Home / General / Japanese Air Warfare Footage

Japanese Air Warfare Footage


More Farley’s beat, but this footage of air warfare from Japanese archives in 1945 is pretty amazing to watch.

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Google+
  • Linkedin
  • Pinterest
  • rea

    Are these from Japanese archives? Or from US archives showing combat over Japan? A lot of straffing runs for them to be from Japanese gun cameras in ’45 . . .

    There is one rather disturbing sequence showing a parachuting pilot, and a puff of black smoke as if the pilot has just been straffed . . .

    • It was my colleague in Japanese history who sent this to me and his belief was that it was from Japanese archives, but I’m not betting the farm on it.

      • Derelict

        This is footage from American aircraft flying over Japan. By this point in the war, American aircraft (including carrier-based aircraft) ranged freely over Japan. Some of the ground-attack footage had been released decades ago–I believe the shots of rockets being fired into the factory sheds were released during the war.

    • rea

      I’m a lot less certain that the parachutist gets straffed, after looking at it a couple of times

    • Icarus Wright

      Way better sans audio.

    • I believe that by the end of the war is was not uncommon for both sides to shoot parachuting pilots.

      The grim math was it took a lot longer to train a pilot than to build an airplane. You didn’t want to have to fight the same guy again the next day.

      • Nathan of Perth

        Yeah… the losses to aircrews and trained mechanics/support staff at Midway hurt the Japanese Navy worse than the loss of the carriers. Towards the end of the war they were crippled not through a lack of flat-tops but because they had nothing to operate on them.

    • oldster

      I was surprised at how much of it appeared to be in color.
      Colorized later? Seems unlikely.
      Color cameras in the front of a fighter? Seems even less likely.
      For the purpose of recording hits and misses, what does it matter whether it’s in color or not?

      So were small, simple color cameras available by then, and would they have put them into planes?

      • Derelict

        Color film was most definitely available and in fairly widespread use by the military by 1945. Color gun-camera footage from late in the war isn’t all that rare.

        • They was a whole series on the History Channel called “WWII in Color.” Color film was more expensive, but it was available to use years before WWII started.

  • Alex

    A little grainy, but this appears to be gun camera footage from US planes over Japan, since they look to me like they are shooting at Japanese planes and strafing targets.

    • Icarus Wright

      @4:50-4:54 there’s a Japanese boat (dhow?junk?) to the far left.
      Other video segments indicate an attack on docked naval vessels and military ships at sea. Lacking any real context (or knowledge), its impossible to create a meaningful narrative frame.

      In any case, this video has been heavily edited and remains unsourced. I question its provenance.

      • Derelict

        It’s not “heavily edited.” Gun cameras typically held only a minute or two of film as the intent was to capture what the pilot was shooting at and the aircraft only carried a minute or so worth of ammo. Much of what was filmed was simply empty sky, clouds, or ground. The results you see in the featured video come from the films from dozens of different aircraft having been cobbled together minus the empty-sky portions.

        As for the provenance, well, ask the Army Air Corps or the U.S. Navy.

    • Evan Harper

      Yes, I was increasingly sure that the planes being hit were Japanese – no doubt at all after 0:49, when an obsolete fixed-gear monoplane is shot down. Only the Japanese operated such aircraft over Japan.

  • Jaime Oria

    I’ve seen this making the rounds lately with close to zero sourcing. I think it’s from Allied gun cameras, myself. A lot of those aircraft on the ground certainly looked Japanese – dark circles indicating ‘meatballs’ rather than anything hinting at UK/Aussie/NZ roundels or American stars.

    I have to wonder about some of those ground targets, though; what can (even).50 caliber rounds usefully do to industrial plant? I did see what looked like rockets being fired in some clips and I suppose those administrative looking buildings could get pretty chewed up. There was, to me, a distressing air of sheer bloody-mindedness WRT some of the targets being strafed.

    • Bill K

      There were a lot of uses of steam power in industry during the WW II era. A 50 caliber round going into a steam line, boiler, etc… can do a lot of damage. There are also many flammable chemicals used in industry, so a tracer round can set off a fire or explosion.

      • Alex

        A .50 will definitely chew up locomotives and rolling stock.

    • rea

      There was, to me, a distressing air of sheer bloody-mindedness WRT some of the targets being strafed.

      I sometimes get frustrated about the degree of squemishness shown by 21st Century liberal bog commentors about allied actions in WWII. The other side chose total war, and we played by the rules they chose.

      • Anonymous

        Thanks for whitesplaining, racist.

        • rea

          Actually, I had in mind my mother’s cousin, who was captured at Baatan, along with many of her high school friends (a national guard unit from her home town was sent to the Phillipines right before the war started).

          And it’s not like we treated the Germans better.

          • Anonymous

            We would have NEVER nuked Nazi Germany.

            • cpinva

              “We would have NEVER nuked Nazi Germany.”

              bullshit. had Germany not surrendered, by the time the first nuclear bombs were ready, berlin was first on the list. we firebombed Dresden, among other german cities, causing more casualties than both Hiroshima and Nagasaki, what makes you think we’d have gotten squeamish about nuking them?

              • It’s just JenBob being JenBob. Ignore.

              • trollhattan

                Not only do I think we’d have nuked Germany, I think FDR would have phoned Joe ahead of time and said, “Hey, Joe, watch what we do in Frankfurt, next Tuesday.”

              • Nathan of Perth

                Yeah, if there had been any thought of anyone giving anybody quarter on racial lines at the start of proceedings, it was well and truly gone by war’s end…

                Total war was exactly what it said on the tin. And ideally we won’t find ourselves in that boat ever again.

                • Lavrentiy Beria

                  The only reason we might not have nuked Germany is because Bomber Command had already fire-bombed everything.

              • Some Guy

                There was no reason to nuke Germany. Between the Western Allies and especially the Soviets, Germany was losing ground steadily every day. And Europe was a relatively easy war to fight. Close to home, good supply lines and infrastructure, mostly normal ground units. Nice and cheap.

                Meanwhile in the Pacific, everything has to be shipped across the ocean, which had to be patrolled and escorted with expensive naval ships. Island hopping was a tough affair, and even small islands took days to secure, and upwards of weeks to clear out all the nests. It’s a war that’s much more tempted to end as quickly as possible.

            • The Manhattan Project was INTENDED vs Germany. Only the fact that V-E Day preceded the Bomb kept us from nuking them. Japan was “ok, where else can we use these things?”

              • We also had plans to scatter fissionables across Germany in the case that the atomic bomb couldn’t be made to work.

              • Matt_L

                Alex Wallerstein over at Restricted Data suggests that the case was more complicated and contingent than that.

                • Well, without a link, I guess I could spend the morning trying to find what you’re talking about, but I probably won’t.

                  People say a lot of stuff about the A-bombs. Some of it isn’t stupid.

                • rea

                  And of course it was more complicated and contingent than that, because VE day was in May 1945, and the Trinity test took place in July. The war in Europe was over before it was proved that the bomb would work.

                • Rea, I guess I don’t get your point, or how you’re doing any more than restating my 6:36.

                  Had we gotten the Bomb in 1944, with the Allies stuck in the bocage or fighting an attrition battle in the Huertgen, I cannot imagine any reason to doubt we’d have nuked a German city. The Japanese weren’t the only ones posing a fanatical resistance.

    • Mike G

      This looks like “targets of opportunity” strafing.
      P-51s would accompany B-29 bombers to defend them from Japanese fighters. By 1945 Japanese air defences were close to negligible, so after the bombers delivered their loads the US fighters were free to drop to ground level and attack whatever “targets of opportunity” were handy.

      • Alex

        By the end of the war, US carrier planes were also running fighter sweeps over Japan.

  • cpinva

    that is gun camera footage from allied planes, not Japanese. those are armor-piercing, “hot” rounds, not standard .50’s. so they could cause significant damage, as well as starting fires/igniting fuel and other flammable materials. part of it was also for the purpose of destroying morale, as much as it was destruction of war making capabilities. that entire clip was pretty chilling.

  • I tried using full screen and pausing it. The planes getting shot down in the air to air footage look like late-war Japanese for the most part.

    I definitely saw some red “meatballs” on the planes getting strafed.

    • Alex

      Agree. The fighter planes being shot at are Japanese, not Allied, and the meatballs on the twin engine bombers are pretty distinct, both in the air and on the ground.

    • Bitter Scribe

      Well, it’s good to know those weren’t our guys getting shot down left and right.

    • Definitely, tho, helps me understand how hard it could be to ID planes as friend or foe. The whole thing is revelatory on the experience of air combat. Thanks for the post.

  • Anonymous

    The war against Japan was fundamentally racist and white supremacist.

    • Ian

      True, though the wars waged by Imperial Japan were at least equally racist.

    • Ragout

      Are you actually arguing that the US shouldn’t have gone to war against Japan?

      • Anonymous


        FDR goaded Japan into war.

        Japan just wanted a Monroe Doctrine for Asia. It was self-defense against the racist, white western imperialists and capitalists.

        • Ragout

          FDR goaded Japan into war by instituting an embargo and blockade in defense of China. Even though racism was common in the US in the 1930s and 1940s, it was the most non-racist motivation for war imaginable.

          • Anonymous

            Yawn. More whitesplaining.

            • cpinva

              have some lovely rice pancakes, with sushi syrup.

            • Blank. More Blank. Blank BlankBlankBlankBlankBlankBlankBlankBlankBlankBlankBlankBlankBlankBlankBlankBlankBlankBlankBlankBlankBlankBlankBlankBlankBlankBlankBlankBlankBlankBlankBlankBlankBlankBlankBlankBlankBlankBlankBlankBlankBlankBlankBlankBlankBlankBlankBlankBlankBlankBlankBlankBlankBlankBlankBlankBlankBlankBlankBlankBlankBlankBlankBlankBlankBlankBlankBlankBlankBlankBlankBlankBlankBlankBlankBlankBlankBlankBlankBlankBlankBlankBlankBlankBlankBlankBlankBlankBlankBlankBlankBlankBlankBlankBlankBlankBlankBlankBlank

            • Western Dave

              Meanwhile, Nanjing disagrees with you.

        • trollhattan

          Preznit Hoover would have made Imperial Japan our bestest friends and together, we could have TOTS ruled Asia and Soviet Russia.

          Your point is an excellent one, may I subscribe to your newsletter?

    • JenBob is playing at being a leftist.

      • I was so totally fooled, I forgot to buy gold from Glenn beck.

        • Turkle

          I dunno, I laughed at this

      • rea

        I always get annoyed when people suggest that my mom (Manhattan project support staff, but she well knew what they were buidling) was a war criminal.

        • Your mother and others like her ensured that my mother and her family were released from her POW camp like thousands of Allied civilian and military POWS throughout Asia, peacefully, soon after the second bomb was dropped.

          • rea

            well, and as I said above some of my mother’ family were in Japanese POW camps as well.

            • I’m sorry, I didn’t catch that from above. She once wrote of an incident she witnessed in the camp when she was young, I may post part of it one of these days in an appropriate thread.

  • Pancakes with the whitest sugar all around, people. DO NOT ENGAGE. DO NOT ENGAGE.

  • Tracy Lightcap

    Most of the fighters in the early shots are Hayabusas, pretty much the standard Japanese Army fighter throughout the war. A bit slow, but they shot down more allied planes then any other type. One looks like it might have been a Hayate, but I doubt it, given that it explodes; that plane had plenty of armor and self-sealing fuel tanks.

    And, yes, this is American footage.

    • Pretty sure I saw a KI-100 in there at one point.

  • trollhattan

    Have been reading a declassified 1944 speculative briefing doc from the US “Committee of Operations Analysis” on the economic effects of firebombing the six biggest Japanese cities, in which I become newly aware of the term, “dehousing.” As in, “the destruction of 70% of all houses would leave 7,750,000 dehoused people.”

    Dehousing. Jesus. We talked like corporate douches seventy years ago. Got your banality of evil, right here. How many did we dehouse in 2008?


    • Mike G

      This was Robert McNamara’s early work before he turned the Vietnam War into a too-clever idiot game of computer printouts.

      • rea

        You have a point, but they didn’t really have computer printouts back then.

    • JohnT

      This reminds me of one of the most chilling things I ever saw – a selection of correspondence between American scientists and senior officers in shown in the museum in Hiroshima. The sheer enthusiasm for incinerating vast numbers of civilians and the callousness of the way the were discussing target selection really called out what evil bastards everyone had become by the end of WW2, irrespective of the necessity of what was being done.
      I have to say, I see a bit of that in some of these strafing runs also – the majority are clearly on militarily relevant targets, but a few look disturbingly like random terror attacks.

    • Derelict

      “Dehousing” workers was kind of a side-effect of the firebombing raids. One of the scarier facts of the war is that we killed more Japanese civilians with a single firebomb raid on Tokyo (estimated 90,000-plus dead) than with the Nagasaki nuclear blast.

  • Stickler

    Dehousing was first used by the British when they realized they’d have to bomb Germany by night to avoid unacceptable daytime precision bombing losses.

    • Nathan of Perth

      That the US was so merrily willing to take on the daylight bombing role is still a staggering piece of bloody-mindedness.

      • Jaime Oria

        Yes – but even against Japan the (pre-nuke) gloves really came off with the MEETINGHOUSE incendiary raid on Tokyo, which was undertaken at night.

    • Mike G

      Lancasters had a different design philosophy, they carried heavier bombloads but had less defensive armament than B-17s and so were less survivable in daylight.
      A major reason for attacking cities was that nighttime bombing was so hideously inaccurate that hitting specific targets was impossible. A night raid was considered a success if 20% of bombs landed within 5 miles of the target.

    • FMguru

      “Dehousing” is also one of the greatest war-related euphemisms ever coined. We’re not burning whole apartment blocks full of sleeping families to the ground, we’re merely, ah, depriving them of housing.

      • Right up there with “overkill,” which is a chilling little word when you look it up.

      • Bill Murray

        That’s what made the neutron bomb so great. It depeopled houses, but the houses were still OK

        • I know they say that, but Idk how long the houses stayed radioactive. Anyway, creepy.

  • Stickler

    Right about the Lancasters and British bombing strategy. One might be tempted to feel sorry for the Germans, had they not used the phrase “zu Coventrieren” about their own plans to firebomb every other British city as they had Coventry in 1949.

    • I don’t feel sorry for them, but I’m not sure the bombing campaign ever really lived up to its promise.

      Yes it had some effect, but nowhere near the price it cost in terms of manpower and materials.

      Even the argument that “It forced the Luftwaffe to fight” is questionable. Only an industrial powerhouse like the United States could afford to trade 10-man, 4-engine bombers for BF-109s on roughly a one for one basis. I doubt the Luftwaffe would have sat on their hands had say, swarms of P-47s been bombing and strafing their airfields.

      • FMguru

        The best defenses I’ve heard of the Bombing Campaign were:

        1) There weren’t a whole lot of other ways for the Allies to strike back at Germany until 1944. It was expensive, yes, but they could afford it and what the hell else were they going to do in 1941 and 1942? A lousy ROI, but at least it had a return.

        2) Some sort of credible expenditure of effort needed to be demonstrated to keep the Soviets in the war.

        3) Chewing up the Luftwaffe took pressure off the Eastern Front and made both the Soviet and Western approaches into Germany that much easier.

        4) Every gun pointed upward and every shell fired as AA was one not being used in Russia. I suspect the diversion of resources into ADA was probably larger than the effect of the bombings themselves.

        • None of which, IMHO, justifies incinerating women and children by the hundreds and thousands. Every “area bombing” was a war crime.

          • Of course, as the saying goes, the winners get to hold the war crimes tribunals.

            We tried Germans for unrestricted submarine warfare – which is exactly what we waged against Japan.

            I’m sure if things had gone the other way Harris, LeMay and Hap Arnold would have been tried for war crimes.

            • LeMay said exactly that.

              • So did McNamara, in Fog of War.

            • Derelict

              We tried Germans for unrestricted submarine warfare – which is exactly what we waged against Japan.

              And we even celebrated at least one American submarine skipper who admitted in his log to machine-gunning Japanese sailors in their lifeboats. (Mush Morton, commander of Wahoo).

        • Alex

          By 1944, 30% of all German artillery pieces were committed to air defense of the Reich. Given that the standard German AA gun, the 88, was also its most effective anti-tank weapon and the most effective multi-purpose artillery piece of the war, this was a very significant diversion.

          Downthread someone states that the most effective attacks were those against transportation infrastructure (mostly rail) and fuel production. This correct. Speer was extremely successful at dispersing manufacturing and armaments production. But without fuel or the ability to transport materiel to the front. . .

          • Speer in his prison diaries said that the anti-aircraft campaign tied down a lot of resources that could’ve gone directly into the war effort.

      • Derelict

        After the war, the Germans stated that the two components of the air war that really made a difference were the strategic campaign against oil stocks and refineries, and the fighter sweeps against transportation. As Albert Speer pointed out, it made it pretty much impossible to fight when the Allied fighters destroyed all your supplies and ammo before it could get within miles of the front.

  • Stickler

    Or 1940.

  • Marek

    Looks like there was almost a friendly fire incident around 3:01.

  • MikeJake

    @ 4:50

    Is that Indiana Jones and his father?

  • The prophet Nostradumbass

    From looking at the video, it appears to come from this site, which has a whole bunch of different old videos on it.

It is main inner container footer text