 1943. He was shot down and listed as missing in September 1943 but apparently returned to the unit later.

Tests of TONY’S 10.3mm armor were later conducted at Aberdeen Proving Ground. It could be easily defeated by .50 caliber fire and in one test at close range even failed to stop a .30 caliber round. These tests were carried out directly against the freestanding armor. It should be kept in mind that in combat enemy fire would most likely first penetrate the aircraft’s aluminum skin and possibly structural members before encountering the armor. Less than a month after the capture of two TONYS at Cape Gloucester a TONY was found with pilot protection of 17.5mm and 12.7mm plates and radiator armor.

No. 263 was photographed apparently bearing a white command stripe and tail marking in red outlined in white (the aircraft is thus portrayed in Scott, op. cit., p. 91 and also in Francillon, op. cit.). These markings would indicate the aircraft was assigned to the chutai-cho of 2d chutai of the 68th FR (the recognition stripe and command stripe appear to be different colors in some black and white photos and one of the earliest drawings of this aircraft depicted the command stripe as yellow). Prior to his death on December 21st, the leader of 2nd chutai was Capt. Shogo Takeuchi. Experts apparently disagree whether this was Takeuchi’s aircraft. Some who think it was seem to rely on the August 4th MPMR date for some support. This aircraft was most likely the TONY seen taxiing at Tuluvu on December 17th (the August 4th crash date assigned by MPMR seems clearly erroneous) and sighted at various locations on the airfield by Allied aircraft over the next couple days before being effectively hidden. It seems highly unlikely that a squadron commander would be flying such an old aircraft especially when newer models with substantially increased protection and fire-power were available. Takeuchi may well have flown this aircraft at an earlier date but most likely it was assigned to another pilot during the December 1943 combats.

Despite its potentially flyable condition No. 263 was unable to fly out of Tuluvu due to the condition of the airfield. It was disassembled and transported to Australia on an LST. There it was painstakingly refurbished and reassembled. The aircraft flew with bare metal finish and American markings. In three test flights basic data about the aircraft’s stall characteristics and heavy stick forces at high airspeeds were revealed. Mechanical difficulties thwarted a full range of tests. In the meanwhile the Allies captured a comprehensive flight manual on the Type 3 fighter that provided all its essential flight characteristics. The intelligence coup seemingly represented by TONY No. 263 proved less important in fact than at first appeared.

9. Type 99 Carrier Bomber (VAL)

One VAL described as a “type 99 Dive Bomber, Mark 2” was found at Tuluvu. Its serial number was determined to be No. 3019 by the field inspector. Its engine was thought to be a Kinsei 54, manufactured by Mitsubishi, serial number 5487, dated 21 October 1942. However, the field report did not definitely establish that the engine had been mounted in the aircraft. It was apparently found nearby.

The pro forma on this aircraft was not found by this author and the only information available comes from the CEAR and MPMR. MPMR gives a production date for No. 3019 as mid-September 1942. Its crash date or at least the date when it was assessed as unserviceable at Cape Gloucester is given as November 30th, 1943.

SUPPLEMENT: The crash date for this aircraft given in MPMR appears highly suspect. VALS landed at Tuluvu in damaged condition as a result of the Japanese navy’s September New Guinea attacks. Although there was one large VAL raid to the Oro Bay area of New Guinea in mid-October 1943, most of the Japanese navy’s offensive air operations in November 1943 were occupied with countering U.S. Navy carrier strikes against Rabaul and in attacking shipping in the vicinity of Bouganville Island. It is also interesting to note that November 30th is the same date that Japanese records indicate assault planes (SONIAS) were damaged on the ground at Tuluvu. One of these was reported as disabled and was probably visibly unserviceable. Mistaking a damaged SONIA for a damaged VAL is certainly a possibility. It appears that once again the compiler(s) of MPMR have gotten it wrong. This aircraft probably arrived either earlier or possibly later than November 1943 but almost certainly did not arrive during November.

10. Type Zero Carrier Fighter (ZEKE)

Two ZEKES are listed in CEARS as captured at Tuluvu. There is no pro forma available on these aircraft and only one is listed in MPMR. The aircraft are Nakajima built Zero model 21 No. 1491 and Zeke No. 3580 (this serial number was established by stencil not maker’s plate) manufactured by Mitsubishi. The production date for No. 1491 is given as early December 1942 and its crash date as November 22nd, 1943.

SUPPLEMENT: For reasons similar to those discussed for VAL No. 3019, the crash date established by MPMR for ZEKE No. 1491 seems suspect. Zeros landed at Tuluvu or operated near by over a period of several months during 1943. In addition to the action on July 28th there were several heavy combats involving Zeros over the Huon Gulf during September and October 1943. After the Arawe invasion Zeros were also frequently operating near Tuluvu during December 1943. November 1943 seems the least likely month for a Zero to become stranded at Tuluvu. November 22nd was in fact a day on which the Japanese Navy sent forty-eight Zeros in a fighter sweep from Rabaul against the Torokina bridgehead on Bougainville, hardly a likely date to have aircraft also operating over western New Britain.

If the serial number given for No. 3580 is correct, this aircraft would have been a Zero 22 produced in late March 1943. There is a good possibility this aircraft was issued to Air Group 251. Although Air Group 251 had received several Zero 22’s fitted with long barrel type 99, mark II cannon in February 1943 and earlier in March, available documentation indicates that the Zero 22’s delivered in late March 1943 were not equipped with the new weapons. The aircraft was probably a Zero 22 with short barrel wing cannon.

Beyond a general discussion of when Zeros were active around Tuluvu there is little to suggest when these aircraft were disabled there. One fighter force landed there with engine trouble on July 28th. This was an aircraft of 201 Ku. Two Zeros landed at Tuluvu in badly damaged condition after a night raid on Finschhahen on October 22nd. These were aircraft of 204 Ku (by that time 251 Ku had given up its Zeros and had turned some over to 204 Ku). A good guess might be that one or both of these aircraft were the aircraft damaged on that night mission to Finschhafen.


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