Tuesday 25 October 2022

Mitsubishi J2M "Raiden" - "Tatsumaki" Unit pt.4b

On April 29, the B-29s attacked the following airfields:
Mission 120 - Miyazaki
Mission 121 - Miyakonojo
Mission 122 - Kokubu
Mission 123 - Kanoya East
Mission 124 - Kanoya
Mission 125 - Kushira

The "Tactical Mission Report" mentions:

"D. Missions No. 120 through 125 (29 April 1945):

 1. A total of 89 enemy aircraft intercepted the 3-Wing attack on Kyushu airfields on 29 April 1945. The enemy made 138 attacks, destroying 2 B-29's and damaging 4 others. B-29 claims against enemy aircraft were 22 destroyed, 10 probably destroyed, and 16 damaged. 
2. Time of bombing extended from 2205Z to 2355Z, an hour and fifty minutes, permitting numerous fighters to intercept more than 1 formation of B-29's. 
3. Units bombing Kokubu met the heaviest opposition. One B-29 may have been lost due, to air-to-air bombing. 
4. The enemy used the sun in making many of his attacks. He made approximately the same number from high, level, and low and seemed to favor frontal and rear approaches. Approximately 83 per cent of the attacks occurred over the target area and to land's end. Most of the attacks were made by Zekes, Tojos, Tonys and Jacks. Following is the breakdown of attacks by type
Enemy Aircraft          No. Attacks          Per Cent
Zeke                          57                         41
Tojo                           34                         25
Tony                          19                         14
Jack                           13                           9
Oscar                          6                            4
Unidentified               4                            3
Hamp                          2)
George                        2)                          4
Irving                          1)
TOTAL                     138                        100

5. On the following page is a chart showing direction and level of approach of enemy aircraft attacking B-29 formations. 

6. Miyazaki (Mission No. 120): No fighter opposition was encountered on this mission. 

7. Miyakonojo (Mission No, 121)
a. The 2 formations involved passed over the target 2 minutes apart. A total of 35 attacks was sustained by both formations which were flying rather loose. This undoubtedly contributed to the concentration of attacks reported. The enemy is believed to have received early warning of the approach of the formations. Both formations observed 2 Bettys circling over the assembly point at 19,000 ft. Furthermore, E/A which had been following a departing B-29 observed the approach of our bombers.
b. The first formation over the target received a total of 26 attacks, 2 from the IP to the target and with the heaviest concentration just after bombs away, diminishing to 6 attacks after land's end. The second formation received a total of 9 attacks, 1 just before bombs away with the remainder sustained shortly after that time.
c. The majority of the attacks were pursuit curves with some fly-through attacks. The pursuit curves were poorly executed in that the fighters seemed unable to track smoothly and were continually pulling up the nose, thereby producing inaccurate fire and diminishing the number of bursts. 
d. Other than air-to-air bombing attacks, only 1 coordinated attack was reported. Five Tonys flying line-abreast mod staggered slightly came in from 7 o'clock level, pressing to about 900 yards and then dropping back toward 6 o'clock.
e. The breakaways on the nose cone attacks consisted primarily of a sharp dive with a roll, whereas breakaways from the side and tail cone were generally tight diving turns and split-S's. 
f. Several high overhead attacks originated out of the sun. 
g. Some crew members reported enemy aircraft firing 12.7-mm and 20-mm projectiles. 
h. Two B-29's from the lead formation were reported lost to enemy fighter action. One crew reported that one of these was struck above the radar compartment with a bomb believed to have been dropped by an enemy aircraft, although they were unable to see from where it came. When the explosion occurred, it apparently blew open the bomb bay doors and what appeared to be an oxygen bottle fell out. The B-29 crashed in the target area. Approximately 25 phosphorous bomb bursts were observed 500 feet to 1000 feet above the lead formation from the target area to land's end. A Tojo or Tony dove from 2000 feet above, released a bomb, and then zoomed out of the way with the burst falling short. One crew reported three Tojos coming in from 11 o'clock high, pulling up sharply, and releasing phosphorous bombs about 2000 feet above. They burst approximately 1000 feet over the formation at 15,000 feet over the target area. The bombs were reported as having whitish-yellow sttreamers. 

8. Kokubu (Mission No. 122):
a. The first formation was intercepted immediately after bombs away and was attacked by from 40 to 50 single-engine enemy aircraft with phosphorous bombs, machine-gun, and cannon fire for about 15 minutes. Enemy aircraft approached from high, perhaps 5000 to 7000 feet above the formation, out of the sun. Phosphorous bombs were hurled into the formation as the E/A broke away turning up their bellies. The phosphorous bombs were launched from 200 to 500 yards out at from 9 to 3 o'clock, slightly high, level, and low. The aircraft often recovered and pressed in closer with machine-gun and cannon fire. The enemy planes were particularly vulnerable to B-29 fire, since they seemed to hesitate while launching their bombs. Fifteen phosphorous boob bursts were reported in all. Jacks appeared to be dropping bombs. 
b. Four coordinated attacks were reported. A formation of 4 coordinated in phosphorous bombing as described. Three aircraft coordinated in an attack on the tail. Two made sidewheeler attacks from the right side. One E/A performed aerobatics at 3 o'clock while 3 others attacked. There appeared to be a definite effort to distract our gunners by attacking from many angles simultaneously.
c. Breakaways were wing-overs and split S's. A few returned to made pursuit curve attacks.
d. The second formation, 1 minute later, encountered less aggressive opposition in the same region. Eight to ten attacks by single-engine enemy aircraft using the same tactics, were experienced. Thirteen phosphorous bomb bursts were counted.

9. & 10 - see previous post. 

11. Kushira (Mission No. 125): Four enemy fighters identified as Jacks or Zekes, were encountered in the target area. These aircraft did not press attacks. One enemy fighter attacked the second formation and pressed the attack to 500 yards.


Below is a Google composite map showing approximately all the airfields and other place names mentioned in the report and the previous post.

B-29 s/n24611, "Little Jo", was shot down over Miyakonojo and crashed in the sea near "Minaminaka".
B-29 s/n44-61623, "Sally Delle" was shot down over Miyakonojo but the crashing site is not mentioned. 

Sakata claimed to have shot down two B-29s "northeast" of Kanoya, which as a general area falls near Miyakonojo. The other two "Raiden" pilots that could have been involved, were Sasazawa who made an emergency landing at Miyazaki airfield, and Ueno who also attacked B-29s in the Miyakonojo area. 
These three probably attacked the B-29s of Mission 121.

B-29 s/n42-65295, crashed near Kimotsuki, which is to the east of Kanoya. So this bomber either belonged to the B-29s that attacked the Kanoya airfields (Missions 123 & 124) or Kushira (Mission 125). Kawai and Baba from the 302Ku as well as Nakajima, Saito and Watanabe from the 332Ku who operated over Kanoya might have been involved. None of them claimed any B-29s as shot down, though. 

All the rest of the "Raiden" pilots attacked the B-29s that raided Kokubu airfield (Mission 122) and intercepted them either over Sakurajima (Kunimoto 332Ku and Wada 352Ku) or over Kagoshima (Sato 332Ku).

This leaves Kuroda who claimed to have shot down a B-29 which crashed against Mount Takakuma. This bomber too was probably part of the Kokubu Mission, but apart from the mysterious B-29 s/n44-69918, no other bomber looks to be a candidate for Kuroda's kill, area wise.

Lt Ito in a post-War article published in "Maru" magazine, explains that Kanoya was chosen as the "Tatsumaki Butai" base because it was easy for the Japanese fighters to attack the U.S. bombers, as they were flying level at about 5000m at a fairly low speed. During the B-29 raids against Tokyo, the bombers flew at about 9000m with the wind on their back, and at very high speeds, so it was very difficult for the interceptors to catch them. But during the raids against Kyushu, the bombers were coming from Saipan, and if they were flying at high altitudes, they wouldn't have enough fuel to return back to their base.   
Furthermore, the bomber routes were always over Kanoya and the "Raiden" had a good chance to catch them. From the ground, the battle results could be confirmed and if the Japanese pilots needed to bail out, they would fall on friendly land.
The article includes an illustration showing the way the "Raiden" had practiced and attacked the B-29s.

Finally, Ito remembers, about a week after they arrived in Kanoya, an incident when a "CPO" shot down a B-29. On that day, Ito had completed his attack against enemy planes, had landed in Kanoya and was able to observe another "Raiden" executing perfectly the above illustrated maneuver, hitting a B-29 from which white smoke came out, the tail was separated and crashed on a mountain side. About ten parachutes were seen deployed. It was the first and only time he saw a "Raiden" shooting a B-29 this way in one pass.

The above is a very credible eyewitness account of Kuroda's kill that confirms the story. A different veteran manning the radar station in Kanoya, remembers two US crew members brought to the headquarters of the unit before they were taken away as prisoners.
As we saw in the previous post, the only survivor of "Little Jo" B-29 that was taken prisoner by the Japanese, was captured at a completely different location.

In conclusion, I would have to say there is a story here from the US side that hasn't been told properly.  

Saturday 22 October 2022

Mitsubishi J2M "Raiden" - "Tatsumaki" Unit pt.4

The B-29 raids against Kyushu airfields didn't let up and a new one was launched the next day, April 29, 1945.
Only 17 "Raiden" took to the air; ten from the 302Ku, six from the 332Ku and only one from the 352Ku.
On that day, the "Raiden" were flown by:

155 - LTJG Sato Noriyasu
156 - LdgSea Kurosu Rinji(?)
157 - Lt Ito
185 - LTJG Ueno Norio
1164 - PO1c Sasazawa
1180 - LdgSea Sakata
1190 - WO Baba
1193 - CPO Kobayashi Katsuji
1199 - CPO Kawai

Watanabe Yoji mentions that on that day, the second "Raiden" with tail marking 185 flown by LdgSea Kuroda was borrowed from the 332Ku. The "combat reports" do not include the unit tail markings (ヨD-, 32- or 352-) but, as we saw in previous posts, Kuroda flew the same aircraft on April 27 and 28, so it is safe to assume that the second "185" "Raiden" was borrowed or at least flown on an earlier date as well and therefore the tail marking should not be ヨD-185, but 32-185. Small mystery solved.

113 - LdgSea Kunimoto Goro
168 -  LdgSea Yahara Masayoshi
186 - LTJG Sato
187 - LTJG Watanabe ?
190 - LT Nakajima Kohei
195 - CPO Saito Eigoro

32 - LdgSea Wada Rokuro (Mutsuo?)

From the 302Ku, LdgSea Sakata attacked a B-29 formation northeast of Kanoya and claimed to have shot down two bombers but was hit by returning fire and was also shot down and killed.
PO1c Sasazawa damaged three B-29s, was also hit by returning fire and had to make an emergency landing at Miyazaki airfield. His plane caught fire and was badly damaged but he was only lightly injured. 
LTJG Ueno, damaged one B-29, was also hit and had to use the parachute to escape before his plane crashed on the ground. He suffered only light injuries. 
CPO Kawai and WO Baba attacked the B-29 formation over Kanoya and claimed to have damaged one bomber each.

LdgSea Kuroda's "Raiden" was not in optimum condition. Above 5,000 metres, the oil pressure was dropping sharply and he worried the engine might catch fire. He positioned himself at a lower altitude, under the plane of the formation leader, Lt Ito, but, eventually, he got isolated from the other aircraft. Suddenly he received a radio message to assemble over Kanoya and attack nine B-29 in the Kokubu area, flying in a southern direction. His was the only "Raiden" over Kanoya, so he decided to attack the US bombers alone. When he got close to the B-29 formation, he wanted to hit the leading bomber but they were all flying very fast and he opted for the last B-29 instead. He attacked from an altitude of 5,000m, head-on and from above and when he got behind and below the last bomber, he looked up and saw white smoke coming out from between the two engines of the port wing. Soon after, the B-29 nose-dived, the tail broke off, and the whole bomber started spinning crashing at Takakuma Mountain.

From the 332Ku, LTJG Sato attacked the B-29s over Kagoshima, damaged one and saw black smoke coming out of one of them.
LT Nakajima, LTJGs Saito and Watanabe attacked the B-29s over Kanoya with unknown results.
LdgSea Kunimoto attacked a B-29 formation over Sakurajima, and noticed that black smoke started coming out from one but it was quickly put out, so, it's unlikely the bomber received any serious damage.

Finally, from the 352Ku LdgSea Wada also attacked the B-29 formation over Sakurajima but with unknown results.

At the end of the day, three "Raiden" were seriously damaged (i.e. destroyed) and seven more were burned on the ground during the air raid. The "combat report" mentions only the numbers of the 332Ku aircraft that were burned; 168, 187, 189, 186 and 113.
The "Raiden" pilots claimed one bomber shot down, two probables and at least 13 damaged.

According to the "Tactical Mission Report" of the XXI Bomber Command, APO 234, on that day, two raids were conducted, one against Kanoya East airfield, Mission No. 123, and another against Kanoya airfield, Mission No.124. 
Mission 123 was undertaken by 15 B-29s (14 bombed the target) from the 504th Bomber Group of the 313 Bombardment Wing, and Mission 124 by 20 B-29s (18 hit the target) from the 19th and the 330th Bomber Groups of the 314 Bombardment Wing.

The report explains that during Mission 123:
"At least 8 phosphorous bombs were released against the 2 formations, the consensus being that these bombs were released by Tonys coming in above the formation in pairs from the front quarter. One report indicated that 2 phosphorous rockets were fired by an unidentified S/E plane coming in high at 9 o'clock. Rockets were reported as having been released about 100 yards off the left wing of the first formation. No coordinated attacks were reported other than stated above. Most breakaways were low. In many instances the breakaway was toward the second formation for another attack. A great majority of the attacks were from out of the sun. No rammings were reported and the type of E/A fire ranged from 7.7 to 20mm. No evasive action was taken by the aircraft of either formation."

During Mission 124:
"Enemy fighters made 9 attacks on the lead formation. Most of the attacks came from 1 to 5 o'clock, all from below. No enemy fighters pressed an attack closer than 400 yards. Eight enemy fighters attacked the second formation, usually coming in low from 9, 11, and 6 o'clock."

Four bombers were lightly damaged during Mission 123 and none during Mission 124. Mysteriously the report mentions in a note that "1 A/C left formation after fighter attack and was seen to crash. No chutes observed." but it doesn't explain during which mission of that day this happened.

The book "The B-29 Superfortress Chronology 1934-1960" by Robert A. Mann, mentions four B-29s as shot down that day.

During Mission No. 121 against Miyakonojo airfield, B-29 "24611, from the 73rd Bombardment Wing, 498 Bomber Group, "Little Jo". Damaged over target, abandoned, crashed in sea off Hosoda Village, Minaminaka County, Miyazaki Prefecture. Five KIA, one POW. S/Sgt Billy J. Brown captured by Japanese Navy sailors while drifting at sea. Moved to Seibu Army Headquarters and later executed. Five were saved by U.S. Navy submarine."

During the same mission, "42-65295", of the same unit, "Unnamed. Tail code T 12 (3rd), Crashed Karakama, Mobiki Village, Kimotsuki County, Kagoshima Prefecture due to air-to-air bomb."

Again during the same mission against Miyakonojo, "44-61623, 73BW/498BG/873BS, Sally Delle. Tail code T 12/T 16. Shot down over Miyakonojo."

The book under Mission 123 includes the following:
"44-69918, 313BW/504BG, Unnamed. Mission undefined; reported crashed from Shizuoka Airfields."

Wednesday 19 October 2022

Mitsubishi J2M "Raiden" - "Tatsumaki" Unit pt.3

The B-29s returned the next day, April 28, 1945. This time 26 "Raiden" took off, 11 from the 302Ku, nine from the 332Ku and six from the 352Ku.
On that day, the interceptors were flown by:

150 - CPO Kaneda
157 - Lt Ito
158 - CPO Yamakawa had engine trouble and returned to base
185 - LdgSea Kuroda (actually 32-185)
1163 - LTJG Tsukada
1164 - PO1c Sasazawa
1173 - CPO Kobayashi
1180 - LdgSea Sakata
1190 - WO Baba
1193 - PO2c Omine
1197 - LdgSea Oki
1199 - CPO Kawai

160 - LTJG Sato
168 - LdgSea Hara
175 -  LTJG Aizawa
178 - LdgSea Yahara
181 - PO2c Azuma
182 - PO2c Onaka
186 - PO1c Yamura
187 - CPO Matsumoto
190 - WO Ishihara

32 - LdgSea Iwaki
37 - LTJG Aoki
52 - ENS Kaneko
61 -  LTJG Okamoto
62 -  LTJG Yamamoto
67 - ENS Kikuchi

From the 302Ku, PO1c Sasazawa attacked a B-29 formation over Kanoya, hit one bomber and saw it emitting white smoke, while a second bomber was also hit, emitted black smoke and was seen falling out of the formation.
WO Baba claimed the same number of B-29s but was hit by returning fire and was forced to make an emergency landing at Shibushi.  
Lt Ito, CPO Kawai, LdgSea Kuroda and LdgSea Oki, attacked a B-29 formation over Kanoya and claimed to have hit at least one B-29. In all instances, the bombers emitted white smoke and trailed behind their formation. 
LdgSea Sakata, LTJG Tsukada and PO2c Omine, attacked the B-29 formation but with unknown results.

From the 332Ku, WO Ishihara attacked a group of three B-29s over Kanoya and claimed to have damaged two B-29s. LTJG Aizawa also attacked a group of B-29s and saw one emitting black smoke and trailing behind. CPO Matsumoto attacked two B-29s and again saw one of them leaving a trail of black smoke behind. Similarly, PO2c Onaka attacked a B-29 formation and claimed to have damaged one bomber. PO1c Yamura and LdgSea Yahara attacked the B-29 formation but with unknown results.

Finally, from the 352Ku, ENS Kikuchi attacked a B-29 formation over Kanoya and claimed to have damaged one bomber. ENS Kaneko attacked the same bomber formation over Kanoya, but his "Raiden" was hit by enemy return fire. The lubricant oil system was damaged, the engine seized and after gliding was forced to belly land on a rice field. The port wing of the aircraft hit an electricity pole and Kaneko was thrown out of the plane. Thankfully he had removed the bulletproof glass at the top of the canopy, otherwise, he wouldn't have survived the impact. When he regained consciousness he found himself getting carried away on a stretcher as he got seriously injured. He didn't use his parachute because he was absolutely certain that it wouldn't open following a rumour that parachutes that were put together by female volunteers didn't open. 
LTJGs Aoki and Yamamoto as well as LdgSea Iwaki attacked the B-29 formation over Kanoya but with unknown results.

At the end of the day, two "Raiden" were seriously damaged and the "Tatsumaki Butai" pilots claimed to have probably shot down two B-29s, damaged 13 while many enemy planes were seen emitting white smoke. 

According to the "Tactical Mission Report" of the XXI Bomber Command, APO 234, the raid against Kanoya was Mission No.118 and was undertaken by 19 B-29s from the 19th and 12 from the 330th Bomber Groups of the 314 Bombardment Wing.
Four bombers were damaged by Flak and two by enemy aircraft & Flak. One B-29s suffered serious damage and five bombers minor. Only one crew member was injured.

The report mentions:
"a. The fighter opposition against 1 formation was weak, with 2 Zekes attacking a B-29 singly and 2 unidentified single-engine fighters making a coordinated attack against another B-29.
b. Ten attacks were made against the second formation. One fighter made a head-on attack with phosphorous bombs and going through the formation. Four Tojos and 1 unidentified fighter made successive attacks on the formation."

The book "The B-29 Superfortress Chronology 1934-1960" by Robert A. Mann, mentions that 22 B-29s bombed the primary target and that one bomber was lost. 
The details of some of the 19BG B-29s that took part in the mission are also included:

44-69845, Unnamed. Tail code Black Square M 57. K-20 and Scope cameras.
42-93917, City of Memphis/Nip on Ese Nipper. Tail code Black Square M 50. K-20 & K-22 cameras.
44-94028, Unnamed. Tail code Black Square M 55. K-20 camera. 
42-65309, City of Richmond. Tail code Black Square M 43. K-20 & K-22 cameras.
44-69862, Unnamed. Tail code Black Square M 35. K-20 camera.
Serial and name not reported, Tail code Black Square M 50. K-22 cameras.
42-24906, Slick’s Chicks. Tail code Black Square M 42. K-20 & K-22 cameras.
44-69856, City of Buffalo. Tail code Black Square M 53. K-20 & K-22 cameras.
44-70000, Unnamed. Tail code Black Square M 59. K-20 & K-22 cameras.
44-69872, City of Oakland/White’s Cargo. Tail code Black Square M 36. K-20 camera.
Serial number and name not reported, Tail code Black Square M 55. K-20 and Scope cameras.

Friday 14 October 2022

Mitsubishi J2M "Raiden" - "Tatsumaki" Unit pt.2

The all-"Raiden" unit went into battle for the first time on April 27, 1945. 
Following the U.S. landings in Okinawa, the Japanese Army and Navy launched waves of kamikaze attacks from airfields in south Kyushu and the U.S. Forces responded with bombings raids against these airfields.
On April 27, the XXI Bomber Command, targeted the airfields of Izumi,  Kokubu, KushiraMiyakonojo and Miyazaki, all in Kyushu as well as the base of the "Tatsumaki Butai", Kanoya, with no less than 109 B-29s. Below we will examine what the "Raiden" did on that day.
Alerted by radar, 19 "Raiden" took off around 08:00. There were 13 aircraft from the 302Ku, five from the 332Ku and one from the 352Ku.
Below is a list of the aircraft and the pilots that flew them on that day from the unit's "combat report".

ヨD-150 - CPO Kaneda
ヨD-151 - LTJG Ueno
ヨD-157 - LT Ito
ヨD-158 - CPO Yamakawa
ヨD-185 - LdgSea Kuroda
ヨD-1163 - LTJG Tsukada
ヨD-1164 - PO1c Sasazawa
ヨD-1180 - LdgSea Sakata Shigeo
ヨD-1183 - LTJG Katami
ヨD-1190 - WO Baba
ヨD-1193 - CPO Kobayashi
ヨD-1197 - LdgSea Oki
ヨD-1199 - CPO Kawai

32-181 -  LTJG Sato
32-187 - PO2c Dehara
32-189 - CPO Ochi
32-190 - LT Nakajima
32-192 - CPO Saito

352-61 - LTJG Okamoto

From the "Raiden" group, 11 aircraft attacked the B-29s at altitudes between 3000 and 5000 metres. 
At 08:30, Lt Nakajima from the 332Ku attacked a bomber formation of ten aircraft over Kanoya and claimed to have shot down one of them. Two more pilots from the 332Ku, CPOs Saito and Ochi attacked two B-29s over Kasanohara. They witnessed white smoke coming out of both bombers, and saw them breaking away from their formation. 

From the 302Ku, LTJG Ueno engaged a group of 13 B-29s over Shibushi, Kagoshima Prefecture. One of the bombers started releasing white smoke and trailed behind the formation. Then Ueno tried to attack two separate enemy bombers but his guns jammed. He made an emergency landing at Shibushi, and his plane received medium damage.
Two more 302Ku pilots, LTJG Tsukada and CPO Kawai attacked a formation of ten B-29s, damaged one over Kanoya, and saw white smoke coming out of the bomber which trailed behind the formation.
LdgSea Kuroda spotted nine B-29s over Kagoshima harbour and attacked with unknown results.
CPO Kobayashi spotted 13 B-29s and two separate bombers over Kushira and attacked them also with unknown results.
CPO Yamakawa reported that he attacked a formation of 13 B-29s over Kanoya, also with unknown results.
Sakata reported that he spotted a formation of 13 B-29s and two separate bombers over Kanoya, attacked with unknown results.

From the 352Ku, LTJG Okamoto spotted 13 B-29s over Kanoya, attacked with unknown results.   

One pilot from the 302Ku, LTJG Katami had to first jettison the bombs he carried ("Ta-Dan" or Type 99 Type 3 Mk3) in the western area of Kanoya airfield, causing no damage, and then crash landed. The "Raiden" was destroyed and he suffered light injuries.

On that day, the "Tatsumaki Butai" claimed one B-29 confirmed as shot down, two damaged and probably shot down, and two more damaged.
At the end of the day, the unit had 30 "Raiden" operational (a different document mentions 27), while 11 were undergoing maintenance or repairs. 

According to the "Tactical Mission Report" of the XXI Bomber Command, APO 234, the raid against Kanoya was Mission No.112 and was undertaken by 21 B-29s from the 19 (10) and 330 (11) Bomber Groups of the 314 Bombardment Wing; 20 of these bombers released their payload over their target.

The book "The B-29 Superfortress Chronology 1934-1960" by Robert A. Mann, includes details about the 19BG B-29s that took part in the mission:

42-93989, City of Asheville/City of Cincinnati. Tail code Black Square M 52.
44-69815, City of Tulsa. Tail code Black Square M 11 (2nd). K-20 and K-22 cameras mounted.
44-69873, We Dood It. Tail code Black Square M 13. K-20 camera mounted.
44-70103, City of Lincoln/Princess Pat II. Tail code Black Square M 07 (2nd). K-20 and K-22 cameras mounted.
44-69682, City of Flatbush. Tail code Black Square M 49.
44-69678, City of University Park/Sound and Fury. Tail code Black Square M 05. K-20 and K-22 cameras mounted.
42-93913, City of Denver. Tail code Black Square M 03. K-20 and K-22 cameras mounted.
44-69681, City of Austin. Tail code Black Square M 06. K-20 and K-22 cameras mounted.
44-69689, City of Orlando. Tail code Black Square M 10. K-20 camera mounted.
44-69873, Unnamed. Tail code Black Square M 13. K-20 and Scope cameras mounted.

I was not able to spot details about the B-29s of the 330BG. 

The "Tactical Mission Report" mentions:
"Eighteen fighters attacked the 2 formations level to high and either head on or from 4 o'clock. Seven aircraft attacked the formation from out of the sun. Six of these carried phosphorous air-to-air bombs, which were dropped from above by single-engine fighters flying parallel to the formations. No damage resulted."
The B-29 crews that attacked Kanoya claimed one single-engine and one twin-engine enemy fighter destroyed, six single-engine fighters damaged, as well as five single-engine and nine twin-engine fighters probably damaged. The provenance of these "twin-engine fighters" is a small mystery ("Toryu"?). 
No B-29s were lost during Mission No.112 and the report mentions no damaged bombers. Not mentioning any damages does not necessarily mean that none happen. Personally, I find it highly unlikely that all the "Raiden" that attacked the B-29s, hit absolutely nothing.

Regardless, two B-29s were shot down on that day: 
"44-69888, 314BW/39BG/62BS, General Andrews. Tail code Black Square P 50. Crashed from Kushira", and 
"42-24699, 73BW/499BG/877BS, Salvo Sally. Tail code V 09. Direct flak hit aft compartment severing some control cables; second hit in crew compartment making huge hole; third hit between #’s 3 and 4 engines. #3 burning and windmilling, #4 feathered. Two bailouts at 500 feet just off coast, picked up by sub next day. Plane hit water offshore from Miyazaki."
Whether the "Raiden" had anything to do with downing these bombers is a moot point. 

Saturday 8 October 2022

Mitsubishi J2M "Raiden" - "Tatsumaki" Unit

This elite unit was organized around April 25, 1945, was based in Kanoya, Kagoshima Prefecture, Kyushu, and was assigned to the protection of the air bases of south Kyushu against B-29 raids. It was an exclusive "Raiden" unit gathered from the 302 Kokutai, the 352 Kokutai and the 332 Kokutai. It was nicknamed "Tatsumaki Butai" (Tornado Unit) and commander was LCDR Yamada Kushichiro, the leader of the 302Ku air group.
The first "Raiden" from the 302Ku were to arrive on April 23 but three made emergency landings at Naruo airfield, one was forced to land at Matsuyama base and in the end, eight reached Kanoya. During the same day, 12 "Raiden" from the 332Ku arrived as well. Crews and supplies arrived with one Yokosuka L3Y, two Douglas L2D and three Mitsubishi G6M1-L2. 
The next day, ten "Raiden" from the 302Ku landed in Kanoya together with two from the 332Ku.
They were followed on the 25th by one from the 302Ku and three from the 332Ku.
The next day, seven "Raiden" from the 352Ku arrived, but, during landing, one of them suffered serious damage.
All in all, the unit had 19 "Raiden" from the 302Ku, 17 from the 332Ku and six from the 352Ku.  

On April 27, "Tatsumaki Butai" was organized as follows:
There were two main groups, "Ko" with all the 302Ku aircraft and "Otsu" with all the rest.
The "Ko" group was split into 1tai with 1st (four "Raiden") and 2nd Shotai (three "Raiden"), 3tai with 3rd Shotai (four "Raiden") and 4th Shotai (four "Raiden"), and the 5tai with the 5th Shotai (four "Raiden").
The "Otsu" group was split into 2tai, 4tai and 6tai with two shotai each. The shotai of the 2tai and the 4tai (from the 332Ku) had four "Raiden" each and the two shotai of the 6tai (from the 352Ku) had three "Raiden" each.

Below are all the aircraft of the "Tasumaki Butai" with their pilots as of April 27, 1945.

302 Kokutai
ヨD-147 - PO1c Murakami Yoshifumi
ヨD-150 - CPO Kaneda Tadashi
ヨD-151 - LTJG Ueno Norio
ヨD-155 - LTJG Sato Noriyasu
ヨD-156 - LdgSea Kurosu Rinji(?)
ヨD-157 - LT Ito Susumu (commander of the 302Ku group)
ヨD-158 - CPO Yamakawa Mitsuyasu
ヨD-167 - this aircraft was not mentioned in the register of that day
ヨD-185 - LdgSea Kuroda Shoji (actually 32-185, see pt.4)
ヨD-1163 - LTJG Tsukada Hiroshi
ヨD-1164 - PO1c Sasazawa Hitoshi
ヨD-1167 - CPO Suzuki Hironobu
ヨD-1173 - CPO Ito Seikichi
ヨD-1180 - LdgSea Tsukada Shigeo
ヨD-1183 - LTJG Katami Seijo
ヨD-1190 - WO Baba Takehiko
ヨD-1193 - CPO Kobayashi Katsuji
ヨD-1197 - LdgSea Oki Takeshi
ヨD-1199 - CPO Kawai Shigetsugu (Shigeji)
ヨD-185 - PO2c Oomine Minoru

The "battle reports" of the unit, mysteriously, mention two ヨD-185 "Raiden", which is highly unusual. On April 27, Kuroda's plane was part of the 1st Shotai and Oomine's part of the 4th Shotai. On April 29, Kuroda took off at 06:15 and the second "185", this time flown by LTJG Ueno, took off two minutes later at 06:17. In all the "battle reports" the planes are clearly mentioned as "185", so there is little possibility of making a mistake and writing "185" instead of, for example, "1185". Obviously, they were two separate aircraft.  
Update: see pt.4, here.
In general, the 302Ku had "problematic" tail numbers. There are photos of different types of aircraft with the same register. For example, there is a "Ginga"  ヨD-156 and a Zero ヨD-150. Perhaps when these aircraft were reassigned, destroyed or retired, new aircraft received their registrations.

There are photos of 302Ku "Raiden" with the same tail numbers as those of the "Tatsumaki Butai" but taken at a later date or at the end of the war. Perhaps they are the same aircraft but, because of the aforementioned problem, we can't be 100% sure.

ヨD-155 & ヨD-1190 found at Atsugi at the end of the war.

332 Kokutai
32-112 - WO Ishihara Susumu
32-113 - LdgSea Kunimoto Goro
32-160 - LTJG Watanabe ?
32-168 - PO1c Yamura Koichi
32-173 - PO2c Onaka Masayuki
32-175 - LTJG Aizawa Zenzaburo
32-178 - LdgSea Yahara Masayoshi
32-181 -  LTJG Sato Kanji
32-182 - PO2c Azuma Fukuo
32-186 - CPO Matsumoto Saichi
32-187 - PO2c Dehara Kanichi
32-188 - LdgSea Hara Shigezo
32-189 - CPO Ochi Akeshi
32-190 - LT Nakajima Kohei (commander of the 332Ku group)
32-192 - CPO Saito Eigoro
32-195 - LdgSea Fukuda Toshikazu (?)

As mentioned in the previous post, the "Raiden" of the 332Ku should have their fuselage hinomaru with a darker surround.

352 Kokutai
352-32 - LdgSea Iwaki Hideo
352-37 - LTJG Aoki Yoshihiro (commander of the 352Ku group)
352-52 - ENS Kaneko Kiyotoshi
352-61 - LTJG Okamoto Toshiaki
352-62 - LTJG Yamamoto Sadao
352-67 - ENS Kikuchi Nobuo

Note that commander Aoki did not bring with him his "352-20" "Raiden". As we previously saw, the lack of photographic material in combination with the "Tatsumaki Butai" "battle reports" led Arii and Tamiya to conclude that the "Raiden" with the two bolts of lightning had the tail number "352-37".
Unfortunately the photograph of "352-20" proves that these depictions were inaccurate. Please, if you care about accuracy, don't apply the old Tamiya decals with the wrong tail number on your kit. 

Arii nevertheless included one more "Tatsumaki Butai" "Raiden" in its old kit.

The Aeromaster decals include five "Tatsumaki Butai" "Raiden" in two sets in 1/48. 

As before, this post will be updated. Stay tuned!

Thursday 6 October 2022

Mitsubishi J2M "Raiden (Jack) - 332 Kokutai

In order to protect the Japanese home islands from the expected B-29 raids from the newly captured island of Saipan, the IJNAF organized a number of air defence units. In the beginning, these fighter units were to be placed under the control of Naval bases, but in reality, it became difficult to organize them since the Naval bases had only seaplane units to protect them mainly from submarines. Therefore, the newly organized fighter units had to become independent. 
On August 1, 1944, the Kure Naval Air Group Fighter Squadron became independent, was renamed 332 Kokutai and was stationed at Iwakuni Air Base, the closest land base to Kure. Initially, it was equipped with 45 Zeros, twelve "Gekko" night fighters and two "Raiden". Actually, only 28 of the Zeros, two "Gekkos" and none of the "Raiden" were combat-ready but gradually this was rectified and the unit came to be able to throw into combat no less than 27 Zeros, 15 "Raiden" and six "Gekkos". The Zero and "Raiden" groups were not separated as with the 352Ku but the pilots often flew both types.
The first combat mission of the unit was on October 25, 1944, when 16 Zeros took off to intercept 78 B-29s from the 20th Bomber Command targeting the Omura Aviation Arsenal, but the Zeros of the 332 were not able to make contact with the enemy. 
At the beginning of December, 20 Zeros were ordered to the Philippines where they were based in Cebu Island and came under the 303 Fighter Squadron of the 201 Kokutai. They were wiped out in just one week after fierce battles. Only one pilot, PO Kurachi returned.
In November the unit received a number of "Suisei" night fighters, and the night fighter group was split into two.

The unit used throughout its history the tail marking "32-". 
There are only a handful of Zero and "Raiden" photos. 

The 332Ku "Raiden" featured in the Rising Decal set is "32-101" flown by CPO Ochi (family name) Akeshi (first name), April 1945. 
According to the decal set: "CPO Akeshi Ochi belly landed with this aircraft after he shoot down one of three B-29 lost during air raid on 22 December 1944. Ochi achieved the unit's first aerial victory."

There is only one photo of the aircraft I know of. It is featured in Hata&Izawa's "Japanese Naval Aces..."

The very first depiction of the aircraft I could spot was by none other than Hasegawa Ichiro in the ancient FAOW (white) #7, July 1973. A very funky illustration indeed. Note the white surround on the fuselage hinomaru.

Around that time, illustrator Hashimoto Kikuo depicted the aircraft in a more prudent manner; fuselage hinomaru without any surround.

Nohara Shigeru followed suit and depicted the aircraft similarly in Model #470, 1996.

And finally, in the latest Model Art #831, Profile #11, 2011, illustrator Akutsu Osamu also followed the example of Hashimoto and Nohara and depicted the aircraft likewise. 

Nevertheless, the Rising Decal set has depicted the aircraft with a fuselage hinomaru with a dark green surround, applied at the unit to make the hinomaru less prominent. Is this correct?
The Hata&Izawa photo clearly shows that the fuselage hinomaru does not have a white surround. I know of only a handful of photos of "Raiden" with a fuselage hinomaru without a white surround and all these aircraft have the white surround overpainted. This is a very clear indication that the "Raiden" were delivered from the factory with top surface hinomarus with white surround and whenever these were eliminated it was done at the unit level.
How about other aircraft of the 332Ku?
The clearest photo can be found in Model Art #510, featuring a Zero of the unit at the end of the war.

The fuselage hinomaru has the white surround overpainted and it seems that it was a common practice with that kokutai.

Let's see other "Raiden" of the unit.
A photo of "32-160" can be found in FAOW #61. Note the Zero on its starboard side and the "Gekko" night fighters in the background.

Note again the lack of white surround and a very close inspection reveals a barely visible darker line around the hinomaru.
I have not found any illustration of this particular aircraft.

Another "Raiden" is "32-163". Again, a photo can be found in FAOW #61.

No white surround, a darker line is barely visible.
Nohara has depicted the aircraft with a fuselage hinomaru without any surround.

Another aircraft illustrated by Nohara and Akutsu in the Model Art publications is "32-168".

Note the white surround this time. I have not seen a photo of this particular aircraft and I cannot confirm the tail markings. Leave a comment if you know of a photo of the particular aircraft.

It is my conclusion that the "32-101" "Raiden" is accurately depicted by Rising Decals.

On December 16-17 a group of eleven "Raiden" and nine Zeros was dispatched to Naruo airfield, in Hyogo Prefecture, to participate in the defence of the Kansai area (Kobe-Osaka) while the "Gekko" group was redeployed to Itami airfield, Osaka. 
The whole 332Ku relocated to Naruo in February 5, leaving only a training detachment back in Iwakuni. It was in Naruo that the war's end found the unit.
In Watanabe Yoji's "Air War over Japan", a photo of the mission board of the unit is included, taken a little after February 5, 1945.

On the left side are the tail numbers of the "Raiden" that were to be flown that day, on the right side the tail numbers of Zeros. The first kanji of the names of the pilots with their rank is placed next to each number and from various Japanese sources, we were able to figure out that on that day:
"32-163" was flown by buntai commander Lt Nakajima Kohei
"32-106" by CPO Matsumoto Saichi
"32-160" by LTJG Watanabe Kiyomi
"32-199" by PO2c Azuma (Higashi?) Fukuo
"32-119" by ?
"32-105" by WO Ishihara Susumu
"32-168" by CPO Ochi Akeshi
"32-175" by LTJG Aizawa Zenzaburo
"32-173" by ?
and "32-180" by LTJG Mukai Jusaburo

We cannot know if these "Raiden" were the personal aircraft of the pilots or if they just happened to fly them on that day.

Update! The photo below of a 332Ku "Raiden" proves that it was common practice in the unit to overpaint the white surround of the fuselage hinomaru.

Our good friend Devlin Chouinard created excellent artwork of "32-101" and "32-160". Note that the latter was also flown by the "Tatsumaki Butai".

More about the operational history unit, to follow in updates of this post.