Book Review
Japanese Army Fighters 1942-44
Pacific Profiles. Volume One: Japanese Army Fighters New Guinea & the Solomons 1942-1944
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by: Frederick Boucher [ JPTRR ]

Wanna start a debate? Ask another modeler about ”the true color of… .” Wanna start a fight? Debate the colors and markings of Imperial Japan.

Unfamiliarity with Japanese language and culture led to misidentification of Japanese companies and weapon systems, which led to subsequent assignment of westernized code names; today modelers and historians struggle with common definitions and translations. This is exacerbated by a dearth of archival material. Fortunately, survivors of the era are emerging with a growing amount of surviving original documents and relics. An increasing cadre of modelers and researchers educated in Japanese language and culture, and privy to these resources are establishing a more homogeneous agreement of the subject. Japanese warplane camouflage and markings have fascinated and frustrated modelers and historians since the 1950s. This volume by a world-renown expert on wartime Japanese aviation corrects longstanding errors perpetuated for decades. It covers all known Japanese Army Air Force (JAAF) fighter units operating in New Guinea and the Solomons from 1942-44, and features original color illustrations.

Pacific Profiles. Volume One: Japanese Army Fighters New Guinea & the Solomons 1942-1944 is a new title from Avonmore Books, which specializes in high-quality printing of titles focusing on the early part of the Pacific War. It is authored and illustrated by world-renowned wartime Japanese aviation expert and former diplomat Michael Claringbould, who was raised in Port Moresby. The 104-page book is catalogued with ISBN 9780648665915, and full of full color illustrations in its 250 x 176mm format.

    The Pacific Profiles series presents the most accurate WWII aircraft profiles to date of Japanese aircraft in the "South Seas" theatre.

    Volume One illustrates, by unit, Japanese Army Air Force fighter aircraft operating in New Guinea and the Solomons from December 1942 to April 1944. In this theatre numerous different aircraft types and their variants were assigned to eleven fighter regiments which eventually formed the 4th Air Army. Unit insignia, camouflage and command markings varied from unit to unit, giving a wide variety of colour and markings. The profiles, based on photos, Japanese documents, Allied intelligence reports and post-war wreck investigations, are accompanied by brief histories of each relevant unit and explanations of their role in the theatre.

This book not only reasons with modern research and newly obtained original sources, it also explores the history of interpreting JAAF colors and markings in art, history, and modeling.

Pacific Profiles. Volume One: Japanese Army Fighters New Guinea & the Solomons 1942-1944 is presented through 104 pages with 16 chapters:
    About the Author
      1. The JAAF in the South Pacific - An Overview
      2. Technical Notes
      3. Notes on Markings
      4. The 1st Hiko Sentai
      5. The 11th Hiko Sentai
      6. The 13th Sentai [sic]
      7. The 24th Hiko Sentai
      8. The 33rd Hiko Sentai
      9. The 59th Hiko Sentai
      10. The 63rd Hiko Sentai
      11. The 68th Hiko Sentai
      12. The 77th Hiko Sentai
      13. The 78th Hiko Sentai
      14. The 248th Hiko Sentai
      15. Captured and Restored Aircraft
      16. Postscript
    Sources & Acknowledgements
    Index of Names

The seeds for Author Claringbould starting this work were planted in 1976 when, "...an irritable priest at Alexishafen, on New Guinea's north coast, reluctantly allowed me to scour and photograph Japanese aircraft wrecks on the mission's land," where he found a Ki-43-II. "Curiosity caused me to start collecting all material on this arcane subject, but it was frustrating. Few publications, including Japanese-language ones, agreed on interpretations..." Thus he began decades of research to learn and clarify. He discusses the problems with research due to the Japanese Army's style of nomenclature, their widespread destruction of documents at the end of the war, lack of technicians well-versed in both English and Japanese aviation subjects, of flawed material propagated from one source to another, and numerous other obstacles to research. Indeed, Introduction, Technical Notes and Notes on Markings take up almost a tenth of the content, exploring, explaining and clarifying subjects such as the widely used nomenclature of aircraft model types ko, otsu, and hei. That is important to understand as Allied intel reports had a challenging time properly identifying the versions and variants of an JAAF aircraft.

The author includes and defines various Japanese terms, i.e., hokoku, romanji. He also notes uncommon weapons like the Ta-dan.

Technical Notes includes information published by Allied technical intelligence teams concerning the aircraft captured. Fighter types operated over New Guinea and the Solomons are introduced and described in operational and technical detail:
  • Ki-43-I Hayabusa
  • Ki-43-II Hayabusa
  • Ki-45 Toryu
  • Ki-61 Hien
Details include armament and aircraft modifications, variant manufacture numbers, and which Sentai used them.

Notes on Markings presents the complex and confusing manner which brought forth the unit tactical insignias and markings. Even an Allied technical intelligence report remarked upon this. It is essential to understand this chapter to avoid becoming ignorantly dogmatic.

The meat of this book is 80 pages detailing the 11 Hiko Sentai histories, with artwork. These chapters begin with an overview of the sentai history, and then examines and discusses markings and airframe finishes. Attrition in some sentai required supplementing or re-equipping the unit with different aircraft types. The text is reinforced with photographs and an excellent section of color profiles, with descriptions of colors and markings, and even three-way profiles. Many of the photographs scream to be reproduced as a diorama!

When credible information is known, the author recounts unique aspects of a unit and their aircraft:
  • Whether an aircraft was camouflaged with a brush.
  • Solid or broken camouflage patterns.
  • Number of machine gun or cannon rounds expended during a particular time.
  • Names of pilots.
  • Named aircraft, both JAAF and Allied.
  • Specific aircraft captured.

Particularly interesting chapters include the 13th Hiko Sentai, an 'enigmatic' unit with a complicated history that arrived with Ki-45s mounting experimental armaments, and the 24th Hiko Sentai with blue aircraft.

Postscript is a single page describing the fate of the 6th Hikoshidan and the poignant post-war summary of JAAF's Southern Area fate as quoted from Chief of Staff, 18th Army.

This volume presents a great amount of information and detail about the JAAF fighter in the South Pacific. This information, plus photographs and artwork, should inspire modelers and historians. I found only one typo, the incomplete unit designation of Chapter 6 in the table of contents.

Photographs, Artwork, Graphics
Captions and narratives of these aircraft include details of a photograph's source, e.g., publicity photo, during a low-level strike, inspection by Allied intelligence. Available known information is included such as the pilot, aircraft manufacturer number, and where the aircraft was found. Unique characteristics of a marking are often magnified and included in set-off boxes within a parent photo.

While most of the photographs are black-and-white, several color photos (wartime and contemporary) of captured JAAF aircraft, relics, and artifacts enrich the gallery. These include a recovered stabilizer with a unique blue camouflage (reproduced as color Profile 21).


Mr. Claringbould enhances the text and photographic support with his original artwork. He focuses on markings, colors, replicating the camouflage, identifying colors.

1. 1st Hiko Sentai:
    a. Profiles 1-5, Ki-43-Is.
    b. Three-way profile: Nakajima Ki-43-I Hayabusa, Hokoku 710, 1st Sentai, Commanding Officer Major Takeda Kinshiro, Vunakanau, January 1943
2. 11th Hiko Sentai: Profiles 6-10 of Ki-43-Is and a Ki-43-II.
3. 13th Hiko Sentai:
    a. Profiles 11-15 of Ki-45-Is.
    b. Profiles 16-20 of Ki-43-IIs.
4. 24th Hiko Sentai: Profiles 21-28 of Ki-43-IIs.
5. 33rd Hiko Sentai: Profiles 29-33 of Ki-43-IIs.
6. 59th Hiko Sentai:
    a. Profiles 34-38 with planforms of stabilizers, Ki-43-IIs.
    b. Three-way profile: Nakajima Ki-43 naka ki, MN 6010, 2nd Chutai with HQ bands, Capt. Nango Shigeo, Vunakanau, 23 January 1944
7. 63rd Hiko Sentai: Profiles 39-48, Ki-43-II, various variants.
8. 68th Hiko Sentai:
    a. Profiles 49-58, Ki-61, various variants.
    b. Design and evolution of 68th insignia.

9. 77th Hiko Sentai: Profiles 59-63, Ki-43-IIs.
10. 78th Hiko Sentai:
    a. Profiles 64-73, with stabilizer planform, Ki-43s and Ki-61s.
    b. Three-way profile: Ki-61-I-hei, 1st Chutai, Astrolabe Bay, 2 January 1944
11. 248th Hiko Sentai: Profiles 74-78, Ki-43-IIs.
12. Captured and Restored Aircraft: Profiles 79-82; three Ki-43-IIs; Ki-61-I-ko.


1. JAAF Fighter Deployments, New Guinea, January-July 1943: showing airbases and sentai based there.

2. JAAF Fighter Deployments, New Guinea, January-March 1944: showing airbases and listing the sentai based there.


1. Pacific Profiles Glossary: 45 names and terms.

2. JAAF Fighter Units, New Guinea Deployment Timelines showing the periods of each of the 11 units in this book.

Pacific Profiles, Volume One is a book modelers and students of the JAAF over New Guinea and the Solomons have been waiting for for quite some time. Avonmore Books and Mr. Claringbould present modern research and newly obtained original sources to explain the history of interpreting JAAF colors and markings. Valuable photographs including color photographs, and original artwork, enhance the deeply researched text.

I found only an insignificant typo and I consider this an essential title for modelers and students of the JAAF in the South Pacific. Highly recommended.

We thank Mr. Claringbould and Avonmore Books for providing this book for review. Please mention to them and retailers that you saw this book here - on Aeroscale.
Highs: Valuable photographic gallery including color photographs, and original artwork. Deeply researched text.
Lows: Insignificant typo.
Verdict: I consider this an essential title for modelers and students of the JAAF in the South Pacific. Highly recommended.
  Scale: N/A
  Mfg. ID: 9780648665915
  PUBLISHED: Oct 11, 2020
  NATIONALITY: Japan / 日本

Our Thanks to Avonmore Books!
This item was provided by them for the purpose of having it reviewed on this KitMaker Network site. If you would like your kit, book, or product reviewed, please contact us.

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About Frederick Boucher (JPTRR)

I'm a professional pilot with a degree in art. My first model was an AMT semi dump truck. Then Monogram's Lunar Lander right after the lunar landing. Next, Revell's 1/32 Bf-109G...cried havoc and released the dogs of modeling! My interests--if built before 1900, or after 1955, then I proba...

Copyright ©2021 text by Frederick Boucher [ JPTRR ]. Images also by copyright holder unless otherwise noted. Opinions expressed are those of the author(s) and not necessarily those of AeroScale. All rights reserved.


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