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LEBillfish
01-15-2005, 12:24 PM
<span class="ev_code_YELLOW">~Salute All~!!;</span>

Looking for information and "photographs" of the 78th HikoSentai, 14th Hikodan, 4th Kokugun (78th Fighter Regiment/14th Air Battalion/4th air Army) that fought from Rabaul and across Papua New Guinea.

There are a number of books out I understand that do discuss them to some degree, yet those with the most information are in Japanese, and unfortunately many I'm discovering would take month(s) to obtain.

Unfortunately as well, search engines on the web are bringing up little. Oddly my most productive searches have been via finding little tidbits searching for their opponents such as the 5th air force and 80th Headhunters etc.. Additionally, reports from the allied side are often confused as pilots often mistook Ki61 for Messerschmitt's, Zero's, Fw's, Ki43, Ki27 and even Kate's & Val's as well as others due to the heat of the fight.

Though any text is great, what I really need however are photographs of the actual planes with markings on them. Ki-61 and later when they needed additional rides Ki-43 abandonded by other units were used (from some sources even others though all of it debatable like Ki27 in China late 42, to even ki44 & 84 after their supposed demise).

The emblem that should be on the planes tail should look like this...
http://www.sam.hi-ho.ne.jp/ki-44/image2/78F.jpg

However, on Ki43 there may be other markings near or around it from the units they took the planes from.

What I hope to do is learn of the "correct" paint scheme they used on the planes, so as I go down flaming on the servers from your swift kill of me I can rise up in the cockpit and moon you with a bit of unit pride.

The payoff for your help?...Well not a freaking thing you greedy bassids as you already get to use me as a target drone!

Anywho, any help would be appreciated be it one sentance referances to the 78th HikoSentai, and most especially photo's of the men and their machines.

Thanks,

Kelly/K2/Billfish/Ktu*78th*Sentai

LEBillfish
01-15-2005, 12:24 PM
<span class="ev_code_YELLOW">~Salute All~!!;</span>

Looking for information and "photographs" of the 78th HikoSentai, 14th Hikodan, 4th Kokugun (78th Fighter Regiment/14th Air Battalion/4th air Army) that fought from Rabaul and across Papua New Guinea.

There are a number of books out I understand that do discuss them to some degree, yet those with the most information are in Japanese, and unfortunately many I'm discovering would take month(s) to obtain.

Unfortunately as well, search engines on the web are bringing up little. Oddly my most productive searches have been via finding little tidbits searching for their opponents such as the 5th air force and 80th Headhunters etc.. Additionally, reports from the allied side are often confused as pilots often mistook Ki61 for Messerschmitt's, Zero's, Fw's, Ki43, Ki27 and even Kate's & Val's as well as others due to the heat of the fight.

Though any text is great, what I really need however are photographs of the actual planes with markings on them. Ki-61 and later when they needed additional rides Ki-43 abandonded by other units were used (from some sources even others though all of it debatable like Ki27 in China late 42, to even ki44 & 84 after their supposed demise).

The emblem that should be on the planes tail should look like this...
http://www.sam.hi-ho.ne.jp/ki-44/image2/78F.jpg

However, on Ki43 there may be other markings near or around it from the units they took the planes from.

What I hope to do is learn of the "correct" paint scheme they used on the planes, so as I go down flaming on the servers from your swift kill of me I can rise up in the cockpit and moon you with a bit of unit pride.

The payoff for your help?...Well not a freaking thing you greedy bassids as you already get to use me as a target drone!

Anywho, any help would be appreciated be it one sentance referances to the 78th HikoSentai, and most especially photo's of the men and their machines.

Thanks,

Kelly/K2/Billfish/Ktu*78th*Sentai

hawkmeister
01-15-2005, 12:59 PM
Visit the IJAAF message board at...

http://www.j-aircraft.org/bbs/army_config.pl

You'll get answers there.

-Bill

LEBillfish
01-15-2005, 01:26 PM
<BLOCKQUOTE class="ip-ubbcode-quote"><font size="-1">quote:</font><HR>Originally posted by hawkmeister:
Visit the IJAAF message board at...
http://www.j-aircraft.org/bbs/army_config.pl
You'll get answers there.-Bill <HR></BLOCKQUOTE>

I have, unfortunately I only received replies from two people....Neither suppling pics that were helpful (though routed to where I could obtain books containing the information...Yet with response times on receiving them questionable).

RAC_Pips
01-15-2005, 03:34 PM
Don't tel me that the LE crowd are moving into the monoplane era? And leaving RB3D behind? *gasp*. http://forums.ubi.com/groupee_common/emoticons/icon_smile.gif

Sadly you won't find much on the Net at all concerning IJAAF aircraft markings, nor IJNAF for that matter Billfish.

To get what your after best bet is to find a very good bookstore/library and check Maru Mechanic, Japanese Army Air Force Fighter Units or Japanese Army Air Force Markings. The third has the most detail that you are after.

Sadly I don't have a scanner, so I can't post any pics. However I can offer some comments.

First off the emblem shape you have posted is correct for the 78th Sentai. There were three (3) variations though to the emblem, the colour of each denoting which Chutai an aircraft belonged to. A Sentai is made up of three (3) Chutai. The colour you shown id for the 2nd Chutai, 78th Sentai. The colour for the 1st Chutai is is a red background with the emblem shown ib white. The 3rd Chutai has a white beckground with the emblem shown in yellow.

The 78th Sentai did use, on occasion, the Ki-43 Hayabusa. This was due to the high unservicability rate of the Ki-61, which was due to the tempermental Ha-40 engine (it required a major overhaul every 45 hours flying), and lack of supplies of spares. It usually 'borrowed' Ki-43's from the 59th Sentai. The borrowed ki-43's retained their own unit markings; they were not painted in 78th Sentai markings.

Finally the 78th Sentai did not fly either the Ki-44 Shoki nor the Ki-84 Hayate. Neither aircraft saw service in New Guinea, the closest either got to New Guinea was Sumatra for the Ki-44 and the Philipines for the Ki-84. The 78th Sentai was actually wiped out in New Guinea in mid 1944, and was officially written off as from 25th July, 1944.

Hope that helps. http://forums.ubi.com/groupee_common/emoticons/icon_smile.gif

hawkmeister
01-15-2005, 03:38 PM
Ok, not sure if you'll find the pics you need here, but this site has the largest online collection of Japanese aircraft pics I've seen. Most of the pics in Japanese aircraft books are on this site...

http://www.ijaafpics.com/

Here's the only info I can find in my library...

Quoted from "Japanese Army Air Force Aces 1937-45", by Henry Sakaida, Osprey Aerospace...

"78 Sentai
Established 31/3/42 in China
Aircraft: Ki-27, Ki-43, and Ki-84
Area of Operations: Manchuria, Rabaul and New Guinea. Disbanded 25/7/44 in New Guinea.
Remarks: Unit was destroyed by the USAAF"

There are some obvious errors in the above. First, I doubt seriously they flew the Ki-84, but know they flew the Ki-61 - that has to be an editing error.

I have all the Japanese WWII single-engine fighter FAOW issues and the only one with any reference whatsoever to the 78th Sentai is FAOW #17, Ki-61. On page 79 of that book there are 3 B&W photos of Ki-61s purported to be from that unit - one is a close-up of the Sentai tail marking you posted (the only photo of that symbol anywhere in the book). There is a B&W drawing of a Ki-61 tail emphasizing that marking. And finally, a single B&W profile of a 78th Sentai Ki-61 with only a single katakana character (fu or wa - I'm a little rusty) marking on the tail. The profile subject is purported to be from Halmahera Island while the B&W photos only say "New Guinea".

I could scan this page and send it to you if you'd like, but there just isn't much on it.

Hope that helps some.

-Bill

hawkmeister
01-15-2005, 03:50 PM
http://www.the-vaw.com/html/ki61.html

http://misc.kitreview.com/bookreviews/68sentaibookreviewrk_1.htm
"Although the title is 68 Sentai, the book also covers the life and death of its sister squadron, the 78th Sentai."

http://www.rollmodels.net/nbookreview/others/kageroml23/kageroml23.php
^I've ordered from them many times.

http://www.pacificwrecks.com/provinces/png_vunakanau.html

http://www.thehistorynet.com/wwii/blrabaul/index2.html

All I did was...
http://www.google.com/search?q=78th+sentai

And found tons of stuff.

-Bill

pacettid
01-15-2005, 04:02 PM
According to Japanese Army Airforce Fighter Units and Their Aces 1931 - 1945, The 78th Hiko Sentai was formed in March 1942 from elements of the 24th and 33rd Sentai, as a three chutai unit. It was disbanded on 25 July 1944.

Aircraft Flown:
Ki-27 - March 1942 - April 1943
Ki-61 - April 1943 - April 1944
Ki-43 - small numbers, October 1943 - March 1944

Bases:
Xingshu - March - April 1942
Sunjia, near Harbin - April - December 1942
Lioyan, Manchuria - December1942 - April 1943
Akeno - April - June 1943
Rabaul West, New Britain - June - July 1943
Wewak, New Guinea - October 1943 - March 1944
Hollandia, New Guinea - March - April 1944

Battle Honors
New Guinea
-July 1943 - April 1944; 18 July, Lt Takashi Tomoshima claimed a P-38 for the Sentai's first victory; 21 July, five victories, three of them by Lt. Tomashima; Lt. Kenji Takamiya (killed 1 February 1944) claimed 17 victories, and Lt. Mitsusada Asai (killed 6 March 1944) claimed seven.

Commanding Officers
Maj Isao Abe - March 1942 - March 1943
Maj. Akira Takasuki - April - December 1943+
Maj. Shigechika Tomari - January - June 1944+

1st chutai leaders
Capt. Sadao Nakahama - March 1942 - March 1943
Capt. Yoshichika Mutaguchi - March - ocyober 1943+
Capt. Tetsushi Yamamoto - October 1943 - January 1944
Capt. Hiroshi Kuraya - January - July 1944+

2nd chutai leaders
Lt. Motoya Yama****a - March - October 1942
Lt. Takashi Tomoshima - October 1942 - August 1943
Lt. Kazuo ***ami - September - December 1943
Capt. Kenji Takahashi - December 1943 - April 1944+

3rd chutai leader
Capt. Ryoichi Tateyama - March - July 1944+

Unfortunately the Hiko Sentai markings are one of the few in the book which are not shown (Murphy's Law). Here is the pic from the hawkmeister link above:

http://www2.freepichosting.com/Images/421545261/6.jpg

LEBillfish
01-15-2005, 11:14 PM
Any pictures you can email please do at k2kellyirie@yahoo.com .

Thanks guys, yet except for that you're finding in books all of those links I have visited. Any searches on Google, Yahoo, MSN of 78th Sentai/78th FR/Ki-61/Ki-43/etc. has yielded little and NOTHING in the way of photos. Actually checking out searches like Rabaul/Truk/etc. is yielding a bit more then the direct route.

Oh before I forget...look here http://www5b.biglobe.ne.jp/~s244f/ and click on EVERY link you find...stunning.

Anywho, this is what I have found thus far of which what you posted I'll add to...the only photo I have is so small and out of focus it's worthless. What you see following simple cut and paste...so some of it overlapping.

<span class="ev_code_YELLOW">78th Hiko Sentai</span>
Pre-78th Hiko Sentai pertinent info:
Independent 10th Dokuritsu Hiko Chutai
Captain Kiyoshi Kimura (07/38 €" 05/40)
Captain Tamio Shibuya (05/40 €" 08/40)
Major Akira Takatsuki (08/40 €" 08/42)
Taiyuan (12/38 €" 03/41)
Nakajima Ki-27 (07/38 €" 06/42)

Independent 10th Dokuritsu Hiko Chutai
Major Akira Takatsuki (08/40 €" 08/42)
Taiyuan (12/38 €" 03/41)
Shanghai (03/41 €" 05/41)
Taiyuan (05/41 €" 11/41)
Canton (11/41 €" 02/42)
Nakajima Ki-27 (07/38 €" 06/42)

Independent 10th Dokuritsu Hiko Chutai
Major Akira Takatsuki (08/40 €" 08/42)
Hankou (03/42 €" 04/42)
Akeno (05/42 €" 06/42)
Canton (06/42 €" 10/42)
Captain Masatsune Mori (08/42 €" 10/42)
Canton (11/41 €" 02/42)
Nakajima Ki-27 (07/38 €" 06/42)
Nakajima Ki-43-I (06/42 €" )

The Independent 10th Dokuritsu Hiko Chutai became the 25th Sentai on 7 November 1942 with two chutais.
Ki-27

24th Sentai
Major Takeshi Takahashi 09/40 €" 03/43)
24th Sentai 1st chutai
Captain Isao Kojima (03/41 €" 07/42)
Lieutenant Tetsuji Watanabe (07/42 €" 05/08/42)
Lieutenant Tadashi Koga (08/42 €" 06/43)
24th Sentai 2nd chutai
Captain Hyoe Yonaga (07/41 €" 12/42)
24th Sentai 3rd chutai
Lieutenant Shigeo Uehara (03/42 €" 10/43)
Manchuria (06/42 €" 07/42)
Canton (23/07/42 €" 09/42)
Palembang (09/42 €" 05/43)
Nakajima Ki-43-I (04/42 €" 03/43)

33rd Sentai
Major Tsutomu Mizutani (08/42 €" 01/43)
33rd Sentai 1st chutai
Lieutenant Yasuto Ohtsubo (02/42 €" 31/05/43)
33rd Sentai 2nd chutai
Captain Taketo Saka****a (09/41 €" 08/05/43)
33rd Sentai 3rd chutai
Lieutenant Kosuke Kono (08/42 €" 05/44)
Xingshu (09/39 €" 08/42)
Canton (09/42 €" 07/43)
Nakajima Ki-43-I (05/42 €" 06/43)


78th Hiko Sentai Formation:
Mar 1942 to Apr 1943: China, Manchuria
No.68 and No.78 Hiko Sentai were both originally formed in 31 Mar 1942 - formed at Kyojo - China with three chutai from elements of 24 and 33 Hiko Sentai. First aircraft used were Ki-27's, but soon both units were exclusively equipped with the Ki-61 and sent to new Guinea in 1943.

The Army and Navy General Staffs had several meetings and finally the 6th Air Division was established in November 1942 with headquarters in Rabaul. First, the 12th Air Brigade with Hayabusa (Ki-43 Oscar) fighters was sent to the Southern Area (Rabaul, Solomons, New Guinea) but due to high losses the unit was replaced by the 14th Air Brigade consisting of the 68th and 78th Sentais equipped with Kawasaki "Hien" (Ki-61 Tony) fighters. It was a new unit with new airplanes and high expectations were placed on it.

First deliveries of the Hien (as the plane was officially nicknamed in Japan) were made to the 23rd Independent Squadron in February 1943, this outfit serving as a pilot training and conversion unit. In early 1943 Ki-61 Ia's were transfered to the Tokorozawa Army Maintenance School (fewer than 150 of the machines had been delivered at this time). Soon after the 68th Fighter Regiment began conversion training and was quickly followed by the 78th. These units were pushed into combat as a Japanese Army build-up was begun in the Rabaul area and became part of the 4th Air Army.

The delivery of the two unit's machines included flying the aircraft considerable distances as they islandhopped their way south. With the continuing design problems that remained large numbers of the aircraft were lost in transit due to mechanical malfunctions. This relegated the 68th and 78th to a minimal amount of equipment during their early deployment. Soon the 33rd Fighter Regiment would also join them in what could only be called combat and advanced prototype analysis.

The first actual combat operations began just a few months later when the 68th and 78th Sentais were deployed to New Guinea.

Reflecting their revised strategy, the Army decided to strengthen its air forces in the New Guinea area. Earlier, on 18 March, the Army High Command had decided to strengthen its air forces in the South Pacific generally, starting with the replacement of the fighter units in the 6th Air Division. The newly assigned units were the 68th and 78th Sentais of the 14th Air Brigade, which flew the Kawasaki Type 3 "Tony" fighter. These units started arriving in Rabaul in late April, and were duly deployed to New Guinea. On 2 April the Army further decided to dispatch to the New Guinea front, among other units, the 13th Sentai (flying the Kawasaki Type 2 "Toryu" twin-engine fighter) and the 24th Sentai (flying the venerable "Oscar"). These units began arriving in Rabaul in the latter half of May.

Apr 1943 - both units were exclusively equipped with the Ki-61, transferred to Rabaul with 30 fighters (from Manchuria to Japan; then to Truk via aircraft carrier)

Lost Squadron:
68th Hiko Sentai trip from Japan to Truk to Rabaul:
The word at Rabaul was that the Ki-61 fighters would make short work of the American fighters and bombers. As the Ki-61s were rather new airplanes ground crew members had yet to be trained. Also, the radios put into the Tonys were old radios from the Type 97 (Nate) fighters the unit was equipped with previously. However, they did not work well. Also, the new liquid-cooled V-12 engines were unique to the Tony creating new challenges for ground crews to service, who were previous only familiar with radials. Time passed, and the 18th Army in New Guinea became quite impatient. "Where are those Army planes?" is what one heard at Army headquarters. The C.O of the 14th Air Brigade, Colonel Takeo Tateyama decided to send the 68th Sentai ahead and made preparations for them to be ferried to Truk by Army aircraft carriers. It is interesting to note, that the Japanese Army also had their own small transport carriers.

Ki-61 Transported to Truk:
On April 4th, 1943 they left Yokosuka and arrived at Truk on April 10th. The planes were loaded off and stood by waiting for orders. As enemy subs were expected to be in the area between Truk and Rabaul the Fighters were ordered to fly there. The distance was 1200km which was just inside the range of the Tonys. The trip would take approx. three hours at an estimated air speed of 400km/h. Four months earlier this trip was made by 60 Oscars under the guidance of a G4M Betty, and all aircraft had arrived safely.
It had been done before and all the pilots were positive that it could be done by them as well. 3 Dinahs were going to Rabaul anyway and the plan was for the Tonys to tag along. On April 25, 30 Ki-61s took off. However, due to engine trouble and bad weather they decided to turn back. All except one fighter missing landed back on Truk. On April 27th they were giving it a second try. 27 planes were divided in 2 groups and accompanied by one Dinah each, winged their way towards Rabaul. The second group with 14 fighters and one Dinah arrived safely at Rabaul's Vunakanau Aerodrome but as they were welcomed they were surprise that the first group had not arrived yet.
What they later learned was this: The first group was following the Dinah "pathfinder" when one after one dropped out of formation with engine difficulties. The Dinah turned back but lost sight of them. The Tonys' compasses also started to act up and there was no way they could make it to Rabaul. Only two planes made it back to Truk and one landed at Kavieng . Two Fighters went missing, and 8 made crash landings the tiny Nuguria Atoll, 300 km north of Rabaul.

Search For the Lost Squadron:
When the 8th Fleet send a vessel there all they found was only one of the pilots [identity unknown] in bloodstained clothes.
John Douglas adds:
"Kevin Baldwin, who I told about the Nuguria Tonys, three years ago. He has a dive boat, and went to Nuguria to find them a year or two ago. He said that the planes seem to have landed outside the atoll in deep water. They couldn't find any trace of them. The locals remembered the incident. When I told him about one survivor. he agreed with me, but said that the locals had killed the rest, leaving one survivor who was also beaten up by the locals."

78th Hiko Sentai ordered to take a different route:
After this disaster, the C.O of the 14th Air Brigade ordered the 78th Sentai to take a different route. After a 9,000 km trip from Kyushu-Okinawa-Taiwan-Manila-Davao-Menado and New Guinea they finally arrived in Rabaul in June 1943. It had taken them two weeks. This incident was a big shock for the Army. Steps were taken to train their pilots in long-distance trans ocean flying but time and the war situation were against them.

Commanding Officers:
Maj Isao Abe - March 1942 - March 1943
Maj. Akira Takasuki - April - December 1943+
Maj. Shigechika Tomari - January - June 1944+
1st chutai leaders:
Capt. Sadao Nakahama - March 1942 - March 1943
Capt. Yoshichika Mutaguchi - March - ocyober 1943+
Capt. Tetsushi Yamamoto - October 1943 - January 1944
Capt. Hiroshi Kuraya - January - July 1944+
2nd chutai leaders:
Lt. Motoya Yama****a - March - October 1942
Lt. Takashi Tomoshima - October 1942 - August 1943
Lt. Kazuo ***ami - September - December 1943
Capt. Kenji Takahashi - December 1943 - April 1944+
3rd chutai leader:
Capt. Ryoichi Tateyama - March - July 1944+

Battle Honors
New Guinea
-July 1943 - April 1944; 18 July, Lt Takashi Tomoshima claimed a P-38 for the Sentai's first victory; 21 July, five victories, three of them by Lt. Tomashima; Lt. Kenji Takamiya (killed 1 February 1944) claimed 17 victories, and Lt. Mitsusada Asai (killed 6 March 1944) claimed seven.

Bases:
Xingshu - March - April 1942
Sunjia, near Harbin - April - December 1942
Lioyan, Manchuria - December1942 - April 1943
Akeno - April - June 1943
Rabaul West, New Britain - June - July 1943
Wewak, New Guinea - October 1943 - March 1944
Hollandia, New Guinea - March - April 1944

Aircraft Flown:
Ki-27 - March 1942 - April 1943
Ki-61 - April 1943 - April 1944
Ki-43 - small numbers, October 1943 - March 1944

A styalized "Cherry Blossom" is the correct emblem for the 78th Sentai. There were three (3) variations though to the emblem, the colour of each denoting which Chutai an aircraft belonged to. A Sentai is made up of three (3) Chutai. The colour for the 1st Chutai is is a red background with the emblem shown ib white. The Second Chutai has a white background with red emblem. The 3rd Chutai has a white beckground with the emblem shown in yellow.

Vunakanau Base:
Vunakanau was known as 'Rabaul Upper' by the Japanese. USAAF POW's were put to use as labor at the airstrip. The strip consisted of two parallel runways, each 5,100' (as of November 10, 1943) and ravetments and taxiways the spanned out from every side of the strips, including (64) bomber and (81) fighter ravetments. A well developed anti-aircraft defense existed, with 15 heavy, 14 medium and 12 light guns, and 3 searchlight batteries. It was a major bare located just outside Rabaul. It was pounded by Allied bombers throughout the war.
Japanese Units Based at Vunakanau
Misawa / 705th Kokutai (G4M Betty)
751st Kokutai (G4M Betty)
1st Sentai (Ki-43 Oscar) January - August 1943
11th Sentai (Ki-43 Oscar) December 1942 - June 1943
13th Sentai (Ki-45 Nick) May - September 1943
68th Sentai (Ki-61 Tony) April - July 1943
78th Sentai (Ki-61 Tony) June - July 1943

Wewak/Boram Base:
Built by the Japanese, the airfield was developed around a 4,600' runway (as of September 9, 1943), with 40 bomber and 24 fighter ravetments, and 42 heavy AA, 33+ light AA, 21 searchlights in the Boram and Cape Wom vicinity. The southern side of the strip was the bomber dispersal area and (24) ravetments, with a general camp area behind them. To the north-east were (6) bomber ravetments. To the north side, closest to the sea were (24) fighter ravetments and dispersal areas.
Aug 1943 - New Guinea: 4 Kokugun - 14 Hikodan (at Wewak: Boram)
Units Based at Boram
78th Sentai (Ki-61 Tony)

An event while based at Boram:
After returning to their carriers, aircrews wolfed down sandwiches and prepared to take off for a second strike. Then, suddenly, the tables were turned on them. A Zero had spotted TG 50.3, and while it circled above the task group, Kusaka launched his counterattack at noon€"27 Aichi D3A2 dive bombers and 14 B5N2s, escorted by 67 Zeros, followed by a flight of Mitsubishi G4M2 medium bombers€"one of the largest anti-carrier strikes since the war in the Pacific began. Also apparently joining the attack force were a few Kawasaki Ki.61 Hien ("swallow") army fighters. They may have been sent there for repairs from the 78th Sentai (group) at Wewak, New Guinea, which had previously been based at Rabaul.

On November 6 th , the 248 th joined with the 13 th Sentai to escort Type 97 (SALLY) bombers in an attack on the American airbase at Nadzab in the Ramu Valley. The 59 th and 78 th Sentai were also involved.

On the 18 th four squadrons of P-38s and two squadrons of P-47s challenged the Japanese fighters over Wewak. Fifty-six Japanese fighters intercepted. Twenty-one Type 3 fighters of the 68th and 78 th were joined by thirty-five Type 1 fighters of the 59 th , 63 rd and 248 th . The 248 th scrambled ten fighters under Capt. Shigeo Kojima that day. Wild dogfights took place.

A squadron of P-38s jumped a single Type 3 fighter. Five of the P-38s engaged in a lengthy low altitude dogfight before finally downing the lone fighter (Cpl. Nakagawa of 78 th FR). It was the only Japanese pilot loss.

Death of Major Akira Takatsuki:
Even worse for the Americans, three transports of the Japanese 15th Resupply Convoy happened to be in Wewak Harbor and had been assigned a heavy fighter cover of Tonys and. Oscars during unloading operations. Major Akira Takatsuki, who had commanded the 78th Sentai since it came to the theater in April 1943, led the Tonys of that unit, while other Tonys of the 68th Sentai and Oscars of the 59th and 248th Sentais completed the Japanese air cover over Wewak.
Apparently, the Japanese fighters received the warning of approaching enemy aircraft at about 9:30. Because the Americans were coming in over the coast through low, broken cloud cover, it would be a simple matter to spread the intercepting fighters out in a fan on both sides of the coast and stalk the intruders.
Cragg must have had some appreciation of that possibility, and he scanned through the sunlight filtering down from gaps in the clouds. There was scattered rain to further obscure vision, and he wished he could take the entire raiding force to a better altitude.
Corky Smith was bringing up the rear of the 80th formation with his fourth flight. The rain and heavy clouds forced Smith down to an altitude of 7,000 feet, but visibility was still so bad that the four flights had to group close together to maintain visual contact. From the seaward side of the American formation, some of the Japanese interceptors saw Smith's flight through the broken rain clouds. Even with their olive camouflage, the P-38s shimmered in the sky, which was alternately filled with showers and dancing sunlight. Four excited Tony pilots and a similar number of Oscar pilots quickly jockeyed for position and came down hard on the Americans.
Smith was just starting to climb to regain lost altitude when he looked around to see two Tonys hurtling through the rain to attack his flight. With the reflexes of a seasoned veteran, he called out the sighting to Jay Robbins, who was leading the third flight directly ahead, and turned into the Japanese. The maneuver was not quite quick enough for Smith's wingman, Lieutenant John Stanifer, who suffered some hits before the Tonys broke away. Smith himself had some difficulty with the electrical switches that released his underwing fuel tanks and spent an arduous moment using the manual release. Fortunately, the Tonys had decided to curve away before another attack.
At the same time, Cragg was encountering a formation of 78th Sentai Tonys led by Major Takatsuki. The Tonys dived directly on the American escort, but Cragg was quick enough to draw a bead on Takatsuki and fire a burst from about 200 yards. The lead was off, however, and Cragg's fire arced behind his target.
Takatsuki tried to loop his Tony as tightly as possible to get back on Cragg's tail, reaching the top of the maneuver when the second flight of P-38s came into range. Either Lieutenant Bert Reed or Lieutenant Delbert Furgason fired a shot at the Tony, which was hanging almost motionless for the moment. Strange as the coincidence seems, Takatsuki jettisoned his canopy and tumbled out of the cockpit just as Cragg was turning his P-38 directly below.
While the Japanese parachute was deploying, Cragg was unable to avoid hitting it and ripped it to shreds with his right propeller. Horrified, he watched the body of the Japanese pilot tumble thousands of feet into the misty jungle below. Somewhat shaken but still in control, Cragg looked around to keep in touch with the air battle now raging. A section of the doomed pilot's parachute was still wrapped around the P-38's right wing as a macabre reminder of the incident.
Cragg turned back toward the Sepik River, where three more Tonys and an Oscar were coming at the P-38s head-on. The first Tony came barreling in and looked like nothing more than a silver coin balanced on a knife blade when Cragg opened fire at about 250 yards. As the Tony passed him, it was pouring out flames and black smoke, and when he looked back, Cragg saw it plunge straight down like a blazing torch.
Paul Murphey and his wingman, Lieutenant Bob "Swede" Hanson, took on the next Tony. Murphey waited tensely until the target came into range and then depressed the firing button on the P-38s control wheel. The Tony rolled over at the last second and went down with a flash of fire bursting from its engine and fuselage.
Corky Smith and John Stanifer had momentarily lost contact with the rest of the last 80th flight. Smith was anxious about his pilots, with good reason. In addition to the damage suffered by Stanifer's fighter, Lieutenant Howard Donaldson had taken hits from a Tony that shot out one of his engines. He managed to pick up an escort for a time from two of the retiring P-38s, but then his other engine burst into flames. His escorting comrades could only watch helplessly while his plane went down on fire, to crash on a marshy plain about 35 miles southeast of Wewak.
Smith spotted six P-38s flying through the area and decided to join the string. Then he saw what they were after. Down on the water, just southeast of Wewak an Oscar was flying near the waves, with its jungle camouflage and red insignia marking it as a perfect target.
The Oscar was an amazingly maneuverable little fighter, as the first six P-38 pilots learned when they delved down and the Japanese plane turned neatly under them. Smith was a little cagier than the rest, and he hauled back the throttle and put his P-38's nose straight down. He cut off the Oscar and got in behind it--Smith chased the unlucky Oscar toward shore until it flew over Brandi Plantation, south of Wewak. The two planes were just 500 feet off the ground when Smith fired a long burst that registered flashes all over the Oscar's fuselage. Smith overflew the dying fighter, but Stanifer watched long enough to see it crash into the jungle.
Stanifer was low on fuel by then and radioed that he was leaving. Smith acknowledged Stanifer's call, but decided to remain in the area to clear the bomber route of stray Japanese fighters and to try to find the other members of his flight.
One of the 80th pilots who did not return from the mission was Lieutenant Jennings Myers. He had scored four aerial victories over the Wewak area on previous missions and was observed shooting down a Tony during this mission for his fifth victory. Unfortunately, he became someone else's victory before he could return to base and celebrate.
Major Meryl M. Smith of the 475th Fighter Group was returning from the mission with the 431st Squadron when he saw a P-38 in a long power glide flying north from over the land toward the ocean. He could see the right engine was feathered, but there was at least some power in the left engine that was still turning the propeller.
The P-38 then turned toward the east and flew near the shore, very low over the surf. Smith tried to call the pilot without success. The fighter in trouble had the green-and-white propeller spinners and tail tips of the 80th Fighter Squadron and was marked with a yellow letter "C" on the gondola nose. Smith later learned that the P-38 was flown by Myers.
After Myers had flown about two miles along the beach, he ditched his aircraft in the water about 50 yards from shore. It was a good crash landing, and the pilot appeared to be unhurt. As soon as the stricken P-38 settled into the water, Smith turned back and buzzed the crash site. The plane's tail was sticking out of the water, and the pilot was wading ashore. Smith could see the man was wearing his orange life vest, but his parachute must still have been in the sinking fighter. Without the jungle kit that was attached to the parachute, the man would have a devil of a time getting back-not that it would be easy even with the kit.
Smith heard the call "Gardenia from Copper" over the radio. Copper was the 80th's call sign, and Gardenia was the PBY flying boat rescue service. The Copper calls came in loud and clear, but there was no answer from Gardenia.
After about 15 minutes of flying over the area, Smith could not sight the pilot again. The downed P-38 had sunk completely, and the beach looked deserted. Myers had gone down in the Murik Lagoon region near the mouth of the Sepik River. The ground was marshy, with kunai grass and trees that sometimes reached as high as 150 feet.
Most of the surviving P-38s landed at Nadzab before heading to Port Moresby, across the mountains from Dobodura. The next day, the 80th Squadron moved permanently to Nadzab, which meant that they were nearly half as far away from Wewak. Stanifer and one other 80th pilot stayed overnight at Nadzab while their damaged fighters were repaired.
Cragg flew directly to Port Moresby, where the ground crews wondered at the shredded Japanese parachute fluttering from the wing of his P-38, marked on the nose with Porky II in yellow letters. Cragg would be bothered by the memory of the horrific incident for the rest of his short life.
Meryl Smith was also bothered by Jennings Myers' crash landing, which he reported to Nadzab Operations as soon as he landed. Later, at his own base of Dobodura, he considered the fate of the pilot he had watched trudge alone into the friendless jungle and decided he had to do something. The next morning, Smith commandeered Lieutenant Charles Ratajski, a crusty young pilot of the 475th Group's 432nd Fighter Squadron, as a wingman for a search flight back to the Murik Lagoon area. The two P-38s circled the swamps and shoreline for nearly an hour before they reluctantly gave up. Myers was never found.
Most of the damage done to the American raiders on the December 22 mission had been inflicted by the Tony interceptors. In addition to two P-38s lost and two others damaged from the 80th, another 431st Squadron fighter was so badly damaged in a crash landing at Dobodura that it was written off. The Tonys were also responsible for at least one B-25 shot down and others badly damaged. Throughout its service in New Guinea, the Tony would be a most troublesome opponent for the Americans.
American claims for the day amounted to 7 Tonys, 11 Oscars and an ancient Nakajima M-27 "Nate" that may actually have been an Oscar with its landing gear extended. The 80th accounted for six of those claims.
Actual Japanese losses amounted to four Tonys and four Oscars missing, with a similar number of badly damaged fighters returning to base. Two 68th Sentai Tony pilots, Akinori Motoyama and SgtMaj Iwao Tabata, successfully parachuted into the dense jungle and returned to base after considerable hardship. Chutai (flight) leader Motoyama died of his injuries sometime later.

Another conflicting report:
But the weird thing is, the 80th pilots all indicated they encountered Ki-43 Oscars, radial engined little nasties they were quite familiar with. Combat reports decribe the twin drop tanks characteristic of the Oscar, note hits just behind the cockpit striking the high-pressure oxygen system, with the resulting
familiar explosion breaking the airplane in two, etc. Yet the Japanese reports indicate the aircraft lost were Ki-61 Tonys! From the 68th and 78th Groups. Oscars from the 1st and 24th Groups were also involved in the fight, but they apparently reported no losses and made no claims.

Dauga Base:
This airfield was built by the Japanese, on the catholic mission at Dagua, and named for the nearby village of the same name. The Japanese Air Air Force operated this 6,700' single runway (dementions as of September 9, 1943). The northern side of the runway, right along the sea were ravetments for (33) fighters. The southern side had bomber and fighter dispersal areas with (32) ravetments. Along the center of the strip were a further (14) bomber and fighter ravetments. Some Japanese accounts referr to this strip as "But East". It is unclear if this is a secondary name, or if it is what the Japanese refered to for this airfield. Allied maps and mission referr to the airfield as Dagua only. After the war, it was abandoned.
Japanese Units Based at Dagua
78th Sentai (Ki-61)
59th Sentai (Ki-43)
24th Sentai (Ki-43) withdrawn to Babo in early 1944.

Hollandia:
As of April 15th 1944, the only Air Regiments left were:
33rd, 63rd, 77th and 248 in Ki-43 Oscar's and 68th, 78th in Ki-61 Tony's. These were the only Fighter Regiments in New Guinea at that time. The others that left, and I believe they were the 1st and the 11th, also flew Ki-43.
Hollandia-based Air Units Ca March/April 1944
(Source Japanese Monograph No.32)
Hollandia I#
10 F Dinah/Sonia
68 F Tony
78 F Tony
3/28 F Dinah
Hollandia II#
34 F Lily
75 F Lily
208 F Lily
Hollandia III#
33 F Oscar
63 F Oscar
77 F Oscar
Other units flew in and out from other bases.

Discussions of 78th Hiko Sentai use of Ki-43:
I have lots of photos of Hollandia-based fighters. Around the field were remnants of Nos.68/78 F Tonys and Nos. 33, 63, 77, and 248 F Oscars. Bomber units includ No.7 and 61 F and No. 20 Fc Helens. This is off the top of my head, I am sure I missed some!

In Kryzstof Janowicz's book on the 68th sentai he mentions that at one time they used Ki-43s due to a shortage of Ki-61s. I notice in the top left photo above what seems to be a sytlized 7, the acknowledged symbol of the 78th, Hien-equipped, sentai above the 77th symbol. Could it be possible that the 78th too temporarily used Oscars? .....No.77 Hiko Sentai used katakana symbols on the upper part of their Oscars' rudders as individual aircraft call signs. In the event, this is not a unit marking per se.

It was Hata & Izawa, not Janowicz, who recounted that the 68th used 10 Oscars left behind by the 24th sentai.

The 78th Sentai did use, on occasion, the Ki-43 Hayabusa. This was due to the high unservicability rate of the Ki-61, which was due to the tempermental Ha-40 engine (it required a major overhaul every 45 hours flying), and lack of supplies of spares. It usually 'borrowed' Ki-43's from the 59th Sentai. The borrowed ki-43's retained their own unit markings; they were not painted in 78th Sentai markings.

End of 78th Hiko Sentai:
No. 78 Hiko Sentai was decimated (April 1944 at Hollandia) and written-off the books on the 25th, Jul 1944 - disbanded in New Guinea
aircraft
Ki-61, Apr 1943 to Apr 1944: New Guinea, Rabaul, Admiralty Islands
Ki-43, Oct 1943 - Mar 1944, small numbers

LEBillfish
01-16-2005, 11:28 PM
bump....I really could use any pictures no matter how seemingly insignificant.

Thanks

LEBillfish
01-20-2005, 12:47 PM
RAC_Pips, if you could please post whether or not the entire tail was red or white...as well as spinner color and anything else...

and hawkmeister, if you could please send the pics you do have to the email above..

It would be appreciated

RAC_Pips
01-20-2005, 03:23 PM
Billfish,

The symbol was positioned centrepiece on the Tailfin, forward of the Rudder. The tails themselves were painted whatever camouflage was prevalent at the time, with the symbol superimposed. http://forums.ubi.com/groupee_common/emoticons/icon_smile.gif

Spinner's were painted in the same colour as the symbol on the tail ie red, yellow, white for the various Chutai and blue for the HQ flight.

The only other marking a 78th Sentai aircraft would carry would be the vertical fuselage band denoting the flight leader. Located between the Hinomaru and the tailplane it was quite narrow and in the same colour as the Chutai it represented.