Friday, February 04, 2005

Historic photos

I have scanned and posted a few pictures from an envelope full of photos I found in the estate of a friend-of-a-friend, a WWII veteran who passed away several years ago. They show his experiences in the Pacific theatre: his trip across, including an attack on his ship by Japanese aircraft; his base, a B-24 bomber group, from the air and from the ground; and a few faded Kodachrome shots of the jungle and a boat trip around the atoll.

Also of interest to an aviation buff are some pictures of a few downed Japanese aircraft on the base. The U.S. never had very good intelligence on the Japanese aircraft industry until late in the war, so any intact specimens were studied carefully and a matter of security; a blackboard in one of the shots is marked "confidential". Since the actual model designations were not known, each Japanese type was given a codename - the best known being "Zeke" for the Nakajima Zero fighter. Some of these photos show the cockpit of a G4M "Betty" bomber, and a crashlanded D4Y "Judy" naval torpedo bomber.

I've been trying to date the photos, and locate the base. The fact that the bombers are B-24s suggests that it was before the introduction of the larger B-29s in the latter part of 1944; and the nose turret and unpainted finish marks them as late-production models. The tails have horizontal stripes, which may be a clue as to the unit. Also in the aerial photo is a P-47 "Thunderbolt" fighter; these were replaced by Mustangs later in the war, although this lone example may be a holdout.

The D4Y "Judy" type was introduced in 1943, and was rare for a Japanese aircraft in having a liquid-cooled engine; later versions were equipped with the rounder, blunter air-cooled radial engines that were more easily produced and maintained. This example had the liquid-cooled engine, very similar in design to the German inverted-vee Daimler-Benz. So my best guess for this little date-puzzle is sometime between 1943 and 1944.

There are two other items in the packet that are more personal, and serious, than mere historic interest and planespotting. One is a black-and-white negative of a woman and a small child on a tricycle; possibly his family back home. I will try to make a positive print of this one. The other is a murky picture of a cave entrance, strewn with damaged gear, and showing the bodies of several Japanese soldiers who were presumably killed when the island base was captured. I won't post that one, out of respect for those soldiers and their families.