Biplane fighter aces


Lieutenant Liu Meng-Chin

In April 1939 Lieutenant Liu Meng-Chin served in the 29th PS. This unit was at the time equipped with Polikarpov I-15bis and based at Nancheng.

On 29 April 1939 (Japanese Emperor Hirohito's birthday), Lieutenant Yoshio Sotomura led seven Japanese Army Type 97 (Ki-27) fighters from the 3rd chutai, 64th Sentai, on a fighter sweep from Tuncheng against the Chinese airfield at Nancheng.
The 29th PS scrambled six I-15bis, led by Squadron Leader Captain Ma Kwok-Lim from Nancheng. The Chinese had switched to flying in elements of two for better mutual protection. Lieutenant Teng Chung-Kai was teamed with Ma. The Chinese fighters had just taken off and were at 2,500m when the JAAF fighters arrived at an altitude of around 3,000m. The second Japanese shotai attacked Ma and Teng while the first shotai attacked the second and third Chinese elements consisting of Lieutenant Chai Shi-Wei with Lieutenant Liu Meng-Chin (2nd) and Lieutenant Liu Sheng-Fang with Lieutenant Kung Shu-Ming.
Faced with a foe with superior aircraft and altitude, the Chinese were hard pressed. Nevertheless, they fought aggressively, trying to cover each other’s tails. The Japanese pilots took full advantage of the superior speed and zoom climb abilities of their Ki-27 by making diving passes and then zooming back up for altitude. Sometime during the action, the Japanese appeared to have shifted to concentrating their attacks on the second and third Chinese flights. Soon, Lieutenant Liu Sheng-Fang was shot down and killed. Lieutenant Kung tried to cover but took 10 hits in the wings for his trouble. However, by turning tightly, Kung was able to evade repeated attacks until the Japanese ran low on fuel and retired.
The flight of Chai and Liu Meng-Chin fared even worse. They were attacked by three Ki-27s. Chai was downed and killed but Lieutenant Liu exacted a measure of revenge by hitting one of the Ki-27s with a snap shot forcing it into a spin. This was Sergeant Major Takeji Harada (Sho-2) who was killed in the crash. The other two Ki-27s ganged up on Liu and fatally damaged his I-15bis. Liu managed to bail out and survived.
By concentrating on the second and third Chinese flights (with one shotai each), only left one Ki-27 taking on the most experienced of the Chinese pilots (Ma and Teng). Although the Japanese, First Lieutenant Yoshio Sotomura (47th Class), also was a senior pilot, he made the critical error fighting to the strengths of the Chinese (probably as a result under-estimating the Chinese pilots and their inferior planes). Instead of fighting in the vertical plane where the Ki-27 had the advantage, Sotomura got into a turning fight with Teng. While Teng kept Sotomura occupied, Ma climbed above the two and bounced the Japanese from behind, hitting the Ki-27 in the fuel tanks. Smoke poured from the Ki-27 as Sotomura tried to escape. Evidently damaged, the Ki-27 could not pull away from the normally slower I-15bis. Ma was able to close to 50m and appeared to hit the Japanese pilot with gunfire as, all of a sudden, the Ki-27 stopped evasive action and flew straight with level wings. At this critical juncture, all four of Ma’s ShKAS machine guns jammed. Nevertheless, the Ki-27 was done for and it crashed shortly afterwards. The Japanese pilot died of his injuries. Although, he did not hit the Japanese, Teng contributed to the kill through fine teamwork with his element leader.
The Japanese fighters returned claiming 11 shot down against a reported 20 plus I-15bis for the loss of two fighters (Harada and Sotomura). Known claiming Japanese pilots were Sergeant Majors Takeshi Sasaki and Yoshio Matsuoka, which each were credited with two Chinese fighters shot down, whilst Warrant Officer Hirokichi Matsushita and Sergeant Major Sadao Honda claimed one each.

Liu Meng-Chin ended the war with 1 biplane victory this one being claimed while flying Polikarpov I-15bis.

Kill no. Date Number Type Result Plane type Serial no. Locality Unit
1 29/04/39 1 Ki-27 (a) Destroyed I-15bis   Nancheng area 29th PS

Biplane victories: 1 destroyed.
TOTAL: 1 destroyed.
(a) Sergeant Major Takeji Harada (Sho-2) of the 3rd chutai (Ki-27), 64th Sentai, shot down and killed.

Japanese Army Air Force fighter units and their aces 1931-1945 - Ikuhiko Hata, Yasuho Izawa and Christopher Shores, 2002 Grub Street, London, ISBN 1-902304-89-6
Ki-27 'Nate' Aces – Nicholas Millman, 2013 Osprey Publishing, Oxford, ISBN 978-1-84908-662-2
Additional information kindly provided by Raymond Cheung.

Last modified 17 September 2015