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The Last Stepping Stones (Jan 1945 - August 1945)

The Last Stepping Stones (Jan 1945 - August 1945)

The Pacific Theater of Operations (PTO) was the World War II area of military activity in the Pacific Ocean and the countries bordering it, a geographic scope that reflected the operational and administrative command structures of the American forces during that period. (The other areas of the Pacific War -- the China Burma India Theater, the South-East Asian Theatre, and Manchurian Theatre -- had their own respective command structures, independent of PTO.)

The Pacific Theater of Operations was one of two areas in which the United States initiated offensive combat operations against the Axis in late 1942. This included operations by the 32nd and the 41st Infantry Divisions on New Guinea, the Americal Infantry Division on the Gilbert Islands, and the 1st Marine Division on Guadalcanal. The other area was the Mediterranean Theater of Operations, beginning with Operation Torch in November.

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Imperial Japanese Army Kawasaki Ki-61 Hien "Tony" Fighter - 244th Fighter Squadron, Chofu Airfield, 1945 Imperial Japanese Army Kawasaki Ki-61 Hien "Tony" Fighter - 244th Fighter Squadron, Chofu Airfield, 1945 (1:72 Scale)

The Kawasaki Ki-61 Hien ("Swallow") fighter represented a major departure for Japanese aircraft design in World War II. While other Japanese fighters were designed with air-cooled radials and were optimized for maneuverability, the Ki-61 used a liquid-cooled in-line engine and was designed for speed and power.

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USAAF Northrop P-61B Black Widow Interceptor - Major Lee Kendall, "Lady in the Dark," 548th Night Fighter Squadron, Ie Shima, Okinawa, 1945 USAAF Northrop P-61B Black Widow Interceptor - Major Lee Kendall, "Lady in the Dark," 548th Night Fighter Squadron, Ie Shima, Okinawa, 1945 (1:144 Scale)

The Northrop P-61 Black Widow, named for the American spider, was the first operational U.S. military aircraft designed specifically for night interception of opposing aircraft, and was the first aircraft specifically designed to use radar.

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USAAF Boeing B-29 Superfortress Heavy Bomber - "Raz'n Hell", 28th Bomb Squadron, 19th Bomb Group, 97th Bomb Wing, Okinawa, Japan, 1945 USAAF Boeing B-29 Superfortress Heavy Bomber - "Raz'n Hell", 28th Bomb Squadron, 19th Bomb Group, 97th Bomb Wing, Okinawa, Japan, 1945 (1:300 Scale)

The Boeing B-29 Superfortress (Boeing Model 341/345) was a four-engine heavy bomber flown by the United States Army Air Force. It was one of the largest aircraft of World War II to see active service.

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USMC Chance-Vought F4U-1D Corsair Fighter - VMF-122, Pacific, 1945 USMC Chance-Vought F4U-1D Corsair Fighter - VMF-122, Pacific Theatre of Operation, 1945 (1:72 Scale)

Its gull-wing shape made it instantly recognizeable. Its characteristic sound while in an attack dive led the Japanese to call it "The Whistling Death." Combined with its high speed, agility and toughness, the Vought F4U Corsair was one of the finest fighters ever built.

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USN Chance-Vought F4U-1D Corsair Fighter - VF-84, Pacific, 1945 USN Chance-Vought F4U-1D Corsair Fighter - VF-84, Pacific, 1945 (1:72 Scale)

Its gull-wing shape made it instantly recognizeable. Its characteristic sound while in an attack dive led the Japanese to call it "The Whistling Death." Combined with its high speed, agility and toughness, the Vought F4U Corsair was one of the finest fighters ever built.

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Imperial Japanese Army Kawasaki Ki-61 Hien Tony Fighter - Captain Teruhiko Kobayashi, 244 Sentai (2 Chutai), Chofu (Tokyo), Japan, January 1945 Imperial Japanese Army Kawasaki Ki-61 Hien "Tony" Fighter - Captain Teruhiko Kobayashi, 244 Sentai (2 Chutai), Chofu (Tokyo), Japan, January 1945 (1:72 Scale)

The Kawasaki Ki-61 Hien ("Swallow") fighter represented a major departure for Japanese aircraft design in World War II. While other Japanese fighters were designed with air-cooled radials and were optimized for maneuverability, the Ki-61 used a liquid-cooled in-line engine and was designed for speed and power.

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Imperial Japanese Army Nakajima Ki-84 Hayate "Frank" Fighter - Cpt. Tomojiro Ogawa, 1st Chutai, 103rd Sentai, Itami Airfield, Japan, 1945 Imperial Japanese Army Nakajima Ki-84 Hayate "Frank" Fighter - Cpt. Tomojiro Ogawa, 1st Chutai, 103rd Sentai, Itami Airfield, Japan, 1945 (1:72 Scale)

The Hayate (Gale) was specifically meant as the successor to the Nakajima Ki-43 Hayabusa. It was one of the best fighters of the Japanese forces during the closing stages of the War, and was available in useful numbers and without any teething problems.

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Imperial Japanese Army Kawasaki Ki-61 Hien Tony Fighter - Seiichi Suzuki, Chofu AB, Japan, January 1945 Imperial Japanese Army Kawasaki Ki-61 Hien "Tony" Fighter - Seiichi Suzuki, Chofu AB, Japan, January 1945 (1:72 Scale)

The Kawasaki Ki-61 Hien ("Swallow") fighter represented a major departure for Japanese aircraft design in World War II. While other Japanese fighters were designed with air-cooled radials and were optimized for maneuverability, the Ki-61 used a liquid-cooled in-line engine and was designed for speed and power.

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USAAF Lockheed P-38J Lightning Interceptor - Col. McDonald, Putt Putt Maru, 475th Fighter Group, Clark Field, Philippines, March 1945 USAAF Lockheed P-38J Lightning Interceptor - Col. McDonald, "Putt Putt Maru", 475th Fighter Group, Clark Field, Philippines, March 1945 (1:72 Scale)

It was fast, heavily armed and extremely versatile. And many believe the Lockheed P-38 Lightning  to be the finest American fighter of WWII. Its low-drag, aerodynamic shape and heavy weight enabled this twin-engine, twin-boomed aircraft to accelerate to high speeds faster than any previous warplane, making it a potent fighter and a superb fighter-bomber.

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Japanese Kawanishi N1K2-J Shiden-kai "George" Fighter - 343 Kokutai, 301 Hikotai, Japan, 1945 Japanese Kawanishi N1K2-J Shiden-kai "George" Fighter - 343 Kokutai, 301 Hikotai, Japan, 1945 (1:72 Scale)

The Kawanishi Shiden-Kai ("Violet Lightning") was one of the best fighters produced for the Japanese Navy during WWII, essentially a ground-based variant of the Kawanishi N1K1 Kyofu "Rex" seaplane. The N1K2-J and its predecessor, the N1K1-J, derived from Kawanishi N1K1 seaplane fighter (code name "Rex"), arose from a development ordered by the Imperial Navy in 1940.

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Imperial Japanese Army Kawanishi N1K2-J Shiden-kai "George" Fighter Imperial Japanese Army Kawanishi N1K2-J Shiden-kai "George" Fighter (1:72 Scale)

The Kawanishi Shiden-Kai ("Violet Lightning") was one of the best fighters produced for the Japanese Navy during WWII, essentially a ground-based variant of the Kawanishi N1K1 Kyofu "Rex" seaplane. The N1K2-J and its predecessor, the N1K1-J, derived from Kawanishi N1K1 seaplane fighter (code name "Rex"), arose from a development ordered by the Imperial Navy in 1940.

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Imperial Japanese Army Mitsubishi J2M3 Raiden "Jack" Interceptor Imperial Japanese Army Mitsubishi J2M3 Raiden "Jack" Interceptor (1:72 Scale)

The Mitsubishi J2M "Raiden" ("Thunderbolt") was a single-engine, land-based fighter aircraft used by the Imperial Japanese Navy in World War II. The Allied codename was "Jack". The J2M was designed by Jiro Horikoshi, creator of the Mitsubishi A6M "Zero".

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Imperial Japanese Army Kawasaki Ki-61 Hien Tony Fighter - Captain Teruhiko Kobayashi, 244 Sentai (2 Chutai), Chofu (Tokyo), Japan, January 1945 Imperial Japanese Army Kawasaki Ki-61 Hien "Tony" Fighter (1:72 Scale)

The Kawasaki Ki-61 Hien ("Swallow") fighter represented a major departure for Japanese aircraft design in World War II. While other Japanese fighters were designed with air-cooled radials and were optimized for maneuverability, the Ki-61 used a liquid-cooled in-line engine and was designed for speed and power.

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Imperial Japanese Army Nakajima Ki-84 Hayate "Frank" Fighter Imperial Japanese Army Nakajima Ki-84 Hayate "Frank" Fighter (1:72 Scale)

The Hayate (Gale) was specifically meant as the successor to the Nakajima Ki-43 Hayabusa. It was one of the best fighters of the Japanese forces during the closing stages of the War, and was available in useful numbers and without any teething problems.

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Imperial Japanese Army Aichi B7A2 Ryusei Grace Attack Aircraft Imperial Japanese Army Aichi B7A2 Ryusei "Grace" Attack Aircraft (1:72 Scale)

Dubbed the Allied code-name "Grace," the B7A2 Ryusei was the largest and heaviest Japanese carrier-based attack aircraft to fly in World War II. The Grace flew on shapely wings bent near midspan to provide clearance for a large propeller that spanned 3.5 m (11 ft). The Grace flew and handled as well as it looked, but the B7A2 never played a significant role in the Japanese war effort.

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US Navy Grumman F6F-5N Hellcat Fighter - VF-83, USS Essex (CV-9), 1945 US Navy Grumman F6F-5N Hellcat Fighter - VF-83, USS Essex (CV-9), 1945 (1:72 Scale)

The F6F embodied the early lessons learned by users of Grumman's previous fleet-defense fighter, the Wildcat. In June 1941, Grumman lowered the wing center section to enable the undercarriage to be wider splayed, fitting more armor-plating around the cockpit to protect the pilot while also increasing the fighter's ammunition capacity.

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US Navy Grumman F6F-3 Hellcat Fighter - VF-17 Jolly Rogers, USS Hornet (CV-12), 1945 US Navy Grumman F6F-3 Hellcat Fighter - VF-17 "Jolly Rogers", USS Hornet (CV-12), 1945 (1:72 Scale)

The F6F embodied the early lessons learned by users of Grumman's previous fleet-defense fighter, the Wildcat. In June 1941, Grumman lowered the wing center section to enable the undercarriage to be wider splayed, fitting more armor-plating around the cockpit to protect the pilot while also increasing the fighter's ammunition capacity.

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USN Chance-Vought F4U-1D Corsair Fighter - VBF-83, USS Essex (CV-9), Spring 1945 USN Chance-Vought F4U-1D Corsair Fighter - VBF-83, USS Essex (CV-9), Spring 1945 (1:72 Scale)

Its gull-wing shape made it instantly recognizable. Its characteristic sound while in an attack dive led the Japanese to call it "The Whistling Death." Combined with its high speed, agility and toughness, the Vought F4U Corsair was one of the finest fighters ever built.

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USN Goodyear FG-1D Corsair Fighter with Folding Wings - Skippers Orchid HQSS-22, Ryukyu Islands, June 1945 USN Goodyear FG-1D Corsair Fighter with Folding Wings - "Skipper's Orchid" HQSS-22, Ryukyu Islands, June 1945 (1:72 Scale)

Its gull-wing shape made it instantly recognizable. Its characteristic sound while in an attack dive led the Japanese to call it "The Whistling Death." Combined with its high speed, agility and toughness, the Vought F4U Corsair was one of the finest fighters ever built.

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USN Grumman FM-2 Wildcat Fighter - Lt. Hatherly Foster III, White 29, VC-93, USS Petrof Bay (CVE-80), April 1945 USN Grumman FM-2 Wildcat Fighter - Lt. Hatherly Foster III, "White 29", VC-93, USS Petrof Bay (CVE-80), April 1945 (1:72 Scale)

The Grumman F4F Wildcat was the standard carrier-based fighter of the United States Navy for the first year and a half of World War II. An improved version built by General Motors (the General Motors FM Wildcat) remained in service throughout the war, on escort carriers where newer, larger and heavier fighters could not be used.

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USAAF North American P-51K Mustang Fighter - Lt Colonel Bill Dunham, Mrs Bonnie, 348th Fighter Group, Le Shima, August 1945 USAAF North American P-51K Mustang Fighter - Lt Colonel Bill "Dinghy" Dunham, "Mrs. Bonnie", 348th Fighter Group, Le Shima, August 1945 (1:72 Scale)

No other aircraft of WWII could fly as high, go as far, or fight as hard as the famed Mustang. Piloted by a record 281 Aces, this agile and ferocious dogfighter tallied more kills than any other Allied airplane. As the bombers of the Eighth Air Force fought their way deep into Hitler's Germany, it was the Mustang that cleared the skies of Luftwaffe fighters.

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USN Grumman Avenger Torpedo-Bomber - "White 33", VT-46, USS Independence (CVL-22), March 1945 USN Grumman Avenger Torpedo-Bomber - "White 33", VT-46, USS Independence (CVL-22), March 1945 (1:72 Scale)

The Grumman TBF Avenger (designated TBM for aircraft manufactured by General Motors) was an American torpedo bomber, developed initially for the United States Navy and Marine Corps and used by a large number of air forces around the world. It entered service in 1942, and began major use during the Battle of Midway.

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Japanese Aichi B7A2 Ryusei Grace Attack Aircraft - Yokusuka, Japan, 1945 Japanese Aichi B7A2 Ryusei "Grace" Attack Aircraft - Yokusuka, Japan, 1945 (1:72 Scale)

Dubbed the Allied code-name "Grace," the B7A2 Ryusei was the largest and heaviest Japanese carrier-based attack aircraft to fly in World War II. The Grace flew on shapely wings bent near midspan to provide clearance for a large propeller that spanned 3.5 m (11 ft). The Grace flew and handled as well as it looked, but the B7A2 never played a significant role in the Japanese war effort.

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USN Grumman TBM-3 Avenger Torpedo Plane - VT(N)-90, USS Enterprise (CV-6), March 1945 USN Grumman TBM-3 Avenger Torpedo Plane - VT(N)-90, USS Enterprise (CV-6), March 1945 (1:72 Scale)

The Grumman TBF Avenger (designated TBM for aircraft manufactured by General Motors) was an American torpedo bomber, developed initially for the United States Navy and Marine Corps and used by a large number of air forces around the world. It entered service in 1942, and began major use during the Battle of Midway.

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USAAF Boeing B-29 Superfortress Heavy Bomber - Bocks Car, 509th Composite Group, Nagasaki, Japan, August 9th, 1945 USAAF Boeing B-29 Superfortress Heavy Bomber - "Bocks Car", 509th Composite Group, Nagasaki, Japan, August 9th, 1945 (1:144 Scale)

The Boeing B-29 Superfortress (Boeing Model 341/345) was a four-engine heavy bomber flown by the United States Army Air Force. It was one of the largest aircraft of World War II to see active service. When it entered service, it was one of the most advanced bombers of its time, featuring innovations such as a pressurized cabin, a central fire-control system, and remote-controlled machine gun turrets.

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USMC Chance-Vought F4U-1C Corsair Fighter - VMF-112 (Wolf Pack), Air Group 82, USS Bennington (CV-20), April 1945 USMC Chance-Vought F4U-1C Corsair Fighter - VMF-112 ("Wolf Pack"), Air Group 82, USS Bennington (CV-20), April 1945 (1:72 Scale)

Its gull-wing shape made it instantly recognizeable. Its characteristic sound while in an attack dive led the Japanese to call it "The Whistling Death." Combined with its high speed, agility and toughness, the Vought F4U Corsair was one of the finest fighters ever built.

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US Navy Grumman F6F-5 Hellcat Fighter - Lt. Hamilton McWhorter III, VF-12, USS Randolph (CV-15), 1945 US Navy Grumman F6F-5 Hellcat Fighter - Lt. Hamilton McWhorter III, VF-12, USS Randolph (CV-15), 1945 (1:72 Scale)

The F6F embodied the early lessons learned by users of Grumman's previous fleet-defense fighter, the Wildcat. In June 1941, Grumman lowered the wing center section to enable the undercarriage to be wider splayed, fitting more armor-plating around the cockpit to protect the pilot while also increasing the fighter's ammunition capacity.

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USMC Chance-Vought F4U-1D Corsair Fighter - Sun Setter VMF-114, USS Essex (CV-9), July 1944 USMC Chance-Vought F4U-1D Corsair Fighter - "Sun Setter" VMF-114, USS Essex (CV-9), July 1944 (1:72 Scale)

Its gull-wing shape made it instantly recognizeable. Its characteristic sound while in an attack dive led the Japanese to call it "The Whistling Death." Combined with its high speed, agility and toughness, the Vought F4U Corsair was one of the finest fighters ever built.

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USN Curtiss SB2C-4E Helldiver Dive-Bomber - VB-84, USS Bunker Hill (CV-17), Tokyo Raids, February 1945 USN Curtiss SB2C-4E Helldiver Dive-Bomber - VB-84, USS Bunker Hill (CV-17), Tokyo Raids, February 1945 [Open Dive Brakes] (1:72 Scale)

The Curtiss SB2C Helldiver was an American aircraft carrier-based dive bomber aircraft produced for the United States Navy during World War II. It replaced the Douglas SBD Dauntless in US Navy service. Despite its size, the SB2C was much faster than the SBD it replaced.

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RAAF Bristol Beaufighter Mk. XXI Torpedo Fighter - Green Ghost, N-SK A8-116, 93 Squadron, 1945 RAAF Bristol Beaufighter Mk. XXI Torpedo Fighter - "Green Ghost", N-SK A8-116, 93 Squadron, 1945 (1:72 Scale)

Developed as a private venture by the Bristol Aeroplane Company, the Beaufighter was a two-seat all-metal fighter using components from the Beaufort torpedo-bomber. First flown on July 17th, 1939, the Beaufighter eventually equipped 52 RAF squadrons, giving outstanding service during World War II, in particular as a night-fighter and torpedo-bomber (where the aircraft were affectionally known as 'Torbeaus').

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