As Imperial Japan surrendered on this day 75 years ago, 15 August 1945, Lt. Edward Vincent of the 6th Bombardment Group (Very Heavy) was the youngest B-29 aircraft commander of World War II at the age of 21. He flew a total of 32 combat missions over the Empire by the time the war ended including the longest one of the war from the Marianas to the northeast coast of Japanese-occupied Korea, some 19 hours and 40 minutes in the air!
In this video heavily illustrated with period photos, Edward Vincent provides an insightful overview of his experience which ultimately helped bring an end to the Second World War. You will note the well-known photo of the B-29 over Osaka Castle at the 14 minute mark.
In 2015, the writer of this web log was fortunate to join a 6th Bomb Group reunion held in Portland, Oregon. Some highlights from the reunion, including some more information about Edward Vincent, are in the article posted on the 142d Wing website at:
The pressure on Imperial Japan was ever increasing in the summer of 1945, as Allied forces closed in on the Home Islands. Osaka experienced a number of air attacks in addition to the B-29 missions flown against the city. Seventy-five years ago, on 30 July 1945, three USAAF very long range (VLR) fighter groups based at Iwo Jima, the 15th, 21st and 506th, carried out a sweep of the skies around Osaka and nearby Kobe, looking for any aerial opposition.
Despite the approximately one hour of time each group spent over Japan, there was little to show for it. Seven Japanese aircraft were sighted, all too far away to engage in combat. But the fighters also looked for targets on the ground and conducted rocket attacks against Hanshin Airfield and strafed airfields at Itami, Sano and Kakogawa. In addition, they made observation of activity at Osaka East, Minato, Tambaichi and Nishinomiya airfields while at low level. The P-51 pilots only sighted five operational aircraft on all these airfields.
By this time in the war following the Battle for Okinawa, indeed, for much of July 1945, the Japanese deliberately avoided air combat in an effort to save aircraft for the anticipated Allied invasion of the Home Islands. Enemy airfields were either empty, or dummy and/or non-operational aircraft were spotted around as decoys, while the Japanese made great effort to disperse and camouflage operational aircraft. The military clique fully intended to fight to the bitter end. So for the VLR fighter pilots July proved to be a frustrating month for engaging their counterparts. attacks against various airfields in the area, including Hanshin.
Despite the lack of aerial opposition, it was still costly to go “airfielding” around Osaka. On this mission two P-51s were shot down and the pilots missing. Another brought down by enemy guns but the pilot was rescued from the sea. Two more were lost to operational conditions but both pilots were rescued. In addition to the five losses, seven other Mustangs were damaged.
The other Mustang pilot lost that day was Captain Walter H. “Sammy” Powell, (acting) commander of the 47th Fighter Squadron. Well-regarded by the members of the “Dogpatch Squadron,” named after the fictional setting of cartoonist Al Capp’s famous comic strip “Li’l Abner; he led the 16 aircraft of his squadron on this mission.
Capt Powell enlisted in the Air Corps in May, 1942, and then trained to be a pilot. He received his pilot’s wings and commission as a second lieutenant on Feb. 16, 1943, at Spence Field, Moultrie, Georgia. The next month he was assigned to 7th Air Force in Hawaii. In April, 1943 he joined the 15th Fighter Group so was well-experienced in the unit. He was promoted to first lieutenant on Nov. 2, 1942, and to captain in January, 1945.
Captain Powell was in the first fighter squadron of P-51 Mustangs to land on Iwo Jima in early March, 1945. His squadron made continuous raids over the Japanese homeland. Powell served as the 47th FS Operations Officer and was credited with a single aerial victory, perhaps against a ZEKE on 10 June 1945 during an escort mission to Tokyo. He became acting commander on 11 June 1945 when the 47th FS commander Maj Theon E. Markham was granted a 30-day leave in the States, and then was shot down and rescued by a US Navy submarine. Since the submarine was scheduled on station for a while, the commander was stuck for a while (Maj Markham resumed command on 5 August), so Powell’s acting commander role lasted for a while before his fateful mission. He had celebrated his 27th birthday only days before, on July 24.
Interestingly, a scale model decal sheet by AeroMaster, Pacific P-51D/K Mustangs, carries markings for a P-51D-20NA, serial number 44-63822, that Capt Powell flew earlier in 1945, named “Lil Butch.”
On the Sano mission however, he reportedly flew number 188, named “Adam Lazonga.” The decal sheet shows the colorful blue stripe outlined in yellow markings “Lil Butch” and the 47th Fighter Squadron used (Note, several other modeling reference indicates “Lil Butch” markings were black with yellow outlines):
On 30 July 1945 it was Fighter Strike Sano A/F, tasked in Field Order No. 154, 15th Fighter Group Mission # 7-, 47th Fighter Squadron Mission # 7-21. Captain Powell led the other 15 pilots of the squadron, all lieutenants. Red, Yellow and Blue flights had four P-51’s each, with a two-ship reserve for Red Flight, and two more Mustangs in a Pearl Flight that flew with the 45th Fighter Squadron.
Sano Airfield was located along the coast south of Osaka nearly opposite of the Kansai International Airport island built in Osaka Bay. The site of the former airfield is near the Nankai Railway’s Izumisano Station, right before the tracks steer to the right and head into Rinku Town and then across the bridge to Kansai International Airport. It was reportedly constructed in 1945 by local elementary and junior high school students. One source indicates Sano served as a training field for kamikaze pilots, who then shipped out to other bases for their final missions.
Another source, scale modelling and a decal vendor Rising Eagles from the Czech Republic, Sheet Emperor’s Eagles Part IV., indicates that in this timeframe there was an IJAAF fighter unit based at Sano, the 55th Sentai equipped with Kawasaki Ki-61 TONY fighters, as indicated in three specific aircraft examples:
3) Ki-61-I Tei, 55th Sentai, Sano Airfield, Osaka Prefecture, Honshu, August 1945
4) Ki-61-I Hei “06”, 55th Sentai, Sano Airfield, Osaka Prefecture, Honshu, August 1945
5) Ki-61-I Hei “03”, 55th Sentai, Sano Airfield, Osaka Prefecture, Honshu, August 1945
Instructions for the decals show KI-61 aircraft in camouflage (acft 3) and natural metal finishes (acft 5 & 6)
A 1/48-scale model of a Ki-61 Hien/TONY shows the natural metal finish version at Sano nicely:
The 15th Fighter Group arrived over Honshu at 13,000 feet and began its work. First the 78th Fighter Squadron attacked Hanshin Airfield as the 47th and the 45th Fighter Squadrons flew top cover. The squadron then flew towards Kyoto looking for enemy aircraft and after sighting none, turned west and arrived east of Osaka, then southwest to Sano Airfield. There both the 47th and 45th strafed the field while two flights of the 47th strafed a factory west of the field, encountering light machine gun fire. The 47th’s Red and Yellow Flights flew down the coast while Blue Flight remained at Sano for top cover as the 45th FS attacked the field. While looking for targets on the coast, Yellow Flight attacked two more factories and a powerhouse while Red Flight attacked a small vessel, a “Sugar Dog” and received heavy machine gun fire in return. Altogether the squadron expended 15,700 rounds of .50-caliber ammo on the mission.
After flying about 25 miles down the coastline Capt Powell’s P-51 exploded, with a 2 x 4 feet of fuselage skin blasting off between the tail and the wing. In the P-51, oxygen cylinders are abaft the cockpit and could possibly cause such an explosion inside the aircraft. Flight members saw the event but did not observe any flak in the area when it happened. At the time the flight was at 2,200 altitude and with a stricken aircraft Capt Powell turned over his flight to his element leader to lead them to a designated rendezvous point with the rest of the squadron and called for help from Airdale 722 as Powell focused on his wounded bird. Coolant was leaking and Powell couldn’t keep up with the squadron as his engine began overheating as Lt. Barlow (Red 4) remained with him and they headed out to sea to avoid capture by the Japanese.
Powell’s Mustang consumed itself as it steadily lost altitude; the coolant door blew off and flames started coming from his engine exhaust stacks. The canopy frosted over from the fire and smoke and Powell jettisoned it. At 800 feet he rolled it over on its back and then Split S. At this point it seems he attempted to get out butt the aircraft went out of control as it snap rolled, half rolled and went straight into the sea and sank immediately.
Yellow 2, Lt. Sparks recalled in 1995 that he came back down through a layer of clouds to check on the situation that he saw Powell try to bail out at around 500 feet.
“He couldn’t away from the airplane,” Sparks said. “It was in sort of a flat spin. He got out of the cockpit but didn’t get away from the plane. I kept screaming at him to jump, but of course he couldn’t hear me. I think he went in, still on the wing of his airplane.”
Powell was not seen to bail out though his life raft, seat cushion and parachute were observed just under the water as Red flight circled the crash site. Red Flight orbited the site for 30 minutes and had to leave for Iwo Jima leaving a Super Dumbo B-29 to search for Powell. With a rescue submarine on the way. Red Flight arrived at the RP late and missed a navigating B-29 steering the squadron on the long three-and-a-half hour flight home, and Red 3 and 2 flew back to Iwo together. Lt Barlow lingered longer over the crash site and returned to Iwo alone.
Powell was never found and is carried as MIA to this day. Fifty years after his loss, squadron members still recalled it with sorrow, and also some difference of opinion as to what happened. One pilot thought friendly fire struck his aircraft while strafing, being hit by .50-caliber bullets that ricocheted off the ground as the Mustangs strafed.
Video (35 seconds long) of P-51 Mustangs strafing airfields in Japan, at:
Another pilot recalls they strafed a ship in a harbor and guns from the ship and shore hit the aircraft. Either way, the damaged aircraft only went so far before falling into the sea about 15 miles off shore in the Kii-Suido Strait on the south side of Osaka Bay.
Sadly, his wife Susi learned of his fate while expecting birth to their child. A letter from the squadron arrived at the Powell home on August 12, 1945 carrying the awful news. The shock hit Susi Powell hard, and she didn’t give birth for another week, to a baby girl she named after her late husband and a family member, Henry Verleene Powell. Even though she remarried after the war, Susi never forgot her pilot husband. Fifty years didn’t erase her sense of loss at losing him as she recalled in a 1995 interview with the Daily Press: “You just cannot imagine what I go through every time I see an airplane, or think of all the fun we used to have riding motorcycles,” she said. “We built the first dirt track in Hampton. We used to have a good time.”
Capt Powell is remembered in the Courts of the Missing, Court 7 at the Honolulu Memorial; He was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross with Oak Leaf Cluster, Air Medal with 3 Oak Leaf Clusters, Purple Heart, Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal with 2 Bronze Service Stars and World War II Victory Medal.
So although there was no aerial opposition to speak of, this mission to the Empire was still costly for aircraft operating over the Osaka region. How much more effort would be required to subdue a stubborn Imperial Japan? No one knew at the time, but the pressure was building as more and more units on air land and sea arrived in the Pacific to do just that. And Osaka would be pressured again and again from the air in the near future.
It was a Thursday morning, July 26, 1945, and the day the Potsdam Declaration would be issued. But in the skies over Osaka, a single “Pumpkin” was released at 0946 local time from a 509th Composite Group B-29 flying at 30,000 feet over the city of Osaka. The aircraft then executed a sharp turn to the right 150 degrees away from the original flight path as required for aircraft survival in delivery of an actual atomic weapon. The non-atomic “Pumpkin” bomb fell to earth and exploded 50 seconds later in the Tanabe part of Higashi-Sumiyoshi Ward of Osaka City.
In the weeks preceding the atomic bombings of Hiroshima (August 6) and Nagasaki (August 9), the 509th Group B-29s flew 50 sorties carrying “Pumpkin” bombs, a sort of pumpkin-shaped conventional version of the “Fat Man” type of atomic weapon dropped on Nagasaki on 9 August 1945 (Hat tip to Mr. Jeffrey Smith for correction, Hiroshima device of 6 August was “Little Boy”). Of these, 49 bombs were dropped on targets in Japan in what were considered training missions (one aircraft experienced an engine problem and jettisoned the weapon into the ocean). Both visual and radar weapons deliveries were conducted, as can be seen in this 509th mission list from a Japanese website:
You will note on the mission list above that Osaka Prefecture appears twice, once on 24 July (Sortie 19, Visual, of Mission 7, looks like maybe Sakai City, a large suburb on the south side of Osaka City) and again on 26 July (Sortie 29, Visual, of Mission 9, Osaka City proper).
These Pumpkins were real bombs, with the same ballistic and handling characteristics of the “Fat Man” atomic bomb, but used for testing and training purposes; 486 were produced in inert (non-explosive) and explosive versions costing between $1,000 and $2,000 each. The Pumpkin was 10 feet and 8 inches long, up to 60 inches wide. It weighed weighing some 11,700-pounds (5.89 short tons) which contained 6,300-pounds of Composition B explosive filler (another source indicates 5,500 pounds of black powder or Torpex). The weapon was carried in the forward bomb bay of a Silverplate-modified B-29. It had three fuses on the nose which could detonate the bomb above the ground to maximize the blast against the surface.
More than just training aircrews in atomic weapons delivery, the Pumpkin missions were also intended to desensitize Japanese air defenses to single or small formations of three B-29’s from which only one dropped a weapon. This too was in the template for the intended atomic bomb strikes, with one plane carrying the weapon, another an instrument ship to record the bomb’s detonation and another aircraft as a photo ship to visually document the event. By this point in the war the Japanese were carefully conserving their aircraft, and though some fighters were sighted during Pumpkin missions there is no reported interception by any of them. Flying at 30,000 feet also limited the effectiveness of anti-aircraft guns, which appear to have conserved ammunition and posed no serious threat to the Pumpkin missions; only one B-29 received minor damage from AA guns.
A total of 49 Pumpkins were dropped over Japan on four mission days in July, 1945 and two more mission days in August on numerous different areas/locations, as can be seen in this graphic from a Japanese website:
After the first Pumpkin missions were flown on 20 July, Radio Tokyo commented on a Pumpkin dropped on the capital: “The tactics of the raiding enemy planes have become so complicated that they cannot be anticipated from experience or the common sense gained so far. The single B-29 which passed over the capital this morning dropping bombs (sic) on one section of the Tokyo Metropolis, taking unawares slightly the people of the city, and these are certainly so-called sneak tactics aimed at confusing the minds of the people.”
Sifting through various websites and information, it appears that on 26 July it was 1st Lt. Ralph Devore and crew A-3 which flew the Pumpkin bomb mission to Osaka with “Jabit III,” a name later given to B-29-36-MO 44-27303 (see Jabit III Wikipedia link below). But another source, the Operations order for 26 July indicates that Devore flew B-29 with the tail number 299 and Victor 6 code that day, and that B-29 44-27303 wasn’t on the schedule that day. (Hat tip to Mr. Mike Mack) Was there a schedule change?
At the time in late July 1945, 509th aircraft all had the original group insignia of an arrow in a circle tail marking. The circle was a common 313th Bombardment Wing tail marking there on Tinian where the 509th was assigned. In early August, just before the Hiroshima mission, it was decided to adopt the tail markings of other groups on Tinian, and different (higher) Victor numbers marking to try and blend in with the other groups and not stand out so much. (Hat tip to Mr. Mike Mack) After that change, B-29 44-27303 then wore the large letter “A” tail marking of the 497th BG as a security measure against 509th identification.
The B-29’s approach was made over Shikoku, then eastward to the Nara area. The original intended target was the Nippon Soda Co., Ltd. (Chemicals: Nihonsoda) in Toyama on the Sea of Japan side of Honshu, but that didn’t work out for some reason so the aircraft turned for an alternate target with visual conditions which was Osaka. It may have triggered an air raid alarm but it wasn’t seen as a serious air raid and appears it was more or less shrugged off.
Another source indicates there was no air raid alarm in the local area where the bomb fell. A Mr. “O,” an elementary school student at the time, saw the B-29 appearing alone over Osaka: “The air raid warning didn’t go off, When I thought that the appearance was different for the air raid, it dropped something with a parachute and turned back immediately. Is it the sound of a parachute? I still hear the sound of a wind cut.”
But it was a raid and the object dropped was serious. The Pumpkin that fell on Tanabe may have been employed as an operational training device but it was still a deadly weapon for the people on the receiving end. When it exploded low over Osaka directly over the restaurant “Kongoso” the blast and concussion killed seven people and seriously injured another 73. It destroyed and/or damaged some 485 houses wounding/affecting 1645 other people. Onrakuji Temple, located about 200 meters from the hypocenter of Higashi-Sumiyoshi-ku, was slightly tilted by the blast from behind the main hall. It is still tilted as it was that day.
Ms. Shigeko Tatsuno survived the attack at a factory 150 meters to the west of the center of the impact and remembers what happened (apology for crude translation): “I was a junior high school teacher at the time, and led students in labor mobilization to navy button manufacturing factories around Tanabe. However, I couldn’t work due to lack of materials, so when I moved to another room and tried to teach, a big stone flew into the factory. If I hadn’t moved… A stone that I couldn’t lift with both of my hands broke through the roof in the place I was in before I moved. Later, it was discovered that the simulated atomic bomb dropped in front of the current Tanabe subway station caused the stones at the restaurant near the hypocenter to fly.
In addition, it seems that the bodies of the dead and injured were lined up in the auditorium of Tanabe Elementary School, and dust and blood clung to it. A story of people whose limbs were blown off by a blast, and the flesh of a human body hanging on an electric wire. An important friend (her sister’s best friend) who was blown 150 meters by the blast and died full of glass fragments all over her body. I removed the glass from my friend’s body with tweezers and chopsticks in a praying mood.
Tell the children about the foolishness of war, where a single bomb can kill lives in an instant. Every year, I hear my whole body listening to Ryuno-san’s war experience, and I feel hope from the bottom of my heart at the serious eyes of elementary school students who try to learn through repeated questions. And said to the students “During the pre-war, we were foolish enough to believe that Japan was right. You should grow up to be able to think and act on your own what is really right.””
At the time, it was rumored that a “one ton bomb fell” in the local area and caused the destruction. Only years later did awareness of the Pumpkin bomb operational missions and connection to the atomic bombings occur. Some 400 people on the ground were killed across Japan in the 49 Pumpkin attacks.
In Osaka a memorial stele and information display was erected in 2001 near the point of impact of the Osaka Pumpkin, initially placed near the present north side of Tanabe Elementary School near Tanabe Station on the Osaka Tanimachi Line.
The monument was apparently moved in 2019 to the Onrakuji Temple (at Tanabe 1-14-18) due to construction of an apartment building at the original site.
Memorial services for the victims of the 26 July Pumpkin drop are held annually by the “7/26 Tanabe Mock Atomic Bomb Memorial Committee” created by local citizens. These commemorations tell what happened that day, about the link the Pumpkin missions had with the atomic bombings along with calls for peace.
This year at the memorial service about 80 people participated including those who participated online due to the influence of the new Coronavirus. Ms. Tatsuno, now 95 years old, spoke to those attending. All offered a moment of silence at 9:26 a.m., the moment when the bomb was dropped, to the victims of the Pumpkin drop 75 years ago.
But in 1945, peace was yet to come in the Pacific. Another three weeks of war was still ahead, and Osaka would not be spared in these last days.
The USAAF mounted a B-29 air attack against two different targets in Osaka on July 24, 1945, 75 years ago today. Like the 26 June precision attack, both the Sumitomo Light Metals Company in the western section of the city and the Osaka Army Arsenal immediately to the east of Osaka Castle were the targets.
In XXI Bomber Command Mission 284, 82 B-29’s from the 58th Bomb Wing attacked the Sumitomo Light Metals Industries propeller factory at Osaka (Target 90.25 – 263A), near to Osaka Bay on the city’s northwest side. Most of the factory’s machine tools had been removed by this time in the war but the facility was severely damaged in this attack.
Weather impacted the mission only slightly with an undercast of up to 3/10. The aircraft dropped 488 tons of AN-M56, 4000-lb L.C. (Light Case) bombs with instantaneous nose and non-delay tail fuzes. The bombs were released from between 19,900 and 22,100 feet in altitude between 1251-1322K. That amounted to 244 big bombs, with 115 of them falling within 1,000 feet of the desired Main Point of Impact (MPI) damaging about 77% of the factory and raising the overall damage level from earlier attack to nearly 90%.
Of the aircraft attacking, heavy caliber anti-aircraft fire which carried between moderate and intense , and accurate, shot down one B-29 and damaged 50 others to various degrees. No enemy aircraft were seen.
The B-29 lost was from the 444th Bomb Group (Triangle N), 677th Bomb Squadron’s based at West Field on Tinian, serial number 44-70132 with the Seymoure Crew. MACR 14792. Flying at 19,450 feet, it was hit by flak one minute before bombs away and immediately broke into two pieces over Osaka Bay with both parts landing in the waters below. No crew from the front end of the ship were seen to exit, though three men were observed to clear the plane from the rear. One chute was seen opened and the man appeared to be ok. A second man had his parachute on, appeared to be completely relaxed but his chute was not seen to open, whilst a third man has his knees double up and arms thrust (outward) but his chute was not seen to open.
As things turned out, ten of the crew were killed and the one survivor, Co-pilot 2nd Lt. James R. Price was captured, moved to the Osaka Kempei Tai Headquarters and later poisoned there on/about July 31 (along with SSgt Russell W. Strong from another crew, possibly the radar operator of the Crowe crew of B-29 42-65348, A Square 16 of the 869th Bomb Squadron, 497th Bomb Group shot down on the 1 June 1945 Osaka mission) supposedly because of his fatal wounds.
A postwar legal document on the trial of accused war criminals described what happened from the testimony of one of the accused, that a second execution of POWs by poisoning took place on/about July 31, when two prisoners (Price and Strong) reportedly suffered from diarrhea. Lt Col Fujioka, Chief of the Police Affairs Section of the Central District (Osaka) Kempei Tai headquarters, ordered them to be poisoned. Their captors mixed poison into some stomach medicine – the men drank the laced medicine and died a few minutes later. Their bodies were then taken to Sandayama Army cemetery and buried, along with the bodies of two other fliers who had suffered a contagious disease and were also poisoned, Navy Ensign Norman B. Bitzegaio (Torpedo Squadron 6 (VT-6), USS Hancock, awarded the Navy Cross for actions 24 July 1945 against the Japanese Fleet in Kure, Japan) and an unidentified man, possibly a P-51 pilot.
Co-pilot Lt James Robert Price was buried in Danville National Cemetery, Danville, Boyle County, Kentucky, at Plot 11, 0, 376. Nine members of the crew were buried in a common grave at Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery in Missouri; Navigator 1st Lt Wendell D. Copeland was buried/remembered at Lynnhurst Cemetery, Knoxville, Tennessee, Pillar VII, Middle Panel.
In the second raid that day to hit Osaka proper, Mission 286, 153 73rd BW B-29’s hit the Osaka Arsenal (Target 90.25 – 382 as Primary Visual target) and Kuwana (near Nagoya, Primary Radar); solid undercast forcing most of the attackers to resort to radar bombing against Kuwana. A “Wind-Run” aircraft was also employed for the Primary Radar target (at Kuwana) ( a “wind run” B-29 could be sent in advance to the target a few minutes early and broadcast the drift encountered provided the following crews with preliminary values of drift angle and ground speed as they came up on the Initial Point. (Wind Run source: http://www.315bw.org/anthologies.html )
The 35 B-29s which dropped on Osaka Arsenal between 1144-1227K delivered 216 tons of AN-M66 2,000-lb General Purpose bombs with 1/40 second delay in nose and tail fuzes. Of the 216 bombs dropped from between 19,900 and 23,000 feet on the arsenal, 28 hit within 1,000 feet of the MPI. Strike photos showed several hits in the target area and immediately south and west of the target. Several bombs damaged Osaka Castle.
Post-attack recon showed over 8% of the target damaged in the raid which raised the cumulative total destroyed of the arsenal to 18%. No enemy aircraft were sighted. Over Osaka anti-aircraft fire was moderate, accurate and continuously pointed. A total of 46 B-29s from both Osaka Arsenal and Kuwana raiders were damaged.
Navigator Ray Brashear succinctly noted in his diary for his Mission number 34: “Osaka Arsenal Day demo(lition)… Flak —Mod , accurate. Fighters—nil. Lead a group of 47 planes after ass’y at Kita Iwo. 5/10 over target so only 3 Sq in wing bombed primary. This one made believers out of a few of the new boys.”
In addition to the above, another B-29 effort (Mission 285) was flown against the nearby Kawanishi Aircraft Plant at Takarazuka which produced component parts for various Kawanishi aircraft (e.g. George fighter, Emily flying boat). Takarazuka is just northwest of Osaka, about five miles west of Itami Airfield, known as Osaka International Airport in modern days (and the former USAF Itami Air Base). Eighty one 58th Bomb Wing B-29’s hit the plant destroying 77% of it.
Of note, Allied naval aircraft from Task Force 38 (US Third Fleet) and Task Force 37 (British Pacific Fleet) attacked targets around the Inland Sea. Though many of the 1,363 US sorties were flown against the major Japanese naval base at Kure, many other sorties were flown against airfields and shipping all around the Inland Sea. TF-37 flew 257 offensive sorties on the day as well, though details are lacking to the web log writer regarding Osaka area effects.
Lastly, though it seems hard to find information on, it appears that Osaka was also subjected to a “Pumpkin” attack on this date, by a B-29 of the 509th Composite Group, possibly “Jabit III,” serial number 44-27303 flown by the Devore crew (Crew A-3) a Project Silverplate B-29 nuclear bomber.
The “Pumpkin” was a pumpkin-colored and shaped conventional bomb of the size, shape and weight of the Fat Boy atomic bomb but which had a conventional high-explosive filler. Each loaded pumpkin bomb weighed about 10,000 pounds, including 6,300 pounds of explosives. These so-called “Pumpkin” missions were flown using the delivery profile of a B-29 atomic bomber, from about 29,000 feet and then a sharp break away after release to achieve safe separation from the weapons. Although details for this 24 July mission are lacking (hard to find), three 509th missions involving 10 aircraft on this day, they are available for a 26 July Pumpkin mission against Osaka to be covered in a future post.
With regard to damage on the ground, this raid on Osaka was the least destructive to residential units of the seven major B-29 attacks on the city, with “only” 654 residential units being destroyed or badly damaged. It was also the least costly in lives on the ground, with USSBS estimates of 201 dead, 193 missing and 466 injured. Contemporary Osaka figures show somewhat lower figures with 214 dead, 79 missing and 329 injured.
One more major air attack would be flown against Osaka during the war on 14 August 1945, which would be the Osaka Arsenal’s ultimate “Day of Wreckoning.”
Although they started out on June 5th, 1945 in daylight for Kobe, it was near Osaka where the (remaining) crew of the B-29 “Indian Maid” met their fate at the end of the line.
On this June 5th mission (Mission 188) 473 XXI Bomber Command B-29’s attacked Kobe with 3,077 tons of incendiary bombs. The attack burned over four square miles and damaged more than half of the city. Fighter opposition was significant; 125 enemy aircraft sighted made some 672 attacks. B-29 gunners claimed 86 Japanese fighters destroyed, 31 probables and 78 more damaged. Eleven B-29’s were lost including the “Indian Maid.”
The Fishkin crew flew B-29-51-BW serial number 42-24809 “Indian Maid” of the 482nd Bomber Squadron, 505th Bomber Group (Circle W group tail marking) based on North Field, Tinian Island.
First Lieutenant Robert W. Scheer reported on the Indian Maid’s loss in Missing Air Crew Report (MACR) 14603, “At 0830K on bomb run at 15,000 feet, Capt. Fishkin’s plane was flying #4 in the lead element of a fourteen plane formation. He was lower than usual. Two Tonys (Kawasaki Ki-61 Hien Type II Army fighters) attacked him at the nose and knocked out both engines on right side. Capt. Fishkin tried to pull up into closer formation but his #1 engine gave out and he left the formation in a shallow dive heading towards Kobe, over Osaka Bay with several enemy fighters after him. Later he was noticed in a tight spiral. The fuselage appeared to be on fire towards the tail and the plane was trailing smoke. The engines were not on fire. Didn’t see plane crash.”
Sadly, the survivors succumbed to the deadly care of their captors. The men were initially taken to the Imperial Japanese Kempei Tai military police HQ in Kobe, and thence to the Central District HQ in Osaka.
Of the 11-man crew, five were killed outright in the shoot down (Capt Edward Fishkin (pilot), FO Alfred V. Boulton (co-pilot) 2nd Lt Gerard J. McIntosh (bombardier), FO William H. Moore (radar operator) and S/Sgt John Driapsa (flight engineer) (all in the nose section), and six became POWs of the Empire. Of the six, four men were either executed, died from injury or disease, Sgt Osmond J. Hannigan (gunner), Sgt Joseph C. Kanzler (tail gunner) and S/Sgt Henry W. Sutherland (radio operator). One source (2Lt John J. Meehan (Navigator) in Find-a-Grave) indicated Lt Meehan was killed in captivity on June 5, the day of the shoot-down, or on June 20. Another source (Kennedy in Find-a-Grave) says that the Imperial Japanese Army reported three others as having died of disease “on or before” August 15, 1945. And the remaining two, Sgt. James N. Fitzgerald (Right Gunner) and Sgt. Harvey B. Kennedy, Jr., (Left Gunner) met a grim fate near Osaka on or about this day in history, on 20 or 21 July 1945.
A month after the “Indian Maid’s” shoot down, on July 5, 1945, five unidentified American POWs from the Osaka area were taken to the Shinodayama Military Maneuver Grounds near Osaka and executed by the Kempei Tai. This was a prelude to a larger POW massacre there which involved Sgts Fitzgerald and Kennedy. Details of this and other Osaka area POW executions are found in the legal document in references below.
On July 19, the foreign nationals prisoner sub-section of the Osaka Kempei Tai headquarters was detailed to send a work party to make preparations for another execution at Shindoyama, digging a mass grave next to the site where the first five POWs were killed and buried two weeks prior. The order came from the Fifteenth Area Army Commander’s headquarters in Osaka for 15 Airmen to be executed for the crime of indiscriminate bombing. This headquarters had absolute authority over the management and disposal of American flight personnel in the vicinity of Osaka. In postwar investigation of this incident, it was found that a Lt Col Hideo Fujioka, Chief of the Police Affairs Section of the Central District (Osaka) Kempei Tai, passed along the order to a Major Shiuchi in charge of his Foreign Nationals sub-section.
On the day of execution, two Airmen from the Kempai Tai detention barracks and 13 more from the 22nd and 23d units were taken by truck to the execution site. Bound and blindfolded, they were seated in front of the mass grave. Lt Col Fujioka watched as Maj Shiuchi selected the soldiers for the firing squad. The executioners were provided with US Army .45-caliber pistols which they locked and loaded at Maj Shiuchi’s command before proceeding to the front of the grave. Then Fujioka read the death sentence order, translated by Master Sergeant Mori. Both Fujioka and Shiuchi participated in the execution; Fujioka directed the executioners to shoot the prisoners in the forehead, then gave the order to fire. The prisoners were executed, their bodies placed in the grave which then was carefully hidden, with Fujioka ordering the soldiers to keep the execution a top secret.
But the secret was eventually found out after the war; between 15-18 April 1946, the bodies of the 15 men killed on July 20 and the five killed on July 5 were exhumed by US occupation personnel. Ten of the 15, including Sgt Fitzgerald and Sgt Kennedy, were identified.
In July, 1946, the former commander of the Fifteenth Area Army, Lt General Eitaro Uchiyama was arrested by American occupation military authorities. He was charged with war crimes and found guilty for allowing through his own acts and the acts of his subordinates the deaths of about 45 American airmen shot down in the Osaka area between April to August 1945. He was tried in 1948-1949 and sentenced in January 1949 to 40 years imprisonment at Sugamo Prison. But he was paroled in 1958 and lived until the age of 86 in 1973. It’s unknown at this time to the writer of this web log what happened to the junior officers directly involved in these murders.
Before that though, the remains of the Shinodayama victims were repatriated. Sgt James M. Fitzgerald was subsequently buried in St. Mary’s Cemetery, Manchester, Kennebec County, Maine. Sgt Harvey B. Kennedy, Jr.’s body was interred in the Yokohama Cemetery in Japan (likely Sgt Fitzgerald’s body was too) and repatriated back to San Francisco USA in late 1946 with the remains of 36 other fallen aboard the US Army Transport Dalton Victory. He was buried in the Sarasota Memorial Park in Sarasota, Sarasota County, Florida.
These Airmen executions are another part of the grim wartime air raid experience of Osaka. Hopefully some of the unidentified Airmen killed in these murders have been identified since then. Given the use of DNA in forensic analysis these days by the Defense POW.MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA), it is possible.
With most major urban areas having already been devastated by maximum effort incendiary bombing raids, XXI Bomber Command’s strategic air campaign in Japan shifted to smaller-scale incendiary attacks on smaller cities as well as precision attacks against certain war industry targets. In Osaka’s case, this resulted in three significant B-29 precision attacks on industry which commenced on June 26, 1945.
On this day, 75 years ago, 510 B-29s and 148 P-51s flew missions against the empire, in nine separate attacks. For Osaka it was a double strike, two precision targets in the metro area were hit. Mission 223 saw 64 B-29s of the 58th Bomb Wing with P-51 escort hit the Sumitomo light metal industry on the western side of the city. The B-29s hit the target between 1026K and 1202K; they dropped 382 tons of bombs by radar from between 19,600 and 25,300 feet through a 10/10 cloud deck.
The Superfortresses employed large high explosive bombs, AN-M56 4000-lb large capacity bombs with instantaneous nose and non-delay tail fuses. Due to the weather and use of radar the desired precision was not attained and only about 11 percent of the Sumitomo roof area was destroyed or damaged. Defending anti-aircraft fire was heavy caliber, meager to moderate in intensity and inaccurate to accurate. With an escort of P-51s, including one formation observed in target area, enemy aerial opposition was not a problem. The B-29s saw five enemy aircraft make five ineffectual attacks.
The larger effort was expended on Osaka Army Arsenal in mission 224 which saw 179 B-29’s of the 73rd Bomb Wing attack Imperial Japan’s largest Army arsenal. Here the B-29s attacked from 1018K to 1116K and dropped 758 tons of AN-M66 2000-lb general purpose bombs with 1/40 second delay fusing in nose and tail positions from between 17,400 to 29,060 feet. But the weather frustrated the attack, a solid 10/10 deck beneath blanketing Osaka. The B-29s were unable to discern the arsenal well in radar and scattered bombs in the general area in the north and east parts of the city causing no appreciable damage to the arsenal itself. Flak reported was heavy caliber, meager in intensity and inaccurate. A number of P-51s were seen in the target area by B-29 crews, which sighted 12 enemy aircraft which made seven attacks, with bomber gunners claiming one destroyed and one probable.
One B-29 was lost when serial number 44-69655 of the 499th Bomb Group (V square or large V tail markings), 877th Bomb Squadron (Newell crew) was shot down by Japanese fighter over Miyama Village in Hidaka County, Wakayama Prefecture after bombing Osaka Army Arsenal. (See MACR 14911). The aircraft was supposed to lead the second combat squadron of the group, but the formation was impacted by instrument flight conditions at the assembly point so never organized as planned. The aircraft wasn’t observed by others in the group and last heard from by VHF radio asking for instructions at the assembly point.
Two of the crew were killed in the shootdown, and nine captured and taken to the Kempeitai headquarters in Osaka. None of the captured airmen survived their captivity, however, and all were executed.
Seven are listed as executed with day unspecified in the mission summary at link below, with one killed on August 5th and the last man of the crew, 1st Lt. Harold Cobb, killed at Sanadayama Military Cemetery in Osaka City on the last day of the war, 15 August 1945. The fallen crew left five wives behind in addition to their family of origin members.
P-51s escorting the Osaka attack and also Nagoya, claimed 2 Japanese aircraft shot down and five damaged for the loss of one P-51 – the pilot ran low on fuel, bailed out and was picked up by a rescue submarine. Kawanishi N1K “George” Navy fighters were reported in at least two of the escort’s aerial encounters, one of which is described in a 504th Fighter Group summary: “During this entire operation, encounters with enemy fighters were extremely meager, on the blind alley run to Osaka, a couple of bandits were sighted out of range by the 462nd (Fighter Squadron). Since our job was to stick with the bombers, pursuit of the distant enemy was not undertaken. A bit later on the same course, 2 Georges offered themselves for sacrifice about 1500′ below our formation.
Capt Norman Miller’s flight pounced for the kill. Hits on one of the Georges — the other having fled into the clouds — were scored by Capt Miller and Lt Colley; the Nip disappeared straight down, smoking.” In general though, Japanese fighter opposition was insignificant: “Commenting on the mission, the Fighter Command, shaking its heed ruefully, observed that, “The reluctance of the enemy to send up his fighters when an overcast is present over the target area was again demonstrated.””
Eight and 14, respectively, of the B-29s from the double strike recovered at Iwo Jima on the way back to their bases in the Mariana Islands.
In summary, these intended precision attacks were not very precision due to the weather. But damage was done, including some 5,351 buildings destroyed, of which only about three percent were industrial. However, the lack of damage to the intended targets meant that the B-29s would once again visit Osaka. And these would not be the only Allied aircraft to visit the Osaka metro area in the remainder of the war, also a tale yet to be told here.
Funny how a photo can trigger a flashback, in this case, from a series of photos posted by Mr. Randy Malmstrom, relative of Col. Einar A. Malmstrom of USAF aviation fame and for whom Malmstrom AFB in Montana is named after. Randy has a web log showcasing hundreds of photos of individual military aircraft on display in museums in the greater Pacific Northwest. He recently posted a photo album on his web log featuring the B-29 Superfortress bomber at the Museum of Flight in Seattle, Washington, known a T-Square 54. See Randy’s B-29 album at: https://randallmalmstrom.wordpress.com/2020/06/20/boeing-b-29-60-bw-t-square-54/
The picture reminded me of my connection to this aircraft, dating to 1987 when working with other volunteers to restore the aircraft for non-flying static display at the Lowry Heritage Museum at the old Lowry Air Force Base in Denver, Colorado.
This aircraft, Boeing B-29-60-BW Superfortress serial number 44-69729, was reportedly the first B-29 to land on the island of Saipan (per Philip Webster) and was assigned to the 875th Bomb Squadron, 498th Bomb Group, 73rd Bomb Wing where she was assigned the T-Square 54 code. This B-29 flew and survived 37 combat missions over the Empire during the war, and in 1949 was converted as a tanker; she eventually became a target on the ground at the China Lake Range in California, before being retrieved for restoration to non-flying static display at Lowry in 1986. You can see some of the early restoration work here: https://user.xmission.com/~tmathews/b29/b29.html
Going through USAF technical training at Lowry, in early 1987 I joined in on the restoration work by volunteers. I still remember stripping off the postwar-applied aluminum paint from around the cockpit area, and the awe of discovering beneath the paint the World War II combat mission symbols etched into the aircraft’s metal skin. I didn’t know at the time of where she had flown in the war, only later discovering she had flown at least a couple of missions to Osaka, the focus of this web log. These included the first two of the seven major B-29 raids against Osaka (the first two maximum effort area bombing raids, 13 March (night) and 1 June 1945 (day)).
T-Square 54’s basic restoration was completed after I left Lowry, still missing many internal parts, and she was dedicated in October 1987. But after Lowry AFB was closed in the 1990s, a new home had to be found and the Museum of Flight in Seattle was permitted by the USAF to take her. There she received extensive TLC that resulted in the restoration seen in Randy Malmstrom’s photos. It was truly wonderful to see her again in 2017 when I had the opportunity to visit the Museum of Flight in Seattle. Amazing what can happen in 30 years!
So, take a gander at the most excellent photos Randy Malmstrom kindly shares with us, of a B-29 Superfortress combat veteran, T-Square 54, one that participated in raids on Osaka during World War II. Lest we forget…
As the B-29s took off for the Empire on the morning of June 15, the bloodiest battle between the US and Japan during the Pacific War, the Battle for Okinawa, was in its final stage. Japanese defenders were on their last defense line on the Kiyan Peninsula, with the end of the battle a week away.
It was also the one-year anniversary of the first B-29 attack against the Japanese Home Islands, the raid on Yawata in northern Kyushu from forward bases in Chengdu, China.
Of note, the Commander of the US Army Air Forces, General Hap Arnold, was visiting West Field on Tinian on this day. There the 40th Bomb Group of the 58th Bomb Wing was awarded the Distinguished Unit Citation for s series of missions flown in May, 1945.
General Henry Arnold pins medals on 58th bombing wing troop’s uniform in Tinian
Of the 511 B-29s of the 58th BW, 73rd BW, 313th BW and 314th BW that made it airborne for Mission 203, one crashed off the end of a runway. Another was lost shortly after takeoff, when at 0300K (Marianas time) a B-29A serial number 42-93928 named City of Hartford, Connecticut, of the 29th Bomb Group (Black Square O), 43rd Bomb Squadron, Victor number 21 with the Heyke crew of 11 aboard crashed into the ocean. An eyewitness, 1st Lt. Raymond E. Vertal was 12 miles north of Guam when he saw a B-29 cross his flight path perpendicularly, about 300 feet lower than his and with its landing lights on. The weather had a ceiling of 800 feet, broken, with visibility of two miles amidst scattered showers. Shortly thereafter, the aircraft observed made a steep bank to the left, some 80 degrees and crashed into the water – no explosion was seen.
Patrolling off the coast for the purpose of rescue was an LCI, the crew of which saw the B-29 crash. It and a sister craft it hailed proceeded immediately to the site and search the area until late in the morning. No survivors or remains were recovered, just five flying jackets, one life raft, one gas tank and one navigator kit. Two Dumbo rescue aircraft also joined in the search but only reported seeing an oil slick. This information was recorded in MACR 14625. The crewmen left behind five wives (Helen, Janet, Elizabeth, Norma and Helene), their parents, and are remembered in the Courts of the Missing at the Honolulu Memorial.
Weather over the target area was a solid undercast, 10/10, and so there were no strike photos of the attack. Of the B-29s that made it to Japan, 444 attacked their briefed targets and another 25 hit targets of opportunity. The bomber stream dropped on Osaka between 0944K and 1155K time, from altitudes ranging between 16, 300 feet and 26,900 feet. There was no fighter opposition noted and flak encountered was heavy caliber, meager, and generally inaccurate.
The bombers that struck the primary target area carried an average of over 13,000-lbs of bombs and dropped 3,157 tons of incendiary bombs on it, using AN-M17 A1 and E46, 500-lb. incendiary clusters set to open 5,000′ above target and AN-M47A2 100-lb. incendiary bombs with instantaneous nose fuses.
Due to the damage from the first three area attacks, on June 15 the attack was divided between southern and southeaster (mostly residential, with some older home-industries) and northern and northwestern (classified industrial) portions of the city and inflicted much damage on adjacent Amagasaki City (industrial) on the north side. Another two and a half square miles of the city were burned, as well as a half square mile area of Amagasaki. Some 2,927 casualties were inflicted upon those on the ground including 475 dead, 56 missing and 1, 371 wounded. Over 53,000 buildings were destroyed or damaged and over 173,000 people de-housed.
There are many aspects to the impact of the damage inflicted in the four area attacks from March through June 1945. The United States Strategic Bombing Survey investigates these in detail at the reference below. One aspect to highlight would be the effect of the raids on Japan’s transportation system, especially the railroad system. As coastal ship traffic was greatly affected by the aerial mining of Japanese waters, more of a load was placed on Japan’s railroad system.
Although the area attacks caused little direct damage to rail facilities and right of way problems were never serious, railroad communications and signaling equipment were destroyed which affected efficiency as many freight cars sat idle. Also, repair shops were hit which contributed to a bottleneck in operations affecting the region. It also impacted efforts by Japanese industry to disperse and relocate to continue war production. The significance of this is considered in that as the war ended, B-29s had begun to attack Japan’s transportation system directly, and as limited comparted to other countries as it was to begin with, with many geographical constraints, compounded by the damage from area attacks, it is likely that rail traffic in Japan would have been paralyzed in short order Had the war continued, with great impact on military operations, especially aimed at reinforcing Kyushu where invasion was expected, as well as the civilian population.
On the way back to the Marianas, 43 B-29s set down at Iwo Jima for various reasons, again showing the value of seizing that rugged island in the costly battle earlier in 1945.
This was the last area attack flown against Osaka during the war. These four area attacks were devastating to the city, though the industry it contained continued war production as best it could, which would draw attention and result in three further smaller scale B-29 precision attacks as the war continued.
In addition to these seven major B-29 attacks, B-29s also dropped mines into the waters on the approaches to Osaka harbor. In addition, fighter sweeps by carrier-based naval aircraft and USAAF fighters on Iwo Jima were carried out in the Osaka area. Although these raids did not drop any significant bomb tonnage on Osaka like the B-29s did, they caused air raid alarms and disrupted life and industrial war production activity in Osaka.
Osaka enjoyed a respite of about 11 days before the B-29s returned, this time to begin a series of “precision attacks.”
This was Mission 189 for the B-29s. It was the third mission against Osaka, barely a week after the previous one flown on 1 June. It was also the third area attack against the city.
Some 409 XXI BC B-29’s escorted by 138 VII Fighter Command P-51’s attacked the east central section of the city which contained industrial and transportation targets and the Osaka Army Arsenal (the largest in Japan). Three B-29 wings carried incendiaries and one with HE bombs targeted the Osaka Army Arsenal area specifically, surrounded by transportation, munitions and industrial targets. Despite being forced to bomb by radar because of heavy undercast, the B-29’s burnt out over two square miles of the city and over 1,000 industrial buildings. Nine B-29s attacked other targets. The fighter escort claimed 2-0-1 Japanese aircraft – heavy low clouds seemed to keep most Japanese fighters on the ground. Two B-29’s and one P-51 were lost. One source (Lardas) indicates 11 B-29s were damaged by flak but none were shot down.
Of note, this 7 June Osaka mission was noted (see Lardas) as the last B-29 maximum effort mission of the area bombing campaign against Japan. By this point, six of Japan’s 10 largest cities had been burnt out to the point where there were no remaining contiguous unburned areas worth attacking with a four B-29 wing maximum level effort. Smaller-scale area attacks still took place afterward, including one more against Osaka on 15 June 1945. (Lardas) Of note, the 15 June attack actually included more aircraft and a greater tonnage of incendiary bombs that struck Osaka and adjacent Amagasaki City. Why this was not considered a maximum effort area attack against Osaka by Lardas is unknown, perhaps because Amagasaki City was also struck by a portion of the force.
One B-29 crewman, Lee Florence, noted in his diary: “T .0. 0502 for incind raid on Osaka. Bombed at 1314 through clouds. Alt. 20,700′. Meager flak. One fighter attacked as if ramming from the nose. He put three shells through the right fuel cells and one through the #4 props. No trouble coming home. No losses in group.” (56 Years Ago)
Results of the mission were summarized postwar as follows:
Number of planes_________________409 (20,500 altitude)
“An area of 2.2 square miles — mostly in the northern sector — was affected by the…attack of 2,592 tons, in which 2.059 persons were killed among total casualties of 8,873 and 56,576 structures of all types were destroyed or damaged. This was the only area attack including a sizeable amount of high-explosive bombs.” (Source USSBS Effects of Air Attack on Osaka-Kobe-Kyoto)
It happened on the second B-29 mission to Osaka, June 1, 1945, which the first day mission of the seven B-29 raids flown against the city during the war. It was called “Black Friday” by members of the 506th Fighter Group for good reason. The P-51 Mustang fighter escort was mauled that day, not by the forces of the Empire, but by some unexpectedly severe weather enroute to Osaka. According to noted aviation historian Roger A. Freeman, it was the largest single-mission loss of Mustangs in Europe or the Pacific during World War II. It’s also been called the largest single weather loss of USAAF aircraft of the war, and includes some B-29s also.
It was planned as another “area attack” like the first Osaka raid on the night of March 13th, with incendiary bombs, and over 475 B-29s from bases in the Marianas were sent up along with a fighter escort of 148 P-51s from the 15th, 21st and 506th fighter groups from Iwo Jima. The weather front between the bases and Japan was predicted but the pressure was high from leadership to keep the pressure on Japan and so the mission, already delayed a day, and despite the Iwo weather officer’s recommendation not to fly the mission it was directed to proceed with hopes for the best to be able to penetrate the weather front and continue on to Osaka.
The 506th FG flew towards Osaka at 10,000 ft; the 15th Fighter Group was stacked 500 ft. higher the left and the 21st Fighter Group 500 ft. lower to the right. Each group had a lead B-29 for navigation assistance. An overly optimistic and inexperience P-51 pilot about a weather recon B-29 ahead reported the front could be overflown above at 10,000 feet. The three groups soon found that was not the case. As the fighters and navigational B-29s approached the weather front it could clearly be seen, a massive towering of cumulo nimbus up to 50,000 feet or more.
The fighters looked for breaks to try and press in, and ultimately, a senior fighter leader decided to try and proceed when a small break was sighted. But as volatile as the front was, the break was an illusion and when the P-51s hit the weather front chaos ensued. Aircraft lost visibility and were buffeted by the winds – mid-air collisions occurred; Extreme forces set upon airframes as formations were broken and scattered all over inside the cloudy roiling weather mass. Icing occurred that played havoc on aircraft handling characteristics. Radios were intermittently working in the stormy electrical conditions encountered, and when they did work were jammed with desperate efforts to communicate by many disoriented pilots. The sheer terror of the experience is described in many individual 506th Fighter Group pilots, 11 of whom were MIA and three who were rescued, which are posted on a 506th Fighter Group webpage at: http://www.506thfightergroup.org/missionjune1blackfriday.asp
Most aircraft and pilots who survived the front returned to Iwo Jima shaken. Two returning pilots happened across a P-61 on Combat Air Patrol and the Black Widow night fighter led them back to Iwo Jima. Of the three pilots recovered from the water, one almost made it back to base and bailed out 10 miles off Iwo Jima. Another P-51 pilot was spotted in the water and rescued by a PBY Catalina.
And one Mustang pilot, 2nd Lt. Arthur A. Burry of the 45th Fighter Squadron, was rescued after spending six days in his dinghy and surviving a typhoon, far far away from homebase, from waters about 300 miles north northwest of Iwo Jima.
Lookouts aboard the US Navy submarine USS Trutta (SS-421), which was surfaced at the time and headed for its lifeguard duty station off Japan, miraculously spotted his yellow dinghy and were pleasantly surprised to find it occupied by Lt. Burry and rescued him. No doubt Lt. Burry was happier than they were!
The few Mustang pilots that spit out of the front on the other side continued the mission as best they could. These 27 P-51s could not provide the fighter escort for the force on a day when Japanese fighter opposition over Osaka was at its highest level of the war. Osaka.
And the mission did continue with 458 B-29s dropping 2,707 tons of incendiary bombs and 81 tons of high explosive bombs on the city from 24,000 feet altitude (16 B-29s bombed other targets). The bombing burned out a gross area of 3.1 square miles of the city, causing over 14,000 casualties including over 3,100 dead, and de-housing over 218,000 people. Almost 67,000 structures were destroyed or seriously damaged.
Lt. Dufford, a crewman on B-29 Superfortress “T Square 54” of the 875th Bomb Squadron, 498th Bomb Group, an aircraft now preserved at the Museum of Flight in Seattle, Washington, wrote the following about the mission in his diary: “Mission #23: …Osaka urban manufacturing area along Yodo river w/ factories, docks, warehouses, & petroleum dumps. 18,000′ to 28,500′ incendiary w/ fighter escort. Flack heavy & enemy fighters aggressive. St. Tonnies said flak was “… accurate. First time I could hear flak burst. Too close for comfort.”
Ten B-29s were lost on the mission, including two in a mid-air collision between the giant aircraft at the pre-attack assembly area off the coast of Honshu and another that went missing in the weather front enroute to Iwo Jima. Two losses could be attributed to fighters and three due to destruction/battle damage from anti-aircraft fire.
One of those lost to flak was the B-29 “Abroad with Eleven Yanks,” a 499th BG, 877th BS ship, 44-70083, MACR 14596, with the Wilkinson Crew – all 11 crew members were killed in action. They left behind five wives among families directly affected by their loss…
“While over the target area at an altitude of 20,000 feet, the nose of his aircraft was hit with flak by anti-aircraft guns from a Japanese warship in Osaka Bay and crashed, with no parachutes seen opening.”
The MACR reported the aircraft was hit by a burst of heavy flak just forward of the bomb bay at 1301 hours, about 15-30 seconds before bombs away. The aircraft pulled up and to the right to avoid collision with the aircraft on its right wing then fell off into its final dive. The nose section burned off on the way down and no parachutes were seen.
Several bodies of the crew were eventually found and repatriated, with funeral ceremonies in 1949. Seven of the Airmen were buried together in a single grave at Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery in St. Louis, Missouri, there on the banks of the Mississippi River.
Another was lost due to mechanical problems shortly after takeoff and one more to unknown causes. These 10 aircraft composed the largest single-mission loss against Osaka for the B-29, as well as for the fighter escort. For a summary of the B-29 losses, see an earlier posting at: https://osakakushu.wordpress.com/2015/06/15/summer-heat-in-early-june/
As things turned out, this was the roughest reception Osaka gave to the USAAF, with very active fighter and anti-aircraft artillery opposition. Fortunately the scarcity of escort did not allow higher losses to occur. One might further discuss the battle from the Japanese side but this web log writer doesn’t have such sources or perspectives for this particular mission. The losses due to the weather, the Mustang massacre of 27 ships and perhaps three or more of the ten B -29s, certainly did not help. It was a mission few if any had a desire to repeat. Fortunately, of the next five missions to Osaka, none would be anywhere near as costly as the 1 June 1945 mission.