mass balanced ailerons (see Photo Nr. 16).
The Tainan Kōkūtai unit strength was quickly increased first by replacing 4th Kōkūtai
losses and purging the obsolete Type 96
Kansen. Then, by adding additional Reisen
Model 21 to increase the number of Chūtai.
The replacement Reisen that I have been
able to document have been new Mitsubishi-built, many with Hōkoku inscriptions.
All of the Model 21 Reisen used by Tainan
Kōkūtai had the early type blunt propeller
The Tainan Kōkūtai was the first unit to
receive the Reisen Model 32. Manufacture Numbers covered the range from 3012
(the first example built with all the features of the production Model 32) through
3032. These Manufacture Numbers were
consecutive, except for 3030 which was
missing, probably due to a defect which required time to repair. Manufacture Number
3030, later became the well-known Q-102
of 2nd Kōkūtai. These 20 Reisen, were the
only Model 32 assigned to Tainan Kōkūtai,
but the unit structure these were assigned
to suggests that the original plan was for
a total of 40 Model 32. The Model 32 became a disaster in service with the Tainan
Kōkūtai due to its reduced range. Just nine
days after receiving the Model 32, the US
Forces landed on Guadalcanal and captured the nearly completed airfield there.
The distance from Rabaul to Guadalcanal
was too far for the Model 32 to fly missions there and return. Instead, the Model 32
were sent to the airfield at Buna, New Guinea (See photo Nr. 17). Buna was too close
to the Allied airfields around Port Moresby, and in a matter of weeks many aircraft
were destroyed on the ground there. These
aircraft included at least 8 Model 32 and
2 G6M1-L transports from Tainan Kōkūtai.
Because of this poor debut, no further
Model 32 were delivered to Tainan Kōkūtai.
Hopefully this article helps to clear up
any confusion regarding the Tainan Kōkūtai markings. The markings and the colors were not some inexplicable random
mashup that could not be understood.
There was a fully developed unit structure
and marking pattern that was followed for
each Chūtai and Shōtai when applying the
fuselage bands, tail stripes, and tail codes.
Also, I hope that this article arms the reader with enough knowledge to recognize
when an illustration or decal sheet has
incorrectly represented the markings of
a Tainan Kōkūtai aircraft. And, if accuracy is something that matters to the reader,
that they can make the needed corrections
when building their model.
I don’t consider this research to have reached an end. After “Eagles of the Southern
Sky” was published, I continued researching Tainan Kōkūtai markings. Also, Luca
Ruffato was working on another book about
the early days of the war when the Japanese attacked New Britain and the surrounding areas. He was having trouble with the
markings of the 4th Kōkūtai fighters, so
I promised to help him by researching
those markings. Unfortunately, he passed
away shortly after that, but I continued researching 4th Kōkūtai markings anyway.
When the Tainan Ku arrived in Rabaul, they
took over the Reisen and much of the personnel of the 4th Kōkūtai. So, in the ten
years after the publication of Eagles of
the Southern Sky, I have learned so much
new material, as well as finding that some
of what was previously published was
I really enjoy the subject of Japanese aircraft, especially those Naval aircraft with
Hōkoku donor inscriptions and serving
with units in the South Pacific Theater. And
I enjoy sharing what I have learned through
my research with others in the hopes that
their interest in this subject will increase
as well. My dream is that one day Japanese aircraft will be as well represented on
the tables at models shows, as those from
other countries are.
(1) The author is an Associate Editor and performed
the research on Tainan Kōkūtai markings for “Eagles of the Southern Sky: The Tainan Air Group in
WWII Volume One: New Guinea”, by Michael Claringbould and Luca Ruffato, October 17, 2012
(2) “First Eagles, 4th Kōkūtai Fighter Wing, New Guinea 1942”, by Michael Claringbould with Ed DeKiep,
(3) “Japanese Navy Zero Fighters (land based): New
Guinea and the Solomons 1942-1944 (Pacific Profiles Volume Five)”, by Michael Claringbould with Ed
DeKiep & Ryan Toews, October 29, 2021