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An In Depth look at the late war air battles

Discussion in 'Air War in the Pacific' started by DT1991, Jun 13, 2014.

  1. DT1991

    DT1991 New Member

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    Aka John Lundstrom's The First Team and Christopher Shores' Bloody Shambles 1944-1945 edition.

    Are there any books or studies like them for the late Pacific War like say the battle for the Philippines or the raids over Japan?

    I actually got an reply from Mr. Lundstrom (which made my day) after I emailed him about the subject. His reply was essentially the kind of sources he had for The First Team did not exist by this period in the war.

    I trust the man's opinion, but a second opinion never hurt.
     
  2. R Leonard

    R Leonard Member

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    I would guess that John is more referring to the people who were available when he was writing the first of his "First Team" books. Later when he wrote of the Guadalcanal days, their numbers were already sharply diminished. Now, they are few and very, very far between. I'd be hard pressed to find a one. Reading reports is certainly interesting, I know I like reading them, but having the human sources is irreplaceable.

    Remember, John started working on the First Team in the early 1970's . . . I remember meeting him for the first time in my parents' living room once when home from college. The men who opened up to him - and make no mistake, there was a network where the word was passed, "this is someone to whom we can talk and who will tell the story right" - are almost all, if not totally all, gone now. For those in action in the 1944-1945 period, especially in terms of air group and squadron commanders such as the 1942 period folks were available to John in the 1970's, now 70 years after the action, the same applies . . . can't think of a one still with us.

    Are the reports available? Sure, if you can get past the gatekeepers at the Washington Navy Yard . . . nowadays an almost impossible task . . . or if you have the time or the money to spend at NARA . . . or even invest a lot of time surfing the web and even subscribing to a service, but that's just it, paper, literally, nothing to flesh it out and you really have to know what you're reading, sometimes things can be a little obscure.

    There's very little on the final raids on Japan in the summer of 1945. Most histories are pretty broad brushed, mostly a matter of "Okinawa was invaded, there were kamikazes, Okinawa was secured, a couple of really big bombs went off, the Soviets did their thing and the war ended." I did some very preliminary research into the TF38 operations during that summer back around 1999 and found myself running into the problem of diminishing on-the-scene sources. Most squadron commanders were already gone; I'd have to dig out my notes, but I think the only CAG I was able to reach was from one of the CVLGs. I was able to contact not just a few pilots and aircrewmen and have some interesting correspondence and discussions, but was eventually sidetracked by other pressing issues. I'm fairly certain there's not many left with whom I'd been in contact then. Frankly, in terms of those who stayed in and made careers of the Navy after the war, the most common response was a nice letter or call from a wife or offspring (not a couple of whom I remembered from growing up on this or that base) advising of my target's demise or inability to participate.

    Rich
     
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  3. DT1991

    DT1991 New Member

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    Genda's Blade and Tillman's Whirlwind is about as in-depth as it will get for that time period, it seems.

    It really is depressing when you thank about it. The veterans interviewed by Lundstrom who are still living could probably be counted on one hand at this point. Just makes me more glad that he was able to interview them when he did.
     
  4. mac_bolan00

    mac_bolan00 Member

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    the zero vs. hellcat duel over iwo jima doesn't give convincing loss figures for the hellcat side: 16 hellcats lost in three engagements and all due to anti-aircraft fire? in those three engagements, the 80 zeros in the island were decimated; first to forty, then to twenty, and last to nine.
     
  5. Takao

    Takao Ace

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    What is your source and date of the action?

    I'm curious if you are talking about June 15-16, 1944 carrier attacks on the "Jocko" Jimas. Not all Japanese aircraft were Zeroes, and not all American aircraft were Hellcats. Further, most of the losses were aircraft on the ground, with only some 41 Japanese aircraft claimed air-to-air victories. Finally, Japanese pilot quality had dropped pretty low by that time, so it is not that unreasonable as to American losses.
     
  6. Takao

    Takao Ace

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    Adding to my previous post, you should consider the losses at the Battle of the Philippine Sea on June 19-20, 1944.
    The American pilots claimed 380 Japanese aircraft shot down(371.5 to F6F Hellcats, 4 to FM Wildcats, and 4.5 to the VB/VT), to which Japanese losses were estimated at 342+/-. In return, the Americans lost 13 Hellcats to enemy action(2 were shot down over Guam) and 5 operationally(at least 1 was shot down by American ship-board AA gunners).
     
  7. mac_bolan00

    mac_bolan00 Member

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    saburo sakai's account of the battles from june 15 to 24 gave zero losses at 40, then 20, then 11. but the pacific war online encyclo said japanese losses were 30, then 24. it mentioned 12 hellcats shot down.
     
  8. Takao

    Takao Ace

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    Which Sakai "account" are you reading, as there are a few. Martin Caidin's is probably the least reliable, while Henry Sakaida's would be the most reliable.

    Accounts are going to vary, and one side's claims rarely equal the other sides losses.

    Also, you did not finish reading the Pacific War Encyclopedia's account of the action on June 24th, 1944. You missed the final raid of the day where F6Fs shot down 10 Zeroes and 7 Jills were shot down for no losses. So, the PWO score would be 30 + 24 + 10.

    Various accounts can be found here:
    https://books.google.com/books?id=qZIFBAAAQBAJ&pg=PA67&lpg=PA67&dq=f6f+hellcat+iwo+jima&source=bl&ots=M1KW0Y25S1&sig=C0zSTOTaAYyMQOecK87tdRa856w&hl=en&sa=X&ei=Ry0GVZq7Ace1ggSWyICwAg&ved=0CD8Q6AEwCQ#v=onepage&q=f6f%20hellcat%20iwo%20jima&f=false

    https://books.google.com/books?id=OZOiD8Gg1FAC&pg=PA17&lpg=PA17&dq=f6f+hellcat+iwo+jima&source=bl&ots=zltZ8wda3J&sig=q5a1m7TQ9HaiMYKvFkJu-wr5rUg&hl=en&sa=X&ei=Ry0GVZq7Ace1ggSWyICwAg&ved=0CC4Q6AEwBQ#v=onepage&q=f6f%20hellcat%20iwo%20jima&f=false

    https://books.google.com/books?id=CjQOCjNYkPQC&pg=PA92&lpg=PA92&dq=f6f+losses,+Iwo+Jima&source=bl&ots=Ur3rf-LPy8&sig=yZufg9oWqU7pt0hWADdKoz_54aQ&hl=en&sa=X&ei=0ysDVejJKsmqNtXYgZAI&ved=0CCMQ6AEwATgK#v=onepage&q=f6f%20losses%2C%20Iwo%20Jima&f=false
     
  9. R Leonard

    R Leonard Member

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    You have to be very careful what you read and, yes, ask questions, and, a bigger yes, do your homework.

    One of my favorite examples . . . one can find it reported in print that 133 aircraft and 102 pilots/crewmen from various air groups were lost on one day, July 28, 1945, in Task Force 38 strike operations in the Kure area. This is erroneous.

    Not bothering to look for internet repetitions . . . and I know they are out there, the most recent in-print recitation of these numbers that I can find appears in Eric Hammel’s “Air War Pacific Chronology” (1998), although he does not cite a source for his entry. From Hammel, entry for 28 July 1945, page 690:

    "USN aircraft from Task Force 38 and RN aircraft from Task Group 37.2 mount massive attacks against airfields and naval targets around the inland sea. The battleship-carrier HIJMS Hyuga is sunk and other Mobile Fleet warships are damaged at Kure by Task Force 38 carrier bombers. In return for this completely symbolic gain, however, very heavy antiaircraft fire brings about the staggering loss of 133 USN carrier aircraft and 102 airmen."

    A fairly straightforward statement, however it sorely limits the results of the strikes to one ship sunk and damage to others (true losses to the IJN were greater than he reports) and, as you can see, he notes a heavy cost for the limited results and assigns those losses to solely to the 28 July strikes and apparently to antiaircraft fire only.

    A number of years earlier, in Clark Reynolds’ “The Fast Carriers” (1968) the magic numbers of 133 aircraft and 102 airmen also appears (this is the one that attracted my attention during my, lo, some 40 long years ago, college years and, in truth, I suspect was Hammel’s source). From Reynolds, pages 372-373:

    "After inconclusive strikes and shelling on and near Tokyo 17-18 July, more refueling, and the intermittent heavy weather, the fast carriers launched their last strikes of the war against the immobile Mobile Fleet on 24 and 28 July 1945 - an action which, incidentally, Admiral McCain considered a waste of time. Joined by AAF B-24s, the carrier planes severely damages several capital ships at Kure, some of which sank until they settled on the shallow bottom. Halsey could rest now that Ise and Hyuga, which had escaped him at Leyte and the South China Sea sweep, were among those bottomed, as was battleship Haruna. Severely damaged were heavy carriers Amagi and Katsuragi and light carrier Ryuho. Also hit were uncompleted carriers Kasagi, Aso, and Ibuki. Night attacks assisted in the destruction. On Mick Carney's advice, Halsey routed the British planes to other targets; the U.S. Navy wanted full credit for sinking the Japanese surface fleet. However, the British did their work well, with night Hellcats from Formidable shooting down three enemy planes under a full moon the night of the twenty-fifth. Heavy antiaircraft fire cost Task Force 38 133 planes and 102 airmen - a frightful loss. Even so, fortunately, no enemy interceptors attacked the fleet.5"

    While Reynolds correctly notes considerably more results, he attributes the heavy 133 aircraft/102 personnel losses exclusively to Japanese antiaircraft fire, i.e., all losses were combat losses, no accounting for operational losses. Significantly also, the paragraph refers to both 24 and 28 July 1945 (ignoring the abbreviated 25 July strike day) and makes no differentiation on the timing of the losses, i.e., he does not specifically say that the losses occurred exclusively on the 28th, but rather describes them as combined losses in strikes conducted on the 24th and 28th.

    Checking the Reynolds' notes we find that "5" references to pages 264-265 of FAdm William F. Halsey and J. Bryan, III's, "Admiral Halsey's Story" (1947). In the noted pages we find that in describing the strikes of 24 and 28 July (and presumably the 25th from the context) Halsey words the action considerably different from Reynolds’ and Hammel’s interpretations. From Halsey and Bryan, 264-265:

    "I will not itemize the buildings, tanks, dumps, merchant vessels, small craft, and locomotives that also were destroyed during these three days but our American and British pilots shot down or burned up 306 enemy planes and damaged 392. Together, our losses from all causes, operations as well as combat, were 102 men and 133 planes. This ratio may seem unfavorable in comparison with our usual 10 or 15 to 1, but three factors must be considered: the enemy's AA was extremely heavy, particularly over his warships; his air-borne opposition was more determined than any he had shown us in a long while; and he had dispersed his planes so widely - among crops, under trees, and even in graveyards, sometimes as much as 5 miles from their base - that out pilots had great trouble ferreting them out for destruction. A Jap Air commander later complained to us that this new doctrine of dispersal meant not only that he was unable to scramble his pilots within reasonable time, but that he could not even communicate with them.

    "Slew McCain strongly opposed our strikes against Kure. He and his staff considered the Japanese Fleet only a minor threat; they wanted to use our air strength against other, more profitable targets."

    Halsey goes on to account the logic of strikes against the Mobile Fleet, but I suppose that could start a whole new discussion. Significantly, though, Halsey’s words change the context and time frame of the losses. Specifically he ascribes the 133 aircraft/102 airmen losses to over a three strike day period (24, 25, & 28 July), not exclusively the 28th and, as importantly, if not more, cites both combat and operational losses in determining this total.

    Reynolds apparently drops the operational losses into a combat losses total and attributes all losses to heavy antiaircraft fire and then assigns the losses to a two day strike program instead of Halsey’s three. Hammel attributes the total losses as combat only and reduces the time period further to just one strike day, the 28th.

    A summary table of TF38 operations was prepared by the TF staff and is dated 26 August 1945. I have an original of this summary, entitled “TF 38 - Strike Day Analysis,” which covers strikes from the period 10 July through 15 August. For 28 July 1945 it shows:

    Strike Sorties: 1394
    CAP Sorties: 396
    Combat Losses: VF/VBF = 10, VT = 6, VB = 13; Total Combat Losses = 29
    Operational Losses: VF/VBF = 3, VT = 2, VB = 3; Total Operational Losses = 8
    Crew Losses, Combat and Operational: VF/VBF = 7 pilots, VT = 5 pilots & 8 crewmen, VB = 9 pilots & 9 crewmen;
    Total Aircraft Losses: 37
    Total personnel losses: 38
    And just to be complete . . .
    Enemy aircraft destroyed in the air: 21
    Enemy Aircraft destroyed on the ground: 115
    Enemy Aircraft damaged on the ground: 156

    The reported losses are more than just a little significantly less than the losses reported by Hammel for 28 July; 29 aircraft combat losses versus his reported 133. Total aircraft losses, including operational, at 37 are still lower (by a factor of 3.5) than the 133 he reports for the day. Personnel losses are corresponding lower, slightly more than a third of his reported total for the day.


    Compiling data for the losses Reynolds cited for the 24th and 28th July strike days yields the following results:

    Strike Sorties: 2748
    CAP Sorties: 789
    Combat Losses: VF/VBF = 27, VT = 12, VB = 22; Total = 61
    Operational Losses: VF/VBF = 8, VT = 6, VB = 11; Total Losses = 25
    Crew Losses, Combat and Operational: VF/VBF = 19 pilots, VT = 10 pilots & 16 crewmen, VB = 16 pilots & 16 crewmen;
    Total Aircraft Losses: 84
    Total personnel losses: 77
    Enemy aircraft destroyed in the air: 34
    Enemy aircraft damaged in the air: 2
    Enemy aircraft destroyed on the ground: 155
    Enemy aircraft damaged on the ground: 236

    The USN strike loss numbers for these two strike days are obviously short of Reynolds’ interpretation of Halsey and Bryan’s 133/102 three strike day total and lead to the conclusion that he might have left something out or, more likely, misread Halsey.

    Looking now at all three three strike days, 24, 25 and 28 July, to which Halsey and Bryan were apparently referring. The total reported results were:

    Strike Sorties: 3388
    CAP Sorties: 1208
    Combat: VF/VBF = 37, VT = 12, VB = 22; Total = 71
    Operational: VF/VBF = 14, VT = 6, VB = 12; Total Losses = 32
    Crew Losses, Combat and Operational: VF/VBF = 24 pilots, VT = 10 pilots & 16 crewmen, VB = 17 pilots & 16 crewmen;
    Total Aircraft Losses: 103
    Total personnel losses: 83
    Enemy aircraft destroyed in the air: 52
    Enemy aircraft damaged in the air: 6
    Enemy aircraft destroyed on the ground: 216
    Enemy aircraft damaged on the ground: 304

    Reported losses are still short of the magic numbers used by all three sources, but closing in. To reach Halsey and Bryan’s reported losses from all causes we still need to come up with losses of 30 more aircraft and 19 more airmen. Interestingly, but not relevant to USN losses is the disparity in what TF-38 reported in its summary and what Halsey and Bryan report in terms of Japanese aircraft destroyed or damaged . . . the TF 38 report showing 38 fewer aircraft destroyed and 82 fewer damaged. Perhaps a subject for future contemplation.

    After the war, in 1947, a draft document entitled “Naval Aviation Combat Statistics - World War II” developed in the OP-27 staff section of the DCNO-Air; shorthand will be “NACS” (and a strong recommendation for some interesting reading . . . if you really like statistics). Data on this strike period can be drawn from that document. This data was in all probability was refined in the leisure of peace-time analysis. Unfortunately, it does not provide any insight into personnel losses mostly due to acknowledged vagaries in personnel accounting in terms of KIA, MIA, POWs and repatriated POWs (bearing in mind that some of these “lost” pilots and crewmen counted in the TF-38 reports and in Halsey and Bryan’s account were captured and later repatriated; one VB-85 crewman managed to evade capture on Hokkaido for a almost 2 months and in mid September 1945 walked up and presented himself to some rather astonished USN authorities. With some effort, and for a modest fee, I could probably put names to almost every loss). Supposedly, the DCNO-Personnel office has definitive records on personnel losses, but I haven’t yet seen such a document. The NACS document shows losses as falling into several categories: combat losses due to enemy aircraft, combat losses due to enemy antiaircraft fire, combat related operational, shipboard accidental losses, and non-combat sortie related. While the data in this document cannot be broken down into individual strike days, it can readily show the losses from strike months:

    Losses for the July, 1945 TF 38 strikes on Japanese Home Islands
    Combat – to enemy aircraft: 7
    Combat – to enemy AA fire: 149
    Total combat: 156
    Combat sortie related operational: 54
    Total combat related sortie losses: 210
    Shipboard losses: 9
    Non-combat sortie related flights: 295
    Total TF 38 aircraft lost July: 514

    Losses for the August, 1945 TF 38 strikes on Japanese Home Islands
    Combat – to enemy aircraft: 4
    Combat – to enemy AA fire: 37
    Total combat: 41
    Combat sortie related operational: 19
    Total combat related sortie losses: 60
    Shipboard losses: 2
    Non-combat sortie related flights: 97
    Total TF 38 aircraft lost August 1945: 159

    The TF-38 summary does not show non-combat sortie related operational losses nor shipboard losses, dealing only in reported combat losses and combat related operational losses, nor does it distinguish between losses to enemy aircraft and losses to enemy AA. We can, however, compare these Summary losses to those listed above:

    Losses for July 1945:
    1947 NACS - Total Combat: 156
    TF 38 summary report - Total Combat: 135
    1947 NACS - Combat operational: 54
    TF 38 summary report - Combat operational: 68
    1947 NACS - Combat total July 1945: 210
    TF 38 summary report - Combat total July 1945: 203

    Losses for August 1945:
    1947 NACS - Total Combat: 41
    TF 38 summary report - Total Combat: 38
    1947 NACS - Combat operational: 19
    TF 38 summary report - Combat operational: 27
    1947 NACS - Combat total August 1945: 60
    TF 38 summary report - Combat total August 1945: 65

    Losses for Entire Strike Period (July and August 1945):
    1947 NACS - Total combat: 197
    TF 38 summary report - Total combat: 173
    1947 NACS - Combat operational: 73
    TF 38 summary report - Combat operational: 95
    1947 NACS - Combat total period: 270
    TF 38 summary report - Combat total period: 268

    The bottom line is that the difference between the TF-38 reported combat sortie related losses and the 1947 compilation of combat sortie related losses for the period only is 2 aircraft ... a less than 1% difference.

    With the period reports in hand it is difficult to see how there could be 133 aircraft (and by extension 102 airmen) lost to antiaircraft fire on the single strike day of 28 July 1945. Losses of that magnitude would comprise more than 63% of the total losses for July in the 1947 NACS compilation and more than 65% of the losses in the TF-38 summary. For the entire period, a one day loss of 133 aircraft would make up 49% of the 1947 reported losses and 51% of the TF-38 reported losses. Those percentages make the one day loss even harder to believe.

    I think it’s safe to say that Hammel was absolutely incorrect in reporting 133/102 combat losses for 28 July and Reynolds was also incorrect for reporting the same for the 24th and 28th. I would further suspect that Halsey and Bryan were looking at individual carrier reports when they arrived at their figures and that the non-combat sortie related losses such as tabulated in the 1947 statistical compilation may have had some influence in their count. From NACS, there were 304 such losses (non-combat sorties related operational and shipboard) for the month of July. Considering that there were 22 non-strike operating days from the 1st through the 31st, that works out to an average of nearly 14 such non-combat aircraft losses per non-strike day (not an unreasonable number, about 1 per carrier per day). Adding an average of 14 losses per day for the non-strike days of 26 and 27 July to the losses reported for the 24th, 25th, and 28th results in a total of 131 aircraft losses, two shy of the Halsey and Bryan originally reported 133 for the period of the 24th through the 28th. I would suggest that Halsey and Bryan were correct in their calculations of combat and operational losses, but that they considered all losses including non-combat related occurring during the entire period on the 24th through the 28th, including the non-combat operations days, and were thus somewhat imprecise in their wording, giving the impression that their accounting of losses were for the three strike days only instead of the entire period of 24 through 28 July. Remember, just because there were no combat missions on the 26th and 27th does not mean no one was flying.

    However Halsey and Bryan came up with their total, they clearly do not state that those losses in aircraft and personnel occurred on one strike day (as did Hammel) nor even on just two (as did Reynolds). They also clearly state that their total numbers included combat and operational losses, not just combat (Hammel & Reynolds).

    Lastly, as one of McCain’s staff operations officers related to me when I started scratching my head over this particular issue, lo, some fifteen years ago: “We were very unhappy about the losses sustained in strikes against what was essentially an immobilized Japanese navy. These ships posed no threat to us, but were antiaircraft traps. Most had their AA batteries removed and placed in the hills around their anchorages ... attacking planes had to come in at or below the level of these guns to make a successful attack. We felt that we should wait for them to come out if they could, then we would sink them in deep water. But, while the losses were unfortunate, they never approached 133 planes and 102 airmen in one single day’s strikes.”
     
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  10. mcoffee

    mcoffee Son-of-a-Gun(ner)

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  11. Carronade

    Carronade Ace Patron  

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    It struck me that the number of aircrew losses was less than aircraft, i.e. that many pilots and crewmen survived or were rescued. That suggested a proportion of operational losses, deck crashes, ditching near the fleet, etc.
     
  12. lwd

    lwd Ace

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    The US went to considerable effort to recover airmen. Subs and aircraft were dedicated to this role and if someone crashed on the way back some of his buddies would often orbit the wreck especially if there were survivors as long as possible or until rescuers showed up.
     
  13. R Leonard

    R Leonard Member

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  14. Takao

    Takao Ace

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    Mr. Leonard,

    Exceptional work as always.

    Just one more question...When are you planning on publishing a book.
     
  15. DT1991

    DT1991 New Member

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    And Mr. Leonard's post highlights the fact that you should crosscheck whatever you read in history books if you have the ability to do so.

    I do have to wonder why Reynolds reported those losses the way he did? Was it just an attempt to spice up the writing, I wonder? An effort at slighting Admiral Halsey maybe?
     

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