(06) Fighters over Japan, part II


Raids against Kyushu, the most southerly of the Home Islands, were carried out by land-based fighters based on Okinawa and the adjacent islet of Ie Shima. The missions were flown mostly by long-range P-47Ns, which equipped the 318th FG (of 7th Air Force), and three fighter groups of the 20th Air Force: the 413th FG, 414th FG, and 507th FG (in July, the 414th FG moved to Iwo Jima). The 5th Army Air Force also lent a hand by supplying the Thunderbolts of the 58th FG – which, in July 1945, moved to Okinawa. Unlike the aforementioned P-47 outfits, the 58th FG flew the older, D model of the Thunderbolt.
Besides the Thunderbolts, a number of P-51 Mustang fighter groups were available to add to the weight of American air power over Japan. Three of them, stationed at Iwo Jima, were used mostly to escort B-29s over Japan. They were the 15th and 21st FGs (of the 7th AF), and later, the 506th FG (which, although officially part of the 20th Air Force, was operationally subordinated to VII Fighter Command). Moreover, two Mustang groups of the 5th Air Force – the 35th and 348th FGs – stationed at Okinawa and Ie Shima respectively, saw action over Japan. General information regarding the paint schemes applied to the USAAF fighters that fought over Japan can be found in vol. I of this publication.
As for the US Navy’s fighters, their livery was far more modest, especially when it came to unit and personal emblems. From June 1944, all US Navy carrier-based aircraft were camouflaged overall in Gloss Sea Blue (FS15042). The glossy coating had more resistance to weathering and could be highly polished, conferring a  little more speed on the aircraft. In late January 1944 the carrier air groups were ordered to adopt the so-called G-symbols – which were geometric, high-visibility, group-specific markings, painted in glossy Insignia White in four positions: each side of the tailfin, on the upper side of the starboard wing, and on the lower side of the port wing. In late July 1945 the geometric symbols were commonly replaced by letters (either single or double), though some air groups retained their G-symbols until the end of the war.

Mitsubishi A6M5c Reisen Model 52 Hei (produced by Nakajima) no 03-09 (s/n 32374) of 303. Sento Hikotai, 203. Kokutai, Kagoshima airbase, Kyushu, June 1945.

Mitsubishi A6M5a Reisen Model 52 Ko (produced by Nakajima) no YoD-126 (s/n unknown) of 1. Hikotai, 302. Kokutai, Atsugi airbase, Kanagawa Prefecture, February 1945.

Mitsubishi J2M3 Raiden Model 21 no YoD-152 (s/n unknown) of 1. Hikotai, 302. Kokutai, Atsugi airbase, Kanagawa Prefecture, spring 1945.

Mitsubishi J2M3 Raiden Model 21 no 352-20 (s/n unknown) of 1. Hikotai, 352. Kokutai, Omura airbase, Nagasaki Prefecture, March 1945.

Mitsubishi J2M3 Raiden Model 21 armed with an additional, oblique-mounted cannon (Naname Juu Sobiki), no YoD-1183 (s/n unknown), of 1. Hikotai, 302. Kokutai, Atsugi airbase, Kanagawa Prefecture, spring 1945.

Kawanishi N1K2-Ja Shiden Kai Model 21 Ko no 343-B-30 (s/n unknown) of 407. Hikotai, 343. Kokutai, Kokubu airbase, Kyushu, April 1945.

Kawanishi N1K2-J Shiden Kai Model 21 no 343-A-15 (s/n unknown) of 301. Hikotai, 343. Kokutai, Kanoya airbase, Kyushu, April 1945.

Kawanishi N1K2-J Shiden Kai Model 21 no 343-B-03 (s/n unknown) of 407. Hikotai, 343. Kokutai, Matsuyama airbase, Ehime Prefecture, Shikoku, March 1945.

F4U-1D Corsair, BuNo 57803, No 167, flown by LtCdr Roger Hedrick, the CO of VF-84; USS Bunker Hill (CV-17), mid-February 1945.

F6F-5 Hellcat, No 9, flown by Lt Hamilton McWhorter III of VF-12; USS Randolph (CV-15), February 1945. McWhorter was the first Hellcat ace with five victories (on 19th November 1943), and the first Hellcat double ace with ten (on 17th February 1944).

Corsair IV (KD658) coded 115-X, flown by Lt Robert H. Gray DSC of No 1841 Naval Air Squadron, Fleet Air Arm; HMS Formidable, British Pacific Fleet, August 1945.

P-47D-28-RA Thunderbolt (s/n 42-29091) coded ‘42’ and named Passionate Patsy. It was flown by Lt Ralph Barns of 310th FS / 58th FG. The yellow engine cowling panel with the nose-art was carried over from another Thunderbolt.

P-51D-25-NA Mustang (s/n 44-73623) coded ‘300’ and named My Achin’ Ass, flown by Maj. Harry C. Crim, the CO of 531st FS (21st FG); Iwo Jima summer 1945.

Little Girl, flown by Capt. Leroy Grosshuesch (many publications misspell it as Grossheusch), CO of 39th FS / 35th FG; Okinawa, August 1945.

P-47N-1-RE Thunderbolt (s/n 44-87996) coded ‘08’ and named Cheek Baby, flown by Lt. Durwood B. Williams of 333rd FS / 318th FG; Ie Shima, June 1945.

 

 

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