These craft are actually modifications of the venerable and sweet-flying T-6 Texan (Harvard for you Commonwealth readers) done up to look like the Zero (Zeke) fighter, Val dive bomber, and Kate torpedo bomber. There are only a handful of flyable Zekes left, one Val being restored, and no Kates, so a little artistic license is necessary. The airframes of the Texan and the Vultee Valiant trainers make good stand-ins, though.
Why the names for Japanese planes? Simple-'Zeke', 'Val', and 'Kate' are easier to call out in a fight than 'Mitsubishi A6M5', 'Aichi D3A', and 'Nakajima B5N'. In general, fighters got male names, trainers got tree names, and everything else got a female name. But most of you knew all about this anyway.
These planes were actually used in the 1970 movie Tora Tora Tora (an order of magnitude better movie than 2000's Pearl Harbor) and they're still playing their roles 40 years later!
It was a bright sunny afternoon. We were lounging around the field waiting for Saturday night to come around, when all of a sudden a giant flight of Japanese planes snuck past our AA and CAP. Dive bombers, torpedo bombers, escorted by Zeros. Those so-and-sos buzzed us like they were flying down the Ginza!
They're killing us here! Bombs were going off all up and down the strip! Where's our defense?
Those Kates were flying around like they owned the place, bombing and strafing at will...
Finally. Our quad fifty emplacement gets in the game. Scratch one Kate!
Here comes the cavalry! One of our Mustangs got off the ground! That'll even things up some!
How 'bout that, Tojo?! One of your Zeros isn't coming home.
And of course the Mustang saves the day and chases the Japanese back to their base on Kumoniwannalaya Island....
...or maybe beer and burgers at Thunder Bay Grille, as Tora! Tora! Tora! Flight makes another pass over the crowd before landing. Tomorrow is, after all, another performance in this year's airshow circuit.
Now, we know that there'd be no torpedo bombers on an attack on an airfield, and one defending plane rising is likely as not going to get hacked up. It's a representation of what the attack at Pearl would have looked like and you have to multiply it in your mind and use your imagination. You do get the idea of what low-level air combat might have looked like, though. A lot of jinking, weaving, and general confusion, with the added hazard of being really close to the ground. Not for the squeamish or the easily confused!
It's a shame this scenario couldn't be played out over water, where the team could simulate actual dive bombings and torpedo runs. I bet I know eight houseboat owners that would happily sacrifice their boats (especially if they have a persistent leak, bad electrics, or a non-working drive) if we tied them up in a row just like Battleship Row at Pearl Harbor and let the 'Japanese' do their thing.
Later this week, we'll cover the rest of the show.