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Europe to Japan: An Italian Triumph

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At 17.20 hrs on 1 July 1942, after a flight of 6,000 Km in 21hours and 14 minutes, the S.75 RT landed safely at Pao-Tow-Chen airfield in China. Japanese soldiers immediately took up stations around the aircraft as the crew got out. Japanese authorities and two Italian officials were waiting for them. The Italians were Captain Roberto de Leonardis, the Naval Attaché and Enrico Rossi, an interpreter.

They were ushered to the local hotel, which ironically, was a replica of the Pompeii houses outside of Naples. Each crewmen was “given” at least two Geisha girls who bathed them and washed their dirty garments. While they waited for their clothes, the Italians wore kimonos, which only added to the surrealism they felt in this environment.

Dr. Magini and his fellows were obliged to layover for a day, waiting for a Japanese Air Force guide to arrive from Tokyo. The flight paths to and from the home islands changed daily and any aircraft at the wrong location or altitude or on the wrong course ran the risk of being shot out of the sky. While they waited, Japanese ground crews painted the rising sun insignia on the wings and fuselage of their aircraft.

They finally took off for Tokyo around 7:00 AM on July 3. The Japanese flight guide, a Captain, accompanied them and instructed them on exactly what course they should take. Their route took them over Peking – Dairen – Seoul – Yonagom – Tokyo; a trip of 2700km. They landed at the Tachikawa air force base near Tokyo at 17.04 hrs on July 1942.

After several days between ceremonies and planning of the return flight, the aircraft left Tokyo, still without any load on board, at 05.20 hrs on 16 July 1942, reaching Pao-Tow-Chen at 15.40hrs. There the Japanese provisional markings were removed and the aircraft took off with maximum fuel load (and with some difficulty, due to the short runway…) at 21.45 hrs GMT on 18 July, landing at Odessa at 02.10 hrs GMT on 20 July. At 11.00 hrs on the same day, the S.75 RT took off again, reaching Guidonia at 17.50 hrs. Mussolini himself was waiting for the arrival of the plane.

The whole flight, upon repeated requests of the Japanese, had to be kept secret, but the news came out five days later on Italian newspapers and the Japanese immediately decided to stop any further flights on the route originally followed, requesting the study of a more southern route. This delayed any progress further and the hitherto foreseen flight in August 1942 of the second S.75 RT MM.60543 had to be cancelled.

Further flights would have to employed the new Fiat G.12 RT, but the difficulties created by the Japanese concerning the Southern route (From Rome to the Island of Rhodes, then proceeding non-stop over southern Bulgaria, northern Turkey, Caspian Sea, north-eastern Iran, Afghanistan, flying south of the Himalaya Mountains, over the Gulf of Bengal, finally reaching Rangoon) and with securing adequate radio and navigational aids (especially in Rangoon), delayed things until on 17 November 1942 the Italian Government (and the Regia Aeronautica) decided to put an end to the whole project.

By: Mitch Williamson 2002


E-mail in “12 O’Clock High!” web forum and further correspondence with Ferdinando D’Amico Summer 1993 issue of Military History Quarterly: Narrative by Dr. Publio Magini” Post Script:

Dr. Kenneth Werrell in “World War II German Distance Flights: Fraud or Record?” in Aerospace Historian, XXXV, No. 2 (Summer/June 1988), pp. 111-16 debunks the myth of Ju 290 flights to Japan/Manchuria. A Ju-290 could in theory fly one way to Manchuria, and such flights were at one time envisioned. The story got started through disinformation provided by a captured German serviceman, Unteroffizer Wolf Baumgart, which was duly recorded in Ninth Air Force A.P.W.I.U. Report 44/1945. As well, research by Gunther Ott, the leading authority on the type, has established the careers and fates of all these long range modified aircraft and ascertained that no such flights were actually carried out.

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