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68th Hiko Sentai
Built by Kawasaki at Kagamigahara during November 1943. Uncoded serial number 540. Delivered to the Japanese Army Air Force (JAAF) as Type 3 Fighter / Ki-61-Ib Tony manufacture number 640. This Tony had a natural aluminum finish. Armament configuration "Otsu" with 2 x 12.7mm Ho-103 machine cannons in the nose with 2 x 12.7mm Ho-103 machine cannons in the wings.
In December 1943, this aircraft was likely flown from Japan via Okinawa to Formosa to Clark Field to Davao to Mapanget (Manado) to Sorong to Babo Airfield before arriving at Boram Airfield near Wewak. This aircraft also might have operated from Hollandia or Tadji (Aitape) or other forward airfields in New Guinea.
Assigned to the 68th Hiko Sentai. In the field, a dark green camouflage "snake weave" was spray painted on the upper surfaces. The tail had the white fin flash motif of the 68th Sentai.
This Tony force landed with the landing gear retracted in kunai grass near Yiliwe (Yilui) or Nuku. Little damage was sustained other than the propeller blades bent backward and a broken engine reduction gear casing. The precise date and pilot who force landed this aircraft are unknown. Likely, it landed sometime during December 1943 or January 1944, possibly due to a a mechanical failure or fuel shortage.
Until the early 1970s, this aircraft remained in situ in kunai grass near Yiliwe (Yilui) an inland village to the south of Aitape. Other sources claimed the nearest village was Nuku. Until the early 1970s, this aircraft was rarely visited and was not vandalized or damaged. The machine guns were still armed with belted tracer, armor piercing, and high explosive rounds.
Richard Leahy recalls visiting the wreck:
"I have a long standing friend named Kevin Trueman. He and myself walked into [this] Ki-61 Tony back in 1972 at a place called Yiliwe, south of Aitape. This is the correct location, rather than Nuku, the place usually stated where the wreck was located. When I visited the plane, most of it was still there, only the gun sight was missing, taken by someone. Also, of interest the aircraft had four 13mm [12.7mm] machine guns as its armament. The photos in Darby's Pacific Aircraft Wrecks must have been taken sometime earlier, probably by Roy Worcester."
Beginning in 1975, Roy Worcester begin recovering parts of this aircraft for his Roy Worcester Historical Centre. He removed the entire tail section including the stabilizer, tail section and fillets.
By the early 1980s, all the guns and instruments were removed. The wreck was disassembled into three sections by Justin Hoisington who hoped to export it, but the pieces were not removed.
During 1984 under the direction of PNG Museum director Bruce Hoy, the pieces were air lifted by a RAAF helicopter from the crash site to Boram Airfield near Wewak and shipped by boat to Port Moresby.
On November 23, 1984, the fuselage arrived at the PNG Museum and was displayed on a dolly built by Bruce Hoy. The wings and engine were delivered later, and were stored separate from the fuselage. Displayed until July 29, 2004, when exported.
Bruce Hoy adds:
"The Worcester Tony [Ki-61 379] was bought by Justin Hoisington in Chino, California. Hoisington is reported to also been the individual who disassembled Ki-61 Tony 640, and was only able to retrieve the tail section. While in the United States in 1985, I saw in Hoisington's hangar, the Worcester Tony, and two tail units, one of which I am sure was off this Tony [Ki-61 640]."
The tail section of this aircraft, including stabilizer, tail and fillet, each stamped with "640" was later acquired by Kermit Weeks / Fantasy of Flight and are in off site storage. Likely, the tail section was exported from PNG during the 1980s along with Ki-61 Tony 379.
Export to Australia
During 2004, Robert Greinert / HARS decided to export this aircraft under the pretext that it would remain the property of the PNG Museum, under an agreement that it would be restored to static condition, and returned to the PNG Museum, along with P-38F 42-12647. According to Robert Greinert: this Tony was exported "as part of the Minister for Culture and Tourism's plan to undertake a restoration program for the museum."
On July 29, 2004 Robert Greinert / HARS loaded this aircraft into a container himself with the help of museum staff and and shipped it to Australia.
Since 2004, this aircraft is being restored at Precision Aerospace / Pacific Fighters Museum. The fuselage and wings were placed in separate jigs and Hinomaru markings and a white identification strip were immediately painted on the aircraft. The external skin was replaced as part of the restoration process.
Mick Grinter adds:
"It looks to be in worse shape than i imagined, we are going to repaint it in it's original colours before disassembly, for an official photo shoot and hand over. We are now looking at building a few of them as there is a museum in Japan that is showing interest in a Ki-61. Fortunately I got onto an old pilot working on a Zero in Japan who had a set of wheels and tyres. I have no idea where we might get an instrument panel, a drawing or tracing would do, the cockpit has been striped out. It is a little cockpit but well set out.
Classic Wings Vol 17 No 3 Issue 76 published during 2010 includes a photo of this aircraft, Ki-61 Tony 640 and states: ".....this most advanced machine [Ki-61 Tony 640] belongs to Jerry Yagen of Virginia Beach, USA." Commenting via email, Gerald Yagen adds: "We are rebuilding for ourselves just one [Ki-61 640] airplane and it is a restoration of the original one. Not sure as to the [manufacture] number."
Production figures of the Kawasaki Ki-61 Tony by Jim Long
Pacific Aircraft Wrecks page 3, 68 (middle, lower)
"The best preserved Japanese Army aircraft found in the South West Pacific was this Kawasaki Ki-61 Tony, 640, from a unknown Sentai whose unit marking included a white fin flash. The aircraft is said to have been caught near Wewak by an RAAF Kittyhawk and chased inland at low level until it ran out of fuel and force-landed near Nuku. The Japanese pilot, probably very inexperienced, did not dare turn back toward his base as the Kittyhawk would then have been able to catch him. Caught near Wewak by an RAAF Kittyhawk and chased inland at low level until it ran out of fuel and force-landed near Nuka." Author Charles Darby noted on the tail marking the was white [ figure of a fin-flash shaped like a solid "V" pointed down toward L/E of horizontal stabilizer]."
Richard Dunn adds: "My take on the RAAF Kittyhawk in combat near Wewak is that it did not happen. First, it didn't happen before November 1943 because there were no RAAF Kittyhawk Squadrons within range of Wewak. The only fighters active over Wewak were American P-38 Lightnings from August 1943 soon joined by P-47s and later by [US] P-40s. No P-39s and no RAAF Kittyhawks were involved in the late 1943 to March 1944 missions against Wewak. RAAF No. 78 Wing (75, 78 and 80 Squadrons) moved within theoretical range of Wewak in January 1944 (Nadzab area) but its missions from there and later from New Britain simply did not include sweeps or escort missions to Wewak nor is there any record of air combat in these squadrons before Hollandia fell in April 1944 and Wewak was totally isolated."
Papua New Guinea Ki-61 Tonys Move To Precision Aerospace by Robert Greinert
Fighter Factory - Ki-61 Tony Profile via Wayback Machine May 21, 2011
Fighter Factory - Ki-61 Tony Restoration Photos via Wayback Machine June 14, 2009
Classic Wings Magazine Vol 17 No 3 Issue 76 (2010) shows Ki-61 640 under restoration in Wangaratta. The caption states: ".....this most advanced machine belongs to Jerry Yagen of Virginia Beach, USA."
Flight Journal "Return of the Swallow (Hein)" August 2013
"The old idium states that 'one swallow does not make a summer,' but 2013 may just prove this to be inaccurate... Renowned for their P-40 restorations, PAP (Precision Aerospace Productions) is currently assembling the first airframe, Jerry Yegan's Ki-61-ib c/n 640, which is now structurally complete... Ki-61-1b (c/n 640)... was shipped from the PNG Museum to Australia as part of an aircraft exchange and purchased that same year by Jerry Yegan for inclusion within his "Fighter Factory" collection."
Papua New Guinea (PNG) Public Accounts Committee (PAC) "Inquiry into the National Museum and Art Gallery and the Sale and Export of the Swamp Ghost Aircraft" Final Report, page 90 (Ki-61 Tony 640) 2006
Thanks to Bruce Hoy, Richard Leahy, Jim Long, Mick Grinter and Robert Greinert and Gerald Yagen for additional information.
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Oil Tank Dataplate
Tail Gear Strut
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