aircraft factory in Japan, the Nakajima Hikoki, was founded in 1916. The
following year Mitsubishi Jukogyo and Kawasaki Kokuki Kogyo were
Isoruku Yamamoto took command of the 1st Air Fleet and the following year
was promoted to rear admiral in charge of the navy's technical service.
Yamamoto became convinced that future wars would be decided by air power
and embarked on a massive new building programme.
the Japanese built around 445 aircraft. This increased to 952 (1935),
1,181 (1936), 1,511 (1937), 3,201 (1938), 4,467 (1939) and 4,768 (1940).
This included fighters, torpedo-bombers and dive-bombers. The most
important of these were the fighters Mitsubishi A5M, Nakajima Ki-27, and
the Mitsubishi A6M and the bombers Mitsubishi ki-21 and Mitsubishi G3M.
the Japanese Army Air Force had about 1,500 aircraft ready to attack land
targets. This was backed up by the Japanese Navy Air Force that had over
7th December, 1941, 105 high-level bombers, 135 dive-bombers and 81
fighter aircraft attacked the the US Fleet at Pearl Harbour. In their
first attack the Japanese sunk the Arizona, Oklahoma,
West Virginia and California. The second attack, launched 45
minutes later, hampered by smoke, created less damage.
hours 18 warships, 188 aircraft and 2,403 servicemen were lost in the
attack. Luckily, the navy's three aircraft carriers, Enterprise,
Lexington and Saratoga, were all at sea at the time. The
following day, President Franklin D. Roosevelt and a united US Congress
declared war on Japan.
summer of 1942 Japan's air forces were extremely successful. This changed
during the Battle of Midway when Japan suffered heavy losses of pilots and
aircraft. Japanese aircraft factories were never able to match the output
of those in the United States and the Japanese Air Force gradually lost
control of the air battle over the Pacific.
fall of Saipan in July, 1944, Admiral Takijiro Onishi, commander of 1st
Air Fleet in the Philippines, created the Special Attack Group of suicide
dive-bombing pilots known as kamikazes. Young men were inspired to
volunteer as they wished to die for their country. Pilots were trained in
just over a week to fly their modified Mitsubishi A6M fighters.
kamikaze attack on enemy warships first took place in the struggle for the
Philippines in 1944. Kamikaze pilots aimed at the central elevator on
carriers and the base of the bridge on large warships. As they had to fly
at low altitudes they were very vulnerable to anti-aircraft guns.
During April 1945 kamikaze pilots under Admiral Soema Toyoda launched
1,400 suicide missions as part of Operation Ten-Go. It is estimated that
these suicide pilots sunk 26 ships during this campaign. More than 2,000
kamikaze missions were also flown against the US fleet at
(April-July 1945). By this time the US Navy had learnt how to deal with
kamikaze attacks and few ships were hit.
pilots continued to be active until the dropping of the atom bombs on
Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
Admiral Takijiro Onishi, the commander of the Special Attack Group,
committed suicide when he heard that Emperor Hirohito had surrendered.