Dud bomb from U.S. air raid removed in downtown Osaka shopping area

From The Asahi Shimbun, 10 May 2015

OSAKA–An unexploded bomb believed to have been dropped by U.S. forces in a World War II air raid was defused and removed by the Self-Defense Forces in a busy shopping district here on May 9.

The work forced the evacuation of residents in the Minami shopping district of Osaka’s Naniwa Ward and disrupted morning train services.

Ground Self-Defense Force members pull up a defused dud bomb with a crane in Osaka’s Naniwa Ward on May 9.  (Takashi Ishihara via The Asahi Shimbun)
Ground Self-Defense Force members pull up a defused dud bomb with a crane in Osaka’s Naniwa Ward on May 9. (Takashi Ishihara via The Asahi Shimbun)

“It is extremely rare for an unexploded bomb to be found in a bustling shopping area in central Osaka,” said an official of the Osaka city government’s crisis management office.

According to the Osaka city government, the U.S.-made bomb weighs one ton and measures 1.8 meters in length and 60 centimeters in diameter. It was found at a construction site of a new condominium building in March about two meters below ground.

The work to remove the bomb was started at around 8 a.m. by troops specializing in the disposal of unexploded ordnance. They were dispatched by the Ground SDF’s Katsura post in Kyoto.

An area within a radius of 300 meters (984 feet) from the site was designated an evacuation zone, with about 2,200 residents ordered to evacuate. Of these, 114 took shelter at two nearby elementary schools. The Nipponbashi area of electric appliance stores was designated off limits and traffic around the area was also restricted.

Traffic is restricted in Osaka's Nipponbashi area on May 9 due to work to remove an unexploded bomb. (Eijiro Morii, via The Asahi Shimbun)
Traffic is restricted in Osaka’s Nipponbashi area on May 9 due to work to remove an unexploded bomb. (Eijiro Morii, via The Asahi Shimbun)

After the troops defused the bomb, the evacuation order and traffic restrictions were lifted at 9:36 a.m.

Nankai Electric Railway Co. suspended operations of a total of 167 trains that were scheduled to depart from or arrive at its Nanba Station, inconveniencing about 48,000 passengers. It resumed services at around 10 a.m.

According to the public-interest organization Osaka International Peace Center, known as Peace Osaka, U.S. forces conducted more than 50 air raids on Osaka Prefecture from December 1944 to August 1945, killing more than 15,000 people.

The city’s crisis management office said a total of 87 dud bombs, apparently dropped by U.S. forces, have been found in Osaka since 1955, including the one that was removed on May 9.
Osaka Air Raids Assessment: The bomb that was removed was a 2,000-lb general purpose bomb, the AN-M66 type, introduced into service in 1943. This weapons is about 5.9 feet long (1.8m) and 24 inches wide (60cm). Although it weighs 2,000 pounds (907kg) the explosive filler accounts for about 1,061 pounds of that weight (481kg).

A pair of AN-M66 2000-lb general purpose bomb replicas on display ion the Osaka Peace Museum (Courtesy Snipview)
A pair of AN-M66 2000-lb general purpose bomb replicas on display ion the Osaka Peace Museum (Courtesy Snipview)

It was designed for use against “massive reinforced concrete and suspension bridges, heavy cruisers, battleships, dams,” according to an aerial bomb chart on the 303rd Bomb Group (H) website. The minimum safe BA (blast area?) for the bomb is 3,000 (probably a measurement feet).

Armorers prepare a B-29 veteran of 20 missions of the 73rd Bomb Wing’s 500th Bomb Group (tail code Z) for another mission over Japan in 1945. (Courtesy Freerepublic.com)
Armorers prepare a B-29 veteran of 20 missions of the 73rd Bomb Wing’s 500th Bomb Group (tail code Z) for another mission over Japan in 1945. (Courtesy Freerepublic.com)

B-29 Superfortress very heavy bombers employed this weapon on occasion against targets in Japan. In the case of air raids on Osaka, from XXI Bomber Command summaries it appears these weapons were dropped on Osaka at least three times, on 26 June 1945, 24 July 1945 and 14 August 1945, in attacks aimed at the vast Osaka Army Arsenal complex adjacent to Osaka Castle, which was Imperial Japan’s largest army arsenal.

This aerial photograph was taken 27 February 1945.  It shows the vast Osaka Army Arsenal complex immediately to the East (right) and North (above) the Osaka Castle grounds and moats to the left in the picture.  It was the Imperial Japanese Army's largest arsenal.  (US Army, via Fold3)
This aerial photograph was taken 27 February 1945. It shows the vast Osaka Army Arsenal complex immediately to the East (right) and North (above) the Osaka Castle grounds and moats to the left in the picture. It was the Imperial Japanese Army’s largest arsenal. (US Army, via Fold3)

26 June 1945 – Mission 224. Target: Osaka Army Arsenal, Target Number 90.25 – 382. 73rd Bomb Wing Superfortresses employed AN-M66 2000-lb bombs with 1/40 second delay fusing on nose and tail. A total of 109 B-29’s hit the primary target and three others struck targets of opportunity, with an average bomb load of 14, 402 pounds. Flak was heavy, medium and inaccurate. P-51’s were sighted in the target area, which probably kept some Japanese fighters away though 12 enemy fighters were sighted and seven made attacks on the bombers. Aerial gunners claimed one enemy fighter destroyed and one damaged in the attacks. With weather 10/10 cloud, all bombing was by radar. The time the B-29’s were over the primary was nearly an hour, from 1018K to 1116K (one hour ahead of Japan local time), and the aircraft bombed from 17, 400 feet on up to 29,060 feet in altitude. Detonations were observed immediately northwest of the castle and about 2,000 yards south of the target. One B-29 was lost to unknown causes.

That aircraft was B-29 serial number 44-69655, which belonged to the 499th Bomb Group (VH), 877th Bomb Squadron, flown by the Capt. James F. Newell crew (11 members total).  This ship was not seen enroute or in the assembly weather due to poor weather conditions, and was last heard from at 0950K in the assembly area.  Cause of loss is unknown (MACR 14911).  The crew was initially declared MIA and later classified as KIA.

Their ultimate fate was learned after the war.  The aircraft was apparently shot down, by Japanese fighters, according to one source, after attacking Osaka Arsenal and crashed near Miyaka Village (absorbed into Hidakagawa Town in 2005) in Hidaka County, Wakayama Prefecture, about 60 miles south of the target.  Two crew members were KIA (Capt. Newell and S/Sgt John S. Combs), and the remaining nine became POWs, who were taken to the Osaka Kempei Tai (the military police arm of the Imperial Japanese Army and essentially a dreaded secret police) headquarters.  First Lt. David W. Cobb, 1st Lt. Paul L. Sisson, T/Sgt Leo G. Copulos, S/Sgt John N. Wall, Sr., S/Sgt Howard F. Woleslagle and Sgt. Raymond F. Shiber were executed or died from disease.  S/Sgt Robert L. Pellicot and 1st Lt. Louis W. Lehnen were executed on/about 5 August 1945 at the Jonan rifle range in Osaka City.  First Lt. Harold T. Cobb was executed at the Sandayama Military Cemetery in Osaka City on 15 August 1945, the day the fighting in the Pacific was supposed to end.

24 July 1945 – Mission 286. Target: Osaka Army Arsenal, Target Number 90.25 – 382 as the primary visual target, with the city of Kuwana near Nagoya (Tgt # 90.20) as the primary radar target. The 73rd Bomb Wing employed AN-M66 2000-lb bombs with 1/40 second delay fusing on nose and tail. The wing again faced cloud impediment to visual aiming with a solid undercast but 35 aircraft pressed to hit the Osaka Arsenal with 216 tons of bombs; most aircraft (119) delivered weapons on the primary radar target (794 tons), with another nine striking targets of opportunity with 59 tons of bombs. Weapon impacts were noted in the target area, and immediately south and west of the target and Osaka Castle was struck. Of the 216 M66 bombs dropped on Osaka Arsenal, 28 struck within 1,000 feet of the Mean Point of Impact. Over Osaka flak was moderate, accurate and continuously pointed. No enemy fighters were sighted – at this point Japan was trying to conserve its air strength for the anticipated battle for the Hone Islands. The target was struck from altitudes ranging from 19,900 feet to 23,000 feet, between 1144K and 1227K. No B-29’s were lost on this mission, though 46 bombers were damaged by flak received at various points all along the mission route. Post-attack reconnaissance indicated another 8.4% of the arsenal was damaged, raising the total amount of damage/destruction to 18.1 %.

14 August 1945 – Mission 326. Target: Osaka Army Arsenal, Target Number 90.25 – 382. The 73rd Bomb Wing again employed AN-M66 2000-lb bombs with 1/40 second delay fusing on nose and tail, as well as half-ton AN-M65 1,000-lb bombs. This time the target was acquired visually and bombed by 145 B-29’s dropping 706.5 tons of bombs with excellent results – strike photos taken by 36 aircraft showed 650 hits on the target. Of 843 bombs dropped, 216 hit within 1,000 feet of the aimpoint. The attack occurred between 1416K and 1501K. Bombs were dropped from between 22,100 and 25,100 feet. The average bombload was 10, 924 pounds. Two B-29’s dropped 10 tons of bombs on targets of opportunity. The average bombload was 14, 301 pounds. Flak was heavy, moderate, generally accurate and continuously pointed and 26 B-29’s were damaged by it. P-47 and P-51 fighters provided escort but no enemy aircraft were sighted. No B-29’s were lost on the mission.

From the description of the three air raids that employed the AN-M66 2000-lb GP bomb, perhaps the raid of 26 June 1945 is the one which delivered the bomb in the Minami shopping district of Naniwa Ward that was removed on 9 May 2015. Some weapons were noted striking a mile south of the target area. The raid of 24 July 1945 saw few aircraft attack the arsenal, and on the 14 August 1945 raid the bombing was visual and results excellent, so under such conditions there were probably not many weapons which strayed far from the target area.

But whenever that bomb arrived, let’s give thanks to the explosive ordnance disposal professionals who successfully and safely removed this long dormant aerial weapon before it could cause any death or injury!

The dud bomb removed by the Ground Self-Defense Force in Osaka on May 9 (Takashi Ishihara via The Asahi Shimbun)
The dud bomb removed by the Ground Self-Defense Force in Osaka on May 9 (Takashi Ishihara via The Asahi Shimbun)

References

Asahi article at: http://ajw.asahi.com/article/behind_news/social_affairs/AJ201505100021

Bomb info: http://pwencycl.kgbudge.com/B/o/Bombs.htm
http://www.303rdbg.com/bombs.html

M66 info at: http://forums.eagle.ru/showthread.php?t=115584&page=13

M66 replicas in Osaka Peace Museum at: http://www.snipview.com/q/Osaka_International_Peace_Center

73BW/500BG (Z) B-29 and bombs image: http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/news/3290704/posts

June 1945 B-29 Mission Summary, at: http://user.xmission.com/~tmathews/b29/56years/missionsummary4506.html#15jun45

July 1945 B-29 Mission Summary, at: http://user.xmission.com/~tmathews/b29/56years/missionsummary4507.html

August 1945 B-29 Mission Summary, at: http://user.xmission.com/~tmathews/b29/56years/missionsummary4508.html

MACR 14911, access via Fold3 website

Mann, Robert A., The B-29 Superfortress Chronology, 1934-1960, McFarland, 2009, page 188

Loss of B-29 44-69655 on 26 June 1945, summary at:  http://user.xmission.com/~tmathews/b29/56years/56years-4506b.html

The Last Dogfight: The 56th Sentai on the 9th of July

As the war in the Pacific continued, the Imperial Japanese Army Air Force issued an order on 23 March 1944 to establish the 56th Hiko Sentai. The unit began to assemble at Taisho Airfield near Osaka on 12 April 1944.

56th Sentai Ki-61 Hien (Allied codename TONY) fighters rest on the ground at an unidentified airfield late during the war.  The aircraft in the foreground, right, was the Sentai commander Major Furukawa Haruyoshi’s aircraft.  The large white band around the fuselage was a marking of a Home Defense unit.  (Courtesy Axis History.com forum)
56th Sentai Ki-61 Hien (Allied codename TONY) fighters rest on the ground at an unidentified airfield late during the war. The aircraft in the foreground, right, was the Sentai commander Major Furukawa Haruyoshi’s aircraft. The large white band around the fuselage was a marking of a Home Defense unit. (Courtesy Axis History.com forum)

Its first and only commander was Major Furukawa Haruyoshi. He and Captain Ogata Junichi (KIA 17 March 1945) were the only experienced pilots in the unit, with the others fresh from flying schools. Furukawa’s new sentai moved to the other side of Osaka, at Itami Airfield, on 28 April 1944.

The first and only commander of the 56th Sentai was Major Furukawa Haruyoshi, seen here many years after the war at a memorial to 56th Sentai personnel killed during the war.  The memorial is located at Chokoj (Chokoji?) Temple near the former Itami Airfield, now Osaka International Airport.  He is credited with some five aerial victories during the war.  Japanese records indicate the 56th Sentai shot down eleven B-29s.  (Courtesy Cookson Tribute B29.com)
The first and only commander of the 56th Sentai was Major Furukawa Haruyoshi, seen here many years after the war at a memorial to 56th Sentai personnel killed during the war. The memorial is located at Chokoj (Chokoji?) Temple near the former Itami Airfield, now Osaka International Airport. He is credited with some five aerial victories during the war. Japanese records indicate the 56th Sentai shot down eleven B-29s. (Courtesy Cookson Tribute B29.com)

To understand what Major Furukawa commanded, a hikosentai, usually shortened for reference to sentai, “…was the basic operational unit of the IJAAF, composed of three or more Chutai (companies or squadrons). A Sentai had 27 to 49 aircraft, with each Chutai having 16 aircraft and pilots plus a maintenance and repair unit.” For comparison, the USAAF group was a roughly analogous unit, if somewhat larger, composed of three fighter squadrons with 25 aircraft each.

A Kawasaki Ki-61 Hien (TONY) fighter of the 56th Sentai warms up on the ramp at an unidentified airfield in Japan late during World War II.  (Courtesy Asisbiz.com IL-2 game page)
A Kawasaki Ki-61 Hien (TONY) fighter of the 56th Sentai warms up on the ramp at an unidentified airfield in Japan late during World War II. (Courtesy Asisbiz.com IL-2 game page)

At Itami, the 56th began training with five Kawasaki Ki-61 Hien (Allied code name TONY) and two Nakajima Ki-43 Hayabusa (Allied code name OSCAR) fighters received from the Akeno Fighter School. From then on the unit moved periodically, either for training or for operations against China-based B-29 attacks on strategic targets in Kyushu. But by November, 1944, with reconnaissance missions flown against the Osaka-Kobe and Nagoya areas, the 56th returned to Itami to help defend the region against expected B-29 attacks from Marianas bases. (Note: For details of the unit’s movements and activities in its first six months of being, see:
http://arawasi-wildeagles.blogspot.com/2012/08/56th-sentai.html

From Itami, the 56th engaged raiding B-29s in December 1944, January and March, 1945, in the 11th Air Division’s area of responsibility, which included Nagoya, Osaka and Kobe, with some modest success.

At the end of March, 1945, the unit deployed 27 Ki-61 to Ashiya Airfield on Kyushu in support of 12th Air Division air operations conducted in the Okinawa campaign. The 56th Sentai defended Kyushu against American air attacks directed at airfields involved in kamikaze operations, first at Ashiya and later from the naval airfield at Saeki, and suffered heavy attrition; during a B-29 raid on 4 May 1945, ten Ki-61 fighters were destroyed on the ground with seven unit members killed and five wounded. Only the three fighters that were able to take to the air before the bombs struck survived the deadly raid.

Beautiful artwork from the boxtop of a Hasegawa 1/48 scale model kit of a 56th Sentai Ki-61-I Tei.  Note the distinctive 56th Sentai emblem painted on the tail of the fighter.  (Courtesy Hasegawa USA.com)
Beautiful artwork from the boxtop of a Hasegawa 1/48 scale model kit of a 56th Sentai Ki-61-I Tei. Note the distinctive 56th Sentai emblem painted on the tail of the fighter. (Courtesy Hasegawa USA.com)

On 20 May 1945 the depleted sentai returned to Itami to become the first air unit to reequip with the improved version of the Hien, the Ki-61-II-Kai.

In June, 1944, higher headquarters directed the 56th and other units to refrain from air-to-air combat. After the heavy aircraft losses in the Okinawa campaign, and anticipating a US invasion of the Home Islands, it was deemed necessary to preserve aircraft strength.
For a fighter pilot, such an order is anathema, for a sentoki pilot’s whole existence is to fight. Although the unit mostly engaged bombers, but in an exception to the rule, on 9 July 1945 the 56th grappled with USAAF P-51 Mustang fighters. According to a summary on the 506th Fighter Group webpage:

“Number 32 (FC Mission #226) 9 July 45
Mission: VLR Fighter Strike by the 21st and 506th Groups against airfields in the Nagoya area.

Results: Sixteen enemy aircraft destroyed, five probably destroyed and eleven damaged.

Our losses: One P-51 with pilot. Five aircraft received minor damage from enemy flak with no injury to pilots.”

313th Bomb Wing B-29 escorting unidentified 7th Fighter Command P-51 mustangs from Iwo Jima to Japan
313th Bomb Wing B-29 Superfortress escorting unidentified 7th Fighter Command P-51 Mustangs from Iwo Jima to Japan.  B-29’s provided navigational assistance to the fighters on their Very Long Range missions to and from Japan.   (Courtesy Free Republic.com)

And continuing: “The 21st Group proceeded toward Osaka with one squadron as top cover which sighted four or five flights of Oscars and three or four flights of Tonys about 5,000 feet below. As Mustangs dropped down to attack, the Oscars broke formation and split-essed through a thin overcast coming out among the two strike squadrons below. Approximately thirty-six individual encounters followed. Twelve aircraft were destroyed in the air, four were probably destroyed and ten damaged. Itami airfield was strafed. The 506th Group strafed Hamamatsu, Mikatagahara, Toyohashi and Oitsu airfields. One friendly aircraft was seen to crash after the pilot reported loss of oil pressure and smoking engine. The Pilot bailed out but parachute was not seen to open and pilot is considered lost.”

A partial list of aerial victories credited that day to Mustang pilots from multiple sources is as follows:

21st Fighter Group, 46th Fighter Squadron – six aerial victories on 9 July 1945
1st Lt. John W. Brock, two victories
1st Lt. Joseph D. Coons, ½ victory
1st Lt. Louis C. Gelbrich, one victory
2nd Lt. Gervais R. Nolan, one victory
1st Lt. Walter L. Parsley, one and ½ victories

21st Fighter Group, 72nd Fighter Squadron – one aerial victory on 9 July 1945
1st Lt. Thomas W. Denman, one victory

21st Fighter Group, 531st Fighter Squadron – two aerial victories on 9 July 1945
Capt. Willis E. Mathews, Jr., two victories

There is some gun camera film of Mustang attacks over Japan which can be viewed at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0BeiNHKAa5o

According to information on a Japanese website, the 56th Sentai lost three Hiens in air combat on 9 July, while another two made it back to base with damage, crash-landed and were then strafed and destroyed.

One of the 56th Sentai pilots killed on 9 July was Second Lieutenant Nakamura Junichi. His aircraft came down about 15 miles east of Itami, near Hoshida Village (in today’s Katano City, Osaka Prefecture). Lt. Nakamura apparently bailed out successfully, but one report says a P-51 Mustang cut the strings of his parachute with its wing and the 23-year-old Nakamura plunged to his death.

Memorial in Japan to Lt. Nakamura Junichi, 56th Sentai pilot shot down in air combat with P-51 Mustangs, likely of the 21st Fighter Group, 9 July 1945 east of Itami Airfield.  (Courtesy J-Model Works)
Memorial in Japan to Lt. Nakamura Junichi, 56th Sentai pilot shot down in air combat with P-51 Mustangs, likely of the 21st Fighter Group, 9 July 1945 east of Itami Airfield. (Courtesy J-Model Works)

In March of 2005, the crash site of Nakamura’s Hien fighter was excavated as a new highway was being constructed in the area. A number of artifacts were recovered, to include the engine, a propeller blade and two machine guns (suggesting a Ki-61-I Tei variant?).

Two other 56th Sentai casualties on this day, Sergeant Major Fujii Tomotoshi and Lieutenant Nozaki Kazuo, were lost in the Hirakata area of northeastern Osaka Prefecture.

From the time of that 9 July 1945 Mustang encounter onward, the 56th Sentai stood down from daylight operations.

But the unit was hardly out of existence. By the end of July, 1945, the 56th Sentai had 20 aircraft and 48 pilots on hand. When the war ended the unit was still at Itami and reportedly possessed 22 aircraft. Had the war continued the 56th Sentai would no doubt have been sent into battle again, though in what capacity is unknown.

Perhaps it would resume a cover role for kamikaze airfields involved in attacking US amphibious and naval forces approaching Japan for a prospective invasion. Given the growing menace of long range P-51D and P-47N fighter operations over the Home Islands, they were unlikely to defend against daytime B-29 missions. But all this is a web log writer’s speculation.

A photo taken postwar shows a neglected example of the final version of the Ki-61-II Kai, a late-production “bubbletop” or “fastback” with the cut-down rear fuselage and improved visibility canopy. One source indicates the 56th had at least four of these bubbletops when the war ended. Another source indicates that only 99 aircraft of the Ki-61-II variant were produced and that they served with units in the 11th Air Division area.

Postwar view of a late production Kawasaki Ki-61-II Kai Hien.  The 56th Sentai was one of the few IJAAF units to operate this “bubbletop” or “fastback” version of the Hien fighter.  Note the unidentified man standing on the wing, perhaps a US Navy pilot.  In the background lies a derelict IJAAF Mitsubishi Ki-67 Hiryu (PEGGY) heavy bomber.  (Courtesy Axis History.com forum)
Postwar view of a late production Kawasaki Ki-61-II Kai Hien. The 56th Sentai was one of the few IJAAF units to operate this “bubbletop” or “fastback” version of the Hien fighter. Note the unidentified man standing on the wing, perhaps a US Navy pilot. In the background lies a derelict IJAAF Mitsubishi Ki-67 Hiryu (PEGGY) heavy bomber. (Courtesy Axis History.com forum)

By the end of the war, the 56th Sentai claimed 11 B-29’s shot down. Sentai-member Warrant Officer Sumi Tadao, who claimed five B-29’s and one P-51, was recipient of the Class A (First class) of the Bukōchōshō (often called Bukōshō), a late-war decoration consisting of a badge awarded for military merit.

Master Sergeant Sumi Tadao of the 56th Sentai earned the Bukosho badge, 1st Class, for military merit in his Home Defense combat missions.  He claimed five B-29’s and one P-51 destroyed in the air war over Japan.  (Source:  Wikipedia)
Master Sergeant Sumi Tadao of the 56th Sentai earned the Bukosho badge, 1st Class, for military merit in his Home Defense combat missions. He claimed five B-29’s and one P-51 destroyed in the air war over Japan. (Source: Wikipedia)

References

56th Sentai – Kawasaki Ki-61 “Hien” (Tony), at: http://arawasi-wildeagles.blogspot.com/2012/08/56th-sentai.html

Art McNitt’s 1/32nd scale Kawasaki Ki-61-II Kai “Bubbletop” at: http://www.aviationofjapan.com/2012_09_01_archive.html

Hata, Ikuhiko and Izawa, Yasuho, Shores, Christopher, Japanese Army Fighter Aces, 1931-45, Stackpole Books, 2012.

Molesworth, Carl, Very Long Range P-51 Mustang Units of the Pacific War, Osprey, 2006.

Ki-61 Hien, Wikipedia entry, at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kawasaki_Ki-61

Ki-61-II info, at: http://www.asisbiz.com/il2/Ki-100/Kawasaki-Ki-100.html

Ki-61 bubbletops” in 56th Sentai discussed at: http://forum.axishistory.com/viewtopic.php?f=65&t=172282&start=135

Fine Models 1/72 Ki-61-II Kai review, at: http://www.aviationofjapan.com/2012/04/rs-models-172nd-ki-61-ii-kai-pair-and.html

List of Japanese Aces of World War II, Wikipedia entry, at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_World_War_II_aces_from_Japan

Japanese Hikosentai description from: http://asisbiz.com/PNG/Kawasaki-Ki-61-Hien.html

9 July 1945 P-51 VLR Mission summary at: http://506thfightergroup.org/iwotojapan.asp?ID=2#jul9

P-51 Dogfights Over Japan (1945), on Youtube, at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0BeiNHKAa5o

Japanese description of 9 July 1945 action of 56th Sentai, and memorial to Second Lieutenant Nakamura Junichi, at: http://mokehana.web.fc2.com/e-photo-hien.htm

21st Fighter Group aerial victories on 9 July 1945, at: http://www.cieldegloire.com/fg_021.php

Account of Morgan R. Redwine, 46th FS / 21st FG action, July 9, 1945, Nagoya, Japan, at: http://www.7thfighter.com/newsletter/sunsetter_spring_2014.pdf

Bukoshocho, Badge for Military Merit, at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bukochosho
Images

Ground view of 56th Sentai Ki-61 at: http://forum.axishistory.com/viewtopic.php?f=65&t=172282&sid=ce31b629aabfe1a5edf77643a088ab6f&start=120

C.O. 56th Sentai Furukawa Hiroyoshi, at: http://www.cooksontributeb29.com/junichi-ogata-of-the-56th-sentai-capt-fighter-pilot.html

56th Sentai Ki-61 warming up on ground, at: http://www.asisbiz.com/il2/Ki-61/Kawasaki-Ki-61/pages/Kawasaki-Ki-61-Hien-56th-Sentai-allied-code-name-Tony-01.html

Hasegawa 1/48 Ki-61-I Tei 56th Sentai box art, at: http://www.hasegawausa.com/product-pages/hsgs7366.html

Mustangs lead by B-29 at: http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/chat/3229955/posts?q=1&;page=51

Memorial to Nakamura Junichi, at: http://mokehana.web.fc2.com/e-photo-hien.htm

Postwar view of Ki-61-II Kai, at: http://forum.axishistory.com/viewtopic.php?f=65&t=172282&start=135

Bukosho picture, at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bukochosho

A B-29 Recollection from Japan

Mr. Okada Kunio was a 7-year-old boy in 1945 as the air war over Japan transpired. A resident of the Shinjuku Ward of Tokyo, he witnessed and survived the devastating fire raid of 10 March 1945. Evacuating to his mother’s hometown of Okazaki City in Aichi Prefecture, southeast of Nagoya, he also witnessed the bailout and the capture of a P-51 Mustang pilot, and remembered the nearby crash of the B-29 The Leading Lady in the village of Sodame north-northeast of Okazaki City.

Many years later, in the Information Age, he decided to create a website to investigate his juvenile memories of these events and these men, downed aircrew of a former foe. He touches on a lot of subjects related to the B-29 campaign against Japan, and his investigative efforts have had great results. Okada San’s website is well-worth viewing. See it at:
http://www.sun-inet.or.jp/~ja2tko/eng/eng.b29/b29.html

To Okada San, a heartfelt hand salute, for remembering the events and people of that terrible time, and his desire for peace between nations.

Footage of War

The Japan Broadcasting Corporation, Nippon Hōsō Kyōkai (NHK), has preserved and made available some wartime propaganda film footage of the B-29 campaign.

Logo of the Japan Broadcasting Corporation
Logo of the Japan Broadcasting Corporation

At the link below are film of high-flying B-29’s stream contrails behind them, and of the wrecks for a couple of downed B-29 aircraft, including a B-29 in the Tokyo area circa 9 January 1945 and The Leading Lady, downed near Nagoya 3 January 1945, mentioned in yesterday’s posting “Hit the Road, Jack!”

http://cgi2.nhk.or.jp/shogenarchives/jpnews/movie.cgi?das_id=D0001300370_00000&seg_number=002

If the link does not automatically commence viewing the film of the B-29’s, select the second of three film clips shown.

The third film clip is worth viewing also for those interested in the air war over Japan, as it shows Imperial Japanese Army Air Force fighter pilots and their Ki-61 Hien (Allied codename TONY) and Ki-44 Shoki (Allied codename TOJO) aircraft.

Although this web log writer does not know where this film was taken at, it is worth noting that both Ki-61 and Ki-44 fighters were used in the air defense of Osaka during the war. For example, Ki-61 Hien were based at Itami Airfield with the 56th Sentai, and Ki-44 Shoki flew with the 246th Sentai at Taisho Airfield.

Hat tip to Shinpachi, from Osaka, at WW2aircraft.net and discussion thread at:  http://www.ww2aircraft.net/forum/aviation-videos/29-film-sq-22-nearby-nagoya-found-25831.html

References
NHK logo, at: https://insansains.files.wordpress.com/2008/05/nhk_logo.jpg

Hit the Road, Jack!

The responsibility for air defense of Osaka and the surrounding region, including Nagoya, during the late war period belonged to the IJAAF’s 11th Air Division, headquartered at Taisho Airfield (aka Hanshin, or Yao Airport today) near Osaka, commanded by Lieutenant General Kitajima Kumao. Although the Army directed homeland air defense and routinely conducted operations with its own single and twin-engine fighters, there were occasions and locations where the IJN AF contributed to the mission with their single and twin-engine fighter aircraft.

One such Navy unit that helped with the air defense of Osaka was the 332nd Kokutai (Air Group), a fighter unit established in 1944 at Kure Naval Base. On 15 December 1944, the Iwakuni-based 332nd was ordered to “hit the road” with its single engine A6M5 Reisen/Zero (Allied codename ZEKE), J2M (probably J2M3) Raiden (Allied codename JACK) and twin-engine J1N1-S (or –Sa) Gekko (Allied code name IRVING) fighters and help in defending Osaka and the 11th Air Division sector.

B-29 Superfortress very heavy bombers in close formation during a World War II mission.  (Courtesy Albumwar2.com)
B-29 Superfortress very heavy bombers in close formation during a World War II mission. (Courtesy Albumwar2.com)

As B-29 attacks commenced from the Marianas in late 1944, it was clear that the USAAF was trying to destroy Japan’s aircraft production capability. Although Osaka itself was not the home of a major aircraft manufacturer, the Kawanishi Aircraft Company, Limited, maker of many important naval aircraft, was nearby. Kawanishi had four primary production plants, with three for airframes and one for components. Several of Kawanishi’s production and component plant facilities were located in between Osaka and Kobe, such as Naruo (fighter airframe), Konan (seaplane airframe) and Takarazuka (components). The other production plant was northwest of Kobe at Himeji (fighter).

Kawanishi Aircraft Co, aircraft plants near Osaka in World War II.  Also identified are two nearby defending Army airfields at Itami and Taisho.  (Courtesy Shin Meiwa)
Kawanishi Aircraft Co, aircraft plants near Osaka in World War II. Also identified are two nearby defending Army airfields at Itami and Taisho. (Courtesy Shin Meiwa)

One of the aircraft Kawanishi produced at Naruo was the excellent N1K Shiden fighter, Allied codename GEORGE. Naruo was the company’s main production plant and built over half of the initial version of the N1K1 Shiden/GEORGE, making a total of 9 prototype and 520 N1K1-J production aircraft. The newest version of the Shiden, the N1K2 Shiden Kai (Kai = modified) was in production in late 1944, and by the end of the year Naruo had turned out 60 of the aircraft – the IJN eagerly awaited more of the improved aircraft.

A pair of Kawanishi N1K2-J Shiden-kai interceptors beautifully depicted on the boxart of a Hasegawa 1/32 scale model kit.  (Courtesy Hasegawa via Cybermodeller.com)
A pair of Kawanishi N1K2-J Shiden-kai interceptors beautifully depicted on the boxart of a Hasegawa 1/32 scale model kit. (Courtesy Hasegawa via Cybermodeller.com)

Recognizing the danger posed by the B-29 offensive to a prime manufacturer of one of its best naval fighters after B-29 reconnaissance of the Hanshin area (Osaka and Kobe), the IJN ordered the 332nd Kokutai from Iwakuni to Naruo Base (an old horse race track converted to a landing strip) and the IJAAF’s Itami Base in December, 1944. Nine Zero and 11 Raiden fighters under the command of Yamashita went to Naruo whilst the J1N1 Gekko unit deployed to the Army fighter base just north of Osaka at Itami. There they were subordinate to the Army’s 11th Air Division for air defense purposes.

Japanese Military and Naval airfields in the Kinki region of south central Honshu.  Itami does not appear to be indicated in this translated and derived map with data from 1944.  Squadre is a Navy airfield, # is an Army airfield; triangle a civil airfield and a circle a seaplane station.  (Source:  Digest of Japanese Air Bases)
Japanese Military and Naval airfields in the Kinki region of south central Honshu. Itami does not appear to be indicated in this translated and derived map with data from 1944.  A square symbol is a Navy airfield, # is an Army airfield; triangle a civil airfield and a circle a seaplane station. (Source: Digest of Japanese Air Bases)

Action soon followed. On 22 December 1944, 16 Raiden and seven Zero fighters engaged B-29s over Naruo. On this day, the Mitsubishi plant that produced aircraft engines in Nagoya was the main target, and 48 of 78 73rd Bomb Wing Superfortresses dropped bombs through heavy clouds with meager results. Fourteen other B-29’s hit other targets. Three B-29’s were reportedly lost on the mission. One formation of seven B-29’s flew of course well to the west and north of the initial point and missed the target by a wide margin, some 40 miles to the left and 30 miles short.

Chief Petty Officer Ochi, flying a Zero fighter according to one source, a Raiden in another, shot down a B-29 near Nagoya in what was proclaimed as the 332nd’s first aerial victory. He was awarded a bottle of whiskey for his achievement. It is difficult to correlate which B-29 he claimed credit for, as Nagoya was the primary target and MACRs indicate but two B-29 losses that day, on the Nagoya raid. The activity of the other 14 aircraft is unknown to the writer of this web log.

Profile view of a Mitsubishi J2M3 Raiden (Allied code name JACK) by Artist: © Zygmunt Szeremeta, from
Profile view of a Mitsubishi J2M3 Raiden interceptor (Allied code name JACK) by Artist: © Zygmunt Szeremeta, from “Mitsubishi J2M Raiden” by Robert Peczkowski. Published in Poland in 2004 by STRATUS Artur Juszczak, Po. Box 123, 27-600 Sandomierz 1, Poland for Mushroom Model Publications, 36 Ver Road, Redbourn AL3 7PE UK. (c) 2004 Mushroom Model Publications. ISBN 83-916327-7-6. (Courtesy Wings Palette)

42-24733, 497BG, 870BS, A-31. Hamilton crew ditched after being forced down by engine trouble about halfway between Iwo Jima and the Marianas, six of 11 survived. MACR 10902

42-24684, 499BG, 877BS, V-22. Darden Crew of 11 and one passenger. Pilot feathered No. 3 engine after head-on attack by Tony fighter in Nagoya target area, dropped behind and below formation and last seen under attack by other fighters. Aircraft reportedly ditched near rescue submarine in ocean but all aboard were lost. MACR 10889

On 3 January 1945, six Zero and two Raiden interceptors (the JACK was beset with engine reliability problems) battled B-29’s over the Osaka region. On this day, the 73rd Bomb Wing sent 57 B-29’s to hit Nagoya port facilities and urban area with incendiaries in a test of urban area incendiary attack directed by Washington, D.C. Once again Air Group 332 was scrambled and headed over towards Nagoya, as did Itami-based Ki-61 Hien fighters of the Army’s 56th Sentai.

In the following action, Zero night fighter pilot Lieutenant (JG) Mukai Jusaburo shot down one American plane using oblique cannon armament at very short range (likely flying a A6M5d-S—with a 20mm Type 99 cannon mounted just behind the pilot. The J2M3 did not have this capability). Five B-29’s were lost that day, and it is unclear which one Mukai engaged. And again, it is difficult to tell where his engagement actually occurred as the primary effort was again against Nagoya. As a test case for urban incendiary attack, Nagoya raid was “not conclusive.” But it may have given Japanese authorities an unwarranted optimism that their fire-fighting equipment and defensive measures were adequate.

Scale model of 332nd Kokutai A6M5 modified for the night fighter rolw with upward firing 20mm cannon mounted behind the pilot under the rear part of the canopy.  (Courtesy Arawasi.jp)
Scale model of 332nd Kokutai A6M5 modified for the night fighter role with upward firing 20mm cannon mounted behind the pilot under the rear part of the canopy. (Courtesy Arawasi.jp)

42-63418, 497th BG, A-50, “Jumbo, King Of The Show”, with the Clifford crew; five survived ditching – MACR 10901

42-24626, 497th BG, A-42, “Joker’s Wild”; the Lawson crew was lost – MACR 10854

B-29 42-24626, 497th BG, A-42,
B-29 42-24626, 497th BG, A-42, “Jokers Wild” being serviced by ground crew. (Courtesy Army Air Forces.com)

42-24660, 500th BG, Z-48, the Amos crew was lost after ditching – MACR 10899

42-24748, 498th BG, T-42, crashed into mountain peak on Anatahan Island in Marianas on return; the entire Stickney crew was lost – MACR 10853

42-24766, 500th BG, 882BS, Z-22, “The Leading Lady” with the Hurlbutt crew, lost after bombing the target after a collision/ramming by a Ki-61 fighter of the 55th Sentai flown by Lieutenant Shirota Minoru. Of the 11-man crew and one observer aboard there was one survivor, gunner Sgt. Harold T. Hedges. The aircraft crashed on the Japanese mainland about 25 miles south of Nagoya and 20 miles inland on the Ise Peninsula. According to Japanese sources, Shirota’s attack was an intentional ramming; he bailed out but succumbed to his injuries the next day. MACR 10905.

Crew of B-29 500th BG, 882BS, Z-22,
Crew of B-29 500th BG, 882BS, Z-22, “The Leading Lady” (Source: “Recollection of B-29” website, see the site at link below for a full caption listing all crew member names pictured)

Eleven days later, on 14 January 1945, the 73rd Bomb Wing was back at Nagoya again, to hit Target No. 194, the Mitsubishi aircraft assembly factory. Some 40 of 73 B-29’s dispatched attacked through a heavy undercast, while 23 B-29’s attacked targets of opportunity. LTJG Mukai was in action again, claiming one aircraft (a probable) before he was hit and crashed. Mukai survived, injured. 332nd Raiden pilots claimed five B-29’s damaged; it’s not clear if Mukai’s claim is one of these five. XXI Bomber Command listed five B-29 losses on the mission.

42-24647, 499BG, 878BS, V-22, “Hasta Luego” was damaged by enemy forces (fighter or anti-aircraft) in attack against Nagoya. Aircraft fuel transfer system was damaged and ship could not return to base, and ended up ditching in the ocean 150 miles from the Marianas; of the 11-man Mellen crew, six survived to be picked up by a Navy destroyer the next day. MACR 11222

42-24807, 497BG, 870BS, A-26, Aircraft hit by enemy anti-aircraft fire and one engine feathered. Last contact by radio indicated another engine failure before aircraft ditched west of Sofu Gan, about 400 miles due south of Tokyo. Schramm crew of 11 men was lost. MACR 11223

42-24595, 497BG, 869BS, A-2, “Pacific Union” had fire in No. 3 engine on way to target. Others noticed two engines on fire when acft at low altitude; jettisoned bomb load and aircraft was damaged further; center section exploded before aircraft hit the water. Plane crashed into the sea with further fires. Of 11-member Cox crew, four survived to be picked up by Navy. MACR 11221

B-29 42-24595, 497BG, 869BS, A-2,
B-29 42-24595, 497BG, 869BS, A-2, “Pacific Union” is pictured at homebase on Saipan, to the right. Her name was a play on the Union Pacific railroad and logo. (Source: US Army via Fold3)

42-24763, 498BG, 874BS, T-34, “Geisha Gertie” between Initial Point and target at Nagoya, two engines seen smoking after attack by enemy fighters. Last position reported some 200 miles south of Tokyo, 100 miles east of Hachijo-shima and likely ditched; the entire 11-man Baumann crew was lost. MACR 11219

B-29 of the 498BG, 874BS, T-34,
B-29 of the 498BG, 874BS, T-34, “Geisha Gertie.” (Courtesy flgrube1.tripod.com)

42-24609, 498BG, T-21, “Lassie Come Home” with the Lt. Wagner Dick crew. A fighter set an engine afire which burned for 15 minutes. Other fighter attacks raked the fuselage from one end to the other, wounded three of the crew were wounded, shot out the radio and oxygen system out and started a fire in the center section of the plane. A malfunctioning No. 4 engine added to their woes. Despite the extensive damage the aircraft made it back to Saipan but was written off after mission and never flew again. Her survival was in part credited to her carrying a bottle of Canadian Club whiskey on board which survived the fateful mission but not the celebration after return.

B-29 42-24609, 498BG, T-21,
B-29 42-24609, 498BG, T-21, “Lassie Come Home” flew as good as her name on her last wartime mission. (Courtesy pbs.twimg.com)

When Osaka was firebombed on the night of 13/14 March 1945, five 332nd Air Group J1N1 Gekko fighters were launched from Itami to fight the bombers, without success. Two aircraft did not return from the mission and a third Gekko was struck by “friendly” anti-aircraft fire and make a forced-landing. One B-29 was lost that night, 499BG, 878BS B-29 42-24754 with the nine-member Ellingston crew. A Japanese source credited the B-29 to Ki-61 pilot M/Sgt Sumi Tadao of the 56th Sentai at Itami, while another source indicates it was lost to anti-aircraft fire.

IJN J1N1 Gekko nightfighter depicted in wartime skies in box art for Fujimi 1/72 scale model.  (Courtesy Scalemates.com)
IJN J1N1 Gekko nightfighter depicted in wartime skies in box art for Fujimi 1/72 scale model. (Courtesy Scalemates.com)

Air Group 332 continued operations in the area but did not achieve any further significant results. By the spring of 1945, as the Okinawa campaign took place, the 322nd was redeployed south to Kanoya, Kyushu to help defend kamikaze airfields against B-29 attack as the very heavy bombers were diverted to support Okinawa operations. The aircraft departed Naruo and Itami between 23-25 May 1945 and thus concluded the 332nd Kokutai’s role in the air defense of Osaka.

References

B-29 Missions December 1944, at: http://b-29.org/americas-war/americas-war1.html

B-29 Missions, January 1945, at: http://b-29.org/americas-war/americas-war2.html

And B-29 missions at: http://www.mansell.com/pow_resources/camplists/fukuoka/fuk_01_fukuoka/fukuoka_01/ASAFHist.html

22 December 1944 B-29 losses, at: http://www.aviationarchaeology.com/src/MACRmonthly/44DecMACR.htm

03 January and 14 January B-29 losses, at: http://www.aviationarchaeology.com/src/MACRmonthly/45JanMACR.htm

Ikuhiko Hata, Yashuho Izawa, Christopher Shores. Japanese Naval Fighter Aces: 1932-45, Stackpole Books, Mechanicsburg, PA, 2013

Ikuhiko Hata, Yashuho Izawa, translated by Don Cyril Gorham. Japanese Naval Aces and Fighter Units in World War II, Naval Institute Press, Annapolis, MD 1989

Birdsall, Steve, Saga of the Superfortress: The Dramatic Story of the B-29 and the Twentieth Air Force. Doubleday & Co., Garden City, NY, 1980.

Takaki, Kioji and Sakaida, Henry. B-29 Hunters of the JAAF. Osprey Publishing, Oxford, UK, 2001.

Digest of Japanese Air Bases, Special Translation Number 65, CINCPAC-CINCPOA Bulletin No. 112-45, 12 May 1945, dated October 1944, captured on Okinawa circa April 1945 and translated.

Shin Meiwa (ex-Kawanishi Aircraft Co., Ltd.) company brochure, 1954

Images

B-29 formation picture at: http://albumwar2.com/american-b-29-bombers-in-flight-in-close-formation/

N1K2-J Shiden Kai artwork at: http://www.cybermodeler.com/hobby/kits/has/kit_has_08236.shtml

332 Kokutai J2M3 artwork, at: http://wp.scn.ru/en/ww2/f/1043/65/1

332 Kokutai 1/72 scale A6M5 Night fighter model at: http://www.arawasi.jp/modelgallery/zero1.html#02

Jokers Wild pic at http://www.armyairforces.com/Bud-Sprenger-B29-Nose-Art-m57683.aspx

Leading Lady picture, at: http://www.sun-inet.or.jp/~ja2tko/eng/eng.b29/b29no5.html

Pacific Union picture from Fold3

Geisha Gertie picture at: http://flgrube1.tripod.com/noseart/Geisha_Gertie_42-24763_498-874_T-34.jpg

Lassie Come Home image at: https://pbs.twimg.com/media/BcJPk00CYAAJ5iO.jpg

J1N1 Gekko artwork, at: https://www.scalemates.com/kits/138488-fujimi-h-7-nakajima-j1n3-model-23-gekko