Kamikaze (5)

By the end of the war, the Japanese were using any aircraft that they could find to use as kamikazes. As author Robert Stern points out in his fascinating book “Fire from the Sky”, this was the moment when the Japanese accidentally invented the stealth aircraft. They were forced to go right to the back of the disused hangar and dig out some of the oldest and most infrequently used training aircraft to use as kamikazes. These included the “Spruce” and “Willow” trainers, which were biplanes apparently made from bits of wood, canvas, knotted string and bits of old wallpaper. For this reason they did not show up on radar very much at all, something which puzzled the Americans enormously and which the Japanese never found out about.

Here is a “Willow” aka a Yokosuka K5Y :

And here is a “Spruce” aka a Tachikawa Ki 9 :

The Japanese used a variety of aircraft for kamikaze attacks. The single engined ones were mainly the naval “Zeke” or the army’s “Oscar”, the two often being misidentified. Here’s the “Zeke” aka the Mitsubishi A6M Zero:

And here is the “Oscar” aka the Nakajima Ki 43 :

Use was also made of the “Tony”, the “Frank” and the twin engined “Dinah”.

Here’s the “Tony” aka the Kawasaki Ki-61 Hien (Swallow). When it first came into service, Allied pilots thought they were Messerschmitt Bf 109s, perhaps built under licence.:

And here is a “Frank” aka the Nakajima Ki 84 Hayate. This photograph is by yours truly, taken at Hendon. Can you see the Mosquito, about to shoot it down?:

And this is my even more splendid photograph of a backlit “Dinah” aka Mitsubishi Ki-46 :

There was a welter of single engined torpedo bombers used by the Japanese as kamikaze planes. They included the “Jill” aka the Nakajima B6N Tenzan. “Tenzan” means “Heavenly Mountain”, and is under no circumstances ever to be used as a term of endearment for the woman in your life. Perhaps worth trying with the man, though:

The “Kate” was aka the Nakajima B5N. It seems to have been painted on occasion in the most vomit provoking luminous green ever used:

The “Judy” was aka the Yokosuka D4Y Suisei (Comet):

Perhaps the most frequent mount for the would-be suicide jockey was the Aichi “Val” or the Aichi D3A. This photograph is the one most frequently used:

I first saw it in the “Hippo Book of Aircraft of the Second World War” when I was nine or ten :

The list goes on. Twin engined bombers were mainly the “Betty” and the “Sally”. Here’s a “Betty” which the Japanese called the Mitsubishi G4M1 :

And this is a “Sally” or a Mitsubishi Ki 21. It was actually possible to cultivate a decent crop of tomato plants in the long greenhouse behind the cockpit :

That’s enough photographs for now. Other aircraft types to be used, but much less frequently, are listed below:

“Claude”, Mitsubishi A5M, carrier based fighter

“Frances”, Yokosuka P1Y, navy land-based bomber

“Hamp”, Mitsubishi A6M3, navy carrier fighter

“Irving”, Nakajima J1N, navy land reconnaissance aircraft

“Jake”, Aichi E13A, navy reconnaissance seaplane

“Myrt”, Nakajima C6, navy carrier reconnaissance aircraft

“Nate”, Nakajima Ki-27, army fighter

“Nick”, Kawasaki Ki-45, army two-seat fighter

“Pete”, Mitsubishi F1M, navy observation seaplane

“Sonia”, Mitsubishi Ki-51, army light/dive bomber

Here’s a “Pete”, but its very easy to find the rest on “Google Images” :

Next time…..the Last Kamikaze.






Filed under Aviation, History, Pacific Theatre, the Japanese

20 responses to “Kamikaze (5)

  1. Great collection John. I never had any Japanese planes in my airfix collection. I did have a German Stuka however.

    • To be honest, for many years Airfix only made the Zero, although when I was about sixteen, they brought out the “Dinah”, mainly because it was supposedly the most aerodynamically perfect plane ever built. The Stuka was a great kit, with the bent wings, the strange under carriage and the long cockpit canopy. It was good value too, because many of the smaller kits didn’t have many parts, the worst offender, if I remember correctly being the Fokker triplane.

  2. So many believe they were all called ‘Zero’, so this history is a terrific, detailed history for the Japanese WWII aircraft!!

    • Thank you, so much for those kind words. The problem for me is that a week after writing this post I still can’t tell many Japanese aircraft apart. Mind you, you’d have to be pretty good to tell a Zero from an Oscar, particularly if you were fighting it at the time.
      And as for the 101 Torpedo Planes, no chance! It took me a very long time to master the Vindicator, Devastator and the Dauntless, so I wouldn’t even try the Jill, Kate, Judy or Val, although the fixed undercarriage is a help there.

  3. Interesting post and great illustrations and pictures.

    • Thank you.You are very kind. Every time I look at my photographs of the “Dinah” though, I would kick myself, if I were thin enough. I can’t imagine how stupid I was not to notice the backlighting. Still I got the P-51 right, and that was far more important!

  4. I rather like “Betty.” She’s a beautiful aircraft. “Sally” is more fearsome as a heavy bomber.

    • I don’t think that “Sally” is helping her case by being painted covered in writhing snakes!
      “Betty” is much more feminine with lots of big curves like one of Rubens’ women. Supposedly that is why “Betty” was selected. The man in the office who selected the names for Japanese aircraft had a girlfriend who was especially curvaceous and her name was “Betty”. Once the man had noticed the perspex observation windows (between the wing and the red roundel) he realised that those two features in particular reminded him extremely strongly of Betty and thus his girlfriend achieved a strange kind of immortality.
      With these code names, fighters were male names, bombers and torpedo aircraft were female, trainers were trees and the whole list is at:

  5. I must admit I always get Japanese aircraft mixed up. This is really useful John, a whole host of them in one place!

  6. The problem is that with the army and the navy,everything is doubled up, and then, there are so many single engined light (torpedo) bombers. In my reply to Rosaliene Bacchus I quoted the page which lists the code names and the list of aircraft types is absolutely bewildering
    At the same time, though, it does give you a lot of names for your newborn baby….Bess, Clara, Dinah and so on. Unless, of course, you are the village idiot and you christen your kid “Nakajima”.

  7. Jan

    Don’t dis’ the Willow and Spruce. Both would have looked perfectly at home flying in formation with the Fleet Air Arm’s stringbags.

    • The Willow in particular does have a look of the Swordfish about it, but it was probably faster. I was checking the top speed of a Swordfish in Wikipedia when I found this:
      “By the end of the war, the Swordfish held the distinction of having caused the destruction of a greater tonnage of Axis shipping than any other Allied aircraft.. The Swordfish remained in front-line service until V-E Day, having outlived multiple aircraft that had been intended to replace it in service. ”
      I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry.

  8. Fascinating, I am reading a book by Nevil Shute, most of his books have aeroplanes.

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