Japanese Aircraft with American names?

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Apr 16, 2007
Philadelphia, PA, USA
This is probably a question that I should know nthe answer to, but why were some Japanese aircraft referred to by simple American names (ie: George, Jill, Kate...). I'm assuming it was because the Japanese names were hard to say, but I'd like to know for sure.

You hit the nail on the head. The Japanese names were a) too hard for most Americans to say, or b) not known. Also, all fighters recieved male names, while all bomber recieved female.

Correct! And can you guess why the Mitsubishi G4M was called "Betty"? Take a look at a Betty Grable pic and you'll see.
Although I wonder why the A6M was more commonly known as 'Zero' than 'Zeke'?
Here's a link about Japanese a/c designations, including the Allied code names. It doesn't deal specifically with that question but gives a good background.

On that question, one thing that often gets confused is what the Allies actually *did* call various Japanese types at various times in the war. The link notes that the code name system was only adopted in the 2nd half of 1942. Prior to that the Allies usually tried to call Japanese types by designation system the Japanese operating forces used, which was year type numbers. IOW Navy Type 0 Carrier Fighter, or some abbreviation of that, 0 for 1940 (Japanese year 2600), was what the Japanese Navy operating forces usually called the 'Zeke'. They did not usually call it A6M, the 'short system' designation (A for fighter, 6th design from Mitsubishi), that was used more in the development/procurement sphere. Likewise with Army planes the 'Oscar' was usually called Army Type 1 Fighter by the JAAF, for 1941, not Ki-43. Hayabusa, the official nickname, was adopted later.

Early WWII Allied references tried to follow that, for example 'Navy 0 Fighter' and 'Army 97 Fighter' (later 'Nate') are seen in period references (it seems in contrast the Army's Type 1 and Navy's Zero were seldom correctly distinguished by the Allies early in the war, which is why there are still even now sometimes confusing references to AVG P-40's v Zeroes, a match up that never happened). But 96, 97, 98 and 99 were shared by a lot of Japanese planes, eg the Kate was Type 97 Carrier Attack Plane, often called 'Nakajima 97' by the Allies pre code names.

'Zero' is relatively simple and unduplicated among those (although the Jake and Pete floatplanes were also Type 0 plus some minor Navy types, but the JAAF used 'Type 100' for planes adopted in 1940). But actually seems like Allied forces 1943-45 did usually call the plane Zeke, though maybe not always. It's *since* WWII I think where Zero has again become the most common English language name for the plane, in contrast to most others where the code names are more often still used.

The Reisen was allocated the code name ZEKE early in the process. However, it was also briefly given the code names BEN and RAY due to faulty identification and a lack of co-operation between Intelligence officers. These were soon dropped in favour of ZEKE. HAP was applied to the A6M3 Model 32 in honour of Hap Arnold, the US Army Air Forces Chief of Staff, who was not at all impressed, and was therefore quickly changed to HAMP. Upon discovery that HAMP was merely a version of ZEKE it became ZEKE 32. Partly as a result of the confusion existing in Intelligence circles and because Reisen's official Japanese designation was known early in the war, these various code names were not often used, and to this day this aircraft is known better as the ZERO.

Japanese Aircraft of the Pacific War - Rene J Francillon

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