- Famous Aircraft of the
World #16 Ki-44
Shoki Photo Translations
- Original Japanese Text, copyright Burindo
2 (top) The first
prototype Ki.44, flown by Capt.
Susumu Jinbo. Note double
cowl flaps on this machine.
- (middle & lower)
Three planes were painted all in greenish gray for the trial
manufacturing. After being
accepted into the 47th Independent Chutai, they were painted in earth color
on the upper surfaces and greenish gray beneath.
The photos of Major Toshio
Sakagawa (5th model), Captain
Yasuhiko Kuroe (8th model) and Warrant
Officer Takakura (10th model) show that the bottom of the plane was not
bare metal. The top color was changed to dark green for the first
production of Model 44-I (113th model) in February 1942 but the lower
surfaces remained greenish gray.
6 Mottled dark green
camouflage (Example is from the 85th Hiko-Sentai, 2nd Chutai, 1943.
This is the same aircraft as on page 40, very possibly flown by Capt.
Yukiyoshi Wakamatsu, 2nd Chutai leader from June 1943 until his death on
18 December 1944) Model 44-IIs
were distributed to the Sentais in Burma and China in 1943.
The upper body was painted in mottled dark green camouflage, but its
pattern varied. The above
example of to the 85th Sentai has almost continuous lines while the bottom
example from the 50th Sentai has a dotted pattern.
It is a rare example that the stabilizers were left in the primer
paint as the top view of this 85th Sentai fighter shows.
The 85th Sentai also painted some of their planes in mottled dark
green and brown and the undersides were painted in bluish light gray in some
cases. The mottled camouflage color was not introduced into the defense
Sentais within the country, but the Akeno Flight School owned quite a few of
these mottled camouflaged planes. The
85th Sentai began its combat career in July 1943, transferring from
Manchuria to bases in Kwantung and Hangkow.
One year later the unit transitioned to the Ki.84.
7 Flat dark green
camouflage (Example from the 70th Sentai, 3rd Chutai, 1944)
After 1944, as the situation worsened, a few planes were painted
overall in dark green camouflage. As this 70th Sentai aircraft shows, the purpose of the
camouflage was compromised as the stripes were painted in to identify the
Sentais. The 23rd Sentai's plane has white edges around the hinomarus on the
main wings as well as its fuselage. The black paint was seen behind the
cockpit to block the sun’s reflection sometimes in this area and was
painted dark green in others.
(bottom) Trial model number 8 (4408). The
left horizontal stabilizer was damaged while landing due to dislocation of
the auxiliary fuel tank during the test flight.
Manufacturing number “4408” is seen here near the tail rudder
between the painted stripes which are yellow with red trim.
The range of the Ki.44 was approximately 1,000 Km (625 miles) which
was similar to the Ki.43-I ('Hayabusa’). Considering the expansion into China and to the South, the
use of auxiliary fuel tanks was inevitable.
A simple auxiliary was fitted right beneath the cabin in the
beginning but after the trial model number 6, they were fitted under each
wing. The model number 8 in
this photo was flown by Captain
Yasuhiko Kuroe with the 47th Independent Chutai in Indochina.
(lower right) Model 44 no.10 of the 47th Independent Chutai at Saigon
airport in Indochina right after the opening of the Pacific War.
The disposable auxiliary fuel tanks were fitted under each wing. According to the record,
Warrant Officer Tokutaro
Takakura flew this number 10. The
47th achieved its first victory on 12 January 1941 when Kuroe downed a
Buffalo over Singapore.
(top) A group of supplement trial Model 44 planes of the 47th
Independent Chutai at the Saigon Airport.
They are leaving for Malaya to join the invasion at Singapore. No. 5,
9, 8 and 10 are lined up (the manufacturing numbers are painted on the main
wheel cover in red). No. 5 was flown by Major Toshio Sakagawa.
One disposable auxiliary tank was carried beneath the fuselage,
unlike the other three. The
earth color was painted unevenly and the result was too intense.
(middle) This photo follows the above.
No. 5 model flown by Major Sakagawa taxiing on the runway.
The 47th Independent Chutai had nine supplement trial Model 44
planes: numbers 1 through 10, excepting no.3.
Three planes formed one Shotai.
Each Shotai used 1 to 3 stripes of white, yellow or red on the tail
to identify each plane. Major Sakagawa was the commander of the Chutai and also flew the first
plane of the first Shotai, so one white stripe was painted on his plane.
The white band on the lower body indicates the external units and
this is a standard sign in all army fighters.
(bottom) This photo is also of no. 5 flown by Major Sakagawa, but
taken from another angle. The
47th Independent Chutai advanced to Saigon on December 9, 1941, a day after
the opening of the war. They
concentrated on the maintenance of their planes and practice until December
27th in Bangkok, Thailand. Due
to the high landing speed, minor damage occurred frequently.
(middle)Mitsumoto taxiing, Jinbo’s number '6' is in the foreground.
(top two) This photo
shows, like the previous pages, Capt. Yasuhiko KUROE's Ki.44 number 8 plane of the 47th Independent
Chutai ready to take off from Saigon AB.
the 47th Chutai's badge was applied underneath the windshield and
represents the Yamaga school war drum to share the Akaho 47 warrior's luck
(in yellow and white). Capt. Kuroe, after moving to Kwantan,
encountered Brewster Buffalo MK.1s belonging to the British Far East Air
Force and shot one of them down on 12 January 1942.
this was the first victory by a Ki.44 fighter.
It is well known that, after transferring to the 64th Sentai, Capt.
Kuroe eventually shot down 38 enemy planes and became one of the top aces of
(third) This photo shows a plane which appears to be the Ki.44 number
2 plane of the 47th Independent Chutai.
Note the construction of the windshield (the middle slides into the
fixed back section) which was through the number 4 plane of this type.
It is apparent that up the Ki.44-II the lower corners of the escape
door were rounded. In the right
hand lower corner of the photo part of the 47th Chutai badge is showing.
(bottom) This photo shows Major
SAKAGAWA's Ki.44 number 5. He
was the commander of the 47th Chutai.
(all three photos on this page) By the end of January 1942, only one
of the Model 44s was left, due to the battles on January 20 and 29, when 7
planes were lost, in addition to accidents, though Model 44s were
mechanically superior compared to the Buffalo, Hurricane or P-40.
The mechanics were quite different from the Model 97 which the Chutai
was previously familiar with. Three
of the Model 97s were shipped promptly and half of the Chutai members went
back to Japan to bring back several brand-new Model 44-I planes. Among them
was the number 1 model (serial number "113") of 44-I in these
photos. The 47th Chutai
advanced to Morumen(?) to join the Burma aerial campaign, and these 3 photos
seem to have been taken there. It
is noted that the engine starting hook was located on the tip of the spinner
and also the fuel cooling system was added on bottom the fuselage.
According to the Second Lieutenant Kariya, who took these photos, the
color of the planes was dark green. The
“"Sun’s Red Disk" (Hinomaru)
was not yet painted on most aircraft at that time, but this plane has it,
possibly edged with white. The
last two numbers, "13", of the manufacturing number were painted
in yellow on the tail, but no stripe was seen.
Notice the Chutai mark stripe was painted in rather wide.
The person in the bottom shot is the Second Lieutenant Kariya, who had a profound knowledge of the Model 44.
He was always with the 47th Chutai and the pilots called him "the
God of maintenance".
(all three photos on this page)
Detailed shots of Model 44-I as on the previous page.
Note the circular lubricating oil cooling system on the front of the
cowling and the wheel cover that is attached lower to the main leg cover at
a 90° angle. The photo on the
below left is the Second Lieutenant Kariya (right) with a comrade.
You can see the cowling and the fuel cooling system in detail.
The fuel cooling system was introduced in
order to prevent “vapor lock”.
When the temperature rises, small bubbles are created in the fuel and
they block the fuel supply pipe and this caused engine failure.
This system was essential in the summer in the South.
You can clearly see the manufacturing number “113” in the white
stripe and the “13” on the tail in the lower right photo.
The 47th was withdrawn to Japan after the Doolittle raid of 18 April
(bottom caption) Close-up shot
of a Model 44-II that is supposed to have belonged to the 85th Hiko Sentai
in China. It was painted in
flat dark green camouflage, but the paint has peeled off around the cowling.
This plane was on a defense mission but it was also used for attack.
This was because both sides were positioned at close distance
compared to the Burma and the Pacific Ocean campaigns.
In China the Model 44’s range was sufficient for offensive and
These Ki.44-II Ko belonging to the 47th Independent Chutai are
resting at Chofu AB which was located in the western part of Tokyo.
In April 1942, American B-25s commanded by James Doolittle launched
the first attack over the Japanese main land.
Thus, the 47th Chutai was hurriedly called back from Burma to Japan.
It was first stationed temporarily at Matsudo AB in Chiba Prefecture,
then to Kashiwa AB from August through September 1942 and finally settled at
Chofu AB in March 1943. The
above photo was taken at some time during the summer of 1943.
On the tail assembly a newly designed Chutai marking of '47' was
added in red and a star was painted at the top end of the rudder indicating
summer sunlight is reflecting from the duralumin surface obscuring the white
surrounds to the red Hinomaru (red sun) markings.
(bottom) Close-up of Ki.44-II Ko of the 47th Independent Chutai.
The dirt under the 12.7 mm machine gun on the main wing behind the
exhaust pipe tells of their intense training.
It was believed at the time that the operation of the Model 44 was
difficult, and that the young pilots with flight experience of under 800
hours were not able to handle it. But
the critical war situation forced the inexperienced recruits with 100 or so
flight hours to fly them! Fewer
accidents occurred than expected. It
seems the operation was not too hard once the pilot got the knack of it.
Note that the 47th had by this time been pulled out of the Asian
mainland to protect the airspace above the Home Islands.
- p.31 The four photos on this page show the take-off (in
training) of Ki.44-II Kos of the 47th Independent Chutai at Chofu AB.
The Japanese Army and Navy had already obtained an intelligence
report suggesting that the Americans had finished developing the B-29
bomber, but they did not have specific data of the plane's performance yet.
Therefore they flew a B-17 captured in the Southern front and
practiced attacks against it. Later
on, after the experience of actual encounters with the B-29, they found that
the total performance and capabilities of the B-29, including its high
altitude performance and defensive armament, were so superior and were
beyond their imagination. They
had to come to the pathetic conclusion that there were no effective way to
counter the B-29 other than to mount suicide attacks by fighter planes,
including Ki.44s, whose armament had been stripped to the bones to make them
lighter. This concept
eventually led to the birth of the "Shinten"
Air Defense Battalions.
- p.34 (three photos on this page)
While the expectation as a powerful air defense battalion is
heightening, the 47th Independent Chutai at Chofu AB was reorganized on 3
October 1943 as the 47th Sentai (total 54 planes) consisting of 3 Chutai.
At this time the unit marking was changed.
They used a similar design of the '47', but now the marking was
spread out over the whole of the vertical fin.
And, for easy identification of a chutai, the marking was painted in
different colors, white for the 1st chutai, red for the 2nd and yellow for
the 3rd chutai. The snap shot
above shows the 1st chutai, while the middle and bottom snap shots show the
2nd chutai. The second plane
from the left in the middle and bottom photos, which has a broad white band
at the rear of the fuselage, may belong to the commander of the 2nd chutai,
Lt. Yasuro Masaki. In the above
photo, at the far end of the line, one can see a plane painted in dark green
camouflage, which may be a transferred plane from another unit.
In those days the 47th Sentai, the 244th Sentai with Type 3 fighters
(Ki.61s) and the 17th Air Division with Type 100 reconnaissance planes all
shared Chofu AB which made it too crowded.
Therefore, soon after these photos were take, the 47th Sentai moved
out to the newly constructed Narimasu AB.
- p.35 (top) Training
of the 47th Sentai at Chofu AB in November 1943 just before it moved out to
Narimasu AB. In front of a
Ki.44-II Ko a Type 97 training fighter is taking off.
This Type 97 fighter was obtained for the purpose of training young
pilots for the Type 2 fighters. In
those days there was not many air raids over the Tokyo area yet and time was
available for training. Therefore
new pilots to the unit were not allowed to operate Ki.44s until they
completed several severe training flights with Type 97 training fighter and
Type 1 fighters.
This photo shows Ki.44-II Ko and Ki.44-II Otsu
fighters of the 3rd chutai of the 47th Sentai at the newly
constructed Narimasu AB in early 1944.
The second, fifth, and sixth planes from the foreground are -II Otsu,
while the third, fourth, seventh and eighth are -II Ko planes.
On all of the planes of the 47th Sentai, besides the regular place,
the last two digits of the serial numbers were painted in large characters
at the bottom part of the rudder in the chutai color.
The third from the foreground, -II Ko serial no. 19, has on the
fuselage, right behind the "Hinomaru",
a yellow band trimmed in red. The
plane also has a yellow band on the spinner.
Therefore this plane seems to be a commander's plane.
Around the Narimasu AB area it becomes very foggy in the winter
season and it is said that there were many incidents resulting in emergency
landings simply because the pilots could not find the base.
36 (three photos on this page)
As mentioned in the main text written
by Mr. Kariya,
Ki.44-II Ko "16" of the 47th Sentai piloted by W.O. Son Kurimura
sank into the ground of Narimasu AB. The
plane has a fat white band with red trim at the rear portion of the
fuselage. It also has the white
chutai marking. This means that
it is the 47th Sentai commander Lt.Col.
Noboru Shimoyama's plane.
Mr. Kurimura was ordered to carry out a test flight of the plane on
that day and had this accident. The
cause of this mishap was the pilot's mishandling of the retraction procedure
of the main (landing) gear.
- p.40 (bottom) Model
44-II (manufacturing No. 1134) of the Commander,
Capt. Wakamatsu of the
85th Hiko Sentai, 2nd Chutai at Nanking, China in 1943. The various colors of paint on the vertical tail show the
mark of the 85th Sentai at that time, and a horizontal stripe was added to
make a half arrowhead design in 1944. The
wide vertical stripe on the lower body shows the commander’s plane.
The 1st Chutai used white, 2nd, red, and 3rd, yellow.
Capt. Wakamatsu was known as "Commander
Red Dharma" and he was the top ace of the 85th Sentai.
Dharma, in Buddhism, is a
reference to one’s essential quality or character. It can also refer to law or virtue. An excellent long-distance shot, all his victories were over
fighter aircraft. He had a
record of 18-20 planes shot down: at least nine P-51s and four P-40s.
He was killed over Hankow on December 18, 1944 in combat with
Mustangs. Another P-51 victim
on that same mission was Rikio Shibata of the 85th's 1st Chutai.
Shibata was credited with 14 victories during the Nomanhan fighting
while flying with the famous 11th Sentai.
During WW-II he added another thirteen victories, for a total of 27
at the time of his death. On
this day the 85th (flying Ki.84s) was heavily attacked by waves of B-24s,
B-25s and P-51s. The 85th lost four aircraft in combat, and did claim
victories, but by the day’s end severe ground losses had reduced this
Sentai's strength to but 3 operational aircraft.
New members of the 47th Sentai beside a specially equipped Ki.44-II
Otsu at Narimasu AB. The photo
was taken in the later part of 1944. The
second man from the right is Sub. Lt. Setsuo Ichiraku who wrote this
article. In those days
graduates of special pilot apprentice officer school and Ko class executive
candidate officer school were allowed to operate Ki.44 fighters after 10
hours of pilot training with Ki.43 (Type 1) fighters.
This photo shows Ki.44-II fighters of the 47th Sentai lined up at the
preparation line. This was also
taken at approximately the same period as the above photo. Second from the foreground, serial number 25, is a -II Otsu
specially equipped fighter and, as one can see, a 40mm rocket gun barrel of
Type Ho-301 is sticking out from the front of the main wing.
The furthest plane which is camouflaged and is sticking out from the
line is a Ki.51 Type 99 reconnaissance/attack plane which the 47th Sentai
used as a communication (liaison) plane.
This is a side view of a Ki.44-II Otsu, serial number 1420, specially
equipped plane which belonged to the 1st chutai of the 47th Sentai. This is a very clear picture and one can see the enlarged
opening of the exhaust outlet, Ammunition case, and details of the Ho-301
gun barrel. This plane has a
wider white rim around the Hinomaru than usual and has a white band with
orange colored rim right behind the Hinomaru.
Therefore this plane seems to belong to the Commander of the squadron
or the Sentai. Please note that
the Sentai marking on the tail assembly (white) has not only orange trim,
but also orange
triangle sections. The recognition stripe on the front of the main wing is in
red. It is said that at the
point of time of 1 November 1944 five Ki.44-IIs out of a total of 54 planes
of the 47th Sentai were equipped with Ho-301 guns.
However, when tried against B-29s, it became apparent that its
initial velocity was to slow causing instability in its trajectory, and was
judged difficult with which to hit a target and not actively used.
A total of 396 Ki.44-II Otsus were manufactured with serials from
number "1304" to number "1749".
- p.43 (top) Ki.44-II
Otsu specially equipped serial number17 fighter of the 2nd chutai of the
47th Sentai departing for a sortie. According
to another photo taken from a different angle, a showy, arc shaped red
marking is clearly visible on its fuselage.
The shape of the cooling air inlet for the lubrication oil seen
underneath the cowling is not a simple circular, but oval shape.
A memorial photo of the 2nd chutai members of the 47th Sentai taken
in front of a Ki.44-II Otsu specially equipped fighter on 1 January 1944. The plane is decorated at the tip of the spinner with a
sacred straw festoon and a set of round rice cakes.
Third from left is Sub. Lt. Kariya who was the ground crew commander
of the squadron. The rest of
the people are all pilots. Next
to him to his right is the C.O. of the 2nd chutai, Lt. Yasuro Masaki, while
second from the right is W.O. Son
Kurimura who piloted the Commander's plane and caused the accident mentioned
on page 36. Later, on 9 January
1945, he was killed in an air battle. Second
from the left in the second row is Sgt. Masumi Yuki who, in the same air
battle, crashed into a B-29 and sacrificed himself over Narimasu AB.
This was watched by the rest of the chutai crews.
Please note the red painting of from the tip of the cowling to the
side of the fuselage.
This is the same marking as the "Shinten"
Air Mastery chutai's planes had, which was organized later as an attack
group specializing in bodily crashing into B-29s.
- p.45 (top) Following
serial number "1750" of the Ki.44-II Otsu fighter, the guns on
both the fuselage and wings were changed to Ho-103 Type 1 - 12.7mm caliber
machine guns and called the Ki.44-II Hei.
The number of Ki.44-II Hei planes manufactured (including a small
number Ki.44-IIIs which ended up only as experimental planes) can be
estimated to be 426 by subtracting the number of Ki.44-I, Ki.44-II Ko and
Ki.44-II Otsus produced from the total number of Ki.44 fighters produced,
1225. In any case, among the
Ki.44 fighters, this type was produced most.
In the plane shown in this photo (serial number "1966"?),
the aiming device is changed from the telescope type to the light-image
type. This changeover occurred
in the middle of the Ki.44-II Otsu series.
A Ki.44-II Hei serial number 31 of the 2nd chutai of the 47th Chutai
which made an emergency landing. The
aiming device on this plane is still the telescope type.
As Mr. Ichiraku wrote in the text, the landing procedure of this
plane was to have a speed of 190-200 km/h at the end of the 4th circle
facing the landing strip, and 180 km/h right before touching the ground.
Therefore a prompt judgment of the situation was required on every
landing, and a moments mistake caused accidents.
Naturally the pilots were very nervous.
A Ki.44-II Hei belonging to the Hitachi Kyodo (training) Air Division
at Mito AB in Ibaraki Prefecture. This
division was formed on 20 June 1944 from a nucleus of the Mito branch of the
Akeno Air College and assumed concurrent tasks of air defense of the Kanto
- p.49 (bottom) This
Ki.44-II Hei belonged to the 3rd chutai of the 246th Hiko-Sentai at Taisho
(now Hachio) AB in Osaka Prefecture in 1944.
As a tradition since the days of the Type 97 fighter planes, the
Sentai's planes had their cowl flaps, landing gear covers, rear portion of
the fuselage and vertical fin painted in red.
The spinner is in yellow (chutai color) and had a red circle with
black Sentai marking on the tail assembly; all these were very colorful
markings. The external fuel
tank (to be dropped) underneath the wing had 125 liter capacity.
The external fuel tanks had a shape of either straight line type,
shown in this photo, or a curved line type.
Please note the type of the small bomb rack beside the external fuel
tank is different from the ones shown in the photos above or on the previous
page. the last three digits of
the serial number, "321", are shown on the main gear.
This, however, does not make sense because, according to Army
records, 426 planes of the Ki.44-II Hei subtype were manufactured after the
serial number "1750", which in no way reaches to the number
"2321". Besides this
plane, serial number "2338" has been confirmed elsewhere.
Therefore it seems that some serial numbers were skipped somewhere,
or more than 426 planes were actually produced or old Ki.44-II Kos were
modified and converted to Ki.44-II Heis.
The changeover to the Ki.44-II Hei (Type 2 fighter plane) in the
246th Sentai took place during the period of April through July of 1943.
Though their main base was Taisho AB, they moved and fought around
Kyushu, Taiwan, the Philippines and the Kanto area.
(top) The trial Model 44 No.2
(serial number "4402") of the 47th Independent Chutai at Saigon
Airport. You can see the single
disposable auxiliary under the body and the main leg in detail.
Notice the “2” which is the last number of the serial number on
the disposable auxiliary and the leg cover.
The suspension straps are attached to the tank, not to the fuselage,
and their shape differs from the ones that were hung under the main wings
after the trial Model No. 6. Sergeant Takao Ito
looks at the auxiliary tank. Three
yellow diagonal lines with red rims are painted on the vertical tail which
indicates the No. 3 plane of the No. 2 Shotai, commanded by Capt. Susumu
56 (top left) Mitsumoto's
(top) Second Lieutenant Kariya wearing a flight helmet in front of a Ki.44-II Otsu (serial
number "1435") of the No. 2 Chutai.
He himself has maintained this plane with a great care.
Notice the red paint and the red stripes on the side and the lower
fuselage, with a blue fuselage band. The
aircraft in the background may have been flown by Capt. Yasuro Masaki.
It was armed with 40mm wing guns, and numbered “35” in red on
62 (top) The ground crew of the 47th Independent Chutai working on the
Ki.44-II Ko under a growing cumulo-nimbus.
They made it possible to keep 100% maintenance.
Their skill was the very best in the army, without a doubt.
A pilot of the 47th Independent Chutai boarding a Ki.44-II Ko. When they returned to Japan from Burma, Major Sakagawa was
transferred and Capt. Susumu Jinbo was appointed as the Chutai commander.
He commanded the Chutai for a year, until August of 1943, when he was
transferred to the Inspection department.
Warrant Officer Taisuke Aoki and his Ki.44-II Ko (serial number "1026") being met
by a ground crew member after a training flight. The above photo shows the cabin, its surroundings and also
the rivet lines clearly. The
maintenance crew accompanied each Chutai until 1943.
In order to improve efficiency, the flight units and the maintenance
units were separated after 1944. This
aircraft also appears at the bottom of p.67
(top) This photo, taken in
January 1942 at Saigon AB, is of Ki.44 trial/additional-trial planes
belonging to the 47th Independent Chutai.
These are all 2nd formation (shotai) planes.
From the foreground, the no. 3 plane piloted by Sgt. Major Takao Ito (Ki.44 serial number 4402, No. 2), no. 1 plane piloted by Capt.
Susumu Jinbo (serial number 4406,
No. 6) and the no. 2 plane piloted by flown Lt. Shunji
Sugiyama (serial number 4407, No.
The identification stripes on the tail assembly are yellow with red
trim. The windshield, antenna
pole, gas outlet behind the cannon in the fuselage and the exhaust pipe of
the first plane in the foreground are different from those of the other
planes. Since this was a
publicly displayed photo, the serial number written in red on the main
landing gear cover was erased. The
furthest plane from the foreground is a Type 97 fighter plane which was
brought in as a supplement for a lost plane.
Though it is not clear in this photo, the two planes are Ki.44
trial/additional-trial planes and are taking off from Saigon AB.
The left front plane is the same plane shown in the above photo (the
first one in the foreground), i.e. 3rd position in the formation piloted by
Sgt. Major Takao Ito.
- (lower two)
The Ki.44 serial number 4407, No. 7 plane, the second position plane
of the formation belonging to the 47th Independent Chutai piloted by Lt.
This photo is also blurred, but these are the only snap shots of the
2nd formation planes in flight, very precious photos taken by Mr. Kariya
from aboard an AT-2 transport plane. Please
note that the cover of the tail wheel is not completely closed. Only on the right side (below the windshield) was the
Chutai's "Jindaiko" (war
drum) badge painted.
68 (top) A ground crew waiting
for the sign from the pilot, "Remove the wheel stopper", while the
Ha 109 engine is roaring. This is a departure scene of Ki.44-II Otsus of the 47th
Independent Chutai (later the 47th Sentai) observed every day at Chofu AB.
This photo was taken in the fall of 1943.
The Ki.44-II Otsu, nicknamed 'Shoki',
seen from this angle emphasizes the "top-heavy" look and shows its
powerfulness not obtained from other Japanese planes.
- (bottom) Ki.44-II
Otsu and Hei planes of the 3rd chutai of the 47th Sentai at Narimasu AB
testing their engines before departure.
The second plane from the right, serial number "66", has a
wide band in red or blue on the rear portion of the fuselage and is probably
the chutai commander, Capt. Tei-ichi Hatano's
plane. The tip of the vertical
fin of the planes next to this and the one in front, serial number
"87", are painted in red, indicating the leaders planes of the
69 (top) Training flight of the 3rd Chutai, 47th Sentai at Chofu, around
November 1944. Note yellow Home
Defense bands on number "19" and number "26".
Aircraft in foreground left behind by 87th Sentai, which had moved to
70 (three photos) The fighter
Sentais, including the 47th Sentai, of the 10th Air Division encountered
B-29s over Kanto for the first time in early November of 1944.
They were shocked to find that they could not carry out their attacks
against the B-29s because Japanese fighters could not get up to the altitude
of 10,000 meters where the B-29s were operating effortlessly.
They also realized the power of the exhaust turbine supercharger.
Consequently the "suicide
attack" (crashing into B-29s) by planes which had been lightened by
removing armaments, armor plates, etc., was ordered. this group of fighters was named "Shinten" (Air Mastery Divisions).
Each fighter Sentai had four "Shinten"
members (later the number was increased to eight).
In the 47th Sentai Sgt. Maj. Suzuki and others were selected.
Thus, ghastly suicide attacks, spearheaded by Staff Sgt. Mita, were
started during the Tokyo air attack on 24 November 1944.
The three photos on this page show sequences of the take off of the
Ki.44-II "Shinten Air Mastery Battalion".
In order to distinguish them, the "Shinten"
planes were either painted in red form the cowling to the fuselage
or had a large "Jindaiko"
badge which was originally used to identify the 47th Independent Chutai.
The suicide attacks carried out against enemy ships by aircraft were
called "Kamikaze" by the
Navy and "Shinbu" by the
Army. Their counterpart "air
against air" was called the "Shinten".
72 (both) Ki.44-II Ko, sallying at a battle line in China.
The plane in the above photo is likely belonged to the 85th
Hiko-Sentai judging from the dark green camouflage color and the
greenish-gray base paint on the ailerons, the elevators and rudder, in
addition to the red stripe at the rear fuselage.
The plane, carrying a 125 liter capacity disposable fuel tank, enters
the runway in the photo below. Two
red stripes on the body suggest that the commander of 2nd Chutai flew this
plane. The 85th Sentai fought
in various areas in China from the beginning of 1943 and they were freed
from the war in Korea in 1944. The
85th claimed a total of 250 aircraft destroyed or damaged from June 1943
until it ended the war at Kimpo, Korea.
- p.76 (top left) After
a first mission accounted for 6 F6Fs on the morning of 16 February 1945,
Capt. Tei-ichi Hatano, CO of the 3rd Chutai of the 47th Sentai confers with
his pilots. From left: 1st Lt. Itsuro Narimasu, Hatano, Lt. Kobozoe, Lt.
Ichiraku, W.O. Chu-ichi Nakajima, Lt. Yukio Ishihara, T.Sgt. Haruo
Nakanishi, M/Sgt Chiaki Aruga, Sgt. Takao Maruyama and Sgt. Shozo Yamazaki.
Nakajima and Nakanishi were KIA on the chutai's second mission of the
day north of Tokyo. Note Hatano's Ki-84 “45” is in the background.
- p.78 (top) Ki.44-II
Hei serial number "31" belonged to the 2nd chutai of the 47th
Sentai. The "Hinomaru"
(red sun mark) of this plane do not have the white bands which were used to
indicate Air Defense Group.
However this was not limited to the 47th Sentai.
Not all of the planes had the white bands. The 47th Sentai abolished the chutai system in January 1944
and was reorganized to have three groups where both the pilots and the
maintenance crews were put together. The
three groups were named, respectively, "Asahi
group", and "Sakura
group". the colors of
the group markings were inherited from those of the old chutais.
After the changeover to the Type 4 ("Hayate")
fighter, however, it appears that the "Fuji"
group chose the blue markings with the white shadow.
Members of the 47th Sentai and the National Defense Women’s Group.
is painted on the fuselage side of this plane.
The vertical tail is painted all in red, and the last two numbers of
the serial number, “32” is painted in black on the rudder.
Fourth person from the right is Sergeant Major Isamu Sakamoto who
fortunately survived a ramming against a B-29 on 27 January 1945.
Between November 1944 and mid-February 1945 the 47th Sentai was
credited with 19 victories and 29 damaged.
It is reasonable to assume that all these air victories represented
- (bottom) 2nd. Lt.
Makoto Ogawa's Ki.44-II Hei. He
became the top ace of the 70th Sentai by shooting down five B-29s and 2
P-51s in the air battles over Japan. The
plane is number "2". It
is difficult to recognize, but his Sentais marking, which was made by a
design of "70", is drawn on the tail assembly in yellow.
The "Hinomaru" on
the fuselage has a white band and it appears that narrow red band is painted
right next to it. The plane
number "2" (in black) written on the fuselage in a large character
was unusual and cannot be found on other Ki.44s.
This is not the last digit of the serial number, but an arbitrary
number it seems. Later on, to
indicate the number of enemy planes he shot down, markings of eagles (in
gray) were painted between the "Hinomaru"
and the number "2".
(top) A group of Ki.44-IIs of
the 85th Hiko Sentai. Each
plane has the flat dark green camouflage color and the rudder is in greenish
gray base paint except for the plane on the right.
This plane (on the right) has a red stripe with white trim, and this
indicates the “No.2 Chutai Commander’s plane,” and may be another of
Wakamatsu's. The second plane
has two narrow yellow stripes, and this probably indicates the “No.3
Chutai Second Commander’s plane.” The
design of all these marks of the 85th Sentai changed often.
- (lower two)
Ki.44-II Kos of the 246th Sentai at Taisho AB in Osaka Prefecture.
Red painted cowl flaps and red bands around the rear fuselage are
common for all planes of the Sentai
and it appears that, for distinguishing chutais, red paint on the vertical
fin was used. the planes with
the red rudders in the right photo may indicate the 2nd chutai.
In other photos planes with yellow painted spinners can also be
recognized and this may also be used for distinguishing chutais.
It is difficult to distinguish if the color of the spinner in the
photograph is red or dark brown. Here
in the right photo, it is not clear whether the number "15" is
painted in red or not.
(top) A Ki.44-II Hei of the
246th Sentai which was captured by U.S. forces at a corner of Clark AB in
the Philippines. Its serial
number is "2338" which means that the plane is same one mentioned
on page 51. because the
Sentai's assignment had been the air defense over the main land (i.e.
Japan), its planes were not camouflaged.
Upon receiving the order to advance to the Philippines, the planes
had camouflage hastily applied. Naturally
the white band of the "Hinomaru",
the red cowl flaps and vertical fin, as well as the red band around the rear
fuselage were erased. Instead,
a white rim around the "Hinomaru"
on the fuselage and a white band at the rear of the fuselage, which was a
symbol of the "over sea
battalion" were put on. The
plane, serial number "2338", has its spinner painted in yellow
which means that the plane belonged to the 3rd chutai.
It is noticeable that even on the main landing gear covers the
camouflage was put on and that the last three digits, "338", of
the serial number were clearly painted in yellow.
The serial number, however, seems to be rewritten.
The Sentai marking on the tail assembly is a red circle arranged with
a black wing. This marking was
used starting from the spring of 1943 when the Sentai converted to the Type
2 fighter, to the end of 1944 when the whole Sentai was annihilated in the
The 246th Sentai which was annihilated in the Philippines was rebuilt
in January 1945 using the remaining (stayed behind in Japan) group as a
nucleus. The Sentai was based
again at Taisho AB and assumed air defense duties.
Introduction of the Type 4 fighter had started, but they could not
obtain enough supply. Consequently
Type 2 planes and Type 4 planes were both deployed in this Sentai to the end
of the war. Taking the
opportunity of rebuilding, the old Sentai marking was abandoned and a simple
red stripe crossing the vertical fin was adopted.
Distinction of the chutai was made by painting the spinner white (1st
chutai), red (2nd chutai) and yellow (3rd chutai). Shown in the above photo are Ki.44-II Hei fighters of the 2nd
chutai of the 246th Sentai which made emergency landings at Oi Navy Base in
Shizuoka Prefecture in the spring of 1945.
The red band on the tail assembly is recognizable.
Please note the antenna pole of the "58" plane shown in the
foreground was moved to the back of the windshield.
(top) Photo of the Ki.44-II Otsu of the flight training team commander Major
Yoshio Hirose at Mito AB in
Ibaraki Prefecture in November 1944. Note
the large lightning bolt in red with white trim on the fuselage.
There are few other examples like this with the bold lightning
design. The lightning indicates
"Hiko Sentai Commander".
The upper half of the fuselage is painted in flat dark green camouflage and
the upper fuselage is spray-painted sideways.
The paint is faded and peeled in parts indicating frequent use of
this plane. The lightning bolt
is painted unevenly which suggests it was done hurriedly.
The color of the spinner is probably the average dark brown. The
white stripe (It seems a red rim was painted only in front of the white
stripe.) looks strange (The white stripe was used for external Army units
only before this time.), but by this time the B-29s already started
attacking the mainland, so they were possibly mixed up.
The dividing line of the dark green color on the main body ascends
slightly towards the directional rudder.
The team mark from the Akeno Flight School, which the flight team
originated from, is painted on the fin.
The letter " " (This is a part of the name of the team.) is painted
in white in a red octagon shape mirror.
A red and white wing is added on each side as this was done at the
Akeno Flight Training Team. (Refer
to the color illustration in the front.)
Major Hirose was one of the veteran fighter pilots and was dispatched
to China for the China/Japan war in 1937.
He was honored to shoot down the very first enemy plane on 19
September 1937. He became an
instructor with Akeno Flight School, then he joined the 77th Hiko-Sentai as
c.o. of the 3rd Chutai from August 1940 until July 1941, then deputy Sentai
Commander from July 1941 until August 1942.
He then became the commander of the 64th Sentai from March 1943 to
June 1944. He returned to Japan
and became an instructor with Akeno Flight Training Team as well as the
defense force member with his Ki.44. On
22 December 1944, he dashed against the B-29 formation that was attacking
Nagoya and was blown up with his airplane.
U.S. sources indicate a B-29 was rammed and destroyed over Nagoya on
this date. Hirose's decision
was totally voluntary. The army
sent a citation and a special two ranks promotion (to Colonel).
He shot down 9 planes in total through the China/Japan War and the
Ki.44-II of Tachiarai Army Flight School at Suminoatsu Airport in
Kyushu in November 1944. It’s
in poor condition with most of its paint peeled off and the main wheels seem
to be flat. This plane was
probably used at Akeno Flight School. A
yellow stripe is painted on the lower body and a letter "
" (black with white trim) is painted on the rudder.
This school opened in September 1940 and trained the young pilots.
- Translator's note : This is based on the famous
revenge incident called "Chusingula" which occurred in 1702.
- Translator's note: Not sure of the spelling of
- Kuroe is officially credited with 30 kills
including 2 in Nomanhan. (Hata/Izawa)
- According to Japanese Fighters, 1921-1945
published by Tank, this was Sakagawa's machine. The wide white band would tend to support this view.
- Translator's note: This name could be pronounced
'Karitani', though the editor has seen rendered as 'Kariya' in other
- Or would this be the 1st Chutai CO's plane? -
- Yellow? - Ed.
- Translator's note: this name could be pronounced
'Takeshi' or 'Takeru'.
- I believe this is New Years Day 1945 and that
this may be Masaki's plane #1435. See
photo on page 58. - Ed.
- Again this assumed to be 1945. - Ed.
- More likely 1944. - Ed.
- FAOW #17 in its corrections for this book says
that this is W.O. Mitsumoto.
- I think this name could also be pronounced 'Toshiji'.
- In its corrections for this book FAOW #17 the
pilots are listed, front to back, as #4402
W.O. Mitsumoto, #4406 Capt. Jinbo and #4404
- As above, W.O.
- As above, Sgt.
Maj. Ito in #4404.
- According to another source this photo was taken
in Oct. 1944. As a point of
speculation, could the like colored tips of the tails mark a shotai? -
- This is the translation and obviously refers to
the lateral red stripe seen on some of these planes. - Ed.
- See FAOW #19.
Caption is from Watanabe's Air War Over Japan.
- i.e., Home Defense. - Ed.
- 1945? - Ed.
- This is not necessarily true.
See Yoshio Yoshida's number "11" from the same outfit!
(Model Art #329, Watanabe's Air War Over Japan) - Ed.
- Ogawa is credited with 9 victories in Hata/Izawa.
Close examination of the photos shows this not to be the case! - Ed.