Pacific Profiles Book Review

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Pacific Profiles Volume One: Japanese Army Fighters New Guinea & the Solomons 1942-1944

By Michael Claringbould

Softcover, 104 pages, index, photographs, and 85 color profiles

Published by Avonmore Books, December 2020

Language: English

ISBN-10: 0648665917

ISBN-13: 978-0648665915

Dimensions: 6.9 x 0.2 x 9.8 inches

At the close of the Pacific War the Imperial Japanese Army and Navy were directed to destroy their records and photographs, including logbooks and snapshots kept by the individual service members.  This order, coupled with the language barrier, has long frustrated historians and modelers researching the Japanese military.  The result is few publications in English on the subject, and even many Japanese language sources lack the depth and detail seen in their foreign counterparts.

The author has stepped squarely into this void.  An Australian who spent several years in New Guinea, Michael Claringbould had the opportunity to examine many of the aircraft wrecks there and recorded their camouflage and markings.  He was then able to compare his observations with Allied technical reports and prisoner interrogations, along with surviving wartime photographs including those taken by aircrews attacking Japanese airfields.  Using this information he has rendered a total of 85 color profiles detailing several examples of paint schemes of each of the JAAF fighter Sentai sent to fight in the South Pacific.

Examination of the wrecks has allowed the author to make some interesting observations, particularly concerning the armament of the fighter types in New Guinea.  The three types presented here are the Ki-43 Hayabusa (Oscar), Ki-45 Toryu (Nick), and Ki-61 Hein (Tony).  Western publications have struggled with sub-type designations for these aircraft, often confusing airframe and armament variants.  This book offers some clarification of these designations.  The most interesting detail for me were the three armament variations of the Ki-43 – two 7.7 mm, two 12.7 mm, or a mixed armament of one gun caliber of each.  Many sources assign either letters or Japanese characters to differentiate each option, but actually the weapon mounts accommodated both weapons and maintenance crews could fit either type in the field.  The author has confirmed this observation with captured Japanese records and service manuals.

This book provides some interesting information for the JAAF researcher and ample eye-candy to inspire modelers.  There is even a section on captured aircraft evaluated by the Americans.  This work is the first in a series, with a companion volume on JAAF bombers and transports already published and additional books announced for later this year.  Recommended for aviation enthusiasts researching Imperial Japanese Army aircraft.

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Japanese Aircraft of the Pacific War Book Review

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Japanese Aircraft of the Pacific War

By René J. Francillon, technical illustrations by J. B. Roberts

Hardcover in dustjacket, 570 pages, illustrated with photographs and drawings

Published by Putnam & Company 1979 (second edition), Naval Institute Press 2000 (seventh edition)

Language: English

ISBN-10: 0370302516

ISBN-13: 978-0370302515

Dimensions: 8.6 x 5.7 x 1.7 inches

This book has been in my library for four decades.  I consider it an indispensable reference, and it is generally the first place I look when researching Japanese aircraft.  It has seen at least seven printings from three different publishers and has not been surpassed as a definitive resource.  It is not hard to find on the secondary market at a reasonable price and it is well worth locating a copy if you haven’t already.

As preliminaries Francillon gives a series of brief histories to provide the reader with the necessary context for the work which follows.  He describes the Japanese aircraft industry through the end of the Pacific War, then the histories of the Imperial Japanese Army Air Force and Imperial Japanese Navy aviation.  The aircraft designation system is next, and there is a general history of the camouflage and marking systems and how they evolved.

The bulk of the book is devoted to describing each aircraft type produced or used by Japan during the Second World War, arranged by service, manufacturer, and specific type.  This is a technical and design history which shows the production and evolution of the aircraft and lays out the deployment of each.  There is at least one photograph and a three view line drawing per design and often there are several, followed by technical data and performance figures in both English and metric units.  Some of the more obscure and less important types only get a few pages, those with more central roles get more.  For example, the A6M series covers no less than sixteen pages.

Appendixes describe lesser types which were mainly conversions or designs which did not enter service (think of the “what if” fodder for the Nippon ’46 crowd) and foreign aircraft in Japanese service.  There are appendixes of armament and engines, and a listing of aircraft carrying vessels of both the Navy and the Army (the Imperial Japanese Army did in fact have its own aircraft carriers which it used for escort work).

This is the definitive technical reference for Japanese aircraft.  I doubt it will ever be surpassed, I’m not sure how it could be.  If you have an interest in Japanese aircraft and don’t already own a copy, do yourself a favor and pick one up, you will not regret it.

 

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LS Ki-15-II “Babs” of the 8th Sentai in 1/72 Scale

This is the LS Ki-15 “Babs” from the kit issued in the late 1970s.  Despite its age, the kit is still quite nice even by today’s standards.  I modeled this one in the markings of the 8th Sentai, 1st Chutai which was known as the “Octopus Eight” due to the stylized tail markings.  This aircraft was based at Nakhorn Sawan Airfield in Burma.  In February 1942 it returned from a reconnaissance sortie over Rangoon with over a hundred bullet holes, having been intercepted by Hurricanes of 28 Squadron RAF.  Both the pilot 1LT Takesada Nakatani and the observer 1LT Fujimori Akira were wounded.

 

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Mitsubishi Ki-15-II “Babs” LS Build in 1/72 Scale

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LS released their Ki-15 “Babs” family in 1976.  In spite of their age, the moldings still hold up quite well today.  The kits were originally issued in four different boxings which included the Ki-15-I, Ki-15-II, the Imperial Japanese Navy C5M, and  the civilian-registered “Kamikaze”.

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The moldings feature finely recessed panel lines, razor sharp trailing edges, and excellent fit throughout.  Cockpit detail is basic, but little can be seen anyway.  Even though this is an old mold it still holds up well by today’s standards.

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One weak point of the kit is the engine, which is oddly shaped.  When I first built this kit in the late 1970’s one of my first efforts at improving a model was to substitute a spare engine from an Italeri Ju 88 in place of the LS kit engine.  For nostalgia’s sake I will do the same on this build.  Not perfect, but a substantial improvement over the kit part.

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Here the basic cockpit is in place and the Italeri engine has been painted.  Seat belts are made from masking tape.  All the interior components have been given a black wash to bring out details.

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The kit goes together without any drama.  Fit is excellent throughout, a real joy to build.  I gave the wing joints a swipe of Perfect Plastic Putty, that was all the filling required.

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I was quite happy when I saw that Dead Design had released a canopy mask for the Ki-15 and bought one straight away.  Unfortunately, it does not fit the LS kit.  I was able to modify some of the masks, but wound up making most myself from household masking tape.  Maybe the Hasegawa kit is different?  Here is the model under a coat of Mr. Surfacer, tell-tale seams have been re-sanded.

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I used Maketar masks for the Hinomarus and masked off the white combat stripe.  I prefer to mask and paint the Hinomarus when possible.

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Mr. Color 128 Gray Green is the base coat, 16 IJA Green was used for the camouflage.  I am really liking the Mr. Color paints!

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After a removing the masks the model was shot with Testors Glosscoat.  The tail markings are from Rising Decals Emperor’s Eyes Pt. II which have markings for several Japanese reconnaissance aircraft.  The decals performed flawlessly.

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The model was given an acrylic wash to bring out the panel lines, and then shot with Testors Dullcoat, mixed with about 1/5 gloss.  I wanted it to be flat, but not too flat.  The antenna wire is Uschi elastic line.

ICM Nakajima Ki-27 “Nate” of Capt Hyoe Yonaga in 1/72nd Scale

Here is another ICM Nakajima Ki-27-II, this time in the markings of Captain Hyoe Yonaga, leader of the 2nd Chutai of the 24th Sentai stationed in the Philippines during December 1941 – January 1942.  Yonaga was a 16-victory ace from the Nomonhan Incident but saw no combat in the Philippines.  His aircraft is interesting because of the field applied camouflage, and unusual for a 24 Sentai machine in having five stripes on the rudder rather than the usual four.

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Nakajima Ki-27 “Nate” Build in 1/72 Scale, Mania and ICM Kits Part III

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Two of the Nates I’m modeling were camouflaged.  Here I am using “poster putty” to mask off the tan segments of the upper surface camo.  The wing trailing edges and tail surfaces are protected using regular masking tape.  The wheels are also protected against overspray with tape.  Sharp-eyed readers will note that one of the wheels has broken off again.

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This Ki-27 is in Thai markings from Print Scale sheet 72-080.  The decals went on without any issues, but be ready as they separate from the backing sheet within a couple of seconds of touching the water.  There are markings for two different Thai Nates on the Print scale sheet.  There is a small error though, three of the elephants on the tail markings face to the left, only one faces to the right.  The elephants are always supposed to face forward on the aircraft, so you’ll need two of each if you want to use both sets of markings.  You can side-step the issue by doing a late war bird, the tail elephant markings were replaced with red-white-blue-white-red rudder stripes.

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Kit decals were used for the victory markings and lightning flash on this model, the Hinomaru and nose band are painted.  This is not the same aircraft as the box art but is from the same Sentai.  The wing walk area was masked after the rest of the model was painted and shot with Mr. Color tire black.

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I love the camouflage on this one, it was a field applied pattern.  The canopy frames remained in the light gray green factory paint.  These markings and Hinomaru are all from the ICM decal sheet, I didn’t use masks for the Hinomaru to ensure the reds were all the same tone.

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Here is the Mania kit completed.  I re-built the cockpit and added vacuform transparencies from Squadron.  The antenna mast, pitot tube, and gun sight are replacements, the kit parts were a bit clunky.  The cockpit opening is located too far to the rear, the horizontal tail planes are slightly too far forward.  The molding is not as refined and lacks the surface detail of the ICM offering, but it is easy to assemble.  I wouldn’t shy away from building another, but I would correct the cockpit opening position and the tail position the next time.

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This is one of the ICM kits.  I gave all the models a dark acrylic wash to bring out the surface details.  ICM replicates the rivet details on the surface, but these are so finely engraved that they are difficult to see even with a wash but they are there.  I like the texture, but I really doubt you could see rivets in 1/72 scale so the subtlety is accurate.  The shapes are superior to the older Mania kit, and the fuselage is more slender.  This is the better kit of the two and is more accurate.  BUT, ICM has made the kit more complex than it has to be.  There is lots of detail behind the engine which can never be seen, my advice is to simply leave it all out.  The interior structure for the tail skid also doesn’t fit and should be cut away.  The biggest problem with the kit is the landing gear, which are unnecessarily complicated and weak.

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Here is the second ICM kit.  The antenna wires are Uschi elastic line.  Since I did not use the kit’s engine exhaust parts I fabricated exhaust stubs from brass tubing flattened into ovals.  The seat has Eduard belts, but other than those additions it is all out of the box.

Nakajima Ki-27 “Nate” Build in 1/72 Scale, Mania and ICM Kits Part II

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I don’t like sanding, so I’ll skip showing that part of the work in progress.  Suffice it to say there was sanding and it was not exciting.  As expected, the landing gear of the ICM kits was a disappointment.  Fit was bad and required filling, three of the legs broke off while smoothing out the seams.  All of this is an easily avoidable self-inflicted wound on ICM’s part.  Mania’s gear is much more solid and looks better.  True, the one-piece moldings had sink holes on one side, but those were easily filled before the gear was attached.  The picture shows one of the ICM kits under a coat of Mr. Surfacer primer, ready for paint.

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This kit will represent an 11th Sentai machine which had red trim at the nose.  I decided to also paint the Hinomaru while I was at it, this results in a smooth finish and ensures the tone of the reds match.  I use kabuki tape masks from Maketar and have always been pleased with their performance in the past.

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During my last build of the MiG-15s I experienced multiple problems with the Testors Model Master paints I was using.  Some jars had congealed into a rubber-like substance, some jars had glued themselves shut (resisting even channel locks), others exhibited a variety of spraying problems through the airbrush.  I have experienced all these failure modalities with TMM paints in the past, but had finally had enough.  At the start of this WiP I ordered a dozen jars of Mr. Color lacquer paints from Sprue Brothers to give them a try.  So far, I have been very impressed.  The Mr. Color paints do not separate like the TMM, they thin with regular lacquer thinner, and have demonstrated no problems going through the airbrush.  They dry quickly, and lay very flat and smooth.  I will not completely exhaust my supply of Testors paints any time soon, but I am now planning on buying Mr. Color when new paints are needed.

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Here is the 11 Sentai machine with the masks removed.  No bleed under any of the tape so she’s ready to begin the decaling process.  The other two kits have additional camouflage colors to apply so they will be ready soon.

Nakajima Ki-27 “Nate” Build in 1/72 Scale, Mania and ICM Kits Part I

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This is a short work in progress build of the Nakajima Ki-27 “Nate”.  I’ll be building two of the relatively new ICM kits alongside the venerable Mania Ki-27.  The Mania kit was advanced for its time, being released in 1970 (can you believe it?).  It is best known to modelers from a series of re-boxings under the Hasegawa label.  The ICM kit is a much more recent release, and benefits from the many mold-making advances of the intervening decades.  Interestingly, both companies chose the same aircraft for their box art, depicting the mount of Kenji Shimada, commander of the 1st Chutai of the 11th Sentai, from 1939.

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First of the two ICM sprues.  There is ample detail in the cockpit and for the engine, although much of the engine detail will be hidden within the fuselage.

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The second ICM sprue contains the wings, separate ailerons, and a choice of landing gear configurations.  Surface detail is recessed and quite petite.  Rivet lines are included but are so faint that they may disappear under paint.  Note the holes on the upper wing pieces, more on these later.

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Parts for the Mania kit.  Parts breakdown is much more simplified compared to the ICM offering.  Surfaces feature both raised and recessed detail.  There is even the start of riveting on the underside of the wing, like the designers started the process but then reconsidered.  There is the option to represent the different styles of landing gear with this kit as well.

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Here is a comparison shot of the fuselage halves, Mania on top, ICM on the bottom.  Overall length compares well, the biggest difference is the cockpit opening of the Mania kit is located further back.  The ICM fuselage matches the drawings in the Famous Aircraft of the World volume.  Comparing wingspan, I measured the Mania kit at 153 mm and the ICM at 156, compared to a specified span of 157 mm in scale.

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The Mania cockpit is a bit Spartan so I fabricated a replacement from plastic stock.  I also removed the locating ridges from within the fuselage halves so the new cockpit could sit a little lower.

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Here are the engines under a coat of Alclad Aluminum and a wash of acrylic black.  The oil coolers were picked out with brass.  I added push rods to the ICM engines but left off the exhaust manifolds.  ICM provides all the supporting and internal components all the way back to the firewall, but I left them all out of these builds because experience with their I-16 kits indicated that they would be hidden on the finished model and had a good chance of interfering with fit.

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The ICM cockpit is built up on the center wing section and slides into the completed fuselage.  I useed Eduard PE belts which add a nice touch.  Interior color is a dark blue-gray, with the seat, stick, and rudder pedals picked out in aluminum.

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The Mania kit assembles quickly with no surprises.  Fit is good, with some work being needed at the wing to fuselage joints on the underside.

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The ICM kit also needed some fitting work on the underside wing boattail joints.  It is let down by a few overly-complex engineering decisions.  The horizontal tail is one piece which simplifies alignment, but it is designed to be covered by a tail piece which traps the tail skid in a slot.  This doesn’t fit well and leaves a seam, I ended up cutting off the tail skid to add at the end of the build.

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The landing gear design is also unusual.  The bent shaft is molded onto the lower half of the leg structure, the shaft is meant to be inserted into the upper strut molded into the wing and emerge through the upper surface of the wing.  To the bottom of this piece the wheel and spats are attached.  None of this fits, and sink holes in the struts only add insult.  I prefer the Mania design which is molded as a single piece.  A little finesse is sacrificed but the gear is strong.

Oba, the Last Samurai: Saipan 1944-45 Book Review

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Oba, the Last Samurai: Saipan 1944-45

By Don Jones

Hardcover in dustjacket, 241 pages

Published by Presidio Press June 1986

Language: English

ISBN-10: 089141245X

ISBN-13: 978-0891412458

Dimensions: 1.2 x 6.5 x 9 inches

Sakae Oba was a 29 year old Captain in the Imperial Japanese Army.  He was a combat veteran who had served in Japan’s campaigns in Manchuria and China, where the Japanese army had known only victory.  In February of 1944 Oba and his regiment were transferred from Manchuria and boarded a transport ship, bound to reinforce the Japanese garrison defending the island of Saipan in the Marianas.

War in the Pacific was vastly different than the war in China.  Oba’s transport, the Sakuhato Maru, was torpedoed and sunk by the USS Bluefin on 29FEB44.  (Note: The book is mistaken about the identities of the ships involved.  Oba’s transport was actually the Sakito Maru, sunk by two torpedoes from the USS Trout (SS-202).  Trout was in turn depth charged and sunk by the Japanese destroyer Asashimo.)  After a day in the water Oba was rescued by a destroyer, still in possession of his sword and sidearm but little else.  While slightly less than half of the troops aboard survived the sinking, they arrived on Saipan without equipment or supplies.

Oba’s part in the defense of Saipan was command of an ad hoc unit primarily operating as a field hospital.  When the Americans landed on 15JUN44 the unit took to the hills.  As the situation for the Japanese deteriorated, Oba and his command grew more and more frustrated with the Americans’ use of supporting arms – naval gunfire, aircraft, and artillery fire had caused the Japanese significant casualties long before they even saw their first U.S. Marine.  On 07JUL44 the Japanese launched the largest Banzai charge of the Pacific War, losing over 4,000 men.  Two days later the island was officially secured.

Oba’s war was just beginning.  Convinced the Imperial Navy would arrive to push the invaders back into the sea, Oba organized a group of Japanese soldiers, sailors, and civilians and hid out in the island’s rocky interior.  He fought a guerrilla war against the Americans, conducting ambushes and stealthy infiltration of U.S. camps to secure food and medical supplies.

The book ends with Captain Oba marching his men out of the hills to surrender to the American Marines on 01DEC45, three months after the war had official ended and more than a year after Saipan was declared secure.  I would have liked to have seen one more chapter covering their return to Japan and their efforts to rebuild their country and their lives.  How did they get back and what did they find when they got there?  Very little is written about the demobilization of the militaries after the war but it must have been a particularly surreal experience for the Japanese.

I was inspired to re-read this book after reading several posts about the end of the Pacific War and occupation of Japan on G.P. Cox’s Pacific Paratrooper blog.  A very interesting account of the war from a Japanese perspective, and a unique perspective at that.  Recommended reading for anyone interested in the Pacific War.