Friday 8 November 2019

CINCPAC - CINCPOA Translations - Nakajima B6N "Tenzan" (Jill), 131 Kokutai pt.1

Today's post is a follow-up of the excellent "Jill" photos of the 131Ku. It's an interrogation report of a Japanese POW, a "Jill" pilot of the 131Ku that gives a lot of interesting information about the unit but also technical details of the aircraft, the methods used for torpedo attacks and the training of the pilots. The POW was captured on April 1, 1945 off Okinawa and we chose not to include his name  or other personal information. 


Information in this detailed report is confined principally to three subjects: Naval Air Order of Battle, air training, and the performance of JILL 12.
POW was a pilot attached to K-256th Flying Unit (HIKOTAI), 131st Air Group (KOKUTAI). His information on the history, strength, personnel, and organization of this outfit, as well as of other Units and Air Groups, is detailed and, as far as it could be checked from other sources, accurate.
The various stages of POW's training as a pilot are considered here at some length. Certain grave deficiencies are apparent. His instruction lacked diversity, he had very few flying hours according to our standards, he had no knowledge whatever of radio navigation aids (he depended entirely on his navigator for navigation and instrument orientation), and his training in instrument flying and night flying was cursory at best.
Finally, POW gave considerable information on the performance of JILL 12. It was his opinion that performance figures in TAIC MANUAL NUMBER 1, JAPANESE AIRCRAFT, PERFORMANCE AND CHARACTERISTICS, are generally too high. 

Aug  -  Volunteered as reserve flying cadet at TOKYO. 
13 Sept  -  Entered MIE Air Group for pre-flight training. 
4 Jan  -  Transferred with 400 other cadets to TAKAO Air Group.
10-11 Jan  -  Boarded CHOHAKUSAN MARU and left MOJI in convoy of about nine vessels including two DDs. One SS contact en route, but convoy not attacked. POW heard SS was depth-charged without observed results.
17 Jan  -  Arrived TAKAO; reported to OKAYAMA (TAKAO) Airfield and entered TAKAO Air Group. Took elementary flight training in Type 93 training plane.
30 April (approx)  -  Completed elementary flight training and transferred to TAINAN Air Group with about 400 cadets from TAKAO. Took combat-plane training in Type 97 TB KATE.
30 June  -  Commissioned Ensign.
28 Aug  -  Transferred to USA Air Group as flight instructor in KATE.
Late Dec  -  Transferred to K-256th Flying Unit (HIKOTAI), a JILL 12 outfit in the 131st Air Group at KATORI Airfield. 
29 March  -  Left KATORI with about 20 JILL 12 from K-256th HIKOTAI, arriving KUSHIRA Airfield, KYUSHU.
31 March  -  Left KUSHIRA Airfield on his first war mission at about 2230 ITEM in JILL 12 on torpedo attack mission against US trapsports off OKINAWA. About 25 JILL 12 were to participate, but all were to proceed and attack independently. Planes left from 2100 on.
1 April  -  Reached US transport area about 0130, launched torpedo at transport without observed results. Crashed. Captured.

When POW launched his torpedo, he was at an altitude of about 50 meters (164 ft). Flying low, he turned right to avoid one or more US night-fighters, possibly P-61, coming in from his left. As he came out of the turn, still very low, he kept his eyes on the US planes. This moment of inattention to his altitude apparently caused the crash. The radioman was lost, but the plane captain-navigator and POW were rescued by a US DD.
POW was not on a suicide mission.


131st Air Group 
POW joined the K-256th Flying Unit (HIKOTAI) of this Air Group at the and of Dec 1944 or early Jan 1945 at KATORI Airfield, remaining at this field until 29 March 1945. The Air Group was composed of the following units:

K-256th HIKOTAI 
A JILL 12 outfit. The HIKOTAI flight personnel were made up of about 60 pilots, 60 navigator-bombardiers, and 60 radio operators. As of the end of March 1945, the plane complement was about 35 JILL 12, scheduled complement about 50 JILL 12. This included at most five reserve planes, with a scheduled reserve of about 10. Maintenance personnel complement was about 100.
The outfit was organized at KATORI in early Jan 1945 with new planes. Officer flight personnel, about 25, had for the most part been instructors after finishing combat-plane training. Including POW, three officer pilots, former instructors, had come from USA. Most of the flight personnel had come straight from training Air Groups (combat-plane training).
The unit was scheduled to move to KUSHIRA Airfield, KYUSHU, at the end of March 1945, but by 31 March only about 20 planes had arrived there. Maintenance personnel had not been sent at this date, but POW thought they would probably be sent to KUSHIRA. The CO of the 131st Air Group also moved to KUSHIRA with the K-256th HIKOTAI. His staff did not come; he went merely to look after the HIKOTAI. 
Combat organization was five Divs (CHUTAI) of two Secs (SHOTAI) each, four planes per SHOTAI. A KUTAI consisted of two planes; there were two KUTAI per SHOTAI.

A radial-engince JUDY outfit formed at KATORI at the same time as K-256th HIKOTAI. Plane strength aggregated about 50 but included about five GRACE. Flight personnel numbered about 60 pilots and the same number of crewmen. The number of maintenance personnel was unknown. As of 29 March the unit was still undergoing training at KATORI.

Unidentified Fighter HIKOTAI  
Scheduled to join 131st Air Group at KATORI, but had not arrived by 29 March.

Maintenance BUNTAI
 About two attached to 131st Air Group; separate from HIKOTAI maintenance outfits. 


MIE Air Group
POW entered this Air Group 13 Sept 1943 for pre-flight training as a reserve cadet (YOBIGAKUSEI); he remained in the Air Group until 4 Jan 1944. Student personnel numbered about 2,500 reserve cadets who entered with POW in 12 BUNTAI and about 2,000 enlisted trainees (RENSHUSEI). There were about 1,000 permanent personnel. No new classes came while POW was there. 
POW estimated that about 40% of the reserve cadets were to become pilots and, except for a few trainees for ground administrative jobs (perhaps 3%), the rest were to become navigator-bombardiers. Men were chosen by a physical and mental fitness examination shortly after arrival, for those duties. Enlisted trainees were to become pilots and air crewmen, percentages not known. When POW graduated, about 400 cadets including POW were sent to TAKAO Air Group for elementary flight training. Other MIE cadets went to SUZUKA, OI, CH'ING-TAO (TSINGTAO) and HIMEJI Air Groups, numbers sent to each unknown.
POW had heard that there was a detachment (BUNKENTAI) of the MIE Air Group known as the NARA detachment which was quartered in an old temple presumably in NARA. According to hearsay, the detachment was composed of enlisted trainees undergoing pre-flight training.
The MIE Air Group was located just NW of KARASU-MACHI, ICHISHI (ISSHI)-GUN, MIE Prefecture, as shown in the sketch below. The barracks area lay to the north with a drill ground in the south part of the designated area.
Barracks construction was still going on at the Air Group in early Jan 1944. POW estimated the facilities to be about 70% complete at that time.

TAKAO Air Group
POW was attached to this Air Group at OKAYAMA (TAKAO) airfield from 17 Jan 1944 to 30 April 1944, taking elementary flight training in Type 93 training plane. About 400 cadets who came with POW from MIE composed the student personnel. Permanent personnel numbered about 600, including about 300 maintenance men and 100 instructors. Of the latter, about 12 were warrant officers and about ten were officers, the rest being enlisted personnel. Plane complement was about 150 Type 93 Trainers. About 20 planes were assigned to each of the first four BUNTAI and the remainder were reserve. The first four BUNTAI comprised the cadets and flight instructors and constituted four HIKOBU for purposes of tactical organization. The lst and 2nd HIKOBU trained together, as did the 3rd and 4th, but two HIKOBU were not termed a HIKOTAI. The 11th and 12th BUNTAI were maintenance personnel, intermediate BUNTAI unknown.
There were no new classes entering TAKAO while POW was there. There had been enlisted trainees there, POW had heard, but they had gone before POW's group arrived and were not replaced by other enlisted trainees while POW was at the field.
P0W had heard that a gunnery school under this Air Group was in the vicinity of TAIKOZAN Mt, FORMOSA. 

MITA Detachment of U/I Air Group
Stationed at OKAYAMA (TAKAO) Airfield early 1943. A combat-plane training outfit for enlisted air-crewmen. Used NELLs. Facilities at Airfield separate from those of TAKAO Air Group and near south corner of field. 

TAICHU Air Group 
Heard to have been a Type 93 Trainer elementary flight training unit stationed near TAICHU, FORMOSA.

TAINAN Air Group 
POW was transferred to this Air Group on 30 April 1944 and remained there until 28 Aug 1944. The Air Group was a combat plane training unit with about 50 KATEs and approximately the same number of VALs. Student personnel comprised about 400 cadets from TAKAO, originally from MIE,
who had accompanied POW on his training course, plus about 200 enlisted air-crew trainees. The TAINAN Airfield was only a training field at the time POW was there. About half the students trained in VALs and about half in KATEs. Organization was standard. Four BUNTAI were composed of flight personnel, student and instructor, and two of maintenance men. Permanent personnel totalled about 1,600, including about 400 maintenance personnel. The Air Group was stationed at TAINAN Airfield. Pilots who completed training here with POW were sent, among other placos, to LUZON, OKINAWA, and SUZUKA.

USA Air Group
POW was transferred to this Air Group on 28 Aug 1944 and remained there as a flight instructor in KATE until the end of Dec 1944. Plane complement was about 50 KATEs and perhaps the same number of VALs. Trainees, all taking combat-plane pilot training, totalled about 70 reserve cadets, 70 regular cadets, and about 100 enlisted men. The reserve cadets, POW thought, had come from the TSUIKI Air Group, where they had had elementary flight training; they, had had pre-flight training at YOKOSUKA. Regulars were graduates of the Naval College. Permanent personnel numbered about 400, including about 20 instructors.

601st Air Group
While POW was at KATORI Airfield from early Jan 1945 to 29 March 1945, the 601st Air Group was stationed there. To the best of his knowledge, it then had only 20 ZERO 52 and functioned as permanent fighter guard for the field. 

KATORI Air Group
A maintenance training Air Group. 

K-254th HIKOTAI 
A JILL outfit organized at KATORI in early March 1945. At KATORI it had about 10 planes. Left KATORI for KUSHIRA Airfie1d about 8 March. When POW reached KUSHIRA on 29 March, K-254th HIKOTAI had about 20 planes, but POW estimated that it was scheduled to have about 50.

K-251st HIKOTAI 
A JILL 12 unit stationed at KUSHIRA with about 50 planes, about 20 of which took part in attacks against US shipping off OKINAWA. POW thought that this HIKOTAI belonged to the 701st Air Group, the Air Group possibly being based at KANOYA.

K-210th HIKOTAI (?) 
A JILL 12 Unit, part of which arrived at KUSHIRA on 29 March 1945, reputedly from the MEIJI Air Base in the NAGOYA area. (IN: POW was fairly certain of his identification; but as the 210th Air Group is known to have been based at MEIJI, it is possible that he confused the Air Group or a detachment from it with the HIKOTAI.)

Reported to be a JUDY outfit; location and further details unknown. As far as POW knew, it was not at either KATORI or KUSHIRA while POW was at these fields.

Heard that it was a training Air Group for maintenance nen. 

Combined Training Air Groups
POE believed that there were seven, numbered 12 through 19 but omitting 14. He said that TAKAO, TAINAN, SHINCHIKU, and TAICHU were in the same combined Air Group, possibly the 12th, Hq at TAINAN. TSUCHIUKA and MIE Air Groups, he thought, were in the 19th. Others unidentified. (IN: POW was not certain of designations of Combined Training Groups. What he called 12th appears to be the 14th.)

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