I have set these campaigns off in a separate file to ease the size of the main Asia/Pacific campaign page. This page covers:



Nomonhan Incident

Fall of Malaya


IndoChina vs. Thailand

Fall of Burma


The Defense of India

Russia vs. Japan


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China star China

There are four basic periods to the air war in China:

China star China Alone (1937-41)

In the mid-thirties, China's rather corrupt government strained against itself and the influence of Western nations. Japan decided it wanted its own economic niches in China, and decided to follow the western route of picking a fight against a large but weak opponent and then to extract concessions as part of the settlement.


China star China and the Flying Tigers (1941-42)

By late 1940, Claire Chennault convinced Chiang Kai-Shek to attempt to get more substantial aid from the United States. China (and Chennault) lobbied to form and arm an American Volunteer Group of 100 military pilots and 150 mechanics. Over the objections of the US naval and army air brass, Chennault was allowed to purchase 100 fighters turned down by England (the P-40B was deemed unable to stand up to the Bf109 and the FW190s that the Germans were putting up) and to hire 100 military pilots on "leave." Chennault wanted military grade pilots, because only disciplined fliers would be able to carry out his tactical doctrine. All members of the AVG were officially employees of CAMCO serving under contract.

The AVG was gathered up, shipped to Burma, and trained at Kyedaw, an airfield the British abandoned (as unhealthy for caucasians) from July to November, 1941. Just as they were ready for combat, the Japanese struck Pearl Harbor. Chennault moved his force back to China - except for 1 squadron, which he stationed at Mingaladon (see Fall of Burma). 1 squadron remained in Burma (they roatated through) until it fell in early May, 1942. The AVG also flew in China, since that was its main rasion d'etre.

While they never had radar, Chennault had developed (1936-1940) an excellent ground observation corps of volunteers who provided early warning of almost all Japanese raids. This allowed the AVG to concentrate when they needed to fight and not to wear aircraft by flying constant patrols.

There was a second AVG being formed armed with Hudson bombers at the time of Pearl Harbor. They were redirected to Australia and re-addmitted into the US military.


The AVG flew:

The Japanese flew escorted and unescorted bomber raids over


Nick, Nate, and Emily Meet the Tigers: 12-Jun-42

USA starChina star China: CATF (42-43)

In July, 1942, the AVG was disbanded and replaced by the Chinese-American Task Force (CATF), an element of the 10th Air Force. Its staff were all active members of the US military. It was still based in Kunming (although they did shift units to other fields for particular missions). This was partially an attempt to keep Chennault under control. Its units were concentrated in southern China near Kunming. Elements of the Chinese Air Force were spread elsewhere across southern and central China.

Even with the loss of the Burma Road, American aid began to trickle in to China by air over the Hump (the Himalaya mountains). The CATF operated on a shoe-string supply budget, short on aircraft, ammunition, and fuel - and still used Chennault's tactical doctrine.

For example, the CATF might need to wait weeks to accumulate enough fuel and or repair parts being flown over the Hump in order to accomplish a raid.

One of their first missions was a raid against Kweilin on Chiang Kai-shek's birthday, 25-Oct-42, by 12 B-25s and 7 P-40s. They destroyed 21 Japanese fighters for 1 B-25.

The CATF was organized as follows:
23 Fighter Group (32 P-40s) 74th Fighter Squadron (ex-Flying Tiger)
75th Fighter Squadron (ex-Flying Tiger)
76th Fighter Squadron (ex-Flying Tiger)
16th Fighter
Bombers (12 B-25s) 11th Bombardment Squadron
Plus occasional Chinese aircraft

USA star China: 14th Air Force (1943-45)

In March1943, the CATF was expanded into a full-fledged numbered air force - the 14th. The 14th Air Force was not given much additional aircraft or supplies for a while, but they did trickle in during 1943 and 1944. All supplies coming into China (for the Chinese Republican government, for the Chinese Army, for General Stillwell as well as for the 14th Air Force) were brought by air.

Part of the 14th was the China-Amercian Composite Wing, a wing of mixed US and Chinese units in an effort to integrated Chinese pilots with well-led US units.

red star Nomonhan Incident (Summer 1939) rising sun

In the summer of 1939, in Mongolia, Japan and the Soviet Union had a border incident that flared into the largest air battle since World War I ended. Japanese Army Air Force Units, which had missed most of the 1937 combat in China, got to show themselves against the Soviet Union's massive air force. The Soviets also gathered a fairly large force, including veterans back from the Spanish Civil War. (Many of these same experienced leaders were purged between 1939 and 1941, and were not available to face the Luftwaffe during Barbarossa.)

The incident went little noticed in the west, since access was difficult and there were tensions across Europe to gather attention.

Both sides initally expected their air units to support their ground units against little air opposition. Their clashes grew into the largest air battles since World War I. Both sides engaged in what would later become familiar patterns:

  1. Attacks on ground troops (escorted and unescorted) by medium and light bombers
  2. Defensive and offensive CAP
  3. Raids on enemy airbases as air units focused on each other

Actual losses are hard to judge. Both sides claim to have destroyed more aircraft than the otherside deployed (and lost only a few aircraft while doing so) - and yet both sides rushed in additional air units as well as more aircraft.


Both sides poured additional units in after the initial clashes depleted their supply of aircraft. Nomonhan ate up most of Japan's output of Ki.27s for the summer of 1939. After some initial losses of I-15bis, the Russians re-equipped with I-153s, the updated version of the aircraft.

Soviet Air Units
Unit Air Assets
Fighters 19th IAP
22nd IAP (3 sqdn I-16)
23rd IAP
56th IAP (3 sqdn I-15bis)
70th IAP (2 sqdn I-15bis, 1x I-153)
Bombers SB-2s
Elements of 2nd Hikoshidan
Unit Air Assets
scouts 4 sqdns scout planes with army units
9th Hikodan
24 lt bomber 13 hvy bomber
10th Sentai: (1 sqdn lt bomber)
16th Sentai: (3 sqdn lt bomber)
61st Sentai: (1 sqdn hvy bomber)
12th Hikodan
88 Ki.27
1st Sentai
11th Sentai
24th Sentai (reserve 'til Aug)
64th Sentai

Time Line

10-May-39 Initial ground incident.
mid-May 1939 Soviets move 1st Soviet Army and 2 fighter regiments plus 1 recon and 1 bomber squadron to Tamask-Bulak in Mongolia.
Initial brushes of Soviet and Japanese fighters (6-9 aircraft on a side). Japanese come off much better that the Soviets.
28-May-39 First large meeting: 60 Soviet aircraft vs.18 Ki.27s of the 11th Sentai. Japanese claim 42 kills w/ 1 loss. Soviets acknowledge 10 losses. Both sides fly more defensively and call for reinforcements.
22-Jun-39 Major air battle, with 125 Japanese intercepted by 95 Soviet aircraft.
26-Jun-39 22nd IAP attacks a Japanese air field near Uzun-Nur lake, disabling 12 aircraft.

A large Soviet raid of 20 SB-2s escorted by "120" fighters is intercepted, first by 18 Ki.27 of the 11th Sentai.
27-Jun-39 Major Japanese air strike on Soviet air fields with "150 fighters and 50 bombers" (this is more than the available Japanese force). Soviets lose 14 aircraft.
2-5-Jul-39 Several pitched battles as both sides struggle for air supremacy. On 3 July, 1939, the Soviets claim the Japanese lost 32 aircraft in two combats.
7-July-39 After the initial (unsuccessful) flurry of combat, Japanese high command tells JAAF to prepare for a major offensive in August.
Soviet air raids on Japanese bases, killing two Sentai leaders either on the ground of in combat.
21-Aug-39 The Japanese offensive, Operation S, kicks off vs. Tamsag air field. A period of sharp air battles ensues.
1-Sep-39 Hitler invades Poland, starting the European World War II.
4-Sept-39 The 5(?)th Hikoshidan absorbs the remnants of the 2nd.
15-Sep-39 Ceasefire declared by Japanese. However, on the same day, they launched a large strike against the Soviet units using 212 aircraft.


First Meeting

Back to Asia and the Pacific

Indochina vs. Thailand (Jan 41)

In January, 1941, Thailand (Siam) declared war against Vichy Indochina. This pitted its air force against the small (and rather hodgepodge) collection of French aerial units in this backwater colony. Permission to reinforce with a groupe of Hawk 75As had been approved by the germans - but refused by the Japanese. At this point, IndoChina had been on its own for six months.

Some of the French units were newly formed of aircraft that were impounded on their way to China; after the fall of France, Vichy received "requests" passed through Germany from Japan not to send arms through to China. Haiphong had been the port of choice for supplies bound for the Nationalist Chinese (since the Japanese had occupied all the major ports on the Chinese mainland.

This campaign is covered in some detail elsewhere.

The Royal Thai Air Force is described with the minor air forces.

The Vichy French Air Force in Indochina is described with the minor air forces.


Neither side had particularly lareg air forces to throw into the fight. Both sides flew defensive fighter patrols and reconnaisance. The Thais tried to use their more up-to-date aircraft (the Hawk 75Ns and the Martin bombers) for "strategic" offensive attacks. The French flew their larger aicraft bombing missions at night to reduce the risk to their few large aircraft.


To Bomb Hanoi

Brit roundel The Fall of Malaya (Dec 41- Feb 42) Rising Sun

The British Empire's defense policy in the Far East (that is, beyond India) hinged on a strong naval force at a (new) base central to the area - Singapore, at the southern tip of the Malay penninsula.

The original plan was to permanently base a strong squadron of 10-15 battleships at Singapore. However, after the Naval Treaties of the 1920s, that was no longer practical, as that would represent most of the British battle fleet. Under a revised plan, Singapore would have to "merely" hold out 70 days for a fleet to arrive from London. Defenses were planned to hold southern Johore province, just north of Singapore to keep the naval base viable until relief could arrive.

In 1939, with the rather naked aggression of Japan toward China, steps were taken to finish the base and upgrade its defenses. Someone realized that the rest of Malaya produced valuable materials, and should be defended - multiplying the area that needed to be defended. The air dimension was finally attended to - sort of. A new plan idea was drawn up, whereby air units would be expected to produce a large share of the defense, allowing the sparse ground units to cover a larger area. A few forward air bases were begun (including Khota Bharu and Kuantan). The local commanders asked for some 550 aircraft.

British assessment of Japanese air power put them on par with the Italians - at about 60% combat effectiveness of RAF units. Against an estimated 700+ Japanese aircraft, London suggested 339 would suffice. But only 150 were available in Malaya on 8-Dec-41, and they were mostly obsolete.

Just before the war broke out in the Pacific, the Royal Navy sent "a battle fleet" composed of the battleship HMS Prince of Wales and the battlecruiser HMS Repulse. A third major vessel, the aircraft carrier HMS Indomitable was delayed due to damage. These sortied to attack the transports of the invading Japanese, but were not provided with air cover. Force Z was sunk by G3M2 Nells armed with torpedos.

Among the other British problems in defending Malaya were that the forward air bases were not completed. The field was available to be flown form, but the repair shops were not. This meant that minor damage, like a holed fuel tank, could ground an aircraft until either a replacement part was brought up form the depot in Singapore or the part in question could be sent down to Singapore, fixed, and returned. And in combat conditions, spare part transportation broke down.


The RAF's Far East Air Force defended. During the campaign, they were reinforced by:

The Japanese attackers were initially IJN air units. Within a few days, IJAAF units settled into bases in southern Thailand (and Khota Baru) and took up the slack. The IJN units moved on to over-water targets like Borneo and the Dutch East Indies.

Time Line

5-Dec-41 Japanese military convoy spotted entering Gulf of Siam. Brits decide not to enter Thailand nor strike the invasion fleet.
8-Dec-41 Japanese land in Singora, Thailand, and Khota Baru. After a day's combat, the surviving aircraft are withdrawn. Force Z leaves after nightfall.
9-Dec-41 Fighters withdrawn from Kuantan airfield to better defend Singapore. Force Z spotted just before nightfall by Japanese aircraft, and changes course to head south. They later adjust this course to examine a reported landing at Kuantan. (Japanese did not record the sighting.)
10-Dec-41 Japanese launch search aircraft. Attack units launched shortly afterward, so they would be airborne when the target was spotted. Force Z spotted mid-morning, and attacked by several groups less than 100 miles from Kuantan's empty airfield. Both major warships sunk by torpedos.
13-Jan-42 48 Hurricane IIC/Tropic unloaded at Singapore. While helpful, these were quickly wiped out by air combat and accidents. Treat pilots as "Limited"
27-Jan-42 50 Hurricane IIC/Trop flown in from HMS Indomitable. Within a few days, the survivors fly to Java.
7-Feb-42 Japanese froces reach the south shore of Johore.
14-Feb-42 Singapore surrenders.


The Destruction of Force Z

Fall of Burma (Feb - May 42) rising sun

After conquering Thailand and Malaya, the Japanese turned their attention to Burma as a route to India and to close the Burma Road that was supplying China. They began their air assault on 23-Dec-41; they began their land assault on 20-Jan-42.

The first step in the aerial assault was the British air base at Mingaladon, near Rangoon, guarded by No. 67 squadron of RAF flying Brewster Buffalos. However, also at the base was the 1st Squadron of Chennault's AVG, the Flying Tigers, flying P-40s.

What was the AVG doing in Mingaladon? Defending China - or rather China's lifeline to the outer world. With the fall of France, Haiphong was closed to imports to China (indeed a part of the Vichy Indochina air force was confiscated aircraft bound for China). With much of the China Sea coast in Japanese hands, the only available port for shipping supplies to China was Rangoon, and then up the Burma Road which ran over the eastern Himalayas into China. Chiang Kai-shek and Chennault needed this road open for fuel, ammunition, and aircraft. At General Wavell's (British CO in India and Burma) request, Chennault sent a squadron.

The Japanese wanted to take Burma to close the port of Rangoon, cut the Burma Road (and hopefully knock China out of the war, which would then free some of the Japanese Army) and also to get access to India. The strong defense of Burma's airspace was rather a shock to the Japanese, who had just marched over Malaya against next to no opposition.


Unbalanced as this seems, remember that the Japanese units were also performing ground support missions, which the RAF (and AVG) generally did not.

Allied Air Units Defending Burma
Unit Air Assets
AVG 21 P-40s
RAF 16 Brewster Buffalo
21 other aircraft

Elements of 3rd Hikoshidan
Unit Air Assets
7th Hikodan 12th Sentai: 21 Ki.51
60th Sentai: 39 Ki.21 (mdm bomber)
64th Sentai: 35 Ki.43/6 Ki.27 (fighter)
98th Sentai: 42 Ki.21
10th Hikodan 31st Sentai: 24 Ki.30 (lt bomber)
62nd Sentai: 22 Ki.21 (mdm bomber)
77th Sentai: 27 Ki.27 (fighter)
70th Chutai: 8 Ki.15 (lt bomber)

Time Line

10-Dec-41 1st sqdn of the AVG (21 a/c, 25 pilots) move to Mingaladon air field, joining a squadron of Buffalos.
23-Dec-41 An escorted raid (21 Ki.21s + 9 Ki.27s) raid Rangoon. The city is shocked by the attack; the raiders are shocked by the defense, which knocked down 6 bombers and 4 escorts.
25-Dec-41 60 bombers with 20 escorts raid, splitting between Rangoon and Mingaladon. They are met by 13 P-40s and (12) Buffalos, which shoot down 25 Japanese aircraft and lost 2 P-40s. The Mingaladon part of the raid is stopped cold; Rangoon is hit again.
28-Dec-41 15 bombers are met by 10 P-40s, which was meant as a sacrifice raid. A second force of 20 bombers and 10 escorts is met 40 miles south of Rangoon by 4 P-40s and 12 Buffalos. 10 bombers get through to attack Mingaladon, destroying fuel and equipment. Additional raids in the next few days hit Rangoon hard.
3-Jan-42 AVG strikes back, strafing Japanese airfields in Thailand. This is repeated a few times in January and February. These small raids cause little damage, but cause (as they were intended) to put the Japanese on their guard and spend assets defending their airfields.
20-Jan-42 The Japanese begin attacking on the ground.
6-Mar-42 The Japanese take Rangoon. The British (and the AVG, including its 2nd squadron) retreat to Magwe, so 200 miles north of Rangoon.
21-Mar-42 to
200 bombers hit raid Magwe, ending its usefulness as a base. The surviving RAF units (5 a/c, more pilots and ground crew) evacuate to India. The remaining AVG retreated to Kunming, China. The AVG changes to patrol and recon duties as opposed to interception.
29-Apr-42 Lashio falls, cutting the ground route to China.
7-May-42 The AVG is used for ground attacks against the Japanese 56 Division, cutting the crossings of the Salween River between China and Burma, ending the Burma Campaign.



The Defense of India (Jun-42 - Apr-45) rising sun

After Burma, of course, was India itself. Britain had not particularly prepared this section of the Empire to be defended, as it had not forseen the possibility of Malaya, Singapore, and Burma all falling against an enemy coming from Southeast Asia. But it did. And it was a long while until the Japanese were pushed back out of range.

The allied forces were made of RAF units and the US 10th Air Force.

Rising Sun Russia vs Japan (Aug-45) USSR

After four years of ignoring the fact that its allies were at war with Japan, in August, 1945, the Soviet Union declared war against Imperial Japan and launched a blitzkrieg campaign against Manchuria and Korea While weak and almost without fuel, the Japanese Army Air Force did attempt to defend its air space.


In June, 1950, the Peoples Republic of (North) Korea invaded The Republic of (South) Korea in the first hot flash of the cold war. The PRK was supplied with weapons, supplies, and advisers by the Soviet Union and the People's Republic of China. The RoK was supplied with weapons, supplies, and advisors by the United States. The United States brought the matter before the United Nations, and (with the Soviet Union's representative not present to supply a veto) got the United Nations to pass a resolution allowing the use of force to aid the Republic of Korea.

US forces in Korea were already in action. US air units stationed in Japan were sent into service - and units from the United States were sent over, later joined by other allies, including Australia and the United Kingdom.

While most fighter aircraft involved became jets (covered by The Speed of Heat), early units in place flew P-51s*, P-82s*, F7Fs, Sea Furies, Fireflies, Spitfires, A-26s, B-29s, Yak-9s, La-9s, Il-10s, Tu-2s, and other aircraft more reminiscent of the end of WW2 than of the jet age.


North Korean Air Force Jun-50 - 162 a/c
Fighters 70 Yak-3s and Yak-9s
Attack 62 IL-10s
Recon Po-2
Misc 22 Yak-18 transports

The pilots were soviet-trained, aggressive, and competent, but inexperienced compared to US veterans.

Communist Chinese Air Force Dec-50
Fighters 100 Mig-15
150 Yak-9s, La-9s
Attack 175 Il-2s and Il-10s
Bomber 150 Pe-2 and Tu-2
Misc 75 transport & utility, mostly Li-2s, the Soviet copy of the C-47.

RoK Air Force

The Republic of Korea did have an air force of some 60 aircraft - all trainers. Gen. MacAurthur had vetoed a request for P-51s as it would have raised tensions too high. They had a few T-6 Texas trainers rigged as attack bombers, but they were destroyed in one of the first air raids.

USAF Far East (units immediately available)


25-Jun-50 North Korea stages a surprise invasion of South Korea, over running much of the country very rapidly. South Korean and US units are pushed back into the area around Pusan, in the southeast corner.
26-Jun-50 The US 5th Air Force, based in Japan, looks for units it can send to Korea, or fly from bases in western Japan and still maintain a reasonable time on station over Korea.
29-Jun-50 US B-26s attack the North Korean air bases near Pyongyang, claiming 25 aaircraft destroyed.
Jul-50 NKAF disperses its aircraft and makes a series of hit and run raids against US airfields, timed toward the end of patrols. US claims 49 enemy aircraft destroyed on the ground, 8 in the air, and 30 more damaged.
Aug-50 Kimpo and Suwon (under NK control) hit by US FBs for a claimed 9 more aircraft.
4-Sep-50 US naval units land in Inchon, a large port near Soeul, the capital of South Korea. Between the landing and a simultaneous offenseive from Pusan, North Koreans are pushed back across the nominal border (the 49th parallel) and beyond.
mid Sep-50 VMF(N)-542 brings its Tigercats to Kimpo Air Force base. There is little "trade" for them and they are often used for night ground support work.
1-Nov-50 A B-26 is attacked by 3 Chinese Yak-9s. One shot down and then it was rescued by 2 P-51s.
A MiG-15 is first spotted.
mid Nov-50 First P-82 night kill.


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