British bombers mine the Yangtse River 13/5/1945?

Discussion in 'War Against Japan' started by davidbfpo, Aug 18, 2020.

  1. davidbfpo

    davidbfpo Patron Patron

    In the current VJ-day thread I have posted an article by Professor Ashley Jackson, on how VJ-day was celebrated, which includes for me this discovery:
    Link: Victory over Japan Day: Celebrating the end of World War II | Feature from King's College London

    There is a second article by him: The British Empire's War Against Japan: A Reflection | Feature from King's College London This has a broad, strategic overview and refers very briefly to the plan for 'Tiger Force' of bombers to participate in the invasion of Japan. Just found a couple of threads here, which show 'Tiger Force' was not deployed to the Far East.

    I assume the British bombers were operating from RN aircraft carriers, as I have not heard much about long-range RAF bombers being there.

    There are threads here on the Yangtse Incident, the earlier British presence @ Shanghai and the start of the war. Nowt on any such British bombing operation.

    Does the collective knowledge and wisdom here know about this British bombing of mainland China, on target(s) along the Yangtse River?
    Last edited: Aug 18, 2020
  2. davidbfpo

    davidbfpo Patron Patron

    There is a US publication 'The Offensive Mine Laying Campaign Against Japan', part of the US Strategic Bombing Survey written in 1946 and published in 1969, which has a very small paragraph on USAAF mining of the Yangtse and it's impact. Another report to the President notes mine laying in Yangtse estuary (aka Yangtze)in August 1944 and fighter sweeps. From:
  3. Harry Ree

    Harry Ree Very Senior Member

    I think any mining of the Yangtse river would have been undertaken by USAAF heavy bombers operating from Chinese bases in western China.That would mean bomber aircraft from either the 10th Air Force or the 14th Air Force based in free China.I cannot see it being elements of the 20th Air Force whose priority was to raid the Japanese homeland from forward Pacific island bases.No RAF Bomber Command element had a presence in this area of operations to mine the Yangtse river at any time during the Pacific war.

    Following the agreement that Germany then Japan would be defeated,plans were tentatively put in place in 1943 for a RAF bomber force to be sent to the Pacific after a German defeat.In mid 1944,the Allied Combined Chiefs of Staff accepted that 40 Lancaster squadrons would be detached to operate against Japan from one of the islands anticipated to be overrun by US forces.The location of the bases, the strength of the force and effective dates would await developments.

    At the end of 1944,Bomber Command through the project Tiger Force Commander Designate, started to plan for the RAF to become involved in the bombing of the Japan homeland.It was planned and envisaged that the force would be ready to be established in Far East bases for operations against Japanese targets in January 1946.

    Initially the force was to consist of three Bomber Groups of 12 squadrons with 16 Lancaster/Lincoln aircraft each modded to FE standard with 6 Mosquito squadrons as fighter escorts.Air to Air refuelling was also being considered should a Tallboy bomb load option be taken up.The standard 400 auxiliary gallon tank fitted in the bomb bay was already an AVRO mod available to Bomber Command.

    Tiger Force was officially established on 24 February 1945 with AVM Lloyd as Air Officer Commanding.However by June 1945 with American gains advancing towards Japan,the projected force was something different to the earlier proposals.The force was slimmed down to No 5 and No 6 Groups each with 10 Lancaster/Lincoln squadrons of 20 aircraft plus a PR and MET Mosquito squadron in addition to the 6 Mosquito fighter escort squadrons.No 75 (RNZAF) Squadron also joined the force for further Commonwealth representation. Operations would take place from a single island base and targets would be defined by the USAAF, presumably in conjunction with the 20th Air Force.

    Tiger Force as expected put in considerable training for the future task. Groundcrew and equipment were already in transit to the Far East under Shield Force when the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki forced the Japanese to surrender unconditionally on 15 August 1945.Tiger Force was immediately stood down and Shield Force shipments were either recalled or diverted to India to be followed by the official disbanding of Tiger Force on 31 October 1945.
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  4. Robert-w

    Robert-w Banned

    Mines Away - The Significance of Army Air Force Minelaying in World War 2 by Major John S Chilstrom - School of Advanced Air Power Studies May 1992 covers US minelaying against Japan at some length. The following excerpts are relevant to RAF and RAAF contributions
    For much of the war, the British led the Americans in mine technology, tactics, and employment.
    Thankfully, mine warfare in the United States profited from a close relationship with the British
    Commonwealth. As a U.S. Naval Ordnance Laboratory history remarks, these nations gave
    "...the benefit of their experience in degaussing, they furnished samples of German mines
    and of their own mines, they welcomed U.S. mining experts to their laboratories and sent
    their own to this country, and in the war in the Pacific, their planes planted more mines
    than U.S. planes did up until the beginning of the Starvation campaign [from March until
    August 1945]"
    The aerial mining of Japan's "outer zone" was a true coalition effort--the Royal Air Force (RAF)
    flew twenty-two percent of the sorties, the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) thirty-eight percent, and
    U.S. Army and Naval aviation the remainder
    Altogether, the British laid 3,450 mines in 697 sorties from July 1944 until July 1945. By mining
    the harbor at Penang, Malaya, they closed the submarine base used by both the Germans and Japanese.
    To keep up the pressure against Malayan ports, the RAF laid over 1,000 mines in the first quarter of
    1945 alone.

    However the Yangtze River is only mentioned once
    The Bombing Survey specifically credited the mining of an in]and waterway, the Yangtze River, with having a blockading effect that significant]y hampered Japanese Army offensives in China during 1944-45. This action prompted the Survey to suggest: "The successes obtained helped prove the value of the aerial mine as an air force weapon".
    Which gives no idea as to whom, from where and with what. The American mining effort appears to have used B24s, B29s, Catalinas and Avengers. The RAAF Catalinas but there is no mention of what the RAF used.
  5. Robert-w

    Robert-w Banned

    I have found several references to US B29s of 14th AAF mining the Yangtze from Indian bases. The same sources indicate that RAF were also carrying out mining operations from India at the same time using B24s so it would seem possible that any RAF attack on the Yangtze came from here.

    See The US Strategic Bombing Survey The Offensive Mine Laying Campaign Against Japan
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  6. Robert-w

    Robert-w Banned

    The AAF unit specifically associated with mining the Yangtze was 468 Bombardment Group based at Kharagapur, India. 159 sqn RAF equipped with B24s were also based there.

    Does anyone have a list of 159's missions? I know that they flew bombing missions over Burma and possibly mining sorties to Malaya but could they have done the Yangtze?
    Last edited: Aug 18, 2020
  7. davidbfpo

    davidbfpo Patron Patron

    After more research I found only one clue in a short paper on aerial mine warfare 'Twenty-First-Century Aerial Mining'. From:

    It has three helpful pointers::
    The footnote refers to: 'Mines Away! The Significance of US Army Air Forces Minelaying in World War II' (cited by Robert W)

    The mines were not small:
    The footnote refers to: CAPT Gerald A. Mason, USN, “Operation Starvation,” AU /AWC/2002-02 (Maxwell AFB, AL: Air War College, 2002), 7. From: /awcgate/awc/2002_mason.pdf.

    The footnote refers to: Joint Army-Navy Assessment Committee, Japanese Naval and Merchant Shipping Losses during World War II by All Causes (Washington, DC: Joint Army-Navy Assessment Committee, 1947), From:

    A UK Cabinet Military Summary for 24-31st May 1945 refers to (Point 28):

    This document appears to report on British activity, minus of course whether RAF or RN (Yes, they do not operate amended B-24LIberator aircraft!). I have not checked maps of China for where some places are; I know where Shanghai and the Yangtse are.

    More tomorrow.
    Last edited: Aug 19, 2020
  8. Robert-w

    Robert-w Banned

    The Liberator was the B24 not the B29 and the RAF certainly used the B24. B29 was the Super Fort
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  9. Robert-w

    Robert-w Banned

    In late 1944 159's Liberators had the mid upper turret and all armour plate removed. This gave them a range of 1,500 miles carrying four mines. I think this made the Yangtze feasible it did make Penang harbour possible as 16 aircraft dropped mines in it
  10. Harry Ree

    Harry Ree Very Senior Member

    An extract from Steve Birdsall's Saga of the Superfortress reveals the minelaying activities of the 20th Air Force.

    There were few industrial targets within range of the Indian bases and shipping in harbours seemed the most profitable targets.At the end of January 1945 the B 29s began a campaign that took them back to Rangoon,Bangkok, Singapore,and new targets ,Phnom Penh and Penang. Some were bombing operations,some were minelaying,and some definitely seemed to be a task thought up chiefly to keep the boys happy.Singapore was the only really good B 29 target but it was not always "on limits".

    A number of strikes might have been dubbed training missions,but any training was geared to the type of operations in the Pacific and not in Asia.

    B 29s had only flown the one aerial minelaying operation back in August 1944 but mining by B 24s had placed a greater burden on ports out of B 24 range to the east and south.These crowded havens were within the range of the B 29s. This plus the influx of warships battered in the Philippines,convinced the USAAF to begin a limited mining campaign during the full moon at the end of January 1945.

    The first effort was a double operation on the night of 25 January,2 BGs laid 6 minefields at Singapore while the 462nd BG laid mines at Saigon and Cam Ranh Bay.

    During the next full moon,at the end of February,12 B 29s went back to Singapore to mine the Johore Strait which the Japanese had swept so carefully that traffic had only been stopped for a couple of weeks.Then on 28 February 12 B 29s flew to China for a mining operation of the Yangtse river.For the full moon in March 1945,B 29s mined the Yangtse again along with Saigon,Cam Rahn Bay and Singapore.No B 29s were lost during these mining operations and the experience was a valuable fund for the 313 Wing,training as a specialised mining unit in the Marianas to draw on.

    The 40th,444 462,468 BG were in the 58th Bomb Wing of the 20th Air Force.Its forward base in China was A 7 in China .From 6 April 1945 it was based at West Field,Tinian Island

    The 313 Wing was also a part of the 20th Air Force and from the publication above was the unit which was involved in the two Yangtse minelaying operations.The Wing was composed of the 6th,9th,504 and the 504 Bombardment Groups.

    No 159 Squadron,RAF equipped with their Liberators (B 24s) carried a minelaying op to Penang in October 1944,a round trip of 3000 miles from their base in India.

    Matt Poole of this forum can provide abundant information on the operations of No 159 Squadron from his publication "Liberators over Burma",I think it is titled.
  11. davidbfpo

    davidbfpo Patron Patron

    A USN magazine of sorts 'All Hands: Navy Internal Relations Activity, Office of the Chief of Information, 1946' and publicly released in 1951, digitised in 2016, has an article 'Pacific Cinderella' on mine laying with the below map. Link to a free E-book:

    The 14th USAAF laid mines in late 1944 along the Yangtse and around Formosa - operating across 'The Hump' from India, until a Japanese offensive curtailed use of Chinese airfield(s). In the first three months of 1945 mines were laid upriver around Hankow, followed by India-based B-29s dropping mines in the estuary near Shanghai in March 1945. RAAF Catalinas operating from newly available bases in the Philippines dropped mines along the Chinese coast (the maps indicates not as far north as Shanghai).

    Alas no mention of the RAF. Thanks to Harry and Robert above it appears that any RAF B-24 LIberator mission to mine the Yangtse must have used base(s) in Western China. By May 1945 the USAAF and USN were busy mine laying in the seas around Japan-Korea, so perhaps the RAF was "topping up" the mines in the Yangtse?

  12. Robert-w

    Robert-w Banned

    One of the ships sunk by mines in the Yangtze in 1945 was the former HMS Moth - a river gun boat captured by the Japanese and renamed Suma
  13. Robert-w

    Robert-w Banned

    More background

    Fifth Air Force relied on the RAF and Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) for its mine-laying capabilities.Tenth Air Force, though, embraced aerial mining more enthusiastically and closed the Rangoon River for the duration by using British mines from early 1943. Fourteenth Air Force laid airlifted mines in China’s rivers, including the Yangtze. Twentieth Air Force conducted its first aerial mine-laying mission off Sumatra in August 1944, later mining Singapore, Saigon, and Cam Ranh Bay.

    Col Micheal Pietrucha US Air Force, 21st Century Aerial Mining, Air & Space Power Journal, March - April 2015

    Interestingly Col Pietrucha suggests that the Yangtze is a prime target for mining today
  14. Ewen Scott

    Ewen Scott Well-Known Member

    The ORBs for 159 sqn have been transcribed here but I see no mention of operations to China. 159 Squadron Records

    There is another problem with the idea of such operations. It would mean the aircraft operating outwith the SEAC area of control, which seems highly unlikely.

    On 13 May 1945 however 5 B-24s from the 14th AF (which would be 308th BG) are recorded as having dropped mines in the Yangtze
    USAAF Chronology:
  15. Robert-w

    Robert-w Banned

    In 1945 160 sqn joined 159 in long range mining operations. It was equipped with VLR (Very Long Range) Liberators for this purpose. It did a mission to Singapore from Ceylon which involved a round trip of 21 hours. The Yangtze is closer to the base at Kharagapur than Singapore to Ceylon. 160 might be a candidate.
  16. Ewen Scott

    Ewen Scott Well-Known Member

    While 159 & 160 were both involved in mining operations they were controlled by 2 separate organisations based at opposite ends of the SEAC area.

    159 in eastern India as part of 231 heavy bomber group and its operations were over Burma and Thailand during 1945. 160 was based out of Ceylon as part of 222 Group whose main role was maritime reconnaissance. It’s operational area was the Indian Ocean, Bay of Bengal, Malaya and Sumatra. Check out the ORBs.
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  17. davidbfpo

    davidbfpo Patron Patron

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  18. davidbfpo

    davidbfpo Patron Patron

    Well I have just sent an email to Professor Ashley Jackson, asking him to identify the 'British bombers' in this mission.:)
  19. davidbfpo

    davidbfpo Patron Patron

    Oddly the USN records this mission a month earlier:

    Another US document refers to the 13th may 1945:

    Is there any significance to the phrase 'planes attached to the 373rd Bomb Squadron' and not planes from the squadron?
    Last edited: Aug 19, 2020
  20. Robert-w

    Robert-w Banned

    If it turns out to be an carrier launched Avenger at the mouth (Shanghai) I will definitely be far from gruntled :whistle:

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