Book Review: “Fighters Over Japan, Part 1” by Tomasz Szlagor and Leszek A. Wieliczko

Published in 2007 by Kagero as part of its Topcolors series, this softcover book has 34 pages and 24 color profiles. With decals and vinyl masks included, this book was clearly written with the modeler in mind. The three pages of text provides a brief overview of the markings used by the Mustangs of the Iwo Jima VLR Fighter Groups and the 5th Air Force’s 348th Fighter Group, the P-47N Thunderbolts of the 314th, 318th, 413th, 414th, and 507th Fighter Groups, and fighters of the Japanese Army Air Force’s Homeland Defense forces (Ki-44s, Ki-46, Ki-61s, and Ki-84s).

What the book lacks in meaningful text describing the air war over Japan in the last few months of the Pacific War, is made up in the fantastic color aircraft profiles by artist Janusz Swaitlon.

Janusz Swaitlon
Janusz Swaitlon

The 24 color profiles in the book cover the following aircraft:

Kawasaki Ki-61-I Tei Hien (Tony), “24”, Serial Number 4424, flown by Taii Teruhiko Kobayashi of the 244th Sentai.

Kawasaki Ki-61-I Tei Hien (Tony), “24”, Serial Number 4424, flown by Taii Teruhiko Kobayashi of the 244th Sentai.

Kawasaki Ki-61-I Hei Hien (Tony), “88”, Serial Number unknown, flown by Taii Fumisuke Shono of the 244th Sentai. Upper and lower surface views of the aircraft are also provided.

Kawasaki Ki-61-I Hei Hien (Tony), “83”, Serial Number unknown, flown by Chui Mitsuo Oyake of the 2nd Chutai, 18th Sentai. Upper and lower surface views of the aircraft are also provided (decals included).

Kawasaki Ki-61-I Tei Hien (Tony), “732”, Serial Number probably 4732, flown by Shosa Haruyoshi Furukawa of the 56th Sentai.

Mitsubishi Ki-46-III Otsu Hei (Dinah), “24”, of the 16th Dokuritsu Chutai.

Nakajima Ki-44-II Otsu Shoki (Tojo), “35”, Serial Number 1435, flown by Taii Yasuro Masaki of the 47th Sentai. Upper and lower surface views of the aircraft are also provided.

Nakajima Ki-44-II Ko Shoki (Tojo), “19”, Serial Number unknown, flown by Taii Teiichi Hatano of the 3rd Chutai, 47th Sentai.

Nakajima Ki-44-II Hei Shoki (Tojo), “321”, Serial Number unknown, flown by Chui Kiyonori Sano of the 3rd Chutai, 246th Sentai (decals included).

Nakajima Ki-84 Ko Hayate (Frank), “69”, Serial Number unknown, flown by Taii Teichi Hatano of the 3rd Chutai, 47th Sentai. Upper and lower surface views of the aircraft are also provided.

Nakajima Ki-84 Hayate (Frank), “63”, Serial Number 84063, flown by Taii Yasuro Masaki of the 47th Sentai.

Nakajima Ki-84 Ko Hayate (Frank), “715”, Serial Number 1715, flown by Taii Tadao Ikeda of the 51st Sentai.

Republic P-47N Thunderbolt, 02 “Icky and Me”, flown by Lt. Jack Payne of 333rd FS, 318th FG, 7th AF (decals included).

Republic P-47N-1-RE Thunderbolt, Serial Number 44-88020, 32 “Red-E Ruth” of the 19th FS, 318th FG, 7th AF.

Republic P-47N-1-RE Thunderbolt, 93 “Sack Happy”, flown by Robert Redfield of the 73rd FS, 318 FG, 7th AF.

Republic P-47N-1-RE Thunderbolt, Serial Number 44-88707, 713 “Lady Leota” of the 437th FS, 414th FG, 7th AF.

Republic P-47N-2-RE Thunderbolt, 119 “Chautauqua”, flown by Lt. Victor Schmidt of the 463rd FS, 507th FG, 20th AF. Upper and lower surface views of the aircraft are also provided.

North American P-51D-20-NA Mustang, Serial Number 44-63483, 67 “Stinger VII”, flown by Maj. Robert W. Moore of the 45th FS, 15th FG, 7th AF. Upper and lower surface views of the aircraft are also provided (decals included).

North American P-51D-20-NA Mustang, Serial Number 4463984, 101 “Margaret IV”, flown by Maj. James B. Tapp of the 78th FS, 15th FG, 7th AF (decals included).

North American P-51D-20-NA Mustang, Serial Number 44-72607, 550 “Madam Wham-Dam”, flown by Maj. Harrison E. Shipman of the 458th FS, 506th FG, 7th AF.

North American P-51D-20-NA Mustang, Serial Number 44-72620, 640 “The Shawnee Princess/Empire Commuter”, flown by Cap. Stanley C. Zagorsky and 1st Lt. Charles F. Seale of the 462nd FS, 506th FG, 7th AF (decals included).

North American P-51K-10-NT Mustang, Serial Number 44-12017, “Mrs. Bonnie”, flown by Lt. Col. William D. Dunham of the 348th FG, 5th AF.

North American P-51D-20-NA Mustang, Serial Number 44-63532, 210 “Little “Angel” The 104” of the 46th FS, 21st FG, 7th AF (decals included).

North American P-51D-20-NA Mustang, Serial Number 44-63423, 15 “Squirt”, flown by Col. James O. Beckwith, CO of the 15th FG, 7th AF (decals included).

As indicated above, a very nice decal sheet is included which provides decals in 1/32nd, 1/48th, and 1/72nd scales. As an added bonus, it includes numbers in 1/32nd and 1/48th scale for the serial numbers on the American planes. Nice touch on Kagero’s part.

The decal sheet is not without its errors and omissions. First, Major Moore’s 67 “Stinger VII” had the name on both sides of the nose, and decals are only provided for one side. The same omission is made for Major Tapp’s 101 “Margaret IV”. In addition, there is not an outer blue ring around 78th FS Bushmaster squadron emblem, and Kagero provides smaller 101 decals for the landing gear doors, but none of the photos that I have of Major Tapp’s 101 “Margaret IV” show that the number was applied to the landing gear doors.

The other errors are on the decals for Captain Zagorsky and Lieutenant Seale’s 640 “The Shawnee Princess/Empire Commuter”. Below is most recognizable photo of the plane that has appeared in several books over the years.

Loomis Dean/USAAF/National Archives via Fold3

Captain Zagorsky named the plane “The Shawnee Princess” which appeared on the left side of the nose. 1st Lieutenant Seale named the plane “Empire Commuter” which appeared on the right side of the nose. Kagero left out the name “Empire Commuter” on their decal sheet.

Cpl. Sheetz (armorer), Cpl. Riley (radioman), 1st Lt. Seale (pilot), Capt. Zagorsky (pilot), and Sgt. Jackson (crew chief) (506th Fighter Group)
1st Lt. Seale and Sgt. Jackson (506th Fighter Group)

The other errors in the decals are in the kill and mission markings. The decals provide kill markings for eight Japanese aircraft, yet neither Capt. Zagorsky or 1st Lt. Seale were given credit for any aerial victories. The error in the mission markings is in the second row. Kagero’s decals show those as locomotives indicating that either Capt. Zagorsky and/or 1st Lt. Seale destroyed two locomotives. However, the actual mission symbols are a bomb above a machine gun as shown in the photo below. These are symbols for strike missions, most likely for strike missions against the Japanese held island of Chichi Jima as the 506th FG participated in several of those missions. “The Shawnee Princess/Empire Commuter” was lost on July 13, 1945, during an attack on Japanese ground installations on Chichi Jima. 1st Lt. Seale successfully bailed out over the sea and was rescued.

1st Lt. Charles F. Seale (506th Fighter Group)

This book is no longer in print, but copies can still be purchased on Amazon at inflated prices. The lack of any text on the air war over the Japanese Home Islands does not make this a very desirable book for the historian. Are the stunning color aircraft profiles by Janusz Swaitlon enough to make up for this deficiency at an inflated price? If you are interested in purchasing the book, that is the question you will be asking yourself.

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