|Role||Airliner and transport aircraft|
|Manufacturer||Nakajima and Showa Aircraft|
|First flight||October 1939|
71× L2D2 by Nakajima
all others by Sh?wa
The Sh?wa L2D and Nakajima L2D, given the designations Sh?wa Navy Type 0 Transport and Nakajima Navy Type 0 Transport, were license-built versions of the Douglas DC-3. The L2D series, numerically, was the most important Japanese transport in World War II. The L2D was given the Allied code name Tabby.
After successful license production acquired in 1935 of the earlier Douglas DC-2, Nakajima Hikoki acquired the license rights for $90,000 in February 1938, to build the DC-3. Previously, the Great Northern Airways and the Far East Fur Trading Company had purchased 22 DC-3s from 1937-1939. This total consisted of 13 Cyclone powered DC-3s and nine Twin Wasp powered DC-3As, two of which were delivered un-assembled and assigned to a relatively new concern, Sh?wa Aircraft. Both Sh?wa and Nakajima worked in concert to create a production series. Although the L2D was intended for both civil and military application, the production run was largely reserved for the Japanese military as the Navy Type 0 Transport.
The Nakajima prototype, powered by Pratt & Whitney SB3G radial engines, first flew in October 1939 and entered production in 1940 as the L2D1 with parts imported from the U.S. while the two Sh?wa examples were being assembled to Japanese production standards to simplify manufacture. Differing in minor details, mainly due to the use of locally produced Mitsubishi Kinsei 43 radial engines of similar power, the initial series from both companies were very similar to its Douglas antecedent.
By 1942, Nakajima had built, including the prototype, 71 L2D2 Navy Type 0 Transport Model 11s and then embarked on manufacturing combat aircraft of their own design. Sh?wa, once their factory and production line was complete, built the next series, a total of 416 aircraft, including 75 cargo versions with the "barn door," and reinforced floor (designated L2D2 1). The first Japanese military version was equipped with wide cargo doors, essentially mirroring the U.S. C-47, appearing about the same time. Other L2D variants, while normally unarmed, the L2D4 and L2D4-1 variants carried one flexible 13 mm Type 2 machine gun in a dorsal turret in the navigator's dome and two flexible 7.7 mm Type 92 machine guns that could be fired from fuselage hatches, but this armament configuration was not a production standard.
Although the Japanese civil versions were nearly identical to their Douglas equivalent, the military variants, while visually similar, were substantially different. The Kinsei 51/53 engines had 1,325 hp (975 kW) and featured enlarged nacelles and large propeller spinners, while the cockpit bulkhead was moved back 40 inches (100 cm) so all four crew members forward were in one compartment, with three extra windows added behind the cockpit. The most radical changes to the original design came about due to wartime exigencies in shortages of strategic materials, that led to metal components in less critical structural areas being replaced by wood. As many as 20 transports featured wooden rudders, stabilizers, ailerons, fins, elevators and entrance doors. An all-wood variant, the L2D5, was readied for production near the end of the war.
The original DC-3s operated by Dai Nippon Koku KK were pressed into Imperial service during the war, serving alongside the license-built L2Ds. The L2Ds served in the Southern Philippines' air groups (K?k?tai) in squadrons (Buntai) attached to the 1st, 3rd, , 11th, 12th, 13th and 14th Air Fleets (K?ku Kantai) as well as the Combined Fleet (Reng? Kantai) and to the China Area and Southwest Area Fleets. With the large load capacity inherent in all L2D variants, the types were used in all Japanese theaters, as both a passenger and cargo transport, playing an important role in supply of the distant garrisons on the islands of Pacific Ocean and new Guinea. They were also adapted to serve as staff and communications aircraft as well as in the maritime surveillance role. The future president of Indonesia, Sukarno, used an L2D2 during discussions regarding Indonesian independence with Japanese authorities in early 1945.
At least one L2D was captured at Zamboanga airfield in May 1945 and later repaired and tested at Clark Field.
RAF Air Chief Marshal Sir Walter Cheshire was in charge of troop and supply airlift in South East Asia after Japan surrendered. Due to lack of resources available he was forced to make use of Japanese Air Force transport planes and aircrews, creating the RAF Gremlin Task Force (GTF). This included the use of L2D "Tabby" aircraft that supplemented RAF 118 Wing C-47 Dakota aircraft. Japanese aircraft retained their white surrender finish with large blue and white SEAC roundels painted over the green surrender crosses.
In 1945 in the Dutch East Indies (now Indonesia), after the capitulation of Japan, at least three L2D "Tabby" were captured on the Perak airfield (near Surabaya). They wore the marks of the Indonesian nationalists (a red and white stripe). As there was a great need for transportation, two Tabbies were (with the cooperation of the Indonesians) flown to Tjililitan near Batavia (now Jakarta). As the condition of the planes was rather bad, the Dutch military decided not to use the planes any further. The third was flown to Medan on Sumatera, however there were oil-leaks and it had to make an emergency landing and was abandoned. ('Japanese planes under Dutch command' by G.J. Tornij)
Relatively few of the Sh?wa/Nakajima L2Ds survived the war, although at least one captured example was in service with the National Aviation Corporation (CNAC) during 1945, serving along with DC-3s acquired pre-war. In 1946, another captured L2D2 was used by the French VVS Group Transport 1/34 in military operations in Indochina. Postwar, other L2Ds were located in the Pacific as either crashed or abandoned aircraft, and none exist today.
Data from Japanese Aircraft of the Pacific War
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