Wednesday, October 26, 2016
The process of planning the Malaya offensive air operation and the awareness of control of the air
By curious coincidence, the Imperial Army and Navy started to plan the offensive operation of strategic vital areas such as Hong Kong, Singapore, Borneo and Malaya, assuming Great Britain as a hypothetical enemy when ‘Air Troops Operations’ was compiled. At first, this offensive operation was the naval plan. But the Imperial Army took responsibility after the Annual Operation Plan of 1939, and saw difficulties with accomplishing the plan. Although the operational concept of Imperial Army Aviation remained the support of ground operations at that time, they realised from current wisdom that air strikes were indispensable at the beginning of a war. However, they did not have the striking range necessary to conduct ‘aerial exterminating action’ before the landing operation in the Malaya offensive operation. To begin with, Type 97 fighters (Ki-27) of the Imperial Army’s mainstay had only 400 kilometres of combat radius. Therefore, it was not possible to escort amphibious squadrons the distance of 600 kilometres across the Gulf of Thailand, even if they could hold some airfields in southern French Indo-China. Secondly, even Type 97 heavy bombers (Ki-21) could only reach northern Malaya.
Eventually, they tried to overcome their difficulties by using tactics where advance elements executed surprise landings and capture of airfields before ‘aerial exterminating action’. This idea was based on the result of a map manoeuvre exercise at the Army Staff College in January 1941. The purpose of this manoeuvre exercise was to evaluate the plan drafted by Lieutenant-Colonel Tanigawa Kazuo of Military General Staff. Participants were Colonel Miyoshi Yasuyuki, Instructor of Army Staff College, as director of this manoeuvre exercise, and students of Army Aviation as exercise players. Before he wrote the plan, Colonel Kazuo Tanigawa spent nearly one month in 1940 investigating British Malaya, French Indo-China and Thailand for operations against British forces of the southern area. From this experience, he realised the most difficult problem for the execution of this operation was the lack of combat range of Imperial Army fighters. To address this problem, the Imperial Army speeded up the process to adopt the Type 1 fighter (K-43) with a longer combat radius. This new fighter was to have a combat radius of from 600 to 700 kilometres using the same engine as the Imperial Navy Type 0 fighter (A6M). The Type 1 fighter enabled the following: air cover of an anchorage area by fighters, and ‘aerial exterminating action’ to northern Malaya from southern French Indo-China by a strike package of bombers and fighters. Based on using the Type 1 fighter, Tanigawa devised the original plan where a section of ground forces would begin to land in northern Malaya to capture airfields. After ‘aerial exterminating action’, the ground forces’ main body would land in Mersing, in north-east Singapore, with the support carrier group. But Director Miyoshi set the exercise to land at Singora and then go down through the Malay peninsula. He thought Tanigawa’s plan would not guarantee enough control of the air for this operation because he could not count on support from the carrier group at that time. In fact, the Type 1 fighters available for use in the Malaya offensive air operation consisted of only two regiments (60 fighters). The difference in thought came from their operational concept. Tanigawa made much of ‘aerial exterminating action’ at the beginning of a war to gain control of the air. However, Miyoshi considered the long theatre of the Malaya peninsula and instead placed greater importance on ensuring control of the air step by step by gradual advance.
Next is an example of how they actually gained and maintained control of the air in the Malaya offensive air operation. The Imperial Army attached much importance to the speed of offensive action in both the ground and the air operation in Malaya. Imperial Army Aviation perceived that this speed was restricted by the speed of gaining control of the air, and the advance of control of the air was related to the speed of capturing airfields. Imperial Army Aviation adopted tactics to accelerate control of the air by utilising ‘aerial exterminating action’ and capturing airfields for Imperial Army Aviation to use one by one to complement the still-short combat radius of the fighters. In the opening battle that launched this operation, the 5th Division, as advanced elements of the 25th Army, started surprise landings in Singora and Patani. The Takumi Column, commanded by Major-General Takumi Hiroshi, and the Uno Column, led by Colonel Uno Misao, landed in Kota Bharu and Nakhotn, Bandon, before the start of ‘aerial exterminating action’. These landing forces included air section troops such as aircraft maintenance crew, crew for repair and management of airfields, etc. The landing of the Takumi Column was at 2.15 a. m. on 8 December 1941, almost one hour before the attack on Pearl Harbor. ‘Aerial exterminating action’ against the airfields at Sungei Petani and Alor Star in Kedah province began at 8.20 a. m., almost six hours after the Takumi Column landing.
Miyoshi’s plan included a traditional area of conflict in the operational concepts between ground forces and Army Aviation. This conflict was the order of priority between ‘aerial exterminating action’ for gaining control of the air, and the ground support mission. In his plan, the speed of gaining and expanding control of the air would be subject to the speed of the capture of airfields, where the capture of airfields was a ground operation itself. This was the dilemma of Tanikawa. He longed for air operations as an independent ‘air force’ in Malaya.
The endeavor to carry out independent air operations in Malaya
After the map manoeuvre exercise at the Army Staff College, Tanigawa began to devise a full-dress plan of offensive air operations while serving as a staff member of the Army Division of the Imperial General Headquarters from early September 1941. At that time, the ‘Outline of Imperial Policy’ to assume the offensive in the Southern area was decided. At the beginning, the operations area of the Southern area was divided into the Philippines front and the Malaya/Singapore front. After Tanigawa completed the plan, he became the chief of the air staff office at the Southern General Army Headquarters on 13 November 1941. There is evidence showing the essence of Tanigawa’s operational concept as an ‘independent army air force’ in his plan and leadership of the Malaya offensive air operation. This is seen in the concept of ‘independence of aviation units’ and ‘uniqeness of air operations’.
Looking first at ‘independence of aviation units’, Tanigawa tried to gain independence of aviation by giving discretionary powers concerning air operations to the Southern General Army in the Southern offensive campaigns plan of the Army Division of the Imperial General Headquarters. His campaign plan to put whole aviation units under the direct control of the Southern General Army Commander was approved on 5 November. In his plan this operation would initially begin by the landing of advance elements in Malaya and by air attack on the Philippines. Next, major elements of the ground forces would land in the Philippines and Malaya and should quickly capture them based on a successful result of rudimentary air operations. Based on the guidelines of this air operation, Imperial Army Aviation units were expected to gain control of the air by pre-emptive attack on enemy airfields jointly with Imperial Naval air units. This was intended to steer landing operations of major elements to success followed by air support to ground operations. The main body of Imperial Army Aviation advanced to Malaya. The Southern General Army was organised with the 14th Army, primarily consisting of two infantry divisions for the Philippines offensive operation, and the 25th Army of four infantry divisions for Malaya, as the direct control units; and the 3rd Air Corps of three air brigades, the 5th Air Corp of two air brigades and other small air units.
This plan gave priority to the ground support mission, but Tanigawa, as air staff officer of the Southern General Army, took direct control of aviation units to pursue the plan for independent air operations. In the plan of Southern General Army, Tanigawa attached the 5th Air Corps to the Commander of the 14th Army, but he left the 3rd Air Corps under direct control of Southern General Army. By not attaching the 3rd Air Corps to the 25th Army, the organisation of the task force placed the 3rd Air Corps on an equal basis with the 25th Army. In addition, he reinforced the 3rd Air Corps by attaching one air brigade of the 5th Air Corps. The 3rd Air Corps was composed of the 3rd, 7th 10th and 12th Air Brigades. Thus the 3rd Air Corps had a total of 612 aircraft, and was the main force of Imperial Army Aviation. This source of air power was used to capture Malaya as the main air operation of the Southern General Army. The reason for this quantity of aircraft was based on the following estimate. The Imperial Army projected that British Air Force aircraft were around 200 to 250 in Malaya, 200 in India and 50 in Burma. The Imperial Army planned to deploy two or three times that number to achieve superior air power potential in the main theatre.
The issue concerning attachment of air troops was the most difficult and anguishing issue for Tanigawa. He finally came to a conclusion that did not attach air troops to ground forces, but had air troops supporting the ground forces. He had anxiety about the ground forces’ lack of understanding concerning the uniqueness of air operations, and he was furthermore apprehensive about possible obstructions to progress in overall Army operations by the feud within the Imperial Army between ‘aerial exterminating action’ and the ground support mission that had existed since the compilation of ‘Air Troops Operations’. Tanigawa reasoned that the 3rd Air Corps, who supported not only the 25th Army of Malaya but also the 15th Army of Burma, might have a chance to shift the centre of gravity of ‘aerial exterminating action’ depending on the situation. He also felt that the ground forces did not have staff with experience and expertise to fully realise the complex mechanism and operations of air power operations. Above all, Tanigawa feared that lack of understanding by ground forces could bring about an unnecessary loss of valuable and scarce air assets. Tanigawa thought that control of the air by ‘aerial exterminating action’ contributed more to the overall army operation than just providing ground support mission. He tried to plan air operations mainly to gain control of the air under direct control of the Southern General Army, but Tanigawa understood that attachment to ground forces was also favourable for acquiring enemy airfields.
This issue became apparent during the Malaya offensive operation. The 83rd Independent Flying Regiment was to be attached to the 25th Army in the plan, but deployment of this regiment was delayed at the beginning of the operation. Therefore the staff office of the 25th Army was concerned that there was not enough air support for the landing operation of advance elements and requested the attachment of flying units to provide ground support for exclusive use. Thus, emotional disagreements occurred between the 25th Army and the 3rd Air Corps. A certain air staff officer of Imperial General Head-quarters who visited front-line ground forces on 19 December suggested that the 3rd Air Brigade be attached to the 25th Army temporarily. Tanigawa also investigated the situation, and pointed out that Lieutenant-General Tomoyuki Yamashita, Commander of the 25th Army, did not always want the attachment. The misgiving of the 25th Army’s staff office about this attachment came from an incomplete linkage between air and ground operations during the previous week. He observed the essence of this issue as follows. The 25th Army only discussed whether or not flying units directly supported ground forces without considering the profit from gaining control of the air. The staff of the ground forces did not understand the complex mechanism of flying units. Tanigawa eventually refused the request of the 25th Army, and kept the 3rd Air Corps under direct control of Southern General Army to maintain the independence of aviation units.
In the operation plan of the Southern General Army, considering the characteristics of the Southern theatre, Tanigawa gave a free hand to the 3rd Air Corps on air operations under direct control of the Southern General Army, and tried to facilitate the unique nature of air operations without having them being dragged into exclusive ground operations. In the first phase of this operation plan, the mission of the 3rd Air Corps was mainly exterminating enemy air power and supporting the 25th Army’s operation using the 3rd Air Corps major elements. Next the 3rd Air Corps supported the 16th Army in the Southern Sumatra operation by trying to cut enemy communication lines and by strategic bombardment. In the second phase, the mission was supporting the 16th Army in the Javanese theatre by a large number of the 3rd Air Corps elements supporting the 25th Army. Tanigawa gave the 3rd Air Corps the primary mission of exterminating enemy air power. This is because it was impossible for the 3rd Air Corps to be exterminating and supporting at the same time while air and ground operations moved simultaneously in the first phase. It seems that the writing together of exterminating and supporting in the Imperial Army Aviation was only a compromise to the conflicts between aviation and ground forces in Imperial Army. In addition, this air operation was planned to ‘exterminate’ and ‘support’ in the vast theatre from Burma to Java. It seems quite natural and reasonable that gaining control of the air should have been the main mission of this air operation in its contribution to the overall campaign.
For instance, ‘aerial exterminating action’ to Rangoon was executed twice on 23 December during the Malaya operation. This operation was in order to eliminate the enemy air threat and to apply political pressure by air attack to the heart of Burma as British air activities became conspicuous in Burma. But this air operation ended with an unexpected loss because of insufficient co-ordination between bombers and fighters. In another example, the Singapore operation and the Palembang airborne operation were conducted at almost same time. The 3rd Air Corps launched ‘aerial exterminating action’ on Palembang on 6 February 1942, and supported the Singapore landing operation by the 25th Army from 9 February. The fall of the Singapore fortress was 15 December, and the airborne assault on Palembang was 14 December, the previous day. The Commander of the 3rd Air Corps also led paratroops at that time. This shows how Imperial Army Aviation demonstrated the uniqueness of operations through ‘aerial exterminating action’, ground support operations and airborne operations.
Tanigawa developed planning and operational leadership from a perspective of the ‘independence of aviation units’ and the ‘uniqueness of air operations’ in the Malaya offensive operation. It was his goal to execute air operations as an ‘air force’ for gaining control of the air by ‘aerial exterminating action’ during actual combat operations.
Thursday, August 4, 2016
Thursday, March 10, 2016
Japanese forces bombarding Wanping, 1937.
Marco Polo Bridge 1937.
Japanese called this the “China Incident” (“Shina jihen”). Shots were fired out of the dark at Japanese troops of the North China Garrison Army near the Lugouqiao-or Lugou, or Marco Polo-bridge over a tributary of the Hai River. It is not known who fi red at the Japanese. Speculation includes Chinese Communist provocateurs, Chinese Nationalist troops, or perhaps no one at all: it is possible local Japanese troops made up the incident from whole cloth. Japanese troops in the area were part of an international garrison based in the city by right of servitude under certain “unequal treaties” imposed on China many years earlier. They were allowed to maneuver under terms of the Boxer Protocol (1901), under which Japan kept troops in northern China. One Japanese private went missing for two hours, but otherwise no one was hurt. Imperial General Headquarters nonetheless determined to take advantage: an apology was demanded and the Chinese were instructed to withdraw from other key bridges, opening the road to potential conquest of Beijing and Hebei (Hopei) province. The Chinese garrison refused to move.
Japanese and Chinese troops clashed the next morning as a local squabble escalated into a Sino-Japanese crisis. The Japanese Army decided to follow the aggressive lead of its local commander and fight for full control of northern China. The initial Japanese attack was repulsed. China formally apologized in an effort to defuse the crisis. In private, Jiang Jieshi confided to his diary on July 8 that China would no longer accept humiliation at the hands of Japan, and moved to fully mobilize his forces. The mood among the Guandong Army regiments commanded by General Renya Mutaguchi was also bellicose, an attitude echoed throughout Imperial General Headquarters in Tokyo. Japanese leaders were aware of the Yezhovshchina blood purge of the Red Army then underway and thought that Moscow’s terrible distraction was Tokyo’s great opportunity. Guandong officers and others in the North China Garrison Army had long hoped for a pretext for war, and this incident provided it. Tokyo sent reinforcements to the Guandong Army from Korea and three fresh divisions arrived from Japan on July 25. Two days later the Japanese attacked in force. They quickly overran the ancient Marco Polo (Lugouqiao) bridge and surrounding territory. Thus began the Sino-Japanese War (1937-1945).
In one of a series of border incidents that marked the mid-1930s, Japanese and Chinese troops clashed at Marco Polo Bridge (Lugouqiao), about ten miles west of Beijing, during the night of 7 July 1937. There was nothing particularly unusual about the circumstances, not even that they led to a series of clashes around Beijing. Neither Nanjing nor Tokyo wanted a large-scale war, in spite of the creation of the Second United Front a few months earlier. But the Chinese were determined not to give up this important railway junction. While Japanese naval officers and diplomats feared that the Kanto- Army’s actions might threaten war with Russia, even the army did not foresee that they would snowball into a full-scale Japanese invasion and the beginning of World War II in Asia (known as the Anti- Japanese Resistance War in China).
How had this happened? At the beginning of July, Chinese troops around the Marco Polo Bridge decided to strengthen their defenses. On 7 July the Japanese conducted night maneuvers around the bridge, firing blank cartridges. The Chinese returned fire briefly, and no one was hurt. A missing Japanese soldier at roll call the next morning, however, prompted the Japanese to begin an attack (though the man returned after twenty minutes). The Chinese successfully repulsed the Japanese. Over the next few days feints and counter feints on the ground produced inflammatory statements from Tokyo and Nanjing: demands for apologies, complaints about insults, and references to sacred territories. On 17 July, Chiang Kai-shek declared:
China is a weak country, and if, unfortunately, we should reach the limit of our endurance, then there remains only one thing to do, namely, to throw the last ounce of our national energy into a struggle for the independent existence of our nation… If we allow one more inch of our territory to be lost, then we would be committing an unpardonable offense against our race.
By the end of the month, calculated feints had been replaced by continuous, fierce fighting, and the Beijing-Tianjin corridor had fallen to the Japanese. Japan’s massive invasion of China in the second half of 1937 was not thoroughly planned, but it was the logical result of an unstable situation. What Japan persisted in calling the “China incident” years into the Sino-Japanese War quickly turned into a quagmire. At first, events seemed to be falling Japan’s way. Japan’s best hope was that quick victories might pressure the Nanjing regime into accommodation with Japan. World opinion was sympathetic to China, but China was isolated. Yet the Nationalists would not surrender.
Type 2595 “Ha-Go” tanks of armoured unit of Kwantung Army sees during manoeuvres in September 1944.
Japan’s military presence in and domination of Manchuria in northwestern China received a major victory with the end of the Russo-Japanese War in 1905. Under the Treaty of Portsmouth, Japan was required to withdraw its troops from Manchuria proper but gained a leased territory of the Liaotung (Liaodong) Peninsula in southern Manchuria, renamed the Kwantung Leased Territory, which included the fortress and port of Port Arthur. The army unit assigned to garrison the area and the Japanese-owned South Manchurian Railway (SMR), as far as Changchun, was named the Kwantung Army. From this date this army became the spearhead of Japanese imperialism in China.
With the railway administration working as a colonial power, running ports, harbors, tax collection, mines, and utility companies, the SMR turned the railway zone into a semiautonomous state, and the Kwantung Army was its security and police arm.
After World War I, Japan gained control of former German holdings at Tsingtao in China’s Shandong (Shantung) Province and deployed 70,000 troops from the Kwantung Army to Siberia to support the Whites in the Russian Civil War. The Japanese sought to expand their empire in Siberia, failed to do so, and withdrew in 1922.
In 1927, when Chiang Kai-shek’s troops were marching on Shandong to break the power of local warlords in the Northern Expedition, Japanese troops were sent to Shandong (Shantung). Soon Chinese and Japanese troops were clashing. Chiang withdrew his forces from the city of Tsinan, but the Kwantung Army attacked it the next day, killing 13,000 civilians.
Chiang turned his troops away from conflict with Japan. Tokyo, however, supported the Kwantung Army, issuing warnings to Chiang and Manchurian warlord Zang Zolin (Chang Tso-lin) not to attack Japanese forces or civilians. However, the new commander of the Kwantung Army, General Chotaro Muraoka, had other ideas, moving his headquarters in May 1928 from Port Arthur to Mukden, Manchuria’s main city, and preparing his troops to take control of the region.
Ready to move, Muraoka and his troops waited, firing telegrams to Tokyo asking permission to move. When Prime Minister Giichi Tanaka refused, the Kwantung Army’s officers were stunned. Muraoka decided to kill Zang Zolin, blasting a bridge as the warlord’s train crossed it on June 4, 1928. The Kwantung Army reported to Tokyo that Zang had been killed by Manchurian guerrillas. The truth came out anyway, and Tokyo could do seemingly little to control the insubordinate army and its officers, who had a lot of support in Japan.
But Tanaka was determined to punish the officers responsible for the assassination plot and recommended so to Emperor Hirohito, who agreed. But when the army as a whole objected, Tanaka temporized. He fi red Muraoka and told the public that there was no evidence the Kwantung Army had been involved in the plot. Then Tanaka resigned. The Kwantung Army’s officers had defied Tokyo and gotten away with it.
As the Great Depression wore on, the Japanese economy continued to crumble. Many Japanese army officers, angered by the economic situation, joined secret societies like the Cherry Blossom League, and a group of officers plotted to use the Kwantung Army to seize Manchuria for its rich resources. One of the key men was Colonel Doihara Kenji, who prepared a “Plan for Acquiring Manchuria and Mongolia.”
Chiang Kai-shek, meanwhile, had succeeded in unifying China under the Kuomintang, and Zhang Xueliang (Chang Hsueh-liang), Manchuria’s new warlord, supported the Nationalist, or Kuomintang, government. In 1931 clashes broke out between Korean farmers who were Japanese subjects and Chinese farmers over water rights.
Doihara went to Manchuria and determined that a Japanese attempt to seize Manchuria would result in international condemnation. An “incident” had to be manufactured to make a Japanese occupation of Manchuria seem China’s fault. In 1929 the Kwantung Army began to plot an incident under their new boss, Lieutenant General Shigeru Honjo, with Doihara as mastermind.
Japan’s civilian leaders did nothing to control the insubordinate Kwantung Army. The emperor, however, ordered Major General Yoshitsugu Tatekawa to bring a message from him on September 15, 1931, ordering the Kwantung Army not to take any unauthorized action. Unfortunately for Hirohito, Tatekawa’s assistant, Colonel Kingoro Hashimoto, was among the plotters, and he sent a message to officers of the Kwantung Army to let them know that Tatekawa was coming with imperial orders. When Tatekawa arrived in Mukden on September 17, Kwantung Army officers took the general to a party, where he became drunk.
That night Kwantung Army officers blew up a section of track on the South Manchurian Railway 1,200 yards from a Chinese army that failed to derail the night express. Kwantung Army troops then attacked and shelled the Chinese barracks, killing many soldiers. By 10:00 a. m. on September 18, 1931, Mukden was under Japanese control, Chang’s headquarters were ransacked, and his banks and government offices were occupied, as were a dozen other cities in southern Manchuria in a coordinated attack by Japanese units. Some 12 hours after their blast, Kwantung Army officers displayed to Western reporters the “proof” that the Chinese had tried to destroy the railroad, which was bodies of Chinese soldiers shot in the back lying facedown, supposedly cut down while fleeing the scene. The world was outraged by the political adventurism, and Tokyo was stunned. The emperor reminded Prime Minister Reijiro Wakatsuki that he had forbidden such action, and the foreign and finance ministers also objected. But Wakatsuki did not overrule his generals and colonels. The attack and subsequent conquest of Manchuria were accepted as a fait accompli.
From October to December 1931, the Kwantung Army, now empowered by Tokyo and advised by units of the Japanese army in Korea, expanded conquest of Manchuria, even plotting a coup in October to overthrow the civilian government in Tokyo. This attempted coup was ended when the leading plotters were secretly arrested. In December Wakatsuki resigned. Ki Inukai became the new prime minister, but General Araki, leader of the Kodo Ha faction, became war minister, effectively providing the military’s endorsement to the Kwantung Army’s actions. The Kwantung Army now became an occupation force in Manchuria, and its officers became heroes for all of Japan.
The Kwantung Army continued to seize Chinese territory, taking Rehe (Jehol) province in 1933 and Chahar province in 1934. Officers of the Kodo Ha movement were assigned to the Kwantung Army, strengthening its radicalism; among them was Hideki Tojo, who would become Japan’s prime minister during World War II.
In February 1936, the Kwantung Army showed its powerful influence when a group of Kodo Ha officers attempted a coup d’état in Tokyo. It failed, the ringleaders were shot, and the civilian leaders regained some control over the Kwantung Army.
Leaving Chinese unity under Chiang Kai-shek’s leadership, the Kwantung Army set to create an “incident” between Chinese and Japanese forces on July 7, 1937, at a railway junction near Beijing (Peking) in northern China, called the Marco Polo Bridge Incident. This led to the outbreak of the Sino-Japanese War, in which Japan committed unspeakable atrocities, such as the Rape of Nanjing. It became World War II in Asia. The Kwantung Army promised Tokyo victory in three months.
As World War II began and dragged on, the Kwantung Army remained in occupation of Manchuria, “Asia’s Ruhr,” against Soviet invasion. Over time, the army was stripped of most of its equipment and men, which were needed on other battlefronts.
When the Soviet Union declared war on Japan on August 8, 1945, and invaded Manchuria, the Kwantung Army had 1 million men under arms equipped with 1,155 tanks, 5,360 guns, and 1,800 aircraft. On paper, this was a match for the Soviets’ 1.5 million men, but the Soviets also fielded 26,000 guns, 5,500 tanks, and 3,900 planes. In addition, the Kwantung Army was short of gasoline, ammunition, and transport.
Yet some of the Kwantung Army’s hotheaded leaders refused to surrender when Japan surrendered to the Allies on August 14, 1945. Commanding general Otozo Yamada refused to obey the Imperial Rescript to surrender, summoned his officers to his headquarters at Changchun, debated the news from Tokyo, and by a majority vote chose to go on fighting.
In the end, the Kwantung Army did obey an imperial command and surrendered to the Soviet Army. Several of its leaders, including Doihara and Tojo, were tried, convicted, and executed at the Tokyo International Court.
Further reading: Harris, Meirion, and Susie Harris. Soldiers of the Sun. New York: Random House, 1991; Hoyt, Edwin P. Japan’s War. New York: Da Capo, 1986; Toland, John. The Rising Sun. New York: Random House, 1970; Tuchman, Barbara W. Sand against the Wind: Stilwell and the American Experience in China. New York: MacMillan, 1970.
Sunday, January 31, 2016
The strategy for the defeat of Japan could not have been simpler: Allied air, land, and sea forces would advance on three broad axes to roll back the new Japanese empire to the Home Islands, which Allied forces would then invade and occupy, if necessary. British Commonwealth forces would advance from India through Burma to Malaya and Hong Kong; Australian- American forces would drive north and west from Australia into the Netherlands East Indies and the Philippines; and the United States, rich in naval air and surface units, would attack across the Central Pacific toward the Philippines and Formosa. Destruction of the Japanese armed forces (especially air and naval units) would proceed simultaneously with the ruination of Japan’s economy, dependent upon seaborne oil, minerals, coal, rubber, and foodstuffs. Any amateur who could read a map could design such a grand strategy. Making it happen proved quite a different matter.
The Allied military experience in the China-Burma-India (CBI) theater demonstrated how difficult it would be to mount a cohesive offensive effort from nations with conflicting interests and asymmetrical capabilities. Not until 1943 did British commanders in India believe that their principal field force, the Fourteenth Army, could conduct even limited offensive operations. They tested their forces with a one-division advance along the Arakan coast and found the Japanese and terrain unconquerable. The Arakan offensive demonstrated what the Fourteenth Army commander, General William Slim, feared. Only wide-ranging amphibious operations could take his army past the rugged Chin Hills guarding Burma from the west and blocking access to the river valleys leading to Mandalay and Rangoon. A hardened field soldier who had learned his trade on the Western Front and in the Indian Army, Slim combined troop-leading and training skills with personal and moral courage as well as charm, a sound grasp of soldiering, and a solid appreciation of Asian warfare and the excellence of the Japanese Army. He had experienced the catastrophe of the 1942 retreat from Burma and the abortive attack in the Arakan. His honesty and character made him the obvious choice to reshape the Fourteenth Army, a force built on the Indian Army but including the ever-dependable Gurkha Rifles of Nepal, unproven infantry battalions from East and West Africa, and infantry battalions and supporting arms from the British Army.
In theory, the concept of amphibious envelopments reaching to Singapore made sense to everyone except the other Allies and much of the Royal Navy. With the demands of other theaters, the Allies could not find adequate amphibious shipping for even a modest operation aimed at Rangoon and scheduled for late 1943 or 1944. Slim now saw no alternative but an overland advance by his army, gradually reinforced from the Middle East and India proper, where the internal security mission required fewer British battalions by 1944. The Japanese Fifteenth Army, under Lieutenant General Mutaguchi Renya, also grew in the same months from four to eight divisions, thus raising the prospective cost to Slim of an overland battle through the mountains of western Burma. If Slim could find no reasonable alternative to a conventional offensive, others offered shining promises of easy victory. Churchill and Roosevelt, politicians and opportunists to the core, grasped these false options with enthusiasm.
Already tied to Nationalist China by sentiment and prior commitment, Roosevelt never abandoned his hope that Chiang Kai-shek’s armies would go on the offensive and that Chiang himself could actually play the role of regional leader. From mid-1942 until mid-1943 Roosevelt struggled to keep China in the war, aided in his quest by Marshall and Stilwell. In October 1942 Roosevelt answered Chiang’s Three Demands with limited promises of an air buildup in India and a serious effort to bring Lend-Lease supplies to Kunming by air. The Allies could complete the Ledo extension of the Burma Road only by driving at least one Japanese division from northern Burma with some sort of Sino-American army. Roosevelt did not promise to send ground combat forces, even though Stilwell favored this option. Encouraged by Hap Arnold’s staff and Chennault (now commanding the Tenth Air Force in China) to think more about offensive air operations from China, Roosevelt in May 1943 chose (much to Stilwell’s dismay and Chiang’s delight) Chennault’s concept of a major bomber offensive against China’s coastal cities and Japanese sea lanes. Chennault, the air defense expert, suddenly promised victory through bombing, probably influenced by his nominal theater air commander, Major General Clayton D. Bissell, and Bissell’s patron, Hap Arnold. The air plan, however, offered Stilwell some solace, since such a commitment required an open Ledo- Burma Road and a reformed Chinese Army to protect the bomber bases in China. At the Quebec conference of August 1943, Churchill, Roosevelt, and the Combined Chiefs of Staff approved an offensive in north Burma.
With his schemes for amphibious operations frustrated by shipping shortages, Churchill supported American plans for the China-Burma-India theater, even though he had little faith in Nationalist China. Moreover, Churchill fell under the spell of one of the war’s most eccentric and charismatic commanders, Brigadier Orde Wingate. A Middle Eastern expert with guerrilla successes in the Sudan, Ethiopia, and Palestine, Wingate argued for unconventional warfare in Burma. Slim doubted Wingate would find the Japanese as impressionable as his Middle Eastern foes, and he resented Wingate’s influence with Churchill, who allowed Wingate to strip Fourteenth Army of some of its best British, Gurkha, and African troops.
Bursting with energy, Wingate formed the 3,300-man 77th Brigade in 1943, the Long Range Penetration Group (LRPG) or “Chindits,” a nickname drawn from the ferocious winged lions of stone guarding Burma’s temples. Wings had much to do with the Chindits, since Wingate expected his force to land by glider or parachute behind Japanese lines and then be resupplied by air. Fighter-bombers would provide fire support instead of artillery. The first experiment in February–June 1943 was no great success, proving only that Chindits got tired and sick like everyone else and could not live by airdrops alone. The Chindits killed three times as many Japanese as they themselves lost (68 to 28), but almost the entire force ended the operation unfit for future duty. Slim certainly did not see the Chindit operations as a substitute for his campaign.
Wingate’s quixotic schemes then grew into a larger and more optimistic plan for a return to Burma in 1944 on the same model. Churchill liked the concept, while Stilwell saw Wingate’s force as a useful instrument in his own plan to lead a Sino-American ground force against Myitkyina, a crucial road junction on the way to Lashio, terminus of the Burma Road. With the approval of Admiral Lord Louis Mountbatten, appointed the theater commander in September 1943, Wingate wrested control of troops in India that were outside Slim’s command and formed a six-brigade LRPG of 20,000 officers and men. Stilwell had no comparable ground force. He had two small Chinese divisions under his direct control, and Marshall had provided only a makeshift infantry regimental combat team drawn from “volunteers” from the U.S. Army. Designated the 5307th Composite Unit Provisional, the unit preferred the name Merrill’s Marauders, thus identifying themselves with Brigadier General Frank D. Merrill, one of Stilwell’s favorite staff officers but an inexperienced commander with a serious heart condition.
Stilwell, however, had some other assets to entice Wingate into the north Burma campaign. First, he had the full cooperation of the American air forces (if not Chennault), since an open Ledo-Burma Road would dramatically reduce the airlift requirements over “the Hump,” the dangerous southeastern extension of the Himalayas. Moreover, the prospect of Chinese bases attracted American bomber generals, who were not having great success yet over Germany and who had made huge investments in a new long-range bomber, the B-29 Superfortress. Arnold and Bissell organized their own special operations wing, the 5138th Air Force Unit or the 1st Air Commando Group, commanded by Colonel Philip “Flip” Cochran, who proved one of the most able officers in the China-Burma-India theater. Stilwell promised Wingate that Cochran’s 200-aircraft group, which included fighter-bombers and transports as well as gliders and reconnaissance aircraft, would provide the Chindits the aerial support the RAF could not, if Wingate coordinated his operations with the Myitkyina expedition.
Both Stilwell and Wingate assumed they would enjoy the services of the pro-Allied Burma hill tribes. The major mountain tribal groups—Nagas, Kachins, Karens, Shans, and Chins—numbered a minority of about 7 million of Burma’s 17 million people. The Nagas, Kachins, and Karens had served happily in the colonial security forces, had fought the Japanese in 1942, and now wanted weapons to fight Burmese collaborators and the Japanese. Many Karens had become Christians, and the Kachins rivaled the Gurkhas in their warriorlike qualities. In 1943 the hill tribes welcomed new guerrilla leaders from the United States and the Commonwealth, Detachment 101 of the OSS and Force 136 of the British Special Operations Directorate. Generously supplied with arms, money, supplies, and radios, these partisan teams rallied thousands of Kachin and Karen tribesmen. They, too, depended on the 1st Air Commando Group for support.
While Slim’s Indian divisions conducted cautious offensive operations in central and south Burma in 1943–44, the Chindits, Marauders, and Chinese marched or flew into north-central and northern Burma in February and March 1944.Wingate did not intend to support Stilwell, but he died in an air crash in March, and his successor then coordinated the movement of the six LRPG brigades with Stilwell’s force. Unfortunately, Stilwell underestimated the fighting skill and tenacity of the Japanese 18th Division, under Lieutenant General Tanaka Shinchi, and he used his forces (including air support) with such profligacy that the Chindits and 1st Air Commando were combat-ineffective before Myitkyina fell. The Marauders and three Chinese divisions fought their way to the headwaters of the Irrawaddy by April 1944 but exhausted themselves in the process. In the battles of Walawbum and Shadzup, only the timely arrival of the Chinese saved the Marauders from disaster. Merrill himself collapsed with another heart attack.
Stilwell then ordered the remnants of his expeditionary force on a 65- mile trek to Myitkyina, which it besieged in June and finally captured in August with the help of more Chinese and the Burmese partisans. The campaign destroyed the Marauders and crippled the Chinese X Force. The campaign did not end, however, since Chiang had finally ordered Y Force into Burma from the east, while Marshall sent two more U.S. infantry regiments (Mars Force) to the CBI to replace the Marauders, who mustered barely 200 effectives from an original 3,000-man force. Chiang’s price of cooperation was Stilwell’s relief, since he viewed “Vinegar Joe” as pro- Communist. Stilwell did know which Chinese regime would seize the Mandate of Heaven. The Kuomintang, he noted, was characterized by “corruption, neglect, chaos, economy [bad], taxes . . . hoarding, black market, trading with the enemy.” The Communists “reduce taxes, rents, interest . . . raise production, and standard of living, participate in government. Practice what they preach.” Vinegar Joe, sick and bitter, left the CBI before the north Burma force finally met Y Force at the Chinese border south of Lashio and allowed U.S. Army engineers to link the Ledo Road with the highway to Kunming.
By the time the land route to China had been reopened, the Chennault air plan had already come a cropper. Even Roosevelt finally accepted the conclusion his military chiefs had reached long before: the Chinese Nationalists would do little to defeat Japan. Within China, signs of shirking were only too clear. Inflation and corruption, fueled by American supplies and money, became rampant. Chinese military casualties fell below 300,000 for the first time since 1937. The American military mission in Chungking, now directed by Major General Albert C. Wedemeyer, believed that only the Communist Eighth Route Army and the OSS-supported Chinese-Mongolian partisans were real fighters.
The decline of the Nationalist Army did not reflect any lack of effort by Tenth Air Force’s air transports in flying “the Hump.” By August 1943, C-46s were delivering 5,000 tons of supplies a month to China, an unthinkable figure when Chiang had demanded that support a year earlier. By January 1944, Tenth Air Force effort reached 15,000 tons a month. The commitment took a heavy toll. The transport force lost at least one aircraft for every one of the 500 air miles between India and China; more than 1,000 aircrewmen perished along the route. At its peak strength, Tenth Air Force had 650 aircraft in the air every day, around the clock. This effort made it possible for Chennault to mount Operation Matterhorn, the strategic bombardment of Chinese and Formosan targets with B-24s and B-29s based in China.
The opportunity cost to the Chinese Nationalists was high, too, since 90 percent of the cargo tonnage in 1943–44 was aviation gasoline and ordnance, not Lend-Lease arms for the Chinese Army. This imbalance exacted its toll all too soon. As the airlift over “the Hump” provided more logistical support, Arnold sent more operational wings to China and created a new command for Chennault, the Fourteenth Air Force, which included one B-29 bombardment wing. When Churchill and Roosevelt met Chiang Kaishek on their way to Teheran in November 1943, they promised Chiang, awash in self-importance, a great air war from China against Japan. Their meeting coincided with the first American bombardment of Formosa. They also promised to push operations in Burma to open the Ledo-Burma Road and increase Lend-Lease aid. In return for recognition of his role as Allied Generalissimo in Asia, Chiang promised to use his army to the best of its limited ability to support the American and British offensive.
The Japanese did not look kindly on the growing U.S. Army Air Forces presence in China, however, and ordered the China expeditionary army to begin ICHI-GO (Operation One) in January 1944. For the next ten months the Japanese Army pushed the Nationalists back and overran base after base, forcing the forward-based Fourteenth Air Force fighters and bombers deeper into China, more than half of which remained unconquered. The Chinese Army’s resistance was erratic and ultimately futile, but Japanese casualties and the lengthening logistical tail of the Japanese divisions brought operations to a halt in January 1945. The Japanese generals in China cautioned Tokyo that they could not advance far enough to capture the bases of the new B-29s, which had a range of 4,000 miles.
The strategic bombing champions, however, had already concluded that an enlarged Matterhorn was too tall a challenge. With the decline of Fourteenth Air Force and military support of Chiang Kai-shek, operations in the China-Burma-India theater, divided into the Southeast Asia and Chinese theaters in 1944, reverted to a British Commonwealth effort to restore the British Empire, a goal the United States failed to support with any enthusiasm. The war with Japan would be won elsewhere.
Thursday, September 10, 2015
The Captain Nicolas VanWingerden Crew, B-29, China/Burma/India.
From June of 1944 through January of 1945, four groups (sixteen squadrons) of B-29 bombers were deployed through airfields built by tens of thousands of Chinese laborers in the area of Chengdu – at Guanghan, Qionglai, Pengshan, and Xinjin. They comprised the 58th Bombardment Wing of the new Twentieth Air Force. This was the strategic bombing air force which implemented the dream of the air power pioneers such as General Arnold.
The strategic plan for “Operation Matterhorn,” approved at the Quebec and Cairo Conferences, was: gather a force of the new long-range Boeing B-29s in India, advance loaded bombers to the bases near Chengdu where they would refuel, and launch long distance raids against Japan. Histories of the operation emphasize President Roosevelt’s personal commitment to opening a bombing campaign from China against Japan. The Twentieth Air Force was not placed under any of the CBI theatre commanders (Arnold knew Stilwell and Chennault would try to use the B-29s to support their own operations), but was rather was an autonomous command under the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
The supply problems were daunting. Ships with materiel, fuel, and personnel traveled from the U.S. via lengthy and roundabout Atlantic or Pacific routes to Karachi or Calcutta. Before any raid from India to China to Japan could be mounted, fuel had to be transported to the airfields near Chengdu. B-29s, intended for bombing, flew preparatory missions that carried only fuel (seven tons per mission) over the Hump to China. It took six missions over the Hump to provide enough fuel for one mission to Japan. There were losses of aircraft and men on these supply missions, which also reduced the active service life of the engines and airframes.
The first raid against Japan -- a 3200-mile mission -- was conducted the night of June 14-15, 1944. The numbers testify to the difficulty of the task. Ninety two aircraft left India, but only 79 reached China. Seventy-five aircraft took off, but only 68 reached the Chinese coast and only 47 attacked the target, the Yawata Iron Works. Fifteen aircraft bombed visually and 32 bombed by radar. Only one bomb hit the target. It was a harbinger of difficulties to come.
The XX Bomber Command continued to press its attacks, including some missions against Japanese targets in Manchuria, Taiwan, and China. Its effectiveness increased with the assignment of Major General Curtis LeMay to the CBI and as it adopted new procedures -- a different formation, lead crews to find and mark targets, control of the bomb run by both bombardier and radar operator, and different mixes of high-explosive and incendiary bombs. But so did the effectiveness of the Japanese defenses.
By the end of 1944 the Command had lost 147 bombers. It was evident that the attacks against Japan mounted from Chengdu were too expensive in men, aircraft, and material to continue. The last attack from Chengdu -- against Japanese targets in Taiwan -- was conducted on January 15, 1945, and the bombers deployed to the Marianas Islands in February. There they joined the rest of the B-29 force attacking Japan, first with high-level precision bombing tactics, later with low-level attacks that ignited Japanese cities.
Major General Haywood Hansell, one of the air power visionaries who commanded B-29s, judged Operation Matterhorn “not a success” from the operational view. “You just couldn’t supply B-29s over the Hump well enough to conduct a successful bombing campaign.” In the Marianas Islands, the bombing force could be easily supplied by sea across the Pacific, now cleared of the Japanese by the island-hopping campaigns.
Hansell judged, however, that “from the standpoint of strategic effect” it was “a tremendous success,” confirming the principle of central strategic command of a bomber force rather than assignment of the forces to local commanders. Tactical innovations pioneered in China made the Command more deadly for the remainder of the war. Many of the obstacles to the successful strategic bombing by the B-29s were with aircraft and engines; many of these problems were shaken out in India and China.
Post-war studies demonstrated that Japan was defeated by the twin effects of the submarine campaign, which cut off its supplies, and the strategic bombing campaign, which destroyed its industrial capacity. Operation Matterhorn was part of the latter.
Operation Matterhorn (more information)
Back as far as 1942, Roosevelt wanted to strike Japan directly with bombers, just as Germany was being by British and American strategic bombers. The USAAC had recognized this need and had already initiated programs for super heavy, very long-range bombers (the B-29 and B-32). However, even these aerial wunderkind would not be able to hit Japan from across the great distances of the Pacific.
A plan proposed by Chiang Kai-shek and Claire Chennault involved using bases around Chengtu, China, being supplied over the hump (Himalaya mountains) by air. Roosevelt pressed for this plan over the objections of most of the USAAF staff. After a variety of delays in logistics, B-29 production, and crew training, a sizable force of over 100 B-29s was sent to India as the XXth bomber command. They flew missions staging through the airbases near Chengtu for refueling. This did not work out as well as was hoped...
By late November 1944, the logistical nightmare that was the effort required to keep a sustained bombing campaign against Japan from China was deemed not worth the effort, especially since Saipan had been taken and was a better base. The 58th Bombardment Wing's operations tapered off and it moved to Tinian to join the XXIst Bomber Command.
US 20th Air Force
Bombers 4 groups operating from India B-29A
The B-29 had been originally been designed with the idea of hemispheric defense in mind. The bombers would operate out of bases in the USA and be able to hit any future enemy at long ranges to keep war well away from America's shores. In 1940, the War Department's contingency plan was changed to use 24 B-29/B-32 bomber groups to bomb Germany from bases in the United Kingdom and North Africa in case of war. However, the B-29 was destined never to be used against Germany.
Even before Pearl Harbor, President Franklin Roosevelt had been interested in providing assistance to the Chinese leader, Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek, so that he could retaliate against Japanese air attacks on Chinese cities. Roosevelt had even proposed to transfer some USAAC B-17s to China as early as December of 1940 so that they could be used to bomb Japanese cities, but this plan had to be abandoned since there were barely enough B-17s to meet American needs. China had to be satisfied with 100 fighter planes instead.
Immediately following Pearl Harbor, the decision was made to place emphasis on defeating the European members of the Axis first, after which the Allies would turn their full attention to Japan. After the January 1943 Casablanca Conference, President Roosevelt decided to inform Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek that all possible aid would be sent to prevent Japan from taking over all of China. In order to do this, Roosevelt wanted to send hundreds of heavy bombers to China so that they could bring the Japanese homeland under attack. Neither the B-17 nor the B-24 had the ranges to carry out such missions, and only the B-29 could do the job.
Up until that time, there had only been vague proposals for the mission of the B-29s. There had been some plans for B-29s to be used against Germany, with groups of B-29s to be stationed in Northern Ireland and in Egypt, but no bases had actually been constructed. Chiang wanted the B-29s sent to China right away so that they could begin an air offensive against Japan. Both General Joseph Stilwell and General Claire L. Chennault were supportive of this proposal, and exerted considerable pressure on the President to initiate such a plan.
However, since the Japanese had cut off the Burma Road and Lido Road overland routes to China, the effort would have to be supported entirely by air. General George C. Marshall was fully aware of the enormous supply problems involved in such an effort, and was wary about diverting effort from the European theater, since the decision had already been made to win the war in Europe before diverting full effort against Japan. Nevertheless, President Roosevelt was insistent on getting help to Chiang, and suggested sending up to 300 US bombers to China.
Things became more definitive after the August 1943 Quadrant Conference in Quebec. At that time, General Henry H. Arnold submitted a plan under which the newly-activated 58th Bombardment Wing (Very Heavy) would be stationed in the CBI Theatre by the end of 1943 and begin attacking Japanese targets by flying out of bases in China. It would be commanded by General Kenneth B. Wolfe and would consist of four groups of B-29s. It was envisaged that once sufficient numbers of B-29s were available, Japan could be forced out of the war within six months by the destruction of her war industries, making a costly seaborne invasion of the home islands unnecessary. It was projected that such a program could defeat Japan by mid-1945.
The special B-29 project under the command of General Wolfe was given top priority in both men and materials, second only to the secret Manhattan Project. General Wolfe chose Colonel Harman as his deputy and General LaVerne Saunders was assigned as director of the B-29 crew training program.
According to Arnold's original plan, the B-29s would be stationed permanently in China, at bases around Chengtu in the south-center of the country. Supplies of fuel, ammunition, bombs and spares would be flown in from India over the Hump. Although both the Joint Plans Committee and the Joint Logistics Committee had rejected Arnold's plan as being strategically infeasible, President Roosevelt was highly enthusiastic about the idea and passed it along to Lt. Gen. Joseph W. Stilwell, who was Chiang Kai-shek's Chief of Staff. General Stilwell pointed out that it would be impractical to carry out all of the B-29 operations from China because of the length of the supply lines, and suggested instead that the B-29s be maintained at bases in eastern India, and only staged through Chengtu in the process or aftermath of the raids on Japan. This plan had the advantage in that a complex base facility would not be needed in China, and the supply problem would be simplified if the B-29s themselves could be used to carry some of the bombs and fuel needed to build up the dumps at Chengtu.
Although the Joint Chiefs of Staff were still skeptical about the idea, President Roosevelt was still insistent, and since FDR was the Commander-in-Chief, they had to go along.
The British were brought into the plan, and on November 10 they agreed to provide bases for B-29 operations around Calcutta. At the same time, Chiang Kai-shek agreed to begin construction of five new airbases around Chengtu.
On June 1, 1943, the first Superfortress unit -- the 58th Bombardment Wing (Very Heavy) had been activated at Marietta, Georgia, near Bell's Superfortress plant. On September 15, 1943, the headquarters of the 58th BW was moved to Salina, Kansas, with some of its groups near the Wichita factory. The first Superfortress wing initially had 5 groups (the 40th, 444th, 462nd, 468th and 472nd Bombardment Groups). The 472nd BG was destined to remain at Smoky Hill Field, Salina as an operational training unit, and the others were to be deployed to India.
President Roosevelt wanted the B-29 bombing raids against Japan to start by January 1944. However, delays in the B-29 program forced General Arnold to admit to the President that the bombing campaign against Japan could not begin until May 1944 at the earliest. The crews of the B-29 needed a degree of specialist training that was not required for crews of other, less complex aircraft. It usually took 27 weeks to train a pilot, 15 to train a navigator, and 12 to train a gunner. The complexity of the B-29 was such that a lengthy process of crew integration had to take place before combat deployment could begin. By the end of December 1943, only 73 pilots had qualified for the B-29 and very few crews had been brought together as a complete team.
Although a total of 97 B-29s had been produced by the beginning of 1944, only 16 of them were really airworthy. Most of the others were in AAF modification centers, located near the Bell-Marietta and Martin-Omaha plants and at air bases in Kansas, undergoing a series of modifications and changes necessitated by the lessons of air combat over Europe. At that time, much of the equipment and components of the Superfortress had still not been perfected, and rather than delay production by stopping the assembly lines to incorporate modifications and add new equipment, it was decided to let the first production airplanes leave the lines at Wichita deficient in combat readiness and deliver them to these USAAF modification centers to bring them up to combat standards.
Engine fires were still plaguing the B-29 program. Some of these problems were solved by the replacement of the original R-3350-13 engines by R-3350-21 engines which did not really reduce the incidence of engine fires but at least reduced the risk of engine fires spreading to the aluminum-covered wings. The R-3350-23 was developed, but it was not ready in time to be fitted to the aircraft as they rolled off the production line, so they had to be fitted at the modification centers.
In addition, the AN/APQ-13 bombing-navigational aid intended for the B-29 was a complex piece of equipment and was vulnerable to dirt and vibration and had to be carefully checked. Special schools had to be set up at Harvard, MIT and Boca Raton, Florida to train crews to operate the new radar set.
Alarmed at the slow pace of bringing adequate numbers of Superfortresses into service, on November 27, 1943, General Arnold set up a new organization to take responsibility for the overall control of the Superfortress units. This was to be the XX Bomber Command, to be commanded by General Wolfe. The XX Bomber Command would consist of the 58th Bombardment Wing (the command of which was transferred from Wolfe to his deputy, Col. Leonard (Jake) Harmon). The 58th BW was to initially be comprised of five groups (40th, 444th, 462nd, 468th and 472nd Bombardment Groups).
At the same time, a new wing, the 73rd, to be commanded by Colonel Thomas H. Chapman, was added to the XX Bomber Command with four more groups to absorb the second batch of 150 Superfortresses.
Headquarters were set up close to the B-29 factory at Wichita, Kansas. Responsibility for crew training was assigned to Col. LaVerne G. Saunders of the Second Air Force. Four airfields in Kansas (Smoky Hill, Pratt, Great Bend and Walker) were to handle this task.
The crew training program was one of the more difficult aspects of the entire B-29 program. Because of the complexity of the B-29 aircraft, a lengthy process of crew integration was required before combat operations could begin. There was no time to start from scratch, so volunteers were called for from B-24 crews returning from operations in Europe and North Africa. Crews began to arrive at Kansas bases in November 1943, but very few bombers were ready to receive them. At that time, there was only one Superfortress for every twelve crews, and most crews had to train on Martin B-26 Marauders or Boeing B-17 Fortresses. By the end of December, only 67 pilots had managed to fly a B-29 and very few crews had been brought together as a complete team. Many gunners did not even see their first B-29 until early 1944.
It was not until December of 1943 that the decision not to use the B-29 against Germany was finally made, and to concentrate the B-29 exclusively against Japan. However, in early 1944, the B-29s were still not ready to begin Roosevelt's promised offensive against Japan. Most of the B-29s were still held up at the modification centers, awaiting conversion to full combat readiness. By March of 1944, the B-29 modification program had fallen into complete chaos, with absolutely no bombers being considered as combat ready. The program was seriously hampered by the need to work in the open air in inclement weather, by delays in acquiring the necessary tools and support equipment, and by the USAAF's general lack of experience with the B-29.
General Arnold became alarmed at the situation and directed that his assistant, Major General B.E. Meyer, personally take charge of the entire modification program. The resulting burst of activity that took place between March 10 and April 15, 1944 came to be known as the "Battle of Kansas". Beginning in mid-March, technicians and specialists from the Wichita and Seattle factories were drafted into the modification centers to work around the clock to get the B-29s ready for combat. The mechanics often had to work outdoors in freezing weather, since the hangars were not large enough to accommodate the B-29s. As a result of superhuman efforts on the part of all concerned, 150 B-29s had been handed over to the 20th Bomber Command by April 15, 1944.
General Wolfe assigned the first B-29s to squadrons within the 58th Bombardment Wing and despached them immediately to India. This was a 11,530-mile journey, involving stops at Marrakech, Cairo, Karachi and Calcutta. One B-29 passed through England in March of 1944 in an attempt to confuse Axis intelligence about the intended theatre of action of the B-29, although the B-29 was never intended for use in the European theatre. Apparently neither the Germans nor the Japanese were fooled by this ploy, since the Japanese were long aware that Superfortresses were going to be based in India and staged through bases in China in an attempt to attack targets on the home islands.
The headquarters of the XX Bomber Command had been established at Kharagpur, India on March 28, 1944 under the command of General Wolfe. The first B-29 reached its base in India on April 2, 1944. In India, existing airfields at Kharagpur, Chakulia, Piardoba and Dudkhundi had been converted for B-29 use. All of these bases were located in southern Bengal and were not far from port facilities at Calcutta. All of these bases had originally been established in 1942-43 for B-24 Liberators. The conditions at these bases were poor, and the runways were still in the process of being lengthened when the first B-29s arrived. The headquarters of the 58th BW, together with the four squadrons of the 40th Bombardment Group (the 25th, 44th, 45th and 395th) were assigned to an airfield at Chakulia, the first planes arriving there on April 2, 1944. The headquarters was moved to Kharagpur on April 23. The 444th Bombardment Group (676th, 677th, 678th and 679th Squadrons) went to Charra, arriving there on April 11. The 462nd Bombardment Group (768th, 769th, 770th and 771st squadrons) to Piardoba, arriving there on April 7. The 468th Bombardment Group (792nd, 793rd, 794th and 795th Squadrons) arrived at Kharagpur on April 13. The 444th Bombardment Group later moved to a permanent base at Dudhkundi, leaving Charra to become a transport base for the C-87s and C-46s which would support the effort.
On April 4, 1944, a special strategic command was established, to be known as the 20th Air Force, which would carry out the aerial assault against Japan. This was done at the insistence of General Arnold himself, mainly to avoid having the B-29s being diverted to tactical missions under pressure from CBI Theatre commanders such as Major General Claire L. Chennault or General Joseph Stilwell. The 20th Air Force would be commanded by General Arnold himself at JCS level. The 20th Air Force would be completely autonomous and their B-29s would be completely independent of other command structures and would be dedicated exclusively against strategic targets in Japan. For the first time, the B-29 offensive against Japan was given a name -- Operation Matterhorn. On April 10, 1944, the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) informally approved Operation Matterhorn. The operational vehicle was to be the 58th Bombardment Wing (Very Heavy) of the XX Bomber Command.
Before deployment from America, Saunders had taken over command of the 58th Bombardment Wing from Harmon.
During the week of April 15-22, no less than five B-29s crashed near Karachi (a stop on the route to Calcutta), all from overheated engines. The entire B-29 fleet had to be grounded en route until the cause was found. The cause was traced to the fact that the R-3350 engine had not been designed to operate at ground temperatures higher than 115 degrees Fahrenheit, which were typically exceeded in Karachi. Wright engineers found that the exhaust valves on the rear row of cylinders were melting under the heat and pressure, and they designed new engine baffles to direct cooling air onto the affected areas. They also improved the flow of oil to the rear cylinders by installing crossover oil tubes from the intake to the exhaust port of the five top cylinders on both the front and rear rows.
Modifications had also to be made to the cowl flaps. After these modifications, B-29 flights to India were resumed.
By May 8, 1944, 130 B-29s had reached their bases in India. For the next month, the four groups flew a total of 2,867 hours of which 2,378 (83%) were on transport service, 50 on miscellaneous jobs, and only 439 in training activities, giving an average of less than 2 hours each for the 240 crews on hand.
There were four sites in the Chengtu area of China that were assigned to the B-29 operation -- at Kwanghan, Kuinglai, Hsinching and Pengshan. Construction work at these bases had begun as early as November 1943, but progress had been slow since much of the work had be done by hand. However, by May enough progress had been made that the four bases could actually be used, but the conditions were far from ideal.
The primary flaw in the Operation Matterhorn plan was the fact that all the suplies of fuel, bombs and spares needed to support the forward bases in China had to be flown in from India over the Hump, since Japanese control of the seas around the Chinese coast made seaborne supply of China impossible. Plans were made to use transport adaptations of the B-24 Liberator (known as the C-87) in support of the operation, and to even convert Liberators into special fuel transports under the designation C-109. Many of the supplies had to be delivered to China by the B-29s themselves. For this role, they were stripped of nearly all combat equipment and used as flying tankers and each carried seven tons of fuel. The Hump route was so dangerous and difficult that each time a B-29 flew from India to China it was counted as a combat mission, calling for the painting of a camel on the aircraft's nose.
By May 8, 1944, 148 B-29s had reached Marrakech and 230 were in India. The four bombardment groups of the 58th Bombardment Wing were assigned to their bases.
The first action by the B-29 took place on April 26, 1944. Major Charles Hansen was flying a load of fuel to China when his plane was attacked by six Ki-43 Hayabusa fighters. The attack was beaten off, but one crew member was injured.
The first B-29 bombing raid took place on June 5, 1944. Led by General Saunders himself, 98 B-29s took off from bases in eastern India to attack the Makasan railroad yards at Bangkok, Thailand. This involved a 2261-mile round trip, the longest bombing mission yet attempted during the war. The engines of the B-29 were still causing problems, and fourteen B-29s were forced to abort because of engine failures. The target was obscured by bad weather, necessitating bombing by radar. The formations became confused and dropped their bombs at altitudes between 17-27,000 feet rather than the planned 22-25,000 feet. Only eighteen bombs landed in the target area. Five B-29s crashed upon landing after the mission and 42 were forced to divert to other airfields because of a shortage of fuel.
The B-29 campaign was off to a bad start, although none of the bombers were actually lost to enemy action.
On June 6, General Wolfe received an urgent message from Washington complaining that the JCS were getting impatient and that they wanted an immediate attack on Japan proper. This attack was needed to relieve pressure from Japanese forces in eastern China where General Claire Chennault's Fourteenth Air Force airfields were under attack and to assist an "important operation" in the Pacific which was later revealed to be the invasion of Saipan. General Wolfe was caught flatfooted by this order and attempted to delay the mission until late June when he would have a larger force and more supplies in place at the forward bases in China. However, Washington demanded that he put a minimum of 70 B-29s over Japan by June 15. One of the problems was that only 86 B-29s could be equipped with the bomb-bay tanks needed for the long flight to Japan and, based upon previous experience, more than 20 of them would fail to leave the base in China while others would fail to bomb the target. But when your superiors give the orders, you do as you are told.
By mid-June, enough supplies had been stockpiled at Chinese forward bases to permit the launching of a single sortie against targets in Japan. It was a nighttime raid to be carried out on the night of June 14/15, 1944 against the Imperial Iron and Steel Works at Yawata on Kyushu. This plant was considered to be the most important single objective within Japan's steel industry, and had long held top priority for the first strike. Intelligence estimated Imperial's annual production at 2.25 million metric tons of rolled steel -- 24% of Japan's total. The secondary target was Laoyao harbor, an outlet for much coking coal, manganese and phosphates. Because of the long distance (3,200 miles), Washington had ordered a night mission with planes bombing individually. Bombing was to be done from two levels, 8,000 to 10,000 feet and 14,000 to 18,000 feet. Two pathfinder aircraft from each group were to light off the target. Takeoff was scheduled for 1630 local time, June 15, 1944, permitting the aircraft to arrive over the target during darkness.
Staging at the forward bases in China began on June 13, 1944 and was completed shortly before H-hour on June 15. The B-29s had left India fully loaded with bombs, requiring only refueling at the forward bases in China. Each plane carried two tons of 500-pound general purpose bombs, considered powerful enough to disrupt the fragile coke ovens by either a direct hit or by blast. Of the 92 aircraft leaving India, only 79 had actually reached China, with one plane crashing en route. The staging bases were:
• Hsinching for the 40th Bombardment Group (Very Heavy)
• Kwanghan for the 444th Bombardment Group (Very Heavy)
• Chiung-Lai for the 462d Bombardment Group (Very Heavy)
• Pengshan for the 468th Bombardment Group (Very Heavy)
Takeoffs from the forward bases in China began early in the evening (1616) and two groups approximated the schedule of two-minute intervals between takeoffs. The other two groups were slow in getting their aircraft airborne.
Of the 75 B-29s dispatched, one crashed and four were forced to return to base due to mechanical problems. At 2338 (China time) the first B-29 over the target gave the signal "Betty," indicating "bombs away with less than 5/10 cloud." Of the 68 aircraft that had left China, only 47 attacked the intented target. One B-29 crashed in China (cause unknown), 6 jettisoned their bombs because of mechanical difficulties, 2 bombed the secondary target and 5 bombed targets of opportunity.
Unfortunately, the Japanese had been warned of the approaching raid and the city of Yawata was blacked out and haze and/or smoke helped to obscure the target. Only 15 aircraft bombed visually while 32 bombed by radar. Only one bomb actually hit anywhere near the intended target. This was a bomb which had hit a power house some 3700 feet from the coke ovens. Some damage had been done to the Kokura Arsenal, to miscellaneous industrial buildings, and to business-industrial areas. The steel industry was essentially untouched. One B-29 was lost to enemy fire and six were lost in various accidents.
Although very little damage was actually done, the Yawata raid was hailed as a great victory in the American press, since it was the first time since the Doolittle raid of 1942 that American aircraft had hit the Japanese home islands.
General Wolfe was ordered to keep up the attacks even in spite of a shortage of fuel and bombs at the Chengtu bases. He told his superiors that it was impossible to stage any more raids on Japan at the present time. Washington had to blame someone for the lack of progress, and General Wolfe was the most likely candidate. On July 4, the General was recalled to Washington, promoted and reassigned. He was replaced on a temporary basis by Brig. Gen. LaVerne G. Saunders until a permanent commander could be found.
On July 7, while under temporary command of General Saunders, eighteen B-29s attacked targets at Sasebo, Nagasaki, Omura and Yawata with ineffective results. On July 9, 72 B-29s hit a steel-making complex at Anshan in Manchuria. Of the 72 aircraft launched against Anshan, one crashed on takeoff and eleven suffered mechanical failures en route to Manchuria and had to abort. Four aircraft were lost and results were poor. On the night August 10/11, 56 B-29s staged through British air bases in Ceylon (now known as Sri Lanka) attacked the Plajdoe oil storage facilities at Palembang on Sumatra in present-day Indonesia. This involved a 4030-mile, 19 hour mission from Ceylon to Sumatra, the longest American air raid of the war. Other B-29s laid mines in the Moesi River. At the same time, a third batch of B-29s attacked targets in Nagasaki. These raids all showed a lack of operational control and inadequate combat techniques, drifting from target to target without a central plan and were largely ineffective.
Many of the accidents which plagued the B-29s operating out of China and India were caused by engine fires, which were still a problem in spite of massive efforts to correct them. The cylinder head temperature gauges were red-lined at 270 degrees Celsius. The combination of very high ambient ground temperatures (100 to 115 degrees Fahrenheit) and the inadequate cooling system of the engines would often result in head temperatures exceeding 310 during and immediately after takeoff. The high temperatures often resulted in the evaporation of valve stem lubrication, which could cause the valve to break off. The broken valve would then blow the cylinder off, which inevitably resulted in a fire.
Crews soon learned that the key to keeping the engine head temperature within tolerable limits was to have as much airspeed as possible when they became airborne on takeoff. During takeoff, they used the entire runway and reached a speed of 140-145 mph to become airborne in a fairly nose-low attitude. After takeoff, they would stay fairly low for a rather long time, with no effort to climb. This was done to attain the climbing speed of 200 mph as rapidly as possible. As the airspeed built up, the flight engineer would start to squeeze the large cowl flaps closed, since the key to controlling the head temperatures was airspeed, and as the speed got higher, cowling flaps in the extended position produced more drag than cooling.
General Wolfe's replacement was Major General Curtis E. LeMay, who arrived in India on August 29. General LeMay was only 38 years old and was the youngest major general in the Army. He had earned a good reputation as commander of a B-17 air division in Europe. He was known as a tough, Patton-type of commander and had a "take-charge" reputation. As a start, he stepped up the frequency of B-29 missions and intensified the training of combat crews. He replaced the four-plane diamond formation with one of twelve aircraft grouped in a defensive box. He introduced the concept of lead crews who would be responsible for finding and marking the target. In the future, both the bombardier and radar operator would control the bombing run, so that whoever had sight of the target at the critical moment in the bomb run could release the bombs. At the same time, the 58th Bombardment Wing was reorganized, and the junior squadron from each group (the 395th, 679th, 771st and 795th) was disbanded. This left each group with three squadrons of ten B-29s each.
It took a while for these changes to have an effect. Another raid against Anshan in Manchuria on September 26 was inclusive. An attack on October 25 on the Omura aircraft factory on Kyushu showed better results, particularly in the decision to use a two-to-one mixture of high-explosive and incendiary bombs. A raid was carried out on November 11 against the Chinese city of Nanking, which had been occupied by the Japanese since 1937. Supply problems and aircraft accidents were still preventing a fully effective concentration of force and effort. In addition, Japanese defensive efforts were becoming more effective. On November 21, six B-29s were destroyed by Japanese aircraft during a raid on Omura. A similar loss rate occurred on December 7 over the Manchurian Aircraft Company plant at Mukden. B-29 losses to accidents, enemy interception, and to Japanese air attacks on the Chengtu forward bases soon came to be prohibitive, and by the end of 1944 had reached 147.
LeMay gradually cut back on the number of missions flown out of the Chinese bases in favor of missions to Singapore, Borneo, Malaya and Sumatra that could be flown from the bases in India where the supply situation was much more favorable.
By late 1944, it was becoming apparent that B-29 operations against Japan staged out of bases in Chengtu were far too expensive in men and materials and would have to be stopped. In December of 1944, the Joint Chiefs of Staff made the decision that Operation Matterhorn would be phased out, and the 58th Bombardment Wing's B-29s would be moved to newly-captured bases in the Marianas in the central Pacific.
The last raid out of China was flown on January 15, 1945, which was an attack on targets in Formosa. The 58th Bombardment Wing then withdrew to its bases in India and was redeployed to the Marianas in February.
During Operation Matterhorn, 49 separate missions had been flown involving 3058 individual aircraft sorties. Only 11,477 tons of bombs had been dropped. In spite of the massive effort involved in Operation Matterhorn, only insignificant damage had been done to targets in Japan.
In retrospect, Operation Matterhorn had been a failure. The supply problems proved to be insoluble, and the Chengtu bases in China were too far west, requiring long overflights of Japanese-occupied territory in China before the Japanese home islands could be reached. Even then, only the southernmost Japanese island of Kyushu was in range of the B-29s. Nevertheless, the Matterhorn operation provided valuable experience for the B-29 operations that were to be mounted from the far more convenient bases in the Marianas.
Order of Battle of XX Bombardment Command:
58th Bombardment Wing - activated June 1944
40th Bombardment Group
25th, 44th, 45th, 395th Bombardment Squadrons, 395th deactivated September-October 1944.
444th Bombardment Group
676th, 677th, 678th, 679th Bombardment Squadrons, 679th deactivated September-October 1944.
462nd Bombardment Group
768th, 769th, 770th, 771st Bombardment Squadrons, 771st deactivated September-October 1944.
468th Bombardment Group
792nd, 793rd, 794th, 795th Bombardment Squadrons, 795th deactivated September-October 1944.
The initial plan of use, implemented according to the guidelines of the US President Franklin D. Roosevelt, resulting in promises made to China and calls Operation Matterhorn, was to use the B-29 to attack Japan and other objectives as needed, starting from four forward bases in Guangxi, the southern region of China and five airports, to be used as main bases, in India, in the region of the current Bangladesh.
The region of Chengdu was finally preferred to that of Guilin to avoid having to train 50 Chinese divisions to protect the bases against attacks terrestrial Japanese.
This project was extremely expensive, because there were no land links between India and China and all materials necessary for the operation of the forward bases had to be transported by air passing over the Himalayas through transport aircraft, or with the same B-29, using some specimens which were taken off the guards and weapons to turn them into aircraft for the transport of fuel.
The B-29 began to arrive in India in early April 1944.
The first flight of B-29 transfer from airports in China over the Himalayas, bypassing the so-called The Hump, took place April 24, 1944.
The first combat mission of the B-29 was launched June 5, 1944: 77 of the 98 B-29 departed from bases in India and were sent to bomb the railway workshops in Bangkok in Thailand.
Five B-29s were lost due to technical problems.
On June 15, 1944, 68 B-29 took off from bases in Chengdu in China and 47 aircraft reached and bombed the imperial Yawata steelworks in Japan.
This was the first bombing raid on the Japanese islands from Doolittle in April 1942.
In this mission, we were the first combat casualties of B-29, with one aircraft destroyed on the ground by Japanese fighters after an emergency landing in China, one lost because of anti-aircraft fire on Yawata, and another plane, the Stockett's Rocket (named after Captain Marvin M. Stockett, the commander of the aircraft) disappeared after takeoff from Chakulia in India.
The raid caused little damage to the lens, with a bomb that struck installations and practically ran out of fuel reserves of the bases of Chengdu, causing slow operations until stocks were not replenished.
Against the B-29 was also adopted by the Japanese tactic of launching intentionally with fighter bombers trying collision.
The first example of this technique was recorded during the raid of August 20 against the steel mills of Yawata.
Sergeant Shigeo Nobe the 4th Sentai intentionally flew with his Kawasaki Ki-45 against a B-29; scrap projected by the explosion, severely damaged another B-29 that crashed.
The two US losses were the B-29 freshman B-29-10-BW 42-6334 Gertrude C with commander Colonel Robert Clinksale and the B-29 freshman B-29-15-BW 42-6368 Calamity Sue with Commander Captain Ornell Stauffer, both of the 486th BG.
Many of these aircraft were destroyed in such attacks in the following months.
Although the term "Kamikaze" is used to identify this type of attack, the word is not used by the Japanese historiography distinguishes between suicide attacks to ships and combat aircraft of this type, not necessarily suicide.
The B-29 were withdrawn from the airports in China towards the end of January 1945.
In the period of use of these aircraft departing from China and India, were conducted missions against many targets across South East Asia, but it was decided the gradual transfer of the entire fleet to new bases in the Mariana Islands.
The last mission departing from India, was launched March 29, 1945.
In addition to the logistical problems associated with operations starting from China, the B-29 could reach only a limited part of Japan, starting from those bases.
The solution to this problem was the conquest of the Mariana Islands that would bring goals as Tokyo, 2400 kilometers away, within the "Superfortress".
It was therefore decided in December 1943 to win the Marianas.
The Marianas operation was starting to go the same way as Operation Matterhorn, with losses being high and not much damage to the enemy being done. Hansell strove to improve the skill of his bombardiers and lead crews, who seemed to be far too eager to resort to radar when conditions were unfavourable. However, it could be said that they did have good reason - one hindrance to bombing was restricted vision through iced-up windows, necessitating new heating devices.
Though dissatisfied with the early performance of his Command, Hansell seems to have considered this as an experimental period. Not so Arnold, who was no doubt apprehensive of the Joint Chiefs of Staff view if the expensive programme did not soon produce tangible evidence of success. The war in Europe might soon be concluded, when the full weight of Allied power would be shifted to the Pacific with an invasion of the Japanese home islands. If the B-29s were to make this unnecessary by bombing Japan into submission, there was need of immediate improvement.