Beginning of the Kurile Air War
10 July 1943, eight B-24 bombers from the 21st and 36th B.S. led by Major Robert E. "Pappy" Speer of the 36th B.S. in B-24D-30, 42-40090 "Mush" and ten B-25 of the 77th B.S. led by Captain James Hudelson, attempted to undertake the first armed aerial reconnaissance mission against northern Kuriles. Their target was Kataoka Naval Base on Shimushu Island.
B-25C-20 42-64564 “Lil Dudette”
Along the way, the U.S. Navy flying boat PBY "Catalina" discovered a group of four Japanese ships south of Attu, headed in the direction of Kiska. The B-24s deviated from the course to attack the vessels. They were joined by five B-25s of the 73d BS which sat strip alert on Amchitka. Two medium marus were claimed sunk by the "Mitchells" which reached the vessels first, but only one was later confirmed.
The B-25s led by Capt James Hudelson of the 77th B.S., reached their targets at the Kuriles in five hours not challenged by enemy planes or anti-aircraft fire. The target area was covered with clouds. Using a mountain peak visible above the clouds, time, distance and bearing, thirty-two 500-pound bombs were dropped through fog at 5:45 am (Japan time) from an altitude of 3000 meters aimed at the shipping in the Paramushiro Strait. Despite the effort, all the bombs missed the targets, raising tall water columns about 9 km east of Shimushu.
This was the first land-based bomber strike against Japanese Home Islands in World War II.
B-24s could not drop their bombs due to the cloud cover, and returned to base.
The same evening Cmdr. Carl Amme of VB-45, who pioneered a long- distance flight in PBY from Attu to Kamchatka in early June, also radar bombed Kashiwabara Harbor, leading a flight of four PBYs from Adak. Two Catalina's got separated in the weather, jettisoned their bombs when the fuel ran low, and returned to the base.
At that time, the Japanese garrison on the islands did not have a radar and could not track down attacking enemy aircraft. Even though the Japanese have not suffered any damage from this bombing attack, it was the second American blow to the territory of Japan after the Doolittle raid on April 18, 1942. It has opened the air war over the Kuriles, which lasted more than 2 years.
After the first attack, the Japanese attempted to intensify their air protection. However, the new realities of war forced them to redistribute their forces. With expansion of the conflict in Papua- New Guinea, the 2nd Squadron (Hikotai) of the 752nd Ku with their G4M bombers was sent to Rabaul on July 19th (Japan time).
18-19 The next American raid to the Kuriles was made by six B-24s and four PBYs. The PBYs were prevented from attack due to high overcast. Three B-24s led by Maj. Robert Speer, Commander, 36 B.S. managed to drop bombs on Japanese ships stationed at Kataoka Naval base and airfield on Shimushu. The second flight, led by Major Frederick Ramputi, continued to Paramushiro Strait, where shipping was sighted and attacked. No hits were observed.
B-24D, 41-1091, Maj. Robert Speer
B-24D-30, 42-40088, Maj. Edward E. Lass, 21 BS
B-24D-45, 42-40309, Sq. # 09, Capt. Jacques L. Francine, 36 BS
B-24D-70, 42-40545 “The Deuce”, Sq. # 2, Lt. Frederick R. Ramputi, 21 BS
B-24D-5, 42-63782, Maj. Richard Laven, 36 BS
18,000 pounds of bombs (six 500 lbs bombs in each aircraft) were dropped causing only minimal damage. More importantly, the crews of B-24 bombers also photographed the Japanese military installations and ships of the 5th Fleet, stationed in the Kuril Islands, which allowed them to estimate the actual strength of the Japanese forces. Over 200 photographs were obtained. Army Air Force intelligence concluded that a major military buildup was under way. Americans suffer no casualties or damage. The first heavy bomber attack on Japan was accomplished.
At 06:25 the Japanese called an air raid alarm. Commanding officer of the 452nd Ku Lt. Shunshi Araki ordered the intercept.
The first flight of 11 float fighters Nakajima A6M2-N took off at 06:25 and found five B-24 but the enemy escaped at high speed. Three more flights took off at 07:20 (three planes), 08:50 (three planes), and 10:45 (two planes), but also failed to find the enemy bombers.
"Rufe" pilots: Lt. Araki, WO Nagase, PO1c Hoshi, PO1c Osa and PO2cs Katsuki, Naoi, Endo, Nagasako, Hamaya, Suzuki and Iijima.
“Combat Chronology 1941 - 1945”, Compiled by Kit C. Carter, Robert Mueller (Center for Air Force History Washington, DC 1991): "7/18/43 Eleventh AF - 2 B-24’s and 6 B-25’s bomb Gertrude Cove and Main Camp at Kiska. 6 B-24’s bomb shipping tgts between Paramushiru and Shimushu and completed runway at Murakami Bay on Paramushiru, which is also photographed. They observe fires among buildings S and E of this runway. Some of the observed aircraft take to the air and vainly pursue the attackers."
“The Thousand-Mile War - World War II in Alaska and the Aleutians” by Brian Gardfield has the following on that day's events:
“It was a warm 68° even at 18,000 feet, where the mission leveled off. Over Shimushu (a small island just north of Paramushiro) the weather was broken; a low-lying haze was moving in from the southwest. The Liberators followed the Shimushu coast around to the south side of the island and crossed the narrow strait to Paramushiro.
Three Liberators peeled off to bomb the air base; three others—Major Frederick R. Ramputi, twenty-seven; Major Lucian K. Wernick, twenty-six; Major Richard Laven, twenty-seven—made a straight run over the harbor strait, sighting on a big concentration of several dozen warships, transports and fishing vessels. Paramushiro was the headquarters of all Japan's northern commands; it was a big base.
Startled Japanese stared up, not sure what was happening. At first they thought the planes were off-course Russian patrol ships. But then the bomb-bay doors yawned open and sticks of 500-pounders tumbled toward the air field. The Japanese ran for cover. In his headquarters office, Vice Admiral Shiro Kawase heard the first string of bombs explode on a nearby taxiway and wheeled to the window, incredulous.
Paramushiro's defenses were not on the alert (even though the American submarine Narwhal had shelled the nearby airfield at Matsuwa only three days before). A few anti aircraft guns went into frantic operation, but only managed to fire four or five bursts. Pilots ran to their planes and fired up cold engines, but they would be too late to get up to the high bombers.
Bomb explosions rocked several buildings. Craters pocked the main runway. Over the harbor, Ramputi, Wernick, and Lavin circled to make a second bomb run on the anchored ships—their bomb racks had frozen the first time, and Lavin was having engine trouble.
Wernick and Ramputi triggered their bombs by hand while their cameras clicked at high speed. The bombs blew up one ship and damaged two or three others. Lavin could not release his bombs. With one engine feathered, he followed the flight away and shoved his throttles forward, trying to keep up.
The other flight—Major Robert E. Speer, twenty-eight; Major Edward C. Lass, twenty-seven; Captain Jacques Francine, thirty-four—was just completing its bomb run over the air base. Thick smoke unrolled across the field. Five Zeros dodged craters, taxied down a secondary (unhit) runway and reached take-off speed. On a nearby lake, twenty seaplane-fighters rested at their moorings, but only two were manned; these chugged into life and swung out onto flat water to take off.
Speer gathered his planes, circled east and headed home. Lavin, on three engines, fell behind. The Zeros appeared to be catching up to him, but none of them were fully fueled or armed; they gave up the chase after a few minutes. Speer cut speed to accommodate Lavin, and at dusk the six planes reached Adak in neat formation and landed at regular two-minute intervals. They had not suffered a single bullet hole or flak scratch.”
The July 20, 1943 report entitled "Japanese Naval Activities" issued by the Navy Department, Office of the Chief of Naval Operations in Washington has the following:
"The Paramushiru-Shimushu area was bombed about 1120 W on 18 July, by 6 B-24's from Adak. 3 of the planes dropped 12 500-lb. bombs on the Japanese ships in the strait. 6(8? smudgy) of the bombs were near misses. The other 3 planes dropped 18 500-lb. bombs on the runway at the airfield. No direct hits were observed but buildings E. and S. of the field were set afire. The runway was estimated to be 5,000-feet long. Another strip, about half finished, was seen across the strait at Kataoka, Shimushu, where the base itself was estimated to cover about 1 square mile. Some installations were seen at Cape Miyagawa and Cape Arakata, s(outh) of the harbor. The planes over the strait met 4 to 6 bursts of A/A fire which were all short. 4 Jap[anese] planes in the air made no attempt to intercept. The weather was good with ceiling and visibility unlimited although there was a haze over the harbor."
Preliminary study of photographs taken over Paramushiru and Shimushu on 18 July, shows 2 Japanese seaplane bases at Lake Bettobu, at the SW end of Shimushu. 8 twin-float and 19 single floatplanes were beached or anchored there.
After the initial attacks, the Japanese attempted to intensify their air protection. Apparently, these raids hastened putting in order Kitanodai airfield by Kashiwabara Staging Area on Paramushiro. Originally, this airfield was surfaced with red clay which turned into mud after the winter season, making it unusable in the summer. The problem was resolved by resurfacing a 30 meter wide x 1000 meter long landing strip with sawn timber in order to save cement.
20 July (Japan) twenty-three (or 33?) Nakajima Ki-43-II Hayabusa fighters of the 2nd and the 3d Chutai of the 54th Sentai under the command of Lt. Col. Yasunari Shimada (島田 安也 中佐), arrived to Kitanodai, Paramushiro from Obihiro airfield in Hokkaido. The 1st Chutai, 54th Sentai, was based in Taiwan. The planes were led by Mitsubishi Ki-21 bomber, piloted by 2/Lt Yamada. Immediately, the crews of the 54th Sentai began the training to achieve the takeoff time of one and a half minutes after receiving the order.
11 July attack mission of nine Liberators from Attu dropped 72 500 lb. bombs and 25 incendiary clusters (132 lb. each), totaling 39,300 pounds, on Paramushiro and Shimushu targets, Kurile Islands as indicated:
Kataoka Naval base, Shimushu- 27x 500 lb. bombs and ten clusters.
Army Staging Area, Kashiwabara, Paramushiro- 45x 500 lb. bombs and 15 clusters.
Good hits observed on both targets.
Intense, inaccurate AA fire was received mostly from ships in Paramushiro and Higashi Banjo Straits. Estimated 40 enemy fighters, mostly land- based planes, Zeke's, Rufes and Oscars took off after the first bombs were dropped and pursued the mission. Five enemy fighters were definitely shot down. Two B-24s, No. 0129, Capt. Hoffman, and 42-40309, 2/Lt. Pottenger and crews failed to return. Weather over target was clear except Paramushiro and Shimushu covered with low hanging clouds. Targets opened up and the bomb run began. One plane returned with one engine shot out (Lockwood). One missing plane was known to have one more shot out (Pottenger). Two planes returned with minor battle damage. Mission took off from Attu at 0655, and seven planes landed at Attu 1700. (War Diaries, ComNorPac, August 1943)
B-24D-10, 41-23888 “Terry’s Turd”, Sq # 7, Capt. Ervin L. Wadlington, 21 B.S.
B-24D-30, 42-40090 “Mush”, Sq # 90, Lt. Robert Lockwood, 404 BS, had one engine shot down
B-24D-10, 41-23886 “Little Girl”, Sq # 6, Lt. Leon Smith, 21BS
B-24D-7, 41-23848, Sq #37, Maj. Frank T. Gash, 404 BS
B-24, Lt. Jerome J. Jones, 404 BS
B-24D-5, 42-63782, Maj Louis Blau, 404 BS
B-24D, 42-40545 “The Deuce”, Sq # 2, Lt. Robert G. Kemmerer, 404 BS
B-24D, 42-40129, Capt. Harrell Hoffman, 21 BS, was attacked by two fighters and shot down.
B-24D-45, 42-40309, Sq # 09, 2/Lt. James R. Pottenger, 404 BS, lost one engine on the bomb run, and dropped behind the formation. The supercharger of another engine was on fire. Eleven Japanese fighters attacked and pursued the crippled bomber for nearly one hour, until waist gunner Thomas Ring shot one of them down. Soon after the second engine was lost. Pottenger crash-landed his bomber in a swamp near Petropavlovsk. During the landing Donald Dimel, Richard Varney, Robert Wiles and Thomas Ring sustained injuries from a loose machine gun, torn from its waist mount. Dimel underwent urgent splenectomy in Petropavlovsk and recovered. Ring was placed in traction apparatus to align his broken pelvis, but died on 1 September of a blood clot . The crew was flown to Tashkent via Khabarovsk, Vladivostok, and Magadan on 5 September.
Flight A: Major Frank T. Gash, Lt. Jerome J. Jones, 2nd Lt. James R. Pottenger, all-404 BS, target - Kataoka Naval base. Reported seeing 20 enemy planes, claimed one shot down (Thomas Ring, Pottenger's crew)
Flight B: Major Louis Blau, Lt. Kemmerer, Lt. Robert Lockwood, all-404 BS, target- Kashiwabara Army Staging Area. Reported seeing 14 enemy planes, claimed five shot down (two by Blau's tail and waist gunners, one by Kemmerer's tail gunner, two by Lockwood's crew)
Flight C: Capt. Ervin L. Wadlington, Capt. Harrell Hoffman, Lt. Leon A. Smith, all-21 BS, target- Kashiwabara Army Staging Area. Reported seeing 12 to 15 enemy planes. Wadlington's gunner claimed one fighter shot down, Smith's gunners claimed two confirmed, one probable, and two possible.
“General Butler asked Lucian Wernick to lead a second Paramushiro raid, identical with the first. Wernick refused to volunteer for the job; he pointed out that the first raid had only succeeded because it had taken the enemy by surprise. Next time the enemy would be waiting.
When the second Paramushiro mission took off on August 11, 1943, Wernick was not part of it. The only veteran of the first raid was Major Louis C. Blau, who had been a co-pilot in Speer's flight. Blau led the mission; there were nine planes.
Paramushiro, and the alternate target at the Kataoka naval base on Shimushu, were overcast at 2000 feet. The nine bombers circled down to make low-level bombing runs—and found that Wernick had been right. The enemy was waiting.
Puffs of barrage flak smoke covered the sky above the targets, flung up by dozens of ground batteries and every ship in the harbor. Zeroes and Rufes were already in the air and climbing.
Once again, flame and smoke spread rapidly across Paramushiro. Bombs—incendiaries and high explosives—struck a dozen buildings, a waterfront pier, a cargo ship, warehouses and supply depots. But just outside the savage flak barrage, thirty-seven Japanese fighters waited to pounce on the emerging B-24s.
Captain Harrel F. Hoffman's Liberator, cornered by Zeros, torched into a death spin. For the next forty-five minutes the eight remaining bombers fought a running battle with swarms of Japanese fighters—Zeros, Rufes, Oscars, Haps. They attacked the B-24s from five- and seven-o'clock angles where the bombers' vertical stabilizers shielded their own turret and tail guns.
Japanese cannon and tracers slammed through every bomber; the fighters made thirty and forty passes at some of the fleeing B-24s. The sky was a chugging battlefield. Lieutenant Robert Lockwood's plane, limping on three engines, was punctured from every angle. His gunners hurled back fusillades, but the B-24 lost altitude. The crew threw everything overboard but couldn't lighten the ship enough—and then, at 200 feet, fuel starvation muzzled Lockwood's carburetors and all three engines stopped dead. With instant presence of mind, Lockwood jabbed his con-trols—tank selectors, turbos and booster pumps. The belly turret took a frosting of ocean spray; and the three engines roared into life. Lockwood nursed it forward at zero altitude.
Lieutenant Leon A. Smith, last plane in "C" flight, was an easy target for the enemy; for more than ten minutes he had three fighters on each wing and four on his tail. His gunners raked the air and Zeros went down flaming on all sides—by the end of the incredible fight, the American bombers had shot thirteen Japanese fighters into the sea.”
US: claimed eight to thirteen Japanese planes shot down, one more as probable and two as possible. One B-24 shot down, one interned in the USSR.
Japan: claimed five B-24s as shot down and two- as probables
One Ki-43 piloted by Lieutenant Isao Iwase of 54th Sentai was lost.
452nd Ku- participated, but no claims were made
281st Ku did not participate in this battle
August 12, 1943 (Japanese version)
As the saying goes, "Third time’s a charm”, the battle between the Aleutians 11AF (11th Air Force) and a Japanese aircraft was unfolded during the third American air raid, on August 12.
Starting from Adak Island, after an overnight stop and refueling at Attu Island Advanced Airfield, nine B-24 aircraft of the 28th composite aviation group dropped bombs on the coastal area of the Paramushiro Strait. 54th Sentai’s Ki-43-IIs and Type 2 float fighters from the 452 Ku intercepted the heavy bombers. As a result, the 54th Sentai downed two bombers of the 28CG.
No air patrol was flown that morning due to the landing strip repair at Kitanodai. At 0710 anti-aircraft surveillance has discovered nine four-engine aircraft, initially reported as B-17s, east of Paramushiro Strait at 5000 to 6000 m altitude, and immediately notified the 54th Sentai. All Ki-43s were taken to the air. 452nd Ku also scrambled ten Nakajima A6M2-N "Rufe'' and eight Mitsubishi F1M "Pete" aircraft from the hydroplane base at Lake Bettobi, Shimushu. At 07:15 ten "Rufe'' took off to intercept four B-24s. Inflicted serious damage but no enemy aircraft were shot down. At 07:45 all "Rufe'' returned to base. Three aircraft, those flown by PO1c Seizo Hoshi, PO1c Misao Osa and PO2c Teruyuki Naoi received bullet holes. The "Rufe '' group was split into two shotai of five aircraft each. First shotai Lt Shiyunshi Araki, PO1c Seizo Hoshi, PO2c Yoshio Suzuki, LdgSea Humiaki (Fumiaki?) Iijima, CPO Nose. Second shotai PO1c Misao Osa, PO2c Teruyuki Naoi, PO1c Isamu Hachigo, PO2c Katsuaki Nagasako, PO2c Yukimasa Hamaya.
Gradually lowering their altitude, the B-24s one by one released their bombs over the targets on both sides of Paramushiro Strait: Kataoka naval base on Shimushu and Kashiwabara Army staging area on Paramushiro. Despite the delayed take-off and difficulties in finding the enemy planes now flying at low altitude, Japanese fighters led by Sentai CO Lt. Col. Yasunari Shimada, succeeded in chasing the attackers.
Warrant Officer Yamada Sei-ichi 山田誠一 and Sergeant Enokida Shoochi were credited with the cooperative kill of B-24D, 42-40129 (Capt. Harrell Hoffman).
Ki-43 piloted by 1st Lieutenant (中尉, Chui) Isao Iwase (岩瀬勲) of the 3rd Chutai, was damaged in the battle and lost during crash- landing, killing its pilot. Lt. Iwase became the first aircrew battle casualty in the mainland air defense. He was credited with one B-24 kill (2/Lt. Pottenger).
54th Sentai reported 3 enemy planes shot down and 2 probables for the loss of one of their own (pilot- Lt. Iwase Isao, 3d Chutai).
This was the first IJAAF record of shooting down an enemy aircraft over the mainland.
452nd Ku scrambled ten Nakajima A6M2-N "Rufe" and eight Mitsubishi F1M "Pete" aircraft from the hydroplane base at Lake Bettobi, Shimushu. At 07:15 ten "Rufe" took off to intercept four B-24s. They inflicted serious damage, but no enemy aircraft were shot down.
281st Kokutai did not participate in this battle due to the lack of preparedness.
The airfield living quarters (three barracks) were destroyed and 33 men killed, according to Japanese records.
There was a sense that the interception battle over North Kuril Islands was in full swing, but this third air raid was nothing more than a prelude of the next battle which took place on 11 (12) September.
11 September 1943 bombing mission of eight B-24s and twelve B-25s resulted in the most disastrous mission of the 11th Air Force.
Following a delay to top off the gas tanks, the B-24s began taking off from Attu at 8:13AM. The troubles began right from the start: one B-24 had to abort the takeoff due to a collapsed nose gear and swerved off the runway. Eight remaining heavy bombers headed west flying at only 500 feet above the water. They crossed the International Date Line into September 12 and began to climb to 18,600 feet 200 miles from the Kamchatka Peninsula.
The B-24s arrived off the Kamchatka Peninsula at 12:45PM and turned south following the coastline. Soon after, number one engine on 2nd Lt. Roger K. Putnam’s Liberator began losing oil and overheating. The pilot shut it down and attempted unsuccessfully to feather the propeller. To compensate for resulting drag, Lt. Putnam and his copilot Lt. A.T. “Red” Miller increased power on the other engines, and the number three engine began overheating. They continued on, falling behind the formation and losing altitude. As they reached the initial point (IP) off Cape Lopatka, realizing they would be sitting ducks for any fighter attack with little chance of returning to Attu, they turned north. Lt. Putnam landed his B-24D, 41-23891 at Yelizovo airfield near Petropavlovsk.
The rest of formation followed southwest along the eastern coast of Shimushu to Paramushiro Strait. Major Wagner in B-24D 40-2355 (the oldest B-24 in the 11AF inventory) experienced loss of power in one engine and elected to drop his bombs on a northern Shimushu installations before heading for Attu.
Major Gash and six remaining heavy bombers turned south over Paramushiro Strait and made a bombing run over Kashiwabara staging area and shipping in Kashiwabara Harbor under CAVU conditions. Beginning at 2:05, twenty-four 500-pound general-purpose bombs and twelve 500-pound incendiary cluster bombs were dropped from 18,000 feet. The crews observed hits in the staging area and on one transport.
The B-24s bombed from high altitude on a track from northeast to southwest. According to later Japanese reports, their bombs caused no damage.
B-24s were attacked by about 24 Oscars (reported as Zekes) and Rufes for fifty- two minutes. Nine Japanese planes were claimed shot down, three more - probable.
Ten Ki-43-II fighters of the 54th Sentai under command of the 3rd Chutai leader Capt. Yaichiro Hayashi chased six Liberators as they were escaping at the altitude of 5-6,000 meters. 1st Lt Jiro Yokosaki rammed the B-24D-10, 41-23890, Sq # 25, piloted by Major F. T. Gash with his plane and was killed instantly.
Lt.(jg) Katsumi Koda and Flight 2nd Petty Officer N. Katsuaki of the 452nd Ku chased another B-24 in their A6M2N’s. They continued their passes until the bomber started trailing white smoke. The pilots believed that this B-24 might have been down although they could not confirm it. Lt.(jg) Koda’s plane also was damaged by the bomber machine gun fire.
B-24D-10, 41-23884 “Little Butch”, Sq # 44, Lt. Robert G. Kemmerer Jr.
B-24D-10, 41-23886 “Little Girl”, Sq # 6, Capt. Worth B. Ober.
B-24D-10, 41-23888 “Terry’s Turd”, Sq # 7, Cpt Thomas O. Wood had three wounded on board.
B-24D-13, 41-23941 “Little Buck,” Sq # 41, Lt. Jerome J. Jones sustained extensive battle damage and made his first landing on a new strip on Shemya. Jones himself and his co-pilot Underwood were badly wounded. Two other men on board were slightly wounded by shattered glass.
B-24D-70, 42-40545 “The Deuce”, Sq # 2, Lt. Theodore Meigs was wounded in the face.
Eleven B-25s (five B-25D’s and six B-25C’s) made deck level attacks on shipping in Paramushiro Strait. Deputy Flight Leader Major James D. Hudelson in the twelfth B-25C-5, 42-53349 turned to base before the attack after discovering that his bomb bay doors jammed. He landed in Amchitka at 5:30.
They operated in 2 flights, in elements of two over the target:
Flight 1: Shimushu side of the Paramushiro Strait, Flight Leader-Major Richard D. Salter
Element 1 attacked a large cargo vessel in the middle of Paramushiro Strait.
B-25D-5, 41-30502, Major Richard D. Salter, 1st Lt Harry J. Koepp, 2nd Lt. Edward H. Taylor, S/Sgt Kenneth I. Wair, S/Sgt Paul U. Graham, Pvt Irwin L. Lans. Interned in Kamchatka
B-25D, 41-30473, 2nd Lt. Norman R. Savignac, 2nd Lt. John L. Keithley, 2nd Lt. Harold H. Hodges, S/Sgt James A. Fawcett, Sgt. Grady Vickers
Element 2 attacked a tanker
B-25C-5, 42-53352, 1st Lt. John T. Rodger, 2nd Lt Norman E. Eastmore, F/O Loyal W. Fry (copilot), T/Sgt Clarence W. Overby, S/Sgt Gerald J. Green (“Jeeter”)
B-25C-5, 42-53354, 1st Lt. Quinton D. “Mort” Standiford, 2nd Lt. Vernon P. Shellabarger, 1st Lt. Thomas B. Merrill, Jr., T/Sgt. Anthony H. Newsom, Sgt. George W. Wales, S/Sgt. Francis L. McEowen. While making a bombing run on a tanker at deck level (10-50 feet) at 265 MPH, the plane exploded and disintegrated in the air just west of Kataoka Naval Base. It is thought that the plane was hit by the AA fire as no enemy planes were encountered until after the run through the Strait. Sgt Francis L. McEowen, the gunner, miraculously survived the explosion, was picked up from the water by the Japanese, and spent the rest of the war in Omori/Ofuna POW camp.
B-25C-5, 42-53356 Capt. Gilbert “Gil” Rhees, 1st Lt. William P. Middleton, Sgt. Bowles (top gunner), Sgt. James A. Cochran (tail gunner). Returned to Attu.
B-25C-25, 42-64784 Capt. Dennis, T/Sgt. A.J. Olsen (top gunner, credited with a “Rufe” shot down). Returned to Attu.
Flight 2: Paramushiro side of the Strait, Flight Leader- Lt. Morgan A. Temple (after Major James D. Hudelson turned to base)
B-25C 41-13260 2nd Lt. Russell K. Hurst, 2nd Lt. John M. Taylor, 2nd Lt. James R. O’Dair, S/Sgt. Robert W. Wilcox, S/Sgt Harry B. Huber, Sgt. Charles H. Fields.
This bomber was supposed to fly formation with Hudelson, so it operated alone over the target and was damaged by the AA fire. With damaged right engine and fuel transfer system and destroyed radio, the crew was forced to land in Petropavlovsk.
B-25C 42-53345 1st Lt. Albert W. Berecz, F/O George W. Spuhler, S/Sgt Robert L. Smith, S/Sgt Daniel R. Williams, Pvt. Robert Waldo. Shot down by the AA and Japanese fighters over Shimushu Strait. Witnessed by Soviet observers, it ditched near Cape Lopatka. When the bomber crew members attempted to launch a life raft, the float fighters machine-gunned them.
B-25C 42-64564 “Lil Dudette”, Lt. Claude Wilson, 1st Lt. Wallace Wickman, Lt. George Aamon (Bombardier-navigator, credited with damaging enemy fighter). Returned to Attu.
B-25D-1 42-29891 “Marjorie” Lt. Morgan A. Temple, Pilot (Flight 2 Leader after Major Hudelson turned back), 1st Lt. E.P. Scalet, Navigator, Lt. P.E. Welliver, Co-pilot, S/Sgt. R.J. Strohecker, Tail Gunner, T/Sgt. T.F. Richardson, Turret Gunner, T/Sgt. W.H. Biggs, Radio Operator. Returned to Attu.
B-25D-5 41-30171 2nd Lt. Wayne A. Marrier, 2nd Lt. Vladimir P. Sabich, 2nd Lt. Albert W.Hahn, S/Sgt. John A. Billingsley, S/Sgt. Joseph A. Dunwoody had been interned in Kamchatka after receiving battle damage.
The line abreast formation was maintained until the flight turned north-east after leaving the Straits. Soon thereafter Lt. Berecz’s right engine was observed to be on fire and his plane began losing altitude. Observed hits on one AK. One AP on fire, one small AK blew up and sank immediately, possible hits on two other AK's.
According to Japanese records, around 0915, 2,742-ton Teisho Shima Maru (Masajima Maru?) and 4,000- ton Toei Maru sustained damage after being attacked by 12 Mitchells. 500 drums of heavy oil were destroyed in fire on Shimushu.
B-25s were reported to be attacked by about 20 Rufes, Petes and Oscars (reported as Hamps and Vals). One Rufe was claimed as shot down.
US losses: two B-25s and one B-24 shot down:
B-25C-5, 42-53345, 77 B.S., A. W. Berecz. Witnessed by Soviet observers, it was shot down by Japanese fighters over Shimushu Strait and ditched near Cape Lopatka. When the bomber crew members attempted to launch a life raft, the fighters strafed them with machine guns.
B-25C-5, 42-53354, 77 B.S., 1st Lt. Quinton D. Standiford. While making a bombing run at deck level (10-50 feet) at 265 MPH, the plane exploded and disintegrated in the air just west of Kataoka Naval Base. It is thought that the plane was hit by the AA fire as no enemy planes were encountered until after the run through the Strait. Sgt Francis L. McEowen, the gunner, miraculously survived the explosion, was picked up from the water by the Japanese, and spent the rest of the war in Omori/Ofuna POW camp. (See also additional information).
B-24D, 41-23890, 404 B.S., F. T. Gash. The bomber was attacked by Japanese fighters, observed to hit the water and break up. According to the Japanese account, it was rammed by a Ki-43-II fighter piloted by 1st Lt Jiro Yokosaki of the 54th Sentai who was killed instantly.
Major Gash and his crew, 7 July 1943.
Two B-24s and five B-25s landed in Petropavlovsk, crews were interned:
B-24D, 41-23891, 404 B. S., 2nd Lt. Roger K. Putnam landed prior to reaching the target with engine problem (unable to feather the propeller). 23 Oct 1943 this plane was transferred to 890 БП 45 АД.
B-24D, 40-2355, 404 B.S., Major Carl G. Wagner (lost 2 engines battling the fighters near Shimushu)
B-25C-1, 41-13260, 77 B.S., 2nd Lt. Russell K. Hurst
B-25D-5, 41-30171, 77 B.S., 2nd Lt. Wayne A. Marrier (could not close bomb bay doors, with resulting drag it was impossible to return to base on remaining fuel)
B-25D-15, 41-30502, 77 B.S., Major Richard D. Salter (left engine damaged by the fighters)
B-25D-5, 41-30473, 77 B.S., 2nd Lt. Norman R. Savignac
B-25C-5, 42-53352, 77 B.S., 1st Lt. John T. Rodger (unable to taxi after landing due to landing gear damage)
The B-24D, “Little Buck,” 41-23941, flown by the badly wounded Lt. Jerome J. Jones, and damaged in battle, made its first landing on Shemya. At the time, construction of the airfield had been proceeding at a 12 hour a day pace. The plane was transferred to the States13 January 1944 due to the damages sustained in raid, and used as transport.
77th Bomb Squadron - Alexai Point, Attu - 27 Sept 1943. Crew of the B-25 “Marjorie” after the awards ceremony for 11 September raid against Paramushiro, Japan.
Front Row: (left to right)
1Lt E.P. Scalet, Navigator, Ft Smith, Arkansas
1Lt M.I. Temple, Pilot, Alton Bay, N.H.
Lt P.E. Welliver, Co-pilot, Hazelton, Penn
Back Row: (left to right)
S/Sgt R.J. Strohecker, Tail Gunner, Pearl City, Ill
T/Sgt T.F. Richardson, Turret Gunner, Nespelem, Wash
T/Sgt W.H. Biggs, Radio Operator, Westerport, Md
Total US losses: 1 B-24 and 3 B-25 shot down. 22 men were killed, one taken prisoner and 51 interned in Kamchatka. Two pilots, one co- pilot and four other crew members of the returned planes were wounded.
Five B-24s were severely damaged
Five B-25s proceeded towards Petropavlovsk after the attack.
Three B-25s returned to base, all with minor battle damage.
U.S. claimed 10 Japanese planes as shot down and 3 as probable
Japanese losses: 1 Ki-43 destroyed in suicidal ramming of B-24 (pilot- Lt Jiro Yokosaki), 2 Ki-43s damaged (piloted by CO of the 54th Sentai Lt. Col. Yasunari Shimada and by Corporal Onigo (Kanji?) Kikuchi (菊地鬼子男).
September 12, 1943
One month after the last bombing, the US military launched eight B-24s and twelve B-25s to the Northern Kuril Islands. It was an unusually sunny day so the Japanese air patrol discovered the enemy aircraft early. Around 9 am, the patrol Shotai of the 3rd Chutai, 1/Lt. (Chūi) Kyū Okuseki (奥石九) , Master Sergeant (Sōchō) Masahiko Wakanabe (若鍋 正彦), and Corporal (Gochō) Masao Fukuda (福田 正雄), reported a group of B-24s at 6000 m altitude, closing from the Pacific side toward Paramushiro Strait, and a group of B-25s, invading the strait from the opposite direction at an extremely low altitude. The patrol Shotai attacked the B-24s.
奥石九 中尉 Okuseki Kyū, Chūi 1/Lt, Старший лейтенант
On the ground, as soon as information was received, the engines of Hayabusa started one after another, aircraft making the L route from the tarmac to avoid clashing with each other and taking off in the form of a few rays. All aircraft of the 54th Sentai were made airborne, along with ten "Rufes" and five "Petes" of 452nd Ku from Lake Bettobi hydroplane base.
A formation of B-25s approached the target at low altitude, coming from north to south.
The B-25s severely damaged one transport and burned 500 drums of heavy oil on Shimushu.
One B-25 was claimed shot down by the ship's anti-aircraft fire.
The Sentai commander, Lt. Col. (Chusa,中佐) Yasunari Shimada, (島田 安也) with two wingmen, 3rd Chūtaichō Capt. Chikashi Koshi-ishi (輿石) and Corporal Masao Fukuda (福田正雄), headed to the eastern side of Lopatka Cape on the southern tip of Kamchatka Peninsula, in order to prevent the B-25s from escaping after the bombing. Invasion of the Soviet airspace was banned during the war, and due to sudden changes in weather and anxiety about offshore navigation, it was banned to pursue enough to lose sight of the bird's shadow. Commander Yasunari Shimada, maneuvering skillfully, attacked the formation of five B-25s from their upper front side, opened fire and shot down the leading machine. However, during the attack his plane was also hit, the engine stopped, and he had to withdraw from the battle. Fortunately for him, the engine had recovered later, allowing Shimada to land.
The B-24s bombed from high altitude on a track from northeast to southwest. Their bombs caused no damage. As the six bomber formation was escaping at the altitude of 5-6,000 metres, they went under repeated attack of ten Ki-43 fighters led by the 3rd Chutai leader Capt. (Taisa, 大佐) Yaichiro Hayashi (林弥一郎). The fighter pilots kept gaining altitude in an attempt to surround the enemy. With only two 12.7mm machine guns, and Japanese Army-style light rounds, it was difficult to stop the tough heavy bombers.
In February 1943, the 54th Sentai was rearmed from Type 97 to Type 1 fighters, and it introduced the 4-plane formation box assembly (the “Lotte” tactics). Following this battle formation order, Ki-43 of sergeant (Gunsō, 軍曹) Masai (確井) was at the left rear of the plane of the 2nd Chutai leader 1/Lt. (中尉, Chu-i) Jiro Yokozaki (横崎二郎). Slightly behind on the right side were Master Sergeant (Socho, 曹長) Genjiro Matsumoto (松本源次郎) and Corporal (Gocho, 伍長) Oniko Kikuchi (菊地鬼子男).
Meanwhile, the heavy bombers reached the sky above the island of Shimushu and began a gentle right turn. On the home run, approaching from the side, the Shotai commander 1/Lt. (中尉, Chu-i) Jiro Yokozaki (横崎二郎) opened fire on a B-24 flying at the same altitude. His three wingmen also concentrated their fire on the same bomber. The Liberator returned the fire and kept flying. Most likely, this was a B-24D, 40-2355, piloted by Major Carl G. Wagner. Corporal Kikuchi's fighter suddenly turned in the west direction. Suspecting something abnormal, Sergeant Matsumoto also turned his plane and followed Kikuchi. The corporal suffered a penetrating gunshot wound on the chest from the enemy's defensive fire. Despite being seriously injured with a lot of bleeding, he returned to Kitanodai Airfield. After successful landing Corporal Kikuchi fainted. Fortunately, he survived.
1/Lt. Yokozaki and Sgt. Masai continued the pursuit. Another 20-25km, and Shimushu Island is behind. After the series of engine boosts, they finally started catching up with the enemy bomber formation. The number of enemy planes was now reduced to five: after the first attack, the damaged bomber slowed down and fell out of sight. While paralleling with the enemy at a distance of nearly 1,000 m, Sgt. Masai continued boosting the engine in a red zone of the tachometer, and finally overtook the bombers. From just 250m from the sea surface, the B-24s started climbing up, so they could not be attacked directly from above. The only way to block their escape was to engage them at close distance. The sergeant saw a black object fall from the enemy plane. Apparently, the bomber crew attempted to get rid of heavy equipment to gain speed for their escape.
Despite empty bomb bays, heavy 4-engine bombers reached an altitude of 1,000 m rather slowly. The fighters were barely 1,000 meters ahead, about 50km northeast from Paramushir. The speed difference between them and the bombers was regretfully small. The distance was wide enough to make a turn for a frontal attack. Lt. Yokozaki waved the wings of his fighter and flipped over. Approaching the B-24s in an oblique direction at the same altitude, they prepared for a shallow front-up attack at a close distance. Following his leader, sergeant Masai engaged the formation. During an air battle, going in opposite directions, the distance of 1,100-1,200m can be covered in just 5 seconds. The sergeant aims at the wing root of the B-24 to the left of the enemy's leading machine (viewed from him), concentrates all nerves, and presses the fire button. At this time, an amazing scene entered his field of view.
1/Lt. Jiro Yokozaki (横崎二郎) rushed straight to the lead bomber and struck its tail, so there was no flame or smoke. Then his fighter smashes into the sea behind the bomber. He fired two short machine gun bursts, and just before the collision, he stepped on the right foot and slid the plane. Diagonal trassers from the B-24 aimed at Sgt. Masai’s plane. Later, four bullet holes in the wing tip were found, but they did not cause problems with flight. The enemy aircraft which the lieutenant collided with, went down in the water without losing its orientation. When Sgt. Masai turned around, he could not see any sign of the Ki-43, only the tail of the B-24 remained visible above the water.
It was impossible to catch up with the rest of B-24 formation again because the engine started rattling due to the continuous super boost. Turning back to Kitanodai, Sgt. Masai watched the enemy bomber he attacked earlier smoking away, which made him shiver. Sgt. Masai’s fighter was the last to return. Since Corporal Kikuchi who had landed earlier was severely injured , the pilots gathered around Masai with a worried look. The sergeant explained the battle situation to the commander of the second Chutai, Captain (Taii, 大尉) Yukichi Kitakoga (北古賀雄吉). Captain Kitakoga took the fact of ramming seriously and reported it to the squadron commander, Lt. Col. Shimada at the battle command center. Shimada asked in detail about the circumstances of the collision, trying to figure out whether it was a conscious ramming or not. In May, Sergeant Tadao Oda of 11th Sentai crushed his Type 1 fighter into a B-17 in New Guinea, and in June Lt (jg) Kino Yuji of the 932 Kokutai in Type 97 attack aircraft rammed a B-24 at Celebes. Few other cases were random air collisions, but the pilots still were given honors and a special posthumous two-rank promotion.
The news of Lt Yokozaki’s death in a battle was telegraphed to Lieutenant General (Chujo 中将) Uchiro Harada (原田宇郎), the CO of the 1st Air Division (Hikoshidan) and was further transmitted to Lieutenant General Kiichiro Higuchi (樋口季郎), the CO of the Northern District Army. Originally from the 53rd graduation class of the Aviation Academy, Yokosaki was a quiet type with a secret inspiration, and was always loving to deal with the lower class. Even when he became a Class A student who received the company commander's education and went to Akeno Flight School, he told his captain in a letter that he would not be able to improve his strength unless he carefully educated the noncommissioned officers. He had a strong sense of responsibility. During the air battle with the B-24 formation, it seems that he decided that since repeated attacks could not be performed, there was no other way to shoot a heavy bomber, except ramming it in a weakly armored Type 1 fighter.
1st Lt (Chui, 中尉) Jiro Yokosaki (横崎二郎) was credited with aerial victory and posthumously awarded by two-rank promotion (a special advance).
Capt. Hayashi reported that in the confusion caused by Lt. Yokosaki ramming, three more bombers were claimed as shot down with one uncertain. Other pilots claimed that all five remaining B-24s were shot down.
The third group:
1st Lt Yukichi Kitakoga (北古賀 雄吉), 2nd Chutai leader
Corporal (Gocho, 伍長) Oniko Kikuchi (菊地鬼子男) was wounded in the chest and withdrew from the battle, landing successfully.
Master Sergeant (Socho, 曹長) Matsumoto Genjiro (松本源次郎), made a firing pass on B-24 bomber, scoring 4 hits.
After battling the Ki-43s, the formation of B-24s went under attack of 452Ku Navy airplanes (Fsr/2, FM1 “Pete”) which joined this battle.
At 08:55 the first shotai with two "Rufe", flown by Koda and Nagasako located and attacked one B-24 after it dropped her bombs and turned toward base. The bomber received heavy damage and was recorded as probable. According to Izawa, Lt(jg) Katsumi Kōda 香田克巳中尉 and PO2c Katsuaki Nagasako 長廻勝秋 shared this kill. Kōda’s plane received damage during the attack.
At 09:40 a formation of escaping B-24 is located. Following an attack by the "Rufe" seaplanes one of the bombers emitted white smoke the rest also received damage.
At 09:24 a shotai of five "Rufe" flown by
Ens Sadakazu (Teiichi?) Katō 加藤禎一
PO2c Kiyomi Katsuki (Kabutogi?) 甲木清美
PO2c Isao Yasato 八郷勲
PO2c Shirō Endō 遠藤司郎 and
SupSea Mitsuo Ōhashi大橋光夫
located a formation of nine B-24s and B-25s. Two B-24s were shot down. The crew of one B-25 (reported as B-24) tried to escape with a rubber boat and were strafed.
The third shotai with three "Rufe" flown by
CPO Misao Osa* 大佐美沙緒
PO2c Yukimasa Hamatani 浜谷行正 (Hamaya? 浜屋)
Sea2c Machise t
ook off later the same day but didn’t locate the enemy.
54th Sentai claimed 5 B-24s (one by suicidal ramming), plus one uncertain, and two B-25 bombers (one uncertain)
452nd Ku claimed 3 B-24s shot down plus one heavily damaged
2 bombers were claimed by the AA.
Japanese claims weren't too exaggerated since three B-24s and eight B-25s failed to return to the base. All five B-24s that managed to return were severely damaged. One B-25 crash- landed in Amchitka