View Full Version : Can you identify this mysterious Ki-61 ace?

10-08-2005, 08:10 AM
I've been meaning to post this for some time.

One of the best aviation books I've read in the last few years is Angels Twenty by Ted Park (1994 University of Queensland Press). He was a P-39 pilot in the USAAF, served in PNG and later went on to fly P-47's. Far from being one of the aces (only one confirmed kill I think) his book is all the more valuable as an example of the life of one of the 'many'.

One passage in the book has really fired my curiosity. It relates to an unknown Japanese flyer at the time when fortune had very much turned aginst the Imperial forces. It reads as follows:

"The scrambles were seldom the real thing. But sometimes the enemy came. The Japs (sic) pulled a fighter sweep over Nadzab and all the duty pilots went howling up after them. Our 39's got off, but couldn't get high enough fast enough to tangle with the Tonys. Some of the P-38 boys spotted one Tony with the nose section all painted up with little American flags. "Must have been thirty of'em," said one pilot.

So we faced a big time Japanese ace, and I hoped fervently I'd never meet him in a P-39 and become another flag on his cowling. But one hot-shot Lightning pilot, with twenty or so kills to his credit, swore that he'd get him and asked everyone to give him a chance at him. Of course you really couldn't hold back from comat, but this guy thought asking that sounded good. Sort of like World War One days.

Anyway, they did meet, right over Nadzab, and chased each other around and then disappeared in a cloud. People on the ground heard that far-away rattle of gunfire and then one plane emerged and flew home - northward - and we never saw the hot-shot again."

Despite my best efforts, I havent been able to identify this Japanese pilot - or indeed the P-38 flyer either. This is the only account I can recall of a Hein sporting a nose full of victory marks.

So I thought I'd throw it to the experts, maybe somebody knows something of this mysterious Japanese ace and perhaps can shed some light on his personal history and ultimate fate.

10-08-2005, 09:26 AM
Certainly interesting story. I don't really understand why his mates left him in combat (P-38 flyer). OK he wanted to take a shot at Tony, but they should have watch over him during combat.

More info about this would be nice.

10-08-2005, 11:38 AM
First off, it would have to be a pilot of either the 68th or 78th Hikousentai, 14th Hikoudan, 6th Hikoushidan, 4th Kokugun.

I have no photographs or text of any Ki-61 with American flags painted on it for kill marks nor have ever heard of one. As to 30 kill marks, I do know of Tony's with up to 67
You have to remember many pilots would fly the same plane. So normally the kills you see are a collective effort actually being the "planes" kills......In kind, many aircraft the Japanese believed they shot down was based on the amount of hits they made considering "their own planes" survivability...SO many of their claimed "probables" actually made it home.

However, if you can give me a date, the names of the allied pilots involved, which allied unit (P38's), or any additional markings or paint of the Japanese plane I might be able to help.

10-08-2005, 12:07 PM
Bear in mind that in some Japanese units, the kills scored in a specific fighter plane would be painted on that specific fighter plane, regardless of who the scoring pilots were; hence, some aircraft could have ended up sporting more trophy marks than any individual pilot in the unit had scored.

However, the most likely machine to meet the description in the account was the personal mount of Major Shogo Takeuchi, which was decorated with some '58 red eagle' markings (the Aeromaster 'Eagles of the Rising Sun' decal set-presumably taken from a photograph- depicts these as stylized red eagle wings easily mistaken as flags with red stripes from a distance) under the cockpit sill. Takeuchi was lost in combat with P-47s on 15 December 1943, crashlanding his Ki-61 short of the runway at Hansa airfield in New Guinea.

That said, the story sounds apocryphal to me, something along the lines of a third or fourth hand account that 'grew in the telling.' No 20-kill Lightning aces were killed in that area under the conditions described. The closest we might have is the 15 kill ace Edward 'Porky' Cragg, flying out of Finschafen, who was lost over Cape Gloucester on 26 December 1943, a bit late for Takeuchi. Takeuchi's 68th Sentai, the primary operators of the Ki-61 over New Guinea, was essentially combat ineffective for some time before it was disbanded in July 1944, and its personnel absorbed into the infantry.



10-09-2005, 01:38 AM
Been looking but it would really help if you can even come up with a general date or something else perhaps what happened before in the book of after to give it a timeframe.

10-09-2005, 03:57 AM
Here's a little info with the Units that operated the Ki-61... how complete a list I don't know. But it is something to go with for a search. Although not much.

Initial deliveries were made in February 1943 to the 23rd Dokuritsu Dai Shijugo Chutai at Ota, which acted as a conversion and training unit. The Hien initially entered combat in April 1943 when the 68th and 78th Sentais were transferred to the New Guinea theatre of operation. The aircraft subsequently appeared in every theatre in which the Japanese Army was involved. The Ki-61 immediately proved itself to be better suited for combat against its heavier-armed Allied opponents than was the Ki-43 Hayabusa. Although it was not as maneuverable as the earlier Ki-43, the Ki-61 had heavier armament, good armor protection for the pilot, and self-sealing fuel tanks. The Hien could be pushed over into a 45 degree dive very rapidly, and its diving performance was far superior to that of any other Japanese fighter. Its high diving speed worked to advantage against Allied fighters which relied on hit and run attacks from higher altitudes. In defensive operations, the Hien was especially difficult to counter, since the aircraft seldom offered a good target. When engaged in combat at a disadvantage, it could often escape by going into a half-roll followed by a dive, or else it would turn in and under the opposing plane, often getting in a deflection shot. The Hien completely outclassed the Curtiss P-40 in most combat encounters, unless the Allied fighter was being flown by the most experienced of pilots. The Hien was well-liked by its pilots and respected and feared by its opponents. However, the Ha-40 engine proved to be a maintenance headache, especially in the prevailing hot and damp weather of the New Guinea theatre. Main-bearing failures and oil-system faults were the primary problems. In addition, the power ratings of individual Ha-40 engines would vary greatly from one example to another, owing to poor quality control during manufacture.

The Hien appeared in the Philippines late in 1944, serving with the 17th, 18th, and 19th Sentais. It appeared over Formosa and Okinawa with the 19th, 37th 59th, and 105th Sentais, and the 23rd Doikuritsu Dai Shijugo Chutai. It also served with the 18th, 23rd, 28th, 55th, 56th, 59th, and 244th Sentais in the final defense of the Japanese home islands. Over Japan, it fought against B-29s and against US Navy carrier-based aircraft. Against the high-flying B-29s, the Hien lacked the necessary high-altitude performance. In attacks on B-29 bombers, the Hien would often be used in ramming attacks, the pilot jumping clear immediately before impact. When the Iwo Jima-based P-51 Mustang finally started to appear over Japan, the Hien was definitely outclassed.



10-09-2005, 05:23 AM
Hi, I've been doing a bit more scratching around in the book to try and pin down some dates to this. The author dosent give too much away, however a short time later he describes a concerted high level bombing raid on Nadzab (seemingly rare by this stage)carried out by the IJAAF. During the course of this action a number of P-39 pilots are injured - some seriously, when they run from their slit trenches to find better cover. The authors personal mount suffers a direct hit, as does a nearby groundcrew man http://forums.ubi.com/images/smilies/16x16_smiley-sad.gif. Shortly after this, "at the end of 1943" the unit, (Beaver Squadron as the author calls it) begins conversion to the P-47. It also sounds like the '38 pilot was a resident at Nadzab, although I'm not sure yet what squadrons were based there at this time.

Not much to go on... but I'll keep at it.

LEBillfish, you are absolutely correct about victory markings being atributed to the aircraft and not the pilot. I'm a bit embarrassed that I forgot to consider that...

Thanks everyone for you efforts to date http://forums.ubi.com/images/smilies/25.gif

10-09-2005, 11:11 AM
Interesting the high speed dive characteristics. It sounds like it is one Japanese plane that could out-dive the '43 Lightnings, plauged by compressability.

10-09-2005, 11:53 AM
Well "if" Shogo Takeuchi, know he was clear the 58 marks/red eagles on his plane were all successful contacts as he listed them as "kills(19), probables(34), damaged(5)" (will need to check numbers).....Not showing the 30 from china.

However, kill markings were actually rare planes so quickly destroyed. Yet 30 would not be that uncommon for either side....I'll keep looking and have already run accross a few incidents....Yet now that you are stating Nadzab as the clear target and not Lae it thins it out some.

10-09-2005, 03:37 PM
This is starting to sound like fiction to me.

10-09-2005, 06:29 PM
Originally posted by Waldo.Pepper:
This is starting to sound like fiction to me.

Why is that?.....and actually many of the high kill 5th A.F. Aces were shot down stating they had broken their own cardinal rules.....More then the Japanese ones survived, yet quite a few didn't.........

As to my statement of "30 not that uncommon either side".....Know that is based off of "pilot reports" (hence what they would have marked their planes up as)....However often unconfirmed by either side as a smoking plane diving off spinning does not mean a kill.

10-10-2005, 06:16 PM
Originally posted by LEBillfish:
<BLOCKQUOTE class="ip-ubbcode-quote"><div class="ip-ubbcode-quote-title">quote:</div><div class="ip-ubbcode-quote-content">Originally posted by Waldo.Pepper:
This is starting to sound like fiction to me.

Why is that?..... </div></BLOCKQUOTE>

Here's why...

"By Parks own admission, the memories are hazey, and are patched together in this vague account of an American fighter pilot operating out of Port Moresby and later inland New Guinea."


"Back in 1977, Edwards Park published the sparkling "Nanette", a fictionalized account of his days as a neophyte P-39 pilot in New Guinea. "Angels Twenty" could almost be considered the non-fiction companion volume."

From the following link...

http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/007582125...781-1612636?v=glance (http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/0075821257/103-7352781-1612636?v=glance)

A fine book to be sure, but I am becoming more suspicious the more I look into it. I think it unlikely that the book is a rigorous history, but rather closer to "A People's History' kind of book. More of a loose memoir rather than anyting else. Still who knows maybe something can be tracked down.