- Published on Tuesday, 24 January 2012 00:01 Robin Jenkins
Japanese Experimental Transport Aircraft of the Pacific war
Published by Stratus
Available from MMP Books for £29.99
Hardback 248 Pages Illustrated 30.2 x 21.7 x 2.2 cm
As regular readers will know, I have a more-than-passing interest in the Pacific War, particularly the naval vessels and aircraft used by the Japanese in that conflict. When I learned, however, that Mushroom was to publish a book on Japanese transport aircraft used and under development for the theatre, I had to sit back and think. I very quickly realised that, despite my long standing interest, I knew almost nothing about the aircraft the Japanese actually used as transports, nor how they were used. Only one incident will loom large in most modeller's minds – the converted G4M "Betty" bomber that was used as a personal transport by the Commander-in-Chief of the Combined Fleet, Admiral Yamamoto, an aircraft in which he was shot down and killed in April 1943. But, beyond that, very little...
So, Giuseppe Picarella, a well-known aviation writer and Japanese aviation consultant to the RAF Museum (Hendon), has collected together a wealth of detail, historical events, developmental processes and rare photographs to publish what is, to my knowledge, the first authoritative book on the subject.
The book basically falls into five sections: after the introduction, there is an initial overview split into Army and Navy transport aircraft along with a fascinating section on paratroop and special forces operations; next there are major sections on experimental army and navy transport aircraft; Japanese assault and transport gliders, both those in service and experimental types are the next topic addressed, again an area I previously knew nothing about; the transport of the Japanese surrender delegation in 1945 has its own section; and the book then concludes with a group of shorter chapters on post-war aircraft in allied hands, including test flights, surviving aircraft and a photo album section. A pair of appendices looks at each operational type of the army and navy in more detail.
The depth and thoroughness of the research is of the highest calibre and I found Picarella's style easy to read and get involved with. As mentioned, I found the chapters on paratroop operations and gliders of the greatest interest, mainly because of my lack of knowledge. It is was also interesting to note that, just as modellers and historians we have neglected the transport aircraft area, so did Japan itself and the author draws the effects this had on the nation's wartime efforts and operations really well.
As usual, I will now give a series of photographs of some of the content so that the reader can gain a flavour for this excellent volume. Firstly, there is a spread from the paratroop and special forces section, with mock-ups of B-29 Superfortresses along with a profile of a Mitsubishi Ki-21 'Sally' aircraft; (below)
Plans and a photo of the Kokusai Ki-105 'Buzzard', an aircraft in development that could have been the inspiration for the successful post-war Fairchild C-119 Flying Boxcar transport aircraft (above); a selection of photos of the specially marked white Mitsubishi G4M 'Betty' bombers used in the transport of the surrender delegation (below);
post-war aircraft in use, including a Ki-54c 'Hickory' and L2D3 'Tabby' transports, the latter being based on the American DC-3 (above); and, finally, some excellent colour shots of a burnt-out 'Tabby' taken recently at Yap Airport in the West Caroline Islands (below);
I have no doubt as to the quality of this book – it literally leaps off the pages at you. My only comment would be that, because of the subject matter, it may not have as wide an audience as some of the other excellent MMP books published recently. That being said, I found it an excellent read and a good reference for many aircraft types. It is a little more expensive as well, but totally in line price-wise with other 250 page hardback references.
So What Do We Think?
An eye-opening read on a much neglected subject. If you have any interest at all in Japanese aviation, this should be high on your shopping list.
Our thanks to MMP Books for the review copy. To purchase directly, click THIS link.