UNITED STATES STRATEGIC BOMBING SURVEY
1 JULY 1946
tactical and antishipping operations of the Fourteenth Air Force in China. The necessary training and combat experience with B-29s provided by this operation might have been secured through attacks on "Outer Zone" targets, from bases more easily supplied. In November 1944, long-range bomber attacks from Guam, Saipan and Tinian were initiated. The B-29s based in China were transferred to these bases in April 1945.
By March 1945, prior to heavy direct air attack on the Japanese home islands, the Japanese air forces had been reduced to Kamikaze forces, her fleet had been sunk or immobilized, her merchant marine decimated, large portions of her ground forces isolated, and the strangulation of her economy well begun. What happened to each of these segments of Japan's vanishing war potential is analyzed in the following sections.
ELIMINATION OF JAPANESE CONVENTIONAL AIR POWER
Japanese production of aircraft of all types rose from an average of 642 planes per month during the first 9 months of the war to a peak of 2,572 planes per month in September 1944. The rise was particularly great during 1943, after the Japanese had learned the lessons of the 1942 campaigns. Aggregate production during the war was 65,300 planes.
Japanese army and navy plane losses from all causes, both combat and noncombat, rose from an average rate of some 500 planes per month in the early months of the war to over 2,000 per month in the latter months of 1944. Aggregate losses during the course of the war were of the order of magnitude of 50,000 planes, of which something less than 40 percent were combat losses, and something over 60 percent were training, ferrying, and other noncombat losses.
The Japanese were thus able to increase the numerical strength of their air forces in planes, in almost every month of the war. Numerical strength increased from 2,625 tactical planes at the outbreak of the war to 5,000 tactical planes, plus 5,400 Kamikaze planes, at the time of surrender.
Aggregate flying personnel increased from approximately 12,000 at the outbreak of the war to over 35,000 at the time of surrender.
United States aircraft production and pilot training exceeded the Japanese totals by wide margins, but only a portion of this strength could be deployed to the Pacific. United States first line strength in the Pacific west of Pearl Harbor increased from some 200 planes in 1941 to 11,000 planes in August 1945. It was not until late 1943 that we attained numerical superiority over the Japanese air forces in the field. Even in 1942, however, the relatively few United States air units in the Pacific were able to inflict greater losses than they sustained on the numerically superior Japanese. Aggregate United States plane losses during the course of the Pacific war, not including training losses in the United States, were approximately 27,000 planes. Of these losses 8,700 were on combat missions; the remainder were training, ferrying and other noncombat losses. Of the combat losses over 60 percent were to antiaircraft fire.
As previously stated, Japanese pilots at the outbreak of the war were well trained. The average Army pilot had some 500 hours before entering combat and Navy pilots 650 hours. These experienced pilots were largely expended during the bitter campaigns of the opening year and a half of the war. The Japanese paid far less attention than we did to the protection, husbanding and replacement of their trained pilots, and were seriously hampered in their training program by a growing shortage of aviation gasoline. Average flying experience fell off throughout the war, and was just over 100 hours, as contrasted to 600 hours for United States pilots, at the time of surrender. Inadequately trained pilots were no match for the skilled pilots developed by the United States.
At the time of the initial Japanese attack, Japanese fighter planes, although less sturdily built, more vulnerable and weaker in fire power than the United States fighters, had certain flight characteristics superior to those of United States fighters then available in the Pacific. The Japanese improved the quality of their planes during the war, greatly increased the power of their aircraft engines, ultimately exceeded United States fighters in fire power and had first-class aircraft in the design and experimental stage at the end of the war. They lacked, however, the widespread technical and industrial skill to match the United States in quantity production of reliable planes with increased range, performance and durability. After the initial campaigns, the United States always enjoyed superiority in the over-all performance of its planes. By American standards,