Book Review
Ki-44 'Tojo' vs B-29
B-29 Superfortress vs Ki-44 ''Tojo'' Pacific Theater 1944–45
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by: Frederick Boucher [ JPTRR ]

B-29 Superfortress vs Ki-44 "Tojo", Pacific Theater 1944–45 is a new book from Osprey Publishing LTD. It is the 82nd title in Osprey's Duel series. Authored by Donald Nijboer and illustrated by Jim Laurier and Gareth Hector, it is 80 pages of content. It has Osprey's Short code of DUE 82 and the Paperback ISBN is 9781472818867. As Osprey describes this subject;
    By the time the Americans began their aerial bombardment of Japan in 1944, both the JAAF and IJNAF were spent forces. What the Japanese did have though was the Ki-44 "Tojo". Armed with two 40 mm cannon, it was the most heavily armed and feared single-seat fighter to see action against the new American bomber, the B-29 Superfortress. For the bomber crews, they had what they believed was their ‘ace in hole': a fully armed B-29 carried four remotely operated gun turrets and a tail gunner's position, making it the world's most advanced self-defending bomber.

    In every respect the Ki-44 pilots were fighting a desperate battle. Many who made their mark did so using suicidal ramming attacks or "taiatari". Illustrated with full colour artwork, this volume examines why the Ki-44 was unable to break up bomber formations conventionally during the Pacific War, and how its ramming tactics, while terrifying, graphically revealed Japan's inability to stop the B-29.

Named Shoki by the Japanese after a Taoist deity who could quell demons, the Army Type 2 single-seat fighter was demonized by Japanese pilots of traditional designs for Shoki’s high wing loading and lack of dogfighting maneuverability; in fact the Japanese restricted its use to pilots with a minimum of 1,000 flight hours! Eventually Japanese leaders realized that less experienced pilots could handle the Army Type 2, and they could employ it successfully in slashing hit-and-run tactics that caught Allied pilots by surprise. The later crop of fighter pilots came to appreciate the Type 2’s racing speed, rocketing climb, blazing dive, pulverizing armament, steady gunnery, whirling rate of roll, and ability to take battle damage. Those who could handle Shoki could employ these qualities well. With its powerful 1250 hp Nakajima Ha-41 engine (later the 1520 hp Ha-109) Shoki was one of the few Japanese designs that could threaten the great B-29 Superfortress.

In fact, "Tojo" was maneuverable by Western standards. Ki-44 was equipped with ‘butterfly flaps’ for dogfighting. After first encountering "Tojos" in a P-51A Mustang, veteran ace ‘Tex’ Hill reported to Gen. Chennault, “I don’t think we can beat these new Japs in the air.” The Shoki pilots of the 85th Sentai were not impressed with the first Mustangs either, noting a P-51 kill was like taking candy from a child, and the P-51 was no better than the P-40 but with less firepower! Over Burma RAF No 136 pilots flying the Spitfire VIII found them challenging in a dogfight and with equivalent performance: Flt Sgt Cross wrote: Having dived from a great height, my IAS (Indicated Air Speed) was 320-340 mph, so I swung around and climbed…I was followed by four bandits who kept up with me very well until I was forced to flatten out at 18,000 ft and fly level, weaving violently. US Navy Hellcat pilots approaching the Philippines in 1944 were warned about the 'Tojo', believing it was ‘an anti-Hellcat fighter.’ Indeed, dogfights between Shokis and Hellcats suggested two very well matched fighters. Over China Shoki units gave P-40 units serious problems, and did well against modern Allied fighters. Shokis battled over Burma, attacked over India, defended Sumatra and Borneo and the Philippines, menaced over China, and stood guard against the Soviets. Then came the B-29.

Boeing’s big bomber cruised faster and higher than many Japanese fighters could contend with. Indeed, even Shoki’s powerful Ha-109 had trouble clawing up to the bomber’s altitude in time to make an attack, and when it did pull those stubby wings up into the thin air, the airfoils were on the verge of stalling. Ki-44s attacked Superfortresses day and night, with machine guns and aerial bombs, flinging themselves headlong into the big bombers – literally. Shoki pilots often resorted to ramming attacks. Occasionally the pilots would live. Shokis also attacked with the derided Ho-301 40 mm anti-bomber cannon, a unique weapon that fired a caseless rocket propelled warhead. The weapon had a low muzzle velocity, short range, slow rate of fire and only 10 rounds per gun. This weapon was used before the introduction of the B-29, arming "Tojos" in Burma, the East Indies, and everywhere enemy bombers were found. It was a useless weapon against fighters and could be replaced by machine guns when fighter-vs-fighter operations were planned.

B-29 Superfortress vs Ki-44 "Tojo" Pacific Theater 1944–45 is 80 pages in length and told through nine chapters with supporting sections:
    Design and Development
    Technical Specifications
    The Strategic Situation
    The Combatants
    Statistics and Analysis
    Further Reading

The difficulties of operating and fighting in, and against, the Superfortress leaves quite an impression. Introduction and Chronology covers the initial history of these two aerial protagonists, and especially the horrible gestation of the B-29. B-29's heart, the Wright R-3350, had a very flawed development, failing as well as bursting into flame with a disturbing frequency that would have embarrassed Germany's He 177. Technical Specifications covers the engines and weaponry, as well as other aspects of aircraft design for both airplanes. One of B-29's revolutionary systems was CFC (Central Fire Control) for four remote control gun turrets. The Strategic Situation looks at Japan's accelerating loss of conquest and their defending air force, and the subsequent defense of the home islands. The Combatants explores the training and experience of the airmen who crewed the B-29s and Ki-44s. Flight training hours are presented as well as Japanese shortages forcing the diluting of aviation fuel with alcohol. Two ace airmen are profiled, Sgt John Quinlan and Warrant Officer Makoto Ogawa.

Those six chapters comprise the first 51 pages of the book.

Combat brings all of the above together. It begins with the challenge of the jet stream over Japan, the first IJAAF fighter attack on a B-29, B-29 missions, and the ramming tactic. Japanese tactics and Japanese assessments of how their fighters compared for attacking B-29s are remarked upon (with some surprises). Mentioned is the problematic handling of Japanese fighters at the altitudes that B-29s flew. Missions are recounted as are the challenges for both B-29 crews and Ki-44 pilots in trying to attack or defend. There are some first-hand accounts by USAAF aircrewmen but none from the Japanese.

B-29 tactics are discussed including the change from day to night attacks, high altitude to low, and the introduction of USAAF escort fighters. An overview of the bombing campaign and some specific raids are discussed.

Statistics and Analysis and Aftermath looks at the effectiveness of the two aircraft as well as considering the losses - claimed verses verified. It also recalls the post-war careers of the Shoki and Superfort: Ki-44 impressed into both the Communist Chinese and Nationalist Chinese Air Force , and probably into other Southeast Asian air forces; B-29 became the foundation of Strategic Air Command and also dropped conventional bombs in Korea, were its CFC dueled with MiG jet fighters.

Photographs, Artwork, and Graphics
Osprey's gallery of photographs spans the gamut from studio quality to crude exposures. The images include aircraft, pilots, equipment, and operational scenes. Most photos are black-and-white although there are six original color photos of B-29s or crew, including an olive drab and gray aircraft, and a Japanese airfield after the surrender. While not photos, two USAAF posters addressing head-on attacks and Ki-44 identification are included. A B-29 flight manual cutaway of the R-3350 turbosupercharger is also included.

Artists Jim Laurier and Gareth Hector have created several original color illustrations:

1. Engaging the Enemy: cockpit view of a Tojo attacking a B-29 from 11 O'clock high

2. Centerfold Combat Scene: Irish Lassie under determined attack by a gaggle of Shokies

3. Diagram of Ki-44 unit tactics to intercept and attack a flight of B-29s

4. Ki-44-II Cockpit keyed to 51 components

5. B-29 Superfortress Cockpit keyed to 45 components

6. Map B-29 effective range

7. Ki-44-II Ko Cowling/Wing Guns: planform with armament cutaways

8. B-29 Superfortress Fields-of-Fire diagram

9. B-29 GE Turret cutaway

10. Ki-44-II Hei Shoki of WO Makoto Ogawa, 70th Hiko Sentai, 3-view

11. B-29 Superfortress 3-view


JAAF Ki-44 B-29 Killers: Pilot; Unit; Kills

B-29 Superfortress vs Ki-44 "Tojo", Pacific Theater 1944–45 impresses me because I am an enthusiast of the Ki-44. Modelers seem to focus on the Shokies used in defense of the Japanese mainland and thus there is great interest in just how well the Ki-44 and B-29 matched up. It also explains the systemic difficulties for the Japanese air forces in defense of Japan.

I find the text easy to follow, detailed and compelling. It is enhanced by first-hand quotes by aircrew. That text is supported with an impressive gallery of photographs and graphics, plus original artwork. The artwork is excellent and modelers should appreciate it.

Presumably there is a dearth of first-hand accounts by surviving Ki-44 pilots as well as Ki-44 flight manual data. Thus it is difficult for me to find anything to complain about.

As a detailed examination of the various aspects of the two aircraft, I think this book is a good examination of Ki-44 combat against the B-29. Happily recommended.

Please remember tho mention to Osprey and retailers that you saw this book here - on Aeroscale.
Highs: Detailed, compelling text enhanced by first-hand quotes by aircrew. That text is supported with an impressive gallery of photographs and graphics, plus original artwork.
Lows: De minimis.
Verdict: As a detailed examination of the various aspects of the two aircraft, I think this book is a good examination of Ki-44 combat against the B-29.
  Scale: N/A
  Mfg. ID: 9781472818867
  Related Link: Ki-44 ‘Tojo” Aces of World War
  PUBLISHED: Dec 09, 2017
  NATIONALITY: Japan / 日本

Our Thanks to Osprey Publishing!
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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