|Japanese Army Air Force (JAAF)
7 Ki-49 Type 100 heavy bomber “Helen” - 95 Flying Regiment
3 Ki-49 Type 100 heavy bomber “Helen” - 74 Flying Regiment
3 Ki-84 Type 4 fighter “Frank” - 13 Sentai [Type 1 fighters?]
USAAF 5th Air Force Fighter Cover
11 P-47's - 40th Squadron / 35th Fighter Group
__ P-38's of 433rd Squadron / 475th Fighter Group
__ fighters of 18th Squadron / 70th Fighter Group
Air Cover for Mindoro Convoy
__ FM-2 Wildcats of Natoma Bay (VC-81)
__ FM-2 Wildcats of Kadashan Bay (VC-20)
__ FM-2 Wildcats of Ommaney Bay (VC-75)
__ F6F Hellcats?
40th Fighter Squadron – 12 Helens & 1 Sally
433rd fighter Squadron – 1 Tojo 0925 hours
Japanese Army Air Force Fighter Units and Their Aces 1931-1945 page 83
“At the express order of the Officer Commanding, 4th Air Army, the 5th Hikodan had organized a suicide attack unit of nine Ki-49's on 13 December. Despite the protests of the crews involved, they were ordered off after dawn on 14th, rendezvousing with three 13th Sentai Ki 43s. At this point they were surprised by U.S. fighters which shot down the whole formation, which included Maj. Kazuhiko Nakano, commanding officer of the 13th Sentai; the fighters had claimed one victory before they were all most.”
40th Fighter Squadron Narrative Combat Report
Mission No: 350. N-493
No. of planes: 12 P-47's (one did not reach target)
Date: 14 December 1944
Task: Fighter sweep to Negros Island, Central Philippines
Air Combat: Our formation of 11 P-47's were flying N just E of Soledad at 6500 to 9500 feet when Red #1 called in 3 bogies at 9 o’clock on the deck. Immediately after that 11 more were seen behind the first 3. The bombers were flying SW. Red #3 and #4 made the first pass on 3 Helens from astern. Red #3 fired a 5 second burst hitting him in the engines and fuselage. The rear gunner returned fire. He crashed in the bay. . . . Red flight being out of ammunition then came home.
When the bogies were first seen, Red and Blue flights went down and White flight stayed up at 6000 feet circling over the fight. 4 Navy F4F’s were seen to the W coming in. 6 more F4F’s came in behind them. They called and identified our flight and proceeded to circle. White flight then went down on one Sally on the deck with flaps down heading for the beach. White #4 pulled up behind the Sally and fired. The ball turret fired back and the Sally crashed into the beach. White flight then circled back and strafed the Sally on the beach. White flight then proceeded home.
Blue flight dove down behind Red flight and made a 60º [degree] pass on one Helen. . . .
Red flight observed the bombers jettison their bomb load in the water just before they were attacked. . . . All the bombers were flying about 50 to 100 feet above the water. They broke up into singles and went full speed to the N. They took no evasive action and seemed to be hurrying back to the Bacolod area.
The bombers were painted a grayish black and a couple were all black. They had mottled green under surfaces. . . . Two planes returned fire from the tail but it seemed like a fixed gun. . . . Return fire from the turrets was very inaccurate. The guns of the Helens didn’t seem to be able to fire on a high quarter attack from the front. . . .
The Jap pilots seemed confused and gave each other no mutual fire support. Out flights broke off into individual passes and were able to get at more of the bombers in this manner.
Four of the [American] pilots made numerous passes on the bombers after they had expended their ammunition while another plane would shoot it down. This seemed to draw the top turret fire away from the actual attacking plane.
The [Japanese] pilots’ visibility to the rear from the cockpit seemed poor and on stern attack they didn’t even alter their course. They all seemed to break up very easily.
The bombers encountered on this mission were completely loaded with bombs and torpedoes. They were headed SW toward an area where an allied convoy was in progress.
Our losses: Nil
Enemy losses: 13 Helens and 1 Sally definitely destroyed.
Ammunition expended: 13,068 rounds of .50 caliber.
ATIS Document - POW interrogation via Richard Dunn
Sgt. Jyuro Saito - Pilot Ki-49 bomber of 95 Flying Regiment [captured by Filipinos and turned over to U.S. forces]
Prisoner’s Last Mission (page 7)
All flying personnel selected to take part in the mission were notified at 0100 hours 13 Dec. 44 [14 December]. Only airplane captains and pilots were ordered to assemble at the combat command post at 0600 hours. Briefing was down by the commanding officer who stated that the principal objective was an Allied convoy of 60 ships reported by Naval Intelligence to be somewhere in PANAY Gulf....
Though the order did not directly say so it was understood that each airplane should without fail sink an Allied ship, the implication being that the pilots should crash into the ships. Because of the extraordinary nature of the mission from which no member expected to return, the name Kikusui Tai was allotted to this special force. . . . After briefing, the formation leader (Captain MARUYAMA, commanding officer 2 Squadron) gave a brief speech explaining the origin of their newly given name. This was followed by each member drinking a toast with sake as a farewell gesture, and pledging to execute his duty successfully. At 0630 hours, seven Helens took off for their rendezvous 500 m over Manila where they were joined by three Helens of 74 Flying Regiment from the adjacent airfield at Clark Field...
Each airplane carried two 250-kg ship bombs (Chohi-Dan). The formation flew at 2,000 m, and fighter cover was provided by three Franks circling about 500 m above the formation. Prisoner heard that one reconnaissance plane belonging to either flying brigade or flying division headquarters was to accompany them. Over Panay Island approaching PANAY Gulf, the formation was tightened in preparation for combat, but the Allied convoy was not in the Gulf.
On approaching NEGROS Island about 0800 hours, the formation again widened intervals between airplanes, to proceed to the secondary objective. Just after the interval had been taken, prisoner saw the leading airplane go into a dive of about 30º [degrees] at a speed of 450 kph. Bewildered, all other pilots followed. By the time the flag signal indicating aerial combat was given two Helens had been shot down by three or four intercepting P-38's that had attacked unnoticed. In the ensuing four minutes, prisoner was attacked twice. His left engine was shot away and he was driven down to approximately 15 m. In an effort to evade a third pass, he attempted a right bank, but the right wing caught the water and the plane plunged into the sea. He saw the other airplanes of 95 Flying Regiment shot down.
Prisoner did not know the fate of the three Helens of 74 Flying Regiment, nor of the three escorting Franks. In the excitement, prisoner had forgotten to jettison his bombs, which undoubtedly would have made his plane more maneuverable. He attributed the failure of this mission to the formation leader who should have called for tightening of the formation to concentrate fore power. He did not observe any P-38's shot down.
Sgt. Harao Yamamoto - Wireless Operator Ki-49 bomber of 95 Flying Regiment [rescued semi-conscious from sea]
Last Mission - 14 December 1944
Prisoner was awakened at 0130 hours and with six other wireless operators, reported to the regimental company. They were told the regiment was going out as a Special Attack Unit (suicidal mission) to crash-dive into Allied ships destined for Mindoro. . . .
At 0630 hours seven bombers took off with prisoner’s bomber leading. Above Clark Field, two Helens from 74 Flying Regiment joined the formation. Airplanes maintained an altitude of about 2,000 m.
Flew over sea south of NEGROS. Allied convoy not sighted, and it was though it had turned back, but immediately after order “open formation” was given, airplanes were attacked from above by 12-13 airplanes including Grummans and P-38's. Southwest of NEGROS prisoner’s bomber and the wing bombers broke away from formation. Prisoner radioed his regimental headquarters but message was not acknowledged. While executing evasive tactics (speed 450 km) his bomber was damaged and, out of control, crashed into the sea.
On last mission prisoner saw four airplanes besides his own go down, and presumed all seven participating Helens of his unit were lost."
Comments by Richard Dunn, 2 January 2015
The one where the mission is described in part of a page is Sgt. Harao Yamamoto (WT operator) rescued semi-conscious from sea off Negros. The one with complete page on the mission is Sgt. Jyuro Saito (pilot) captured by Filipinos and turned over to US.
Basically there were two flights from 95 and 74 FR [Flying Regiment]. Note: numbers vary per IRs. A chart in Japanese Mono. No. 12 shows two flights of twin engine a/c of 6 and 3. Yamamoto's IR indicates 2 Sq/95 FR CO Capt. Yoshimasa Murayama was lost on the mission.
The monograph chart indicates the Japanese launched 29 suicide a/c - 20 single engine and 9 twin engine. The honorific name Kikuchi is included in the chart but does not appear to specifically relate to the TEBs. There are two other honorifics also.
Both POWs were from 95 FR. Chart gives Japanese losses as 4 suicide and 10 missing.
Combats closely associated with bomber interception include 433 FS claim of Tojo 0925 hrs, near a volcano on Negros; and, 18 FG and 70 FS multiple claims for Oscar and Tojo ftrs vicinity of Binalbangan AD, 0945 hrs. Binalbangan is in western province of Negros.
No details on Navy other than Pacific Fleet communique says carrier a/c shot down in excess of 100 en a/c on 13 & 14 Dec 44 in and around Luzon.
Navy was flying F6F but FM/F4F were also operating from small carriers.
In action during the day covering the Mindoro convoy (target of Japanese) or supporting air strikes were FM-2 Wildcats of USS Natoma Bay CVE-62 from squadron VC-81, USS Kadashan Bay CVE-76 from squadron VC-20 and USS Ommaney Bay CVE-79 from squadron VC-75. There were a few other CVEs around but not sure they saw any air action.
Do you have photos or additional information to add?