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Japanese WWII Dive Bomber Sight

Japanese WWII Dive Bomber Sight

  • Product Code: BP-1028-SOLD
  • Availability: Out Of Stock
  • $1.00

This is one of the more unique and some ways iconic pieces of Second World War militaria I have ever had the opportunity to offer. This item a Japanese Type 95 Sight, used on the famous Aichi D3A “VAL” Dive Bomber. Oigee Nihon-Kogaku produced the sights, and I believe that this was the predecessor to today’s Nikon optics company. The optical sight was mounted on the front of the aircraft, just forward of the cockpit windscreen, and was used to line up the target for a dive-bombing run. The dive-bombing sight apparently had no cross hairs or other alignment features, other than a limited 20-degree field of view, which allowed the pilot to roughly gauge where his bomb would land, if dropped from the correct angle of attack. Another version of the Type-95 sight was manufactured with a cross hair reticle for use as a machine gun sight on fighter aircraft. The more advanced Type 99 sight that saw use during the last part of WWII had enhanced optics and aiming reticles and was not nearly as simple as the Type 95 sight. The Type 95 sight was a simple Galilean optical tube with no magnification and a 20-degree field of view. The sight was made from a threaded brass tube, with two slightly larger threaded pieces on the ends, which accepted the front and rear lens mounts. A groove inside the front of the tube allowed the crosshair reticle to be mounted when the sight was used as a machine gun sight. A pair of screw-adjustable bands, much like scope mounts for a rifle, allowed the attachment of the sight to the mounts on the front of the aircraft. The front of the sight was protected by a rounded conical cover, which was held in place by a spring-loaded rod. The rod extended the length of the sight tube and terminated in a short, curved, L-shaped projection. This rod could be actuated by an extension rod from within the cockpit, to push the lens cover out, and rotate it out of the field of view, when the sight was used. The rest of the time that the plane was in flight the front of the sight was covered to prevent damage to or obstruction of the lens. All of the exterior surfaces of the sight were painted black to reduce glare and reflection, while the inside of the brass tube was left unfinished. The sights were removed from the planes between missions, and were only mounted when the planes were armed and readied for flight. When the sight was removed, it was stored in a special hinged wooden case, numbered to the sight. The sight tubes were 26” long (about 28.5” with the front lens protector in place) and the main body was made from a piece of brass tubing with an exterior diameter of 1.825” (about 46mm). The front and rear lens mounts have exterior diameters of 2.12” (about 54mm), with the actual ocular pathway being about 1.73” (or roughly 44mm).

The Japanese Aichi D3A1 Dive Bomber, code named VAL by the US, was adopted by the Imperial Japanese Navy (IJN) in 1939. It was a single engine aircraft, and was the first monoplane dive-bomber to use on Japanese aircraft carriers, replacing the obsolete D1A bi-plane. The official Japanese Navy designation for the plane was the Navy Type 99 Carrier Bomber Model 11. The D3A design was based in part upon the Heinkel He 70 Blitz a German plane that was used primarily for mail runs commericially and saw some limited use as a military reconnaissance and light bomber during the Spanish Civil War and early in WWII. The D3A had the same low-mount elliptical wings as the He 70 and due to its relatively slow cruising speed it was found that fixed landing gear were not an impediment. In fact they provided useful drag while the bomber was diving, and reduced cost and time in the manufacture of the planes. The D3A1 had a 1070 hp engine, allowing the plane a maximum speed of 242mph (389km/h). Its service ceiling was 30,500 feet and it had a maximum range of 915 miles (1,472 km). The plane carried a crew of two, a pilot and radio operator/rear gunner. Its armament consisted of two forward firing 7.7mm Type 97 machine guns, a flexible Type 92 7.7mm machine gun mounted in the rear, operated by the radioman/gunner, and its primary weapon a single 250kg (551 lb) bomb (sometimes replaced with a pair of 60kg / 132lb bombs). The plane was 33” 5” in length and had a wingspan of 47” 2”. The D3A1 was very successful during its initial operations and played a major role in the Japanese attack at Pearl Harbor, scoring a number of hits on both US warships and land targets. Additional havoc was caused by D3A1s strafing US a variety of targets at Pearl Harbor. During the course of the war, Aichi D3As (both A1s and their later production replacement the A2s) were directly responsible for the sinking no less than 22 allied ships, not to mention the many that were damaged by D3As during joint aircraft attacks, but actually sunk by torpedo bombers. Among the more famous allied ships to be sunk by the D3As were the British heavy cruisers HMS Cornwall and HMS Dorsetshire, the British aircraft carrier HMS Hermes, the American destroyers USS Peary, USS Pope, USS Brownson and USS William D Porter, as well as the American aircraft carriers USS Bismarck Sea and USS Ommaney Bay. The British ships listed were all sunk during the April 1942 Japanese campaign in the Indian Ocean, where the D3As scored an unprecedented 80% hit ratio. The most famous ships to be sunk by D3As were the US aircraft carriers USS Lexington (CV-2) at the battle of the Coral Sea, USS Yorktown CV-5) at the Battle of Midway, and USS Hornet (CV-8) at the Battle of Santa Cruz. In the summer of 1942, an improved version of the D3A1, the D3A2 (officially the Navy Type 99 Carrier Bomber Model 12) was adopted. It had slightly more engine power, slightly more speed and enlarged fuel tanks for extended range. However, the improvements were not sufficient to keep pace with improving allied aircraft and pilots, and by the fall of 1942 the IJN began relegating all D3A planes to secondary service from island airfields and smaller carriers, and utilizing the Yokosuka D4Y “Judy” as their front line, carrier based dive bomber. As the war progressed, the D3A saw less and less active combat service and more use for training and secondary roles like scouting and reconnaissance. However, as the US Navy progressed closer and closer to the Japanese home islands, D3A again saw combat service, but this time by flying Kamikaze missions off Iwo Jima and Okinawa. During its service life, a total of 1,486 D3As were produced, 470 of the A1 variant and 1,016 of the A2 variant.

this Japanese Type 95 Sight, was most likely used on a mid-war produced Aichi D3A2 “VAL” Dive Bomber. The sight is serial numbered 936, and assuming that the sights were produced and numbered consecutively for the aircraft they were used on, that would place this sight in about the middle of the A2 variant production run. The sight is in VERY FINE condition and retains about 90%+ of its original black paint, with only some minor chipping and wear from light use and handling. The sight appears to be complete with clear optics and a completely functional front cover system. The sight is clearly labeled near the rear of the tube:

1 X 20”
(Oigee Nihon-Kogaku Logo)
No 936
(Japanese Character within a circle)

The Japanese character probably says “Type 95”. The front lens cover is in tact, original and complete, although the actual cover is slightly bent. This is probably from years of pressure from the spring system, which forces the cover over the front lens, unless the arm is pushed forward and rotated. The original rubber washer is in place inside the lens cover and is number 936 in pencil, matching the serial number sight. The original Japanese specifications (or possibly instruction) sheet is retained with the sight. It is also numbered to the sight in ink, 936 and is covered with a variety of printed Japanese characters, as well as additional stamped characters that probably represent inspection and approval. A handful of hand written characters are present on the lower right hand corner of the sheet. The sheet is in very good condition, especially considering its age, but does show some minor edge damage, significant wrinkling and creasing, and moderate wear throughout. The sight is contained in its original Japanese wooden case, which is serial numbered to the sight. The case is approximately 31 ““ long and about 4 ““ wide. It is constructed of a lightly colored hard wood, similar to that used on Japanese military rifle stocks. The original Japanese metal identification plate is present on the box, showing the serial number 936, the production date of 19 4 (April of 1944), an Imperial Japanese Naval anchor stamp, and a variety of Japanese characters that I cannot read. The interior of the case has four crescent shaped supports in the bottom lid to hold the sight in place. The four matching supports that should be in the upper lid are missing and were apparently removed at some point in time. The case has what appear to be the original hinges, latches and recessed handle in the top. One of the two small screws which the closure latches hook onto when they are closed is missing. The case is in about GOOD+ to NEAR VERY GOOD condition and shows a variety of bumps, dings and wear marks. Eight small holes (in four pairs) are present in the lid, which is where the screws that held the upper supports originally were. Only two of the pairs of holes are visible from the outside, as the other two pairs are covered by the original mailing labels from when this item was sent home from World War II as a war trophy. One typewritten label reads: THIS BOX CONTAINS A SCOPE FOR / JAPANESE GUN. / VLAUE UNDER 50 Dollars. / THIS BOX MAY BE OPENED FOR INSPECTION. The label also bears some old US stamps. The more interesting label is the shipping label which reads in the “from” portion:

U.S.S. Lexington, S-1 Div.
C/o F.P.O. San Francisco, California

The label is addressed to:

George Hemmert
3158 Grant Avenue
Ogden, Utah

George Hemmert was a Seaman 2nd Class from Utah, who served aboard the second incarnation of the US aircraft carrier USS Lexington (CV-16). George entered the Navy in 1944 after two years of college in New Mexico. He sent the sight home to his parents address in Ogden. How he obtained it is difficult to know, but it was probably an item that he traded a US Marine for. As the USS Lexington (CV-16) was present at the Battle of Iwo Jima, where Aichi D3A aircraft flew Kamikaze missions, I would have to guess that a Marine found the sight in its box at the airfield and then traded it as a war trophy for something much more useful to him, like socks and underwear. Obviously, any D3As that flew Kamikaze missions had no need for their dive-bombing sights to be installed and they would have been left in their cases in storage at the airfield. George Hemmert is an interesting person, as after the war he completed college and then became one of the first US Navy officers to be commissioned from the ranks under a new program that encouraged enlisted men to earn a 4-year degree and then return to the Navy as officers. Further research into Hemmert’s life and Navy career could prove very interesting.

Overall this is just a fabulous and rare piece of Second World War militaria. These sights are very rare and few survive today. This one may be unique in that it retains its original storage box and original Japanese paperwork, all of which are correctly numbered to the sight. The grouping is even more intriguing as the case retains the original mailing label where these items were sent home by a seaman on the famous aircraft carrier USS Lexington (CV-16), an icon of the war in the Pacific. No matter if your collecting interest is World War II aviation, the war in the Pacific, Japanese items, US Naval items or simply extremely rare and iconic pieces of war memorabilia, this would be a great addition to your collection. A small binder of information about the Aichi D3A dive-bomber (including print outs of a number of photos of the planes from the war), some information about George Hemmert and the original Japanese information sheet (noted above) is included with the sight to enhance the display and provide additional background. This would be a great centerpiece to a collection of World War II Japanese military aviation items.


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Tags: Japanese, WWII, Dive, Bomber, Sight