B-29 bombers methodically and inexorably turned Japanese cities into piles of burnt ruins.
The main problem of the Japanese in World War II was the choice of an enemy that was beyond their strength. It was pointless to attack America, so the industrial potentials of the parties were so unequal. Having made a beautiful blitzkrieg in Southeast Asia due to careful planning and surprise of the strike, the Japanese found themselves in a difficult situation when these factors ceased to act.
Since the middle of 1942, the war in the Pacific has ceased to go “one gate”, and since 1944, mostly only the Japanese were beaten. And they beat me painfully. The Americans put the industry on a war footing and built so many ships, aircraft, ammunition that the enemy simply could not inflict damage on them, more or less comparable to their losses.
Worse, the Americans got closer to Japan as the distance went on. And since 1944, giant B-29 bombers have been launched there. Getting closer and closer to Tokyo, the Americans conquered new islands. Large enough were turned into airbases for heavy bombers – and raids on Japanese cities were made more and more often.
By May 1945, the Americans managed to capture the lion’s share of the large island of Okinawa, including several Japanese airfields. And, of course, the B-29s were happy to use them. By that time, the tactics of bombarding Japanese cities with incendiary bombs had already been worked out – from low altitudes in order to hit more accurately. Paper-and-wood buildings flashed like matches. At least tens of thousands of people died in the firestorms.
The Japanese did not have the strength to look at this. I really wanted to somehow influence the bombing. This was extremely difficult: the air defense was weak, the material balance of forces was extremely sad.
True, since 1944, the idea of suicidal attacks began to gain weight. The logic was simple: “Our people are dying en masse and cannot inflict intelligible damage on the enemy. So let them at least die and inflict this very damage. “
Fortunately, technical development made it possible to implement this. The era of guided weapons had not yet arrived, but the Japanese could get them by paying for it with the life of the pilot. He simply “guided” his plane to the target until the very last, thus achieving high hitting accuracy. And he raised the efficiency of aviation in general.
This practice could be transferred to other types of troops. In the case of sabotage units, simply through the creation of plans that did not imply a return. This greatly saved resources and, as a result, also increased efficiency.
Japanese paratroopers before flying to the Yomitan and Kadena airfields
Approximately such a raid was conceived by the leaders of the Giretsu Kuteitai, created at the end of 1944 – it was translated roughly as “a detachment of heroic paratroopers.” The unit was originally made under the task of “suddenly breaking into the airfield and incapacitating as many damned B-29s as possible.”
But, while there was administrative red tape and personnel training, the Americans moved further and further. And the leadership planned to hit one airfield, then another. And time went on. And in the end, they decided that it was a shame to drag out further Okinawa and it was time to attack right now – otherwise, you see, the war would end.
Preparing for the last fight
“Heroic paratroopers” were planned to be planted in 12 Ki-21 bombers. Saboteurs have expanded the background of the task. Now they had to not only spoil the bombers, but to help a large wave of kamikaze that tried to strike the American fleet. The paratroopers were supposed to do this by withdrawing from standing two important American airfields in Okinawa – Yomitan and Kadenu.
The idea was to land on airfields with the landing gear retracted, and after leaving the aircraft, disperse, and then use explosives. Thus, the Americans will not be able to use the runways for as long as possible – first they will have to destroy the saboteurs, and then also drag the planes away. While all this is being done, the kamikazes will deliver an effective blow – they will not be interfered with by enemy fighters.
Ki-21 take off
They did not skimp on the armament of the paratroopers. They were given a lot of automatic weapons – both for pistol and rifle cartridges, as well as light mortars. Divided into detachments, each with its own specialization. But each of them carried explosives – in order to disable as many American aircraft as possible, ideally a B-29.
Everything goes awry
On the evening of May 24, 1945, on the eve of the kamikaze attack, 12 planes with saboteurs flew towards anti-aircraft guns and American fighters. They were supported by fifty Japanese bombers, delivering diversionary strikes against the very airfields targeted by the paratroopers.
Four Ki-21s with saboteurs had to turn back – technical problems. But the rest got the full program. The Americans on night “Hellkets” with radars smashed the attackers to smithereens – dozens of attacking bombers and all planes with saboteurs were shot down.
One, however, was shot down with an unexpected effect. Ragged, Ki-21 crashed onto the runway of Yomitan airfield. From there the surviving saboteurs jumped out – only 11 people. And they set to work.
Use your chance
The Americans did not expect such tricks from the snuffbox. According to all the laws of military logic, the pilots of a downed plane had to, in the worst case, leave it and rush into the jungle, where it is most difficult to find them. But from a large dead beetle rushed many small ones – and immediately began to sting painfully.
All this had to be digested. Then open indiscriminate fire – the dispersed Japanese were, it seemed, everywhere. It took tens of minutes to establish more or less intelligible attempts to trap and kill the saboteurs in an organized manner, and long hours were spent on the complete cleaning of Yomitan from the Japanese.
During the half day that the airfield was not in operation, the paratroopers managed to destroy 8 American aircraft – however, mainly Corsairs and transport aircraft, not a single coveted B-29. Well, and managed to damage 26 pieces – and again without damage to heavy bombers. They also managed to kill as many as 2 Americans and injure about two dozen. A burnt fuel depot rounds off the list of Japanese successes.
Cat and mouse cost the Japanese who got to Yomitan 10 killed saboteurs. One, having used up ammunition and explosives, managed to escape into the jungle – a month and a half later he reached his own and cheerfully reported on his adventures. All in all, the “heroic paratroopers” lost 99 people – most of them were those that were shot down, not having time to fly up to their targets.
The “exchange” was, perhaps, not legendary. But at least the saboteurs managed to inflict losses on the Americans, more or less comparable to their own. By the standards of 1945, this was quite a success, despite the failure of the concept of the raid as such. But such actions, of course, could not save Japan – it was already too late.