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. 

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