Friday 17 May 2024

Babs Kitography - 1/72 scale Part 2 Hasegawa

Hasegawa re-released the Mania Ki-15-I kit as A31 in the 'red flash' box shown above, titled in English 'Mitsubishi BABS Ki-15-I Japanese Reconnaissance Plane'. There is a block of small Japanese text  about the aircraft which mentions the counter sunk rivets followed by a Japanese title 'Type 97 Headquarters Reconnaissance Aircraft Type 1 - Japanese Army Headquarters Reconnaissance Aircraft'.

Scalemates gives the year as 1977 whilst Burns* lists 1978 to 1980 which seems more probable. The box does not display a copyright date. The Mania box art was reprised by Shigeo Koike for the Hasegawa release with a closer look at the anonymous kumogata camouflaged Babs, this time being chased by sharkmouth P-40Es in Chinese markings. An anachronism as the aircraft is again identified as being from the Aoki Butai in 1938. Two other options are provided on the decal sheet, both overall light grey, an aircraft of Hiko Dai 28 Sentai's 1st Chutai and an aircraft of Dokuritsu Hiko Dai 17 Chutai, illustrated on the side of the box with a colour profile. The instruction sheet shows a photograph of the model (below) with the red fuselage flash of Dokuritsu Hiko Dai 16 Chutai, but this is not presented as a markings option. It also reveals the curious canopy framing of the Mania kit.

The green and brown kumogata camouflage is referenced to Gunze Mr Color # 16 IJA Green described as 'dark green' and the brown a mixture of # 7 Brown and # 33 Flat Black but no proportions are given.  Under surface, described as 'light grey', is referenced to # 56 IJA Gray - # 56 is now IJN Grey Green (Nakajima)! Colour call outs for the interior were given in the instructions, also referenced to Gunze Sangyo paint numbers of the time. Note that the colours of joystick and bulkheads are not cited but the fuselage half interior is cited as 'blue bamboo colour' - aotake. More about Babs colours in due course.

The Ki-15-I kit was re-released from 1982 to 1988 in a new box as B3 with blue flash, shown above, but the box art and contents were unchanged.

In 1989 the kit was re-issued in a plain box of flecked pale green card with inset monochrome box art and numbers 51511 and SP11:600, shown above. The reasoning behind this style of box, also used for other kits such as the Ki-48 'Lily', is uncertain but might have been inspired by the plainer brown 'cardboard' boxes in which Nitto and others were marketing the Maschinen Krieger SF3D armoured fighting suit kits in the mid-1980s. For the first time the box displayed prominent Japanese script for 97 Shi-tei (九七司偵). The instructions and decal options were unchanged from A31 and B3.

In 1995 the kit box reverted to colour with new art by Shigeo Koike, shown above, reflecting the development of his artistic style since 1978. This edition boasted the inclusion of a sheet of Aeromaster decals for a camouflaged  Ki-15-I of 'Flight Company 18th Squadron, 1939-41' with tiger motif as depicted on the box art, and an overall gray aircraft of 'Flight Company 50th Squadron, 1941-42'. The kit itself was unchanged and a photograph of a completed model on the side of the box again showed the strange canopy framing. There were revised suggestions for interior painting with Gunze 126 Cockpit Color (Mitsubishi) for the sidewalls and bulkheads, but continuing with 43 Wood Brown for the cockpit floor and 41Red Brown for the pilot's seat.

The 18th's distinctive tiger insignia was first adopted by Captain Yoshitsugu Aramaki in April 1939, painted in the Chinese style on the rear fuselage. In 1942 a member of the ground staff Mamoru Tanaka painted an enlarged version of the tiger on the tail of the aircraft as a 'tiger running in the skies', alluding to a Chinese myth where the tiger could roam 1,000 miles in a day and return home. Later the tigers were painted by artist Hidekuni Takagi, who was living in Hankow at the time and was the son of Major General Shigeru Takagi.  Each tiger was slightly different and although usually associated with the Ki-46 aircraft operated by the unit a photograph (below) shows Takagi painting the tiger on the tail of an elaborately camouflaged Ki-15 - a dark painted aircraft with darker 'rings' of mottle similar to the 'smoke rings' of Italian camouflage and possibly with a lighter colour in the centre of each ring.

Following that release another 12 years passed before the kit was again issued by Hasegawa in 2007, this time in a two kit combo as Mitsubishi Karigane Type 1 Communication-Plane 'Kamikaze & Asakaze' to commemorate the 1937 flight of 'Kamikaze' from Tokyo to London, as shown above. Two versions of markings for J-BAAI were included plus markings for 'Asakaze' J-BAAL at Nanyûan airfield, Peking in August 1937. Suggested interior colours were unchanged from the previous release.

The most recent re-release of the kit from Hasegawa in 2017 was another two kit combo boxed together with a Ki-46-II/III  and featuring aircraft of Dokuritsu Hiko Dai 16 Chutai, reprising the red flashed 'first generation' Ki-15-I shown on the original instruction sheet. An alternative Ki-15 subject  from the Kumagaya Army Flying School was also provided on the decal sheet, both aircraft depicted in overall grey green with black cowlings. Will we see it again? If we do let's hope, probably vainly, that Hasegawa will rectify that canopy!

With special thanks to Keishiro Nagao of Lifelike Decals for his kind assistance in interpreting old Japanese script characters.

* In Plastic WW2 Aircraft Kits by John W Burns (Kit Collector's Clearinghouse, 1993)

Image credit: All box art, instructions sheet images, etc., © 1978-2017 Hasegawa Corporation; Photograph via net 

Monday 13 May 2024

Sabre Kits Tupolev Tu-2 Post-War Service

Of some relevance to this blog Sabre Kits have just released the 1/72  ICM Tupolev Tu-2 in a limited edition of 100 kits featuring post-war decals for China's PLAAF in 1952, an Indonesian example from the early 1960s and a North Korean aircraft from the 1950s. The kit retails at £22.50 from Hannant's in the UK and contains a 3D printed four bladed propeller for the Chinese and Indonesian subjects.

In 1949 the Soviet Union had supplied China with 40 Tu-2 bombers, sending 120 personnel to each bomber school. In 1958 the PLAAF requested an additional 198 Tu-2 bombers. The Tu-2 saw service during China's intervention in the Korean War equipping two bomber division. The PLAAF 10th Division were trained in night flying by a RoCAF B-24 pilot Liu Shanben who had defected to the communists in 1946. But it was the 8th Division which embarked on the first daylight bombing raid on Taehwa-do Island on 6 November 1951 when six Tu-2's sortied from Yuhongtun led by Han Ming-yang and escorted by 16 La-11 fighters with 24  MiG-15s conducting covering sorties to prevent UN interceptions from the south. The raid was successful, destroying command posts and stores, including ammunition and the only opposition was anti-aircraft fire. There were no losses which encouraged the PLAAF to continue the attacks. However the second daylight raid on the island by the 8th Division, led by Gao Yue-ming on 30 November with nine Tu-2's, proved disastrous. Reaching the rendezvous location too early and missing the planned MiG-15 cover, they ran into 24 F-86's of the 4th FW, prepped for a repeat performance by the PLAAF. After losing two aircraft in the rearmost vee of his formation Gao continued towards the target, pulling it in a tighter formation and relying on his gunners and the close escort of 16 La-11s. They were harried by the F-86's all the way, with the La-11s engaged in attempted defence too. La-11 pilot Wang Tian-bao claimed the destruction of an F-86 in the slashing dogfights between jet and piston and although no Sabres were reported lost a 335th aircraft did return with severe damage to its left wing and rear fuselage from Wang's La-11, with a cannon shell striking the pilot's headrest rendering him temporarily unconscious and putting the Sabre into a spin which Wang believed to be fatal. Despite five of the remaining Tu-2 bombers being damaged during the F-86 attacks Gao pressed on and his formation dropped their bombs on Taehwa-do, albeit prematurely and without results. Four Tu-2's were lost on the mission with only a single navigator surviving from those, but the F-86 pilots claimed eight bombers destroyed from a reported formation of 12. Gao survived but the PLAAF mounted no more daylight bombing raids. 

Details of the PLAAF Tu-2 raids in November 1951 are from  'Red Wings Over The Yalu - China, the Soviet Union, and the Air War in Korea' by Xiaoming Zhang, published by Texas A & M University Press in 2002, a fascinating, detailed account and highly recommended.

Image credit: © 2024 Sabre Kits via Hannant's.   

Wednesday 1 May 2024

Babs Kitography - 1/72 scale Part 1 Mania

The Mania 1/72 kits of 'Kamikaze' and the Ki-15-I were released in the same year, recorded as 1973 by Burns*. The Scalemates website lists the 'Kamikaze' kit as issued in 1974 and the Ki-15-I kit in 1977, with the combo kit containing both 'Kamikaze' and the Ki-15-I also released in 1974. That is surely incorrect as it was the combo kit which was released in 1977, after the two separate kits and in the same year that Mania was reportedly taken over by Hasegawa.

The 'Kamikaze' kit  (AT-NO C-3001) had beautiful artwork on the box top, without any text or logo, as shown in the heading image. The Ki-15-I kit (AT-NO R-2001) was similarly presented, depicting an anonymous Babs in green and brown kumogata camouflage being approached by a Chinese Curtiss Hawk 75 amongst sunlit clouds, shown above. Although the box top artist is not identified both kits contain cards with four-view colour schematics attributed to Rikyû Watanabe as shown below and the style of the box art is certainly similar to his work. The 'Kamikaze' card is entitled Mitsubishi Ki-15-I Asahi Shimbun ‘Kamikaze’. On the Ki-15-I card, entitled Mitsubishi Ki-15-I Army Type 97 Headquarters Reconnaissance Aircraft, the aircraft is speculatively attributed to the 'Aoki Butai' (for its leader Capt Takeo Aoki) operating from central China in 1938. However the camouflage pattern as depicted on the card does not match those shown for 'Kamikaze' or 'Azikaze' in Joe Picarella's first Babs volume and is perhaps meant to represent the early production aircraft c/n 106? Rather plain as a subject without insignia or even the white senchi hiyoshiki war front fuselage band, but undoubtedly historic.

Well known for his aircraft profiles and kit box art Rikyû Watanabe was born in Osaka in 1927. In 1943 at age 16 he enrolled in the Army air 'boy airman' training programme as a technical student, later serving as a signaller and ending the war with an army unit in China. After returning to Japan he majored in painting at the Bunka Gakuin vocational school (文化学院), graduating in 1950. From 1966 he began specialising in aviation art with first hand knowledge of the appearance of wartime Army aircraft.

The 'Kamikaze' kit includes decals for the eponymous subject as well as for 'Asakaze' c/n 1503 J-BAAL, the latter with both delivery and post-military service legends, although there are no indications for placement. The Ki-15-I kit decal sheet includes insignia for the following units, although they are not referred to or shown in the instructions.  

  • Dokuritsu Hiko Dai 16 Chutai (red fuselage flash)
  • Dokuritsu Hiko Dai 16 Chutai (kikusui emblem - not usually attributed to the Ki-15-I)
  • Dai 17 Hikodan Shireibu Teisatsu Chutai (Divisional Headquarters Reconnaissance Squadron)
  • Dokuritsu Hiko Dai 18 Chutai (tiger)
  • Hiko Dai 28 Sentai, 1st Chutai
  • Hiko Dai 29 Sentai, 1st Chutai (reportedly representing the characters for a stylised '29')
The 29 Sentai insignia is reported as being painted in 'gold' but that may just mean a golden yellow colour. The Mania decal is printed in yellow. 

The two kits are identical and moulded in a light grey plastic of similar hue to the Army grey-green colour. They feature detailed interiors for the time, with floor, instrument panel, joystick, pilot seat, camera and bulkheads together with some sidewall detail such as the throttle quadrant and an equipment panel. Also included are separate compasses for pilot and observer and spurious RDF loops to be mounted on the coamings under the canopy. There is no provision for the observer operated armament  and no suggestions for interior colour(s).  A shortcoming of the kit is the curious single piece canopy with overly deep lower frames which rather spoil the appearance of the finished model. Some modellers sand out the frames and re-paint them correctly - not always an easy proposition. But not to worry, vacform replacements aside, the LS/Arii Ki-15-I kit, which will be examined later, includes  early and late pattern canopies which both fit the Mania/Hasegawa kit almost perfectly so the spare can be used.  The Mania kit has step by step instructions together with an exploded view where all parts are numbered and named, shown below.

The 1977 combo kit (No. 04-800) shown above repeats the original Ki-15-I box art but with the image re-angled to permit title and logo with the scale shown and a red flash boasting '2 types in one!'. In this kit 'Kamikaze' is moulded in silver plastic. The instruction sheet has the front and back in colour, repeating the box art and with additional profiles for aircraft of Hiko Dai 28 Sentai, Dai 17 Hikodan Shireibu Teisatsu Chutai, and Hiko Dai 29 Sentai, all in overall grey as shown below, but again not all the insignia included on the decal sheet is depicted. Note that whilst the Hiko Dai 28 Sentai insignia on the decal sheet is for the 1st Chutai the insignia depicted on the instruction sheet profile is for the 2nd Chutai!

The combo kit decals sheets shown above are identical to those in the earlier separate kits

Mania was a relatively short lived company, in business in Tokyo from circa 1970 to 1977, which is a pity as their six 1/72 kits and single 1/48 kit were of exceptional quality for their time. There is a suspicion that the Hasegawa 1/72 Ki-44 and Ki-61 kits may have somehow benefited from Mania expertise, perhaps planned and even produced from moulds begun before Hasegawa took over. The better detailed Ki-61 interior is not typical of the contemporary and crude Hasegawa-type 'bathtub' in the Ki-44 kit but both have delicate surface detail similar to the Mania type. However those kits were released by Hasegawa in 1972 and 1973 respectively, years before their takeover of Mania. Mania's planned but not produced 1/48 Kawanishi N1K2 Shiden-kai 'George' kit was released by Hasegawa in 1981 as kit no. U002 from the unused Mania mould, but their planned Mitsubishi A5M4 'Claude' in the same scale was never produced  It is fortunate that Hasegawa have continued to re-release the complete range of Mania 1/72 kits, together with the 1/48 Ki-27 'Nate'. That kit and the 1/72 Ki-48 'Lily' light bomber kit are still not surpassed. 

Part 2 will examine the Hasegawa re-releases of the Mania Babs kit from 1977 to 2007 together with exploring interior colours.

* In Plastic WW2 Aircraft Kits by John W Burns (Kit Collector's Clearinghouse, 1993)

Image credit: All © 1973-1977 Mania Co.Ltd. All scans from kits in author's collection.

Monday 29 April 2024

Book Review - Mitsubishi Babs vol.II by Giuseppe Picarella

The second volume of Mitsubishi Babs - The world's first high-speed strategic reconnaissance aircraft - by Giuseppe 'Joe' Picarella MRAeS, published by Stratus s.j., (Poland) as MMP Books in 2023, continues his superlative analysis of the Ki-15 - Type 97 Command Reconnaissance Plane (Kyu-Nana Shiki Shireibu Teisatsu-ki -九七式司令部偵察機 or Kyu-Nana Shi-tei -九七司偵) from the first volume reviewed here in August 2022. It is a technical tour de force. That might sound dry. It isn't, thanks to the author's distinct and impressive presentation of informative text, vintage photographs and new colour schematics, including his superlative and meticulous cutaways. 

Vol.II is a hard cover book of 246 pages (the first volume has 192 pages) with printed board covers and no separate dust jacket. The paper is of a quality which benefits the photographs, clear and to a useful size. The contents are as follows:-

  • Introduction and Acknowledgements
  • Notes (this covers aircraft nomenclature, aircrew terminology and addenda for Vol.1)
  • Chapter 1: Brothers in arms (detailed coverage of IJN procurement, development and deployment, including earlier types)
  • Chapter 2: Western intelligence reports
  • Chapter 3: Soviet intelligence reports
  • Chapter 4: Technical description:
      • Mitsubishi Ki-15-I, 
      • Kamikaze
      • Karigane-I 
      • Ki-15-II
      • Karigane-II
      • C5M1
      • C5M2
      • Ki-15-III
  • Chapter 5: Pilot's operating manual
  • Chapter 6: Dimensions and Performance figures
  • Chapter 7: Production figures and construction numbers
  • Chapter 8: Models, memorabilia and memorials

This second volume explores the aircraft in unparalleled detail for the first time, with more than 140 photographs, 77 original full-colour artworks in 1/72, 1/48, and 1/32 scales, including 38 full-page illustrations, five cutaways and 55 original blueprints, spread across the eight chapters. These cover the history of the C5M within 19 operational units and higher organisations of the Imperial Japanese Navy (IJN), an especially interesting exposition given its deployment by the IJN as an air-to-air bomber; the inaccurate and confusing coverage by Allied intelligence and the Western press; the unique and overlooked Soviet field report with photographs of a captured Ki-15-I airframe; highly detailed technical description of each variant's complete structure, powerplants, systems and cockpit layouts; a complete pilot’s operating manual and cockpit layout;  reappraisal of actual dimensions and performance figures, correcting and expanding upon the basic performance capabilities of this ground breaking aircraft; a detailed overview of production figures and construction numbers, which reveals new production totals; a short overview of post-war Babs models, kits, memorabilia and memorials. All the very attractively presented artwork is new, based on the original engineering drawings, dimensions and cross-referenced against every known photograph. These two volumes should become the only source needed for historians or modellers, whether they are investigating a specific unit, researching performance details for war gaming or air combat flight simulations, or building models. 

The author spent almost a decade researching, reviewing and correcting every detail of this aircraft, and in doing so challenging every aspect, from the general layout to the smallest items. He has essentially reverse engineered the whole aircraft based on all surviving engineering drawings, manuals, documents and photos. From the modelling point of view, panel line layouts on many post-war drawings were found to be incorrect, especially on the wing, and even the wingspan was found to be previously quoted incorrectly as demonstrated in Chapter 6.  This means that all of the existing kits fall short in accuracy  to one extent or another, including the recent and much heralded 1/48 scale kits by Fine Molds - in wingtip panel details of all Babs variants, the sliding canopy details and support structure, roll-over pylon on the C5M2, etc., plus many other items. All of the engineering details in the book which correct those errors are supported by new drawings of exceptional fidelity, photographs and original engineering drawings. The performance details are also expanded upon for the first time, with actual data on range, etc. Babs production is also clarified, including a revised production total, all of which is supported by carefully documented evidence in Chapter 7.  

The author was motivated in this exacting depth of analysis because historically this aircraft has been lost to history, largely forgotten because of the amazing aircraft that followed such as the Ki-46 'Dinah' and A6M Zero. Babs really deserves more popular recognition, as many of its aerodynamic refinements and structural details were later adopted for the Mitsubishi aircraft which followed it. This book will allow modellers to modify, correct and complete Babs models with cockpit fitting details, antenna layouts and even which construction numbers (c/n) series decals should be applied to which specific sub-variant.  The information is seminal and as far as I know no Maru Mechanic, FAOW or other monograph has ever been published on the type, which means this two volume set in the English language is even more commendable and valuable.  The extensive data should facilitate the manufacture of kits in the larger scales of 1/32 and 1/24 - or even 1/35 - let's hope so and for something more varied than the perennial Pearl Harbor trio!

A review like this cannot do full justice to the wealth of information and illustration in this book which has to be in possession to be appreciated and is therefore very highly recommended. Vol.II has a RRP of  £40 but can be purchased from Amazon for £30.91 - and is exceptional value for money at both prices. With special thanks to the author for kindly providing the sample pages and for his permission to show them here. Also for arranging a review copy of the book from Stratus/MMP Books which has proven such a delight to both browse through and read in detail. I hope that both kit and decal manufacturers will take full advantage of the data therein and that Babs might become elevated in modelling circles to something more deserving of its fascinating development and place in history. Now where are those Mania/Hasegawa and LS/Arii kits! An AoJ kitography of 1/72 scale Kamikaze and Babs kits is to follow shortly. 

Image credit: All © 2023 Giuseppe 'Joe' Picarella MRAeS and Stratus s.j., as MMP Books

Tuesday 16 April 2024

Lifelike Decals 1/48 Zero Fighter Update

Lifelike Decals have advised that they have now received Hinomaru decals I and K omitted from their Zero sheet 48-SP-01 and a corrected victory marking for subject # 2 on sheet 48-061 reviewed here.

The correction sheets will be sent to all Lifelike Decals distributors and modellers are advised to approach those from which they originally bought the sheets to request the replacements. Future sales of sheet 48-SP-01 will now include the correct decals.  

With thanks to Keishiro Nagao of Lifelike for this update and for their attention to accuracy and customer service. 

Image credit: © 2024 Lifelike Decals

Tuesday 26 March 2024

Kamikaze's Return

Giuseppe 'Joe' Picarella MRAeS has very kindly provided this fascinating and beautifully presented news story to the Aviation of Japan blog.

Screen shot from news website

Kamikaze’s return

by Giuseppe 'Joe' Picarella

On 15 March this year, Ayami Koh of the Asahi Shimbun (Asahi Press) website made the surprise announcement that the Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Historic Archives had placed an aviation artefact of national importance back on display for the Japanese people. The item in question is a skin panel (as shown in the heading image above, screen shot from news website) that it has identified as belonging to the Mitsubishi Karigane aircraft Kamikaze, which in 1937 undertook the gruelling (15,357km) flight from Tokyo to London (6th to 10th of April), to celebrate the coronation of King George VI.

Kamikaze at Croydon Airport 9 April 1937 (Author collection)

The exploits of Kamikaze and its daring crew (Masaaki Iinuma and Kenji Tsukagoshi) during the spring of 1937 are well known for capturing the imagination of the Japanese people during a period of economic turmoil and political insecurity. The whole concept of the coronation flight was initiated by the Aviation Department of Asahi Shimbun in the hope that such an event would raise the national pride of the country and they would of course report on the unfolding events. Kamikaze certainly achieved this aim and in doing so also gaining Japan’s first Fédération Aéronautique Internationale record for the flight from Tokyo to London with a duration of 94 hours. 17 minutes and 56 seconds, achieving an average speed of 162.854 kilometres per hour.

Kamikaze was in fact the second prototype (c/n 1502) of the Ki-15, (Type 97 Command Reconnaissance Plane - Kyu-Nana Shiki Shireibu Teisatsu-ki  - 九七式司令部偵察機 or Kyu-Nana Shi-tei - 九七司偵) the world’s first high-speed strategic reconnaissance aircraft, an Army aircraft specifically designed to undertake its highly specialised (and at that time unique) photographic missions deep inside enemy territory, being immune from interception by virtue of its high performance.

Kamikaze in its first military scheme (James F Lansdale via Author)

After returning to Japan on May 21st, Kamikaze, in its striking silver and blue paint scheme, became a national icon and drew crowds wherever it appeared. But following the start of the second Sino-Japanese war in July 1937, Kamikaze was recalled into service for the Army in order to perform reconnaissance duties and assist in the training of reconnaissance crews as production of new Ki-15 airframes was slowly increased. In this role the aircraft received a hastily applied camouflage paint scheme, painted over and around the Kamikaze and Asahi markings, giving the impression that a silver coloured banner had been applied behind them.

Kamikaze first accident (Henry Sakaida via Author)

On 6 November disaster struck when the aircraft was badly damaged at Tachiarai Army Airfield following an engine failure during take-off, forcing Iinuma and Tsukagoshi to attempt a landing on muddy turf, which resulted in the aircraft flipping over onto its back.  Both men were dazed but escaped with only minor injuries. However Kamikaze did not fare so well and the damage was deemed almost beyond economic repair, as the engine, forward fuselage, cockpit, rear fuselage, empennage and outer wings were all badly damaged. However, Asahi Shimbun realized that the value of this specific aircraft was important to their image and decided to have the aircraft restored back to airworthy condition regardless of the cost.

Kamikaze in second military scheme (Author collection)

On 3 March 1938, Kamikaze was rolled out for a second time complete with new camouflage markings, but its renewed stint in the military would be brief and the aircraft was soon repainted in civilian markings for a second time, before resuming its role as the Asahi Shimbun flagship for another 18 months. While almost identical to its first civilian paint scheme there were subtle changes, most notably a larger name and Asahi Shimbun logo.

Kamikaze in second civilian paint scheme (JAA via Author)

On 6 October 1939, while performing a courier mission from Taipei Airport to Hakata Airport, the crew of the day became lost in bad weather and crashed into the sea 100 meters off the coast of southern Formosa (Taiwan). The pilot narrowly escaped death, but the navigator’s body was never found. Once again the aircraft was returned to Mitsubishi for restoration, but this time, the damage and saltwater corrosion rendered the airframe unsafe and it was decided to proceed with a static restoration only.  That resulted in a miss-match of various Ki-15 production parts being fitted to the aircraft. Once completed the aircraft was placed on display at the Yasukuni Shrine for a few months, before being moved to the TouGou Shrine at Harajuku, Tokyo.  Finally, on 20 October 1940, the aircraft was placed on display in the Kamikaze Memorial Hall, which had been built on Mt. Ikoma, between Osaka and Nara Prefectures. 

Kamikaze's second accident (Henry Sakaida via Author)

Kamikaze Memorial Hall. Note high canopy enclosure, prop and smaller spinner (Ron Cole via Author)

The aircraft survived the Pacific War with only minor damage sustained during Allied bombing, but under the terms of the occupation, all activities concerning aviation were prohibited and during the autumn of 1945, Kamikaze was removed from display and burned by US soldiers in the road. However it appears that the destruction of the aircraft was not as thorough as intended, as according to Mitsubishi the panel was cut from the burnt wreckage by a member of the US military and subsequently taken back to the US as a war trophy. Luckily, the family of this serviceman were able to identify this unusual item and, recognising its potential importance to Japan, donated it to Mitsubishi in 2021. 

Skin panel location © 2024 G Picarella

The 60cm x 40cm skin panel is from the port (left) side of the fuselage in the region of fuselage frame station FS.4 and FS.6. The exterior face carries the Asahi Shimbun flag motif, which has survived surprisingly well, given that the aircraft was set alight, but there is evidence of burning around the edges. The photo also reveals that final restoration of Kamikaze was not finished to the same standard as the original 19 March 1937 roll-out, which had (for aerodynamic purposes) received so many coats of lacquer that it was difficult to discern rivets heads and even some panel lines. A question that will concern Japanese aviation circles is that of the internal paint application; is it Aotake blue or possibly a light grey interior application that was often applied to Army aircraft of the period? Interestingly, the right-hand side of the photo reveals the edge of fuselage frame FS.7, which seems to show a dark blue finish. But, given that Kamikaze was rebuilt on two occasions, with the second time being a total rebuild, it is likely that the original 1937 interior finish was completely removed and a later Aotake application was applied. Discussions are already underway with the archive to investigate this issue, so watch this space.

Kamikaze markings and colour schemes © 2024 G Picarella

The whole story of the Mitsubishi Ki-15 family of aircraft, including the 1937 coronation flight of Kamikaze, is coved by the author in two volumes: “Mitsubishi Babs – the world’s first high-speed strategic reconnaissance aircraft” – published by MMP Books – Vol. I published in 2023, Vol. II published in 2024.

© 2024 G. Picarella 

With very special thanks to Joe for sharing this news story and images with Aviation of Japan. Volume II of Joe's ground breaking treatise on the Ki-15 to be reviewed here shortly.

Image credit: Per captions