The Boeing P-26A “Peashooter” of the PAAC Part 1: A Color Analysis

P-26 transferred to PAAC
A Filipino PAAC pilot with a Boeing P-26A at Zablan Airfield in 1941 (Personal collection)

About 15 years ago I received a couple of emails from fellow scale modelers from all over asking me what are the “true and definitive colors”  of the Boeing P-26s that saw service with the Philippine Army Air Corps (PAAC) during World War II.  The phrase “true and definitive” was tough to answer and even today with all the references available to the public that phrase is still a little tricky because of the word “definitive”.  So what I did was to analyze every information (both public and private) that has landed on my lap and did my own analysis.  It may not answer the phrase in its absolute sense but it gives us an idea of how the PAAC  Peashooter looked.

P-26As were transferred to the PAAC (from the inventory of US Army Air Force) on July 1941. Twelve (12) were allotted to the PAAC but there are some transfer documents that accredit them with 14. The last two could be the two P-26As used by USAAC advisers flying out of Nichols and Nielson’s airfields while supervising the transition of the PAAC which was based in Zablan airfield.

Now in 1941, the P-26As were considered as obsolete in USAAF arsenal and a designation of a “Z” prefix was attached at the beginning. Thus the official designation should have been ZP-26A’s but this was never carried due to the fact that many of the pilots and US airmen referred to them as plainly P-26s or fondly “The Peashooter”. Now all obsolete a/c at that point in time were stripped of their color livery and were mostly in NMF finish. The cowling bands however retained a dark blue or blue finish or even the original squadron colors on the cowling. However, a few of the P-26As in 1941 still had their livery colors of Light Blue (Blue No. 23) with Yellow wings and tail planes. Squadron colors were designated on the cowl covers of the aircraft. Red (Red with Yellow) for the 3rd Pursuit Squadron, White for the 17th Pursuit Squadron, and Blue for the 20th Pursuit Squadron.  Aircraft transferred to the PAAC appear to have come from different squadrons.

Now on to the schemes: It was widely assumed (and believed) that the PAAC flew P-26As in camouflage colors. The colors were said to be the following:

A) Olive Drab with Medium Green over Neutral Grey
B ) Middle Stone and Dark Earth over Light Blue
C) Olive Drab and Earth over Neutral Grey
D) Olive Drab and Neutral Grey
E) US standard color schemes of Light Blue 23 fuselage and Yellow Wings with over painted US roundels and squadron markings.
F) Natural Metal Finish
G) Overall Light Grey finish.

Now for the explanations:
A, B and D – these two scheme stuck to the minds of most artist and scale modelers because of the profiles made by Hasegawa’s 1/32 P-26A (which by the way had wrong PAAC roundels) and of course Hobby Craft’s Philippine WWII P-26 that gave the same two options as above but this time with the correct PAAC roundel and with consultations with  leading Philippine aviation experts such as the late Capt. Alberto “Bert” Anido.

PAAC Hasegawa N0 2
A color profile of a PAAC Boeing P-26A that was included as a color options for the Hasegawa 1/32 P-26 Peashooter model kit. Notice that the PAAC diamond insignia is in the wrong color and position. (Hasegawa art work)
ww2philippinehc
The box artwork of Hobby Craft’s 1:48 “WWII Philippine P-26” which sports the correct PAAC diamond color in its proper six position placement. (Hobby Craft Artwork)
P-26 Painting over batangas
Filipino Artist Jun Amper’s painting of the engagement of the PAAC against Japanese bombers over Batangas on December 12, 1941. Notice that he depicts the P-26A in the two tone brown upper camo. (Jun Amper Artwork)
Whelan - Batangas engagement
Artist Brooks Whelan and his “Battle Over Batangas”. He also used the two tone camo color of Mid Stone and Dark Earth with Light Blue undersides. (Brooks Whelan Artwork)

However, as I was going over some of the documents of Bert, he wrote an article in Small Air Force Journal sometime in the 70’s and he clearly states that at “no time did the PAAC use P-26As in the Middle Stone and Earth colors” (of the so called two tone brown scheme).  So is it safe to say that this scheme is eliminated?  Hmmm, probably yes but I leave it up to the reader to decide.

As for the Olive Drab over Neutral Grey the USAAF has standardized this scheme on all aircraft of pursuit / attack nature. This explains the  P-40 B and E and the B-17Ds that arrived in the Philippines from the mainland (a few of the B-17Cs were still in NMF finish) have already sported this scheme. It was also customary for some of the US aircraft to have a few blotches of Medium Green (close to FS-34092) but it was not that evidently seen in the Philippine Islands in late 1941.

paacpilotswalkingp-26
PAAC pilots walking past Boeing P-26A Peashooters. Notice that the 2nd aircraft sports a two tone camo color with the demarcation line between the upper and lower surfaces. (Carl Mydans photo LIFE)

It was in high probability that the PAAC used stocks of OD and Medium green paint with their P-26s. The tone and hue varied depending on the primer or undercoat of the aircraft. Let’s say the P-26 used to carry the standard Light Blue 23 and Yellow wings then all of a sudden hastily applied with an overcoat of olive drab. The color of the wings will vary due to the different undercoat colors. The wings would have a faded olive drab color due to the yellow under sufaces and the fuselage with have a bluish tone due to the Light Blue 23.

B & C – this may have been the result of fading of colors and the assumption that the water based camouflage paints were applied to the P-26As. Early war exercises in the US used a water based color scheme of greens, browns and a color known as desert pink. This was evident to some P-26s and P-35s that were painted with water based paints but they were more of green or olive drab in nature. Now Olive Drab has a brown touch to it and faded olive drab can appear brown when worn. Instead of repainting the entire aircraft with OD, it was (and they could have freely chosen on their own) to over-paint the faded one with a fresher color resulting in a mixed fresh and faded paint. The pattern could have been done free hand as there was no standard in the application of the colors as the PAAC although patterned after the USAAF had its own freewill with minor issues and one of them was color schemes.

E – Now this color was very evident to the P-26As when they were transferred to the PAAC. Photographic evidence exists of P-26As parked at Zablan airfield in July 1941 that shows the aircraft in Light Blue and Yellow wings. Even the US roundels were still present. The only evident change was on the tail. The red white and blue rudder was repainted with Olive Drab (or Medium green) and the PAAC diamond were applied together with the aircraft number that started with the number “3”. e.g. 301, 203,…etc. The color of the cowl was repainted to dark blue (or retained). Another explanation was that blue being the color of the PAAC and the abundance of blue cowled P-26s from the 20th PS and the NMF P-26s that had blue cowls. Some of them still retained the squadron emblems of the 3rd PS and the 17th PS.

P-26A Analysis at Zablan Flight Line by TF - Copy (2)
My analysis of the Gabby Krugg photo of the Zablan Airfield line that shows the P-26As during the July 1941 PAAC inauguration. (Personal Collection)

Hobby Craft of Canada produced a WWII P-26 collection that suggested two schemes: A P-26A with the USAAC in NMF based in the Philippines (with Dark Blue Cowl) and a P-26A (No. 303) with Light Blue 23 and Yellow Wings except that the tail rudder was repainted with OD or Medium Green and with the PAAC diamond. The roundels of the wings were over painted with OD or Medium Green and the PAAC diamond applied as well. The word “US” was over painted with “PHIL” and the word “Army” on the other wing was retained. There was even an option of a red outline on the diamond (similar to the present Phil Air Force diamond – sans the winged lozenge).

PAAC 303 Profile
The artwork from Hobby Craft showing P-26A #303 of the PAAC retaining the Light Blue 23 fuselage and Yellow wings and tail planes. The rudder which was originally in red white and blue stripes were over painted with olive drab and the PAAC diamond with red outline applied. (Hobby Craft Models)

F & G – On the other side of the photo of the famous Zablan Field flight line, there were six (6) P-26As in overall light color, suggesting that these were the NMF with the Dark Blue cowl.

P-26 PAAC1024
The other side of the Zablan Flight line on July 26, 1941. Six (6) P-26A appear to be in light colors. These were the natural metal finish P-26A that were issued to the PAAC. Rightmost P-26A was the aircraft that Bert and I have discussed about the possibility of it being light grey. This time the photographer used an ortho chromatic film that made the yellow wings of the P-26s in the foreground look darker than their Light Blue 23 fuselage. (Personal Collection)
p26allnaturalmetal
A PAAC pilots taxis in a natural metal finish P-26A that is still in overall US liveries. At the background are NMF P-26As but with the PAAC diamond already painted on the rudders but still retaining the US stars on the wings. (Carl Mydans photo LIFE)

In my discussions with Bert, he singled out another photo that shows a single P-26s in light color “that did not have sheen” . He was suggesting that this light grey (or close to primer grey). That this aircraft was previously in natural metal finish and a primer was applied prior to painting of the PAAC camo colors.

309
After my discussions with Bert Anido on the light grey P-26A, I decided to build a 1/48 scale of the subject. (Personal collection)

Markings and Tactical Numbers: 

The PAAC utilized the 6 position roundel. Two in the rudder and four in the wings. The standard PAAC diamond was an inner diamond in dark blue with a bigger white diamond in the background. Some reports mentioned a red trim on the outer diamond. I have seen a photo evidence of the red trim on a Beech Model 18 that was parked at Loakan Airfield in Baguio.

Beech Model 18 at Baguio and A-27
A Beech Model 18 of the PAAC at Loakan Airfield in Baguio. Notice that the PAAC Diamond has a red outline. (Personal Collection)

Now from an interview with Brig-Gen Ernesto “Ting” Aquino, he said that while he visited Zablan Airfield just before the war, the red trim on the PAAC diamond was evident to the NMF Beech Model 18 and the two P-12E biplanes that sported the Light Blue 23 and Yellow Wings. He clearly recalls that the P-26s only had the white diamond surround and same with the single B3 Keystone Bomber of the PAAC. As for the tactical numbers, they were in black and located on the tail just before the PAAC diamond. The words “PHIL. ARMY” was located underneath the wings. This was considered (and I believe) the standard.

However, some reports did mention of large tactical numbers in white located in the fuselage and that the PAAC diamond was located in the fuselage. Some even suggested a white or red diagonal band that ran across the diamond. – this was evident in the illustration of Hasegawa’s 1/32 P-26 model. However, I have found no photographic evidence that this scheme existed and the only visual representation of such schemes was artist impressions.

Interviews by Bert Anido with PAAC pilots such a Villamor, Juliano and Kare mentions that the pilots do not even remember the tactical numbers of the aircraft they flew nor even the color schemes as they were more concerned with the enemy than the appearance of their aircraft.

So what is the best possible color scheme of the P-26As with the PAAC?, Well definitely there was no single nor definitive scheme. The most likely schemes are those with US livery colors with present US roundels in the wings (as evidenced by photographs),  and those whose US roundels were over painted with PAAC diamonds. The Olive Drab / Medium Green (or faded Olive Drab) over Neutral Grey (due to the US standard color before wartime) and maybe one or two P-26s that were still natural metal finish and the single (assumed) overall light grey aircraft.

PS.

Several years after I wrote the first draft of this piece I came across someone who had in his possession alleged unpublished aerial recon photos before and after the Japanese attack in the Philippines on Dec. 41.  I cannot ascertain if they were actual Japanese sources but the one thing that caught my attention was a PAAC P-26A with tailcode #302 at Batangas Field before it was bombed on December 12.  The only other photo that I know of #302 is a distant image from a general photo taken by Carl Mydans for LIFE at Zablan Airfield.

302 zablancropexpand
PAAC P-26A #302 at Zablan Field in November 1941. Notice the former red, white and blue tail has been over painted with what appears to be Olive Drab and the PAAC diamond. The yellow tail and wings are still evident as well as the light blue fuselage. The feint outline of the emblem of the 3rd PS can be seen on the fuselage just aft of the headrest spine (Carl Mydans photo LIFE)

I cannot post the other photo that shows #302 allegedly at Batangas Field due to the owner’s request so the next best thing was to recreate it through  a scale model:

302batangas01

302batangas02
The model of #302 depicted when it was in Batangas Airfield in the morning of December 12, 1941. (Personal collection)

The Big One Of Bataan

Many have read about the Bataan Campaign and its numerous battles that were fought between the period of Jan 6 to April 9, 1942.  A good number of publications in the form of books, monographs, and even dissertations have been written about the battles in places around the peninsula.

Now let me take you to an area that is seldom or even rarely mentioned but its where the biggest artillery piece that the USAFFE ever mounted in Bataan.  It is none other than at Saysain Point in Bagac.

M1888
8-inch Model 1888 Gun on a Model 1918 railway mount

The Gun

On February 15, 1942, an 8-inch M1888 railway gun on a modified barbette carriage was installed at Saysain Point.  The M1888 was designed to be a railway gun mounted on a flat rail car platform.  Seven (7) of these guns were sent to the Philippines as part of the inland sea defense project where these guns would cover vital sea passages such as Verde Island, Cape Santiago, Subic Bay,  San Bernardino, and the Surigao Straight.   The original plan was to use a combination of 12-inch and 155mm guns for this project but since the 12-inch gun was costly to procure and emplace, it was decided to send the M1888 8-inch gun instead.  The 8-inch M1888 gun had a maximum range of  24,000 yards. (13.6 miles or 22 kilometers)

The guns arrived in the Philippines sometime around mid-1941 and were kept at a depot at Ft. McKinley in Manila.  By October funds were appropriated to survey gun emplacements that could cover the passages.  One emplacement was nearing completion at Cape Santiago on December 8 but the war had already begun so the site was abandoned.

On to Bataan

The USAFFE ordered a general withdrawal to Bataan on December 23, 1941 and all military equipment and rations vital to the defense started to move its way to the peninsula.  Same goes with the 8-inch guns that were at Ft. McKinley.  The last reported whereabouts of the seven 8-inch guns were at a railway junction at Lubao in Pampanga.   Two (2) of the guns made it to Bataan while the other five were “lost” (abandoned would be an appropriate term) on their way.  It was also said that they were transferred to sugar railway terminal where they can be camouflaged and transported via the inland narrow gauge rail to Dinalupihan.  A foraging party from the 803rd Aviation engineers looking for supplies found them covered in canvass and camouflaged in rail flatcars hidden in a sugar cane plantation at Lubao.

The reason why the two (2) guns were sent to Saysain Point was to deny the use of Subic, Bagac, Saysain and Tilim Bays to the Japanese. Construction started immediately for two (2) gun emplacements in January 1942.  The area was cleared and concrete was poured by the engineers and the bolts for the barbette carriages were installed. The commander assigned to the 8-inch gun was Captain Alfred J. D’Arezzo of the 92nd Coast Artillery (PS).  He arrived on February 15 and immediately took command of the battery.

At Saysain Point

Gun # 1 was mounted with certain adjustments to its concrete base and was ready for proof firing by February 15.  However, the base rings of Gun #2 could not fit the emplacement bolts and was attributed to a faulty alignment by the engineers.  In-fact Gun #1 almost suffered the same fate if not for the improvised enlargement of the base ring holes to align with the bolts embedded in the concrete base.  Despite the engineer’s efforts to make the necessary alterations, they still could not properly mount the base with the carriage for Gun #2.  With the second emplacement useless, it was decided to ship Gun #2 to Corregidor Island.  There was another plan to construct a similar emplacement at San Jose Point but the lack of construction materials denied that from happening plus the gun was already in Fort Mills and was planned to be mounted in the island.

A searchlight position was also installed near the battery together with a range locator.  A concrete magazine was also constructed about 10 meters from the gun emplacement and was covered with soil and thick vegetation.

The 8-inch gun was not alone in the area.  Saysain Point was further reinforced by a number of heavy machineguns for beach and AA defense including four (4) Navy “5-pounders” (more of 6-pounders) that may have been moved from the Subic depot.  A number of .30 calibers were also placed to defend trails and possible enemy routes.  An area was made available for the gun plotting room and a switchboard with the code “8-ball-8” was installed near the Battery Command Post.    Approximately located about  1,000 yards to the south was a battery of 155mm GPFs (two guns) under the command of Capt. Ball  at Caibobo Point.

 

Saysain Point Drawing
The 8-inch gun location.  Re-drawn from the original sketch of Captain D’Arezzo

 

In Action

The Japanese held the high ground just north of Bagac by February and the area of Saysain Point became an obvious target for artillery and air-strikes.  This was due to the clearing of the trails leading to the emplacement plus the scattered construction materials in the area that caught the eye of enemy spotters. Captain D’Arezzo even received a standing order from then I Philippine Corps commander, Major General Jonathan Wainwright specifying that the breech block of the 8-inch gun removed, loaded to a 1/2-ton bomb truck near the emplacement and be transported to the rear should the enemy direct their offensive and break-through the area.  The breech block was never removed as there were no immediate enemy troop movements so the gun was serviced for action.

On February 15 at 3:30pm the battery fired 16-rounds at ranges between 17,000 to 20,000 yards on a Japanese cruiser and mine-sweeper.  Another Japanese cruiser joined in and sporadically shelled Saysain and Caibobo points.  No damage to the areas and no recorded hits on the Japanese vessels.

On Feb 20  just as the 8-inch gun was getting ready to fire on a water target, Japanese guns north of Bagac went into action and laid a barrage on the area.  A 105mm shell scored a direct hit and punctured the recuperating cylinder spring housing.  This however did not affect the firing and performance of the gun.  The only other effect was a sudden change of order where the facilities of the gun battery must be protected from enemy fire. The mess was tunneled for the crew with a first-aide station. They were even able to appropriate a section of the tunnel that served as their chapel.  The magazine was reinforced with compact soil and the area camouflaged. The job was performed by the gun crews themselves with Captain D’Arezzo making sure that every effort to protect the battery was executed despite the actual gun being exposed.

On February 25 at around 1:30pm, the gun fired 12-rounds at ranges between 15,500 – 17,500 yards at a Japanese freighter convoy entering Subic Bay.

On March 2 at interval times between 7:30 – 8:30pm and on the early morning of March 3 at 2:30am and 3:35am, the battery fired 30-rounds in support of the I Philippine Corps at map coordinates in the Tuol River areas  The firing was also confirmed by Japanese  headquarters as it received reports from Japanese troops probing near the restored main line of resistance area.  Previously the area was penetrated by the Japanese during the Battle of the Pockets and the gun at Saysain was most likely doing an interdiction fire to discourage a second breakthrough.

On April 2 at 3:30pm the gun fired 5 rounds at a range of 21,000 yards at three oil tankers going into Subic Bay and a mine-sweeper operating off Bagac bay.

On April 3, at 4:00pm, the gun fired 5 rounds at a range of 20,000 yards at two freighters into Subic Bay.  This was the last time that the gun fired against an enemy target.

Surrender

Just before Bataan fell on April 9, 1942, Captain D’Arezzo received orders to destroy the gun.  On the 10th, together with his Battery EXO, Lt. Dean Keating, he ordered the all Filipino crew members of the battery to prepare the gun for demolition. They initially set two charges of TNT to the gun but to no avail.  Then they decided to load the gun with one round in the chamber, placed a 1 1/2 the normal powder charge,  placed rocks and sand in the muzzle and stuffed inside the barrel, drained the oil from the recoil cylinders and fired the gun with a long lanyard.  This option worked as upon inspection of D’Arezzo and Keating they confirmed that the gun was destroyed.  The crew also destroyed 174 Enfield M1917 rifles, four .30 Cal MGs, One .30 Cal BAR, six .50 Cal MGs for AA use, four US Navy 6-pounder guns on pedestals. two searchlights, the 1/2 ton truck (that was to be used to evacuate the breech), fourteen 2 1/2 trucks, one construction steam roller and all other equipment used in the battery.

 The Fate of the Gun and its Crew

After completing the demolition of the battery at Saysain Point, Capt D’Arezzo and his crew went to the vicinity of the I Philippine Corps HQ where they waited for the Japanese and to start their ordeal as POWs.  D’Arezzo and his crew suffered the infamous Death March up to Capas Tarlac and later  he was shipped to Japan to serve his term.  The exact fate of his Filipino crew are not detailed although it is assumed that a number of them may have died in captivity at Capas and a number may have survived the war.

As for the 8-inch gun, some reports say that after the war it was transported to Mt., Samat to be a part of the shrine.  However the only big artillery on display now is the 155mm GPF gun with a cut barrel.  No trace of the 8-inch M1888 exists in Bataan.  It was believed that the gun and its carriage were transferred by the Japanese or was scrapped either during or post war.

As for the other gun that we shipped to Corregidor, the gun was emplaced at Road Junction No. 43 and was later called Battery RJ-43.  The 8-inch gun was mounted and proofed fired but it did not see action or fired in anger against the Japanese.  This was due to  its exposed position and the crew were suppressed from manning the gun due to Japanese artillery fire.  The barrel of the gun can still be seen up to this day on display at the North Dock of Corregidor.

8-inch Gun Barrel No26
8-inch Model 1888 gun at the North Dock of Corregidor Island that was emplaced at Battery RJ-43.

8inchrr

This was supposed to be Gun # 2 at Saysain Point but was not emplaced due to a faulty base.  It was brought to Corregidor island instead.  The gun carriage was removed and scrapped by the Japanese.

Visit to Saysain Point

In 2001, I went to Saysain Point with my buddies from the Coast Defense Study Group (CDSG) to survey the area.  The place is now owned by Dr. Primo Gonzales and he actually welcomed our group despite our surprise visit.

SaysainPoint
Dr. Primo Gonzales (center with back at camera) talking with CDSG members who visited his lot at Saysain Point in 2001.  (That’s me on the left)

 He then called on Alex Monterde, a councilman at Saysain Point, who was featured in a news article in 1995 about the gun to bring us to the exact location. Dr. Gonzales accompanied us as well.

alexmonterde
Alex Monterde showing the bolts of the 8-inch gun emplacement.

 We arrived at the battery location but the area has already been bulldozed to make way for improvements so the concrete base was buried underneath another layer of soil. We surveyed the area a bit took some photos and being there on the location was more than enough for us.  Alex Monterde told us how he still found bits and pieces of the gun parts, rifles and small arms ammunition in the area.  We asked him if he found the box where Capt. D’Arezzo hid his .45 cal pistol along with a few items near the drainage. He said that he did not find anything.  We then went back to the place of Dr. Gonzales where he served us cold refreshments  told us his experience during the war.  Before dusk we thanked him for his warm hospitality and for allowing us to visit his place. We left Saysain Point just before dark.

Rediscovering Battery RJ-43

The following year, I went to Corregidor Island on my regular trips and one of my agenda was to locate the emplacement of Battery RJ-43.  After a few brush cutting at the back of Malinta Hill near road junction no. 43, I found a clearing in the hill and there it was.

Battery RJ-43 - A
Me at Battery RJ-43.  The “bolo” I am holding points to the concrete floor and the steel bolts (cut out and corroded)  where the carriage of the 8-inch gun M1888 used to be mounted.

 

8-inch Florida
Just to give you an idea  how the 8-inch gun at Saysain Point would look like when mounted. This is a similar 8-inch M1888 railway gun preserved at Plant Park, Florida. USA (Photo courtesy of Mr. Glen Williford, CDSG)

Additional Post War Information and Analysis

CDSG Members Glen Williford and Alex Holder were able to track down Capt. D’Arezzo  in 2001 and they were granted an interview on his experience in the Philippines and his command of the 8-inch gun at Saysain Point.  He said that he had no knowledge that the second gun ever made it to Corregidor.  He thought that it was brought to a depot in Bataan and that it may have been emplaced at San Jose Point at the South-Eastern coast of the peninsula.  He could not remember how many high explosive or deck piercing rounds he had but he recalls that he had 75 rounds in his magazine at Saysain.

The news article mentions that there were least 1,200 8-inch 260-lb armor-piercing shells onsite but D’Arezzo only recalls a few off-hand and his accounts on the firing were detailed. This may be the stocks that were intended for the for the seven (7) guns that were able to get to the depots in Lamao  or Mariveles.

He did mention about firing in support of the I Corps at Tuol River in his interview.  However, his firing was beyond the date of the actual  Battle of the Pockets (Jan 29 – Feb 11, 1942) as he joined the battery on Feb 15.  Thus the March 2-3 shootings maybe more of harassment and interdiction fire on the probing Japanese.

M1888 8-inch RR gun at Pasig
Two M1888 8-inch gun tubes are seen here at the banks of Pasig River just after the liberation of Manila in 1945. These were part of the seven (7) guns shipped to the Philippines for the Philippines Inland Sea Defense Project. The guns were captured by the Japanese and sent to Manila to be used as scrap material for their war effort. (Carl Mydans, LIFE Pictures)

 

Conclusion

I haven’t been back to Saysain Point since then.  The landscape of Bataan has change a lot with new developments in areas that were once thick jungles and where men served and died in their posts during the war.  Places like, Layac Junction, Abucay, Mabatang, Trail 2, The Pockets and Points, Mt. Samat and Mariveles will always be remembered but it was at Saysain Point in Bagac, where the  Big One Of Bataan was emplaced.

 

Sources:

  1. Letter of Captain Alfred D’Arezzo to Major General William P. Marquat, dated September 27, 1945 on the Eight (8)-inch gun at Saysain Point.
  2. Interview of Captain Alfred D Arezzo by Messrs. Glen Williford and Alex Holder of the Coast Defense Study Group (CDSG) 2001
  3. Exhibit E: Engineer Annex on the Report on the Harbor Defense of Manila and Subic Bays by Major General George Moore, post war 1947.
  4. Interview with James N. Black, Jr – 1997
  5. “Gun Still Missing 55 Years Later” – by Jose V. Galvez, The Foreign Post.  November 9-15, 1995.
  6. Notes from Japanese Army operations in Bataan. Jan – April 1942.
  7. Personal explorations at Saysain Point, Bagac and Corregidor Island.

  

Copyright © 2016 by Tony Feredo

tferedo@gmail.com

Attack on the PAAC Airfields: Dec. 1941

The Japanese planes that  attacked the Philippine Army Air Corps airfields on December 1941.

I was asked by a good friend of mine, Colonel  Eduardo  Diano (ret), PAF, GSC about the type of Japanese aircraft  that attacked the Philippine Army Air Corps (PAAC) airfields /bases in during the early phase of the war.  I thought that this would be a good start to write about the air war in the Philippines.

The air war in the Philippines commenced on December 8, 1941 when Japanese  Army and Navy land based aircraft from bases  in Formosa hit several key US military installations.  The most famous would be the bombing of Clark and Iba airfields on this day.  Other targets in the northern Philippines were also hit.  This day alone was very significant as majority of the air power of the United States Army Air Force (USAAF) in the Philippines were destroyed.  The relatively young Philippine Army Air Corps (PAAC) also had their baptism of fire and were also targeted by the Japanese.  As much as I want to cover details and other aspects, I will limit this posting to the inquiry of Eddie Boy which is to cover only the Japanese air units and the types of aircraft that attacked the PAAC airfields.

The direct attack on PAAC airfields and installations did not start until December 10, 1941.  On this day Japanese aircraft attacked Zablan Airfield in Quezon City and Maniquis Airfield in  Cabanatuan, Nueva Ecija.  Contrary to stories that both airfields were hit by Japanese twin engine bombers, both PAAC airfields were strafed (not bombed) by Mitsubishi A6M2b Reisen or popularly knows as the “Zero”.  The Zero belonged to the 3rd Kokutai, Japanese Navy and were based Kaoshiung (Japanese name:  Takao) in Formosa.

65_159
Mitsubishi A6M2b Reisen (Zero) of the 3rd Kokutai

 

On December 12 it was time for the Japanese to hit targets south of the Manila area.  Two formations of Mitsubishi G4M1 Isshikirikko (Betty) twin-engined land based bombers of the Takao Kokutai flew from Kaoshiung (Takao) towards Batangas.  One element of 27 bombers was led by Lt. Commander Nonaka and 25 planes were lead by Lt. Adachi.  They were escorted by A6M Zeroes of the 3rd Kokutai.  Their original target was Nichols Airfield and the Cavite Naval Yard but the areas were obscured due to heavy clouds and rain.  The formation then proceeded to their secondary target which was Batangas Airfield.

takao ku
Mitsubishi G4M1 Isshikirikko (Betty) of the Takao Kokutai

 

On December 13, the Japanese Army Air Force becomes more active.  On mid-day, Nakajima Ki-27 (Nate) fighter aircraft of the 50th Hiko Sentai raided Maniquis Airfield in Cabanatuan.

Image-20
Nakajima Ki-27 (Nate) of the 50th Hiko Sentai

 

Additional strafing attacks were made by A6M2b Zeroes of the Tainan Kokutai at Zablan Aifield on the same day.

65_58_b1
Mitsubishi A6M2b Reisen (Zero) of the Tainan Kokutai

 

By late the afternoon of the 13th, Ki-27 Nates from the 24th Hiko Sentai struck Maniquis Airfield at Cabanatuan.

nate_4
Nakajima Ki-27 Nate of the 24th Hiko Sentai

 

Japanese Army Air Force planes attack Zablan Airfield.  Mitsubishi Ki-21 “Sally” bombers of the 14th Hiko Sentai escorted by Ki-27 Nates of the 50th  Hiko Sentai on the 18th of December  Further attacks were also made by five (5) Kawasaki Ki-48 Sokei (Lily) twin engine bombers.

65_44
Kawasaki Ki-48 Sokei (Lily) of the 8th Hiko Sentai

 

On December 21, Japanese Army Air Force planes from the 8th Hiko Sentai (Ki-48 Lily) and the 16th Hiko Sentai armed with Mitsubishi Ki-30 (Ann) raided Maniquis Airfield.

Ki-30Ann16thsentai
Mitsubishi Ki-30 (Ann) of the 16th Hiko Sentai

 

On December 22, the 8th Sentai with Ki-48 Lilys hit Zablan Airfield.  December 23 saw more bombing made but this time by Japanese Army Air Force bombers.  The 14th Hiko Sentai equipped with Mitsubishi Ki-21 sent its bomber to attack Batangas Field.

Ki-21, 14th Sentain
Mitsubishi Ki-21 (Sally) of the 14th Hiko Sentai. (in a later camo scheme)

 

December 24 saw renewed activities by the Japanese Army Air Force by sending Ki-21s of the 14th Sentai to bomb Zablan Airfield.

The final attacks on PAAC airfields in 1941 occurred between December 28-30.  Four (4) A6M2b Zeroes from the Tainan Kokutai based in Legaspi Airfield flew to Manila and passed by Zablan Airfield, strafing the airfield and the already damaged facilities on the 28th.  On the 30th, A6M2b Zeroes of the Tainan Ku strafed Lahug Air Field in Cebu.

The end of December, most of the PAAC units were on their way to the Bataan Peninsula as part of the withdrawal ordered by the USAFFE.  A lot of the men would continue to fight as infantry soldiers while a couple of pilots would fly important missions.  These will be discussed later on.

 

 

 

 

Why every WWII Japanese fighter plane was called “Zero”

donmarshzero
Mitsubishi A6M2b Model 21 “Reisen” (Zero) Credit: Don Marsh Studios via j-aircraft.com

One evening, several summers ago, I was having a discussion about WWII fighter planes with a few elders and scale modeling enthusiast.  One of the subjects that was brought up was the popular Mitsubishi A6M Reisen or popularly knows as the “Zero”.  It is considered by many as the best Japanese fighter of WWII and more than 10,000 were manufactured from 1940 to 45.   From Pearl Harbor to Midway to the Solomon Islands,  Leyte Gulf and the Japanese Homeland defense, the Zero served as the Japanese Navy’s Air Force primary fighter aircraft.

Now someone in the group asked me “You mean that the Japanese Navy had its own air force and that the Zero is a navy fighter plane?” — For the interest of the group I had to explain that the Japanese Army and Navy had their own air force and had aircraft designed to their specific needs.  I may discuss this in  another page but one thing I observed was the notion that for some, every Japanese fighter plane was a “Zero”

Well first I cant blame those who have thought of such as not all are enthusiast like me or my colleagues in the hobby who do research on the subject.  The birth of the myth can be attributed after the attack at Pearl Harbor were the popularity of the A6M Zero was immortalized and was associated not only as a fighter plane but also misidentified as Japan’s ONLY fighter plane of WWII.  Some even take it further by generalizing that every single engine radial plane with the distinctive Hinomaru or “circle of the sun” emblem found on the main wings and fuselage was a Zero.

ki43-7
The “Hinomaru” national insignia of Japan

The Hinomaru was also called a “meatball”, a slang term by US pilots who used the term to identify that the aircraft was of Japanese in nature.  It was also confused by some as the symbol why the aircraft was called the Zero because of its circular nature that resembles the “0” number–another addition to the myth.   The real name of the Zero came from its actual name:  Reisen as it adopted the last digit of the year it entered service:  2600 (imperial year) or 1940.   The US and its  allies actually referred to the Zero as the “Zeke” but later also used the word Zero to associate it with the type but that also led to more misidentifications as we see later on.

Zero-173
                                   An A6M2b Model 21 Reisen flying past Mt. Fuji in Japan

Now lets look at other aspects what also led to misidentification and confusion.  Let’s start with the basic shape of the Zero. The aircraft is a single seat aircraft that houses a radial engine which gave its nose a round appearance.  The propeller spinner also gave it a prominent feature.

A6M3-M22-25s
                                                    A later model A6M3 Model 22 Reisen

Ki-43-44

 Now the photo above is also a single seat aircraft with a radial engine with a prominent propeller spinner with the familiar Hinomaru markings.  If you are a US or allied pilot encountering this aircraft, with your adrenaline rushing and itching to press that trigger finger, the words that may come out when you holler on the radio are:  “Japanese Zero straight ahead!”

 The photo is actually a Japanese Army Air Force  Nakajima Ki-43-II Hayabusa (Peregrine Falcon) or better known as the “Oscar” in allied terminology.  For those who are not familiar in detail with both aircraft, it is easy to confuse or misidentify one for the other.  Since the Zero was the more popular aircraft, thus the preference for the name stuck.

As the war progressed, identification of US and allied airmen got better and then they were able to distinguish the difference between the two aircraft but even up to the end of the war, there were still several misidentifications.  An example was  one book that mention US Army Air Force’s second leading ace in WWII,  Major Tommy McGuirre met his demise thru an older A6M3 Model 32 “Hamp” when in reality his flight was engaged by Warrant Office Akira Sugimoto flying a Ki-43 Oscar and later joined by Sgt. Mizunori Fukuda in a Nakajima Ki-84 Hayate (Gale) or “Frank” — an aircraft with a radial engine and prominent propeller spinner and of course, adorned with the Hinomaru.

Ki-43-101
A later model Nakajima Ki-43-III Hayabusa (Oscar) with a pair of under wing drop tanks.

Zero-187

Later model Mitsubishi A6M5b also with under wing drop tanks. See how it can also be confused with the Ki-43 Oscar.

ki84philippines
A Nakajima Ki-84 Hayate (Frank) at Clark Field in the Philippines. around late 1944. Now if you look at the shape of the aircraft, its not hard for it to be confused again with either the Zero or the Oscar in the fog of war.

 I am more forgiving to non military aviation buffs who confuse the Zero with other Japanese fighter aircraft.  Let me share with you my experience with a local tour guide.

About 20 years ago I was in Corregidor Island for an overnight holiday. As much as I wanted to do my own exploration I attended the normal guided tour around the tourist destinations on the island. We visited Battery Way and the tour guide was doing his spiel.  The local guides there are known for their embellishment of the facts and stories.  I just let them be and don’t want to interfere with their livelihood (like I said, I am more forgiving to non military enthusiasts) but he mentions an incident in May of 1942 just before the island surrendered that Battery Way was bombed heavily by the “Zero fighters” of Japan and thus ending his sentence by pointing out the pockmarked concrete in the emplacement.  It drew “oohhs and ahhss” from the ordinary tourist but I was shaking my head at the back of the group.  I took a deep breathe and sighed…The pockmarks were actually caused more by Japanese artillery shells than bombs.  Plus by 1942, the A6M5 Reisen was not in service yet.

zerobomb
A later model A6M5 Reisen with a 250kg centerline bomb rack. Some later A6M5s and Nakajima built A6M2bs were equipped with a centerline bomb rack. Zeroes used for Kamikaze sorties had this armament arrangement in their mission. (Not in 1942 as story of the tour guide).

Now for the civilians who lived and experience World War II in the Philippines, identifying the actual type of aircraft was more of a challenge.  But the common denominator was the identification of the Hinomaru on the aircraft wings or fuselage.  Easily they can identify that its Japanese –piece of cake– even my paternal grandmother can spot if the plane was Japanese or American (associated with the “Star”)   But some would go further by saying:  “Its a Zero” – …just like our tour guide.

The A6M Reisen  is the icon of Japan’s airpower in WWII.  In the early days of the Pacific it was aircraft that excelled in a dogfight.  It was fast, maneuverable and in the hands of a skilled pilot was superior to what the US or allies can field at that time.  It had a great cruising range.  Before the P-51 Mustangs were able to provide long range escorts to US bombers in Europe, the Zero already demonstrated this by flying  over open water on long range fighter escort  with Japanese Navy twin engine bombers from Formosa (Taiwan) to the Philippines on December 8, 1941. The Zeros had ample strafing and dogfighting time over their targets and escorted the bombers back to their bases in  Formosa.  A feat that has never before done. By October 1944, it was again in center stage as the first Kamikaze missions that took of at Mabalacat Airfield were bomb laden Zeros and were escorted by non other than Zeros as well.  In Japan, the Zero continued to battle US and allied aircraft over the homeland skies.  Some pilots preferred flying the Zeros over the newer aircraft types, a testament that this fighter aircraft was loved by the pilots who flew them.

Japan produced several single seat  fighter aircraft.  Some were even better than the Zero in other aspects like the Nakajima Ki-84 Hayate (Frank) and the later model Kawanishi N1k2-J Shiden-Kai (George) but even they cannot eclipse the popularity of the A6M Zero.  It was a legend even before its time ended.

A good aircraft with meatballs and a name that is easy to remember.  No wonder the name stuck.

Why I write…

It took some time for me to think it over and finally I decided to put my thoughts and experiences in a blog.  The first challenge that I had was to come up with a blog name.  After a few moments of analysis paralysis I decided on” “shellwings”.  Now one might think that  this means my love for sea shells and seagulls.   Its actually a combination of two my favorite interests.  The word shell is derived from my interest in artillery and the study of warfare.  The word wings is a manifestation of my love for military aviation.

I have always been an avid fan of military history particularly Word War II in the Philippines.  Through the years I have gathered information via self research, studies, personal exploration and journeys and was at one point in time active with a few special interest groups (SIGs) on general military and aviation subjects.  I am not a professional historian so that is why my endeavors can only be done on my spare time. Nevertheless I have gathered a lot of data and information by analyzing thousands of photos, documents, maps, structural plans, blue prints, technical drawings reports, documentary footages,  personal interviews and recollections.

Now what do I do with all the information that I have gathered?  In the last 10 years I have digitized my notes and photo collection.  I do maintain an adequate library on my interest and they serve as the “hard copes”.  The electronic versions (digitized) or “soft copies”  have appropriate duplicates but a proper periodic backup is needed as storage disks can crash or get corrupted.

How about the information that are stored in my mind?  I must admit that a lot of information still stays inside my brain– my own CPU.  But what if my RAM falters and my internal storage gets corrupted?  — Well goodbye to all that information.

One reason why this blog was created is because of that thought.  The ability to write down what I experienced and learned and be able to share it.  Besides, what do I do with all the things that I know if no one else will know about it?  Rather than be lost in my own history it would be better if people knew about it as well.  Who knows someone or some group may take up what they have gathered here and even take it further– and find out more that what I have learned.

There are no formal structures here.  Topics can range from what I mentioned above and can dwell on other tidbits of history and even scale modeling (Yes.. I am a scale modeler as well). There will be interesting and odd moments.  There will be times that I will need to cite sources and credit information where it is due. Any errors, factual or grammatical, are of my own.