AERIAL ACTIONS OVER KURILES (AUGUST 1945)
Japanese air force defending the Kuriles
There is little or no accurate
information about the Japanese air force in the Kuriles in 1945. The Russians
recovered at least six unidentified but
presumably A6M5 Zeke fighters, two unidentified single-engine bombers and a
half dozen of older torpedo bomber, the B5N2 Kate, at the airfields on Shimushu
( the most northward island of the Kuriles chain ). Further up to 7 or 8
were claimed by the Soviet vessels, and some reports a Soviet vessel was
crashed by an aircraft acting as a Kamikaze. It is known that in 1944 a force
of 19 Zeros has been left as the Shimushu Detachment by Naval Air Group 203,
when that group departed back to the Home Islands and thence to the
Philippines (where it was destroyed). It is possible that a few Nakajima
J1N1-S Irving night fighters were also left, as the US was conducting
occasional bombing operations on Paramushiro by Navy PV-1 Venturas, and their
succesors PV-2 Harpoons; and Army B-24 Liberators from the Aleutian bases.
During 1943 and 1944, Japanese
Army fighters on Paramushiro (the largest island at the northern end of
Kuriles chain and southward of Shimushu) had included Ki.43 Oscar and
Ki.44 Tojo interceptors, but the author of this article lacked IJAAF order of
battle data to know what was still there in 1945, although several Oscars were
seen as late as June . Similarly, in the
past a unit of Mitsubishi G3M Bettys  had
provided offensive capability, along with a unit of four-engine flying boats
(probably the H6K2 Mavis), but these had apparently been withdrawn by summer
There was also a Japanese air
early warning radar of unspecified type on the southern cape of Paramushiro,
Kurabu Zaki, but its view of Shimushu was likely blocked by the 5958 foot
volcano (apparently named Suribachi, like the one on Iwo Jima) in the
center of Paramushiro.
Soviet air force support of the Kuriles
The Soviet air cover and
support for the Shimushu landings were provided by the 128 SAD, their 888 IAP
had the P-63 Kingcobra, which they had received only in August 1945, before
that they remained the last active Soviet fighter regiment with the I-16.
The 410 ShAP, also of the same division also had converted to the P-63, in
their case from the Il-2 (It is uncertain but possible that they may have been
redesignated as 410 IAP.). The third regiment in the division flew a
mixture of A-20 and SB bombers, and a few PV-1s which had been interned prior
to August 1945.
The naval torpedo bomber unit was the 2 MTAD (division),
consisting of the 4 MTAP (Il-4 & DB-3), 49 MTAP (Il-4, A-20G, &
A-20H), & 52 MTAP (DB-3).
Its unclear when the
Russian landing force left Petropavlosk, but it was intended to land
around dawn on 18th August. The Russian convoy´s passage across the First
Kurile Strait took place in a typical sub-Artic dense fog. This meant that the
landing took the Japanese defenders by surprise, but it also prevented the
Russian air units from flying from Kamchatka´s airfields until as noon of
August 18th. After that, several groups of 8 to 16 aircraft each made a number
of raids on Katoaka and Kashiwara bases, with the objective of preventing
transportation of the Japanese troops from Paramushiro to Shimushu. In their
turn the Japanese aircraft conducted some attacks vs the Cape Lopatka shore
battery of four 130 mm guns that was giving land-base fire support to the
landings (Cape Lopatka coast defense artillery was on the Kamchatka
mainland,12km from the Shimushu north coast). And also attacked the Russian
landing craft and their escorts. While sources are mixed, between 10:30 AM and
01:30 PM either two aircraft or a flight of 7 or 8, attempted to attack
the T-525 minesweeper, but were shot down or driven off by the ship´s AA fire
in the Sea of Okhotsk, off the Shimushu western coast. One crashed ashore.
Further at least some sources report that Minesweeping cutter (mottor boat)
KT-152 was sunk by a Japanese Kamikaze aircraft attack on 18th or 19th August
1945 in the Shimushu area.
 On the back cover of a Russian magazine some
years ago there was a color photo of a Ki-43 landing gear sticking out of a
Kurile bog, and a brief mention that some Russians were planning on restoring
a Ki-43 from assorted parts. There has been no further word about that
delightful project. (This information was kindly provided by George M.
 I supose that
this is a failure of the author and he wanted to say G4M.
 This information was also kindly
provided by George M. Mellinger.