Aviation of Word War II
E16A Zuiun. Combat Use.
The arrival of the new hydroplane in combat units coincided with the appearance in the Combined Fleet of a new class of ships - hybrids - carriers of hydrobombers. One of these ships was the heavy cruiser Mogami, heavily damaged on June 6, 1942 off Midway. After being hit by 6 air bombs from American dive bombers, its two aft turrets of the main caliber were completely destroyed and the repair of the cruiser was combined with modernization. Instead of remote aft towers, a short additional deck was placed with rail tracks leading to two ship catapults. In place of the aft cellars, tanks with jet fuel and bomb cellars were placed. The Mogami was supposed to have 11 new Zuyun hydrobombers as aviation armament.
The upgraded cruiser entered service in May 1943, but since the readiness of the new aircraft was still a big question at that time, the sailors did not wait for new equipment, reorienting the strike aircraft carrier into a conventional cruiser with artillery weapons weakened by a third. The Mogami air group was reduced to 7 aircraft - four E13A1 and three F1M2.
The other ships on which the Zuyuns "tried on" were two battleships of the same type, the Hiuga and the Ise. The conversion to "aircraft-carrying hybrids" was indirectly facilitated by the "successful" incident with the battleship "Hiuga" on May 5, 1942, when during practical firing on it an explosion occurred in the No.5 turret, which caused its complete destruction. The second push was the defeat of the Japanese forces at Midway with the loss of four aircraft carriers.
In view of all this, it was decided to convert two battleships of the same type built in the 1st World War into classic aircraft carriers capable of carrying 54 carrier-based aircraft. But the idea was soon abandoned. The scope of the work ahead was not much different from building a new modern aircraft carrier from scratch, and the lack of time and money forced us to look for more budgetary and simpler solutions. For almost a year, the fate of the battleships "Hiuga" and "Ise" was not clear. Supporters of the "big guns" and "aviators" could not pull the blanket over themselves until "friendship won", bringing into the world two freaks, who are commonly called battleships-aircraft carriers. Strictly speaking, they did not pull on aircraft carriers, and as a battleship they were weakened by a third due to the fact that four of their 12 main battery guns were removed from them.
The official start date for the conversion was February 23, 1943, when both ships went into dry dock.
Aft turrets of the main caliber No. 5 and 6 were removed along with the barbettes, as well as medium-caliber casemate artillery. On top of the vacated space at the stern, a flight deck 70 meters long was built. The entire underdeck space was occupied by a hangar 6 meters high and 40 meters long. The width of 28 meters at the beginning narrowed to 11 meters closer to the stern, where the T-shaped 6-ton aircraft lift was located. Hangar capacity was 9 aircraft. Another 11 were to be placed on the deck outside. Along the sides, closer to the middle of the ship, on high swivel supports, there were two 25-meter Type 1 No. 2 powder catapults, model 11, capable of accelerating vehicles weighing up to 5 tons. On the catapults could be located one more aircraft. Thus, the total composition of the air group was to be 22 aircraft.
In the process of work, the designers abandoned plans to launch "land" aircraft from the deck "under their own power", since due to the lack of space on the deck there was a high probability of damage to the aircraft standing on it. And landing aircraft with wheeled landing gear on a short deck was generally impossible. All launches were supposed only from catapults, after which the planes had to land on conventional aircraft carriers or coastal bases.
To move the aircraft along the deck, two rows of rail tracks were equipped on it, along which carts with aircraft moved. Also on the deck were 10 rail turntables, similar to railway ones, with which the cart with the aircraft could be deployed and put on the right track, directed to any of the catapults or taken to the parking lot or to the elevator. In the stern, on the port side, there was a folding crane for lifting seaplanes from the water.
Aviation ammunition was located in the former artillery cellar of tower No.5, and tanks with aviation gasoline stocks were placed on the site of the cellars of the 6th tower.
The flight deck was well armored with a 200 mm layer of concrete, which also played the role of compensating for the mass of the removed aft weapons.
The conversion of both ships was completed by August 1943. But almost a year passed before the composition of the air groups was determined. Until May 1944, the Hiuga and Ise were not used in the plans of the Japanese naval command. The admirals vaguely imagined where to attach these freaks. In view of this, both battleships served as training ships, transporting troops and equipment as giant transports, until May 1, both hybrids became part of the 3rd Fleet, 4th Division (Koku Sentai) of aircraft carriers, along with the "classic" aircraft carriers "Zunyo" and "Ryuho" under the command of shosho (rear admiral) Chiaki Matsuda.
As mentioned above, the original plans were to have both ships armed with 22 Shusei carrier-based bombers equipped for ejection launch. The D4Y2 KAI version was developed and released in small numbers. The tactics of their use assumed that the ejection launch of each machine could be carried out every two minutes from each of the catapults. Thus, it was assumed that the battleship air group would be in the air in 22 minutes. Since landing back on the short deck was impossible, the return of the air group was supposed only to classic aircraft carriers as compensation for losses or coastal bases.
However, Rear Admiral Chiaki Matsuda, who led both hybrid ships in the spring of 1944, reasonably noted that in a real situation, when the aircraft must be launched strictly against the wind, it would simply not be realistic to deploy a battleship in 60 seconds with one, then the other side to the wind, for the alternate use of catapults, and the time for lifting the air group in battle will increase to an hour. In view of this, it was decided to change the tactics of their use, in which it was advisable to return some of the vehicles to the ships. And the only way was to use high-speed seaplanes that could land next to the ship on the water and be lifted onto the deck by a crane. In this regard, the new E16A1 hydrobomber fit perfectly into the concept. In terms of speed, maneuverability and combat load, it was in no way inferior to the dive bombers of the old Aichi D3A2 design, and significantly exceeded in range.
Thus, by the beginning of the summer of 1944, the composition of the air groups of the battleship-aircraft carriers "Hiuga" and "Ise" was determined as follows: On the "Hiuga" - eight E16A1 hydrobombers and 14 D4Y2 KAI dive bombers. On Ise, on the contrary, there are 14 Zuyunov and 8 Shusei. True, with regard to the vehicles actually received on the ships, there are some discrepancies. According to Japanese documents, at the time of August 1944, in 634 kokutai, which included battleship air groups, 12 Shusei dive bombers and 10 Zuyun hydroplanes were regularly assigned to the Hiuga and Ise. However, during interrogation after the war, Admiral Matsuda claimed that each battleship was based on "Zuyunov" and "Syuseev" equally - 11 vehicles of each type, half of which were in the hangar, half on the deck.
The formation of air groups for aircraft carrier battleships began in mid-June 1944. The first documented launch of Zuyun seaplanes from ships took place on June 23, 1944 in Hiroshima Bay. There is true information that at the time the battleships entered service after the modernization was completed in the second half of 1943, test launches of Aichi D3A1 dive bombers were made from catapults.
Crews of the E16A1, who were part of the 634 kokutai being formed, underwent a brief familiarization with the new technology at the Yokosuka kokutai, the first air unit where the new hydroplanes got.
In mid-August, 634 kokutai were formed. In addition to the Hiuga and Ise air groups, it included carrier-based air groups of the Junyo and Ryuho aircraft carriers. By Japanese standards, 634 kokutai were very large, with 130 aircraft of various types. The training of the green crews of 634 Kokutai continued in the summer and early autumn of 1944, when a thunderstorm broke out over the Philippines and the Sho-I-Go plan was urgently put into action, implemented in the grandiose naval battle in Leyte Gulf on October 24-25, 1944. By this time, of course, they did not have time to complete the training of air groups of the 4th division of aircraft carriers. The green crews could still fly somehow, but using them from the ships required a completely different skill level. Sending them into battle was a completely hopeless exercise. As a result, the materiel of 634 kokutai was removed from the ships. The aircraft carriers "Zunio" and "Ryuho" more or less survived safely until the very end of the war. And the aircraft carrier battleships Hiuga and Ise, deprived of their aircraft, were nevertheless included in the Northern Force - the bait of Admiral Ozawa - as an air defense escort for four aircraft carriers, for which 100-odd trained crews nevertheless accumulated. Additional anti-aircraft guns were placed on the now unnecessary flight deck. Jisaburo Ozawa's formations fulfilled their role by pulling back the American aircraft carriers. "Huga" and "Ise" survived this battle and spent the rest of the war in Kure, where they were sunk in shallow water by American aircraft in the summer of 1945.
But let's get back to the hero of the story, the hydroplane E16A. By the time the air groups of the 4th division being formed were removed from the ships, the 634th kokutai had been reorganized, from a combined hodgepodge of aircraft of various types and purposes, it had become a purely "seaplane", equipped with E16A1 "Dzuyun" hydrobombers. Organizationally, seaplanes of this type were listed in 301 reconnaissance hikotai, which was part of 634 kokutai.
It was decided to reorient the new hydrobombers to night operations, since it was obvious that during the day, under the conditions of Allied air supremacy, hydroplanes had no chance. The crews of the 22 Zuyunov ships carried out the final training for night attacks at the Ibusuki airbase in Kagoshima Prefecture in August-September 1944, and flew to the Philippines on the 10th of October. The 301 Hikotai was based at the former American air base Kawait, located on the island of Luzon on the coast of Manila Bay. The air base, which received the Japanese name Kanakao, became the largest hydroaviation base in the archipelago. It was on it that the new Aichi seaplane was baptized by fire, which received the code designation "Pol" from the allies.
Initially, the plans for the defense of the Philippines were supposed to separate 301 Hikotai into a separate reconnaissance squadron, and the basic composition of 634 Ku. save as a strike unit. But the lack of aircraft did not allow this to be realized, so the total composition of the kokutai never exceeded 25 aircraft, and the ratio of their 301 hikotai was rather arbitrary. All planes were based in the same place and flew on the same missions. Chusa (captain of the 3rd rank) Emura was appointed commander of 634 kokutai.
True, it was not possible to check the shock capabilities of the "Dzuyuns" immediately. While the command was thinking about how to use the new equipment, the Allied aviation began intense pressure on the Kanakao airbase, which forced the command to disperse the Kokutai materiel. Part of 634 Ku machines. transferred to a small, well-camouflaged Tacloban waterfield off San Pedro Bay on the northern coast of Leyte. True, this did not prevent the Allied aviation from reducing the materiel of 634 Kokutai by a dozen cars, shooting them right in the parking lots.
The first sortie of 634 Kokutai took place on the night of November 22-23, when a group of 17 Zuyuns attacked the landing American troops on the beach near the city of Tacloban. Night fighters and anti-aircraft guns reduced the group by three vehicles.
On the night of November 25, four E16As patrolled the waters of Lamon Bay, east of Manila, and avoided losses.
The next night, 12 Zuyunov took part in a bombing attack on Allied transports in Leyte Gulf. Losses amounted to 7 cars, the effectiveness of the strike remained behind the scenes.
On November 29, the remaining six serviceable hydroplanes attacked enemy landing craft in the Kanigao Strait, losing one aircraft.
In early December, the remnants of 634 kokutai were temporarily withdrawn from the fighting, but by mid-December, apparently having received replenishment, 634 Ku. resumed hostilities.
On the night of December 11-12, "Floors" attacked the American landing on the west coast of Leyte Island.
December 15 - enemy landing attack on the coast of Panay Island.
December 21, 11 "Dzuiseev" attacked enemy ships near the city of San Jose. During the attack, enemy fighters reduced a group of Japanese hydroplanes by four cars, but the Juan de Fuca transport was damaged, into which the downed Paul crashed,
On the night of December 26, the E16A group again attacked targets near San Jose. The army aviation airfield near the city and a group of American boats anchored off the coast were attacked, which were fired from cannons. In addition, according to Japanese data, an American night fighter was shot down. The air victory was recorded by the crew of shoi (junior lieutenant) Miyamoto Heijiro and gunner Nakajima Hiroshi. In Heijiro's diary, preserved after the war, it is recorded that he attacked an enemy aircraft from below and behind, firing from wing cannons at close range. As a result, the left wing with the motor came off from the "twin-engine car."
It seems incredible, but the fact is that according to American data, a P-61 "Black Widow" night interceptor from 418 Squadron, piloted by 2nd Lieutenant Eugene F. Killey, went missing that night, which, in fairness , does not yet mean indisputable confirmation of the "victory" of Heijiro.
December 29, 30, 1944, as well as January 2, 1945, "Zuyun" from 634 Kokutai continued desperate raids on targets in the San Jose area.
According to Japanese data, during a night raid on January 30 north of Ilin Island, a 250-kg bomb hit an American transport, which capsized and sank. Comparison with American casualty data shows that the Simeon G. Reed troop transport, which was stationed near the coast, received heavy damage from a Japanese bomb that night. The Liberty-class transport finished unloading in the afternoon, so it avoided losses in the landing force and crew, and the shallow water near the coast saved it from flooding.
On January 13, 1945, the surviving materiel of 634 Kokutai was evacuated from the Philippines to Taiwan, based in East Harbor. Here the crews of the Zuyuns were able to catch their breath from the meat grinder of the Philippine operation, get replenishment, doing routine patrol service in Southern Taiwan.
The calm ended in March 1945 in anticipation of the start of the Battle of Okinawa. On March 27, 634 Kokutai moved to Japan at an air base near the town of Koniya, Kagoshima Prefecture, from where they immediately joined combat work in an attempt to prevent the American invasion fleet.
"Dzuyuny" 634 Kokutai operated mainly at night, which made it possible to avoid heavy losses from fighters and anti-aircraft artillery. In addition, the command had the sense not to throw seaplanes in large formations into an attack on large and well-covered warships, covered by hundreds of anti-aircraft guns and dozens of fighters. Aiming 634 Ku. were mainly enemy transports and landing craft.
All this allowed the "Zuyun" to operate with relatively small losses, at least in comparison with formations of conventional bombers and fighters, remaining a combat-ready formation almost until the very end of the war.
Seaplanes 634 kokutai flew to the Okinawa area on the night of March 29, 30, 4; 5; 7; twenty; 28; April 30; 6, 9, 10, 13, 17, 20, 23 May.
The success of these sorties can only be judged by the diary of shoi (junior lieutenant) Miyamoto Heijiro, the pilot of one of the E16A. Like all Japanese aviators, Heijiro's "reports" were not very modest. However, it is not without interest to familiarize yourself with them:
March 29 flew out for reconnaissance in the Okinawa area. Spotted one battleship, one cruiser and seven enemy destroyers. Attacked the battleship, hit it with two 60-kg bombs.
On April 20, I noticed two large transports, sank one of them with a 250-kg bomb.
On May 20, south of Iejima, a destroyer was seen covering a group of transports and sank one of the transports.
On May 23rd, north of Iejimi, he spotted a large formation of enemy ships, consisting of two battleships and about 10 other ships, as well as a second group of eight destroyers and about 50 transports. Broke through the attack through strong anti-aircraft fire. Shooter Nakajima Hiroshi was wounded by shrapnel. However, attacked and sank one destroyer.
For this sortie, the pilot was promoted and the gunner Hiroshi was awarded the Tokubetsu Koro-sho medal, although none of the above claims are supported by US data.
Miyamoto Heijiro did not manage to get a promotion, on June 11, the remnants of 634 Kokutai were relocated to the Sakurajima airbase, and on June 26, 1945, "Zuyun" Heijiro and Hiroshi did not return from a sortie to the Okinawa region.
In addition to the 634 kokutai, the E16A1 Zuyun hydroplanes in February 1945 were placed at the disposal of the 801st kokutai, equipped with heavy flying boats and float floatplanes. On the basis of the 801-kokutai, a separate 302 hikotai (squadron) was formed, where a certain number of Zuyuns arrived. 302 Hikotai, although listed as reconnaissance, was focused on night assault strikes. The materiel of 302 Hikotai was based at the Genkai air base on the island of Kyushu and participated in night raids on American ships off Okinawa.
In late spring, 302 Hikotai floatplanes were deployed to Kagoshima, Ibusuki Sakurajima and Hakata airbases on Kyushu, from where they attacked American ships off Okinawa.
In June - July 1945, the remnants of 302 kokutai flew to the Sakurajima airbase, joining the battered 634 kokutai. Here the Zuyuns were preparing to give the last battle for the Empire. The capitulation put an end to these plans.
Another unit that used the Zuyun during the war was the Kitaura Kokutai. This Naval Aviation Regiment served throughout the war as a training unit for the training of seaplane crews. It was only in May 1945 that the Tokkotai was refocused on strikes.
Based on "Kitaura" Ku. A strike force of "Special Attacks" designated as "Kaitay-1" was formed. It included 18 brand new Zuyun E16A1 seaplanes. The Kaitai-1 group, led by chui (lieutenant) Miyamura Seichi, was supposed to be used off Okinawa during Operation Kikusui (Floating Chrysanthemum) - massive kamikaze attacks on the American fleet. The Zuyuns of the Kaitai-1 detachment received the tail identification code MA -XXX, but they never had a chance to take part in suicidal attacks, contrary to the opinion of most sources, which claimed that the Zuyuns were actively used by kamikaze. The detachment was disbanded almost immediately upon completion of its formation, the materiel was transferred as a replenishment to 302 Hikotai.
At the end of hostilities, several E16A hydroplanes survived. One, captured by the Americans in the Philippines with tail number 634-16, was intensively tested and was honored to be transported to the USA. True, unfortunately, not a single Zuyun was able to keep "alive". Too bad, it was one of the most elegant seaplanes in aviation history.