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  D3A1 Model 11 Val Manufacture Number 3122 Tail 31-212
IJN
31st Kōkūtai

Former assignment:
33rd Kōkūtai

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ATIU 1943

Pilot  Ensign Yobishi Kagawa (KIA)
Observer  PO2c Toshiyuki Moriyama (KIA)

Crashed  October 16, 1942

Aircraft History
Built by Aichi completed approximately January 1941. Delivered to the Imperial Japanese Navy (IJN). Assigned to the 33rd Kōkūtai when the unit ceased operating dive bombers during August 1942. Afterwards, assigned to the 31st Kōkūtai with tail code 31-212. This aircraft was painted with dark green on the upper surfaces and a light color, probably gray green lower surfaces.

Mission History
On October 16, 1942 one of nine Vals, armed with two 60kg bombs each, took off from Buin Airfield at 1:55 local time to 60 nautical miles south-east of Guadalcanal in search of enemy carriers, but finds none. At 6:10 the Vals turn towards home due to bad weather. At 6:30, they locate and bomb a tanker unloading one mile off Guadalcanal, claiming 4 direct hits and 4 near misses. They also attacked a destroyer and claim two direct hits causing a fire. Three Vals are lost over the target: one shot down by a Grumman, and the others observed to crash. Another Val (presumed to be this aircraft) is reported as 'MIA'. At 9:30 the remaining five return to Buin Airfield, but one is damaged on landing.

This aircraft crashed near Sombiro on the east shore of Gatukai Island. A Coastwatcher (Kennedy?) reported that the aircraft crashed after the pilot had been killed by machine gun fire from an American fighter aircraft. The gunner was killed in the crash. Both bodies were buried by the natives of Sombiro Village.

Justin Taylan adds:
"I researched the 31st Kōkūtai at the Tokyo Defense Archives. They were based at Rabaul and Buin Airfield (Kahili) in late September to the end of October 1942. There were only two missions towards Guadalcanal that involved a total of seven Vals were lost on these two missions. All the Vals were observed to crash over the target area, or crash elsewhere. Only one Val is listed as 'MIA'. This Val was pilot by Ensign Yobishi Kagawa and was lost on the October 16, 1942 mission. I believe, this wreck is his aircraft."

ATIU Evaluation
Inspected sometime after August 1943 and before April 1944. Estimated to have crashed in September 1942. Reported in CEAR #51 published April 1944. The aircraft was equipped with a generator manufactured by the Eclipse Aviation Company of East Orange, New Jersey.

Jim Long adds:
"Although the report fails to give a date of assembly for the airframe, it does include nameplates from several components that indicate its assembly date would have to have been after 13 December 1940. The following component plates came from Val Model 11 #3122:

Plate from bomb rack:
Fuselage No. = Aichi No. 3122; Part Date = 13 December 1940.

Plate from dive brake:
Mfr No. = Aichi No. 3111; Part Date = 13 November 1940.

Plate from 74-Liter Gas Tank
Fuselage No. = Aichi No. 3124; Part Date = 4 October 1940.

Plate from a 3-Liter tank
Mfr No. = Aichi 3122; Part Date = 25 October 1940.

There were 15 enclosures, including eight photos and translations of battery marking, landing gear shock absorber nameplate, tail wheel shock absorber nameplate, a safety switch marking, engine nameplate, Kinsei Engine Model 44 w/diagram of vacuum pump, gas tank nameplate, Dive brake nameplate, magneto nameplate, and two other nameplates.

I call your attention to the four serial numbers on the four nameplates from Val 11 #3122. Two of them have the airframe manufacture number and two do not. If the Allied inspectors of this wreck had recovered only the nameplate with #3111 on it, they might well have assumed back in September 1942 that the airframe's manufacture number was #3111, and they would have been wrong. Later on the Allied crash inspectors knew better than to assume that all nameplates on a particular airframe carried the airframe manufacture number, but early in the war they didn't understand why the various nameplates had different numbers. They assumed at that early time that the Japanese were cannibalizing parts from disabled planes to keep other planes flying.

That did happen to some extent, but not nearly as much as might be assumed, and cannibalization was not the main reason for the abundance of numbers. The main reasons were (1) that component parts were numbered in the same way as the whole airplanes were numbered, and (2) all of the numbers looked the same, whether they were for components or for whole airplanes, and (3) production line personnel were under no pressure to assure that all serial
numbers on an individual airframe matched.

When an assembler working on airframe #3122 drew the the 74-liter fuel tank, he didn't look to see what the serial number of it was. He didn't care that the tank had #3124 on it; all he wanted was a tank that was completed, inspected, and ready to be installed. That is how tank #3124 wound up on airplane #3122, instead of on airplane #3124. Airplane #3124 might well have had fuel tank #3122 on it. Such was the dynamic and hectic scene at the assembly building. The only airplanes that might have had all of the
nameplates on each of them carrying the same numbers as the airframes, themselves, were the early machines: the prototype and a few of the other experimental planes . . . and perhaps the first few production planes."

References
Kodochosho, 31st Kōkūtai, October 16, 1942
Thanks to Minoru Kamada for Kodochosho translation
Thanks to James Long for providing an estimated Assembly Date for 3122, for sending the details of the crash from Crashed Enemy Aircraft Report No. 51, and for supplying copies of the eight photos from Report No. 51.

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Last Updated
January 5, 2018

 

Tech Info
Val

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Map158 13' E
8 44' S

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