Meatballs and Dead Birds; A Photo Gallery of Destroyed Japanese Aircraft in World War II.

Published on
Review Author(s)
Book Author(s)
James P. Gallagher
Other Publication Information
Paperback, 8” x 11”, 156 pages, 153 BW photos, 13 pages of formerly secret recognition and data sheets from AF manuals.
Provided by: Stackpole Books
Book Cover


The author of this book, James P. Gallagher, was Communications Officer with the 49th Fighter Group, U.S. Army Air Forces, which operated in the Philippines towards the end of the war, and later relocated to mainland Japan with the occupation forces. Gallagher had been a prize winning photographer when he was in college, and managed to carry a camera with him throughout his military career. One problem was that he was aboard an Australian bomber flying in the Philippines when the plane went down, and he lost his camera. Fortunately, he was able to write home, and his brother located another camera and sent it to him, so he could continue his work. All of his work was done with a 120 camera.

Anyone who was associated with a combat aviation unit at that time period would have had access to a substantial number of wrecked or captured Japanese aircraft. Having an officer’s rank, Gallagher pretty much had the free run of anywhere he was, and had the opportunity to photograph any airplane he saw.

Not many men had this situation and Gallagher exploited it to the max. He was, of course, familiar with the aircraft and with what we knew about them, having access to all of the manuals, then restricted, so he knew what to look for. He photographed each type thoroughly, taking overall and detail photos of the planes as they sat abandoned at their former airfields, awaiting their bulldozer’s fate. I’d like to see his entire collection of photos.

He goes through each aircraft type, sometimes even providing a photo of the manufacturer’s plate, which being in Japanese, isn’t too useful. He did run across a couple of captured aircraft, a Curtiss P-40E and an RAF Douglas DB-7B, while touring an airbase in Japan, and wondered about how they got there. One thing that is particularly useful in the book is his description of the paint scheme and markings on the aircraft, and especially the weathering of the Japanese paints.

Types he covers in detail include the Zero, Betty, Val, Nell, Dinah, Tony, Lily, Ann, Sonia, Kate, Ki-100 (Tony II), Suicide Planes, Irving, Myrt, Francis, Frank, Nakajima Ki-87, Peggy, and Jack. In addition, he includes a lot of photos of groups of aircraft stored in various conditions. Of course, one of the first things that happened to enemy aircraft when our people took control is that the planes were rendered inoperable, and this usually meant the removal of the propellers, although there are some photos of planes with the props still attached.

One particularly interesting plane shown is a Japanese-built “wooden B-29” decoy, propped up and painted to look like a downed aircraft. They apparently had it surrounded with anti-aircraft guns, so that if a fighter pilot spotted it, and came down to destroy it, the sneaky SOB’s would try to shoot him down. He didn’t notice any bomb craters nearby, so apparently it didn’t work. But it makes an interesting story.

One excellent feature of this book is the explanations that go along with each aircraft or group of aircraft. He tells how the fighter pilots in his unit felt about each aircraft, and how they stacked up against a P-38. I think he had a lot of love for the P-38, but that is understandable. A good P-38 pilot could take on any Japanese plane and expect to come out best.

In short, this is a book that anyone interested in World War II aviation should definitely have. It is interesting reading, and the photos are definitely useful in model building. That is not to mention dioramas, which every photo in the book depicts.

There are two editions of this book. The first was a hardback book which came out in 1972. I bought one about that time. Then, in 2004, a second edition came out, which repeated most of the material from the first edition, but also added some combat pictures taken by attack bombers or fighters showing enemy airfields. I have both, and will keep both, as they are a definite asset to my library.

I would highly recommend this book, as it is not the usual type airplane book, and I have found it very useful in modeling over the years. Highly recommended.


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