2020 Year in Review

“May you live in interesting times.” – ancient Chinese curse

Gingerbread
2020 in the form of a gingerbread house.

Oddly for a method of telling time, the positioning of our new year is arbitrary from a physical perspective and should have no actual bearing on earthly events, but here’s hoping for a better 2021 anyway!

I’ll look for the “win” here even if it is minor: We modelers are fortunate to have an inherently solitary hobby in these times.  Overall modeling appears to have picked up, Hornsby (parent company of Airfix) is reporting profits for the first time in years.  Modeling podcasts have come into their own and make bench time even more enjoyable.

The biggest void from a modeling perspective in my opinion is the cancellation of the shows.  I usually attend half a dozen per year and they are always a fine day out, with friends, new kits, and getting to see the work of hundreds of fellow modelers.  Also missing was the Half Price Books annual clearance sale where literally semi-truck loads of books are sold at ridiculously low prices at the state fairgrounds.

On a different note, perhaps the most interesting story of the year received very little attention – the U.S. government admitted that it was studying materials retrieved from vehicles of extraterrestrial origin.  Another commentary on the year 2020.

Blog Statistics and News

2020 was the second complete year for the Inch High Guy blog.  I am happy to report that I again managed to make a post each day, so 366 posts due to the leap year.  The blog received 73,992 views and 26,731 visitors, up from 27,174 views and 7,303 visitors last year.  The most popular post was “Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress Interior Colors Part I” with 1,857 views, followed by “The B-17E and the Myth of the Bendix Ventral Turret” with 1,116 views.  Forts appear to be popular around here!

Link:  https://inchhighguy.wordpress.com/2019/09/11/b-17-flying-fortress-interior-colors-part-i/

Link: https://inchhighguy.wordpress.com/2018/11/18/the-b-17e-and-the-myth-of-the-bendix-ventral-turret/

I am still struggling with the counter-intuitive Word Press editor, and that was only made worse with the introduction of the Word Press “Block Editor” in September.  This eliminated some useful functions while re-naming and moving others, with no apparent improvements on the user end.  On a more positive note, I did finally locate the tagging function and busied myself adding tags to all posts old and new.

I have linked several posts on ScaleMates, where the walk-around posts of museum aircraft have proved to be the most popular.  The Women Warriors posts have found a following with wargamers over on The Miniatures Page, among others.  I had intended for these pictures to tell their own stories, but there have been a few requests for captions.  Easier said than done with the modern-era photos as information ranges from obvious to impossible-to-determine, but there may be hope for the historical pictures.

Models Built in 2020

Forty-seven completions, twenty-nine aircraft and eighteen vehicles.  In addition I painted fifteen figures (plus one dog) and constructed three diorama bases. Everything was built to 1/72 scale as is my preference.  The mosaic has a picture of each build, if you want to see more finished pictures or the construction posts just follow the tags at the bottom of this post or enter the descriptions in the search bar in the upper right column.

Hasegawa Kawanishi Kyofu (Rex) x 2

Tamiya Kawanishi N1K1 Shiden (George)

Aoshima Kawanishi N1K1 Shiden (George)

MPM Kawanishi N1K1 Shiden (George)

Hasegawa Kawanishi Shiden Kai (George) x 2

Hasegawa Mitsubishi Raiden (Jack)

Fujimi Aichi B7A1 Ryusei (Grace)

LS Yokosuka K5Y Akatombo (Willow)

AZ Yokosuka K5Y Akatombo (Willow)

Special Hobby Curtiss P-40 Warhawk x 5

Tamiya Republic P-47D Thunderbolt

Airfix Boeing B-17G Flying Fortress conversion to B-17E x 2

RPM Hotchkiss H35 French Light Tank

RAF Bomber Supply Set x 2 (6 vehicles)

IBG Chevrolet C15A Personnel Lorry

Monogram Boeing F4B-4 x 2

Rare Bits Boeing F4B-1 Conversion

Monogram Curtiss F11C-2 Goshawk

Matchbox Boeing P-12E x 2

Czech Master Resin Curtiss F9C Sparrowhawk

Plastic Soldier StuG III Ausf. G Assault Gun x 3

Trumpeter StuG III Ausf. G Assault Gun

Revell Heinkel He 177A-5 Greif

Revell Junkers Ju 88P-1 Conversion

Hasegawa Heinkel He 111H-20

Italeri 15 cm Field Howitzer sFH 18

Trumpeter Sd.Ah.116 Tank Transporter

Zvezda Panzer IV Ausf. H

Planet Models Resin Sd. Kfz. 9 FAMO Halftrack

Revell Sd. Kfz. 9 FAMO Halftrack

Trumpeter Sd. Kfz. 9 FAMO Halftrack

Forward

Arma hobby has just announced a P-51 B/C Mustang in 1/72. The computer renders look good and show areas such as the wing leading edge and wheel well openings which have given other manufacturers problems appear to have been rendered properly. Here’s hoping! Every previous B/C in 1/72 scale has had some major shape issue so an accurate new tool kit has been at the top of many modeler’s wish lists for many years now. The early Mustangs, if done well, are sure to be a hit and a license to print money for Arma so here’s wishing for a successful release!

In more local news Ms. Inch High put a Creality LD-002R 3-D resin printer under the Christmas tree this year. These are very useful if you know what you’re doing, which I don’t at this point. Hopefully I will soon though, and I look forward to printing something useful. It is an amazing technology to have sitting on the bench. For all the talk of “Death of the Hobby” in some circles, I have yet to see any hint of it from here.

I have enjoyed putting this together, and have enjoyed hearing from other modelers and discovering other blogs.  A big thank you to all who have visited here, commented, followed, and especially those who have posted links.  

May you all live long enough to build every model in your stash!

1/72 Scale N1K Kyofu / Shiden Batch Build Part VII

Finished!  This turned into a “just one more thing” build and seemed to drag on, but the first seven completions for 2020 are done and I’m generally happy with how they turned out.  The big pictures on the computer highlighted a few tweaks and touch ups which are needed but they’re mostly complete.  Here’s the list of modifications and details added, some kits required more of these than others:

  • Cockpits replaced and/or detailed.
  • Instrument panels, side consoles, and seatbelts printed on photographic paper.
  • Engines replaced and/or wired.
  • Wheelwells removed, deepened, and detailed.
  • Landing gear covers replaced with card stock.
  • Landing lights made from CD case plastic.
  • Gear down indicators made from bronze rod.
  • Vacuform or plunge molded canopies.
  • Pitot tubes made with metal tube and insect pins.
  • Beading wire brake lines.
  • Wheels replaced.
  • Turned brass cannon barrels from Master.
  • Various openings and trestle ports drilled out.
  • Trim tab actuators replaced with wire.
  • Radio aerials made from Uschi elastic line.
ShidenBatch_61
One of the Hasegawa Shiden-Kai with several of the added details visible.  I am always really impressed with the Master gun barrels.  They are inexpensive, sturdy, and the proper thickness – an easy way to make a noticeable improvement.  Also visible are the gear down indicators, replacement landing gear covers, vacuform canopy, and a peek at the cockpit details.
ShidenBatch_62
The Hasegawa Kyofu floatplanes are very nice kits.  Fit of the parts was excellent and only required a small bit of sanding to eliminate seams.  The boarding ladders and beaching gear are a nice touch.  I wanted to build the prototype because of the counter-rotating propellers.  Like everybody else, the Japanese were not able to work the bugs out of this system and they reverted to a standard three-bladed propeller for the production aircraft.
ShidenBatch_63
This is the foundling, the MPM kit hiding along with another kit bought at the model show and forgotten.  This is a rather crude molding, but I was pleasantly surprised that it built up well with a lot of work and replacement parts.  Tail codes are from an Aviaeology sheet (try remembering how that one’s spelled!) and the Hinomaru are masked.
ShidenBatch_64
The best kit of the batch is Tamiya’s N1K1.  It was easy to assemble and well detailed, typical Tamiya quality.  This was the only kit which had passable wheelwells, really all I added were surface details.  For the pedantic the only two things which could be corrected are the oil cooler support should be wider and the inner section of the wheel well should be open to the spar.  The N1K1 was the first version adapted from the Kyofu into a land-based fighter.
ShidenBatch_65
The Aoshima Shiden are nice kits but are often overlooked.  This is the N1K1 with the redesigned wing incorporating all four Type 99 20 mm cannon internally.  The kit has shallow wheelwells but a passable cockpit.  The clear parts are a strong point and the canopy can be posed in the open position.  The gear doors do need replacing as they are thick and molded into the landing gear legs – an odd choice for such a nice kit.
ShidenBatch_66
The Shiden-Kai saw the wings lowered from the middle to the bottom of the fuselage and resulted in the ultimate version of the design evolution.  These two are made from the 1977 Hasegawa kit, and have the typical Hasegawa shortcomings of their time – basic cockpit, crude engine, and laughably shallow wheelwells.  They also display a shape error concerning the width of the vertical fin, Kawanishi produced both a broad- and narrow-fin N1K2, Hasegawa’s kit splits the difference and so has to be modified to properly represent either version.  Still buildable kits with a little extra effort.

 

So, overall a fun build but one which took longer than anticipated.  I think the next batch will be something a little more current, hopefully one which doesn’t need as many modifications!

Completed N1K models here: https://inchhighguy.wordpress.com/2020/04/02/hasegawa-kawanishi-n1k-kyofu-%e5%bc%b7%e9%a2%a8-strong-wind-rex-prototype-in-1-72-scale/

1/72 Scale N1K Kyofu / Shiden Batch Build Part VI

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The last week was spent in a little painting (Yay!) and lots of masking (Boo!).  The canopies were dipped in Future (Klear) and then masked the old-fashioned way, with little bits of Tamiya tape.  I did have one set of masks for the Kyofu, but they were the old Eduard green vinyl type which I find to be worse than useless so they were discarded.  The canopies were attached with Superglue and any gaps filled with Perfect Plastic Putty, which I can highly recommend.  The photo is at the maximum masking stage, with the undersides sprayed in Alclad Aluminum and awaiting the upper surface colors.
ShidenBatch_52
The color of the Kyofu prototype is debated and you can find three interpretations called out in different references.  All sources agree that the aircraft was painted – salt water would not be kind to untreated Aluminum.  Some say the finish was Aluminum dope.  Others say it was a light gray overall, this is what Hasegawa calls out in the kit instructions.  The third option is the one I favor, which is orange-yellow.  A profile in Famous Aircraft of the World 124 shows the prototype in this finish.  The orange-yellow was used by the Japanese for trainers and prototypes, if the Rex were not in this color it would be the only exception to the rule as far as I know.  I used Floquil’s Reefer Orange for this finish.  The Hinomaru are painted Testors Insignia Red using Maketar masks.
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There is also some controversy surrounding the underside colors of the land-based Shiden.  Here the choices are Light Gray Green or natural Aluminum, with some saying the earliest Shiden carried the paint.  Photographs are inconclusive, and more recent references tend to lean towards the Aluminum finish.  As the Shiden-Kai was produced at several plants there is room for either to be correct, but I leaned with the general consensus on my builds and went with Aluminum undersides.  I matched the upper surface green to an Iliad Design paint chip and used Mr. Color 15 IJN Green (Nakajima), which fit the Kawanishi chip best.  Go figure.  The wing I.D. panels are Mr. Color 58 Orange Yellow.
ShidenBatch_54
The operational Kyofu has Mr. Color 15 uppers and Mr. Color 128 Gray Green lowers.  The beaching dolly is in Sasebo Gray but I have no clue if this is correct as I could find no mention of colors for this anywhere.  The Hasegawa instructions call out Black but the pictures look lighter to my eye.  In any case, this is the Kyofu with painted Hinomaru under a coat of Testors Glosscoat, ready for decals.  With any luck I’ll finish these off and have the completed models done for next week!

Part VII here: https://inchhighguy.wordpress.com/2020/01/24/1-72-scale-n1k-kyofu-shiden-batch-build-part-vii/

1/72 Scale N1K Kyofu / Shiden Batch Build Part V

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After loads of sanding the kits are finally ready for primer.  These are the Hasegawa Shiden-Kai with the modified tails.  After primer always comes … more sanding.  Things weren’t really all that bad this time, but there were minor touch ups needed here and there.  Always glad to get to the painting stage.
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This is the underside of the Tamiya Shiden.  No surprise that this is the best fitting kit of the batch, and needed the least additional work to bring it up to par.  Surprisingly it did not appear to get much attention at the time of release but it is an excellent kit.
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I have left the floats off the Kyofu to help with masking and painting.  These are well engineered kits and only needed a bit of fitting work at the wing / fuselage joint on the underside.
ShidenBatch_44
In order to show the work done in the cockpits I intend to display the models with the canopies in the open position.  The Aoshima Shiden has parts for both an open or closed canopy, the others were cut apart.  This picture shows the sliding part of a Kyofu canopy having a thin replacement made by a technique known as “plunge molding”.  This is done by heating a piece of clear PETG over a candle flame until soft and then pushing it down over the master.
ShidenBatch_45
I have aftermarket decals from Kopro for most of this batch, but the Hinomaru for the Kyofu and the MPM kit were sprayed on using masks from Maketar.  The yellow wing I.D. panels were also sprayed on at this time.  The masks are a good way to go, especially for markings as simple as the Japanese insignia.
ShidenBatch_46_PlasticModelMojo
While I’m working I generally listen to podcasts.  All around good guy and friend of the blog David Knights has started recording a podcast along with Mike Baskette.  They’ve managed to put out three episodes already (which is pretty impressive), give them a listen here:  http://www.plasticmodelmojo.com/

Part VI here: https://inchhighguy.wordpress.com/2020/01/17/1-72-scale-n1k-kyofu-shiden-batch-build-part-vi/

1/72 Scale N1K Kyofu / Shiden Batch Build Part IV

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It feels like this build has been dragging on, but with the holidays over I’ve been able to get some more time at the bench.  Seams have been sanded smooth on all the kits which is a big hurtle for me as I find sanding boring.  The monotony was broken with the assembly of the beaching gear for the floatplanes which turned out nicely.
ShidenBatch_32
Time to start adding some details.  The wingtip navigation lights have been cut out and replaced with a small rectangle of clear plastic from a CD case.  This is superglued in place, then filed down to the proper contour.  The Shiden had another clear light cover at the base of the rudder so three are needed for each model.
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Here’s what it looks like after sanding and finishing with an 8000 grit polishing cloth.  These will be masked before painting (hopefully I won’t forget) and then coated with Future at the end of construction.
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Master turned brass gun barrels are a big improvement over the molded parts and much harder to break off.  These are the Tamiya guns for the underwing gondolas compared with Master barrels and round stock sized to match the FAOW drawings.
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The Aoshima Shiden has the wheelwell covers molded onto the gear legs, and these have a sprue attachment and mold seam running right down the middle.  Rather than cleaning this up, I found it easier and more accurate to saw off the covers and replace them with stock.
ShidenBatch_36
I’m doing something different with this batch and attaching many of the detail parts before painting.  Attaching everything now will ensure a good bond and hopefully prevent any glue from marring the finish.  The down side is I’ll have to handle things very carefully from here on out.  This is the Tamiya kit.
ShidenBatch_37
This is the MPM Shiden showing the extent of the replacement of the soft, flash-ridden kit details.  The gondolas are castings of the Tamiya parts, the rest are fabricated from Evergreen stock.  The sway braces for the bomb racks are made from 0.0125 inch (0.3 mm) bronze rod.  The kit drop tank was a mess so this model will be finished without one.
ShidenBatch_38
The top of the MPM kit.  The cockpit decking and headrest are Evergreen replacing an unusable part from the kit.  The rods sticking out from the wings are “gear down” indicators.  These were mechanically linked to the gear legs, when the gear was lowered and locked they would protrude from the upper wing surface giving the pilot a visual confirmation that his gear was down.  These were common on many aircraft types and can often be seen if you look closely at photographs.
ShidenBatch_39
The underside of one of the Hasegawa Shiden Kai with everything in place.  The landing gear covers were replaced on each of the kits with the exception of Tamiya’s which looked the part.  There are a few more details to attend to, but hopefully I can shoot some primer and get to painting by next week!

Part V here: https://inchhighguy.wordpress.com/2020/01/10/1-72-scale-n1k-kyofu-shiden-batch-build-part-v/

1/72 Scale N1K Kyofu / Shiden Batch Build Part III

ShidenBatch_21
Shallow wheel wells bug me more than they do most people.  IPMS judging rules frown upon hollow openings into the wings but don’t specifically address wheelwells with no depth.  Even though you would have to flip the model over to notice unrealistic wheelwells I can’t seem to resist grinding them open and building them deeper.  Here is the Aoshima lower wing with the wells opened up and the side walls added with Evergreen strip.  The wells of the Shiden were open back to the main spar for part of their length, similar to those of the P-51 Mustang.
ShidenBatch_22
Here is the Aoshima Shiden built up with the internal wheelwell structure roughed in.  Some modelers hesitate to make this modification because of the very real possibility of affecting the length or rigidity of the main landing gear legs.  I have side-stepped that issue by leaving the molded in attachment points in place and removing the rest of the well roof.  When the gear legs, covers, retracting arms, and brake lines are in added this does not look out of place.
ShidenBatch_23
This is the Hasegawa kit with the same treatment.  If you look back to the sprue shots in the first post you can see just how shallow the original Hasegawa molding is – there is not even room for the gear covers, let alone anything else.  The join line along the flaps needed some attention as well.
ShidenBatch_24
Tamiya’s Shiden is molded with deep wheelwells.  They do not go all the way back to the spar but I didn’t correct it here.  I did add the curved structural supports which were made with a Waldron punch set.  The internal structure in the round part of the well was added to cover a join seam which would be impossible to fill otherwise.
ShidenBatch_25
This is the MPM kit.  The wing was entirely open inside but had a PE part for the “roof” of the wells.  I chose not to mess with that and built the inner structure up with Evergreen instead just like the others.  The wing joints required a lot of filing on the underside to get them smooth.  The upper joint was much better as I chose to get the good alignment there and correct the bottoms to match.
ShidenBatch_26
There were two vertical fin sizes used on the Shiden Kai.  The first one hundred machines were manufactured with a broad fin, on the rest of the production run it was much narrower.  This is the Hasegawa fuselage compared to the drawings in Famous Airplanes of the World no. 124.  Hasegawa has split the difference between the sizes on their kit, the vertical fin will need some work in order to represent either version.  The trailing edge of the rudder is molded as a curve but that is simple to file straight.
ShidenBatch_27
The tail on the left has been modified to represent the smaller fin Shiden Kai, compared to the stock kit profile on the right.  The fin has 1-2 mm removed on the leading edge to match the FAOW drawing and the trailing edge of the rudder has been straightened.
ShidenBatch_28
I wanted to build the second Shiden Kai with a broad fin to show the difference.  This one has the leading edge of the fin flattened to get a nice straight attachment point, then the fin was built back out with Evergreen strip.  Superglue was used to blend the fin and then it was smoothed with Mr. Surfacer.
ShidenBatch_29
Here the two modified fins are compared.  Once I’ve verified the seams with primer I’ll re-scribe the lost panel lines.

Part IV here: https://inchhighguy.wordpress.com/2020/01/03/1-72-scale-n1k-kyofu-shiden-batch-build-part-iv/

1/72 Scale N1K Kyofu / Shiden Batch Build Part II

ShidenBatch_11
Here are the engines ready for painting.  The two on the left are for Hasegawa’s Kyofu, in the light tan is Tamiya’s Shiden, and the rest are cast replacements using the Kyofu engine and Aoshima gearbox.  All the engines have ignition wires added using beading wire from the local crafts store.
ShidenBatch_12
Cockpits are arranged in a similar manner, taped to card and awaiting paint.  All have been enhanced with the addition of various levers and other details using Evergreen stock and wire.
ShidenBatch_13
I start with a base coat of black to emphasize the shadows.  The green cockpit color is painted over that, but is not sprayed to completely cover the black in the deepest recesses.  Then lighter mixes of the green are sprayed on, the last being a thin mix from directly above.  The intention is to artificially create the effect of light and shadow within the cockpit.
ShidenBatch_14
Here is the finished effect after painting.  The instrument panels, radios, and seatbelts are graphics printed to scale on photographic paper, cut out and positioned in the cockpits.  The paper gives the belts a thickness which is lacking in PE seatbelts.  I know it’s cheating but it works!  The knobs and levers were picked out in the appropriate colors and everything received a wash to bring out the details.
ShidenBatch_15
The engines received a coat of Alclad Aluminum and Tamiya Panel Line Wash.
ShidenBatch_16
While things were drying I began assembly of the major components.  This is an unusual feature of the Hasegawa Kyofu – a plastic weight trapped inside the float.  Oddly there were no deformities from shrinkage on these parts.  Hopefully Hasegawa knows what they are doing and this is enough weight, but I was tempted to add more.
ShidenBatch_17
These are the replacement cockpit tubs inside the Hasegawa Shiden Kai fuselages, a big improvement over the kit parts.  The kits had the front of the cockpit opening over the instrument panels decked over, this was removed.  Also note the oval shaped openings which were drilled out aft of the antenna masts.  This was for a small window which allowed light to enter the fuselage interior to help when servicing the aircraft.

Part III here: https://inchhighguy.wordpress.com/2019/12/27/1-72-scale-n1k-kyofu-shiden-batch-build-part-iii/

Kawanishi N1K Kyōfū / Shiden Design Evolution

N1K_01
Kawanishi N1K1 Kyōfū 強風 “Mighty Wind” (Allied reporting name “Rex”) was designed to an Imperial Japanese Navy specification for a floatplane fighter to operate in the Pacific where conventional airfields were unavailable.  The prototype first flew on 06MAY42.  The prototype featured contra-rotating propellers to eliminate the torque of the 1,460 hp Kasai 14 engine.  The color of the prototype is debated – silver dope, light gray, and orange-yellow are each represented in various profile artwork.

N1K_02
Problems with the propeller gearbox lead to the substitution of a more conventional three-bladed propeller for the production Kyōfū series.  Powered by a 14-cylander Kasai 13 engine, 97 were produced.

N1K_03
The Kyōfū served operationally in Balilpapan, Borneo, and finished the war on Lake Biwa defending the Tokyo area.  This example is from the Sasebo Kōkūtai and is fitted with a more conventional engine arrangement, it features individual exhaust stacks and a standard propeller spinner.

N1K_04
Even before the first Kyōfū took flight, Kawanishi engineers realized the potential of the design as a land based fighter and proceeded with development as a private venture.  Retractable landing gear were substituted for the floats, and a Homare 11 engine was installed, driving a four bladed propeller.  Armament was increased by adding two additional 20 mm Type 99 Model 2 cannon in gondolas under the wings.  The land based prototype first flew on 27DEC42.  It was designated the Kawanishi N1K1-Ja Shiden 紫電 “Violet Lightning” (Allied code name “George”).

N1K_05
The 201 Kōkūtai deployed to Cebu in the Philippines where several of their Shiden were disabled or destroyed on the ground by American fighters.  The design was plagued by engine problems and weak landing gear, but was reported to be a worthy opponent when in the air.

N1K_06_201Ku
The capture of the airfield on Cebu afforded the Americans to get their first detailed examination of the new fighter.  This shot affords an excellent view of the cannon gondola under the wing and the interior of the wheelwell.  Note the extreme length of the landing gear legs, a weak point of the design and continual source of problems.

N1K_07
A redesign of the wing to house all four Type 99 20 mm cannon internally resulted in the N1K1-Jb.  Most photographs of operational Shiden show the 400 liter belly tank fitted, as seen here.

N1K_08
An N1K2-Jb shown on a rainy airfield apron.  The twin 20 mm guns in the wing are clearly seen, as is the landing gear position indicator projecting up out of the wing over the landing gear leg.

N1K_09
Kawanishi took the design in hand once again, lowering the wing position and deleting the fuselage mounted 7.7 mm machine guns.  The result was the N1K2-J Shiden-Kai, and it possessed performance on par with contemporary American fighters.  This is an aircraft of the most famous Shiden-Kai unit, the 343 Kōkūtai, and one of its most famous pilots, LT Naoshi Kanno, taken in April 1945.  The white 15 in the Hinomaru is a temporary marking used for training. Compare the sizes of the vertical stabilizers of these aircraft.

N1K_10
A trio of 343 Kōkūtai Shiden-Kai in flight, LT Kanno’s aircraft is to the left.  The two yellow command stripes were applied on Kanno’s orders in hopes they would attract American aircraft to him.

N1K_11
The first one hundred Shiden-Kai produced had a broad vertical stabilizer, a hold over from the design’s origins as a floatplane.  Subsequently it was realized that the size of the stabilizer could be reduced, and for the remainder of the production run the Shiden-Kai was fitted with a smaller rudder.  Here is an example with a small rudder seen in the U.S. after the war.

N1K_12
Four Shiden-Kai survive in museums today, three in the U.S. and one in Japan.  All are late production examples with the smaller vertical stabilizer.

Genda’s Blade Book Review

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Genda’s Blade: Japan’s Squadron of Aces: 343 Kokutai

By Henry Saikaida and Koji Takaki

Hardcover in dustjacket, 208 pages, illustrated, ten color profiles by Tom Tullis

Published by Classic Publications May 2003

Language: English

ISBN-10: 1903223253

ISBN-13: 978-1903223253

Dimensions: 9 x 0.8 x 12 inches

During the last year of the Pacific War, the Imperial Japanese Navy formed the 343rd Naval Air Group under Captain Minoru Genda.  The intention was to build a unit capable of standing up to American aviation units on equal terms.  The unit fought in tactical formations built upon two- and four-plane sections, abandoning the three-plane formations long favored in the IJN.  They were equipped with three squadrons of the outstanding Kawanishi N1K2 Shiden Kai (“George” to the Americans) and a section of Nakajima C6N Saiun (“Myrt”) reconnaissance aircraft.  Many of the best surviving fighter pilots in the IJN were assigned to the unit, making it a squadron of aces.

It is rare to find accounts of air combat in the Pacific from the Japanese perspective, but this book goes into specifics of each encounter the 343rd had and their outcomes.  The authors make extensive use of records and first-hand accounts for both sides, and sift through the conflicting claims to establish the actual results of each engagement.  It is apparent that the pilots of the 343rd were comparable to their American counterparts.  They went up against Corsairs, Hellcats, Mustangs, and Thunderbolts, as well as several patrol and bomber types.  While the 343 Kōkūtai generally gave as good as they got, they were eventually ground down by constant combat and losses they could not replace.

This is a unique book, and a very interesting read for students of Japanese aviation in the Pacific War.  There is plenty there for the modeler as well, with ten excellent Tom Tullis color profiles and ample photographs throughout.  There is also a short but excellent appendix which gives specifics on the colors and markings carried by the Shiden Kais of the 343 Kōkūtai.  This is becoming a collector’s book, so pick up a copy if you can find it!

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