Kagero Aircraft Books # 23
by Krzysztof Janowicz
reviewed by Paul Mahoney
One of the latest titles in the ever-increasing series of unit history books by Kagero covers the Japanese 68th Sentai and (despite the title) it's sister unit, the 78th Sentai. These units were exclusively equipped with the Kawasaki Ki61 Hein (Tony to the Allies) and spent most of their existence fighting in the New Guinea campaign during World War II.
This book follows Kagero's standard format of 'dual' text on each page - one column in Polish and another in English. The English translation seemed very readable to me and it is a quick read.
The complete history of the units' formation, training (centered around the Ki61), entry into combat, and eventual demise is covered. Most of the text follows the chronology step by step of the units' activities, including the many technical difficulties that arose with operating a relatively high-tech airframe and engine in the rudimentary field conditions present in New Guinea. There is even an interesting anecdote discussing the transfer of 800 Mauser 20mm cannon from Germany to upgrade the light armament of the Ki61s. This transfer took place on the high seas between two submarines!
Ultimately, most of the book goes into a detailed discussion of individual flight operations and combat that took place between the 68th/78th Sentai and various units of the USAAF 5th AF. Reading through the pages you can quickly get a feeling for how quickly outnumbered the Japanese units were, how few replacements they received, and the difficult conditions they operated in. There are some small glitches here and there in the translation, but they do not affect the overall effect of the text.
The very last pages of the text are dedicated to a discussion of camouflage used on the Ki61s, which is a nice addition and should prove quite helpful to the modeler. Scattered throughout the 72 pages are a decent selection of black and white photos.
Also included is a decal sheet by Techmod (1/72nd and 1/48th scales) covering several of the aircraft depicted in color profiles. I really like this little bonus and plan to use at least one set of them. Speaking of color profiles, there are 8 different aircraft depicted, including 3 on a pullout insert in the center of the book. There are also several scrap-views of unit tail markings depicted in color. These are all described in detail at the end of the text.
Bottom line: Interesting and quick read, nice color profiles (supported by Techmod decals), and worth adding to your reference library if WWII Japanese aircraft are your interest.
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