View Full Version : Tail Markings of 68th Hikousentai Hiens....

02-05-2011, 10:04 AM
Tail Markings of the 68th Hikousentai Type 3 Fighters / Ki-61 / Hien's

<span class="ev_code_RED">Note: The author (myself) is a novice student of Japanese air combat, aircraft, markings and units of New Guinea and makes no claims to the accuracy of the following information. All of the following is what I have been able to gleen from a number of publications, questions to the true experts on the subject like those found at http://www.j-aircraft.com , and is nothing more then my interpretation of it. The work SHOULD be questioned, and is presented solely seeking corrections and additions to firm up my knowledge my educational process done publically so we may all learn from it.</span>

Like most Japanese Army Air Corps units, the 68th hikousentai had a very visible, creative and attractive unit marking. Like many as well, it was not simply just some casual design, yet a unique aesthetic representation of the actual hikousentai or flying regiment number. Wherein some units utilized stylized arabic numerals, others kanji, still even others roman, the 68th decided on a combination of both an arabic 6 and a kanji 8 as shown below. Add a bit of graphic rigidity and stylization, and we have the basic unit marking.


68th Hikousentai Ki-27, most likely in Manchuria, 1942.
Photo credit Mr. Jim Lansdale/Zama:

Though applied upon Ki-27 and possibly even Ki-43 in 1942 at the units creation to early 1943, upon shifting to Ki-61's the units emblem went through another evolution, this one more aggressive, lean and balanced like the new fighter itself a dramatic departure from typical JAFC aircraft. This new emblem though now the firm unit marking would however have many versions itself, and though just speculation on the part of the author, once combat became so frequent and constant that such luxuries as time and materials to apply stylized markings became frivolous, it was reduced further till no longer resembling or granting clear identification of the unit any longer.....(information contained in AIR'TELL report 86-1 regarding Ki-61 s/n 640 by Jim Long demonstrates how the final evolution though not intended by the Japanese, confused U.S. photographic interpreters as to what unit it was from the emblem so different from those they'd come to know).

What seemed to remain consistant throughout however were the colors utilized. A royal-dark blue or "Cobalt Blue" for the command flight (outlined in white), white for 1st Chuutai (outlined in red), red for 2nd Chuutai (outlined in white), and yellow for 3rd Chuutai (outlined in white).

The following is a collection of known and actual, as well as "published" (though not all correct or accurate), 68th hikousentai tail markings utilized on Type 3 Fighters AKA Ki-61's with the following restrictions.:

1. Aircraft camouflage is not considered, the aircraft considered either bare metal or camouflaged nothing more. The following representations either intended to mean camouflaged or not. (Each camouflage pattern so unique they alone differentiating each aircraft and obscuring the intent of the image).
2. Colors of the markings are simply a general representaion and not to be taken as actual. The following simply to represent a general shade and shape.
3. Three terms will be utilized to describe each emblems authenticity. Confirmed, meaning the author has seen actual photographs containing that emblem. Unconfirmed, meaning the author has "not" seen a photograph. Unconfirmed does NOT mean they did not exist, or are incorrect/untrue, it simply means I cannot confirm that marking as being factual. Never Existed, meaning the marking is incorrect for whatever the noted reason and was never used by the 68th hikousentai.
<span class="ev_code_RED">4. Corrections, additions, and subtractions to this are sought and encouraged. The point of its public presentaion is to get it right, and for all interested in the subject to learn, especially myself.</span>


1-4. Confirmed, this is the official emblem and aircraft marking for the 68th sentai Ki-61-I during 1943, surviving aircraft into 1944. Though I can personally only confirm No.'s 1, 2 & 3, it stands to reason the No.4 existed examples of simply not known to me. These markings were applied when the sentai had time and materials for such detailed work. Examples of are consistantly proportional, crisp and exceptional even when other markings upon the aircraft seem rushed. As an additional note, the Command Flight blue color I have seen no other way, that making sense in that they above any other would of had the luxury of time and personnel.

5-8. Confirmed. This marking exactly the same as 1-4 simply lacking the contrasting border. Initially thought that like many other regiments outlining on camouflaged aircraft of lighter markings was eliminated as pointless (darker markings continuing to be outlined), instead now believe what we are seeing is simply a lack of detail due to time. Item No.'s 6 & 8 are confirmed, 5 & 7 are not. Item No. 5 may never have existed in that the command flight may have had the time and luxury. Item No. 7 may or may not have existed, quite simply the marking difficult to see when placed against camouflage (and another reason to continue outlining). Versions of this type of marking found vairy greatly as to quality. Proportions seeming to be lost, in fact item No. 16 an excellent example of this (though typically shifted to thinner and narrower).

9-12. Confirmed. This the final evolution of the 68th emblem and noted in the USAAC spotters guide as "Telltale No. 8". It is easy to see how this emblem would of confused intelligence personnel. Reduced to nothing more then a narrow triangle running from the trim tab to the vertical stabilizer transition piece, be it due to materials or time, the marking had been reduced to a utilitarian emblem. No. 9 cannot be confirmed so may never of existed (dark marking upon dark background). However there are numerous examples of 10-12 this the standard marking from 1944 till the regiments disbanding.

13. Confirmed. Emblem color regardless this was the common form vertical stabilizer markings would take. The now minimal wedge or triangle, and above it a 2 digit number suspected by many to be part of the aircraft's serial number often very crisp and precise. In most cases this is how you will find No's. 9-12. As a point of note regarding aircraft numbers, initially thought just applied to 78th Hikousentai Hiens, an example of a 68th aircraft having an aircraft number on the main landing gear doors has been found of earlier marking aircraft. The size noted seems quite small compared to those on 78th gear covers, however it may be possible that some, not all or even the majority, of early marking 68th Hiens had an aircraft number applied to them in this fashion.

14. Confirmed. Marking 12 above "seeming" to be over or under a katakana "A" within a circle. Though simply speculation, I suspect what we are seeing is a 68th tail section utilizing a cannibalized rudder or entire tail section from a 78th Hien, perhaps visa versa. There are "profiles" to suggest this emblem (the katakana A) was utilized on a 78th aircraft. In kind, we know of a 78th aircraft that utilized a 68th 1943 style marking rudder the difference glaring. In any case this tail marking is confirmed.

15. Confirmed. Aircraft eventually being delivered camouflaged, and that camouflage often very poor, quite often factory markings would be visible. Such is the case with this 68th Hien supposedly flown by Cpl. Kajinami with the 2nd chuutai before his departure for New Guinea. Though I doubt the noted date of the photograph based upon the tail number, I do not doubt that many hiens reached the 68th in such condition and were probably even flown as such until the unit marking could be applied, a covering over of the number with camouflage or the emblem debatable as to priority.

16. Confirmed. In a photograph presented by Mr. Jim Lansdale (the presentaion shown mirrored so unknowing of the opposite side as presented) this 68th marking was found upon a wrecked hien though I'm at a loss to explain it. Clearly it has the basic elements of the earlier 68th emblem, however the proportions are all wrong compared to what we know was used and the lower portion of the 6 and upper edge of the kanji 8 appear off due to damage to the fabric on the rudder (looks as though torn and crumpled), with a large 2 digit numeral under it and showing upon the rudder. It is possible it was done in a rush, or was re-done by either Japanese or U.S. personnel, however I do not know. In either case it is confirmed.

17. Confirmed, camouflaged, no marking. Eventually and perhaps even initially the 68th received aircraft with a very minimal and quickly applied "palm fron" camouflage pattern from the factory. In kind throughout the war (for the 68th mid 1943-mid 44), there were many occassions and aircraft spotted that had no marking at all leaving it up to speculation as to whether that aircraft was 68th or 78th sentai.

18. Confirmed, bare metal (no camouflage) no marking. It is believed by the author that the initial batch of Ki-61 delivered to the pilots of the 68th hikousentai at Akeno "may" have for at least some been bare metal and with no other markings attached to them. In kind (though I do not know for sure), some of the aircraft the 68th hikousentai first left with may have even had Akeno Flight School markings upon them which would of been painted over upon being handed off (that aspect unkown to me unsure as to how new pilots aircraft were given to them).

19. Unconfirmed. This marking though hinted at by Mr. Don Marsh in his representation of the 68th Sentai emblem's evolution listed as "intermediate", I have only seen on a single profile of which even the description is incorrect noting it as a "Ki-61-I-Tei seen in the autumn of 1943". The aircraft version didn't even exist at that point in time. In kind the profile is shown with the unique and confirmed "spiral spinner hien" as seen during its trip to Truk aboard the Taiyo in the spring of 43. Sadly only the mid section forward seen in the photograph. The marking much smaller and having lost standard proportions.

20. Unconfirmed. This representaion utilized on numerous profiles in many forms and colors I also cannot confirm (the emblem regardless) the point of this example the 2 digit numeral above a detailed earlier marking. Though I have only seen a few early marking hien photographs, I have never seen one that had a number placed upon the rudder (though I speculate this an artist's combining of a 1943 marking and item 13).

21-24. Never Existed. This style of emblem was never used by the 68th Hikousentai. The most obvious contrasting aspect the pointed bottom to the 6, and secondly the connecting tip of the kanji 8. This emblem portrayed MANY times in artwork and profiles even those used in publications. As Mr. Lansdale of J-Aircraft.com pointed out, initial photographs of Hien S/N 263 taken at Cape Gloucester, New Britain were obscured by vegetation (reeds and grasses used as camouflage), concealing/confusing the bottom portion of the 6, (and the tip of the kanji 8) granting the illusion of a pointed edge. That left artists who utilized these photographs to speculate what the marking looked like. In kind, in that many authors and artists were confused as to what the emblem represents often stating it is of an arrowhead or eagle, I suspect that this marking might be more of what it is assumed to of been of, or how they viewed it at a glance. Sadly when clear photographs came to light, the previous work was never corrected and worse still copied by others the incorrect marking perpetuated.

25-28. Never Existed. This the same emblem as 21-24 simply thicker and having rounded ends. Reasons the same.

29-32. Never Existed. Though I suspect some artists simply can't believe such a beautiful marking like items 1-4 could of devolved to such a minimal level, I have of late noted some aircraft profiles and artwork wherein though the artist sought to show a later marking, they apparently felt the need to dress it up and apply the outlining standards previously used on earlier 68th markings. I have never seen a photograph of this style of marking nore even read a report describing it.

Please feel free to comment on the above. Corrections and further information sought. The original post can be found http://78sentai.org/forum/viewtopic.php?f=3&t=371


02-05-2011, 10:29 AM

Thanks for this one as well!!

02-09-2011, 03:25 PM
Such great work Billfish. I think this is the second in the series that I've noticed so far.

It seems I've seen examples of 29-32 quite a bit in skins/profiles over time. Fascinating to know they never actually existed.

What a language..



02-10-2011, 02:43 PM
Well here are the actual photographs the reasons above.....One view is the starboard side with vegitation, the other the port without. The worst part is however folks not doing their research, simply copying from the first thing they find to another and worse still, often exagerating it further.


What really surprises most folks however are the later style markings. Most simply assume the early is what they would of encountered, yet fact of the matter is the latter would of been more likely.


02-16-2011, 05:04 PM
Ever consider uploading a .pdf to M4Today with all the info you've been posting? I'd like to see everything in one package.