Japanese Air Forces

Japanese Air Forces

The first aircraft factory in Japan, the Nakajima Hikoki, was founded in 1916. The following year Mitsubishi Jukogyo and Kawasaki Kokuki Kogyo were established.

In 1930 Isoruku Yamamoto took command of the 1st Air Fleet and the following year was promoted to rear admiral in charge of the navy's technical service. Yamamoto became convinced that future wars would be decided by air power and embarked on a massive new building programme.

In 1934 the Japanese built around 445 aircraft. This increased to 952 (1935), 1,181 (1936), 1,511 (1937), 3,201 (1938), 4,467 (1939) and 4,768 (1940). This included fighters, torpedo-bombers and dive-bombers. The most important of these were the fighters Mitsubishi A5M, Nakajima Ki-27, and the Mitsubishi A6M and the bombers Mitsubishi ki-21 and Mitsubishi G3M.

By 1941 the Japanese Army Air Force had about 1,500 aircraft ready to attack land targets. This was backed up by the Japanese Navy Air Force that had over 1,400 planes.

On Sunday, 7th December, 1941, 105 high-level bombers, 135 dive-bombers and 81 fighter aircraft attacked the the US Fleet at Pearl Harbor. In their first attack the Japanese sunk the Arizona, Oklahoma, West Virginia and California. The second attack, launched 45 minutes later, hampered by smoke, created less damage.

In two hours 18 warships, 188 aircraft and 2,403 servicemen were lost in the attack. Luckily, the navy's three aircraft carriers, Enterprise, Lexington and Saratoga, were all at sea at the time. The following day, President Franklin D. Roosevelt and a united US Congress declared war on Japan.

Until the summer of 1942 Japan's air forces were extremely successful. This changed during the Battle of Midway when Japan suffered heavy losses of pilots and aircraft. Japanese aircraft factories were never able to match the output of those in the United States and the Japanese Air Force gradually lost control of the air battle over the Pacific.

After the fall of Saipan in July, 1944, Admiral Takijiro Onishi, commander of 1st Air Fleet in the Philippines, created the Special Attack Group of suicide dive-bombing pilots known as kamikazes. Young men were inspired to volunteer as they wished to die for their country. Pilots were trained in just over a week to fly their modified Mitsubishi A6M fighters.

The first kamikaze attack on enemy warships first took place in the struggle for the Philippines in 1944. Kamikaze pilots aimed at the central elevator on carriers and the base of the bridge on large warships. As they had to fly at low altitudes they were very vulnerable to anti-aircraft guns.

During April 1945 kamikaze pilots under Admiral Soema Toyoda launched 1,400 suicide missions as part of Operation Ten-Go. It is estimated that these suicide pilots sunk 26 ships during this campaign. More than 2,000 kamikaze missions were also flown against the US fleet at Okinawa (April-July 1945). By this time the US Navy had learnt how to deal with kamikaze attacks and few ships were hit.

Kamikaze pilots continued to be active until the dropping of the atom bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Admiral Takijiro Onishi, the commander of the Special Attack Group, committed suicide when he heard that Emperor Hirohito had surrendered.

These three movements were born spontaneously and independently of the initiative of a few French patriots who had a place in the old political groups and parties. They started to assert themselves at

different dates, soon after the conclusion of the armistice, however, and as a reaction against this instrument of submission to the enemy. In the beginning, their activities consisted in spreading by underground channels and in a rather restricted sphere typewritten propaganda pamphlets on every important occasion (speech of Mr. Churchill, of President Roosevelt, speeches of General de Gaulle,

outstanding military operations, etc.), or else on every occasion which called for a rebellious attitude on the part of French patriots (annexation by Hitler of Alsace and Lorraine, violation of the clauses of the Armistice, the agreements concluded at Montoire, requisitioning by the Germans, etc.).

Next, with the development of material means and the increased adherence of willing partisans, they were able to publish real roneoed papers at tolerably regular intervals. Now, for several months, each group has been publishing at a fixed date one or several printed papers in addition to pamphlets and leaflets.

10 Largest Air Forces in the World

Most of the major world powers have air forces that range in size from a few hundred aircraft to a couple thousand. The United States Air Force is hands down the largest in the world with over nearly 13,500 aircraft.

This is about three times as many aircraft as the second largest air force, the Russian Federation Aerospace Forces. The rest of the air forces on this list, which is arranged by total aircraft strength, are close in size. Many of the world’s air forces train together and use equipment from the United States Air Force.

Japanese Air Forces - History

� Tim Vasquez

Much of this wouldn't have been possible without the detailed Annotated Pictorial History of Clark Air Base (1899-1986) by David L. Rosmer. I highly recommend it to researchers and historians. Credit also goes out to Lauren Sobkoviak, Mike Ward, Beau E Gros, and numerous sources in print and on the Internet, which unfortunately are too many and sometimes too obscure to list here.

Clark gets its name from Maj. Harold M. Clark, of the U.S. Army Signal Corps. Born in Minnesota and raised in Manila, he was the first American to fly in Hawaii. Clark died on May 2, 1919 in a seaplane crash in Panama and is now buried in the Arlington National Cemetery. Fort Stotsenberg gets its name from Col. John M. Stotsenberg who died April 23, 1899 in a battle in Bulacan province, and is also buried in Arlington National Cemetery.

Spain cedes the Philippines to the U.S. in the Treaty of Paris for $20 million. Philippine revolutionaries turn their hostilities onto American colonial forces.

On February 6 the U.S. Senate voted to annex the Phillipines. Americans fought fragmented Philippine forces in the Battle of Angeles, which began on August 13. This led to their permanent presence in the Talizundoc area of Angeles City (what is now the Lourdes Sur barangay), in order to establish control over the central plains of Luzon. Hostilities generally ended November 5.

The U.S. Army studies relocating their post from Angeles City to a fertile plain on what was later Clark Air Base, which supposedly had better grass for their horses.

President Roosevelt signs an executive order on September 1 establishing 7700 acres as Fort Stotsenberg, with Camp Wallace and Camp John Hay being established in November. Fort Stotsenberg was centered on what was Clark's parade ground in modern years.

The first flagpost at Fort Stotsenberg is commissioned on September 16 near the modern 13 AF headquarters.

An executive order expands Fort Stotsenberg from 7700 to 156,204 acres, covering much of modern-day Clark and the mountainous region to the north.

In March Lieutenant Frank Lahm heads the Philippine Air School on Fort Stotsenberg with one aircraft. The first concrete buildings (the modern 13 AF headquarters) and a gymnasium are built.

Five aircraft hangars are constructed at what was the motorpool in modern times.

The first dependent school, Leonard Wood School, is opened at Clark.

Construction of a small runway began along what in modern times was Dyess Highway as it passed by the flightline. The airfield was officially designated Clark Field. Three additional hangars were built. In September a series of tent dormitories was built, and in November the 3rd Aero Squadron was formed, giving rise to the popular "3" that would tag many organizations at Clark in later years (3 TFW, etc). The first plane to arrive was a DeHavilland DH-4.

The first permanent enlisted dormitory is built.

The second dependent school, Worchester School, is opened on November 8.

The Japanese launch an attack on Clark Air Base on December 8, destroying dozens of aircraft. Clark was evacuated on December 24.

On April 9 American forces fell on Bataan and Corregidor, leading a few days later to the brutal Bataan Death March from Bataan to San Fernando (about 20 miles southeast of Clark). Japanese forces maintain possession of Clark Field.

American forces begin air raids on Japanese occupation at Clark in October, continuing for four months and damaging over 1500 Japanese planes.

On January 31, American forces regained possession of Clark Field after three years of Japanese control. However a few Japanese soldiers still held tough in the nearby mountains, and sometimes sneaked onto base at night to sabotage American planes.

The 13th Air Force is transferred to Clark in January, except for a brief period between May 1946 and August 1947 when it was at Fort William McKinley on Luzon. The Philippines was given independence on July 4. Major improvements were underway, including a new chapel, golf course, the NCO (Top 3) Club, and more.

The U.S. and Philippines sign the Military Bases Agreement on March 14 which guaranteed American possession of U.S. bases in the Philippines for 99 years. The Clark Field Dependents School was opened July 7.

On April 15 the first Philippine president, Manuel A. Roxas, died of a heart attack after speaking at the old Kelly Theater.

In May the facilities at Fort Stotsenberg and Clark Field were transferred to the U.S. Air Force, and from then on the entire base became known as Clark Air Base. The Air Force decided to consolidate all its cemeteries, including the one on the modern day golf course, and moved them to the current location near the main gate. The Silver Wing was built this year.

The first school, [Original] Wurtsmith School is opened in August in Bldg 3100 near what was the modern day 1961 CG compound (near Auto Sales).

On August 30 the U.S.-Philippine Mutual Defense Treaty is signed, which still remains in effect today.

The new Kelly Theater was opened.

The Airmen's Club (Lower 4 Club, or Coconut Grove) was opened, as well as the new post office near the present-day BX.

A brush fire on Lily Hill reveals the remains of two Japanese planes. The Bamboo Bowl stadium is built, while the old chapel in the hospital area is torn down in May.

U.S. Vice President Nixon visits the Philippines, and formally acknowledges Philippine sovereignty over American bases in the country. However the U.S. continued to retain control for nearly 23 more years.

Construction began on the new Regional Medical Center and was opened four years later.

In April Wagner High School is opened.

Clark entered the Vietnam War effort in March as KC-135 tankers staged from Clark and refuelled fighters enroute to Laos. On May 11, a C-135B (serial 61-0332 of the 1501 ATW, 44 ATS, Travis AFB) carrying an Air Force band from Hawaii crashed in heavy rain 1500 ft short of Clark's runway 02, killing 79 (including 1 American on the ground in a taxi). The 200-bed Regional Medical Center was opened April, costing only $4.5 million.

The large 6-story Chambers Hall building, containing over 300 rooms for bachelor and transient officers, was opened. The Rusk-Ramos agreement signed on September 16 revised the 1947 Military Bases Agreement to expire in 25 years: 1991, an ominous coincidence.

In August Grissom Elementary School is opened (known as Wurtsmith Hill School until Nov 14 1968).

Late-night attacks against American servicemen led to both Clark and Angeles being placed on curfew in August. Demonstrations flared to a boiling point on October 4. The new Base Operations building was opened.

Wurtsmith Elementary School is opened in August, eventually being the home of over 1100 students at any given time.

Filipino employees went on strike March 3 for the first time. The walkout lasted three days, and another strike followed on July 25, this time lasting 15 days. This was at a time when anti-American sentiment was at a peak.

President Ferdinand Marcos declared martial law, which also acted to suspend elections. Martial law remained in place until 1981. Clark's first C-9A aircraft arrived in February. Lily Hill Middle School was opened September 18.

The first group of Vietnam POWs arrives February 12, with a second group following on February 18.

MacArthur Elementary School is opened in August. On November 28 Typhoon Irma (not to be confused with the 1981 storm of the same name) hit, with winds at Clark clocked at 83 kt (95 mph) out of the northwest at 1 pm, and a pressure measured at 979 mb (28.91") at 3 pm. This was the strongest typhoon to hit Clark.

Clark serves as a staging point for Vietnamese fleeing the North Vietnamese invasion. The first planeload, consisting of orphans, arrived April 5. As many as 2,000 refugees at a time were housed in a tent city in the Bamboo Bowl during April and May. A total of 30,082 refugees and 1565 orphans were processed through Clark.

On the evening of May 21 at 1:35 am, a mild magnitude 5.7 earthquake hit just northeast of Clark and was felt by many.

Typhoon Rita hit Clark during the wee hours of October 27, bringing 58 kt (67 mph) winds but causing little damage. On December 25 hundreds of politicians rallied against Marcos in a carefully-written statement seeking to remove American military presence from the Philippines.

A revised 1947 Military Bases Agreement was ratified on January 7 and executed at Clark Air Base February 16 to transfer command and security of Clark and other American bases to the Philippine government. The size of the Clark reservation was reduced from 156,204 acres to 131,000 acres, with the base itself remaining at 9155 acres. On March 25, Clark's third major labor strike occurred.

On March 31 a magnitude 6.3 earthquake hit about 80 miles northeast of Clark at 8:41 pm, but was distinctly felt at the base. In October Flying Tigers established the first scheduled 747 contract service to/from Clark, replacing Flying Tigers and Trans International DC-8 service. This continued for about a decade until Hawaiian Air L-1011's got the contract.

On January 17 President Marcos "removed" martial law, though this had little effect as his political opponents still remained in exile. Later in the year, FEN television switched channels from 8 to 17 (?). Construction began late in the year on the new commissary, but it would be a couple of years before it opened. On November 24 Typhoon Irma (not to be confused with the 1974 storm of the same name) struck, bringing wind gusts to 50 mph at Clark and causing minor damage (mostly downed tree limbs).

On August 21, Ninoy Aquino, one of President Marcos' political opponents, returned from ten years of exile and was shot on his arrival in Manila, precipitating a gradual collapse of the Marcos administration and the economy. The Military Bases Agreement was revised further in 1983. Starting October 3, unionized Filipino employees went on strike for four days over pay issues. On December 31, live television programming from AFRTS new satellite network began at Clark.

On March 12, the U.S. was permitted to begin flying its flag at the base cemetery. On March 29 a new Youth Center was opened inside the original Kelly Theater. In April the largest commissary in the Air Force opened between the Post Office and NCO Open Mess. It was completed at a cost of $6.2 million. In June the Original Wurtsmith School (not the new one) was demolished. In October am HH-53C helicopter crashed in heavy rain during a nighttime training exercise near the base, killing all occupants.

In March the new Family Support Center opened. On the evening of April 23 a magnitude 6.3 earthquake hit just northeast of Clark at 12:15 am. The opening of the new Golf Club House occurred in August on top of what was once the old Fort Stotsenberg cemetery.

On January 1 the longtime NCO (Top Hat or Top 3) Club near its Lily Hill location moved to a new location near the Silver Wing. On February 25 after massive outcry over a rigged election, President Marcos is forced out of office. Helicopters from Clark's 31 ARRS pick him up at his Presidential palace, and flew him to Clark where he transferred to a C-9A and was flown to Hawaii. On March 22 at 9 p.m., civilian employees went on strike, forming large picket lines outside the main gates of all American bases in the Philippines. Ultimately the strikers blocked Clark's gates on March 25, preventing anyone from getting on or off base except those who were resourceful enough to sneak across base fences. The 3 CSG commander placed Angeles bars off-limits to servicemen, which pitted strikers against local merchants. Finally after a scuffle between strikers and merchants the strike was broken at 4:30 pm on March 30. On May 31 the longtime Clark AB Officers Open Mess (CABOOM) was closed for demolition and rebuilding, moving temporarily to the old NCO (Top Hat) Club. On September 16 the new nationalist government rejected extension of the Military Bases Agreement. On December 29 at 11:49 pm a mild magnitude 6.0 earthquake struck along the coast west of Clark.

On April 25 at 8:16 pm a strong earthquake, at magnitude 6.5, hit just north of Clark. On October 28 three servicemen were killed in simultaneous attacks near Clark AB by teams of the New People's Army (NPA) brandishing .45 caliber pistols. The NPA is the strongarm of the Philippine communist party.

On the evening of October 25 Typhoon Ruby brought 46 kt (53 mph) winds to Clark AB and 69 kt (79 mph) winds to Subic Bay, making it the strongest storm at Clark since Rita in 1978.

On September 26 shortly before Vice President Quayle's visit to Clark, NPA terrorists killed Ford Aerospace employees William Thompson and Donald Buchner at a roadblock near Camp O'Donnell. Terrorist tension reached a climax in December.

Clark's worst earthquake occurred at at 3:26 pm on July 16. It registered magnitude 7.6 and was centered about 80 miles northeast of the base. Baguio was devastated, with over 2000 killed and a million homeless.

In April pilots reported seeing smoke emanating from Mount Pinatubo, and by June it was clear that a major volcanic eruption was imminent. Evacuation of Clark AB began on June 10. The first "big" eruption hit June 12. On June 14, the base was drenched in a sea of ash, and the biggest eruption followed at 5:55 am on June 15 just as Typhoon Yunya was making its approach. The Philippine Senate rejected an extension of the Military Bases Agreement, and it expired on September 16. The U.S. Air Force formally transferred Clark in its entirety to the Philippines on November 26, ending its century-long presence in the region.

The U.S. Navy withdrew the last of its forces from Subic Bay on October 1.

On April 3 President Fidel Ramos approved the Clark Special Economic Zone and established the Clark Development Corporation.

The Clark International Airport Corporation was established to manage the airfield facilities.

Limited air service from Clark to Hong Kong began.

The last U.S. forces leave the Philippines on November 24.

1899: A U.S. Army field artillery unit at its Angeles City post.

1919: 3 Aero Squadron logo made of rocks and the "main drag" along the enlisted housing tents.

1937: Looking west on Fort Stotsenberg, nestled around the parade ground.

1944: Clark pilots during World War II consisted essentially of the Japanese Imperial forces. Here Clark's Japanese Air Forces commander addresses a group of pilots.

1945: Hangared Japanese planes at Clark began suffering heavily at the hands of American bomber attacks toward the later years of WWII.

1952: Clark's first major BX was in this star-shaped building. It became the Arcade while the new modern BX was built in the 1960s. Looking south along Leary Avenue toward the accompanied airmen housing area.

1954: Pilots and ground crew race to their F-86 during a practice alert at Clark.

1965: The trailer park near the Silver Wing was established in the 1960s to house a surge of transient personnel during the Vietnam War.

1970: A new elementary school opens in the Hill Housing Area: the new Wurtsmith Memorial Elementary School.

1973: A C-141 arrives at Clark from Hanoi with POWs during Operation Homecoming.

1979: A sight familiar to many -- Clark's main gate at Angeles City.

1979: The year 1979 was a pivotal point in Clark's history as the Philippine government began assuming administration of the base.

1984: The largest commissary in the Air Force opens at Clark after over two years of construction plagued with delays.

1986: A weeklong strike at Clark's main gate severely crippled base activities.

Text: 10 Largest Air to Air Battles in Military History

While the more infamous battles made famous by Hollywood first come to mind, there are numerous other less well-known air-to-air battles in our history that could be considered the most remarkable.

Battle of Kursk

This enormous air battle was considered to be the costliest single day of aerial combat that ultimately ended in a crippling defeat for the Germans.

Battle of Britain

In order to prepare for this enormous battle, German forces gathered over two thousand combat ready planes to attack Britain.

St. Mihiel Air Battle

In this battle, outnumbering the Germans at three to one, the allied forces rose together for one of the first and largest aerial assaults of the time.

Operation Mole Cricket 19

In an incredible tactical maneuver, ninety Israeli aircrafts destroyed eighty of the one hundred Syrian aircrafts without suffering a single loss.

Battle of the Phil. Sea

Seven hundred Japanese planes fought against the United States&rsquo one thousand in one of the most decisive battle of World War Two.

Air Battle of El Mansoura

This battle between Israel and Egypt lasted just under an hour, making it one of the longest aerial battles between jets.

Black Thursday

Taking place in MiG Alley, the results of the joint efforts of North Korea and the USSR against the USA is what many experts attribute to the birth of modern jet warfare.

Air Battle Over Nis

This air battle was the only direct conflict that had ever occurred between the USA and the USSR.

The Dieppe Raid

Considered to be the largest single day of air combat in World War Two, this battle took place between Allied Forces and Germany in 1942.

Black Friday

Germany won this aerial battle against Allied forces, but what makes this battle famous is the fact that there were no civilian casualties.

Learn More

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Norwich University&rsquos Master of Arts in Military History program takes an unbiased and global approach towards exploring military thought, theory and engagement throughout recorded history. The unique curriculum of the online Master of Arts in Military History program was developed by the distinguished faculty of Norwich University and guided by the goals outlined by the American Historical Association. This highly regarded program is designed to help build your proficiency as a historian, and places our world&rsquos military achievements and conflicts in chronological, geographical, political and economic context.

Occupation of Rabaul and the start of air operations against Port Moresby

<3>When the Japanese Army and Navy developed plans for a forthcoming war with the United States and Great Britain in 1941, the islands of the Bismarck Archipelago, particularly New Britain, were included in their target list from early on. This was because Japanese planners (especially those in the Navy) saw Rabaul on New Britain, with its excellent natural harbour, as a potential threat to Truk Island in the Carolines. Situated only 1100 kilometres from Rabaul, Truk was the site of the Japanese Navy's most important base in the central Pacific Ocean. The seizure of New Britain was therefore necessary to protect the base at Truk, and the surrounding islands had to be controlled as well, in order to secure Rabaul. While the main efforts of the Army and Navy would be aimed at the southwest Pacific area - i.e. the Philippines, Malaya, Singapore, Netherlands East Indies and other surrounding areas that made up the so-called "Southern Resources Area" - both the Army and Navy therefore assigned units to operations in the South Pacific.

<4>In the plans which received imperial sanction on 5 November 1941, the Army's South Seas Detachment was assigned the task of seizing first Guam, then airfields in the Bismarck Islands, in order to eliminate the threat posed by the enemy. Since the operation in the South Pacific was seen as the Navy's responsibility, however, the Navy's Special Landing Forces were to take over the occupation of Guam at an appropriate time, after which they would cooperate with the Army in occupying Rabaul. It was further specified that the South Seas Detachment would be replaced by the Special Landing Forces and withdrawn to the Palau Islands as soon as possible. The Navy's Fourth Fleet, based in Truk, would be responsible for supporting both the Guam and the Rabaul-Bismarcks operations. A sea-borne assault on Rabaul was accordingly made on 22 January 1942 by the Special Landing Forces, with the support of both land-based and carrier-based aircraft, and the town quickly captured.

<5>While these operations were being carried out, the Japanese Army and Navy, faced with the unexpectedly rapid success of their operations in the Philippines, Malaya and Netherlands East Indies, had to decide upon their next steps. Briefly speaking, Japan's options included continuing westward into India invading the Australian mainland invading New Guinea, the Solomons, Fiji and Samoa, in order to cut off Australia from the United States and driving eastward towards Hawaii. The Navy High Command wanted to invade Australia, in order to eliminate it as potential springboard for a counter-offensive by the Allies, but the Army balked at this because it would require an excessive commitment of manpower. The Navy therefore settled for the lesser option. The Fourth Fleet, with the XI Air Fleet (the Navy's land-based air force in the Pacific theatre), was ordered to assault Lae, Salamaua in New Guinea, Port Moresby in Papua, and the Solomon Islands.

<6>In compliance with this strategy, Zero fighters of the Chitose Air Corps moved to Rabaul on 31 January. Shortly afterwards, on 2 and 5 February, Kawanishi Type 97 "Mavis" flying boats of the Yokohama Air Corps bombed Port Moresby for the first time, and the air war over New Guinea was underway. On 9 February, Gasmata (on New Britain's southern coast) was occupied, and work begun on an airstrip. To carry out further operations, the 4th Air Corps was newly created, with a nominal strength of 27 fighters and 27 bombers. It was placed under the command of the 25th Air Flotilla, and its headquarters was located in Rabaul. On 24 February, aircraft from the 4th Air Corps began bombing Port Moresby.

<7>On 7 March 1942, the Japanese High Command decided upon the operations which would follow the so-called "First Stage Operations," which had been aimed at the occupation of the Netherlands East Indies and other areas of the Southern Resources Area. The second stage of operations which was thus adopted called for the continuation of major offensive operations in order to secure a long-term, unbeatable politico-strategic situation, after which additional active measures would be taken aimed at forcing Great Britain to capitulate and making the United States lose the will to fight. 1 As part of this new strategy, the decision was made to continue the advance in the Solomons and New Guinea area, with the aim of eventually cutting off the supply route between the United States and Australia. The 7 March decision therefore confirmed what was already being executed. Lae and Salamaua on the northeastern New Guinea coast were occupied on 8 March. Two days later, the Tainan Air Corps (one of the fighter units deployed to Rabaul as part of the new strategy) sent eleven of its Zero fighters to Lae, which became an exceedingly busy advanced airbase. 2

<8>Until the end of July 1942, the naval air units based at Rabaul and Lae became intensely involved in flying missions over the Owen Stanley Range to attack Port Moresby, or other Allied bases on the New Guinea mainland. Such operations consisted of either bombing missions with fighter escort, or sweeps by fighters alone. The Japanese fighter units at this time were also kept extremely busy intercepting Allied air attacks on the Japanese bases. This phase of the air war was characterized by the lack of clear superiority by either side. Although the Australians and Americans often lost more aircraft in individual air battles, Allied air strength did not diminish significantly. On the other hand, the Japanese, although suffering fewer losses, saw a slow decline in the quality of their forces as highly-trained and experienced pilots were lost and replaced by less and less experienced ones. This period was, therefore, somewhat of a stalemate, as the Japanese could not batter the Allied air forces enough to drive them out of New Guinea.

Why The Imperial Japanese Air Forces Failed in World War 2 (Watch)

According to Osamu Tagaya, Japan was doomed to lose WWII. A writer for the Smithsonian, Tagaya’s father was an officer in the Imperial Japanese Navy (IJN), so he should know.

Like the other Axis powers, Japan wasn’t prepared for a long war. But just as Germany became overconfident because of the Spanish Civil War, so Japan felt the same because of victories against Russia and China.

What both lacked, however, was the superior manpower, greater industrial capacities, and vast resources that the US and Britain had. The Japanese government knew this, but had gambled on a short war and had badly underestimated the Allied response to their aggression.

Tagaya takes it a step further by pointing out the tactical and political weaknesses that doomed Japan. The government didn’t control the Armed Forces, so couldn’t effectively unite them. The result was a schism that drained the country’s limited resources and overly-extended industrial capacities.

The Army saw the Soviet Union as its enemy, while the Navy looked to the US. So while Japan was among the first to develop combat aircraft, they were mostly designed for a land war against the Soviets, not for long range operations in the South Pacific.

Not that it stopped them from occupying parts of Southeast Asia. But it made them overconfident, which was why they were slow to develop aerial technologies. Their occupation of the Pacific was another drain since the region was under-developed – forcing them to build landing fields and communications equipment.

Though Japan had contributed to radar technology, they failed to maximize its potential. Their weakness in detecting enemy craft, combined with cramped airfields where planes parked close together, made it easier for the Allies to take more out in a single raid.

And while Japan was the first to develop aircraft carriers, their focus was on combat missions. They therefore failed to understand the strategic value of taking out supply lines, giving the Allies an edge.

Finally, they didn’t have an effective training program for pilots. As more experienced ones died out, that left inexperienced ones who were forced to do kamikaze missions.

Kamikaze Warfare

The kamikaze suicide pilot was Japan’s most ruthless weapon. On April 4, the Japanese unleashed these well-trained pilots on the Fifth Fleet. Some dove their planes into ships at 500 miles per hour causing catastrophic damage.

American sailors tried desperately to shoot the kamikaze planes down but were often sitting ducks against enemy pilots with nothing to lose. During the Battle of Okinawa, the Fifth Fleet suffered:

  • 36 sunk ships
  • 368 damaged ships
  • 4,900 men killed or drowned
  • 4,800 men wounded
  • 763 lost aircraft

Japan Seizes American Soil

In June 1942, six months after the Japanese attack at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, that drew the U.S. into World War II, the Japanese targeted the Aleutians, an American-owned chain of remote, sparsely inhabited, volcanic islands extending some 1,200 miles west of the Alaskan Peninsula. After reaching the Aleutians, the Japanese conducted air strikes on Dutch Harbor, site of two American military bases, on June 3 and June 4. The Japanese then made landfall at Kiska Island on June 6 and Attu Island, approximately 200 miles away, on June 7. Japanese troops quickly established garrisons, or military bases, on both islands, which had belonged to the U.S. since it purchased Alaska from Russia in 1867.

Did you know? The native people of the Aleutian Islands were originally known as the Unangan. Russian fur traders who arrived in the region in the mid-18th century renamed them the Aleuts. In 1942, after the Japanese took Attu, the island’s population of some 40 Aleuts were taken prisoner.

Like the other volcanic islands in the Aleutians, Attu and Kiska appeared to have little military or strategic value because of their barren, mountainous terrain and harsh weather, infamous for its sudden dense fogs, high winds, rains and frequent snow. Some historians believe Japan seized Attu and Kiska mainly to divert the U.S. Pacific Fleet during the Japanese attack on Midway Island (June 4𠄷, 1942) in the central Pacific. It’s also possible the Japanese believed that holding the two islands could prevent the U.S. from any attempt to invade Japan’s home islands by way of the Aleutian chain.

World War II's Bizarre 'Battle of Los Angeles'

In the frantic weeks that followed the Pearl Harbor attack, many Americans believed that enemy raids on the continental United States were imminent. On December 9, 1941, unsubstantiated reports of approaching aircraft had caused a minor invasion panic in New York City and sent stock prices tumbling. 

On the West Coast, inexperienced pilots and radar men had mistaken fishing boats, logs and even whales for Japanese warships and submarines. Tensions were high, and they only grew after U.S. Secretary of War Henry Stimson warned that American cities should be prepared to accept “occasional blows” from enemy forces. 

Just a few days later on February 23, 1942, a Japanese submarine surfaced off the coast of Santa Barbara, California, and hurled over a dozen artillery shells at an oil field and refinery. While the attack inflicted no casualties and caused only minor damage, it marked the first time that the mainland United States had been bombed during World War II.

Soldiers manning anti-aircraft guns in New York City. (Credit: Bettmann/Getty Images)

The day after the oil field raid, paranoia and itchy trigger fingers combined to produce one of the most unusual home front incidents of the war. It began on the evening of February 24, 1942, when naval intelligence instructed units on the California coast to steel themselves for a potential Japanese attack. 

All remained calm for the next few hours, but shortly after 2 a.m. on February 25, military radar picked up what appeared to be an enemy contact some 120 miles west of Los Angeles. Air raid sirens sounded and a citywide blackout was put into effect. Within minutes, troops had manned anti-aircraft guns and begun sweeping the skies with searchlights.

It was just after 3 a.m. when the shooting started. Following reports of an unidentified object in the skies, troops in Santa Monica unleashed a barrage of anti-aircraft and .50 caliber machine gun fire. Before long, many of the city’s other coastal defense weapons had joined in. 

“Powerful searchlights from countless stations stabbed the sky with brilliant probing fingers,” the Los Angeles Times wrote, “while anti-aircraft batteries dotted the heavens with beautiful, if sinister, orange bursts of shrapnel.” 

Chaos reigned over the next several minutes. It appeared that Los Angeles was under attack, yet many of those who looked skyward saw nothing but smoke and the glare of ack-ack fire. 

“Imagination could have easily disclosed many shapes in the sky in the midst of that weird symphony of noise and color,” Coastal Artillery Corps Colonel John G. Murphy later wrote. 𠇋ut cold detachment disclosed no planes of any type in the sky𠅏riendly or enemy.”

For others, however, the threat appeared to be very real. Reports poured in from across the city describing Japanese aircraft flying in formation, bombs falling and enemy

World War II-era anti-aircraft spotlights. (Credit: Bettmann/Getty Images)

paratroopers. There was even a claim of a Japanese plane crash landing in the streets of Hollywood. “I could barely see the planes, but they were up there all right,” a coastal artilleryman named Charles Patrick later wrote in a letter. “I could see six planes, and shells were bursting all around them. Naturally, all of us fellows were anxious to get our two-cents’ worth in and, when the command came, everybody cheered like a son of a gun.” 

The barrage eventually continued for over an hour. By the time a final 𠇊ll-clear” order was given later that morning, Los Angeles’ artillery batteries had pumped over 1,400 rounds of anti-aircraft ammunition into the sky.

It was only in the light of day that the American military units made a puzzling discovery: there appeared to have been no enemy attack. 𠇊lthough reports were conflicting and every effort is being made to ascertain the facts, it is clear that no bombs were dropped and no planes were shot down,” read a statement from the Army’s Western Defense Command.

Ironically, the only damage during the �ttle” had come from friendly fire. Anti-aircraft shrapnel rained down across the city, shattering windows and ripping through buildings. One dud careened into a Long Beach golf course, and several residents had their homes partially destroyed by 3-inch artillery shells. 

While there were no serious injuries from the shootout, it was reported that at least five people had died as a result of heart attacks and car accidents that occurred during the extended blackout. In a preview of the hysteria that would soon accompany the Japanese internment, authorities also arrested some 20 Japanese-Americans for allegedly trying to signal the nonexistent aircraft.

A man cleaning up friendly fire damage from the air raid. (Credit: Peter Stackpole/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images)

Over the next few days, government and media outlets issued contradictory reports on what later became known as the �ttle of Los Angeles.” Secretary of the Navy Frank Knox dismissed the firefight as a false alarm brought on by “jittery nerves,” but Secretary of War Henry Stimson echoed Army brass in saying that at least 15 planes had buzzed the city. He even advanced the provocative theory that the phantom fighters might have been commercial aircraft “operated by enemy agents” hoping to strike fear into the public. 

Stimson later backpedaled his claims, but there was still the matter of the thousands of military personnel and civilians who claimed to have seen aircraft in the skies over L.A. According to an editorial in the New York Times, some eyewitnesses had spied 𠇊 big floating object resembling a balloon,” while others had spotted anywhere from one plane to several dozen. “The more the whole incident of the early morning of Feb. 25 in the Los Angeles district is examined,” the article read, “the more incredible it becomes.”

What caused the shootout over Los Angeles? The Japanese military later claimed it had never flown aircraft over the city during World War II, providing fuel for a host of bizarre theories involving government conspiracies and visits by flying saucers and extraterrestrials. 


Army Directives
Army Directive No. 982 1 Nov 41
Army Directive No. 991 6 Nov 41
Army Department Orders
Army Department Order No. 569 1 Dec 41
Army Department Order No. 570 1 Dec 41
Army Department Order No. 571 1 Dec 41
Army Department Order No. 572 1 Dec 41
Army Department Order No. 573 1 Dec 41
Army Department Order No. 574 1 Dec 41
Army Department Order No. 1081 24 Jul 44
Army Department Order No. 1213 26 Dec 44
Army Department Order No. 1245 6 Feb 45
Army Department Order No. 1339 30 May 45

Army Directive No. 982

1 November 1941

Pursuant to Imperial General Headquarters Army Order No. 526.

1. The orders given to Kenkichi Yoshizawa, Envoy Extraordinary and Ambassador Plenipotentiary, are given in the appendix.

2. When the Envoy Extraordinary and Ambassador Plenipotentiary is dispatched to French Indo-China, he will conduct negotiations regarding the following matters in accordance with the Matsuoka-Henry Agreement of 30 August 1940, and Article 3 of the appendix to the agreement between Japan and France dated 29 July 1941, documents exchanged between the two parties concerning the military co-operation.

Matters regarding army garrisons, billets, supplies, maneuvers, troop transportation, the use and establishment of air bases, and other matters regarding the military coordination, between the Japanese and French South Indo-China Armies.

Matters having direct bearing on the duties of the army.

3. In accordance with Army Secret China General Order No. 3506, the abovementioned official will take over the duties of the Surveillance Committee in French Indo-China following the release of its personnel he will assume the duties of searching for materials bound for Chiang Kai-shek and, through strict surveillance, will stop the transportation of such supplies.

4. Negotiations with French Indo-China regarding military demands, for the purposes of preparing for operations against the

Southern Area, will be conducted in accordance with Imperial General Headquarters, Army Department Directive No. 957, issued 14 September 1941.

5. In conducting negotiations with French Indo-China, pursuant to the foregoing paragraphs 2 and 3, the Envoy Extraordinary and Ambassador Plenipotentiary will, beside maintaining close co-ordination in regard to negotiations, cooperate with the general policies of the other ambassadors concerning French Indo-China.

Army Directive No. 991

6 November 1941

Pursuant to Imperial General Headquarters, Army Order No. 556.

1. The Southern Army operational procedure and the Army-Navy Central Agreement regarding the Southern Area Operations, to which the Commander in Chief of the Southern Army will adhere in preparing for the Southern Area Operations, are as given in the annex.

2. The Commander in Chief of the Southern Army will complete operational preparations on or about the end of November.

3. Efforts will be made to maintain friendly relations with French Indo-China and Thailand. Local negotiations concerning military demands on French Indo-China, will include the items indicated in Imperial General Headquarters Army Department Directive No. 982 issued to the Commander of the 25th Army on 1 November 1941.

4. The Commander in Chief of the General Defense Command will order the defense units in Formosa and Nansei Islands to co-operate in air defense, garrison duties, etc., of the units under the command of the Commander in Chief of the Southern Army, which are assembled in these areas.

5. Particular care will be taken to conceal the objectives of preparations for these operations.

Army Department Order No. 569

1 December 1941

1. Japan has decided to wage war against the United States, Great Britain and the Netherlands.

2. The CinC of the Southern Army will launch offensive (Invasion) operations on X Day December.

3. In the event of the following emergencies before X Day December, the CinC of the Southern Army is authorized to take action as specified below:

a. If the enemy makes a serious initial attack on the Southern Army, offensive (invasion) operations will be launched in co-operation with the Navy at the opportune time.

b. If the British forces enter Thailand, the Southern Army, in co-operation with the Navy, will invade Thailand at the opportune time.

c. In the event enemy aircraft make repeated reconnaissance of our important bases and convoys, they will be shot down.

4. Detailed directives will be issued by the Chief of the General Staff.

Army Department Order No. 570

1 December 19411.

Japan has decided to wage war against the United States, Great Britain and the Netherlands. The Southern Army will launch offensive operations on X Day December and immediately occupy the strategic areas in the Philippines. British Malaya and the Netherlands East Indies.

2. The South Seas Detachment Commander, in co-operation with the Navy, will invade "G" immediately after X Day December. Following the occupation of "G", the South Seas Detachment Commander will concentrate his forces in this area and make preparations for operations against the "R" islands.

3. In the event that, prior to X Day December, enemy aircraft make repeated reconnaissance of our important bases and convoys, the South Seas Detachment Commander is authorized to shoot them down.

4. Detailed directives will be issued by the Chief of the General Staff.

Army Department Order No. 571

1 December 1941

1. The CinC of the Chine Expeditionary Forces will make necessary preparations to occupy the British Concession in Tientsin, the International Settlement in Shanghai and other enemy interests in China.

2. Detailed directives will be issued by the Chief of the General Staff.

Army Department Order No. 572

1 December 1941

1. Japan bad decided to wage war against the United States, Great Britain and the Netherlands.

2. The CinC of the China Expeditionary Forces will cooperate with the Navy and occupy Hong Kong with a force organized around the 38th Division under the command of the 23d Army Commander. Operations will be launched immediately after the Southern Army's landings on or air raids upon Malaya are confirmed. After Hong Kong is occupied, the neighboring areas will be secured and a military government established.

3. In the event of the following occurrences, the CinC of the China Expeditionary Forces is authorized to take action as specified below:

a. In the event the enemy makes an initial attack before the commencement of operations, the attack will be intercepted at an opportune time.

b. In the event enemy aircraft carry out repeated reconnaissance of our military movements, etc., they will be shot down.

4. Detailed directives will be issued by the Chief of the General Staff.

Army Department Order No. 573

1 December 1941

1. The CinC of the China Expeditionary Forces will occupy the British Concession in Tientsin, International Settlement in Shanghai and other enemy interests in China. If considered necessary, use of force is authorized.

2. Detailed directives will be issued by the Chief of the General Staff.

Army Department Order No. 574

1 December 1941

1. The units given in the annex will be placed under the command of the Shipping Transport Commander and incorporated into the orders of battle of the Southern Army, 15th Army, loth Army and 25th Army.

2. Officers ordered to organize the units and the Korea Army Commander will place the units named in the annex under the command of their newly assigned commanders at their present stations or by dispatching them to the south.

3. Transfer of command will be effective when the units given in the annex depart from ports in Japan, Korea or China. The Southern Army Kempeitai, 1st Field Construction Unit Headquarters and the 1st Sea Transport Observation Unit, however, will be placed under the command of their newly assigned commanders at 0001 hours, 1 December.

4. Each newly assigned commander of the units given in the annex is authorized to exercise delegated command over these units in regard to operational preparations before they come under his command.

5. Detailed directives will be issued by the Chief of the General Staff.

    Southern Army Kempeitai
    Commander: 2d Field Kempeitai Commander
    2d Field Kempeitai Headquarters (61st Ind Inf Group)
    4th Field Kempeitai (25th Army)

    Note: The 2d Field Kempeitai Headquarters will be removed from the order of battle of the Southern Army and incorporated into the organization of the Southern Army Kempeitai.

    Air Research Division, Southern Army (Army Aeronautical Department)
    1st Field Air Replacement Unit (1st Air Group (Hiko Shudan)

    17th Field Post Office Unit (Guards Depot Div)
    17th L of C Veterinary Hospital (57th Depot Div)
    1st Tracked Vehicle Repair Unit (Guards Depot Div)

    Communications Unit, 15th Army
    Commander: 15th Signal Unit Commander
    15th Signal Unit Headquarters (CinC, China Expeditionary Forces)
    6th and 7th Ind Signal Companies (pack horse) (5th Depot Div)

    23d Independent Signal Company (B) (pack horse) (7th Div)
    87th Independent Signal Company (motorized) (5th Depot Div)
    38th and 43d Fixed Radio Units (5th Depot Div)

    101st Ind Motor Transport Battalion (Guards Depot Div)
    51st Independent Transport Battalion (A) (3d Depot Div)
    33d Sea Duty Company (51st Depot Div)
    35th Sea Duty Company (52d Division)
    101st Construction Duty Company (Guards Depot Div)
    39th and 40th Casualty Clearing Platoons (51st Depot Div)

    73d L of C Sector Unit (20th Div)
    93d and 94th Land Duty Companies (53d Div)

    102d Ind Motor Transport Battalion (61st Ind Inf Group)

    56th Division (56th Div)

    1st Field Construction Unit Headquarters (61st Ind Inf Group)
    1st Sea Transport Observation Unit (Shipping Transport Commander)

Army Department Order No. 1081

24 July 1944

1. Imperial General Headquarters plans to direct a decisive battle against the main body of the United States forces during the latter half of this year. It is estimated that the Imperial Army will fight this decisive battle in Japan Proper, the Philippines or the area between. Imperial General Headquarters will determine later the exact time and place of this decisive battle.

2. The Commander in Chief of the Southern Army, the Formosa Commander, Commander in Chief of the General Defense Command, Fifth Area Army Commander, and the Commander in Chief of the China Expeditionary Forces will co-operate with the Navy in making immediate preparations for the decisive battle and the fulfilment of their assignments. The outline of the tactical command policy to be pursued by Imperial General Headquarters in directing future operations is as shown in the appendix.

3. In order to carry out the decisive battle, the Chief of the General Staff is authorized, within the scope of plans to be made, to issue directives to the commanders concerned for the employment (including the transfer of command) and preparations of the air force.

By Imperial Command:

Yoshijiro Umezu
Chief of the General Staff

To: Yoshijiro Umezu, Chief of the General Staff
Count Hisaichi Terauchi, Commander in Chief, Southern Army
Shunroku Hata, Commander in Chief, China Expeditionary Forces
Prince Naruhiko, Commander in Chief, General Defense Command
Rikichi Ando, Commander, Formosa Army
Kiichiro Higuchi, Commander, Fifth Area Army

(Appendix omitted)

Army Department Order No. 1213

26 December 1944

1. In addition to his present duties, the Commander in Chief of the General Defense Command will carry out the following air operations:

a. Air operations in the Marianas and Iwo Jima areas.

b. Air operations in the Nansei Islands area, with Kyushu as base.

Yoshijiro Umezu
Chief of the General Staff

To: Prince Naruhiko, Commander in Chief, General Defense Command

Army Department Order No. 1245

6 February 1945

1. Imperial General Headquarters intends to destroy the advancing enemy, particularly the American forces, our principal foe, and to secure the strategic national defense areas centered around the Homeland, thereby destroying the enemy's will to fight.

2. The Commander in Chief of the General Defense Command will secure Japan by annihilating the invading enemy. The essentials of the plans which must be adhered to in accomplishing the foregoing mission are as follows:

a. Operational preparations in Japan will be stressed, particularly in the Kanto, Kyushu and Tokai districts. Special emphasis will be placed on the air defense of key points in the foregoing sectors and the Osaka-Kobe district.

b. In addition to intercepting enemy air raids at an opportune time, the Commander in Chief of the General Defense Command will cooperate with the Navy in exerting every effort to destroy enemy task forces attacking the vicinity of Japan.

c. Efforts will be made to destroy the enemy at sea so as to prevent an invasion of the Homeland.

d. Protection of land transportation routes and harbor installations will be maintained with special emphasis being placed on guarding key points of surface transportation between Japan and Korea.

e. The Navy will be given as much assistance as circumstances will permit in the protection of surface transportation.

f. The Commander in Chief of the General Defense Command will, if necessary, confer and cooperate with the Commander in Chief of the Kwantung Army, Commander in Chief of the China Expeditionary Forces, Fifth Area Army Commander, Tenth Area Army Commander, Seventeenth Area Army Commander and Navy commanders concerned in regard to the foregoing operations. He will dispatch a part of his forces to other armies' zones of operations and reorganize command relationships accordingly.

g. Air operations outside the zone of operations will he based upon Imperial General Headquarters Army Department Order No. 1213.

3. The Seventeenth Area Army Commander will secure Korea by annihilating the invading enemy. He will be subject to the delegated command of the Commander in Chief of the Kwantung Army for such matters as operational preparations against the Soviets. The essentials of the plans which must be adhered to in accomplishing the foregoing missions are as follows:

a. Operational preparations in Korea will be stressed around the key sectors of the south Korea area (including Saishu Island).

b. Key points of the trans-peninsula railroad (running the length of Korea), northern Korea railway and the Yalu and Toukou Rivers will be guarded strongly.

c. The Seventeenth Area Army Commander will, if necessary, confer and cooperate with the Commander in Chief of the General Defense Command, Commander in Chief of the Kwantung Army and Navy commanders concerned in regard to the foregoing operations and dispatch a part of his forces to other armies' zones of operations and reorganize command relationships accordingly.

4. The boundary between the zones of operations of the Japan Defense Army and the Fifth Area Army will be Tsugaru Strait with the Tsugaru Strait and the Tsugaru Fortified Zone in Aomori Prefecture being under the control of the Fifth Area Army. The boundary between the zones of operations of the Japan Defense Army and Tenth Area Army will be Lat. 30°10'N. The boundary between the zones of operations of the Japan Defense Army and Seventeenth Area Army will be Korea Strait.

5. Directives concerning the details will be issued by the Chief of the General Staff.

By Imperial Command:

Yoshijiro Umezu
Chief of the General Staff

To: Prince Naruhiko, Commander in Chief, General Defense Command
Kiichiro Higuchi, Commander, Fifth Area Army
Rikichi Ando, Commander, Tenth Area Army
Seishiro Itagaki, Commander, Seventeenth Area Army
Otozo Yamada, Commander in Chief, Kwantung Army
Yasuji Okamura, Commander in Chief, China Expeditionary Forces

Army Department Order No. 1339

30 May 1945

1. Imperial General Headquarters plans to strengthen preparations for operations against the United States and the Soviet Union in Korea and Manchuria.

2. The Commander of the Seventeenth Area Army will annihilate the enemy invading central and southern Korea.

3. The Commander in Chief of the Kwantung Army will, in addition to carrying out his present mission, annihilate the American Army when it attacks, and at the same time, make preparations for operations against the Soviet Union in northern Korea. For this purpose the necessary units under his over-all and direct command will be disposed in northern Korea. The Commander of the Korea Area Army will be under his command in regard to preparations for operations against the Soviet Union in northern Korea and operations against the United States.

4. For the defense of northern Korea, the Commander of the Korea Area Army will assume command of the units disposed according to the preceding paragraphs his authority, however, will be limited to matters which do not interfere with the units' preparation for operations.

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