Aviation of Word War II
Kawasaki Ki-32. Combat Use.
The first unit to receive this bomber was the 27th Sentai, stationed in Northern China until 1939 and armed with old Nakajima Ki-4 biplanes. For re-equipment with new vehicles, the sentai was temporarily withdrawn to the northeast, to the province of Julin, where he was caught by the outbreak of an armed conflict with the Soviet Union on the Khalkhin Gol River.
Due to problems with engines, units equipped with new bombers did not dare to use them in combat for a long time. And only heavy losses in aircraft in the last days of the conflict at Khalkhin Gol forced the Ki-32 bombers to be thrown into battle.
09/15/39, on the last day of the armed confrontation, the Japanese launched a raid on Soviet airfields with unexpectedly large forces. About 200 fighters and bombers attacked the Tamtsag-Bulak air hub. For the first time, Ki-32 light bombers from the 45th Sentai took part in the raid. Our aviators, anticipating the imminent end of the war, did not expect such a large-scale attack. The information from the VNOS posts was late, and the I-153 fighters that came under attack had to take off under fire. Four "seagulls" were shot down. The "donkeys" from the 56th and 70th regiments, who arrived in time for the battlefield, were able to turn the tide. Air battles began in a wide range of altitudes from several tens to 3000 meters. The Japanese bombers, who had to fight off the fighters, again bombed inaccurately. Despite the reports of their crews about five Soviet aircraft destroyed on the ground, not a single Red Star aircraft received serious damage from the bombs. At the end of the day, Japanese aviators were credited with 39 victories, Soviet - 19. Two more aircraft were credited to our anti-aircraft gunners. In reality, nine Japanese and six Soviet fighters (one I-16 and five I-153) were shot down, and one Ki-32 was also lost. Eight Japanese pilots were killed, including two commanders. Three more were wounded.
During 1939-40, new bombers received the 3rd and 35th Sentai stationed in the metropolis, the 6th Sentai in central China, the 10th Sentai in Manchuria, the 75th Sentai in Northern China.
During the fighting in China, apparently only 75 sentai, stationed in March 1940 at the Wuchang airfield in the North as part of the 3rd Hikoshidan, were involved in active combat operations from the above regiments armed with Ki-32, periodically participating in raids on Chongqing , Chengdu, Celiojing and Pishan. It is problematic to isolate the actions of the few Ki-32 bombers from the Ki-21, Ki-30 and naval aviation operating with them. There is no documentary evidence of their successes and losses from either the Japanese or the Chinese side.
During the operation of the Type 98 bombers, engine problems did not stop. As a result, in late 1940s and early 1941, the Ki-32s began to be gradually withdrawn from combat units, being replaced by more modern Ki-48 and Ki-51 light bombers. By the beginning of hostilities in the Pacific, the Ki-32 was practically gone from the first line units. However, the Allies believed that this type of bomber was still in active use by the Japanese and assigned it the code designation Mary.
At the time of Japan's entry into the 2nd World War, only the 45th sentai, apparently, still retained one chutai (squadron) "Mary" of 16 aircraft, the rest of the crews had already transferred to the new twin-engine Ki-48s.
It seems that the last combat operation of the Ki-32 was two raids on Hong Kong on 12/08/41 and 12/11/41. precisely by planes of the 45th sentai. "Old men", unlike the Ki-48 of the first series, could bomb from a dive. While the Ki-48s were bombing the Victoria area from a level flight, the Ki-32s were diving into the ships in the port and the airfield, destroying three English Vickers "Vildbeest" torpedo bombers in the parking lot.
There is, however, an assumption that this fact from the combat career of "Mary" was falsified by Japanese propaganda and is based on well-known footage from Japanese newsreels.
This ended the combat career of the aircraft. The surviving Ki-32s were transferred to flight schools. They were used for some time by flying schools in Hokota, Mito, Gifu, and probably Hamamatsu. But even there they flew only until the end of 1942. The Kawasaki Ha-9 engine was no longer mass-produced, and being very capricious in Japanese design, it did not last long. Therefore, it is unlikely that Ki-32s took part in kamikaze strikes in 44-45.
A number of Ki-32s were stuck in the aircraft of the puppet state of Manchukuo, inherited from the Japanese.
But how many of them were in the Manchurian aviation is unknown. The Manchurian Ki-32s originally belonged to the 65th sentai, based in Manchuria from 1939 to 42, after which the Japanese handed over part of the sentai to their ally, who operated the aircraft until almost the 45th year. The service of the Manchurian Ki-32s was calm until the last flight copies of the Mary in August 1945 were destroyed at the airfields by Soviet aviation. At one of the Manchurian airfields, Soviet soldiers in August 1945 discovered at least four incomplete Ki-32s.
The 3rd Sentai, which consisted of three chutais, was based in the metropolis at the Hamamatsu Air Base in Shoizuoka Prefecture until the end of 1940, after which the Ki-32s were transferred to flight schools.
75th Sentai at the time of the start of the offensive in the Malay Peninsula had Ki-32s in at least one Chutai, but by the time Singapore fell, the Ki-32 was no longer in the 75th Sentai.
The presence of Ki-32 at 10 sentai raises questions. This unit took part in the battles at Khalkhin Gol, however, at that time, Ki-30 "Ann" were listed in the sentai. Probably, the presence of Ki-32 in 10 sentai is represented by several machines.
The 6th Sentai in 39-41 was based in China. However, in 42, several Ki-32s from the 6th Sentai ended up in the Philippines, where they were probably used as liaison and training. However, it is unlikely that these aircraft could live to be 44 years old and be used by kamikazes.
Another heir to the imperial army that used the Ki-32 for the longest time was Indonesian aviation. In September 1945, 11 Ki-32s were based in Malang, which the Indonesian rebels used against the Dutch right up to the beginning of 1949. However, this information seems to be somewhat doubtful. None of the above units of the Japanese army aviation fought in the Dutch East Indies.
(c) Evgeny Aranov