Japanese Air Wings: Pacific Theater WW2

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Japanese Air Wings in the Pacific Theater WW2


There are several good sources and materials on the Pacific War. However, there are not so many books and guides exclusively dedicated to the Japanese Air Squadrons and airplanes used by the Imperial Japanese Navy and Imperial Japanese Army during the World War II in the Pacific Theater. Here I have been collecting some of them and I would like to share with you. Hope you can find them useful for your research and/or share with others that can be interested in the topic.

This guide/handbook covers all Allied designations for Japanese Navy/Army aircraft of WWII. Each aircraft is presented alphabetically according to its code name, and is also cross-referenced to its official (long) designations and project (short) designations.


The next one is probably one of my favorite guides because it is about one plane what, in spite of its iconic role in the history (participated in the Pearl Harbor Attack), has received little attention and has almost no book dedicated to it. The Aichi Type 99 Carrier Bomber (D3A) – code named ‘Val’ by Allied intelligence – was the mainstay of the Imperial Japanese Navy’s carrier dive-bomber force from 1941 to 1943. It sank more Allied warship tonnage than any other Axis aircraft during World War II (1939-1945). While the Val’s participation in the major carrier battles has been widely covered in other English language sources, details of its operations have received scant attention in English. This book explores the Val’s combat operations. Colour illustrations and photographs complement the development of dive-bombing methods in the IJN.


This is the story of the elite Japanese Army Air force (JAAF) aces that flew the Kawasaki Ki-61 Hien (Swallow), and the Ki-100 Goshikisen in the Pacific Theatre of World War 2. The former, codenamed ‘Tony’ by the allies, was a technically excellent aircraft, possessing power, stability and a good rate of climb – differing radically from the usual Japanese philosophy of building light, ultra-manoeuvrable fighters. Its pilots soon realised, however, that the type was plagued by a number of dangerous mechanical issues. Then as the war moved relentlessly closer to Japan’s doorstep, a desperate, expedient innovation to the Ki-61 airframe by fitting it with a radial instead of inline engine resulted in one of the finest fighters of World War 2 – the Ki-100.


Dubbed the ‘Oscar’ by the Allies, the Ki-43 Hayabusa was the most prolific Japanese fighter of World War II. Produced in great numbers, it initially proved superior to most US and British fighter types, due to its excellent maneuverability. The light weight and large wing area gave it a small turning radius and a high rate-of-climb which was ideal for pilots in close combat fighting. However, the Ki-43’s swiftness and agility came at a price, with the low-wing design meaning that firepower and safety had to be sacrificed. With only two machine guns, a Ki-43 pilot would have to perform a dangerous balancing act between achieving a high rate of kills and their own survival. Surprisingly, more Japanese pilots achieved Ace status flying the Hayabusa than any other plane and despite being steadily outclassed by new fighters, the Ki-43 remained in frontline JAAF service until the war’s end.

The 100th title of Osprey’s celebrated Aircraft of the Aces series covers a subject sure to be of interest to historians of World War II. The Ki-44 ‘Tojo’ was a fast-climbing, heavily armed point-defence interceptor that was used successfully in slashing hit-and-run tactics that caught Allied pilots by surprise. In the air defense role ‘Tojos’ pioneered the deployment of a unique 40 mm cannon, the firing system which had no cartridges but instead had the propelling charge contained in the base of the projectile. The Ki-44 was to be used by the JAAF in larger numbers in China than anywhere else.


Introduced into service early in 1938 during a time of extensive re-organisation of Army air units, the Ki-27, known as the 97 Sen by its pilots, achieved its first successes during the so-called ‘China Incident’ against the mainly biplane types operated by the Chinese. On 10 April 1938 Ki-27 pilots of the 2nd Daitai (later to become the 64th Sentai) claimed 24 Chinese biplane fighters shot down for the loss of only two of their own. Almost within a year of its combat debut against the Chinese the 97 Sen was to be tested in fighting against the Russians during the Nomonhan Incident of 1939. Initially the 97 Sen proved superior to the Soviet I-16 monoplanes, but the latter were hastily modified to better engage the Japanese fighter and the Russian pilots rapidly adapted to exploit their own strengths and the enemy weaknesses. A handful of Japanese Army Air Force (JAAF) aces emerged from this showdown to be lauded by the Japanese press and ever associated with the iconic 97 Sen – Shimada the ‘Red-Legged Hawk’, Shihonara the ‘Richthofen of the Orient’ and Yoshiyama, the ‘warrior of the Holombile Plateau’. These were the glory days for the JAAF and many of the successful 97 Sen pilots went on to become the outstanding leaders and veteran aces of the Pacific War. By December, 1941 the JAAF had just started to replace the 97 Sen with the more modern Hayabusa, but the fixed undercarriage fighter still equipped 17 of the 19 Army fighter Sentai and took the brunt of the offensive against the British and Americans in Southeast Asia and the Philippines, as well as the Homeland Defence capability at the time of the Doolittle Raid.


The next one is not only about Japanese wings but addresses the question on the dive-bombers techniques. The theme of this book is the exploration of the theory and practice of dive-bombing, which tactic proved more precise than that of level-flight bombers and more effective than air-launched torpedo attacks against surface ships. It is also the author’s purpose to come to a more general conclusion as to the effectiveness of dive-bombing under actual combat conditions.


And I would like to end with the beautiful diorama of the Akagi carrier deck with several Zeroes ready to take off supported by crewmen..Amazing diorama indeed.

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