Tail Stripes

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.

Colors Used

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

worship.” (5)

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

Manchukuo. (6)

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

fuselage bands.

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.

October 2022

INFO Eduard