the Boeing YB-40 bomber escort (via)
“In a way, the P-61 was unofficially credited with the last Allied air kill of World War 2. Unofficial in that the enemy aircraft - a Japanese Nakajima Ki-44 - was reportedly in evasive maneuvers after having encountered an American P-61, its guns blazing on the Nakajima fighter.
The enemy fighter flew defensively just feet above the waves and eventually crashed itself along the surface of the ocean, ending the life of the pilot and his mount in a fiery explosion. The P-61 in question was a P-61B-2 aptly-named “Lady in the Dark” and under the control of Lieutenant Robert W. Clyde. The event occurred sometime between August 14th and 15th. If credited, the kill would have been accomplished without a single shot being fired..” (via)
more next week.
the Douglas B-18 Bolo, circa 1938
The ramming unit of the 4th Sentai
As the raids over Japan continued, Special Attack sections were formed within some fighter units, with the sole purpose of air-to-air ramming of B-29s. The art on the nose depicts the silhouette of a B-29, and tearing through one of the wings is the unit’s name: “Kaiten Tai”, which translates to “quaking the heavens”
Although these men expected to die, nothing was certain in war. In February 1945, the Japanese military ordered all pilots to sew flags on their suits after an incident which saw a critically burned airman - who parachuted to earth and was unable to speak - beaten to death by a mob.
B-29 Mission 58 - on April 7th 1945 - was the first to be accompanied by a fighter escort. The recent capture of Okinawa and Iwo Jima enabled long-range fighters to be able to reach mainland Japan for the first time. This was a massive blow for the Japanese Home Defence.
The last recorded ramming attack took place on June 26th - Japanese fighter opposition was now very poor due to fuel and pilots shortages. From that date onwards, fighters were rarely encountered - the Japanese saving their aircraft for the anticipated invasion of their homeland…
The small Japanese flags denote claimed kills of Japanese aircraft from the gunners (note the six on one mission - 27th January 1945 to Tokyo).
the (even smaller) hearts next to the rabbits denote airmen wounded aboard the aircraft on that mission.
the Tupolev ANT-9 “Krokodil” propaganda aircraft, circa 1935