SPECIAL Pearl Harbor: December 7th, 1941 Nakajima B5N2 ‘Kate’ Relic Display


*** The last of the last! These two special 20x16-inch open-framed canvas displays include the last two evenly divided original pieces of aluminum skin from this Japanese B5N2 'Kate' torpedo bomber that was shot down over battleship row on December 7th, 1941 *** 

History (as described on the display): 

Pearl Harbor: December 7th, 1941, Nakajima B5N2 ‘Kate’ IJN Kaga - F1c Shuzo Kitahara

Delivered to the Japanese fleet carrier Kaga in late 1941, this aircraft participated in the first strike wave of the Pearl Harbor attack, with the mission of targeting the American capital ships of Battleship Row. With F1c Shuzo Kitahara as pilot, PO2c Yoshio Shimizu as observer, and PO2c Haruo Onishi as gunner, it encountered heavy anti-aircraft fire from Battleship Row. After dropping its torpedo, it was observed to take hits and catch fire. It crashed near Naval Hospital Pearl Harbor, and all aboard were killed. While the aircraft’s remains were picked over for souvenirs, very few known pieces survive, today. The fragment, at right, was cut from the starboard side of the vertical stabilizer, just below the red tail code. The green camouflage paint was applied over bare aluminum in the hangar deck of Kaga, on the way to Pearl Harbor.


These 1-inch by 1-inch pieces of duraluminum have been cut from a larger, 10-inch by 9-inch, section that includes part of this aircraft's unique red hand-painted tail code (the area of the code, itself, is being preserved as one part, and not cut). This larger section was among parts of this aircraft that were cut from the crash site, around the tennis court, by the Naval Hospital Pearl Harbor, and were posted on a bulletin board utilized by Submarine Squadron 10 (SUBRON 10), then based at Pearl. The lot included control surface fabric and this piece from the tail of the 'Hospital Kate'. This piece has writing, in pencil, that reads: "Jap torpedo plane Pearl Harbor December 7, 41". Written on the fabric, was an identical description and a notation that the pieces were to be posted on the bulletin board of "Squadron 10". 

This piece of duraluminum material has been studied in detail. Its construction is perfectly consistent with the vertical tail structure of the Nakajima B5N. Most revealing is the perfectly preserved original paint. The B5N2 'Kates' of the Pearl Harbor attack were camouflaged in a way that was especially unique. Their upper surfaces were painted with a blend of green and brown by crews aboard their aircraft carriers while they were traversing the Pacific, on their way to Pearl Harbor (much to the dismay of their flight crews, who took pride in their polished bare metal aircraft). All of the 'Kates' that were lost during the attack were from the first wave, and from Kaga. Trace remains from those machines reveal that all were camouflaged in overall dark green and dark brown-painted tail sections - except the aircraft flown by F1c Shuzo Kitahara. It's surmised that the aircraft with brown tails had previously sported the standard pre-war scheme that included bright red tail sections, but Kitahara's did not - though this is mere conjecture. There is no evidence on this metal that this aircraft had ever had the red tail, which is perfectly consistent with another relic from this aircraft (from the port-side rudder, this fabric has suffered from poor storage since 1941, but also shows that Kitahara's 'Kate' was never red, and was painted green aboard Kaga, see last photo). The reverse of this metal reveals perfectly preserved Aotake preservative and the duraluminum grade designation stamp 'S-D-C-H'. The faint rings in the coating are from the factory workers, who touched-up the Aotake with jars of the coating that left faint rings in the still soft sprayed-on finish. The green camouflage is not factory-applied, is uniquely matte, with no evidence of the otherwise expected red/brown iron oxide primer - all consistent with other known relics from this aircraft, and others similarly painted aboard their carriers in December 1941.      


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