Air Raid Pearl Harbor…
This is easily the best known example of this important Japanese bomber. On December 7, 1941, Commander Mitsuo Fuchida flew this plane as commander of the Pearl Harbor attack force.
After the jump, a look at the lead plane of the major event.
The Pearl Harbor raid that started World War II for the United States is a complex and fascinating event. From the meticulous Japanese planning, to the bungled American response, to duplicitous diplomacy, to tragic heroics; there are so many excellent accounts and even plenty of controversy to make this a very involved area of study. The most classic account would be “At Dawn We Slept” by Gordon Prange. It is widely regarded as the best overview of the event. Many of the details have been hashed over since that book was published, but the basic narrative is sound. Honorable mention goes to “Day of Infamy” by Walter Lord; it may be the most easily readable account of the battle written, but it is brief.
The B5N “Kate” was the primary Japanese torpedo bomber in the first couple years of the war. For the Pearl Harbor raid, Kate’s carried two non-standard load outs. Many had torpedoes with extra wooden fins to keep them from running to their normal depth in the shallow harbor. But Cmdr Fuchida’s plane was armed with an 800 kg (1760 lb) armor piercing bomb that had been modified from a 14 inch battleship shell. This was done because the Japanese knew the American battleships were docked side by side, and torpedoes would not reach the inner row. And only torpedoes or very heavy special bombs would pose a real threat to well armored battleships.
As the command aircraft, it was this plane that sent the famous “Tora, Tora, Tora” signal back to the fleet indicating surprise had been achieved. The example shown here is from the Hasegawa kit, with Aeromaster decals. The tail markings are somewhat conjectural. The plane was known to have an all red tail with yellow stripes during training leading up to the raid. And by the time of its loss at the Battle of Midway the markings had been removed. Fuchida’s own account says the markings had been removed from the horizontal surfaces, but remained on the vertical, at the time of the Pearl Harbor attack. So that’s what I’ve shown here. But no photographs exist of this interim marking.
After Pearl Harbor Fuchida would continue as the air group commander on the carrier Akagi until the Battle of Midway, where the ship was lost and he was injured. After recovery, he spent the remainder of the war in a variety of staff positions. Fuchida’s personal story is even more interesting after the war than during. He was furious after the war crimes trials of Japanese post-war, and set out on a personal mission to expose American atrocities. But was shocked to discover Japanese prisoners returning home reported only good treatment from their captors. This caused a complete shake up of his world view. Mitsuo Fuchida was born again in 1949, and became a missionary to the United States. He died in 1976 at age 73.
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