Lt. Kunio Kanzaki, CO of Hikōtai 311 of Kōkūtai 381, Kendari airfield, Celebes island, May 1944

Kōkūtai 381 was established in October 1943 at

Kendari Base on the island of Celebes. It was a

mixed Kōkūtai with 48 fighter-bombers (Hikōtai

602), 24 night fighters (Hikōtai 902) and 48 fighter

aircraft in Hikōtai 311, the latter commanded by Lt.

Kanzaki. During the 1944 he operated from bases

on islands in Indonesia and the Philippines. Their

most frequent opponents were U.S. Army aircraft.

Kanzaki's unit used special phosphorus anti-aircraft bombs to attack enemy bombers. Kanzaki's

aircraft, manufactured by the Nakajima company,

has been reconstructed in the past with various

color markings. It is assumed that the vertical tail

surfaces and part of the upper wing surfaces were

painted the same color like lower surfaces. The

front part of the engine may also have been painted

grey or yellow. It is not entirely clear from the photograph of the aircraft whether the white stripes

on the lower fuselage are joined. It may have been

designed to improve the mutual identification of

Army and Navy aircraft when fighting Allied fighters. Another reason for this camouflage may have

been for easier identification during night fighter

flights. For example, Lt. Kanzaki and his wingman

shot down a B-24 of the 380th BG over Balikpapan

on the night of January 12-13, 1944. Some aircraft

of Kōkūtai 331 were also painted in the same upper

and tailplane camouflage. Both units operated in

one tactical group during part of 1944.

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April 2022

INFO Eduard