Nakajima Ki-49 Donryu (Helen)

Series of photographs taken in Oct - Nov 2002 of the remains of Nakajima Ki-49 Donryu (Helen) was abandoned after a USAAF raid and remains there to this day.

My photo given to Wikipedia

The Nakajima Ki-49 Donryu (Name is from one of the virtuous buddhist priest Donryu: June 2 1556 - September 3 1623.) was a Japanese medium bomber of World War II. It was a twin-engine, mid-wing, cantilever monoplane of all-metal construction fitted with a retractable tailwheel undercarriage. During the Second World War, it was known to the Allies by the code-name 'Helen'.

The Ki-49 was designed to replace the Mitsubishi Ki-21, which entered service in the Imperial Japanese Army Air Force in 1938. Learning from service trials of the Ki-21, the Army realized that however advanced it may have been at the time, their new Mitsubishi bomber would in due course be unable to operate without fighter escorts. As a result the Japanese Army stipulated that its replacement should have the speed and defensive weaponry to enable it to operate independently.

The prototype first flew in August 1939 and the development programme continued through three prototypes and seven pre-production aircraft. This first prototype was powered by a pair of 708-kW (950-hp) Nakajima Ha-5 KA-I radial engines, but the next two had the 1,250 hp (932 kW) Nakajima Ha-41 engines that were inteded for the production version. Seven more prototypes were built, and these completed the test programme for the aircraft.

Eventually in March 1941, the Donryu went into production as the Army Type 100 Heavy Bomber Model 1.

Operational History
Going operational from autumn 1941, the Ki-49 first saw service in China. After the outbreak of the Pacific War it was active in the New Guinea area and in raids on Australia. Like the prototype, these early versions were armed with five 7.7 (0.303 in) machine guns and one 20 mm cannon.

Combat experience in China and New Guinea showed the Donryu to be underpowered with bomb capacity and speed suffering as a result. Thus, in the spring of 1942 an up-engined version was produced, fitted with more powerful Ha-109 engines, and this became the production Army Type 100 Heavy Bomber Model 2 or Ki-49-IIa. The Model 2 also introduced improved armour and self-sealing fuel tanks and was followed by the Ki-49-IIb in which 12.7-mm (0.5-in) machine guns replaced three of the 7.7 mm (0.303-in) pieces.

In spite of these improvements however, losses continued to mount as the quantity and quality of fighter opposition rose. An attempt was made to stop the rot in early 1943 by further up-engining the type. This petered out, however, owing to development difficulties with the 2,420 hp (1,805 kW) Nakajima Ha-117 engines and the Ki-49-III never entered production with only six prototypes ever being built.

In the face of its increasing vulnerability to opposing fighter aircraft while performing its intended role, the Ki-49 was used in other roles towards the end of the Pacific War, including ASW patrol, troop transport and, ultimately, as kamikaze.

After 819 aircraft had been completed, production ended in December 1944.


Ki-49: Prototypes and pre-series models with Nakajima Ha-5 KAI of 950 hp or Ha-41 of 1,250 hp. The pre-series with little modifications from the prototype.
Ki-49-I: Army Type 100 Heavy Bomber Model 1, first production version.
Ki-49-II: Two prototypes fitted with two Nakajima Ha-109 radial piston engines.
Ki-49-IIa: Army Type 100 Heavy Bomber Model 2A - Production version with Ha-109 engines and armament as Model 1.
Ki-49-IIb: Version of Model 2 with 12.7 mm Ho-103 machine gunes replacing rifle calibre weapons.
Ki-49-III: Six prototypes fitted with two 1805 kW (2,420 hp) Nakajima Ha-117 engines.
Ki-58: Escort fighter with Ha-109 engines, 5 x 20mm cannon, 3 x 12.7mm (0.5 in) machine guns. 3 prototypes built.
Ki-80: Specialised pathfinder aircraft - 2 prototypes; employed as engine test-beds.

* Total production: all versions 819 examples (including 50 built by Tachikawa)


 Japan * Imperial Japanese Army Air Force

Adventures of a would be wreck hunter lah!

Well the other weekend I decided to go for a drive (yes you guessed it was Sundry) anyway to cut a long story short my illustrious driving mate took the wrong turn and we ended up in a completely different location from where we had originally intended. After asking a local villager and finding out that we weren’t even close, we turned around and where driving off when I asked my friend to go back. I thought this can’t be an accident (being the fatalist that I am there must be a reason for this complete debar cal) so I asked the villager who just happen to be the local area representative, if there where any WWII wrecks around.

Bingo he said there was a single engine plane not far away. I asked how long it would take to get there. He said about half hour there and another half an hour back. I asked if we could go now! (Many of you know by now, Patience is NOT my middle name) He told me he needed some ZOOM for his boat. I asked where we could get some he said the only place was Port Moresby. Since it was already late and not practical I decided to return another day.

Anyway as it turned out I’d have long to wait before I got the chance. I had already bought a 15 liter container for the ZOOM (local for 2 stroke outboard motor fuel) and left the house at 08:00. Figuring it was only a short distance to the crash site, it would mean I should be back for lunch. Boy was I wrong on that one.

When we arrived, we found out he’d already left for a council meeting in Port Moresby however his wife took me round to his brothers place and one of there cousins who had an out board motor to take us to the site. I asked what type of aircraft it was and he told me it was a 4 engine bomber. Strange from 1 to 4 engines! Ok sound good what ever! So we drove on a bit further to another village because it was a shorter distance to the crash site.

Anyway after arriving at the other village, the whole village decided to get involved in the deal and then they only would take me to the crash site if I could assure them that any money earned from the wreck would go to their village. After a big village Pow-Wow I said until I can establish exactly what type of aircraft it is there’s no point in arguing over anything just yet. I asked if anyone knew what type of aircraft it was whether it was US or Japanese. Nobody could give me anything specific enough for me to gage just what type of aircraft it might be. I new it ranged from now 1, 2 to even 4 engines. When I asked how good it was; they all said it’s complete and in very good condition. One guy even said you can still see the pilot’s boots he left behind! I hadn’t heard that one before! Heard the one where the Pilot is still sitting there with his parachute and Ray Bans on. But his boots are still there; what a classic. Anyway decided to give them the benefit of the doubt.

Then came, the “ZOOM” dispute, they told me the journey would take over an hour there and back, and that 15 liters just wasn’t going to be enough. I managed to buy addition 2 liters but they all insisted I needed 25 liters. Anyway I was getting sick of all the arguments so I decide to put the matter up to the heavens and tossed a coin. Crocodiles we go and birds we make it another day. (It’s a PNG 1 Kina coin and they have a bird as a head or is it a Crocodile never mind). Anyway best out of three I yelled. Yes you guessed it came up 3 Crocodiles I told the whole village fate has said we GO! Thank god they believed me otherwise would have been there all day.

Arguing the toss so to speak, sorry could help that one!

That ended the dispute over the ZOOM! And away we went. Then came the food bill, well another quick stop over at the village chief’s store fixed that problem! I figured keep them lean and hungry, since dried biscuits were going cheap I bought 20 packets and that’s that oh and I thought I’d be generous and throw in two cans of sardines just in case they decided to go fishing on me.

Anyway after sorting out what villages would make the trip we finally got going! Eight people on a small canoe this was going to be interesting. I tried to reduce the number but they insisted so what the hell 8’s a good number for the Chinese so who am I to complain. I must admit as went down the winding river the scenery was fantastic and I was having my fair share of Walter Mitte (spelling) dreams of going down the Amazon ( I know it’s a bit of an exaggeration) anyway I was very happy to be finally making process. As time seemed to drift pass I asked the usual question of “how much further to go?” another 10 to 20 minutes was the reply. You get the picture though, these guys have no idea about time, and I don’t think any of them had ever heard of the word “Seiko” before, not alone ever seen or worn a watch, my kind of guys though really. Finally after 3 hours and a numb arse we finally got there. I’m then told it’s an hour’s walk to the crash site this can only get better. Going on these guys idea of time I was prepared for a major hick and having a numb arse wasn’t going to make things any easier.

With Machete in hand and camera, off we went! My other friend though otherwise and he stayed to watch the boat, rather wise fellow really. After chopping our way through long Kunai grass we finally found what I was looking for! It was the aircraft’s tail sticking out of the long grass. I rushed over to the crash site to find of all the aircraft it could have been; it had to be you…hmmm A C-47 Dakota cargo aircraft, not exactly what I was hoping for! I could have stayed in Port Moresby for that one; they have three at the airport. Oh I forgot to mention the Pilot’s boot’s had long since gone! And as happens to so many other good aircraft, the burning off, of the Kunai grass had destroyed a good portion of the aircraft. It’s one way to get fit though, and I was wet with sweat by the time we got back to the canoe; running from hoards of mosquito’s had a lot to do with it. Bit like Indie Ana Jones as he’s running over the hill being chased be natives except in my case it was mossies, screaming get the boat ready lah! Let’s go…

Anyway what started off as a 30 minute to 1 hour trip turned out to be a Hollywood epic. We all arrived back well after dark and after losing my glasses the natives all looked the same in dark and it was hard to work out who got what, I’m sure I paid a few twice. Anyway such is life lah! But that’s the tropics for you.

I couldn’t help but laugh though it was a great adventure and sometimes you win and sometimes you may loose… but we do have fun beside the sea side…. Hmmm.

Stay tuned for my next adventure coming soon to cinema’s near you as the PNG saga continues.


 Madang Papua New Guinea Map

This webpage was updated 27th January 2020