Allies called it the "Betty," but it's official designation
was the Navy Type 1 Attack Bomber. The men who flew it
called it "Hamaki," which is Japanese for cigar, in
recognition of it's cigar shaped fuselage. The Japanese built more
of them than any other bomber during World War II. They saw
service throughout the Pacific and Indian Oceans.
Betty crews had a victorious first year of
combat. They devastated Clark Field, Philippine Islands, on
December 8, 1941, and participated in sinking the British
battleships HMS Prince of Wales and HMS Repulse two
days later. They ranged across the length and breadth of the
Pacific theater, attacking targets from the Aleutians to
Australia. Against limited fighter opposition, the lack of armor
and self-sealing fuel tanks was no hindrance. The savings in
airframe weight allowed the G4M to attack targets at unprecedented
ranges. But as Allied fighter strength increased, the Betty began
to reveal its fatal vulnerabilities. Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto,
architect of the Pearl Harbor attack, died on April 18, 1943,
along with his entire staff when U. S. Army Air Corps P-38
Lightnings intercepted and destroyed the two "Betty"
bombers that carried them. Six escorting Zeros flew guard but in a
matter of seconds, the Air Corps pilots shrugged off the escorting
fighters and sent both Bettys crashing down in flames.
The U.S. Army Air Force introduced faster
and more agile fighters that soon destroyed the Bettys. Even
though it was obsolete, the Japanese were unable to introduce a
replacement. Mitsubishi produced a total of 2,414 G4M
airplanes but few remained when the war ended on August 15, 1945.
National Air and Space Museum's G4M Model 34 Betty is not complete
but it is the best-preserved example of this famous aircraft in