With Our Airmen Today

By Captain Norman MacMillan M.C., A.F.C.
The War Illustrated, Volume 9, No. 210, Page 156, July 6, 1945.

Four new types of British aircraft are now available for use against the Japanese. Three are fighters and one a bomber. It is certain that in speed an hitting power Japanese army and navy aircraft will be outclassed by them. The special feature of Japanese aircraft construction has been light structure weight and small fuselage cross-section; the first of these qualities has given Japanese aircraft a fast rate of climb and good manoeuvrability; the second has produced a good turn of speed for the air crew, and relatively light armament.

The most powerful Japanese aero engine so far reported is the Nakajima Homare, an 18-cylinder air-cooled radial of 2,000 h.p., which means of water injection can produce in emergency a still greater power from an engine 46½ inches in diameter, against the 52 inches of the Bristol Herculas of 1,650 h.p. Their intention is obviously to keep their fuselages slim so that they will gain the utmost speed value from the aeroplane using the Homare engine, thereby profiting from the small stature of the average Japanese.

Two aircraft are known to be powered with this engine, the Nakajima Myrt, a reconnaissance plane with a speed of over 390 m.p.h., and the Frank, an Army single-seater fighter, also made by Nakajima, having a speed of about 420 m.p.h. and armed with two cannon-guns and two half-inch machine-guns. It was possibly a Frank that was encountered by the U.S. naval pilot on June 3 during a carrier-plane raid on Kyushu. This pilot reported being unable to keep up with the Japanese aircraft, but two days later it was denied in Washington that the Japanese had aircraft superior in performance to the Americans. Probably it all depends which aircraft met which.

Fastest Aeroplane in the World Today is the 500 m.p.h. Vampire

The three new British fighters are all superior to the Frank. The De Havilland Vampire, a single-engined gas-turbine fighter, was the first aircraft in the world to fly at more than 500 m.p.h., and is claimed to be today the fastest aeroplane in service in the world. The De Havilland Hornet is a scaled-down version of the Mosquito, redesigned throughout for fighter duty; it has two Rolls-Royce Merlin engines and a top speed of over 470 m.p.h. Vickers-Armstrongs have produced the Spiteful, a single-seater fighter, with a Rolls-Royce Griffon engine and a speed of more than 460 m.p.h. The Hornet is the fastest propeller-driven aircraft in the world, and it combines this speed with long range a quality necessary for the Pacific war. The Hornet was drawn, built and began its first test flights in exactly twelve months.

The new bomber is the Avro Lincoln, a development of the Lancaster, carrying the heaviest bombs over a grater range and at a faster speed than the Lancaster. It is fitted with four Rolls-Royce Merlin engines, and is being made in the United Kingdom, Canada and Australia. When these aircraft “get cracking” in the Pacific they will add still more punch to the blows being inflicted on the enemy.

Balloon-bombs Released by Japs Cause First Casualties Within U.S.

Near Lakeview, Oregon, about 300 miles from the west coast of the United States, a child picked up a bomb and while playing with it the bomb exploded and killed the child, the mother, and four more of her six children. The father and one child survived. The bomb was one of those attached to balloons released by the Japanese which are allowed to drift across the ocean towards America. These were the first casualties within America from enemy action.

Regrettable as such incidents are, America is fortune compared with the United Kingdom. Details have just been revealed of the damage done to the Merseyside docks during the air raids of early May 1941. The German bombers damaged 60 per cent of the docks, and put many out of action. (Yet within three months the port was again in full operation, an indication of the fact that air bombardment derives its power from continuity.) Forty vessels were hit in the docks and most were sunk. Others were sunk in the river. (I have heard it said that at one time nearly 250 vessels were affected).

The worst incident was that of the Malakand, laden with 450 tons of ammunition for the Middle East. She was hit, but the damage was controlled, and everything appeared to be safe until overhead a barrage balloon caught fire and fell blazing on the ship. There was a terrific explosion as the Malakand blew up. Afterwards I saw the dock where she lay and it was a horrifying spectacle, the graveyard of a dead ship, its twisted frame lying in a huge hole that was unrecognizable as a dock. During the London blitz the traffic of the Port of London was reduced to 15 per cent of its pre-war volume. One ship was sunk by an air-laid mine at The Pool, just below Tower Bridge. But by 1944 the Port was again handling 90 per cent of its pre-war traffic.

Fighters Directed via Radio Phone by R.A.F. Controller

Details of the radar night interception of enemy aircraft have also come out. The radar ground equipment enabled each R.A.F. Controller to direct his fighters by radio telephone, giving them the course and height to fly. When each aircraft was close enough to enable the pilot to use the radar fitted in his aircraft he changed from C.G.I. (ground control of interception) to A.I. (air interception). But it should not be forgotten that the aircraft plots in the operations rooms were all the time flowing in from the posts of the Observer Corps, with 32,000 observers manning the whole area of the country. Fighter interception after the installation of radar in the planes became more deadly, because it enabled the pilot to overcome his difficulty of lack of vision in the dark.

The difference between the air war in Europe and in the Far East is revealed in the figures of Bomber Command for the whole war. Out of a total of 955,040 tons of bombs dropped, 196,335 tons were incendiaries; against Japan the U.S.A. 21St A.F. drops scarcely and high explosive and concentrates on incendiary warfare.

Kobe, sixth city of Japan, was attacked on June 5 by 450-500 Super-Fortresses with incendiary bombs; eight Super-Forts were lost. On June 7 the undamaged part of Osaka got 2,500 tons from over 450 Super-Forts. On June 10, towns in Honshu - Chiba, Tomioka, Hamashatsu, Kasimagaura, Tachikawa and Sukagawa – were attacked by 150-200 Super-Forts with 150 Mustangs as escort. Like the Germans, the Japanese are unable to prevent the bomber from getting through to its target. The Japanese themselves announced that Lancasters bombed Hong Kong on June 13,

The Japanese have produced a small glider bomb which, released from an aeroplane is steered to contact with its target by a suicide pilot. How long the Japanese air training scheme can stand the loss rate of one pilot per aircraft per raid remains to be seen. No Western Power could supply the manpower and training speed involved in such methods.

Aircraft combined with surface units in a 72-hours' beach defence bombardment in British North Borneo before the Australian 9th Division went ashore in Brunei Bay and on Labuan Island at dawn on June 10, The airfield was quickly captured.

Air Chief Marshal Sir Trafford Leigh-Mallory's aircraft was found on June 4 crashed in the Alps 30 miles east of Grenoble. It was missing since Nov. 17, 1944, whilst flying to the East.

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