Fleet Air Arm Museum calls for help to decipher markings on Japanese Kamikaze bomber

By Culture24 Reporter | 11 December 2013

The Fleet Air Arm Museum has one of the rarest planes of World War Two but it needs help to decipher the markings on the side

a photo of a monoplane seen from above
The Ohka 2 Kamikaze rocket aircraft in the store of the Fleet Air Arm Museum© Courtesy the Fleet Air Arm Museum
In advance of their forthcoming exhibition about the Pacific War of World War II, curators at the Fleet Air Arm Museum, near Yeovilton in Somerset, have been taking a closer look at one of their rarest aircraft.

The Japanese Ohka 2 is a specially-built rocket-powered kamikaze aircraft used towards the end of the war against the US Navy.

Slung beneath a Mitsubishi G4M bomber, it was designed to be flown to a height of 12,000 feet, then released in a steep dive during which three solid fuel rockets would be ignited. These enabled the aircraft to reach speeds of up to 475mph and travel distances of 21 miles before reaching its target.

As staff prepare to restore this sinister craft, which has been hanging from the rafters of the Fleet Air Arm Museum for more than 30 years, they have become intrigued by some of the markings on its bodywork and are asking the public to help decipher them.

a photo of Japanese characters on the side panel of a plane
Un-deciphered markings on the Kamikaze aircraft© Courtesy Fleet Air Arm Museum
The markings are found in two places: on the left hand side of the aircraft and on the hatch-cover, which would have been opened to arm 1.25 tons of explosives in the nose of the aircraft.

Another marking on the side of the aircraft is that of a cherry blossom from which the Ohka takes its name - a Japanese symbol of flowering and rebirth.

“It is chilling to look through the cockpit window of this piloted rocket and through the ringed sight,” says Jon Jefferies, of the museum.

“There’s a grab handle fixed to the inner wall of the cockpit as acceleration generated by the three solid fuel rockets would have been incredible.”

The desperate tactic of using Kamikaze planes was introduced by the Japanese in October 1944 as they faced certain defeat in the Pacific. Nearly 4,000 Kamikaze pilots were sacrificed, sinking nearly 50 Allied vessels and damaging 300 others.

Staff are now preparing to carefully restore the aircraft by removing the paint applied after the war, layer by layer, in order to return it to its original paintwork and markings. This process has been pioneered by the Fleet Air Arm Museum and used to return a World War II Corsair to its original paintwork and markings. Work is currently nearing completion on a Grumman Martlet from the conflict.

To help, email the Museum’s Curator of Aircraft, Dave Morris, at davem@fleetairarm.com.

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a photo of a panel with Japanese characters on it
© Courtesy Fleet Air Arm Museum
a photo of a lotus design on the side of an aeroplane
Cherry Blossom insignia on the suicide aircraft.© Courtesy Fleet Air Arm Museum
a photo of a monoplane seen from the side
A side view of the Ohka 2.© Courtesy Fleet Air Arm Museum
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