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Navy test pilot performs a test flight in a captured Ki-61-Ia Navy test pilot performs a test flight in a captured Ki-61-Ia “Tony” above NAS Patuxent River, MD in 1944. Photo: NARA

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Intelligence Gatherers on Japanese Air Power during World War II
Mark Chambers, World War II aviation enthusiast and aviation history author, explores Allied efforts to evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of Japanese air power during the Second World War. His book, Wings of the Rising Sun, is out on November 29, 2018

Published on November 19, 2018
Pre-Order Wings of the Rising Sun

During World War II, Allied efforts to gather intelligence on Japanese air power played a vital role in assuring victory over Japan in the Pacific Theater. This was undertaken by personnel of the Allied Technical Air Intelligence Units (TAIU) operating in the Southwest Pacific, Southeast Asia, and China; the Technical Air Intelligence Center (TAIC) at Naval Air Station (NAS) Anacostia in Washington, D.D. (USA); and Allied test pilots who test flew and evaluated captured Japanese World War II military aircraft. Their dedicated efforts in intelligence gathering and uncovering the secrets of Japanese air power proved to be crucial in the Allied victory over Japan in the Pacific War.

The diligent personnel of the Allied TAIU often operated in the harsh environs of the Pacific Theater, recovering downed or abandoned Japanese aircraft, while TAIC personnel conducted their own evaluations of captured Japanese aircraft, many of which had been restored to airworthy status, in addition to compiling countless intelligence reports concerning World War II Japanese military aircraft. In addition, Allied test pilots, such as members of “The Zero Club” and Lt Cdr Eddie R. Sanders, conducted important flight evaluations of captured Japanese aircraft that enabled the Allies to learn the strengths and weaknesses of Japanese air power during World War II, and, most importantly, how to defeat these threats in aerial combat.

To learn more about how the intelligence on Japanese air power vitally contributed to the Allied victory over Japan in World War II, please read Osprey Publishing’s Wings of the Rising Sun.

Click through below to see a selection of images from the book:

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Slide 1

US intelligence gatherers on Japanese air power provided US Naval Intelligence with technical details regarding Japanese aircraft that enabled model airplane builders to make accurate scale models. These models helped US military servicemen and women to identify adversary aircraft during the Pacific War. Photo: US Navy, Naval History and Heritage Command

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Slide 2

US Navy and USAAF Technical Air Intelligence Center officers pose for a group photo in front of a captured A6M5 Zero at NAS Anacostia in December 1944. Photo: Richard Reinsch

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Slide 3

An organizational photo of TAIC personnel positioned with a Ki-46-II “Dinah” near Hangar 152 at NAS Anacostia during summer 1945. Photo: Richard Reinsch

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Slide 4

An abandoned A6M3 “Hamp” recovered by TAIU personnel at Buna airstrip in New Guinea in December 1942. This aircraft was eventually restored to airworthy status. Photo: NARA

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Slide 5

TAIU personnel often operated in the harsh environs of the Pacific Theater. Here, TAIU personnel recover ammunition from a downed Ki-43-II "Oscar" on Long Island, New Guinea in January 1944. Photo: Richard Reinsch

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Slide 6

Salvage work begins on a downed Ki-46-II "Dinah" twin-engine reconnaissance aircraft at Sag Sag, western New Britain, in January 1944. Photo: NARA

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Slide 7

The first A6M2 Zero-sen to fall into Allied hands, seen here in Chinese Nationalist Air Force color scheme and markings, at Kweilin, China in fall 1942. Photo: NARA

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Slide 8

Test pilots such as the five members of "The Zero Club," the first US pilots to test-fly the "invincible" Zero, provided invaluable intelligence regarding the strengths and weaknesses of the famous enemy fighter. Photo: USAF

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Slide 9

Lt Col Albert J. "Ajax" Baumler (74th FS/23rd FG CO and World War II ace) revs up the engine of the first A6M2 Zero-sen to fall into Allied hands. Photo: NARA

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Slide 10

The first A6M2 Zero to fall into Allied hands, seen here on a test flight over Wright Field on October 1, 1943. Photo: NARA

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Slide 11

The second A6M2 Zero to fall into Allied hands on a test flight above NAS North Island, San Diego, California on October 15, 1942. The aircraft is being flown by test pilot Lt Cdr Eddie R. Sanders. Photo: NARA

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Slide 12

Lt Cdr Eddie R. Sanders pilots the second A6M2 Zero to fall into Allied hands on its final approach into NAS North Island, San Diego, California in fall 1942. Photo: NARA

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Slide 13

Lt Cdr Eddie R. Sanders taxies the second A6M2 Zero to fall into Allied hands out at National Airport, Washington, D.C. on May 16, 1943. Photo: NARA

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Slide 14

A USAAF pilot performs a test flight in a captured Ki-43-II “Oscar” over Liuchow, China in 1944. Photo: Richard Reinsch

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Slide 15

A US Navy test pilot performs a test flight in a captured Ki-61-Ia "Tony" above NAS Patuxent River, MD in 1944. Photo: NARA

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Slide 16

A pilot performs a test flight in a captured Ki-84 "Frank" above Clark Field in the Philippines in spring 1945. The Ki-84 was one of the Imperial Japanese Army Air Force’s (IJAAF) finest fighters of World War II. Photo: NARA

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Slide 17

TAIU test pilots also had the opportunity to evaluate one of the Imperial Japanese Naval Air Force’s (IJNAF) finest fighters of World War II, the N1K2-J "George". Photo: Tony Holmes collection

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Slide 18

US Naval Intelligence Officer Lt Cdr T.P. Watson poses for a photo on the port wing of a damaged J1N1-Sa Irving night fighter at Kisarazu Naval Air Base, Chiba Prefecture, Japan in September 1945. Photo: NARA

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Slide 19

A B7A2 "Grace" attack bomber is moved from a hangar at Kisarazu by US Navy personnel in September 1945. Photo: NARA

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Slide 20

This IJNAF 763rd Kokutai G4M2a "Betty" bomber was captured by US forces at Clark Field in February 1945. Photo: Author's collection

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Slide 21

The previously pictured aircraft, stripped of its IJNAF paint scheme and markings, and with TAIU-SWPA markings applied, performs a test flight above Clark Field in spring 1945. Photo: NARA

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Slide 22

A TAIC Ki-46 at NAS Anacostia in 1945. Photo: NARA

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Slide 23

A captured H8K2 "Emily" flying boat taxies out onto the Patuxent River during taxiing trial evaluations in May 1946. Photo: NARA

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Slide 24

TAIU personnel were provided with a glimpse of the future when they were called upon to evaluate these partially assembled Kikka jet fighters found at Nakajima’s Koizumi plant, located northwest of Tokyo, in October 1945. Photo: NARA

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Slide 25

TAIU personnel also had the opportunity to evaluate special, advanced aerial weapons such as this rocket-powered Ohka or “Baka” flying bomb found by US forces at Yontan airfield, Okinawa in April 1945. Photo: Richard Reinsch

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Slide 26

To learn more about how the intelligence on Japanese air power vitally contributed to the Allied victory over Japan in World War II, please read Mark's book Wings of the Rising Sun, which is available to pre-order ahead of a November 29, 2018 release date.


Mark Chambers is an avid World War II aviation enthusiast and aviation history author. He has studied World War II military aviation extensively, with a keen focus on the air war in the Pacific. He works as a government contractor technical editor for the NASA Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia. Wings of the Rising Sun, his latest title, publishes in November. Filled with technical reports, first-hand accounts from Japanese and American airmen, test pilots and engineers, and rare photographs, the book explores Allied efforts to evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of Japanese air power during the war years, unlocking the secrets of advanced military aviation technologies. Wings of the Rising Sun is published by Osprey and is available to pre-order now.

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