The 6th Bomb Group

The Missions

"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 (Air/Sea Rescue)
POW Supply

Related Topics:

A Typical Mission
Flight Crew Logs

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 their 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.


From 3 Feb 1945 to 14 Aug 1945, the 6th Bomb Group officially flew 75 missions.  Here is a table that shows the number of planes on each mission.

List of Missions

The missions are color coded 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 brackets 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.

The mission summaries for the 20th Air Force are courtesy of the 20th Air Force Association, Sallyann Wagoner and "The Army Air Forces in World War II", Volume Five.

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 [2] 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

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.