Souvenirs from Java

January 2010

When my brother and I were kids, our grandfather would occasionally mention his trip to the "South" during the war. He would tell us of the tropical hues unknown to Japan, taste of exotic fruits from the jungle and the mysterious temples at Angkor Wat. When we asked to see the pictures however, he would shake his head and tell us that they were all lost during the air raids. Pointing to a pair of shadow puppets from Java on the wall, he would say that they were his only souvenirs from the trip. 

About a year ago, I started digging around second-hand bookshops and other likely sources, hoping to find something of his work as a photographer,  Last December, in response to my enquiries with a printing company that he worked for, I was sent a dusty old book. The book contained a number of photographs by my grandfather but  one picture stood out as an anomaly. 

Before the war, my grandfather, Genzo Kitazumi was a fine-art photographer. A few months after the start of the war, he was commissioned to compile a photographic record of the occupied territories in South East Asia. This photograph was one of the frames from this assignment. 

The fact that it's in color, which was highly unusual for the time, wasn't surprising. The purpose of his assignment was to use a color separation (one-shot) camera to bring back colour images. What is unusual however is that it is of an American  Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress. From various sources, I managed to unearth about 30 photographs from this assignment. Curiously, this is one of only a handful showing any indication that the assignment was carried out in the midst of a bloody conflict. 

I became curious as to where the picture was taken. Grandad was always quite vague about place names. About the only places I remember him mentioning was Angkor Wat and Java. From previous research, I knew he had visited French Indochina and Thailand. The book from the printers' gave a more comprehensive list. Malay peninsula, island of Celebes, Java & Bali in the Dutch East Indies, Mindanao, Cebu, Luzon & Corregidor in the Philippines. It also provided me with more precise dates of the trip, between July and December of 1942. 

Identity of the Plane 

My first guess was that the photograph was taken at Clark Field on Luzon since that was the main US air base in the area. The base was captured by Japanese forces in January 1942. Luzon was indeed one of the places visited by Kitazumi on his war-time odyssey. 

By the end of December 1941, heavy bombers based at the Clark Field were withdrawn to Darwin in Australia and were then redeployed to Java in January 1942. Clark Field was overrun by Japanese forces in early January 1942. 

Although at least one B-17 is known to have been  captured by the Japanese in the Philippines, it became immediately apparent that this was not the one. The gun turret behind the cockpit clearly identifies the plane as a B-17E (see diagram right). The 19th Bomb Group, which operated out of Clark Field was equipped with B-17Cs and Ds. (1) 

On the day that the Japanese forces attacked however, brand-new B-17Es belonging to the 7th Bomb Group were being flown into Pearl Harbour on their way to the Philippines. Due to the worsening situation on Luzon they were diverted via North Africa and India to Java. Between 14th January and 1st March, both 7th Bomb Group and the 19th were operating out of Malang, Madioen and Djojakarta (Yogyakarta ) on Java. 

By chance, I came across another picture of a B-17E, but this time clearly displaying Japanese markings with the following caption: "B-17E (Flyng Fortress) 41-2471 formerly of 7th Bomb Group after being repaired by Japanese in 1942.The aircraft crash landed on 8 Feb 1942 at Djogjakarta, Java and was abandoned." (2) 

According to the diaries of the 19th Bomb Group, B-17E 41-2471 is recorded as having arrived at Malang via the African route on January 19th 1942 . Its last mission is logged for February 8th when the plane landed at Djogjakarta after a raid due to an explosion of oxygen tanks. (3) 

In Kitazumi's photograph, there is an area of the front fuselage under the navigator's windows that appears to have been repainted. This may have been applied to cover the artwork which may have adorned the plane. The oxygen bottles on the B-17 were located in the lower fuselage section beneath the upper turret but this area is not visible in the photograph.(4) 

The Other Plane 

To find other clues to the location of the picture, I tried matching the tail fin of the plane visible in the foreground. This was a little bit more difficult than I initially anticipated. I was convinced that the red winged triangle symbol was an insignia of a Japanese Army Air Force squadron. Since the tail fin appeared to be relatively small, I was looking for matches on single-engined aircraft. I found none among the Japanese army or navy planes from the period. 

Thinking that it may be another captured Allied aircraft, I searched through the tail planes of US Army Air Corp and RAF from the period but once again, no luck. It then occurred to me that Djogjakarta was a part of the Dutch East Indies at the time and the plane might have belonged to the Royal Dutch East Indies Air Force (ML-KNIL) (5). This assumption turned up a match on the Curtiss-Wright CW-22 Falcon. (6) 

An inventory of ML-KNIL planes on Java in December 1941 lists two reconnaissance groups and one depot group as being equipped with CW-22s. One of the reconnaissance groups, Verkenningsafdeling 2 (VkA-2) with 11 CW-22s was based at Djogjakarta. 

As noted previously, there is some documented evidence pointing to a capture of a B-17E at Dogjakarta. Furthermore, it was one of the last locations to be used by the 7th and 19th Bomb Groups on Java as other bases were overrun. Last flights out were logged for the 1st March 1942 and the area was overrun by the Japanese around the 4th. 

The evidences, though circumstantial, were starting to suggest that Kitazumi took the photograph of the planes at Djogjakarta. 

Another Photo 

In trawling for references to CW-22 and B-17s captured by the Japanese, I came across another picture. It shows a B-17E, Curtiss-Wright CW-22 Falcon, CW-21 Demon ("Interceptor", also from ML-KNIL) all with the same red winged triangle insignia on the tail. 

According to the attached article, the insignia is that of Aeronautical Research Center (Koku Gijutsu Kenkyujo) at Tachikawa, which was assigned to evaluate captured aircraft. (8) Coincidentally, Tachikawa, the home base of Research Center was in the north western peripheries of Tokyo, no more than ten miles from Kitazumi's home. 

The markings and the fact that the two planes are parked together would suggest that they are the very same planes from Kitazumi's photograph. The photograph is dated to May 1943 (probably the date of publication) and was purportedly taken at Singapore where the Research Center had a detachment in place. (9)(10) It seems unlikely however that a major acquisition such as the B-17 would have been kept together with two planes of much lesser intelligence value after being flown to Singapore. It is more likely that the location is the same as that of Kitazumi's photograph. 

Of Dancers and Puppets 

The final piece of the puzzle came from an unexpected source. It was only after I'd searched through pages of Bomb Group histories, Dutch colonial accounts and scores of pictures of combat aircraft that I noticed a caption to another photograph from the same chapter in the book. It is of a costumed dancer and the caption indicated that it was taken at Djogjakarta in 1942. 

The dancer, as it turned out was performer from Srimpi, classical Javanese dance which was traditionally performed at the royal palaces of Djogjakarta. More interestingly however, Srimpi is closely associated with Wayang Kulit the theatre of shadow puppets. 

Since Islam forbids representation of the human form, the puppets are highly stylized and are said to be representations of universal values derived from the characters that they enact. Furthermore, the puppets are thought to be imbued with the mystical powers associated with these values. 

Here at last was a more tangible, and in some ways symbolic link from Djogjakarta to the puppets I saw on my grandfather's wall. 


My grandfather returned to Japan in late December 1942. In February 1943, his pictures from South East Asia were enlarged to poster size and displayed, one frame at a time, in the shop windows along Tokyo's Ginza district. As some of the first and only colour photographs in Japan at the time, it reportedly caused a sensation. The exhibition then toured the country introducing the population to exotic scenes from South East Asia. He subsequently became a respected figure as a pioneer colour photographer and was able to establish an independent research center to further refine the process of colour photography and printing. 

At the time when my grandfather was making his way around South East Asia, on 21st September 1942, a prototype aircraft XB-29 rolled onto the runway at Boeing Field in Seattle. The plane later came to be known as the B-29 "Superfortress"

Three years later, on the night of 25th of May 1945, 464 B-29s of the 20th Air Force dropped a total of 3,362 tons of incendiary bombs on Tokyo. (11) After the bombers had left, the neighbours found Kitazumi in the rubble of his home in a state of shock. His home and workplace had been razed to the ground. All his work, including the photographs from his assignment to South East Asia had gone up in smoke. Only the shadow puppets emerged from the ashes. 

Javanese shadow puppets from Wayang Kulit depicting Rama and Sinta. 


B-17: Genzo Kitazumi, 1942, Djogjakarta (Yogyakarta) from History of Mitsumura Color Printing Ltd. 

B-17 variants: This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.5 Generic license. 

"Captured Boeing B-17E Fortress 41-2471...": Source detail unknown, from a war-time Japanese publication. 

Javanese dancer: Genzo Kitazumi, 1942, Djogjakarta (Yogyakarta) from History of Mitsumura Color Printing Ltd. 

B-17E, Curtis-Wright CW-22 Falcon, CW-21 Demon (Interceptor)": May 1943, Koku Asahi 

Tachikawa Aeronautical Research Center graphic (insignia): copyright Don Marsh 2001. See note 9. 

One B-17D and two B-17Es flying by Mount Fuji: (note 11.) Source detail unknown, from a war-time Japanese publication. 


1. Far East Airforce (United States) 

Based on information from AAF Historical Study No.34, The AAF in the War Against Japan, 1941-1942 

2. "Captured Boeing B-17E Fortress 41-2471 formerly of 7th Bomb Group after being repaired by Japanese in 1942. The aircraft crash landed on 8 Feb 1942 at Djogjakarta, Java and was abandoned. Aircraft was captured and repaired by Japanese and used for training to develop fighter tactics against USAAF B-17s being used in the Pacific. Eventual fate of this aircraft is unknown" 

3. "Capt. Strother’s airplane (41-2471) was hit after he took the lead of the formation (another frontal attack). An explosion of a low pressure oxygen bottle blow out the hydraulic system and the bomb release mechanism in front of the bomb bay. Because an air raid alarm was in progress at Malang and because of the damaged condition of the plan, it was flown to Jogja(karta) and landed." 

4. According to Japanese sources, another B-17E was captured intact by the elements of the 3rd Air Brigade during their assault on Bandoeng after landing at Kadjati Airfield. It was observed at Bandoeng (probably Andir) by members of East Indies Army Press corp on 28th of June 1942. 




横山隆一 Yokoyama Ryuichi 


The unit in question would have been the 3rd Air Brigade. 

Elements of of the 230th Infantry Regiment landed at Eretan, assaulted and occupied Kalidjati Airfield on 1st March. In conjunction with 3rd Air Brigade (which landed at Kalidjati) breached part of the defenses of fortifications around Bandoeng on the 5th of March. (letter of gratitude to 230th Infantry Regiment, March 23rd, 1942 at Wakayama Prefecture Memorial Archives) 





右ハ昭和十七年三月一日「エレタン」附近ニ 敵前上陸シ数次ニ亘リ空陸ヨリスル敵ノ執拗ナル攻撃ヲ破催シ長驅シテ同日正午既ニ「カリヂヤティ」飛行場一帶ヲ占領シ以テ我カ制空權ノ獲得ヲ可能ナラシムルト共ニ「バタビヤ」「バンドン」間ノ連絡ヲ遮断シ次テ五日午後第三飛行團と協同ノ下ニ「バンドン」要塞ノ一角ヲ突破シ以テ敵軍ノ全面的降伏ニ重大ナル素因ヲ與ヘタリ右ノ行動ハ作戰膽略 最モ機宜ニ適セルモノニシテ其ノ武功ハ抜群ナリ 

第十六軍司令官 今村 均 (花押) 

5. ML-KNIL: Militaire Luchtvaart Koninklijk Nederlands Indisch Leger (Royal Dutch East Indies Air Force) 

6. The tail section of both Curtis-Wright CW-21 Demon (Interceptor) and CW-22 Falcon are virtually indistinguishable. The variant of the "Interceptor" operated by ML-KNIL, CW-22b incorporated a bulging wind faring in front of the rear undercarriage. This feature is not visible in Kitazumi's photograph leading to the conclusion that it is CW-22. 

7. Soedarsono, 1997, Wayang wong, Dramatari Ritual Kenegaraan di Keraton Yogyakarta (Wayang Wong, 
Ritual Dance of the Kingdom from the Palace of Yogyakarta). Yogkakarta: Gajah Mada University Press. 
and quoted in: 
Wong Priangan: Dance Drama of West Java by Yus Ruslaiana 

8. Tachikawa Aeronautical Research Center (Koku Gijutsu Kenkyujo) insignia was identified thanks to an illustration I found by Don Marsh. 

9. Kitazumi's photograph appears to have been taken in a large concrete and steel aircraft hangar which would only be found at a major air field used to handling large planes. Since Djogjakarta was originally a base for an air reconnaissance group and then a forward base for the 7th and 19th Bomb Group between Jaunaury and March 1942, it may be postulated that it was unlikely to have been equipped with a large hangar like the one in the photograph. This remains a speculation however. 

Other possible locations close to the places visited by Kitazumi in 1942 would be the following. 

Andir Airport, Bandoeng (Java): KLM technical service station was located there. B-17s are known to have landed here. This was the last stronghold of the Dutch and Allied forces on Java in 1942. A captured B-17 was observed there on 28th of June 1942. 

Changi (Singapore): This was the main British base in the area, also used by the Army's Aeronautical Research Center. 

Singosari, Malang (Java): The main B-17 and LB-30* base on Java in 1942. 

*Consolidated LB-30 (B-24A) Liberator 

Madioen (Java): Secondary B-17/LB-30 base on Java 

Tjilitan Aerodrome, Batavia (Java): KLM DC-2 and DC-3s on Amsterdam to Batavia route landed here until 1940. 

10. Three B-17s are known to have been captured by the Japanese during the early stages of the war. They were taken back to Japan for evaluation and research into interception tactics. 

This photograph published in a war time Japanese publication clearly shows three B-17s. 1 B-17C or D and 2 B-17Es. This would correspond to two separate B-17Es being captured on Java. One at Djogjakarta and the other at Bandoeng or Kalidjati. 

11. Official Web Site of the 20th Air Force Association, 
Mission 183, 25th of May 1945