The horizontal stripes across the fin and
rudder of Tainan Kōkūtai aircraft were
used to indicate the pilot’s leadership position within the unit. The quantity of stripes
determined whether the pilot was a Buntaichō or a Shōtaichō. This was a simplification of the 12th Kōkūtai marking system,
since the aircraft of wingmen did not carry
any tail stripe.
Buntaichō = two tail stripes, one positioned
below the rudder mass balance notch and
above the tail code, and one positioned below the tail code.
Shōtaichō = one tail stripe, positioned below the rudder mass balance notch and
above the tail code. The Shōtaichō stripe
was applied to the 3rd, 6th, and 9th Reisen
in each Chūtai. In the Shōtai with an aircraft with Buntaichō tail stripes, both of the
other aircraft were marked as wingmen.
It must be noted that the marking system
used by early war carrier based fighter
groups included another tail stripe marking for a Hikōtaichō, which was three tail
stripes, two positioned above the tail code
and one positioned below the tail code.
This marking was not used by land based
fighter groups. Instead, the Hikōtaichō’s
aircraft had the same two tail stripes marking as a Buntaichō.
I tried for years to find something that
would help to explain what Chūtai and
Shōtai colors were used for the large Naval
all-fighter groups and why. Some persons
have suggested that Heraldry had something to do with it, but that didn’t seem like
it provided a satisfactory answer. But now,
I have found something that seems much
more likely as an explanation. Basically,
the colors used were deeply entrenched in
Asian religion/culture and the political situation of that period of history.
What kicked me down the research path
leading to this conclusion began several
years ago when I was reading an article
about a Manchukuo Ki-43. On his Aviation of Japan blog site, Nick Millman posted photos submitted by a modeler of
a Ki-43 in Manchukuo markings. Nick added some comments as background information on the Manchukuo (Manchurian)
roundel. Quoting his comments, “Manchurian roundels were applied only to the
upper and lower surfaces of the wings and
were based on the Manchurian flag, the colours of which symbolised five Confucian
virtues, the five elements and the directions of centre, south, east, west and north,
as well as the five main ethnicities of the
country - yellow representing the Manchu,
red the Japanese, blue the Han, white the
Mongols and black the Koreans.” (4)
These five colors matched with what I already knew were the five colors used by
the large Naval all-fighter groups. So finally, here was something that identified
those colors as having religious/cultural
meanings. I did some additional research
to confirm this, and summarized these meanings in the chart shown on image Nr. 6.
and loyalty to one's lord. Zen helped the
warrior control body/mind and overcome
fears of death. Shintō brought emperor
The political situation of that period of history provides additional support for the use
of these colors. As some readers familiar with the history of Imperial Japan will
know, Japan had been engaged in subjugation and control of neighboring countries
under puppet governments for decades
prior to the outbreak of the Second World
War. As part of this, they created the Greater East-Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere, which
was touted as a new international order
which would share prosperity and peace
for these countries, free from Western colonialism and domination of the White man.
But this union of countries was done as
a means to mask that Japanese control of
these countries was actually for the economic benefit of Imperial Japan (6).
The flags of the Greater East-Asia
Co-Prosperity Sphere puppet governments use the colors of the five ethnicities.
On image Nr. 7 is shown a propaganda
poster of Manchukuo promoting harmony
between Japanese, Chinese, and Manchu.
The caption says, “With the help of Japan,
China, and Manchukuo, the world can be
in peace.” The flags shown are, right to
left; the “Five Races Under One Union” flag
of China; the flag of Japan; and the flag of
As with Reisen from the time period from
formation until April 1, 1942, some photos
show aircraft with blue and white tail stripes, with edging in a darker color, like the
The tail stripes were also hand painted
using a brush, so the comments above for
fuselage bands in general also apply.
But Confucianism originated in China, so
I still wanted to find a stronger connection to Japan and/or the Japanese military.
I finally found this reference to what I was
looking for, “Bushidō, 武士道 = Code of the
Warrior - The warrior code was influenced
by Confucianism, Zen Buddhism and Shintō. Confucianism engendered filial piety
Fuselage Band Colors
The initial Chūtai colors for Tainan Kōkūtai
upon its formation are as follows. Changes to
these colors as the Tainan Kōkūtai underwent
its many changes are described in more detail under the tail code section of the article.
different from another as human fingerprints are. The angle of the band varied as
well as the width from aircraft to aircraft.
The width sometimes varied within a band
on a single aircraft. It is not uncommon to
see brush strokes in photos of wreckage
with weathered fuselage bands, but this
was likely not the case when the aircraft
were still in service.