imperial japanese army air force

The Japanese painted a decoy B-29 with a 300-foot wingspread, so scaled that it appears to be flying at several thousand feet, on the Tien Ho airfield in China on March 9, 1945. From a great altitude the decoy gives the illusion of a B-29 in flight with flames streaming from its port inboard engine. The Japanese figured other allied planes would drop down to assist and become targets for the heavy concentration of flak and AA they had set up in the area.


The image is of the captured p-51 fighter “Evalina”. I believe it was captured over China by the IJA. 

“I had such confidence with this P-51 that I feared no Japanese fighters.” 

-Yasuhiko Kuroe

The Japanese’s impression of the Mustang was that it was an excellent all-round aircraft with no major fault and excellent equipment. The absence of oil leaks was surprising to most, as all Japanese engines leaked to some extent. Several pilots were invited to fly the fighter. Among them was Yohei Hinoki, one of the first to shoot down a Mustang in November 1943. (A few days later, he himself was shot down by a Mustang and lost a leg. Eventually returning to combat with an artificial leg, he ended the war with a dozen victories): 


Major Yohei Hinoki, ace of the 64th Sentai, here with his Nakajima Ki-43 Hayabusa (“Peregrine Falcon”). Over the course of his Army Air Force career, Hinoki flew over Malaya, Singapore, China, Burma, and over the home islands leading up to the end of the war.

He was claimed as a probable kill twice by enemy pilots, first over China where he flew against the 3rd AVG (American Volunteer Group) Squardon, flying P-40 Warhawks. He was wounded in his left arm and buttocks during the fight, and his parachute harness saved him from a .50 caliber round that would have lodged into his back. Despite these injuries, and the extensive damage to his plane, Hinoki managed to make the two hour flight back to an air base in Thailand, his fuel tank empty by the time he arrived. He was hospitalized for a month before returning to combat.

The second time was over Burma, during an intense fight with the US 311th  Fighter-Bomber Group. Hinoki claimed a P-51, P-38, B-24 Liberator, and a second Liberator as probable, but was hit in the leg by a .50 caliber round fired from US ace Robert F. Mulhollem’s P-51. However, Hinoki managed to escape and land successfully, though his leg had to be amputated shortly after and he spent many months at the base hospital healing so that he might survive the trip back to Japan. 

Later he was outfitted with an artificial leg, and became an instructor at the Akeno Fighter School, yet he still remained active in combat, defending mainland Japan from B-29s and their escorts, and during his last major combat mission shot down Captain John W. Benbow and his P-51 over Ise Bay. 

It is estimated that in all, Yohei Hinoki downed twelve or more enemy aircraft, and his experience with the Hayabusa proved that, with skilled pilots, a lightly armed fighter could match the tougher Hurricanes, Lightnings, and Mustangs and bring down the heavy B-24 Liberator bombers. 

He passed away in January, 1991.


Yohei Hinoki, talking about the Ki-43 and the fight over Burma that took his leg. 

I was flying over the industrial area of northern Kyushu. The unit commander gave the order “Enemy planes invading an important area! Every flight attack!” At the same time, ground searchlights in the area lit up the sky. 
Finally I sighted an enemy four engine bomber. I was scared! It was known that the B-29 was a huge plane, but when I saw my opponent  it was much larger than I had ever expected. There was no question that when compared with the B-17, the B-29 was indeed a “Superfortress”! The figure that appeared in the searchlight made me think of a great whale in the ocean. I was just astounded by its size.
—  First Lieutenant Isamu Kashiide’s first impression of the B-29 Superfortress 

The Nakajima Ki-43 Hayabusa (“Peregrine Falcon”) was a single-engine land-based tactical fighter used by the Imperial Japanese Army Air Force in World War II. The Allied reporting name was “Oscar”, but it was often called the “Army Zero” by American pilots for its side-view resemblance to the Mitsubishi A6M Zero that was flown by the Japanese Navy. Like the Japanese A6M Zero, the radial-engined Ki-43 was light and easy to fly and became legendary for its combat performance in East Asia in the early years of the war. It could outmaneuver any opponent, but did not have armor or self-sealing tanks, and its armament was poor until its final version, which was produced as late as 1945.Allied pilots often reported that the nimble Ki-43s were difficult targets but burned easily or broke apart with few hits. In spite of its drawbacks, the Ki-43 shot down more Allied aircraft than any other Japanese fighter and almost all the JAAF’S aces achieved most of their kills in it.