Japanese relics in from the ‘Cold’
by Peter Arnold
In addition to the reported Kingcobras from Russia’s Kuril Islands, Surrey based brothers Daniel and Kevin Hunt have now unpacked and revealed the Japanese and US elements of their recovery, comprising front fuselage and wing centre section of both a Nakajima Type 97 ‘Kate’ and an AM6 variant ‘Zero’, some major wing structure from an Nakajima Ki 43 Oscar, and substantial sections of a B-25 Mitchell bomber.
The B5N2 Nakajima Kate is a particularly exciting discovery. Whilst there are several examples of replica Kates, made from extended and heavily modified North American T-6 Harvards for the film ‘Tora Tora Tora’, current research indicates this to be the only example extant, short of underwater examples visible only to divers in New Guinea.
An initial study of data plates located on the Kate reveals confirmation that it is a B5N2 model on the undercarriage plate. A further plate from the fuselage indicates that ‘474’ is an important number on this airframe, possibly the tail number, and that the construction number is 5353c.
The significance of this unique find is perhaps brought home by the fact that on 7th December 1941, Commander Mitsuo Fuchida, as the aerial commander for the Hawaiian Operation at Pearl Harbour, flew in a B5N2 model Kate as observer/bombardier, and was also lead bombardier of the 49 Kates used as ‘level bombers’ in the first wave.
Japanese sources have indicated that 4 Kates and 1 Jill, remnants of the 553rd Kokutai, remained on the Kuriles when the unit was re-deployed southward. Hokuto Kokutai was activated on the 1st of October 1944 to continue ASW missions using these five remaining aircraft . On the 10th of August 1945, the four Kates bombed Lopatka Point on the tip of the Kamchatka Peninsula. Further Soviet bombing of Shumushu Island on 17th August, despite the Imperial announcement of the cease fire on the 15th August, resulted in retaliatory action, utilizing the Kates, on a Soviet Convoy and again on Lopatka Point.
The brothers hope that the unique Kate will attract the interest of a
US or Japanese museum / warbird organization that could undertake a full
reconstruction. (click photos to enlarge)