Friday, August 12, 2016

Japanese Army Air Force - China 1942

During early 1942, the enemy gradually strengthened its air forces in south China, especially around Hengyang and K'weilin. Also, aerial pictures taken by the 1st Air Brigade in late March showed that the runways on Chuhsien, Lishui and Yushan airfields had been increased from 700 meters to 1,500 meters; that ammunition and fuel were gradually being accumulated and that additional installations were being built. Furthermore, an airfield had been constructed at Chienou. This work was carried out under the protection of fighters that flew almost daily from Hengyang and Kweilin.

In early April, the 1st Air Brigade (using about 50 planes, including fighters and reconnaissance planes) attacked and destroyed a newly built enemy airfield in the Chekiang sector, destroying the runways and the majority of installations. Although the Brigade repeated these attacks again and again, each time the enemy succeeded in rebuilding the field.

Imperial General Headquarters foreseeing that airfields in the Chekiang area could be used to advantage by the enemy as terminals in raids against Japan from air bases and carriers in the Pacific, as well as from other bases on continental China, ordered the China Expeditionary Army to destroy enemy air bases in the Chekiang area.

On 16 April, Imperial General Headquarters drafted an operation-al plan, an extract from which read:

Objective: The primary mission will be to defeat the enemy in the Chekiang area and to destroy the air bases from which the enemy might conduct aerial raids on the Japanese Homeland.

It further stated that the new enemy airfields and their attach-ed installations were being skilfully camouflaged and decentralized and that they should be sought out and destroyed. On 20 April, a further directive was issued stating:

The Air Forces of the United States, Britain and China will seek bases in China from which to bomb Japan. They may also attempt to carryout air raids on Japan from Midway, Morell, the Aleutians and from aircraft carriers, in which event the logical terminal would be airfields in Chekiang Province.

Air and ground units will be employed to capture and secure airfields in the vicinity of Lishui, Chuhsien and Yushan. Other airstrips in Chekiang Province will be neutralized by our air units at an opportune time.

Consideration will be given as to whether certain air bases, together with the accompanying military installations and important lines of communication, will be destroyed completely or whether they will be occupied for a certain period of time.

In order to reinforce the 1st Air Brigade during its attacks against the airfields in Chekiang Province, in early April the Southern Army was directed to send the 62d Air Regiment (28 heavy bombers)and the 90th Air Regiment (20 light bombers) to central China.

On 30 April, Imperial General Headquarters ordered the Chekiang-Kiangsi Operation to be undertaken at the earliest possible date. The operation proceeded smoothly with the 1st Air Brigade cooperating with the ground units when required. Not only did the Brigade sup-port the ground forces by bombing the opposing forces but its reconnaissance planes greatly assisted the operation by supplying information in regard to enemy ground movements, positions and strength.

Subsequent to the occupation of the captured areas, by mid-August units of the 13th Army had destroyed the Yushan, Chuhsien and Lishui airfields. The enemy, however, continued to reinforce their air force around Hengyang and Kweilin and, with the withdrawal of the Eleventh and Thirteenth Armies, it was feared that using air-fields in Kiangsi and western Chekiang Provinces as staging areas, they would bomb the Homeland. The 1st Air Brigade, therefore, in spite of the fact that its fighting strength was gradually diminishing, repeatedly attacked and damaged airfields in this area.

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