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Four Georges — three easy, one hard — what is left of one of Imperial Japan’s best WW II fighters, the Kawanishi N1K-J Shiden (紫電 “Violet Lightning”) Allied Codename George

20 February 2012

Four Georges — three easy, one hard — what is left of one of Imperial Japan’s best WW II fighters, the Kawanishi N1K-J Shiden (紫電  “Violet Lightning”) Allied Codename George

It is difficult to find aircraft of countries which have lost in war. Aircraft on the winning side usually abound while the defeated have their equipment scrapped — to the detriment of history, increasing the inherent bias of the victor’s interpretation of events.

Such is the case with the late WW II arrival of the Kawanishi N1K-J Shiden (紫電  “Violet Lightning”), an Imperial Japanese Navy land based fighter the Allied codenamed “George” and which originated as the “Rex” — a floatplane fighter (part of Japans’ strategy to have aircraft untied to airfields) that was the Kawanishi N1K Kyōfū (強風 “Strong Wind”). It was fast, unusual for Japan  late in the war. It could roll better than most fighters its size, not unusual for a Japanese design. The George was heavily armed (4 x 20mm cannon) and could absorb much in the way of combat damage — both were unusual qualities in WW II Japanese aircraft. The engine suffered in performance at higher altitudes and the landing gear was frail, eventualities of Japan’s lack of rare metals for industry, but it was a match against the Grumman F6F Hellcat as well as the Vought F4U Corsair — and could be lethal against the Boeing B-29 Superfortresses that seemed to have all but free range over the home islands of Japan.

There are only four remaining to be seen in museums.

Three were easy for me to find and, luckily, I have seen them. Their locations are:

The fourth took some time for me to locate and I hope to see it at some point. This George is displayed in a conserved condition as if raised shortly after the pilot’s successful forced landing in the Bungo Channel ending his combat interception mission. Near the town of Ainan (愛南町) Japan is a resort where this Shinden sits on display, it is named Mountain Park South in Mixed Lek (南レク馬瀬山公園内にあり).

Photos of the Georges I have seen will publish throughout this week.


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