Rare artifact debuts at Bong CenterThe Richard I. Bong Veterans Historical Center announces the installation of a new display featuring a rare artifact recovered from Wake Island in the mid-1950s – a Japanese aircraft engine, a Kasei Model 15, a type used in early G4M1 ‘Betty’ bombers.
The Richard I. Bong Veterans Historical Center announces the installation of a new display featuring a rare artifact recovered from Wake Island in the mid-1950s – a Japanese aircraft engine, a Kasei Model 15, a type used in early G4M1 ‘Betty’ bombers.
The engine was recovered in 1955 by Orvis Nelson, president of Trans Ocean Airlines and native of Tamarack, Minn. Trans Ocean had service facilities on Wake Island, and Nelson recovered the engine and shipped it home to Minnesota, hoping to see it in a museum one day. Nelson died in 1976 and the engine passed from the family, eventually coming into possession of Jack Hooper of McGregor, Minn. He displayed the engine outside his hanger at Iverson Field in McGregor.
Hooper, a Korean War veteran, generously decided to donate the engine to the Veterans Historical Center so a wider audience could enjoy it and to call to mind the service and sacrifice of the Defenders of Wake, who successfully held off a Japanese invasion attempt in December 1941 until being overwhelmed by superior forces two days before Christmas.
The Kasei Model 15 radial engine (part of the “10 Series” of Kasei engines) was used in the twin-engine Japanese Imperial Navy’s G4M1 ‘Land Attack Bomber Type 1,’ manufactured by Mitsubishi and code named ‘Betty’ by the Allies. Noted for its tendency to easily catch fire due to battle damage, the ‘Betty’ was also informally known as the ‘Flying Zippo’ and the ‘Flying Cigar’.
The museum worked with a curator from the National Air and Space Museum to identify the engine type. Although it is unlikely that the specific G4M1 aircraft powered by this engine will be identified, it is known that Betty bombers of the 755th Air Group from the 22nd Air Flotilla were stationed on Wake and that several were destroyed and severely damaged during a U.S. Navy raid Oct. 5-6, 1943. It is possible that this engine came from one of those aircraft destroyed during this raid.
Assisting the museum in obtaining, transporting, researching and mounting this rare artifact were: Jack Hooper, the family of Orvis Nelson, Ray Klosowski, Lakehead Painting, Murphy Oil, National Air and Space Museum, Earl Rogers and Stack Brothers.
The engine is now part of the Center’s permanent collection and is on display in the main gallery. The Center is open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday during the winter months. The last chance to see this rare artifact on a Sunday is noon to 5 p.m. this weekend.