Saturday, July 10, 2010

Japanese Planes and German Engineers

We have often heard tales of how American and Allied fighter aircraft at the beginning of World War II were out classed by advanced Japanese design. Perhaps the most famous example is the “Japanese Zero”. But, did you know that many of Japans best fighter and bomber aircraft were based on pre-war German designs? It’s true. In fact many of Germany’s arms manufacturers had opened plants in Japan and were helping Japan develop the advanced technologies needed to support their arms programs –everything from new and secret aluminum alloy’s used in the military aircraft to highly effective propellants and explosives. Starting in the mid-1930's, some of Germany's best aeronautical engineers traveled to Japan regularly, including Willy Messerschmitt.

The Japanese were even able to develop a working prototype of a jet fighter based on the German design (fortunately for us, by the time they had developed a successful prototype they no longer had the natural resources required for mass production).

An example of the effectiveness of this little known cooperation was the Kawasaki (yes, the same company that now makes motorcycles and lawn mowers) Ki-61Hein, known to American pilots as the “Tony”. First seen in great numbers in New Guinea in early 1943, over 2,500 of these were produced during the war. The design proved one of their most effective aircraft and towards the end of the war it was one of the few that could achieve enough altitude to challenge American B-29 bombers (a common tactic was to actually attempt to ram the bombers).

The Japanese also got direct help from the Germans with other military equipment. One of their more successful medium tanks, the Type 5 Chi-Ri medium tanks armed with 75 mm or 88 mm cannons was directly based on the German Panther and Tiger I tank designs. These tanks proved deadly for the Americans in one of the few armored battles in the Pacific Theater (on Okinawa). In addition, they also received several German submarines. The German U-181 became the Japanese I-501, the U-182 became the I-502, the U-291 became the I-505 and U-195 became I-506.

This cooperation went both ways. In 1935 a German technical mission arrived in Japan to sign accords and licenses to use the technology from the Akagi-class carrier for use in the German aircraft carriers Graf Zeppelin and FlugzeugtrƤger B (both later canceled). They also acquired the technical data on the adaptations to the Messerschmitt Me 109T/E and Junkers Ju 87C/E, for use on such carriers.


I was watching coverage of the riots taking place in Oakland, California with particular interest. I was born and raised in the bay area so these things often catch my attention. This time there was a little more to it.

First, let me make it crystal clear that I in no way shape or form approve of violence or rioting.

Having said that, I could not help but remember 31 years ago (May 21, 1979) when another white police officer was convicted of involuntary man-slaughter.
In that case he had gone to San Fransisco city hall and shot the Mayor, George Moscone, to death, then calmly went to Supervisor Harvey Milk's office, asked to see him privately and shot him to death firing 6 more times. In that case the jury found that he was temporarily insane because he had been under stress and eating too much sugar (honest to God!). That defense is now famously called "The Tweeky defense".

We (I was there in the middle of it the first day) rioted for 3 days turning the city center into a combat zone. For many of us the the main point of the riot was the ill-prepared and sloppy way the prosecution handled the case in what appeared to be heavily prejudicial in favor of the former police officer.

As I said, I do not approve of violence. I did not then and do not now. I make no excuse for my small part in the riots 30 years ago and can only say that I have a deep understanding, although without tolerance, of the anger and frustrations that lead to the demonstrations in Oakland. It is too bad that some of the demonstrators in both cases, got carried away and went so far beyond acceptable behavior, damaging their cause and message in the process.

Here endeth the tirade.


On This Day in History:
1918 Soviet Union established
1890 Wyoming becomes 44th state
1923 2 pound hail stones kill 23 people and many cattle in Rostov Russia
1940 Battle of Britain begins

Now Some Music:


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