Nakajima Ki-43 Hayabusa (Oscar)


Place in history: In 1940, the engineers at the Nakajima factory were convinced that planes with heavier armament and better protection were the way of the future. However, Japanese generals were influenced by their recent conquest of China and wanted a new fighter that was lightweight for ground support. Pilots who flew the Oscar thought it handled beautifully, but it was never a very effective fighter because of its slow top speed and limited fire-power. In spite of its drawbacks, the Oscar was used throughout the war in the Pacific, and were responsible for downing a large number of American planes. Ultimately, it was also the mainstay of the Japanese Army's "Special Attack" (Kamikaze) program.

This aircraft: Entering service in January 1943, this Oscar was sent to Truk Island in the Pacific Ocean as part of the 1st and 11th Sentai unit of the Japanese Air Force. Later it served on Rabaul in Papua New Guinea. Shortly after the end of the war, this Oscar was found in dense jungle four miles from Vunakanau airfield on Rabaul. The plane had severe front-end damage from its final landing, but was repaired by Japanese soldiers with parts salvaged from a number of other Oscars.

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