P-40 vs. late war Japanese fighters

Discussion in 'Aviation' started by Jerry W. Loper, Oct 31, 2007.

  1. Jerry W. Loper

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    How well did the P-40 fare against Japanese fighters other than the A6M Zero and Ki-27 Nate? Ki-61, Ki-43, Ki-44, Ki-84, etc.?
     
  2. Jank

    Jank Member

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    About as well as it fared against the Macchi Mc.202 and 205 in the Mediteranean. With tactics, good firepower, ability to dive and the ability to take punishment, it did OK.
     
  3. JoeB

    JoeB Member

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    Good question, mid war Pacific War campaigns are relatively under-covered in print, in books with the key feature of correlating each side's accounts of the same combats to nail it down with numbers. Did OK is a generally plausible answer though, IMO.

    The Type 1 (Ki-43, Oscar) was encountered even by the AVG in 1942. They did as well against it as against the Type 97 (Ki-27, Nate), interestingly, around 3:1 in their favor, though a pretty small sample. The successor P-40 units in China, 23rd FG and other 14th AF units, don't seem to have done as well in '42-'43, perhaps had the upper hand against mainly Type 1 opposition, but not by a lot. Each side believed it had the upper hand. P-40's didn't meet Type 1's in New Guinea and Solomons until 1943, and those were often mixed operations including better performing US a/c (P-38's, F4U's), which surely influenced the outcomes at least somewhat. Again though the Japanese thought the P-40 was a manageable threat, P-40 units thought planes like Zero and Type 1 were a manageable threat. It was very common in WWII for each side to feel its planes and pilots were proven superior to a worthy opponent, that was possible because each side's tally of its own victories was usually at odds with the other side's tally of its losses.

    Similarly the Japanese thought the Type 3 (Ki-61, Tony) was a match or more than for the P-40, based on both trials v captured P-40E's and combat in NG starting 1943; but again P-40 units generally thought the opposite, Tony was a potentially formidable plane, but manageable, potentially even by out-turning it in case of the P-40 (a 5th AF intel report on Japanese a/c claims this was possible).

    The P-40 was largely phased out of Pac War air combat by end 1943, except in CBI theater where remained in that role through 1945. In that case P-40 units eventually considered themselves at a disadvantage to later Japanese fighters especially Type 4's (Ki-84 Frank), which debuted in China in mid 1944. The Japanese felt the Type 4 heavily dominated the P-40, but again each side usually judged in an optimistic light.

    Joe
     
  4. Soundbreaker Welch?

    Soundbreaker Welch? Active Member

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    How much did the later improvements in the P-40 help it? Like the K and N marks?
     
  5. Marshall_Stack

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    From what I have read, the later model P-40s weren't much better than the previous models. They lightened the plane but only got about 10 mph faster. The airframe was obsolete by that time
     
  6. ppopsie

    ppopsie Member

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    According to Ikuhiko Hata, a war historian, on 5th April 1944 32 of Zero fighters from 254 Ku and Kaiko-Ku based at Hainan island in southern China conducted an attacked a USAAF airfield at Nangning in south of the China continent. There were just five P-40s there.

    With early warnings amply provided by the Chinese, the P-40s intercepted the raiders and shoot down nine(9) out of 32 Zeros for a loss of a P-40 and its pilot. All the Zero pilots/instructors were lost.

    The IJN air units in Hainan except for the 254 were for advanced training and fighting was not their primary function but the local war situation did not allow them just to teach how to fly the fighters.

    This was one of rare examples of IJN fighters fought against P-40s in China in 1944 or later. The result however was largely due to the tactics taken by the Americans and the Japanese sides but this indicates the P-40s were still if not formidable but very useful around.
     
  7. JimM

    JimM New Member

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    Most Japanese pilots that were capable of maximizing ANY aircraft, be it the Zeke, the Frank, the George...whatever, where dead by early 1945 if not sooner.

    Any discussions regarding relative aircraft performance must keep this in mind.

    All things being equal, pilot ability, co-alitiude, etc - A well flown late model P40 wouldn't stand a chance against a maximized (speed kept up, not slowing down to knife fight) Frank.

    Jim
     
  8. ppopsie

    ppopsie Member

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    The problem on the Nangning raid was that the most of the Zero pilots shot down were veterans or reasonably experienced ones.

    Lt. Tsuneo Nakahara who commanded the operation was a noted and experienced fighter pilot who finished IJN NCO pilot course as early as in 1928. Maybe he was too old to lead such an operation, and was shot down.

    The author Hata pointed out even such competent aircrewmen could not achieve the purpose let alon the survival in the early 1944 period. According to an US combat report four out of nine Zeros were gotten by a single pilot. Apperarently there had been a lack of co-ordination existed on the Japanese' side.

    BTW
    If the conditions including pilots' skills are to be considered on the discussions like this, quality of the oils and gasorines should also be taken into account. In my opinion these are factor of limitless and I can't say which is better should these be included or excluded.
     
  9. JoeB

    JoeB Member

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    I assume the question was as stated 'how did P-40's do', not 'what would happen in a computer simulation one on one that assumes published performance stats are accurate, and is programmed in part to make the game fun' :D Even aside from the computer game part, just paper comparisons, besides assuming equality in areas that were seldom if ever equal (pilot skill, *numbers*, fuels, maintenance etc etc), assume that standard published performance stats were accurate or comparable, which isn't always true either. One plane we're speaking of here, the Type 4 fighter, has had it's top speed reported over about a 40mph range (388-426mph, at least), and still AFAIK no one has gotten absolutely to the bottom that.

    Here are a few two sided accounts of P-40 combats v the JAAF from 1943 in China. Hata/Izawa "JAAF Fighter Units and Their Aces", v. USAAF chronology and Rust "14th AF Story", disappointingly few are covered in both in this quick comparison:

    July 30, 1943: Type 1's (Oscars) claim 4 P-40's for one loss while escorting bombers. P-40's claim 3 bombers and 2 fighter for 2 P-40's lost.

    Dec 10, 1943: Type 1's and Type 2's (Tojo's) claim 3 P-40's but 2 Japanese light bombers being escorted are lost. P-40's claim 3 light bombers for one P-40 loss.

    Dec 11 1943: 2 JAAF pilots, of the Type 2 equipped 85th Sentai, are killed by P-40's, no claims. 23rd FG P-40's claim 8 enemy fighters without loss.

    The Hata/Izawa book has a couple of statements about the 'difficulty' dealing with P-40's in China by Type 1's, particularly protecting bombers against hit and run attacks.

    Looking at comparative JAAF claims in China, the Type 1 equipped 25th and 33rd Sentai's claimed only around 2:1 Allied a/c destroyed per their own *pilots* lost ca. 1943, so discounting claims (by at least 50%, probably more) and adding planes destroyed whose pilots survived, they were not doing too well. The Type 2 equipped 85th claimed about 3:1 in same terms in 1943, the Type 4 equipped 22nd claimed 5:1 in 1944, so the later types were apparently relatively more effective, though there isn't easy to access evidence what real fighter-fighter kill-loss ratio those total a/c destroyed to pilots lost claims would translate to.

    Joe
     
  10. ppopsie

    ppopsie Member

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    In terms of the score credibility it was for the fight over Nangning was all confirmed by counting the wreckages on the ground and matched with Japanese' record. That was part of the reason I put that here.

    It is not directly connected with JoeB san's comment but the article written by Ikuhiko Hata in a magazine in late 70's was the first ever to point out the P-40 was also a good airplane, against what had been believed among Japanese airplane fans.
     
  11. fer-de-lance

    fer-de-lance Member

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    Joe, the first JAAF unit equipped with the Type 4 fighter (Ki-84), the 22nd Sentai, deployed to Hankow on August 24, 1944 with 40 aircraft. Over the course of a month, they lost six pilots including the Sentai Leader Maj. Iwahashi, Jyozo. (Only approximately 20 Ki-84 remained to be turned over to the 25th Sentai) In return, the 22nd Sentai claimed 40 aircraft shot down or damaged. Unfortunately, these claims far exceed the actual air-to-air losses of the U.S. 14th AF and Chinese-American Combined Wing (CACW).

    In their first action over Yochow on August 28th, the 22nd and the 48th Sentai intercepted 11 bomb-carrying P-40N of the CACW escorted by 13 fighters from the 14th AF. The 22nd Sentai lost one pilot and the 48th Sentai lost two. One Chinese and three US P-40's failed to return.

    On the following day, the 22nd Sentai fought P-40N of the 3rd Fighter Group of the CACW on a bombing mission near Heng Yang. One 22nd Sentai pilot was lost as was a Chinese deputy squadron leader. There was also heavy fighting over Yochow when P-40N of the 5th Fighter Group CACW and P-51 from the 23rd FG, 14th AF escorted B-24 on a bombing mission. But the JAAF fighters intercepting that raid was from the 25th Sentai.

    A 22nd Sentai pilot was lost Sept. 1st in Central China but the CACW and Chinese Air Force units did not make any claims, (may have been a 14th AF aircraft.)

    No air-to-air losses were suffered by Allied units on Sept. 5th and 7th when the 22nd Sentai was in action supporting the capture of Ling-ling.

    On Sept. 12th, the 22nd Sentai lost another pilot when they intercepted eight P-40N's from the 5th FG CACW on a bombing mission to Heng Shan. One American pilot was lost and a Chinese pilot crash landed on return to base.

    On Sept. 19th, the 22nd Sentai lost another pilot fighting 16 P-40N of the 5th FG CACW on a bombing mission to Hsin-shih. No CACW aircraft were lost. One Chinese pilot claimed a "Hamp" and another claimed one damaged.

    On Sept. 21st, the commander of the 22nd Sentai Maj. Iwahashi was lost on a strafing attack on Hsi-an Airfield. Chinese sources indicate that the JAAF ace was hit in the head by ground fire and killed (not by ramming a P-47).

    On the same day, a fierce dogfight broke out over Hsin-shih when 15 P-40N of the 5th FG, CACW on a bombing mission was intercepted by JAAF fighters. The 25th Sentai lost two pilots and CACW pilots claimed two "Hamp". Capt. Phil Colman, the only ace from the 5th FG, CACW, made of the claims. He saw the "Hamp" catch fire and crash. One Chinese pilot was killed when his damaged P-40N crashed into a mountain side returning to base.

    The 22nd Sentai lost at least 10 Ki-84 during their first deployment to Hankow. Only about 20 out of 40 remained to be handed over to the 25th Sentai.

    Even if the 22nd Sentai Ki-84 were responsible for all the Allied aircraft lost in action they participated in (highly unlikely), they still would not have "broken even". Hardly a picture of "dominance".

    Most of these actions took place at low altitude while the P-40N's were on bombing missions. At these low altitudes, the single-stage supercharger of the Allison V-1710 engine in P-40N was not at a great disadvantage to the Ha-45-21 engine with two-stage supercharger in the Ki-84. At higher altitudes, the two-stage supercharger of the Ki-84 would see increasing advantage over the single stage supercharger of the P-40N. However, by this time, Japan had begun to face shortages of high octane aviation gasoline which may further erode the advantage with Ki-84.

    Another factor to consider is:

    The CACW pilots were well trained, experienced and employed sound tactics (e.g. good mutual support with a number of kills scored while shooting JAAF fighter off the tail of friendly fighters).
     
  12. JoeB

    JoeB Member

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    Interesting. Sources? It shows again how relative claim ratio's among types on one side are only a rough indication, and no reliable indication of absolute success. The Ki-84's claimed much more success than Ki-43's say around a year earlier, the latter practically admitted they were at a disadvantage (2:1 claims to *pilots* lost ratio, a pretty sure sign of a losing side in WWII in any air arm). I noted in Hata/Izawa "JAAF Units..Aces" book some claims of Type 4 success in encounters with P-51's only, later on, so not directly relevant, but I don't happen to have any good source on day to day ops of 14th AF in the period.

    Joe
     
  13. fer-de-lance

    fer-de-lance Member

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    The "History of Chinese Air Force Operations in the War of Resistance against Japan" (『空軍抗日戰史』) has details of the major actions involving both Chinese and American units.

    The American names are often badly "butchered" but you can fill in the gaps of books like Molesworth's "Wing to Wing" and "Sharks over China".

    The book "Ki-84 Hayate" (疾風日本陸軍最強の戦闘機, publ 1975, 0020-075447-2756) by Suzuki, Goro gives some details of the early actions of the 22nd Sentai that were not in Hata and Izawa.

    Looking at the claims against P-51 in 1944, apart from one solitary action, the Ki-84 certainly did not "dominate" the opposition.

    When the 22nd Sentai was withdrawn from China, they handed their ~20 remaining Ki-84 to other units remaining in China. The 25th Sentai equipped its 2nd Chutai with Ki-84 in November to make up for serious losses suffered in September and October.

    The 85th Sentai also received 9 Ki-84 in September, 1944 and replaced the Type 2 Ki-44 Shoki in their 2nd Chutai. (It is unclear from the accounts but these may have been ex-22nd Sentai aircraft). The one notable success claimed by this unit was when Maj. Wakamatsu, Yukiyoshi led a mixed group of 4 Ki-84 and 4 Ki-44 to intercept USAAF P-51B's bombing and strafing near Wuchow on the morning Oct. 4, 1944. Five P-51 were claimed for one JAAF fighter damaged. Wakamatsu who led the diving attack from out of the rising sun claimed two kills, setting a P-51 on fire in his first pass.

    The 76th Fighter Squadron, 23rd Fighter Group actually lost four P-51B and two pilots KIA, Lt. Rex B. Shull and Lt. Henry Leisses. One additional pilot Lt. W. O'Dell who bailed out remained MIA. Wakamatsu noted in his diary that the pilot of the P-51 shot down by Sgt Ishikawa in a Ki-44 bailed out and descended by parachute.

    On the following day, the 85th Sentai suffered heavily in the hands of the 118th Tactical Reconnaissance Squadron. P-51C of the 118th were escorting B-25's on a raid to Samshui near Canton when they were intercepted by the 85th Sentai. The 118th reported shooting down four of the 12 "Tojo's" encountered. (The 1st and 2nd Chutai of the 85th Sentai were based in Canton at the time, therefore, it was likely that both Ki-44 and Ki-84 were in the air.) Four pilots from the 85th Sentai were lost in exchange for one P-51C downed (pilot bailed out and was rescued).

    On the 6th, the 85th Sentai was in action again with the 76th Fighter Sq losing a pilot Lt. E.E. Smith and a P-40N over Wuchow.

    On the 15th, the 85th Sentai intercepted a force of B-24's escorted by P-51's and claimed 8 victories for the loss of two pilots. M.Sgt Nishino claimed two B-24 (by air-to-air bombing) and one P-51.

    Claims were made by the 85th Sentai for four B-24 on the 16th (attack on Hong Kong) and three on the 17th (attack on Tien Ho airfield at Canton) for no losses. P-40 and P-51 of the 76th FS and 118th TRS were involved in these actions and suffered no losses in pilots.

    Suzuki gave a total of 17 claims for "shot down and damaged" by the 85th Sentai between Oct. 6th and 17th.

    On Oct. 20th, the 85th Sentai lost one aircraft defending Wuchow and Canton. This tallies with the claims by P-51C of the 118th Tac Recon Sq for one "Tojo" shot down and one damaged over Samshui near Canton.

    The 85th Sentai was moved to Hankow to be re-equipped. Its strength numbered 10 Ki-84 and 17 Ki-44 on Nov. 13th.

    In December, long-range P-51 made fighter sweeps deep into Japanese held territory. On the 8th, the 74th FS hit airfields in the Nanking area. A lone 85th Sentai Ki-84 (probably on a ferry flight) was shot down and its pilot killed. (A Ki-61 "Hien" was also claimed over Ta Shao Chang Airfield - probably belonged to the 5th Flight Training Unit based there).

    Wakamatsu himself was killed Dec. 18th, 1944 during a massive attack involving B-29, B-24 and B-25 bombers escorted by P-40, P-51 of the 23rd FG as well as the CACW. Henry Sakaida suggested in Japanese Army Air Force Aces 1937-45 that Wakamatsu may have been shot down by the 74th FS. However, evidence suggest that he may have been downed by the 118th TRS.

    The USAAF and CACW aircraft came in five successive waves timed to catch the JAAF fighters on the ground refueling after intercepting a previous wave. The B-29 arrived first to bomb Hankow. Then came the 75th FS escorted B-24 of the 308th BG. This was followed by the 74th FS escorting B-25's from the 341st BG to hit Wuchang. Then came the 118th TRS escorting yet another group of B-25 from the 341st to hit Hankow. Finally, 32 P-40's from the 3rd FG CACW were to strafe Hsiaokan and Hankow.

    The 74th FS had claimed 5 JAAF fighters over Wuchang in their attack. Probably accounting for the two pilots lost from the 25th Sentai as well as S/Lt Shibata (27 victories) and Sgt. Hosohori of the 85th Sentai's 1st Chutai. Sgt. Okubo (4 victories) of the 2nd Chutai was also wounded and crash landed.
    Suzuki indicated that Wakamatsu had landed after fighting with P-51's when another wave arrived - i.e. he had fought off P-51's from the 74th FS. Trying desperate to gain altitude after taking off again, Wakamatsu was shot down and crashed 1km from Wuchang No.2 Airfield. Lt.Col. Charles Older, deputy C.O. of the 23rd FG was leading the 118th TRS during this attack. He shot up an "Oscar" which his wingman saw crash at the end of the runway. This was probably Wakamatsu, his Ki-84 mis-identified as a Ki-43. The 85th Sentai leader was also shot down and suffered burns. He may have been in the second "Oscar" claimed by the 118th TRS whose pilot bailed out.

    With 9 fighters destroyed on the ground and many others damaged, both the 25th and the 85th Sentai were left with 2 operational aircraft after this action. Although claims were made for 4 P-51, only one from the 74th FS was lost - hit by ground fire while strafing another airfield (Er Tao Kou at Kiukiang). The pilot bailed out and was rescued by Chinese guerillas.

    The P-40's of the 32nd FS of the 3rd FG, CACW shot down a Ki-48 bomber and chased away a "Tojo" fighter.

    With P-40's in the China progressively replaced by P-51 in 1945 there were fewer and fewer opportunities for it to engage in any air-to-air combat (let alone with the relatively rare Ki-84).

    The last large scale air-to-air actions P-40's were engaged in occurred in January, 1945 over Hankow. P-40N's of the 3rd FG and 5th FG of the CACW claimed a total of 4 kills during the actions on Jan. 5th and 14th. The 25th and 48th Sentai lost at 6 pilots and a number of additional aircraft (crash landed or pilot bailed out) in these actions.

    Since the 25th Sentai was involved, there may have been Ki-84 engaged. Capt. Phil Colman of the P-40N equipped 26th FS, 5th FG, CACW claimed a "Tojo" out of 2 engaged on the 14th. One wonders whether these were the last operational Ki-44 in the 85th Sentai during that period or mis-identified Ki-84 of the 25th Sentai ... (Another research project for the New Year ...).
     
  14. JoeB

    JoeB Member

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    Great post, thanks. Is the first book the same as 浴血长空:中国空军抗日战史 ISBN 7-80183-690-1 (the longer title I mean)? The second seems to have a new edition from 2007, similar title same author, maybe I'll try it.

    Joe
     
  15. fer-de-lance

    fer-de-lance Member

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    Actually, no. The title I was referring to is the official history released by the ROCAF HQ in Taiwan. Nevertheless, it looks like it is rather good.

    浴血长空:中国空军抗日战史 (ISBN 7-80183-690-1) is by Chen, Ying-ming (陈应明) a serious researcher from China who has collaborated with people from Taiwan including Liu, Wen-hsiao (劉文孝) who published a number of very good works in the 80's. The list of chapters look like the book would be very comprehensive.

    Liu had access to the official ROCAF records and interviewed a large number of veterans who went with the ROCAF to Taiwan. I corresponded with Liu and provided info on Chinese-American pilots as well as veterans who have emigrated to the US and Canada.

    From the list of chapters,

    初战南昌一 (early battles in Nanchang: 1)
    击落“四大天王”之潮田良平 (shooting down of Ushioda, Ryohei - one of the "Four Aces")
    再毙“四大天王”之南乡茂章 (death of Nango, Mochifumi - another of the "Four Aces")
    人物传记罗英德传略 (brief biographical details of Loh, Ying-teh)

    It looks like Chen has, at the very least, gone to a primary source - Gen. Loh, Ying-teh's memoirs - and not repeated the (politically slanted) urban legends in other Mainland Chinese publications. Unfortunately, the Japanese side of the story is still left out. My first trip to the Japanese archives earlier this year confirmed some details that are missing in the Chinese accounts. May be I should drop Chen a note ...
     
  16. maxs75

    maxs75 Member

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    Fer-de-lance,
    From your posts above I guess that You have a great knowledge about Japanese and Chinese Air Force during WWII.
    I have only poor info about Japanese and Chinese air units in China/Burma during WWII. Can you list for me the unit based there during 1944? Best would be the Order of Battle during october 1944 (Squadron No., aircraft model and, if possible, air base)

    Many thanks in advance

    Max
     
  17. ppopsie

    ppopsie Member

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    Fer-de-lance sama,
    Thanks great. I feel like to study myself more about Japanese Army aviation but my side of the basket is too small for now. Very recently Masahiro Nakayama's book 中国的天空 (the sky over China?), one of the first documentary writing about Chinese aviation, was re-published with enhanced details and photos. I wish to have a copy soon.

    >commander of the 22nd Sentai Maj. Iwahashi was lost on a strafing attack on Hsi-an Airfield

    Was the info about Iwahashi shosa confirmed? It is commonly believed in Japan that Iwahashi was hit from his #2 plane and crashed when strafing the airfield. Ikuhiko Hata wrote about it on one of his books years ago.

    Also I would like to point out that the early Ki-84s send to China were from the type's pre-production models (prototypes) which were crafted rather than build both on the airframe and the engine and these said to performed as expected or advertised.

    But this fact was well known and sometimes used to describe the condition of the aircraft manufacturing/operation in the late war period in Japan.
     
  18. CPWN

    CPWN Member

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    Someone tell me that Chinese pilots reported only light weight P40N-1 could dogfight with Japanese fighters and P40's acceleration was better than Ki-84 prototype which used by 22th sentai in China.
     
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