Mitsubishi Ki-21 "Sally"
Most important Japanese army bomber,
in production up to 1944. Codenamed Sally. Served in every theatre where the
Japanese army was engaged.
Already obsolete at the
time of the Pearl Harbor attack, the Ki-21 Type 97 heavy bomber (Allied
code name 'Sally') remained the backbone of the Japanese Army Air
Force's bomber squadrons throughout the war. The 'Sally' entered service
in 1937 and was used against Soviet forces in Manchuria in 1939 and
against the Chinese in the lengthy Japanese warfare in China. The
'Sally' flew against U.S. forces in the South Pacific, but by the end of
the war the plane was employed primarily as a transport.
On May 24, 1945, seven Sallies
flew from Japan to land at an American-held airfield on Okinawa; five
were shot down, but the two survivors crash-landed at Yontan airfield,
and the twelve commandos from the planes destroyed seven U.S. aircraft,
fuel drums, and an ammunition dump before being killed by defending U.S.
Marines. At the war's end the 'Sally' joined other Japanese aircraft
that were painted white with green crosses to carry VIPs negotiating the
Japanese surrender. The 'Sally' thus had the distinction of being in
Japanese Army service longer than any other combat aircraft.
A Mitsubishi design, the
'Sally' was developed as a heavy bomber to strike targets in the Soviet
Far East. The prototype flew in 1937. The design was accepted, but it
was reengineer and was continually refined (by Nakajima as well as
Mitsubishi) to increase the bomb load and defensive armament. The
improved Ki-21-II was the definitive variant, with the IIb sub-series
introducing a dorsal gun turret (in place of the "greenhouse";
see below). A further improvement (Ki-21-III) was rejecting in favour of
the Ki-67 'Peggy'. Production of the 'Sally' continued until Sept. 1944
with 2,064 aircraft being produced.
The 'Sally' was a twin
engine, mid-wing aircraft distinguished by an elongated doral
"greenhouse" aft of the cockpit, a glazed nose, and tall tail
fin. The undercarriage fully retracted into the radial engine nacelles.
Up to 2,200 pounds of bombs could be carried in the internal bomb bay.
The IIb variant had a defensive armament of one 12.7 mm machine gun in
the dorsal turret, four 7.7 mm hand-held machine guns in the nose and
other positions, and a remote-controlled 7.7 mm gun in the tail
Maximum speed for the IIb was
297 mph, while its range was 1,350 miles on combat missions. The
aircraft was flown by a crew of seven.