Walter Nowotny scored his first two victories on 19JUL41 against Soviet Polikarpov I-153s but was shot down by a third. He subsequently spent three days in a raft in the Gulf of Riga until he washed ashore in Latvia. Most of his subsequent victories came while flying the Fw 190 with JG 54. He became the first Luftwaffe pilot to be credited with 250 victories, and was awarded the Knight’s Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves, Swords and Diamonds. Nowotny was given command of a unit tasked with developing tactics for the new Messerschmitt Me 262 jet fighter. The type had been rushed into service and suffered from several “bugs”. On 08NOV44 Nowotny claimed an American P-51 and B-24, but crashed in his Me 262, possibly due to an engine fire. He was 23 at the time.
Nowotny had a superstition and insisted on wearing his lucky “victory pants” whenever he flew, the same pants he had worn after his first victories and three days afloat in the raft in the Gulf of Riga. The only time he failed to wear them was on his last sortie when he was killed.
Shigetoshi Kudo was trained as a reconnaissance pilot and was assigned to the famous Tainan Kokutai in October 1941. When the Pacific War began he supported the Kokutai by performing reconnaissance and navigation duties over the Philippines and Dutch East Indies. The unit eventually moved to Rabaul, where Kudo was credited with his first aerial victories using air-to-air bombs. Kudo returned to Japan in the fall of 1942 where he trained to fly the Nakajima J1N1 Gekko (“Irving”) nightfighter.
The Tainan Kokutai was redesignated the 251st Kokutai in November 1942, Kudo rejoining the unit in May 1943. On strength were two J1N1 nightfighters which had been modified with the addition of oblique-firing 20mm cannon on the orders of the squadron commander, CDR Yasuna Kozono. These guns were angled to fire 30 degrees above and below the line of flight, similar to the Schräge Musik installation on German nightfighters. Kudo flew the J1N1 defending Rabaul against American B-17s, eventually claiming six plus an Australian Hudson and becoming the first nightfighter ace of the Pacific War. Japanese sources credited him with nine victories.
Kudo returned to Japan in February 1944 and was assigned to the Yokosuka Air Group. He was injured in a landing accident in May 1945. He survived the war but died in 1960.
Bf 110G-4 of Oberst Helmut Lent, IV /NJG1, Leeuwarden Netherlands, Spring 1943. Eduard kit, Aimes decals. FuG 220 Lichtenstein SN-2 array replaced with the turned brass aftermarket version from Master Model, the small FuG 218C antenna is scratchbuilt. Helmut Lent began the war flying the Messerschmitt Bf 110 with Zerstörergeschwader 76 in the heavy fighter role. He participated in both the Polish and Norwegian Campaigns, during the latter he landed his damaged Bf 110 at Fornebu and negotiated the surrender of the Norwegian forces there. He participated in the Battle of Britain and had achieved eight day victories before being trained as a night fighter pilot. As a Nachtjagder he scored steadily, eventually reaching the total of 110 victories and being awarded the Knight’s Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves, Swords and Diamonds. He was killed on 05OCT44 when his Junkers Ju 88 crashed while attempting to land at Paterborn after the runway was damaged by USAAF B-17s.
Japanese Naval Aces and Fighter Units in World War II
By Ikuhiko Hata and Yasuho Izawa, Translated by Don Cyril Gorham
Hardcover in dustjacket, 432 pages, appendices, and index. Illustrated with photographs throughout.
Published by Naval Institute Press November 1989
Dimensions: 7.3 x 1.4 x 10.3 inches
Even today, it is comparatively difficult to find detailed information about Japanese military units in the Second World War. The Pacific Theater was vast, the ocean or jungles swallowed up entire units with their ultimate fates being inferred only after the war by comparison with Allied records. Most original wartime records and photographs were ordered destroyed by the Japanese government, whether officially held or in private collections. This periodically results in the re-discovery of some lost detail of interest of historians and modelers, such as the recent revelation of the shape of the stern of the battleship Yamato as revealed by photographs of her wreck.
This work is the result of years of research by the authors, who originally published their findings in Japan in 1975 as Nihon Kaigun Sentoki-tai. Translator Don Gorham removed another major obstacle for the Western reader by translating their work into English. What results is a unique insight into the fighter arm of the Imperial Japanese Navy, and is likely to be the definitive reference on the subject for some time to come.
The book is divided into two major sections. The first is comprised of histories of all the IJN fighter groups whether assigned to aircraft carriers or ashore. These are supplemented by portraits of the pilots and aircraft where available, and artwork consisting of line drawings illustrating the markings carried by the aircraft. The second section is biographies of the aces, what is known of their combat records, and their photographs. These are rarely more than a single page but there are many names here which are virtually unknown in the West.
Historians researching American, German, or British have several volumes detailing the history of aviation units and multiple biographies of notable figures. Those interested in Japanese aviation have only a few print references to rely upon. This book fills a major informational void and is a valuable addition to a reference library. Recommended.
The Bachem Ba 349 Natter was a single-use point defense interceptor. It was a desperate attempt to defend Germany against Allied bomber streams. The Natter was powered by a Walter HWK 109-509C-1 liquid rocket engine supplemented by four Schmidding SG 34 solid rockets for take-off. The Natter was constructed of wood and was designed to be disposable. Armament consisted of 33 R4M rockets in the nose. It was to be launched vertically when Allied bombers were overhead, flying into the bomber formation and launching its rockets. The pilot was then to glide clear, the aircraft separating and both the pilot and rocket engine were to return by parachute.
The first manned launch resulted in the death of the test pilot, Lothar Sieber. Subsequent manned launches were successful. Several Natter were produced. Most were expended in testing, none were used operationally.
Johannes “Macky” Steinhoff was one of the legends of the Luftwaffe, having flown throughout the entire war on every major front. He flew a total of 993 sorties and was credited with 176 victories. He was shot down himself on twelve occasions but only bailed out once, preferring to crash land his aircraft due to a mis-trust of parachutes. He scored six of his victories while flying the Me 262 with JV 44, but two weeks before the end of the war his jet crashed during take-off, leaving Steinhoff with severe burns. After the war he became a General in the West German Air Force. He died in February 1994 at the age of 80.