Washing Machine Charlie - Axis History Forum

Washing Machine Charlie

Discussions on all aspects of the Japanese Empire, from the capture of Taiwan until the end of the Second World War. Hosted by Hisashi.
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Peter H
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Postby Peter H » 20 Jan 2006 03:20



A term applied, along with copious cuss words to a lone Japanese aircraft buzzing endlessly back and forth across an area, while only occasionally dropping a small bomb, the purpose being to keep the camp awake and in a nervous state. One Japanese airplane this author remembers sounded just like an old Maytag washing machine powered by a small gasoline engine- thus, the name.

I've come across instances of this harassing tatic used on Guadalcanal,Tarawa and Saipan.

Anyone know what aircraft were preferred and how the engines were modified to sound loud?

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Tom Houlihan
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Postby Tom Houlihan » 20 Jan 2006 03:54

My understanding was that it didn't matter. Whatever plane flew overhead, by itself, at night, received that moniker. That understanding is from Guadalcanal Diary, by Richard Tregaskis. He was a reporter who spent the first 6 weeks or so on Guadalcanal.

(on a side note, I was almost sickened by the dust cover of that book. It was a direct reprint of the original. The other books advertised on the back flap were priced in the range of US$2.95-4.95 or so. It was almost disheartening!)

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Postby Gunfighter28 » 20 Jan 2006 14:32

From what i've come upon in research, aircraft that were twin engined had them running out of sync and the sound somewhat resembled that of a washing machine.

Larry D.
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Postby Larry D. » 20 Jan 2006 15:35

Richard B. Frank covers the subject in his tome on Guadalcanal on pp.197-98. The twin-engine JNAF night harrassment aircraft with "distinctive motor noises" were called Washing Machine Charlie. The single-engine variety were all floatplanes and were called Louie the Louse. The twin-engine Mitsubishi bombers that operated at night over Guadalcanal were based at Rabaul, which the floatplanes were based at Rekata Bay, flew off of cruisers operating in the "Slot" or off of the seaplane tenders assigned to "R" Area Air Force headquartered in the Shortlands. Frank goes on to "explode" several myths:

a) the engines were not intentionally desynchronized; it was just the way Japanese aircraft engines sounded;
b) these aircraft did not operate nightly, but rather only in conjunction with naval surface forces on those nights that they shelled Guadalcanal.


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Peter H
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Postby Peter H » 22 Jan 2006 04:24

Thanks to all.

Another myth debunked!


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