Thursday, April 23, 2015

DOWNFALL – Strategic Bombing II

Initially intended as a very long-range escort fighter, the Twin Spitfire was designed to escort 'Tiger Force' Avro Lincoln bombers to Japan, ...

Avro Lancaster from Tiger Force

The BIG PLAN was that the two air forces would each have five B-29 wings, a fighter command and a service command with a depot.
Of course, the Twentieth Air Force had been flying missions for over six months but the units of the Eighth were nearing completion when the Japanese surrendered. The Eighth Air Force units on Ryukyu Islands when the Japanese surrendered were:

333d Bombardment Group (Very Heavy) at Kadena since 5 August
      435th Bombardment Squadron (Very Heavy)
      460th Bombardment Squadron (Very Heavy)
      507th Bombardment Squadron (Very Heavy)

346th Bombardment Group (Very Heavy) at Kadena since 7 August
      461st Bombardment Squadron (Very Heavy) since 13 Aug
      462d Bombardment Squadron (Very Heavy) since 13 Aug
      463d Bombardment Squadron (Very Heavy) since 18 Aug

301st Fighter Wing on Ie Shima Island assigned 15 August
      318th Fighter Group attached on Ie Shima
             19th Fighter Squadron with P-47Ns
             73d Fighter Squadron with P-47Ns
           333d Fighter Squadron with P-47Ns
      413th Fighter Group on Ie Shima
             1st Fighter Squadron with P-47Ns
           21st Fighter Squadron with P-47Ns
           34th Fighter Squadron with P-47Ns
      507th Fighter Group on Ie Shima
           463d Fighter Squadron with P-47Ns
           464th Fighter Squadron with P-47Ns
           465th Fighter Squadron with P-47Ns
The plan was that both the Eighth and Twentieth Air Forces would have five bomb wings assigned. The Twentieth Air Force already had five bomb wings which are listed below. The 58th Bomb Wing was originally assigned to the XX Bomber Command in India and moved to the Marianas in 1945. The date indicates when they arrived in the Marianas.
58th Bombardment Wing (Very Heavy) (29 Mar 45)
73d Bombardment Wing (Very Heavy) (24 Aug 44)
313th Bombardment Wing (Very Heavy) (24 Dec 44)
314th Bombardment Wing (Very Heavy) (16 Jan 45)
315th Bombardment Wing (Very Heavy) (5 Apr 45)

…and of course the 509th Composite Group which had arrived on 29 May 1945 and was assigned to the 313th Bomb Wing.
The Fifth, Seventh and Thirteenth Air Forces were all assigned to the Far East Air Forces.

HQ Fifth Air Force had moved to Okinawa in July 1945 along with their subordinate units and their main targets were on Kyushu. I cannot say that all Fifth Air Force units were in Okinawa but I believe it was the majority of them.

HQ Thirteenth Air Force was still on Leyte, Philippine Islands, and I think the plan was to keep it in the Philippines to control the Japanese in the Southwest Pacific.

I found the following in Volume 6 of THE ARMY AIR FORCES IN WORLD WAR II

"MacArthur promptly assumed command as Commander-in-Chief Army Forces Pacific (CINCAFPAC). U.S. Army Forces in the Far East, it was decided, would be retained as a legal fiction for the time being, and U.S. Army Services of Supply, MacArthur's former logistical headquarters, was discontinued: the functions of both were absorbed in a new headquarters, U.S. Army Forces, Western Pacific (AFWESPAC).

U.S. Army Forces Pacific Ocean Area (USAFPOA) was discontinued and replaced by U.S. Army Forces, Middle Pacific (AFMIDPAC). Far East Air Forces (FEAF), presumably with General George C. Kenney at its head, was to continue to serve as MacArthur's air command; for Army Air Forces Pacific Ocean Area (AAFPOA) headquarters he had no use. This reorganization assumed that Southwest Pacific Area (SWPA) ultimately would be dissolved, with all territory south of the Philippines, except for the U.S. fleet base in the Admiralties, going to the Southeast Asia Command (SEAC). Although the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) shared MacArthur's hope that this transfer might be effected on or about 15 August 1945, Lord Mountbatten was hesitant to accept the responsibility prior to the capture of Singapore. Discussion continued but the transfer had not been completed at the time of the Japanese surrender."

Included in this book is a map entitled AAFSWPA Areas of Responsibility dated 1 Apr 45.  The Philippines and Netherlands East Indies plus the South China Sea were assigned to AAFSWPA. The RAAF was responsible for all of the NEI except the western quarter of Borneo. The Fifth Air Force was responsible for Luzon and Mindoro and the Thirteenth Air Force was responsible for all of the southern Philippine Islands and the western quarter of Borneo. The South China Sea, up to the shoreline of Asia, was divided between the Fifth and Thirteenth Air Forces.

Seventh Air Force is a strange story. This was the former Hawaiian Air Force that was devastated on 7 December 1941. It was rebuilt and initially was a source of men and equipment during the Guadalcanal campaign until the Thirteenth Air Force was activated in January 1943. The Seventh, under Navy operational control, then made its way across the island hopping campaign to the Marianas.

In August 1943, the Seventh Air Force was assigned to the U. S. Army Forces, Central Pacific Area; in August 1944, it was reassigned to the newly activated Army Air Forces Pacific Ocean Area which was under US Army Forces, Pacific Ocean Area.

HQ VII Fighter Command moved from Hawaii to Iwo Jima in March 1945 and was attached to the Twentieth Air Force to provide fighter escort for the B-29s.

When the U. S. Army Forces Pacific was activated in April 1945, all USAAF units in the Pacific came under the command of this new unit and it was decided to assign HQ Seventh Air Force to the Far East Air Forces
(FEAF). When it arrived on Okinawa from Saipan in July 1945, the Seventh Air Force was reassigned to FEAF and the VII Fighter Command units were reassigned to the Twentieth Air Force. One fighter wing was attached to the VII Fighter Command but this wing was reassigned to the Eighth Air Force in August 1945. I believe that by 15 August 1945, all of the Seventh Air Force fighter units had been reassigned to other commands. This includes the two night fighter squadrons equipped with P-61s on Iwo Jima, one assigned to HQ Seventh Air Force and the other to US Forces, Middle Pacific.

The VII Bomber Command moved from Saipan to Okinawa in July 1945 and its A-26s, B-24s and B-25s attacked targets on Kyushu.

There were no plans to put B-17's back in the Pacific, whence they had been withdrawn in 1943.  The three FEC Air Forces (Fifth, Seventh, and Thirteenth) all had B-24's and the Thirteenth, had some B-32's as well   The Fourteenth AF in China remained outside of the mix and was technically OPCON to SEAC though the control was minimal.

Targeting does remain problematic.  As has been pointed out, there weren't many strategic targets left to bomb (as Churchill was later to note about nuclear warfare, "excess only serves to make the rubble bounce"), so the heavy bombers would probably have been primarily used to interfere with Japanese defensive measures making their efforts more tactical and operational than doctrinally strategic.  There would have been a lot of mining of the seas around Japan to prevent reinforcements from overseas forces such as the Kwangtung army in China, for instance, taking out of bridges, destruction of supply depots and sea ports and the like.

The Postwar analysis of ETO and MTO and Pacific bombings revealed that these were effective but not nearly to the extent claimed. 

USSBS analyses had led to a complete reorientation of targeting, shifting from making the rubble bounce in deserted cities and closed factories to severing critical rail transportation links. This is fully described in United States Strategic Bombing Survey, "The War Against Japanese Transportation, 1941-1945," (Washington: Transportation Division, May 1947). For a sketch with background on the politics see Gian P. Gentile, _How Effective is Strategic Bombing? Lessons Learned From World War II to Kosovo_ (New York: New York University Press, 2001).

For a truly excellent long article covering the whole Pacific strategic bombing campaign I recommend Alvin D. Coox, "Strategic Bombing in the Pacific, 1942-1945," in _Case Studies in Strategic Bombardment_, ed. R. Cargill Hall (Washington: Air Force History and Museums Program, 1998), pp. 258-381,

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