At last, on 05.26hrs on 29 June 1942, the S.75 RT MM.60539 took off from Guidonia with the following crew: Ten.Col. Antonio Moscatelli, Cap. Mario Curto, Cap. Dr. Publio Magini (all pilots), S.Ten. Ernesto Mazzotti (radio-navigator), M.llo Ernesto Leone (Engineer). At 14.10 hrs the S.75 landed at Saporoshje, where the CSIR (Italian Expeditionary Corps in Russia) had established a refuelling and radio base. It was an uneventful trip to Saporoshje, where Dr. Magini and his fellow crewmembers decided not to risk starting the second leg of the trip in the afternoon in the hopes of avoiding interception. As a result, they spent the night at the airfield and took off on the following evening 20.06 hrs on 30 June.
Because of the load of fuel they carried, their aircraft could not get above 2500 feet and their airspeed was dangerously slow, making them a very vulnerable target. Pushing the aircraft threatened to overheat the engines and the crew watched anxiously as the temperature crept higher on the gauges.
It should be noted that Saporoshje was very near Rostov, where fierce fighting for control of the city was taking place. Soviet searchlights were everywhere, illuminating the night sky as the aircraft crossed the front. Almost immediately, they were spotted and beams of light fastened onto the aircraft. Streams of broken fire, Soviet anti-aircraft shells, rose up to greet their aircraft which must have appeared to be a slow easy target. Luckily for the crew, the Soviets scored no hits on the slow and low-flying aircraft. Dr. Magini and his crewmates endured the enemy's AA fire for the next 100 miles of their trip - Dr. Magini understates it in his journal - "It was not at all pleasant."
Eventually, the shooting stopped and the aircraft was all alone in the dark night. Their route took them north of the Caspian Sea, then the Aral Sea, and Lake Balkhash. As morning approached, they had reached the Altai mountain range which separates the USSR from China. Flying low in a long valley, they finally found themselves over the Gobi desert. For hours, they flew over the vast uninhabited sand and wasteland that is the Gobi. This is where Dr. Magini’s ‘Star Altitude Curves’ celestial navigation was vital, as the they had no aviation-coded maps of the Gobi desert.
Dr. Magini was of the opinion that they could have made it all the way to Japan but as they neared Japanese held territory, the Japanese had insisted that they land at Pao-Tow-Chen, located west of Peking, near the Yellow River. This was necessitated by the Japanese security measures imposed over Japanese airspace after the Doolittle Raid two months earlier. Fighters patrolled the home islands day and night, ready to shoot down any planes without the Japanese insignia on the wings.
The Italians had actually flown past Pao-Tow-Chen and were forced to turn back. As they did this, they found themselves in a torrential rainstorm and had difficulty finding their own position and finding the town. The storm let up long enough for Dr. Magini to determine the former and they were nearly gliding below the cloud cover when they encountered the latter.
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.
Many thanks Maisov. I thought it might have been the Ki-77! Now able to dive into my books - AIRVIEW in Tokyo published as early as 1953 that it was the second prototype, started from 'Fussa airfield' (Japan?) for Berlin,Germany on 30.06.1943. After it left Singapore 'last word was heard from the aeroplane over Indian Ocean 07.07.1943'. The aircraft was only 2 months old, still at prototype and thus untried. As a matter of interest, the first Ki-77 prototype took off on 02.07.44 for a world distance record attempt on a triangular course Changchun-Paichengtsu-Harbin (all Manchuria I think) and during 57 hours and 12 minutes covered 10272 miles (16575 km's)maisov wrote:Japan used experimental aircraft KI-77.
http://www.csd.uwo.ca/~pettypi/elevon/g ... 7TACH.html
8 men were on board; a captain (officer), five civilian crews from newspaper publisher, and two army ataches for Japanese embassy in Germany. No top secret seemed on board.
Simon Gunson wrote:My source for the Ju-290 claims was a library book I read about KG200 operations. I do not have the book infront of me but I did take contemporary notes as I read the book.
The Fuhrer's Kurrierstaffel which is known to have flown special missions to Japan with an Me-110 aircraft also operated Ju-290 aircraft and the Me-264 which was supposed to fly Hitler into exile in Japan.
Simon Gunson wrote:It would also explain why the Italians kept no records.
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