Wednesday, 3 April 2019

Genda Minoru Interview pt. 2

Q: Was the reason for the defeat in Midway the fact that the enemy attacked before the planes were able to take off from the carriers?
A: The biggest reason for the defeat in Midway was that the Americans knew beforehand the moves of our ships.
Q: How did they know that? Something to do with the radio messages? 
A: I don't know if they had stolen our secret codes. Everyone in Japan knew we were going to Midway. The security was not that tight as was during the Pearl Harbor attack. Maybe spies were also at work but in any case they knew about it. They knew exactly our departure and our destination. Another reason was two mistakes I did. First, at that time we had only four carriers. During Pearl Harbor we had six. One carrier from the 5th Koku Sentai was damaged during the battle of the Coral Sea and did not make it for the Midway Operation. So the 5th Koku Sentai was not included. We should have gone to Midway at full strength. But this is not my mistake, it's Japan's mistake. After the Indian Ocean operation many experienced pilots were rotated back to homeland to become instructors. So, in their place new pilots had arrived. Among them there were ofcourse very skillful pilots but in general they were of lower skill and experience. Also, the number of aircraft that took part was lower. I didn't want to further lower the number of aircraft that were to participate in the attack so I sent out fewer aircraft on patrol missions before the battle. In retrospect, I should have sent more aircraft on patrol. That was my mistake.
In the first half of the Battle of Midway Japan was winning. Almost all the US fighters flying over the island were shot down and the island airfield was also attacked. Almost all the US aircraft that approached our fleet were also shot down. In the middle of this aerial battle, the aircraft that had attacked Midway returned to the carriers and it took time to pick them up. Around that time we found out there were enemy carriers. The initial information was that there were about ten enemy ships. I wondered "what's going on?" and I sent a reconnaissance plane to confirm that there were carriers among them. If I knew there were carriers among the enemy force, I would order our own attack planes to take off. But it took 20-30 minutes before we received a clear report. I also considered that the planes returning from Midway would not have enough fuel. But actually there were indeed planes with little fuel but also with enough. I couldn't ofcourse order these planes to land in the sea to be rescued by the destroyers and the carriers were already moving. In general it is difficult to help planes that have made emergency landing at sea. Everybody knew that. So all the planes returning from Midway were picked by their carriers. That was a big mistake. It's a war and I shouldn't have shown weakness and too much consideration at that point [he means that in order to win such a critical battle he shouldn't have been so considerate of casualties].
Q: Were you attacked by the enemy torpedo bombers when your own aircraft were returning from Midway?
A: All the planes returned to their carriers. When they were preparing to take off again, the enemy arrived. Dozens of enemy torpedo bombers attacked but almost all of them were shot down. Level bombing aircraft are not really a threat so I thought we were okay. The pilots back from Midway told me "it's a hard battle, right?" but I told them "it's okay". So everybody thought we were okay. At around that time a big enemy formation came our way and when we took notice of them they were flying at less than 3000 meters, so there was nothing we could do.
Q: There was no time even if messages were sent out from the carriers?
A: no there is no time. At that time our radios was not good at all. So, they did us without any protection [pun, from Genda, intended]. At first they didn't hit us so I thought we were okay but then they started scoring hits. Carriers are generally weak against bombs and at that time our carriers were really weak.
I hope you found these extracts interesting. Genda continues in the interview to talk mostly about the Koku Jietai he was Chief of Staff of. Unfortunately the reporters don't know how to ask them about the 343Ku so there is nothing about this subject. More interviews coming up!


Gunner Garidel said...

Thanks for publishing this. It was a very inciteful and interesting interview. I read the books about Saburo Sakai [RIP] years ago in my twenties. I recall Sakai's comments about Genda, so it was gratifying to read Genda's [RIP] comments about Pearl Harbor and Midway. Clearly an intelligent and professional officer.

Dudley Garidel
Baton Rouge, LA

George Bryant said...

I enjoy the perspective and experiences the Japanese pilots encountered. Thanks for offering this info.

D. Chouinard said...

The fact that Genda cared about those casualties does him credit.
A very interesting interview. Thank you for posting this!

Harold K said...

Thanks for this, George.
The twists and turns of war (and life) can be amazing. During the Pacific War Genda was one of the Allies' greatest adversaries. Fast forward 10 or 15 years and as commander of the JASDF he had become a valued Cold War ally. Awarded the US Legion of Merit, on his retirement IIRC.