The First Captured Zero – Mitsubishi A6M2 V-172 of the Tainan Kokutai

The first A6M2 Zero to be captured intact was not Koga’s Zero from the Aleutians, as is generally believed. The First captured Zero was serial number 3372, manufactured by Mitsubishi on 21OCT41. It was assigned to the Tainan Kokutai and given tail code V-172. On 26NOV41 it was flown by PO1C Shimezoh Inoue, who became lost on a transfer flight and landed his fighter on a beach near Teitsan, China. A second aircraft, V-174, was damaged landing on the beach at the same time.
V-172 was disassembled and carted off into the mountains by the local Chinese, while the damaged V-174 was destroyed. After several months the components were eventually transported to Liuchow, where Chinese and American mechanics began reassembling the Zero and restoring it to flight-worthy condition.
Notice in these three photographs from Liuchow the aircraft is missing the panels covering the engine accessory area aft of the engine. These had become lost during the journey. The tires were also missing, the originals were said to have been used by local Chinese to fashion shoes. Markings are blue tail stripes and a diagonal fuselage band in yellow.
By the end of Summer 1942 the restoration was complete, and the Zero emerged in Chinese camouflage colors wearing the new serial number P-5016 on her tail. By this time the Americans had become interested in flight testing the aircraft, and General Claire Chennault ordered it transferred to Kweilin in October 1942. Note the 23rd Fighter Group P-40E in the background. The distinctive shark’s mouth marking has led to the erroneous interpretation that the Zero was captured by the American Volunteer Group, the Flying Tigers.
P-5016 seen from a slightly different angle. At this time, the Zero only carried the Chinese national insignia on the underwing positions.
A later photograph which shows P-5016 still in Chinese camouflage but with American insignia under the wings. The engine accessory panels were replaced during the restoration, the new panels featuring distinctive non-standard cooling louvers. Note that the louver pattern differs slightly port and starboard.
This close-up shows the details of the port replacement panel to good advantage.
Several of the more experienced pilots from the 23rd FG were given the opportunity to fly the Zero. Here a group of American pilots familiarize themselves with the aircraft.
Details of the landing gear from the same series of photographs. The tires were replaced with American substitutes. Note the signs of stress visible on the drop tank, which has certainly suffered more punishment than it was designed to take. The undersides are stained and the load markings on the landing gear covers are retained, it is possible that the undersides retained their original Japanese camouflage.
A view of the cockpit shows several of the instruments have been replaced with American counterparts. The 7.7 mm cowl guns are still in place, visible in the upper part of the photograph. These guns were charged manually by the pilot using the handles mounted to the side.
In early 1943 the Zero was flown to Karachi, Pakistan, where it was loaded on a freighter and shipped to the United States for further testing. During transit it was damaged, repairs were made by Curtiss Aircraft employees and the Zero re-emerged in USAAF markings with the tail code EB-2 on 13JUL43. The landing gear cover has been repainted, it is possible that EB-2 also now wears U.S. camouflage colors. It was tested at Wright Field in these markings, then was transferred to Eglin Field, Florida for further testing, then returned again to Wright Field in April 1944. The tail code was changed to EB-200. It survived until March 1946 when it was listed as available for release, but its ultimate fate is unknown.

Japanese Aircraft in Republic of China Service Color Photographs

Two photographs of a Nakajima Ki-43-I Hayabusa “Oscar” in Republic of China Air Force Markings. The aircraft has been painted in an overall dark green and Chinese insignia, standard for RoCAF aircraft. The aircraft carries the serial P-5017 on the vertical tail.
The Hayabusa originally belonged to the 1st Yasen Hoju Hikotai. It was captured on 01MAY42, flown by Warrant Officer Tadashi Kawazoe. It was one of the first Hayabusa produced, and the first to be captured intact.
An excellent photograph of a Tachikawa Ki-55 “Ida” trainer. The aircraft retains its Japanese camouflage and yellow wing leading edge identification markings with Chinese insignia. Note the second Ki-55 to the left with an unusual white square background on the fuselage insignia.
Ki-55s being serviced in front of a damaged hanger at Hangchow in 1945. The Ki-55 was an advanced trainer version of the Ki-36 army cooperation aircraft, an observation and ground-support type. Powered by a 450 hp Hitachi Ha-13a radial engine, it was thoroughly obsolescent when introduced in 1938. This did not prevent the Japanese from completing a total of 2,723 of both types before production ended in 1944.
An American Sergeant poses in the cockpit of a Ki-55, likely the same aircraft seen in the previous photo. The telescopic sight was for a single 7.7mm machine gun which fired between the engine cylinders.
Fueling a Chinese Ki-55. Both the Ki-36 and Ki-55 utilized the same airframe and shared the Allied reporting name “Ida”. The primary differences between the two were the Ki-55 dispensed with the wheel spats and window under the fuselage, and was intended as a trainer with dual controls.
Engine maintenance on a pair of Ki-55s. Approximately thirty of the type were used as trainers by the RoCAF until being retired in the early 1950s.
The RoCAF also operated a squadron of Kawasaki Ki-48 “Lily” light bombers. Considered fast and well-armed when introduced in 1940, it was out-performed by more modern types by war’s end. These Lillys are serving with the RoCAF’s 5th Squadron, 6th Group.
Imperial Japanese Navy aircraft were also captured by the Chinese, but in fewer numbers than their Army counterparts. Here are an A6M5 Reisen “Zero” with a Yokosuka P1Y Ginga “Francis” in the background. The Francis was a formidable medium bomber, but suffered from reliability issues with its engines and entered service too late and in too few numbers to affect the course of the war.

Heinkel He 177 Greif (Griffon)

Note the avionics probe under the starboard wing, DL + AQ is He 177A-02, the second pre-production aircraft.  It first flew on 05MAY41.  It was lost in a forced landing in May 1942 after both engines caught fire in flight.  The crew escaped but the aircraft was destroyed.
A nice color photograph of an airfield in Russia showing a rather dense concentration of aircraft which carry a tightly mottled upper surface.  Conditions on the Eastern Front were often primitive.
This is a photograph of two He 177A-1 at Zaporozhye-Süd in Russia during the winter of 42/43 which shows well the harsh conditions on the Eastern Front.  The aircraft belong to I./KG50, the nearest machine is finished in the standard 70 / 71 / 65 splinter scheme while the rear machine has a temporary coat of white distemper to better hide it in the snow.
6N + SK was an He 177A-3 assigned to 2./KG 100 at Rheine, Germany.  Camouflage is 75 / 76 over black undersides.  (Bundesarchiv photo)
Flugzeug Heinkel He 177
This is He 177A-3 W.Nr. 2143 coded VD + XS of FFS(B) 16 at Burg-bei-Magdeburg, March 1944.  FFS(B) 16 was a training unit, this aircraft had a black distemper paint applied to the undersides and vertical tail which avoided the call letters on the fuselage sides.  (Bundesarchiv photo)
Aircrew in a Kubelwagen arrive in front of H for Helga, an He 177A-3 of 2./KG 100.  The unit practice was to give the aircraft a female name corresponding with the aircraft code.
In 1944 the focus of the Allied air forces was the destruction of the Luftwaffe in preparation for the landings at Normandy.  Heavy bombers attacked aircraft production and fuel supply targets while medium bombers and fighters went after Luftwaffe airfields.  Here is a dramatic photograph of He 177s of 10.(Erg)/KG 100 at Schwäbisch Hall after being strafed by USAAF Mustangs on 25APR44.
An A-5 of an anti-shipping unit, KG 100 based at Toulouse-Blagnac, France in early 1944.  The He 177 could carry either the Hs 293 or the Fritz–X glide bombs.
A fine example of a Mäandertarnung or “scribble” camouflage applied to this He 177A-5 of 5./KG 100 operating from Aalborg, Denmark in the fall of 1944.  The Mäandertarnung was often carried for over-water operations.
An interesting undersurface camouflage has been applied to this Greif, a cloud pattern of RLM 76 or 77 over the darker RLM 65.
He 177A-5 W.Nr. 550062 coded F8 + AP is an aircraft with an interesting history.  It was assigned to 6./KG 40 and was undergoing servicing at Toulouse-Blagnac in September 1944 when it was captured by the French Resistance, the first flyable He 177 to fall into Allied hands.  It was given a full set of French markings including rudder stripes as well as invasion stripes for good measure.  On the sides “Pris de Guerre” was written.
W.Nr. 550062 was flown to Farnborough for evaluation where the British applied their own markings over the French.  The French rudder stripes were painted out – some profiles show the rudder color as red but this photograph shows a much better match with the yellow outline of the fuselage roundel.  The aircraft received a RAF fin tab as well as the call number TS439 and a “P” designating a prototype, or in this case, test aircraft.  Note the cloud camouflage pattern on the undersides and fuselage.  The British later passed this aircraft on to the Americans, so modelers have the option of depicting this aircraft in Luftwaffe, French, British, or American markings.

Part II here:

Colorful Curtiss P-40 Warhawk Markings Part 1

The P-40 Warhawk is probably best known as the plane with the shark’s teeth, and the unit which started it all was the RAF’s 112 Squadron which first painted the famous marking on their Kittyhawk I’s in North Africa.  Here Lt A. R. Costello strikes a pose next to his aircraft at Sidi Heneish, Egypt.
The sharkmouth fit the contours of the P-40 particularly well.  112 Squadron aircraft soon became favorites of photographers, and pictures were picked up by several magazines eager to provide coverage of the war.
The magazine coverage made it all the way to China, where pilots of the American Volunteer Group “Flying Tigers” decided shark’s teeth would look nice on their aircraft as well.  Their aircraft and exploits soon became legend and are still one of the most recognizable schemes to this day.  Each set of shark’s teeth was painted by hand and differed in details.  (Robert Smith photograph)
The 343rd Fighter Group was activated on 03SEP42 at Elmendorf Field, Alaska.  It consisted of the 11th and 18th Fighter Squadrons on Curtiss P-40Es and the 54th Fighter Squadron on Lockheed P-38s.  A fourth squadron with P-40Es, the 344th, was added in October.  In command was Lt Col John Chennault, whose father of Flying Tigers fame inspired the Tiger nose art applied to the Group’s P-40s.  (LIFE Magazine photograph)
A lesser known application is this yellow nosed P-40E.  Supposedly there were two aircraft painted in these nose markings at Malaybalay, Mindanao while flying in defense of the Philippines, but documentation is lacking.
At least one of these aircraft was captured by the Japanese in airworthy condition.  It was given Japanese Hinomaru over the U.S. insignia, although the “U.S. ARMY” lettering is still just visible under the wings in this photograph.
Another view as the Japanese examine their prize.  Several U.S. types were captured and restored to airworthy condition on Java and the Philippines, including many P-40s and three B-17s.
A view of the starboard side of the nose from a Japanese magazine.  Most artist’s renderings depict the head as either being yellow, or yellow with red mottling.  The “bullet-riddled” description in the English caption is wishful thinking, there were several P-40s captured intact by the Japanese that were quite flyable.
The shark’s mouth marking remained popular with P-40 units, particularly those flying in the Chinese Theater.  Here is a P-40N of the 74th Fighter Squadron being fitted with rocket tubes at Kweilen, China in 1943-44.
Yet another variation seen in India, this P-40K of the 25th Fighter Squadron 51st Fighter Group is pictured at Assam Valley India in 1944.  A smaller mouth but larger fangs.

Part II here:

Captured Focke-Wulf Fw 190s of the 79th Fighter Group

Not to be out done by their sister squadrons, the 79th Fighter Group / 85th Fighter Squadron “Flying Skulls” restored at least three Fw 190s to flying condition.  Here are two which they discovered at Gerbini, Sicily in August 1943.
One of the aircraft was this Fw 190A-5 of II Gruppe of Schnellkampfgeschwader 10 (II./SKG 10), Werk Nummer 181550.  Mechanics of the 85th FS have already begun painting out the Luftwaffe markings.
“B” wore the standard Luftwaffe camouflage of RLM 74/75/76 when captured.  The US insignia is applied over a yellow band and the Hakenkreutz on the tail has been painted out.  The rectangular patch just aft of the “B” within the yellow band on the radio access panel was retained even after the aircraft was repainted.
A nice view of the starboard side showing details of the original Luftwaffe camouflage.  The Wk.Nr is visible on the tail.


A color photograph after repainting showing the fuselage was repainted with a dark camouflage color.  Wings and horizontal tail planes are yellow with red tips, the forward cowing and spinner are also red.  The Flying Skulls unit insignia appears on both sides of the fuselage and there is evidence of an inscription below the cockpit which has been painted out.

The 85th toured their prize to other Allied units in Sicily.  This and the following photographs were taken by Bob Hanning while the aircraft was visiting the 57th Fighter Group.  Three sets of red, white, and blue stripes now adorn the rudder.
Details of the paintjob are visible in this stern view.  The fuselage color extends over the wing roots.  US insignia were applied in all six positions.  The tips of the wings and of the horizontal stabilizers are trimmed in red.  Note the backs of the propeller blades have been stripped of paint by dust, a very common occurrence.
In addition to tail stripes, “Jones’ Flying Circus” has been added to the cowl.  The inscription which was overpainted on the fuselage sides is unknown.
A similar view giving a good look at the 85th FS Flying Skulls insignia.  A small rectangle under the windscreen carries lettering which unfortunately cannot be made out in the photograph.
A nice side view as the aircraft taxis.  The fuselage color could be any one of several choices, as the ground crews would have had access to Luftwaffe, Regia Aeronautica, RAF, and U.S. paint stocks.
A fine color study of a second aircraft, a Fw 190A-5Trop, Wk.Nr. unknown.  The tropical air filters are obvious on the sides of the cowling and this aircraft has a red fuselage instead of the dark fuselage of the first aircraft.  In black-and-white photographs both aircraft appear quite similar and this has resulted in many researchers confusing the two.
Compare the details of this photograph with the earlier color picture of W.Nr. 181550 and you will begin to notice differences.  The Flying Skull insignia is placed higher and further aft on this aircraft.  The fuselage band is narrower, and is actually a color similar to ANA 616 Sand or RAF Middlestone with yellow trim.  Also there is a lighter patch forward just under the fuselage gun cover.
A nice perspective view confirms the yellow wings and stabilizers with red tips, just like the previous aircraft.  Note that there is not as much wear on the back side of the propeller blades.
A nice view of the aircraft in flight.  The fuselage red extends over the wingroots but does not go as far onto the wing as Wk.Nr. 181550.
Another aerial shot showing the port side.  This aircraft does not appear to have carried the “Jones’ Flying Circus” inscription.  The yellow fuselage band lacks the rectangle on the radio access panel.
In this view the inscription block under the windscreen is visible.  The two aircraft appear very similar in monochrome photographs but quite different in color.
The third 85th Fighter Squadron Focke Wulf was this Fw190G-3, Wk.Nr. 160057, note the drop tank fairings under the wings.  This is also a schnell bomber, it is possible all three aircraft served with II./SKG 10 before capture.  This aircraft carried the red bordered and barred US insignia in four positions.  The red cowling and cockpit have been covered, but the camouflage netting is doing little to conceal the rest of the aircraft.
The overall white finish really stands out.  The cowling and spinner are in red, as is the fuselage band.  The anti-glare panel is in black.  The tail is striped in the pre-war USAAC convention of thirteen red and white stripes with a blue vertical band.
This aircraft was shipped back to the United States in January 1944 where it was assigned Foreign Equipment number FE-116 and evaluated by the U.S. Navy.  The Navy gave it the standard “three tone” paint scheme (which was often more than three tones).
Wk.Nr. 160057 was first evaluated by the Technical Air Intelligence Unit at NAS Anacostia and later flown to NAS Patuxent River.

Captured Bf 109G-2 “Irmgard” of the 79th Fighter Group here:

Captured Junkers Ju 88A-4 of the 79th Fighter Group

In October 1943 the 79th Fighter Group moved to Salsola (Foggia #3), one of a complex of former Luftwaffe airfields located around Foggia, Italy.  There they discovered Junkers Ju 88A-4 Wk.Nr. 4300227.  Keeping with the 79th’s obsession for restoring captured Axis aircraft, work soon began in hopes of adding the Junkers to the inventory of the Group’s 86th Fighter Squadron as a hack.  Here the 86th’s new prize shows off her original Luftwaffe camouflage (likely 70/71/65 with 76 wellenmuster) with the Hakenkreutz painted out on the tail and American insignia applied over most of the fuselage Balkenkreutz.
Ground crews took only six days to restore the Junkers to flight-worthy condition using components salvaged from other aircraft.  It was the focus of much interest, 12th Air Force commander Lieutenant General Jimmy Doolittle even took a turn at the controls.  Here the commander of the 86th Squadron, Major Fred Borsodi congratulates a mechanic while Major Pete Bedford looks on.  The censor has removed the squadron insignia from the flight jackets of both men.
The aircraft was named “The Comanche” and was painted with the 86th FS Comanche insignia on the port side of the nose.  The insignia was designed by Major Borsodi, seen here smiling from the cockpit for photographers.
The Army Air Force brass had bigger plans for “The Comanche”, and ordered the 86th to give up their prize.  After 130 combat missions and 3 aerial victories, Major Borsodi had completed his combat tour and volunteered to fly the Junkers back to the United States, along with Major Bedford.  The pair left Italy on 19OCT43.  Here you can see The Comanche in full U.S. markings with an RAF fin flash and yellow high visibility panels on the wings, tail, and fuselage.  Spinners and cowlings are in red.
They arrived at Wright Field on 05NOV43 via the South Atlantic route.  An alert air raid warden recognized the silhouette of the Ju 88 and reported it as an enemy aircraft as it crossed over Florida.  Note the propeller tips are painted in the U.S. standard yellow.
A nice color photograph of the Comanche markings on the nose, with yellow stenciling further aft.  The aircraft was assigned Foreign Aircraft number FE-106 while at Wright Field.  This was later changed to FE-1599, although photographs do not show either number actually being applied to the aircraft.
On the starboard side of the nose the Junkers wore the insignia of the 79th Fighter Group, an Egyptian Horus Hawk on a green field.  In Egyptian mythology Horus was the son of Osiris, who was killed by the sun god Set.  Horus avenged his father by killing Set and became the king of Egypt.  The first member of the 79th to die in combat was its Commanding Officer, Colonel Peter McCormick.  The insignia represented the 79th’s resolve to avenge their commander.  Note that the starboard cowling and spinner are no longer red and lack the wellenmuster “squiggles”, likely indicating an engine change.
This photograph shows off the wellenmuster well.  It also shows the yellow identification markings on the upper wing covered the entire outer panels, not just bands behind the insignia as depicted in some profiles.
Back in the U.S. the aircraft was used in War Bond drives.  The U.S. insignia was painted over and spurious German markings were applied.  In this view the port engine has also been replaced although the red spinner was retained.
Another color photograph, likely taken at Freeman Field, Indiana.  The red spinner on the port engine has been replaced with an RLM 70 one by this time.
During her War Bond tour, The Comanche was flown to Los Angeles in April 1945.  There it was towed into the city for public display where it was struck by a street car and damaged.  Fortunately the damage was not severe and the aircraft was repaired.
The Comanche was retained at Freeman Field after the war in flight worthy condition.  Eventually it was flown to Arizona for storage, where it was ultimately scrapped.

Captured Fw 190s of the 79th Fighter Group here:

Captured Messerschmitt Bf 109G-2/Trop “Irmgard” of the 79th Fighter Group

Highlanders examine Messerschmitt Bf 109G-2/Trop W.Nr 10605 assigned to 2.(H)/14.  The aircraft was flown by Leutnant Wernicke, and was named “Irmgard” by his mechanic, Uffx. Bopp.  On 20FEB43 while on a photo reconnaissance mission near Zarzis, Tunisia the aircraft was damaged by ground fire.  Lt. Wernicke made a successful wheels-up landing and evaded capture.
The aircraft carried a camera in the underside of the fuselage aft of the wing.  Camouflage was the standard RLM 78 / 79 desert scheme with areas of the fuselage overpainted in RLM 76.  The spinner was 1/3 Weiss and 2/3 RLM 70.
The aircraft survived her landing in good condition and was deemed to be repairable.  Mechanics of the USAAF 79th Fighter Group soon had her up on her landing gear and replaced the propeller.  Markings have already begun to evolve.  The German Balkenkreutz have been overpainted with yellow on the fuselage and a dark brown on the upper wings.  U.S. insignia have been applied to the fuselage but do not yet appear on the wings.  The aircraft has also received an RAF fin flash over the Hakenkreutz along with red wingtips and propeller spinner.
A color photograph showing that the fuselage number was retained for a time, and was in fact Black 14, not Red 14 as claimed by some sources.  Note the extent of the yellow area under the fuselage.  The entire undersurfaces were repainted yellow as evidenced by the aileron mass balance and landing gear cover.  The U.S. star has been laid out in chalk on the port wing, but it would ultimately be applied closer to the wingtip.
Irmgard is seen here parked next to a P-40F of the 86th Fighter Squadron / 79th Fighter Group.  The 79th Fighter Group had a penchant for restoring and flying captured Axis aircraft, each of the Squadrons operating several examples.
Here mechanics crank the inertial starter prior to a test flight.  The pilot appears ready to go, despite the missing canopy.  Squadron pilots who were deemed unlikely to “prang” the captured aircraft were given a chance at the controls.  In many pictures of Irmgard the canopy has been removed.  Fuselage codes and American wing stars are in place in this photograph.
A beautiful color shot which shows off Irmgard’s new paint.  She now bears the fuselage codes and squadron insignia of the 87th Fighter Squadron / 79th Fighter Group.  The rudder shows signs of overpainting, and the yellow on the underside of the fuselage extends all the way to the tail.
Badge of the “Skeeters” of the 87th Fighter Squadron.  There are differences in the details of the insignia applied to Irmgard.
A nice photograph of Irmgard on the 79th Fighter Group’s flightline.  The forward fuselage code “x8” has been partially removed revealing the Black 14 code which still remains underneath.  The P-40F in the background wears the badge of the 86th Fighter Squadron, another Squadron within the 79th Fighter Group.
A close up of the 86th Fighter Squadron unit insignia which replaced the 87th FS insignia on Irmgard.  The canopy is still missing in this photograph.  A P-40 is visible in the background.
The 79th FG gave up their prize in November 1943, turning her over to Wright Field in Dayton Ohio for testing.  Here she has apparently suffered anther belly landing, and reveals still another modification to her markings.  The forward fuselage codes are entirely removed, and she now bears the squadron badge of the Comanches of the 86th FS / 79th FG.  Her original port wing is in the background, replaced by another in RLM 74 / 75 and full Luftwaffe insignia.  Note the wheel bulge on the replacement wing.  The ultimate cowl and spinner markings are anyone’s guess.  Certainly a number of options for a modeler!

Captured Ju 88 of the 79th Fighter Group here: