Sunday, 9 October 2016

Mitsubishi G4M "Betty" - Milne Bay - Video

The previous video from the NHK collection we uploaded was dated May 25, 1943 and featured Mitsubishi G4M1 "Rikko" (Betty) participating in the "Operation I-Go". Today's clip, dated May 11, 1943, details the bombing attack on Milne Bay that took place on April 14, 1943. According to the narration the IJNAF Air Bomber Units sunk 11 transports and shot down more than 50 enemy aircraft and as a result "the enemy base is under the control of the Japanese Navy". Total war propaganda BS ofcourse but let's see what actually happened on that day from various sources.
First of all on-line sources in English don't agree on the number of Japanese aircraft that took part in the attack. 
Pacific Wrecks, here, mentions very little:
April 14, 1943
(IJN) Aproximatly 100 Japanese aircraft (another account reports 40 bombers and 30 Zeros) attack No. 3 Strip (Turnbull) near Milne Bay. The Allies claim two bombers, two dive bombers and two zeros destroyed, for the loss of one P-40, 2 crash landed and four damaged.
Wikipedia in the I-Go entry mentions:
On 14 April 1943, the Japanese launched an attack against Milne Bay with 188 aircraft. Twenty-four Curtiss Kittyhawk Mk 1As intercepted the attacking force, resulting in seven Japanese and three Allied aircraft shot down. The Dutch cargo ship Van Heemskerk was hit by several bombs, which set it ablaze and was beached. The British cargo ship Gorgon also suffered a number of hits by bombs and was set on fire, however these were later extinguished. Near misses damaged the Dutch cargo ship Van Outhoorn and the Australian minesweepers HMAS Wagga and Kapunda. Four Allied servicemen and 12 merchant seaman were killed in the air raid, with 68 injured.
This page has an excellent account of the attack from the Allied side.
The usually extremely reliable Japanese Wikipedia puts everything in order from the Japanese side and mentions that there were two forces with two targets, Milne Bay and "Rabi airfield" which Pacific Wrecks identify as Turnbull Airfield.
Y1 Force included land-based units split into:
A) Attack: 26 "Betty" bombers from the 705Ku with 11 "Betty" from the 751Ku,
B) Escort: 21 Zero fighters from the 204Ku with 17 Zero from the 253Ku and 18 Zero from the 582Ku.
Y2 Force included carrier-based units split into:
A) Air Cover: Zuikaku Unit contributed 23 Zero and the Zuiho Unit 15 Zero,
B) Attack: Hiyo Unit with 12 Type 99 Dive Bombers or Aichi D3A "Val" and Junyo Unit with 11 "Val",
C) Escort: Hiyo Unit had 20 Zero and Junyo Unit 17 Zero.
The "Betty" units attacked Milne Bay and Rabi East airfield from 11:35 until 11:50.
751Ku attacked ships at Milne Bay but hit no targets.
705Ku was intercepted by enemy fighters over Milne Bay and instead attacked Rabi Airfield.
The Carrier Bomber units of Junyo and Hiyo attacked successfully ships in the Milne Bay and returned to their ships around 15:00.
Japanese losses were: ZeroX4, "Val"X3, "Betty"X4
According to the fabulous book "1shiki Rikko Senshi" (War History of Type 1 Field Attacker) by Sato Nobuhiko, published by Kojinsha, on April 14, 26 aircraft from the 705Ku commanded by the newly arrived LtCom Miyauchi took off at 08:55 from Vunakanau Airfield. They were accompanied by 17 aircraft from the 751Ku, escorted by 56 Zero-sen and arrived at 11:20 over Milne Bay. They were intercepted by about 40 P-40, P-39 and P-38, broke formation and picked targets at random. The loses were three aircraft with 22 crew members dead, three seriously and one lightly injured. Enemy loses were 29 fighter aircraft shot down, four transports sunk, four ships damaged and the airfield installations were seriously damaged.
The 705Ku "Betty" bombers returned to Vunakanau at 14:15. 
Apparently the Japanese sources do not agree on the number of "Betty" bombers from the 751Ku that participated in the attack. An on-line 751Ku history mentions 18 "Betty" that took-off from Kawieng.
Osprey's "Mitsubishi Type 1 Rikko "Betty" Units  of World War 2" offers a few more details about the "Betty" units on that day and mentions that the a/c from the 705Ku were 26 and the a/c from the 751 were 17.
The "Betty" bombers in the video belong to the 705Ku. Note the brilliant part where the waist machine gunners and the tail gunner handling the 20mm cannon are shown.

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