Welcome to the WWII Forums! Log in or Sign up to interact with the community.

Japanese and US Fighter Pilots Vrsion of Events

Discussion in 'The War In The Pacific' started by Jim, Aug 24, 2010.

  1. Jim

    Jim New Member

    Joined:
    Sep 1, 2006
    Messages:
    3,324
    Likes Received:
    12
    via War44
    June 1944 would prove unforgettable for the land and carrier-based pilots of America and Japan. The scene is set in the tropical heat of the Pacific Ocean for a confrontation between them. Two accounts by pilots, one from each side, reveal how similar emotions went through their minds.

    Commander David McCampbell was Commander of Air Group 15, the three fighting squadrons of the US carrier Essex which took part in the battle against the Japanese Combined Fleet. He later became the most celebrated of us naval airmen and was awarded the Medal of Honor.

    June 12, 1944, Admiral Raymond Spruance had led the 5th US Fleet to the Philippine Sea, preparing to invade Saipan and the other major islands of the Marianas chain, which were needed as air bases for the B-29 bombers to strike Japan. My carrier, the USS Essex, was part of the fleet's Task Group 58.4, which comprised three carriers, three cruisers and twelve destroyers. The other carriers were the Langley and the Cowpens. Rear Admiral W K Harrill was the officer in command. Altogether there were 15 carriers now with the 5th Fleet. Our first task was to soften up the air defences of Saipan and the smaller island of Pagan which was important because it housed an airfield with one small runway, and a number of barracks and shops. Saipan was the first objective. The job … destroy enemy aircraft.

    On board the carrier USS Essex, F6F Hellcats of Commander David McCampbell's Air Group 15 is prepared for action, May 1944.

    [​IMG]

    Just before one o'clock on the afternoon of 11 June, we had the order to launch the planes. I led the air strike, which consisted of 15 fighters from the Essex and two dive-bombers along with a dozen fighters from the Cowpens and a dozen from the Langley. The two dive-bombers were rescue planes, equipped with extra life-rafts and other survival gear to drop to downed pilots. Later an amphibian or a submarine or a destroyer would pick the pilots up. Seven of our F6F fighters carried 350-pound demolition bombs, and they dived from 12,000 feet and bombed at 2,500 feet, and then formed a strafing line and strafed the island from east to west. The other eight fighters stayed above flying cover until the bombing runs ended, and then they went down to strafe. For an hour and a half they concentrated on strafing runs on Saipan's airfields and seaplane bases. The Japanese drew first blood. On the way in over Tanapag Harbour, Lieutenant Kenney's fighter was hit by flak. He was diving but he just continued to dive straight down to the water and splashed. Lieutenant Commander Brewer led the fighter attack on the harbour seaplane ramp. I saw his bomb strike in the middle of three seaplanes parked neatly on the ramp, and destroy all three. Brewer then strafed, came around and headed out to sea. Five miles out at sea, northwest of Marpi Point, Brewer and Ensign R E Fowler Junior spotted a dark green Kawanishi flying boat called an Emily, with the dull red circles. They attacked. As they came up, several other fighters were shooting at the Emily. Brewer attacked from above on the side of the plane he said he saw his bullets hit the Emily's number two engine and the port wing. Ensign Fowler reported that he attacked the cockpit and noticed that the plane was smoking. Twenty seconds later the flying boat turned over on one wing, dropped with engine aflame and smoke coming from the fuselage, and struck the water. It exploded in a geyser of smoke, water and flame.

    A group of US bomber pilots wait for the call to action, tension showing clearly on their faces as Captain Stuart Ingersol (left) prepares his men for the assault on Saipan.

    [​IMG]

    Lieutenant-Commander Brewer turned west of the town of Garapan and saw three Zero fighters, but by the time he arrived on the scene, they had all been shot down by other American fighters. This was our first encounter as an air group with enemy aircraft. We had heard a great deal about the Zero fighter. I was pleased to note that the F6F could stay with the Zero in turns, climbs and dives, particularly at altitudes above 12,000 feet, where most of the air action took place. I noted two deficiencies of the Zero, its lack of armour and its unprotected gas tanks. All but one of the Zeros I saw shot down that day went down in flames. At about 2.30 I was flying 'mattress' (low air cover) and observing the attack. Suddenly a Zero came down from above our fighters and pulled up in a high wingover on my port beam. I turned into the Zero and gave it a short burst from close up, not more than 250 yards. The Zero turned over on its left wing. I followed and got in another short burst, got on the tail and gave the Zero another burst. The pilot made another wingover, but he was already going down. The plane fell off on the right wing and spiralled toward the sea. Another F6F followed the Zero down, firing. I remained in position. The Zero hit the water without burning and sank. No head appeared. On 19 June Admiral Ozawa launched his first strike against the American fleet, beginning from Guam. At 10 o'clock our radar picked up a large force of 'bogies' approaching, distance 150 miles. At that point Commander Brewer was already in the air, in command of the combat air patrol, and he was ordered to take his planes up to 24,000 feet. We heard Brewer shout Tallyho' 24 rats, 16 hawks, no fish at 18,000' (24 fighters, 16 dive-bombers and no torpedo planes at 18,000 feet). He then spotted 15 Judys (Aichi dive-bombers) at 18,000 in tight formation with four Zeros on each flank, and 1,000 feet above and behind, 16 more Zeros. Brewer selected the leading dive-bomber and came up to 800 feet from the plane. The Judy exploded so quickly it was unbelievable. He flew through the debris and attacked another. This one blew up too, half the wing fell off and the plane cart wheeled into the sea. Two minutes after Brewer's Tallyho', my fighter was launched, and I led 12 fighters to join in fighting off the attackers, but by the time my fighters were organised, the fighter controller announced that another raid was coming in, 50 planes travelling 150 knots, 45 miles to the east. I was to intercept and stop them.

    Vital in softening up attacks on the island of Saipan, TBF Avenger Torpedo Bombers warm up for action on the deck of a US Carrier.

    [​IMG]

    I took them up to 25,000. Two were affected by the altitude and their engines began to cut out, so I ordered them to orbit over the carrier. We had altitude and speed and when we reached the enemy formation, were able to make a high speed run, leaving four planes above for protection. My first target was a Judy (dive-bomber) on the left flank and approximately halfway back in the formation. It was my intention after completing the run on the plane, to pass under it, retire across the formation and take under fire a plane on the right flank with a low side attack. The plans became upset when the first plane I fired at blew up practically in my face, and caused a pullout above the entire formation. I remember being unable to get to the other side fast enough, feeling as though every rear gunner had his fire directed at me. My second attack was made on a Judy on the right flank of the formation, which burned favourably on one pass and fell away from the formation out of control, a rather long burst from above rear to tail position. Retirement was made below and ahead. My efforts were directed to retaining as much speed as possible and working myself ahead into position for an attack on the leader. A third pass was made from below rear on a Judy which was hit and smoking as he pulled out and down from the formation. After my first pass on the leader with no visible damage observed, pullout was made below and to the left. Deciding that it would be easier to concentrate on the port wingman than on the leader, my next pass was an above rear from seven o'clock, causing the wingman to explode in an envelope of flames. Breaking away down and to the left placed me in a position for a below rear run on the leader from six o'clock, after which I worked on his tail and continued to fire until he burned furiously and spiralled down out of control. During the last bursts on the leader, gun stoppages occurred. Both port and starboard guns were charged in an attempt to clear before firing again. I decided I must be out of ammunition and started back for the carrier.
     
  2. Jim

    Jim New Member

    Joined:
    Sep 1, 2006
    Messages:
    3,324
    Likes Received:
    12
    via War44
    Yoshida Katsuyoshi

    Yoshida Katsuyoshi was a naval warrant officer in the Japanese 202 Air Group when the Americans showed signs of moving against Biak Island. The Group transferred to the Island of Yap and then to the Solong base to make preliminary arrangements for operations.

    The badge worn by fighter pilots of the Japanese Navy

    [​IMG]

    On 3 June, we were ordered to attack the enemy landing points on Biak. Apart from us, there were Army Hayabusa fighters, and Suisei (Comet) carrier-borne aircraft of 503 Air Group. We set off in high spirits. When the carrier-borne planes had finished their attack, we dived down and strafed the enemy positions, firing at will. The skies over Biak were not the clear skies of the south, they were leaden and overcast, and I took off my tinted flying goggles during the attack. It was more important to improve, however slightly, my field of vision, though it added to the dangers. Ahead of me, and below, the carrier-borne bombers waggled their stubby wings and went into a dive, showing their bellies as they went down. Brave chaps. I watched them, but I also kept my eyes peeled for enemy aircraft coming suddenly in to the attack, but no enemy planes showed up, and oddly enough, there didn't seem to be much flak either. Then four planes of Sakaguchi's section, in front and to our left, went into a dive and disappeared from view. A short pause while I checked above and behind, then I signalled to my wing planes and we too went into a dive. So far, we had concentrated on what was happening in the sky, but as we went into our dive, I noticed the angle to the objective was pretty steep. Still, I could see a fair amount of supplies, tanks and ammunition had accumulated along the sandy beaches of the shoreline. I had the prize in front of my eyes and I could hardly change my goal now. As I approached, the ack-ack fire was more intense than I had bargained for; the enemy was putting up a determined defence. I wasn't too clear about where the carrier-borne units were, or the section which had dived before, but I pounded the shore at close range. I could see enemy troops running away into the sea, as I strafed the stores, but I did not aim at them. I mean, from my experience so far, it was difficult to hit a running man.

    In a still shot from a Japanese newsreel, a Zero fighter takes off from the carrier to take on the massive naval air power of the USA.

    [​IMG]

    The diving angle was poor, so I pulled out sooner than usual, but perhaps because I'd gone over the terminal velocity, my plane gave a protesting scream. When I looked round, I saw my wing plane climbing and almost at a stroke we had climbed to 10,000 feet. I drew breath, a sigh of relief, and looked around. My wing man was keeping tight close behind me. I could not make out what was happening on the ground, apart from a few glimpses snatched here and there between the clouds. I wondered whether to dive again, and put her nose down, then, as I looked in the direction of New Guinea, I could see, far ahead in front, a dog-fight in progress. I flew straight towards it, and saw our planes were latching on to a four engined PB2Y flying boat. I joined in. As our aircraft closed in for the attack, a door opened in the enemy plane and a W/T set and some heavy objects were thrust out. This was to enable him to increase speed a little; he was doing his best to escape. He was too low for me to fire at him from below, his weak spot, so I attacked right in front, and as he did a slow right turn and came within range, my shells passed by him on the left. I had already used up a fair amount of ammunition in the land strafing, and in this frontal attack I ran out of 20mm ammunition. Surely I must have scored some hits? I looked for some time, I felt sure he was going to go down but he kept hanging on. I wanted to try one more attack, but I was out of ammunition, so there was no point. I turned towards Babo Base without being able to check the outcome. On the west of New Guinea, Babo was in a marshy zone, which, seen from above, looked like solid earth. In fact it was only like that near the airfield. Further out there was jungle and swamp up to your waist, a place of oil gushers. When I looked down from above on the L-shaped runway, I had the feeling something was wrong, and when I landed, I heard that Captain Takao and WO Furuya of 603 Air Group had gone up to meet an attack by P38s some time before, and had been killed.

    A twin engined Japanese fighter plane, burning fiercely, plummets towards the sea.

    [​IMG]

    On 9 June, army reinforcements were being sent to Biak where the situation had gone against us. They were being taken in six destroyers and close escort was being provided by army and navy planes, taking it in turns. I Section, Captain Kagarni, CPO Okano, PO Miyagaki, and II Section, myself and CPO Mishimoto and CPO Omori, made for Manokwari. We found the six destroyers steaming eastward full speed ahead and, judging from their wake, they must have been doing something like 40 knots. About 6,000 feet above them, as they zigzagged, flew several B-24 bombers, carrying out horizontal bombing attacks. Our six Zeros instantly flew into the midst of the enemy bombers. Unfortunately, the ack-ack fire from our destroyers kept coming up to us, uncomfortably close. In such a situation, all we could do was put our fate In Heaven's hands. Accurate aiming was not necessary, and we pressed the enemy close from the side, with one attack after the other. Then when I took a glance in front and above, I saw those hated P38s sneaking up on us. There must have been more than 20 or 30 planes. We were too low to challenge them to aerial combat and there was no time to take up a position of advantage. We sailed right into the middle of them, a confused melee, and blazed away. Accurate aiming was out of the question, and all we could do was dodge their fire. I spotted my chance; I came out of the melee. I'd been hit two or three times, and with my wing tanks shot through I was likely to turn into a ball of flame at any minute. But I got back to Ekman Island base. PO Miyagaki failed to return. On 17 June, I was transferred from Kau to Peleliu. It was the night before what was called afterwards The Battle of the Marianas' (the Battle of the Philippine Sea). In discussions, it was decided that 202 Air Group was to fill up the bomber gap. All our planes were to be fitted out with 60 kg bombs. We would become a fighter-bomber unit, and attack enemy forces landing on Saipan. The next day, 18 June reveille was at 3.30 am, and we set off, breathing in great lungfuls of the bracing air of Peleliu. After one and a half hours, we landed at the airfield on Yap. The ground crews bustled to and fro, filling us up with ammunition, bombs and fuel. At the control station, the Z-flag flew, as it had traditionally since the Battle of the Japan Sea, as if to stress the crucial importance of this battle for our country. I squatted down beside the runway to smoke a cigarette, and Furumura came up. He had been in the same reserve training unit as me. He was just as I remembered him, quite unchanged, the same thick black bushy eyebrows. We hadn't seen each other for a long time and there was a lot to talk about. From what he said, we were to set off together, as decoy planes, with the Suisei carrier-borne bombers. We slapped each other on the back and said we'd see who was the more skilful pilot of the two. I don't know whether it was a joke, or whether he was being serious, but he said 'I'll show you a good place to die'. That's how it ended.

    The bombing strikes were effective, Aslito airfield and its hangers lie in ruins, littered with Zero after an American raid.

    [​IMG]

    We set out at 12 noon, a large formation of about 200 aircraft, and made a big detour east of Guam. The plan was to attack enemy ships at sea south-east of Saipan. When you fly for three hours with a load of two 60 kg bombs, the hand grasping the joystick gets tired. I felt tense just after setting off, but after an hour had gone by, then two hours, I felt pains in my legs and bottom in the narrow seat, and dull-spirited. We were flying in a bomber role, so other fighter units were in formation in front of us and behind, and below and above us, acting as escort. Soon the southern shore of Guam came up on our left, and we came out over the eastern sea. About 30 minutes later, we were in enemy skies. I had been wounded two years before, and my neck was still not in good shape, so in order to be able to keep a lookout to the rear, I unfastened my shoulder seat belt. Flying upside down had to be done with one lap-belt. I turned my head left, then right, then tried to move so that I could see to my rear. I worked the 7.7 mm gun and, as a precaution, went through the loading procedure again. The foremost interceptor unit was a fair way ahead, with its accompanying escort flying above it. I noticed they were flying ahead of our bombing unit, but perhaps because of the clouds I could not make out where they were making for. After a while the bomber unit command plane began to lose altitude. Finally it seemed to be dodging between the clouds to go into a bombing run. I changed over the fuel cock on the wing tanks and took off my glasses. In an emergency I had the habit of removing my glasses, since I felt them to be a nuisance. High overhead, our escort unit and the enemy fighters were already engaged in dog-fights. Today, whatever happened, we were going to introduce the enemy to our 60 kg bombs, but below the clouds our field of vision was not too good, and apart from ten transport ships up ahead, no warships could be seen. Suddenly a bunch of fighters, ours and the enemy's, came falling down through the sky ahead, to my right. At the same time there was uproar on all sides, and little time to take aim at a target. Even for objectives close to, the distance was too great for the height. The instant I became aware of this, the ack-ack fire from below became more intense than anything I'd experienced so far. A pillar of flame, as if from a dozen heavy ack-ack machine guns, roared past like an express train. I felt a long time had elapsed up to the time I burst through, and I took a quick glance above and below, but whether or not our bombing unit had spread out, what entered my field of vision was about 20 or 30 aircraft, apparently suspended over a 5,0000ton transport, but the angle was too narrow for horizontal bombing. Partly from impatience to return to my true role as a fighter, I dropped my bombs from both wings. An enemy fighter came in to attack me from the right as I tried to confirm what had happened below me, and I switched to the right to dodge him. The joystick had stiffened, and I put some force into it and finally came out on top of the clouds, where both sides were engaged in dog-fights. Some distance off, a number of aircraft were locked in combat and tracer shells flew to and fro. My wing plane was no longer behind me. I must have come out in the opposite direction of the cloud after dropping my bombs. Then I tangled with a Grumman flying in the opposite direction. I made as if to climb and just an instant before colliding with him, I pulled the trigger from about 400 yards away. I'd meant to aim in front, but it shot past him to the right and behind. The cloud was thin, and I came out at once below it. The instant I was out, I could see I was somewhere off Saipan, I didn't know where, but I could see what looked like a military position and an enormous number of landing-craft. I decided to dive straight down and strafe them. Aiming at a spot on the shoreline, I suddenly put her nose down. Once again, intense ack-ack fire came up at me. What ship was aiming at my plane? It seemed to be even fiercer than the ack-ack fire on shore. After glancing behind and above, I took aim at the enemy position which had come into my sights and squeezed the trigger. I felt terrific and let out a roar as if my 20 mm and 7.7 mm guns were bursting through at the landing craft which were touching down on the sandy strip of shore. The aircraft's nose juddered as I aimed and fired. No flames burst out, so it wasn't very satisfactory, and I thought, let's put the finishing touches to it, but then I realised all my 20 mm ammunition had gone, so I climbed out through the middle of the dog-fight and turned the plane's nose towards Guam. As I looked around, I could see several streamers of black smoke on the surface of the sea, and in the sky, far off, distant aircraft looking like rubber balls. A great many aircraft had returned to Guam by the time I came down. PO Kawada's big body was shaking and alive with gestures as he explained how he had shot down a Grumman. Below my flying cap, I was soaked in sweat.

    Japanese prisoner at Marpi Point is seen telling his comrades hidden in local caves to come out.

    [​IMG]

    Night came … 202 Air Group confirmed all its aircraft had returned, and gradually our spirits rose. But we had no quarters, and the evening meal was eaten sitting near our aircraft. We slept beneath the wings, using our life-jackets for pillows. The next day, 19 June, we were attacked in the course of the morning by enemy fighter-bombers. Fierce encounter battles took place in the skies above the airfield, and we suffered casualties, a total of four pilots killed. In the evening the carrier-borne planes of 2 Air Flotilla were attacked by Grumman’s in the sky over the base, just as they came in to land. Half of them were shot to pieces before they even knew what was happening. On 20 June, reinforcements for 202 Air Group flew in from Yap and went up to meet the Grumman’s as they came in again for the attack. They shot down a fair number, but CPO Saito of 301 Flying Unit was hit, his engine conked out and he had to make a forced landing just outside the town. He was injured by the impact, but even so he returned ahead of us in good spirits. Day by day, the situation on Saipan grew steadily worse and here on Guam, we fighter units lost nearly all our usable machines from combat actions and the ceaseless night and day bombing by the enemy. I was selected to go and see the situation on Saipan on 22 June, because no news had come through. We had had no spare time for repairs on Guam, and by this time there were only two Zeros left. They were guarded the way a tiger guards its cubs. It was considered a great honour for me to be picked out of so many scores of aircrew, and I set off with PO Yamashita of 603 Flying Unit at 3 am, coming out west of Rota Island. The sea was so covered with huge numbers of enemy ships that it was hard to know where you were. There were also dozens of scout planes above them, but they did not come near us. Down below were two or three large carriers. On the way back, we flew at a height of around 21,000 feet and came into Guam from the north-east. We recced the situation on land for some time, and after confirming there was no danger, we landed. We were attacked again, many times, on 23 June, but by this time we had no planes at all to send up against the enemy. When night came, reinforcements came in from 202 Air Group, making a marvellous landing in the darkness. With the worst possible timing, my fevered malaria broke out again on the 24th. Guam seemed to be done for, if the naval bombardment was anything to go by. Enemy landings couldn't be far off, I thought, but what could we do? We hadn't a single aircraft to send up against them. Nonetheless, I had a stroke of luck the following night. I think it was about 11 pm, a Type-l Army Attack plane from Yokohama Air Group was on its way from Iwo Jima to make a night attack on Saipan. Its left engine conked out, and it had to make a forced landing. There were only a few people at the airfield, and after the engine was repaired, we asked the young aircraft commander, a captain, to take us with him. He agreed. I don't recall clearly, I'm afraid, but I think that around seven of our eight men succeeded in escaping from Guam before the surrender. Early next morning, we set foot on Peleliu. For the first time, I became aware how hungry I was.
     

Share This Page