The members of the 6th Bomb Group flew a variety of missions: Precision Bombing, Area Bombing, Aerial Mining, Tactical Support, Fighter Escort, Search and Rescue (Super-Dumbo), POW Supply, Weather Reconnaissance, Photo Reconnaissance and Leaflet Drops.
“The group’s bombing accuracy, as judged by photographs of Empire targets destroyed, is the best in the 313th Bomb Wing. The group’s crew losses are by far the lowest of groups of the Wing.” –Memo dated 21 Jul 1945 from Col. Kenneth Gibson to All Officers and Enlisted Men, Sixth Bombardment Group
While the 6th Bomb Group is proud of these accomplishments, they cannot take sole credit. To a large extent, the accomplishments of the 6th Bomb Group were a reflection of the efforts of all of the Groups, especially the Groups that arrived earlier and paved the way for later Groups. The 6th Bomb Group participated in 75 missions plus 7 or more post-war missions. These included: Precision Bombing (including Tactical Support), Area Bombing (primarily Night Incendiary Bombing), Aerial Mining, Fighter Escort, Dumbo and (Air/Sea Rescue) and POW Supply.
General Curtis LeMay and the Politics of the War
During World War II, the Air Force was not an independent branch of the Service, but was part of the Army – which is reason for the designation U.S. Army Air Force (USAAF). Responsibility for the war in the Pacific Theatre was divided between the Army and the Navy. The Army was under the command of General Douglas McArthur and the Navy was under the command of Admiral Chester Nimitz. The 20th Air Force was unusual in that it was not put under the command of McArthur or Nimitz. Instead General Curtis LeMay assumed command of the 20th Air Force and reported directly to General Hap Arnold in Washington. The mission of the 20th was to engage in the strategic destruction of Japan by air. However, as with any new arrangement, there were challenges in this design:
- The 20th Air Force bases were in “Navy Territory”
- General LeMay was dependent on the Navy for manpower and supplies. Navy Seabees built the airfields. Navy personnel were in charge of the fuel farms and fueled the aircraft in using Navy trucks and Navy personnel.
- The Navy captured Iwo Jima to provide an emergency landing field for the B-29s. This saved many aircrews, but cost the lives of many Marines.
- The Navy wanted the 20th Air Force to support their operations with tactical support missions, such as bombing Kyushu (the home of the Kamikaze) and the aerial mining of Japanese waterways.
With all these pressures, General LeMay was exactly the kind of leader that the Air Force needed to stay on mission. A lesser man might have buckled in to Navy pressure. But General LeMay was single-minded in his desire to win the war using strategic bombing missions. On the other hand, the Navy forced LeMay to fly missions that turned out to be extremely successful, such as the mining missions. This arrangement was directly (and sometimes indirectly) responsible for the wide variety of missions that the 6th Bomb Group flew.
- This arrangement was directly responsible for the aerial mining and tactical support missions.
- This arrangement was indirectly responsible for the long gaps between area bombing campaigns. For example, following the March “blitz,” the 20th Air Force simply ran out of incendiaries because the Navy was unable to keep up with the demand. This enabled the Japanese to rebuild their defenses so that the May area bombing missions over Tokyo were some of the costliest of the entire campaign.
Things became even more heated after May. By that time, both the Army and Navy were heavily focused on the upcoming invasion of the Japanese home islands. The 8th Air Force was being supplied with B-29s and fresh crews – which took resources and replacement crews away from the 20th Air Force. At the same time, LeMay felt that an invasion was unnecessary – that the 20th Air Force could bring Japan to its knees with air power alone.
During June and July, LeMay stepped up the intensity of his bombing campaigns, sometimes striking as many as four cities a day. His goal was to make the November invasion unnecessary.
On August 2, LeMay became chief of staff to General Carl Spaatz and relinquished command of the 20th Air Force to General Nathan Twining. Some say that the War Department made this change in command to appease the Navy, who was upset with LeMay. However, that is unverified. Furthermore, General Spaatz was to command the Air Forces during the invasion of Japan.
CLICK to Learn More About Japanese Air Defenses
In order to complete their missions, the 6th Bomb Group had to run a gauntlet of Air Defenses, ranging from fighter to radar-controlled AA guns and rockets.
The B-29 Missions
From 3 Feb 1945 to 14 Aug 1945, the 6th Bomb Group officially flew 75 missions. The graph indicates the number of planes on each mission.
THE LIST OF MISSIONS
The missions are color coded below as follows: Precision, Area, Mining, Radar Search and Other.
- In the plane listing: the first number is from the “Pirate’s Log” and appears to count total 6th Bomb Group planes hitting targets.
- The second number is the equivalent number for the 20th Air Force.
- The numbers in parenthesis are the losses for the 6th Bomb Group and the 20th Air Force.
- This shows the mission in context. In some cases, the 6th Bomb Group planes were the entire mission. In other cases, the 6th Bomb Group planes were part of a multi-wing mission involving over 500 B-29s.
Click to see 6BG video
|Click left column No. for detailed description of mission|
|No.||DATE||TARGET||PLANES (Loss)||Type of Mission|
|01.||Feb 03||Fighter Escort to Iwo Jima||04/004||First Navigation Mission|
|02.||Feb 08||Moen Island Airfield, Truk (1)||30/030||Daylight Precision|
|03.||Feb 11||Pacific Between Tinian & Japan (1)||08/008||Radar Searches|
|04.||Feb 12||Pacific Between Tinian & Japan (2)||08/008 (1/01)||for Enemy Shipping|
|05.||Feb 14||Pacific Between Tinian & Japan (3)||05/005||Sank 2 Ships on Feb 14|
|06.||Feb 18||Moen Island Airfield, Truk (2)||19/036||Daylight Precision|
|07.||Feb 19||Tokyo Urban Area (1)||03/131 (0/06)||Daylight|
|08.||Feb 25||Tokyo Urban Area (2)||21/200 (0/03)||Daylight Incendiary|
|09.||Mar 04||Nakajima Aircraft Co, Musashino||20/176 (0/01)||Daylight Precision|
|10.||Mar 09||Tokyo Urban Area (3)||32/325 (0/14)||Night Incendiary|
|11.||Mar 11||Nagoya Urban Area (1)||32/291 (0/01)||Night Incendiary|
|12.||Mar 13||Osaka Urban Area (1)||30/279 (1/02)||Night Incendiary|
|13.||Mar 16||Kobe Urban Area (1)||33/308 (0/03)||Night Incendiary|
|14.||Mar 18||Nagoya Urban Area (2)||32/290 (0/01)||Night Incendiary|
|15.||Mar 24||Mitsubishi Aircraft Co, Nagoya (1)||18/226 (0/05)||Night Precision|
|16.||Mar 27||Shimonoseki Straits (1)||29/094 (1/03)||Night Mining|
|17.||Mar 30||Kure Harbor Area (1)||23/087 (0/01)||Night Mining|
|18.||Apr 01||Super-Dumbo Mission||03/003||Air Sea Rescue|
|19.||Apr 03||Nakajima Aircraft Eng Co, Koizumi||19/066||Night Precision|
|20.||Apr 07||Mitsubishi Aircraft Co, Nagoya (2)||30/184 (0/02)||Night Precision|
|21.||Apr 08||Kanoya East Airfield, Kyushu (1)||10/019 (1/01)||Tactical Support|
|22.||Apr 09||Shimonoseki Straits||10/016||Mining|
|23.||Apr 12||Hodagaya Chem. Co, Koriyama||20/075||Daylight Precision|
|24.||Apr 13||Tokyo Arsenal Area||29/330 (0/07)||Night Incendiary|
|25.||Apr 15||Kawasaki Urban Area, S. of Tokyo||24/202 (0/12)||Night Incendiary|
|26.||Apr 17||Kanoya East Airfield, Kyushu (2)||10/021||Tactical Support|
|27.||Apr 18||Kushira Airfield, Southern Kyushu||10/019||Tactical Support|
|28.||Apr 21||Kanoya East Airfield, Kyushu (3)||22/031||Tactical Support|
|29.||Apr 22||Kanoya East Airfield, Kyushu (4)||16/019 (1/01)||Tactical Support|
|30.||Apr 24||Hitachi Aircraft Co, Tokyo||12/122 (0/05)||Daylight Precision|
|31.||Apr 26||Matsuyama West Airfield, Kyushu||18/031||Tactical Support|
|32.||Apr 27||Miyakonojo Airfield (1)||06/014||Tactical Support|
|33.||Apr 28||Miyakonojo Airfield (2)||18/017||Tactical Support|
|34.||Apr 30||Tachikawa Arsenal, West of Tokyo||07/078||Daylight Precision|
|35.||May 03||Inland Sea Harbors||32/091||Night Mining|
|36.||May 05||Kure Harbor Area ||24/090||Night Mining|
|37.||May 07||Kanoya & Ibusuki Airfields, Kyushu||20/020||Daylight Precision|
|38.||May 10||Usa Airfield, Northern Kyushu||22/020||Daylight Precision|
|39.||May 11||Nittagahara Airfield, Kyushu||11/011||Precision by Radar|
|40.||May 14||Nagoya Urban Area (3)||31/480 (0/11)||Night Incendiary|
|41.||May 16||Nagoya Urban Area (4)||33/468 (1/03)||Night Incendiary|
|42.||May 19||Tachikawa Arsenal, Hamamatsu||30/286 (0/04)||Precision by Radar|
|43.||May 23||Tokyo Urban Area (4)||33/525 (3/07)||Night Incendiary|
|44.||May 25||Tokyo Urban Area (5)||24/470 (3/26)||Night Incendiary|
|45.||May 29||Yokohama Urban Area||25/475 (0/07)||Daylight Incendiary|
|46.||Jun 01||Osaka Urban Area (2)||27/474 (0/10)||Daylight Incendiary|
|47.||Jun 05||Kobe Urban Area (2)||29/481 (0/11)||Daylight Incendiary|
|48.||Jun 07||Osaka Urban Area (3)||27/418 (0/02)||Incendiary by Radar|
|49.||Jun 09||Kawasaki Aircraft Co, Akashi (1)||26/026||Precision by Radar|
|50.||Jun 15||Amagasaki||35/511||Incendiary by Radar|
|51.||Jun 18||Yokkaichi||30/089||Night Incendiary|
|52.||Jun 19||Shimonoseki Straits||02/002||Radar Search|
|53.||Jun 20||Fukuoka, Kyushu||29/221||Night Incendiary|
|54.||Jun 22||Kawasaki Aircraft Co, Akashi (2)||29/029||Daylight Precision|
|55.||Jun 26||Kawasaki Aircraft Co, Akashi (3)||38/038||Daylight Precision|
|56.||Jun 28||Moji Urban Area||30/094||Night Incendiary|
|57.||Jul 01||Ube Urban Area||35/100||Night Incendiary|
|58.||Jul 03||Himeji Urban Area||35/106||Night Incendiary|
|59.||Jul 05||Marcus Island (1)||03/003||Daylight Precision (Training)|
|60.||Jul 06||Shimizu||36/133 (0/01)||Night Incendiary|
|61.||Jul 09||Shimonoseki Straits (2)||29/029 (1/01)||Night Mining|
|62.||Jul 11||Rashin, Fusan in Korea||27/027||Night Mining|
|63.||Jul 13||Inland Sea Harbors (1)||31/031||Night Mining|
|64.||Jul 15||Japan Sea (1)||27/027||Night Mining|
|65.||Jul 17||Japan Sea (2)||28/028||Night Mining|
|66.||Jul 19||Inland Sea Harbors (2)||27/027 (1/01)||Night Mining|
|67.||Jul 22||Inland Sea Harbors (3)||26/026 (1/01)||Night Mining|
|68.||Jul 26||Tokuyama Urban Area||36/098||Night Incendiary|
|69.||Jul 28||Marcus Island (2)||04/004||Daylight Precision (Training)|
|70.||Jul 28||Uji-Yamada Urban Area||30/094||Night Incendiary|
|71.||Aug 01||Nagaoka Urban Area||45/130||Night Incendiary|
|72.||Aug 05||Maebashi Urban Area||37/096||Night Incendiary|
|73.||Aug 07||Toyokawa Naval Arsenal||12/124 (0/01)||Daylight Precision|
|74.||Aug 08||Yawata Steel Works||29/227 (0/04)||Daylight Precision|
|75.||Aug 14||Marifu Railroad Yards / Iwakuni||41/110||Daylight Precision|
|Aug 30||Show of Force|
|Sep 01||Tokyo||Show of Force|
|Sep 02||PW Supplies|
|Sep 06||PW Supplies|
|Sep 07||PW Supplies|
|Sep 12||(Korea?)||Show of Force|
|Sep 19||PW Supplies|
List of Missions and mission details compiled by 6BG Historian Phil Crowther
- Pirates Log – History
- Pirates Log – Chronology of Missions
- 20th Air Force Missions courtesy of 20th Air Force Association, Sallyann Wagoner
- [Book] “Craven, W.F. and Cate, J.L. The Army Air Forces in World War II Volume Five, The University of Chicago Press, January 1, 1953”