Shigetoshi Kudo, the First Nightfighter Ace of the Pacific War

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.

Chief Petty Officer Shigetoshi Kudo poses with his Mitsubishi C5M “Babs” reconnaissance plane. On August 29, 1942 Kudo intercepted a formation of eight B-17s attacking Rabaul. He flew above the formation and dropped air-to-air bombs, reporting claims for one destroyed and one probable. American records did not show any losses.


251 NAG commanding officer CDR Yasuna Kozono on the left, CPO Shigetoshi Kudo on the right at Rabaul. Kudo holds a presentation sword inscribed “For Conspicuous Military Valor”, Kozono ordered the modification of the J1N1 Gekko to carry the oblique cannons.


A J1N1 Gekko “Irving” nightfighter showing the 20mm cannon installations above and below the fuselage. This aircraft carries an overall black or dark green finish and the tail codes of the Yokosuka Naval Air Group. The Gekko flown by Kudo over Rabaul was camouflaged in dark green over light gray-green and carried the tail codes UI-13.


On May 21, 1943 Kudo claimed his first night victories in the J1N1, both B-17Es. The first was 41-9244 “Honi Kuu Okole”, the second an unnamed Fortress, 41-9011. Neither aircraft was seen to go down, the Americans attributing their losses to a mid-air collision. Only seven crewmen of the twenty carried by the two aircraft survived the crashes. Six were executed by the Japanese at Rabaul, bombardier Gordon Manual evaded capture with the help of natives and was eventually rescued by the submarine USS Gato (SS-212) eight months later. Honi Kuu Okole was originally requisitioned from a Royal Air Force order and was one of four Fortresses in the Pacific camouflaged in the RAF Temperate Sea scheme. Model of Honi Kuu Okole here:


B-17F “Georgia Peach” 41-24454 was downed by Kudo on June 13, 1943. One of eighteen B17s attacking the airfield at Vunakanau, her loss was attributed to anti-aircraft fire by the Americans. Two of her crew survived the crash, Navigator Philip Bek was executed at Rabaul, Bombardier Jack Wisener survived the war as a POW.


Seen here taking off from Townville, Australia is B-17E “Naughty But Nice” serial number 41-2430. Kudo shot her down on June 26, 1943, her loss again being attributed by the Americans to flak. 41-2430 was finished in the Hawaiian Air Depot camouflage scheme.


The nose art of “Naughty But Nice” is currently on display at the Kokopo War Museum at Rabaul, New Britain. The remains of the Fortress and her crew were discovered in 1982 by a team including the sole survivor of her crash, Navigator Jose Holguin, who returned the remains of his crewmates to the United States.


Kudo’s second victim on the night of June 26, 1943 was B-17F “Taxpayers Pride”, serial number 41-24448. Waist gunner Joel Griffin was the sole survivor from the crew of ten, he survived the war as a POW. (Australian War Memorial photograph)


B-17F “Pluto II” serial number 41-24543 was claimed by Kudo on June 30, 1943, his sixth Flying Fortress. All ten members of her crew were lost, including Australian William MacKay who was sent to operate a new radar set. Kudo also put in claims for a B-24 but American records only show one B-24 loss on that date, B-24D 42-40254 which was sent on a weather reconnaissance mission and never checked in. Other sources credit another J1N1 nightfighter pilot, LTJG Satoru Ono, with her destruction.
Kudo’s final victory was a Lockheed Hudson of the Royal New Zealand Air Force’s No. 3 Squadron, NZ 2033 serial number 3856 operating from Guadalcanal. She was lost with all four of her crew on 13 July 1943 on flare dropping mission. Pictured is another No. 3 Squadron Hudson, NZ 2035.

Hasegawa Lockheed F-117 Nighthawk in 1/72 Scale

Here is Hasegawa’s Lockheed F-117 Nighthawk stealth fighter.  I think of these as being “modern”, but they’re already retired.  Hard to believe.  I’m old.   This is a relatively simple kit.  The plastic is harder than usual, must be to absorb radar energy better.  It’s also much bigger than I expected, I kept checking to make sure it was the proper scale.  Quite a lot can be seen even with the canopy closed due to the large flat panels.  I used the Eduard mask set which saved time with the sawtooth frames.  The fuselage seams needed filled on the underside, as do the wing joints. The clear sprue contains a solid nose weight.  This was barely enough to keep the nose down, the model will sit on its tail if positioned that way.  I’d add just a bit more weight just to be sure if building another.













Boeing XB-38 Flying Fortress

Essentially an Allison-powered B-17E, the XB-38 was a project developed by engineers at Lockheed-Vega.  The ninth production B-17E 41-2401 had been delivered to Lockheed-Vega to help in setting up a Flying Fortress production line at their Burbank, California facility.  This was the aircraft modified as the prototype for the XB-38 design.

The standard 1,200 hp Wright Cyclone R-1820-65 nine cylinder radial engines were replaced with Allison V-1710-89 in-lines.  Both types of engines were turbocharged to improve performance at altitude.  The Allisons each developed 1,425 hp, an increase of 225 hp per engine over the Cyclones.

Boeing-Lockheed Vega XB-38. (U.S. Air Force photo)
Work on the project began in the Summer of 1942, but it was not until 19MAY43 that the XB-38 first took to the air.

The aircraft handled well during testing, but the project was delayed while problems with exhaust manifold leaks were corrected.

Boeing lacked an indoor paint shop at their Seattle facility which might explain the natural metal finish on 41-2401 when it was delivered to Lockheed-Vega. 

Four weeks into the testing program while on its ninth flight, the XB-38 developed a fire in the right inboard engine nacelle.  Efforts to extinguish the fire were unsuccessful and the aircrew bailed out.  The co-pilot was killed when his parachute failed to open.

While the Allison powered Fortress was slightly faster than the Cyclone powered version, it was also heavier and had a projected lower maximum ceiling.  In addition, the Allison engine was in demand for several USAAF Pursuit aircraft, including the P-38, P-39, and P-40 among others.  With no clear advantage to changing the design, the decision was made to continue Flying Fortress production with Cyclone engines.  Here is the XB-38 sharing the apron with a B-17F.

Markings were standard for the time, and included the “U.S. ARMY” lettering on the underside.  Noteworthy is the lack of defensive armament with only the dorsal turret having guns mounted.  The ventral ball turret is a dummy.  Interestingly, the sighting blister and scanning windows associated with the Sperry remote turret are still in place.

A beautiful profile view which shows off the contours of the Allison engine nacelles well.  Certainly an attractive aircraft!

From the front the aerodynamic streamlining of the engine nacelles is apparent.  Inline engines are generally heavier and require more maintenance than radials, but have a smaller frontal area which helps the designer reduce drag.

Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress Interior Colors Part II

During the war B-17 Flying Fortresses were produced at three locations.  The Boeing plant at Seattle, Washington was assigned production code BO; Douglas at Long Beach, California was DL; and Lockheed Vega at Burbank, California was VE.  These codes were noted at the end of each aircraft’s batch number.  Each factory was supplied with equipment and pre-manufactured assemblies by various subcontractors.  While governed by the same set of regulations, variations in production practices and suppliers inevitably resulted detail differences.

In the first post on B-17 interiors I showed the standards for the “official” colors and appearance.  In this post I’ll show some of the variations and details of operational Fortresses.

Link to the first part is here:

Link to Part 3 is here:

Here is a very interesting color photograph of three fitters installing equipment in the aft fuselage of a Fortress.  While the official USAAF Technical Order specified the fuselage interior was to remain unpainted, here the longitudinal stringers were supplied to Boeing already primed.  Also note the supports for the gunners’ footrests are each primed, stamped, and annotated.

B-17G-105-VE serial number 44-85790 was purchased by a Mr. Art Lacey and displayed above his gas station / restaurant in Milwaukie Oregon.  In 2014 the aircraft was purchased by the B-17 Alliance Foundation and is currently being restored to airworthy condition as “Lacey Lady”.  It is a late-production Vega Fortress and is of interest because it remained unrestored, a virtual time capsule.  This is the interior of the port wheelwell looking aft.  While the skin of the nacelle is unpainted aluminum, the rear bulkhead and internal structural components have been primed.  (Photograph by Steve Heeb)

This is a photo showing the cockpit of the NMUSAF restoration of B-17F-10-BO serial number 41-24485, the “Memphis Belle”.  This shows the Dull Dark Green color specified, FS 34092.  The boots on the control columns are Olive Drab canvas.

Boeing B-17G Flying Fortress cockpit
Another restoration  showing the other color specified in Technical Order 01-20EF-2, Bronze Green.  In this picture the color looks a bit too bright due to the lighting, but it is useful as a general comparison with the previous picture.  I would doubly caution modelers attempting to directly match the colors in the photograph – the aircraft is a restoration and even if the restoration team got the color exactly right the photograph and your computer monitor may not capture the tone correctly.  Modelers should try to match FS 14058 but a little darker.

A rare color slide taken inside a B-17B showing the port waist gun position.  On the early Fortresses the gun positions were in bulged “teardrop” blisters, the guns pivoted and rotated within.  On all Fortresses the after fuselage interior was specified to remain in natural aluminum.

The B-17C eliminated the teardrop waist gun fairings but the fuselage cutout shape was unchanged.  Twenty B-17Cs were supplied to the Royal Air Force as the Fortress I.  Here is a view of the Fortress I interior as an RAF gunner poses at the starboard waist gun.  Note that the fuselage of the “shark fin” Forts is considerably smaller than the re-designed “E” model.

A nice view inside a B-17E looking aft towards the tail.  The cylindrical object in the background is a chemical toilet.  The crew access door is just visible on the starboard side.  (Photograph by Frank Sherschel for LIFE Magazine)

A waist gunner in full flying gear.  Flying at altitude required oxygen and an electrically-heated flying suit – hypothermia and hypoxia were potentially fatal.  This gunner also wears an apron-style “flak jacket” to reduce injuries from shrapnel.  The cramped quarters and precarious footing are obvious, there was little room to spare and the gunners got in each other’s way.  Crews would often fly with only one of the two gunners, particularly later in the war.

Another view of the aft fuselage, this time looking forward.  The waist gun positions on this Fortress are protected by armor plates which appear to have been primed.  The guns are fed from plywood ammo containers, and additional ammo boxes are stowed on the floor on either side of the guns.  In the background a crewman is making adjustments to the Sperry ball turret.

In the two previous photographs the crew had carried additional .50 caliber ammunition in boxes, and these boxes are commonly seen in or around operational aircraft.  This is a nice color photograph of an ammo dump which shows the stenciling and variations in colors of these boxes.  (LIFE Magazine photograph)

A B-17G Bombardier identified as Captain Bonnett poses at his station.  The device leaning to the right is the control for the Bendix chin turret.  Note the details of the seat and lap belt.  There is no acoustical insulation installed on the sides of the nose compartment, the Alcoa sheet aluminum product stenciling is clearly visible.

The interior of a B-17G nose section looking aft.  Plywood ammunition boxes for the cheek guns are to the left, the Bombardier’s control panel is to the right.  The sides of the compartment are unpainted aluminum, but the rear bulkhead is covered with Olive Drab or Dark Green canvas, part of the acoustical batting to help reduce noise in the cockpit.

TSGT Robert Siavage poses in the Radio Compartment of his 306 Bomb Group B-17F.  His .50 caliber gun is stowed overhead.  This aircraft still retains the insulation in this compartment, although crews often removed this in the field.

A color shot of LT Bob Welty posing inside a B-17G after returning Stateside.  This photograph is interesting as it shows the interior of a “Mickey” aircraft which carries an AN/APS-15 radar in place of the Sperry ball turret.  These were used as pathfinders when the target was obscured by overcast.  The receiver equipment was mounted in the Radio Compartment forward of the bulkhead.


Two photographs showing the color and stenciling of the seat cushions carried by B-17s and other U.S. aircraft.  The cushions could also be used as flotation devices.