Asia and the Pacific

Some of my thoughts on what made the Pacific so different from European or Mediterranean theatres.

China 1937-45

Nomonhan Incident

Indochina vs. Thailand (Jan 41)

Fall of the Philippines (Dec 41 - May 42)

Fall of Malaya (Dec 41 - Feb 42)

Fall of Dutch East Indies (Jan - Mar 42)

Fall of Burma (Jan - May 42)

Ceylon: Nagumo's Raid (April 42)

Carrier Battles

The Aleutian Islands

New Guinea (42-44)

Darwin On the Anvil

Cactus Air Force (42-43)

Battle of the Bismarck Sea (March 43)

Return to the Philippines (44-45)

Iwo Jima (Feb-45)

Okinawa (Mar-45)

Operation Matterhorn (44-45)

Mitscher's Raid (Feb-45)

Over the Home Islands

Russia vs. Japan

Hypothetical: A Last Banzai

Hypothetical: Olympic and Coronet


Details on Asian campaigns have been moved to another file, but you can click on any entry above to go to the appropriate spot.

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USA star Fall of the Philippines (Dec 41 - May 42) rising sun

The United States Army Air Force Far East (USAAFFE) consisted of 227 aircraft. The fledgling Philippine Army Air Corps consisted of 64 aircraft - 50 of which were trainers.

Its main installations were Clark and Nichols Air Fields north of Manila, and nearby Iba on Luzon, and Del Carmen in Mindanao. The PAAC was based at nearby Zablan Air Field. Most aircraft parked in open for easy guarding. Additional bases included Del Carmen on Luzon and Del Monte on Mindanao. The USAAFFE is almost always reported to have been caught napping on 8-Dec-41 (the Philippines being on the far side of the International Date Line). This is not quite true. On the initial alert from Pearl Harbor, nearly every modern fighter on Luzon was scrambled immediately. But no immediate Japanese attack came.

The Japanese had their own problems due to weather - Tainan was socked in. An immediate American attack by those 35 B-17s at the Japanese air bases on Tainan COULD have had a disastrous effect against the Japanese campaign against the Philippines.

The Americans maintained a defensive stance while they tried to sort out what was happening across the Pacific. They brought in the P-40s to refuel. That's when the Japanese struck. Putting up a weak CAP against a rather massive attack, the USAAFFE lost 60 fighters the first day; 47 on ground. 12 B-17s were destroyed that first day.

The Japanese were attacking with the 11th Koku Kantai (Air Fleet) based in Tainan (the first Japanese fleet without ships) and the 5th Hikoshidan, based in originally IndoChina and moved to northern Luzon as airfields were made available. After the crippling strikes of the first few days, most air resistance was overwhelmed if only numbers, not to mention quality of pilots and equipment.



Fall of Dutch East Indies (Dec 41 - Mar 42) rising sun

The NEIAF opposed the Japanese assault on the Dutch East Indies. They were not by and large successful, even where assisted by British or American aircraft. The Americans were survivors from the Philippines; the British survivors from Singpore.

For example, Java was defended by 24 Curtiss Hawk 75A-7s, plus additional American and British remnants from Malaya and the Philippines. All 24 were destroyed during the first three days of the Japanese attack, March 2-5, 1942.

In general, the Japanese attacked form the east, starting from bases in Borneo and working their way west across Java and then Sumatra. The basic methodology was:

  1. Japanese fighters would sweep allied fighters out of the way.
  2. Japanese bombers would attack enemy bases and ports.
  3. Japanese troops would land and seize ports and airfields
  4. Japanese would clean up captured airfields for re-use.
  5. Japanese fighters would land and begin to use the field.


Sakai Over Surabaya: 19-Feb-42

Ceylon: Nagumo's Raid (April 42) rising sun

In April, 1942, Admiral Nagumo, the victor at Pearl Harbor, brought a raiding task force based around five Japanese carriers into the Indian Ocean. He sought to destroy the Royal Navy's Indian Ocean Fleet in a Pearl Harbor-like surprise attack.

Opposing him was Admiral Somerville's Indian Ocean force, including two modern CVs HMS Indomitable and Formidable. When Somerville heard of the advance of the Japanese, he moved his fleet to protect his most important asset - a new, secret base at the Addu Atoll in the Maldives, some 600 miles west of Ceylon.

Well, it WAS a secret. Even to the Japanese. They were after Ceylon. The hoped to draw allied forces away from New Guinea, the Solomons, and the Coral Sea.

To further confuse the issue, Adm. Ozawa, the CVL Ryujo (18 A5M4 Claudes and 18 B5N2 Kates) and 6 heavy cruisers raided around the Bay of Bengal, sinking 23 merchantmen.


Imperial Japanese Navy
Vessels Air Assets
  A6M2 Zero
D3A1 Val
Dive Bomber
B5N2 Kate
Torp Bomber
CV Akagi 36 27 27
CV Hiryu 27 18 27
CV Soryu 27 18 27
CV Shokaku 27 27 27
CV Zuikaku 27 27 27
4 battleships, 2 hvy cruisers, 1 lt cruiser, 9 destroyers

British Royal Navy / RAF
Vessels/Sqdn Air Assets
CVL HMS Hermes 1 sqdn Albacore
2 hvy cruiser, 2 destroyer, 1 corvette
(other vessels pulled back out of the area). SDCs.
RAF 3 sqdn of Hurricane Is and IIBs
(30, 258, 261)
1 Sqdn of Blenheim Is
EW radar

Time Line

26-Mar-42 Japanese fleet heads across the Celebes Sea.
28-Mar-42 British Adm. Somerville is informed of the impending Japanese raid, but not its target. He moves his major forces to sea in search of the Japanese.
2-Apr-42 Somerville is concerned that he has not spotted the Japanese, believing that they have maneuvered around him toward the Addu Atoll (or worse yet are heading for Madagascar). He turns his forces around, hoping to intercept the Japanese at Addu. He sends HMS Hermes and a destroyer to Trincomalee to pick up aircraft. HMS Dorsetshire and Cornwall are sent to Colombo - only to be recalled when a British Catalina spots the Japanese fleet South of Ceylon.

Adm. Nagumo is concerned when he is found by the Catalina, since it seems to wipe out his chance of tactical surprise. He continues anyway, since he knows the British do not have much in the way of carrier-borne air power to oppose him.
5-Apr-42 Fuchida leads a dawn raid against Colombo. While flying north, he spots a squadron of Albacore on patrol below him. 9 Zeros peel off and make short work of them.

Colombo's radar installation allows the 36 Hurricane I and IIBs of No. 30 and No. 258 sqdns (plus 6 Fulmars) meet the raid in the air. The escort engaged the interceptors, and the bombers hit the airfields, the railyard, a destroyer, and a merchantman.

Later that same day, 80 dive bombers attack the Dorsetshire and Cornwall 200 miles from Colombo without air cover. They are hit by 39 bombs, and both are sunk.
6-Apr-42 Adm Somerville moves to cover the Addu Atoll. Adm. Nagumo moves the Japanese north and east of Ceylon.
8-Apr-42 Adm. Somerville hears of the Japanese movement and orders HMS Hermes and her escorts HMAS Vampire and HMS Hollyhock out of Trincomalee.

Fuchida leads a raid on Trincomalee, using 100 aircraft against the 16 Hurricane IIBs of no. 261 sqdn and 5 Fulmars. The interceptors and strong AAA were of little use. Fuchida's raiders also spotted Hermes and escort some 65 miles south of Trincomalee.

No. 11 sqdn flew its 11 Blenheim IVs against the Japanese fleet. The gesture was fairly futile, as no Japanese vessels were damaged. 2 aircraft turned back; 5 were shot down during or after the attack. However, they HAD attacked Nagumo, the firsttime he was under fire since the war began on 7-Dec-41.

By mid-morning, a wave of 90 attack aircraft attacked Hermes starting at 10:35, and sinking her by 10:55. Her escort HMAS Vampire followed 10 minutes later. A third attack sunk the Corvette Hollyhock less than an hour later.

Since this raid was not a precursor to invasion, and there were no more worthwhile targets for his aircraft - and having been attacked himself, Nagumo withdrew his force to Singapore.


USA star The Aleutian Campaign

The Aleutian Islands stretch more than 1000 miles into the Pacific, cold, rocky, and sparsely populated. As a diversion for the invasion of Midway, a Japanese force under an small air umbrella formed by the light carriers Junyo and Ryujo occupied two islands (Attu and Kiska) - and raided Dutch Harbor, the only sizable American military outpost in the Aleutians. This was meant to attract US attention, ships and supplies and leave Midway open to attack. Actually, this is the only successful part of the Midway campaign.

The extreme cold and extreme weather of the far north was enough of a factor to notably affect the air war, as it took its own toll on men and equipment. In November, 1940, a Pursuit Sqdn of 20 P-36As was sent to Ft. Glenn; by the end of that winter, 8 were destroyed by the elements or flying accidents. They were replaced by P-40Cs in the Spring of 1941.

Immediately after the attack on Pearl Harbor, the Defense commander for Alaska began to call for aircraft. He received a trickle. He did begin to receive engineering help, and work began almost immediately on a decent land road from the lower 48 through Canada to Alaska.

The June, 1942 attacks on Dutch Harbor used 32 A6M2 Zero fighters, 24 D3A1 Val dive bombers, and 20 B5N2 Kate attack bombers launched off the carriers Junyo and Ryujo. Most of these were sent in groups of 6-12 bombers escorted by 6 fighters. These covered the landings on Attu and Kiska further out in the Aleutians Islands. These were to be a diversionary attack to pull some US forces off Midway. This attack failed as a diversion, but did succeed as an invasion.

In June, 1942, P-38Es of 54th FS were sent to reinforce Ft. Glenn, and were shipped out to bases along the Aleutians.

The Japanese succeeded, in that the US sent a large contingent of troops to Alaska, building roads, railroads, air bases, pipelines, and power lines over what had been trackless wilderness more or less. In October 1943, the US assaulted Attu and Kiska, which had been more or less left on their own. Attu fell after little resistance. Kiska was underestimated after Attu; there the struggle was quite intense on the ground - but not that tough in the air. The Japanese had not built air bases on Attu or Kiska, although Kiska had radar defenses that were very carefully mapped before any aerial attacks were launched.

Next to Kiska, on tiny Shemya Island, the US built an air base that was then used to launch long distance bomber raids on the northern Japanese outposts, particularly the naval and air base at Paramushiro at the north end of the Kuriles.


US 11th Air Force - never a large force and never with the most modern equipment.

June 42: Junyo and Ryujo
42-43: Kiska (A6M2-Ns)
43-45: Paramashiro

Pilot Quality

American: Average

Japanese: 41-42: carrier units: Elite, others Good, 43-44: Average, 45: Limited

Operational Weather Mods

+1 Summer, +2 Spring and Fall, +3 Winter

Mission Types

American: June 42+: Defensive air patrols, intercepts, weather patrols.
43: as above + Level bombing of Attu and Kiska; ground attack of Attu and Kiska
44-45: Level bombing of targets in Kuriles, anti-shipping patrols (medium bombers), long-range fighter sweeps.

Japanese: June 42: Escorted carrier-borne air raids.
July 42-44: Defensive intercepts, anti-shipping patrols.


USA starNZ/Aus New Guinea (April-August 42)

New Guinea was the last stepping stone before the Japanese hit Australia. The Japanese landed on the north coast in March, 1942 as part of their sweep south and tried to cross to the southern side. They needed to take Port Moresby, which was used as a supply port and built into an air base. Port Moresby was the last base for B-17s within range of Rabaul. The Australians and Americans objected. To cross from the north shore of New Guinea, the Japanese needed to cross the Owen Stanley mountains - and to do so by building enough of a road to send an army over.

The Japanese supported this by seizing the airfields at Lae and Buna, and based fighters there to support bombing missions from Rabaul. Lae was home to an elite fighter wing (30 aircraft) manned by the best fighter pilots the IJN had armed with A6M2 Zeros. A typical day at Lae.

To counter this, the USAAFFE and the RAAF built up strength in northeastern Australia and at Port Moresby itself, keeping it stocked with P-40s, P-39s, P-38s, and CA-13s during 1942 despite large losses. Bombers included A-20s, B-25s, and B-26s.

Regional Map

Time Line


Pilot Quality


Sakai Over Port Moresby: 1-May-42

USA starNZ/Aus New Guinea II (Jan-43 - Jun 44)

With the fall of Buna, a new stage was reached in New Guinea. The tide had turned against the Japanese. The allies had gathered strength and were advancing. However, much of New Guinea was trackless forest - and not all of it needed to be held. MacAuther treated the Japanese bases and settlements as islands. The key to fighting was supply and the key to supply was control of the air - to enable a protective air umbrella or destroy the enemy's shipping form above. The US developed the ability to rapidly create new air fields hacked out the jungle, which allowed them to shift their air umbrella when they wished.

After the US secured Guadalcanal, the Japanese Navy called the Japanese Army in to help. After the Battle of the Bismarck Sea (early Mar-43), the Japanese realized the southern end of New Guinea could not be held. In the spring of 1943, the Japanese built a large series of airbases around Wewak. These became a focal point of US attacks.

Regional Map

Time Line


Pilot Quality


USA star Cactus Air Force (Aug-Nov 42)

Guadalcanal is an island southeast of New Guinea, part of the New Hebrides islands between Australia and the Philippines. Guadalcanal was a prototypical Pacific island, some 15 miles wide and 40 miles long:

While as a campaign, Guadalcanal is fascinating due to the very real mix of air, land, and sea forces and actions, I will (with difficulty) try to pay more attention to the aerial aspect of the campaign.

Japanese purpose

Having completed most of their initial war objectives (seizing Malaysia and Indonesia, and removing British, Dutch, and American colonial government; about the only one they missed was Port Moresby in New Guinea and they were busily working on that), the Japanese looked to consolidate and to to prepare to defend their prizes.

One prize was Rabaul, 700 miles from Truk lagoon, and the best harbor in the area. Rabaul had an airfield, and was in flying range of Lae, Salamaua, and Buna on New Guinea. To protect Rabaul, in May, 1942, the Japanese seized the capital of the British Solomon Islands Mandate, Tulagi. They quickly moved in a seaplane base. In June of 1942, they began to build an airfield. A base here would protect Rabaul from an approach from the southeast.

Regional Map

US Purpose

The previous June, the US Joint Chiefs of Staff argued out a war plan for the Pacific. Among other things, this entailed a thrust through the Solomons aimed at taking islands that could provide support for an attack on Rabaul. They began moving assets even before finalizing on a target. When intelligence reached them of the Japanese building an airfield, they selected Guadalcanal as the target. The Operation was named Watchtower; command fell to Admiral Ghormley, CINCSOPAC (under Admiral Nimitz CINCPAC).

Guadalcanal was 590 miles from the air field at Efate, 715 miles from Santo Espiritu, and 1100 miles from Noumea on New Caledonia, the USN's advanced HQ in the region (and the last decent harbor until you get to Rabaul). This created difficulties in supplying Guadalcanal once it was seized - but then, they expected only to have to fight for a short while. Then the air units would move in, the few Japanese units would be eliminated, and the area made secure, right?

US Initial Actions

Ghormley nicknamed it Operation Shoestring. The US 1st Marine Division was to be landed (just barely) using the only available cargo and assault craft in the area. The initial assault (7-Aug-42) went well, the Marines seizing the sea plane base at Tulagi and the air strip within a few days - there were only 3000 Japanese on the Island at the time, and they were mostly construction troops. While the combat troops pushed on into the jungle interior, US construction units arrived a week or so later and frantically completed the air strip.

On 9-Aug-42, Admiral Fletcher, was concerned that he was risking 3 of the 4 available US carriers in tight waters. After Japanese air attacks on the transport group the previous two days (which could not find the more remote carrier group), he decided that the carriers and their escort should leave. Admiral Turner, in command of the landing and supply group and its covering force, decided he could not remain without air cover. The marines were left in the lurch without air cover.

Air assets were thin on the ground, too. They were just not available. Another problem was getting aircraft to Guadalcanal. Supporting units (mechanics, etc.) could fly in by PBY; but the available combat aircraft did not have the range to fly in initially (combat radius rather than ferry range). The first aircraft would have to fly off a carrier - and those slated to go did not have carrier training.

Marine Air Group 23, flew in two squadrons of F4F Wildcats (19) and 1 squadron of SBD-2 Dauntless dive-bombers (12) on 20-Aug-42. Two days later, a flight from the USAAC's 67th Fighter Squadron flew in with their P-400s (P-39Ds without superchargers or oxygen systems rejected by the British).

Japanese actions

The Japanese did not take this threat lying down. The loss of the seaplane base and the air base was a problem, but for all the reasons that the Japanese wanted the air field, they did NOT want the Americans to have it. The 11th Koku Kentai (Air Fleet) refocused its attentions from offensive actions in New Guinea to Guadalcanal - more than 560 miles away from Rabaul, with only a small fighter field on Buka (some 200 miles from Rabaul) available in between. The more than 1100 mile round trip was just possible for the A6M2 Model 22 Zero. The Japanese began to look around for other locations for air fields.

Meanwhile, the 11th Air Fleet launched some initial attacks with the 4 Air Group's Bettys escorted by A6M2s and Vals. Its A6M3s were retained for the defense of Rabaul. On April 7th, the Bettys were already armed for a bombing mission over New Guinea when the call from Tulagi came. Rather than re-arm, the attack proceeded with bombs. They arrived around 1300 hrs. When the attacking force could not locate the carriers, they attacked the landing vessels. The raid was ineffective, although they shot down 9 Wildcats. The cost was 2 Zeros shot down, 2 more ditched off the south coast of Bougainville, 9 Vals shot down or ditched, and xx Bettys.

The next day, they returned with the Betty's armed with torpedoes. Again, they could not locate the US carriers hanging out under cloud cover south of Guadalcanal, and so they attacked the landing vessels again.

The South Sea Area Fleet almost immediately moved a Special Landing Force (naval infantry) unit to Guadalcanal, and began to press the Imperial Army for units. Japanese movement for much of the campaign would be by convoy moving down through the Solomon Islands (the main islands were arranged in two almost parallel lines, with "the Slot" between them.

Unfortunately for the Japanese, many of the Solomon Islands contained coast watchers, Australian volunteers who stayed behind with radios, who could observe and report on Japanese air and ship movements. This allowed the US air units to scramble and achieve altitude before the attackers arrived. Sometimes.

A feature of the campaign was the Japanese need to run surface vessels at night down to Guadalcanal drop reinforcements and/or supplies and get as far back up the Slot as possible to avoid the Marine bombers based on Guadalcanal.

Air War

So what was everyone actually doing?


The Japanese air effort was mostly an all-navy affair due to a variety of all-Japanese squabbling from August to December and because until there were closer bases, no army aircraft that came to Rabaul had the range to help.

The Japanese launched attacks designed to knock out Marine positions (mostly HQs; things that did not move much), shipping, and the air fields. Disrupting air operations would allow the Japanese to reinforce their troops on Guadalcanal with much more ease - or for that matter, allow their vessels to support their troops.

For the Japanese, Guadalcanal did not occur in a vacuum. Rabaul also had to direct the combat effort in New Guinea - as well as defend against the occasional B-17 raids against Rabaul.


The US air operations generally aimed to stave off Japanese attacks, defending their supplies and their air fields.

They also attacked almost any Japanese vessel within a 200 mile radius with Dauntless dive bombers and TBF Avenger torpedo bomber. This effort helped cut down the supplies and reinforcements reaching the Japanese units on Guadalcanal.


Forces fluctuated quite a bit, as both Rabaul and Guadalcanal were difficult to reinforce. I have picked a few points in the campaign to point out the forces involved:

Time Line


Side Missions
Japanese Fighter sweep over Henderson Field
Bomb vessels off Lunga Point (escorted)
Bomb Henderson Field (escorted)
CAP/Interception over Henderson Field
Search for Japanese vessels (Usually DBs)
Attack Japanese vessels (DBs,TBFs + escort)


USA starNZ/Aus Darwin on the Anvil (Jan-Jun 43)

When New Guinea was in peril and everything else northwest of Australia was in Japanese hands, Darwin, as the closest Australian city of any size to Japanese holdings received attention in one of the few Japanese strategic bombing campaigns. 11th Air Fleet was under orders to attack Darwin at least monthly. Some of the attacks were quite strong.

Southwest Pacific Operation Area command had to deploy a number of units to defend the area. At first, these were mostly US 5th AF units working up toward combat readiness. Later these were included more RAAF and RAF units in the mix.

USA starNZ/Aus Battle of the Bismarck Sea (Mar-43)

After Guadalcanal had fallen to US forces, the japanese were pushed back on the defensive in the South and Southwest Pacific. However, the buildup of allied forces in southern New Guinea was becoming intolerable for the elements of the Japanese army along the north coast of New Guinea. They needed to be re-inforced. Admiral Yamamoto conceived of Operation Igo, a convoy from Rabaul across the Bismarck Sea. The Japanese had properly read the lack of strong naval forces in the area.

They misread (or chose to chance) the airpower in the area. The US 5th Air Force (and allied Australian units) counter-attacked with a vengeance.


US 5th Air Force 35th FG 39th FS
40th FS
49th FG 7th FS
8th FS
9th FS
3rd BG 13th BS
89th BS
90th BS
B-25 (skip bomb capable)
38th BG 71st BS
405th BS
43rd BG 63rd BS
64th BS
65th BS
403rd BS
90th BG 320th BS
321st BS
8th Photo Sqdn
F-4/F-5 (P-38)
No. 9 Op Group, RAAF Ftr No. 75 Sqdn
No. 77 Sqdn
No. 30 Sqdn
Beaufighter XII
Bomber No. 6 Sqdn
No. 7 Sqdn
No. 22 Sqdn
No. 100 Sqdn
Boston III
11th Air Fleet (Rabaul and New Guinea)  
6th Air Division (New Guinea)  


USA star Return to the Philippines (Sept-Nov 44)

When the United States invaded the Philippines in the October of 1944, they faced strong enemy air forces - certainly much stronger than the forces involved when they left some two and a half years earlier. But things were different now:

USA star Iwo Jima (Feb 45)

By late 1944, the United States had taken Saipan and Tinian, and begun to turn them into massive airbases to support B-29 raids over Japan (which were much easier to supply than the air bases in China). However, even the mighty B-29 was just barely in range - and directly in the way was Iwo Jima. Iwo Jima had both radar and interceptors (though the radar was primitive and there weren't all that many fighters, either). The United States decided to take the island and remove its ability to interfere with its strategic bombing campaign against Japan.

USA star Okinawa (Mar-Jun 45)

Okinawa "featured" the first wide-scale use of kamikaze tactics, whereby the Japanese expended hundreds of aircraft against American ships, as well as the use of the MXY7 Okha piloted glide bomb. Okinawa was close enough to mainland Japan that home-based aircraft could fly missions to Okinawa.


Unit 3rd, 5th, 10th Koku Kentai 1st Koku Kentai
Location Kyushu Formosa
Type Kamikaze Sorties Dive Attacks Kamikaze Sorties Dive Attacks
Zeros 597 330 293 34
Other Types 865 516 118 44

Other types include: B5N2 Kate, B6N Jill, D3A Vals, D4Y Judy, G3M3 Nell, G4M2 Betty, P1Y1 Frances.

Time Line


USA star Operation Matterhorn

Back as far as 1942, Roosevelt wanted to strike Japan directly with bombers, just as Germany was being by British and American strategic bombers. The USAAC had recognized this need and had already initiated programs for super heavy, very long range bombers (the B-29 and B-32). However, even these aerial wunderkind would not be able to hit Japan from across the great distances of the Pacific.

A plan proposed by Chiang Kai-shek and Claire Chennault involved using bases around Chengtu, China, being supplied over the hump (Himalaya mountains) by air. Roosevelt pressed for this plan over the objections of most of the USAAF staff. After a variety of delays in logistics, B-29 production, and crew training, a sizable force of over 100 B-29s was sent to India as the XXth bomber command. They flew missions staging through the airbases near Chengtu for refueling. This did not work out as well as was hoped...

Details of the operations (by Joe Baugher)

By late November 1944, the logistical nightmare that was the effort required to keep a sustained bombing campaign against Japan from China was deemed not worth the effort, especially since Saipan had been taken and was a better base. The 58th Bombardment Wing's operations tapered off and it moved to Tinian to join the XXIst Bomber Command.


US 20th Air Force
Bombers 4 groups operating from India B-29A

USA star Mitscher's Raid (Feb-Mar 45)

On 16-Feb-45, 3 days before the landings on Iwo Jima, devastating raids totalling more than 1000 carrier-borne aircraft swept over Japan. There had been almost no warning - certainly none that would indicate that a massive body of ships was off Japan (Task Force 58). Task Force 58, under Admiral Mitscher, was based around 8 large fleet aircraft carriers, 8 escort and light carriers, 8 battleships, 17 cruisers, 75 destroyers, plus support vessels. Their purpose was to distract the Japanese military from Iwo Jima. After the first day of raiding, the USN had lost about 50 aircraft. The Japanese had lost about 80 fighters, with more still destroyed on the ground.

A second day of raiding used another 600 aircraft. The TF 58 left... for a while. About a month later, they struck again, raiding airfields and radar stations all along the southern Japanese coast.


USA star Over the Home Islands (Nov 44 - Aug 45)

As the Americans set up their bomber bases on Saipan and Tinian, they began to bomb Japan using the devastating B-29 bomber. They often flew at night without fighter escort - but the Japanese had limited radar capability. In point of fact, while the Japanese had plenty of Early Warning information, they had no organized system of Ground Control to intercept. Worse yet, the Navy and Army did not coordinate either their information nor their air assets.

In December, 1944, a major earthquake rocked the Tokyo area, damaging several key aircraft factories. These were (unknowingly) followed up by a series of raids against the Japanese aircraft industry that all but crippled it.

Details of the operations (by Joe Baugher)


Japanese Interceptors
Type Place Number Aircraft
IJN Atsugi Air Base:
100 interceptors
100 A6M8 Zeros
J2M3 Raidens
N1K1-J Shidens

J1N1-S Gekkos
P1Y1-S Gingas
Meiji Air Base (SE of Nagoya) 15 A6M8 Zeros
Naruo Air Base (near Osaka & Kobe) 30 A6M8 Zeros
JAAF Tokyo area 200 Ki.43 Hayabusa
Ki.44 Shoki
Ki.61 Hien
Ki.84 Hayate

Night Fighters:
Ki.45 Toryu
Ki.46 III
Nagoya area 80 (assorted)
Osaka/Kobe area 50 (assorted)

US 20th Air Force
Type Units From Aircraft
Bombers XXI Bomber Command based on Saipan and Tinian:
  • 58th Bomber Wing (4 groups on Tinian)
  • 73rd Bomber Wing (4 groups on Saipan)
  • 313th Bomber Wing (4 groups Saipan)
  • 314th Bomber Wing (4 groups on Tinian)
  • 315th Bomber Wing (4 groups on Guam)












VII Fighter Command based on Iwo Jima

  • 3 groups (108 P-51s on Iwo Jima)
  • 3 groups: 413th, 414th, 507th (based in Okinawa)





USA star Hypothetical: A Last Banzai

A key US strategic asset of WW2 was the Panama Canal. This shortcut through Central America allowed the US and its Allies

This was not unknown to the Japanese (or anyone else for that matter). The Panama Canal was a well-protected asset, home of the 6th Air Force, gun emplacements (both coastal and AA), remote-controlled minefields. These were expanded as the war went on until 1943, by which time the threat of foreign attack receded. But most of the defenses remained.

To this end, I provide a daring Japanese mission that was actually planned:

USA star Hypothetical: Olympic and Coronet

There were plans to assault the Japanese home islands. Operation Olympic (Nov, 1945) was designed to take southern Kyushu - so that it could be turned into a giant staging and air base to support an invasion of the main island of Honshu (Operation Coronet, March 1946). Of course, this delay allows for other aircraft types to come into play, such as the FR-1 Fireball, F7F-1 Tigercat, F8F Bearcat, P-82 Twin Mustang, or even the P-80A Shooting Star, FH-1 Phanton, or FJ-1 Fury jet fighters.

While mostly one-sided, the Japanese have a few tricks up their sleeves, too. The Japanese had begun hoarding aircraft since May, 1945 when they determined that Okinawa was a loss. On toward July they had:

These range from their latest and greatest (and those being finished, like the Shinden and A7M2 Reppu) to the hoplessly obsolete, like A5M Claudes and B5N1 Kates (but does not include the several thousand trainers). The plan was to expend about half of these in the first 24 hours of an invasion, in waves of 100-300 aircraft every hour. The Japanese were dispersed to make their aircraft difficult to find. It made it euqlly diffiuclt to concentrate their aircraft for an attack (especially given the low desnity of radios among the Japanese).

Some information about Japanese deployment at the time of surrender. Some information about US deployment plans for Olympic and Coronet. The US planned to bring in some 1850 aircraft for Olympic, not including the 20th Air Force, 1st Marine Air Wing, or US Navy.

Got a comment? Complaint? Correction? Want to add something? Tell me about it!