Aviation Historian 24
R.Flude, G.Alegi - The Rome-Tokyo express. The Regia Aeronautica's 1942 route-proving flight to Japan /The Axis's wartime air links/ (1)
One of the contenders considered for the Rome-Tokyo flight was the Fiat G.12, the civil prototype of which had made its first flight on October 14, 1940. The type was subsequently developed as a military transport, the G.12T, as seen here, being introduced in June 1941. A long-range variant could not be made available in time for the Tokyo flight, however.
The prototype P.108C commercial transport, the development of which was pursued in parallel with that of the P.108B bomber. The P.108C was intended to be pressurised, but all examples of this type were completed as unpressurised troop transports.
The Piaggio P.108C was a transport development of the P.108B, the only four-engined bomber to be used by the Italians during the Second World War. The P. 108C was one of LATI’s preferred candidates for further Far East flights; but by late 1942, with the Allies making headway in North Africa, it had been decided that these were not a priority.
The SM.75RT is refuelled at Tokyo, probably on the morning of its departure back to Italy on July 16. The trimotor was painted Verde Oliva Scuro (Dark Olive Green) overall and hinomaru (rising sun) insignia were applied on the fuselage and wings for the Pao Tow-Tokyo-Pao Tow sectors.
This poor-quality but rare photograph shows the Italian crew saying its goodbyes at Tokyo before departing Tachikawa airfield on July 16, 1942, for the return to Tokyo. Note the rather crude hinomaru applied to the white band on the SM.75’s rear fuselage.
In the spring of 1939 SIAI-Marchetti SM.75PD I-TALO, specially modified for long-distance flying, set a new record by covering a remarkable 12,935km (8,037 miles) over a closed circuit, making the type a logical choice for the Rome-Tokyo-Rome flight in 1942. Two SM.75GAs were accordingly taken from a LATI order and modified to “RT” standard.
The SM.75 at Tokyo with its crew and Japanese officials posing for a publicity photograph, despite Japan’s reluctance to draw too much attention to the flight, for fear of alerting the Soviets to its route.
With the nose engine shut down to minimise wear-and-tear, the SM.75RT taxies in at one of the stops along the route. The location is unknown, but the backdrop appears to be European rather than the more mountainous Japan or Mongolia’s Gobi desert.
This beautifully evocative illustration, showing the Japanese public in traditional dress greeting the Italian trimotor as it sweeps over Tokyo on its arrival from Rome in July 1942 (with a somewhat “larger than life” Mt Fuji in the distance), was painted by renowned Fascist poster artist Gino Boccasile for an Alfa Romeo advertisement.
The August 10, 1942, issue of Italian magazine Ali di guerra (Wings of War) featured a "wraparound" cover with a map purporting to show the weather conditions during Il lungo volo - the long flight - although the route flown has clearly been left deliberately vague, with arrows pointing out of Italy and into Japan - and no further information.