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Japanese and Allied Air Forces in the Far East Please use this forum to discuss the Air War in the Far East.

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Old 8th April 2005, 00:05
Jim Oxley's Avatar
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Japanese Loss Records - Fact Or Myth??

Although without documentated foundation as far as I can tell, there has always been the belief that the Japanese doctored their aircraft loss records.

The premise for this widely held belief seems to have it's origins in that the claims of aircraft destroyed made by both the USAAF and the USN differ widely with what has been found in those few Japanese records that survived the war. Ergo the Japanese could not stand to lose face to admit such losses, therefore their records must be wrong, and the American claims correct.

Now studies by many eminemt aviation historians have found over the years that claims, while made in good faith on the whole, are often very wide of the mark. Realitically by a factor of 2:1, and often by 3:1. There are many reasons for this eg Gun camera's were not common in the early years, and even when so equipped are not always accurate; in the frightful nightmare of combat the luxury of actually watching your victim crash to the ground/sea ot bail out was extremely rare; at the speeds combat occurred planes seperated very quickly from view; a plane diving away from an attack could just as easily be avoiding it as opposed to having been fatally damaged, to name just a few.

So I'm wondering just what the view here might be. And what would be the reasoning behind that view. Did the Japanese deliberatly downplay their losses? Which if you are a Commander and need reinforcements is a very silly thing to do. Or are the Japanese records correct and the Allied claims over-optimistic?
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Old 8th April 2005, 03:50
edwest edwest is offline
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Re: Japanese Loss Records - Fact Or Myth??

Here's a site that may help:


http://www.warbirdforum.com/loss.htm



Ed
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Old 8th April 2005, 15:37
Jim P. Jim P. is offline
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Re: Japanese Loss Records - Fact Or Myth??

Dan Ford certainly says it all better than I ever could. Right on the mark.
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Old 8th April 2005, 18:44
JoeB JoeB is offline
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Re: Japanese Loss Records - Fact Or Myth??

The Ford explanation is good. I'd add or further emphasize that at some point if people say X's records deliberately understate combat losses, they really have to do some research and show it specfically, and matching opposing claims to operational losses doesn't get it done, that's really annoying actually when authors suggest that without further research to show why it's true in any particular case. If too hard to prove, OK too bad, but don't insinuate it if you can't show it specifically. This obviously could be much more broadly applied than to Japanese loss records v. early Allied overclaims.

Incompleteness is a more serious issue maybe. I believe books like Ford's and for example Bartz's on USAAF in Philippines use mainly the Jaapanese Defence Agency histories written in Japanese around the 60's IIRC(?), and the English language US sponsored monographs of immediate postwar, plus Japanese secondary sources. Not literally raw primary records. So the background of those works and what sources they used would have to be considered. The Japanese language sources I don't know, but the monographs vary widely in how detailed they are about operations or losses. And Ford doesn't give JAAF losses for many incidents; sometimes just gived the AVG claim w/o saying if supported in JAAF records, and the total JAAF losses in his summation can't be individually broken out, perhaps involved guessing. I'm sure he tried. The bogus thing was to criticize him for trying.

An error on the other side though could be to say "here are the pretty certain combat losses of the JAAF v. AVG per Ford." It doesn't seem to be quite the same as for some other cases where most actual primary records, and through overlapping types of such records detailed data for pretty much every day's operations, still exist and have been reviewed directly by the author.

Joe
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Old 9th April 2005, 11:32
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Re: Japanese Loss Records - Fact Or Myth??

Not only Ford and Lindstrom, but also Shores with his team in Bloody Shambles and Boer with his work on the 1942 Air Campaign for the Neth. East Indies show similar numbers. The early allied overclaiming is fairly consistent, with the exeption of the AVG together with US defensive gunners and Dauntless claims. Japanese overclaiming is generally high.

However Ford is quite flawed in his sugarcoated article.

Instead of ending his argument based on a/c lost in air to air combat, combat losses on the ground and non-combat operational losses, he compares AVG pilot lost in combat with (all) Japanese air crew combat losses. Even when we disregard RAF claims, we have a more serious flaw. To compare aircrew losses without taking into account the type of a/c or aircrew leads to skewed figures, since a Ki 21 Sally carries 6-7 (?) aircrew compared to the single AVG pilot, which leads to a 1:6 margin. He goes on by comparing these flawed figures with modern air combat (against a/c with 1 or at the very most 2 aircrew) gives even more inflated results, a single Sally would be the same as 6-7 MiG-21s!!

IMHO complete nonsense.

Judging by the final analysis of Ford's article every B-17 shot down would give the German Jagdwaffe a margin of 10:1, perhaps true in terms of men, but if judged by specialist aircrew that margin would drop to 4:1 and by economic output perhaps even lower. Regardless, the orthodox method would compare planes and not aircrew to give significant numbers, taking into account the type of a/c (bomber, fighter, recon etc).
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Old 9th April 2005, 21:38
JoeB JoeB is offline
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Re: Japanese Loss Records - Fact Or Myth??

Quote:
Originally Posted by Ruy Horta
The early allied overclaiming is fairly consistent, with the exeption of the AVG together with US defensive gunners and Dauntless claims. Japanese overclaiming is generally high.

However Ford is quite flawed in his sugarcoated article.

Instead of ending his argument based on a/c lost in air to air combat, combat losses on the ground and non-combat operational losses, he compares AVG pilot lost in combat with (all) Japanese air crew combat losses.
Tabulating results from Shores, Ford, Lundstrom, Bartz and other books I think AVG claims were pretty much in line overall with other Allied fighters units in that theater/period, maybe less exaggerated. I don't know that non-US defensive gunners were more accurate than US ones, most defensive gunners were US in that theater, but all defensive gunners in WWII pretty much were very inaccurate in claims.

One driver of overclaims, among many, is actual success I think: successful air units tends to overclaim less. As 1942 went on the AVG established a definite advantage over the JAAF fighters and the overclaim ratio declined. One incident (also invovling the RAF) in Dec 1941 repeated a lot in implying the AVG overclaimed abnormally. AVG's overall real fighter v. fighter exchange ratio was by far the highest of any Allied unit in sustained combat against the Japanese in 1942, per those modern two sided books ~2.5-3:1 (and not much different between Ki-27's and -43's adding up Ford's incidents). I'm speaking of air combat only, fighter-fighter. USN/USMC F4F's were next at right around 1:1 v. landplane A6M's (most of their opposition, not counting a few more successful engagements w/ A5M's and float fighters, they faced more formidable opposition than AVG overall), almost all others were on the short side sometimes by a huge amount, with actual Japanese air combat losses often so low ratio's become a questionable measure. Eg. over Ceylon April 1942, Hurricane v. A6M 19:1, if really 19:2 that's a big ratio difference, but not much practical relative effectiveness difference. No AF being beaten 19:1 is going to claim at all accurately. Likewise from Shores a number of JNAF claims especially were not that wild in the period they really had their way, 2:1 or less overclaim. When facing tougher going against F4F's later in '42 their overclaims did balloon.

I agree Ford's article (mentions same in book) point about comparing crew losses isn't convincing, but it's one measure; there isn't any single totally correct measure. And he does give all the incidents (he could find info for, most) in his book, so I wouldn't really fault him too much on that. In fact when B-17's fought single fighters (incl in '42 PTO) raw exchange ratio was not a very relevant number either, 1:1 certainly a win for the Japanese fighters at that particular point. Also when the Japanese started taking significant losses, eg. Guadalcanal campaign, their lower survival rate among aircrews was actually a quite significant factor for later events. I agree basically though, old style one sided books of many AF's will compare their pilot losses to the enemy's claimed plane losses, quite bogus, and the Ford argument in the article had a bit of that flavor.

Joe

Last edited by JoeB; 9th April 2005 at 21:57.
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