Sino-Japanese Air War 1937 – 1945


July 1937

7 July 1937
On 7 July 1937 near the Lugoutsiao old marble bridge (outside Beijing), mentioned in the diaries of Marco Polo, there was a border clash between the Japanese occupiers of Manchuria and the forces of the Kuomintang government, which escalated to a full-scale war.
According to Japanese authorities a Japanese soldier had disappeared during Japanese manoeuvres in Manchuria. The Japanese delivered the Chinese an ultimatum that they hand over the soldier, or open the gates of the city so that the Japanese could search for him themselves. The Chinese authorities refused, which resulted in the skirmish on the bridge. The Japanese brought up their forces and began an artillery bombardment of the Chinese territory not yet occupied by them. Not meeting organised resistance by the Chinese forces the Japanese began to push deeper into China.

11 July 1937
On 11 July the Japanese Army and Navy General Staffs published an agreement that should the need arise, the Army would assume responsibility for destroying the enemy air force in north China while the Navy would be responsible for destroying the enemy air force in central and south China.

12 July 1937
The Miwa Daitai reached Tianjin on 12 July 1937, stopping enemy ground forces from capturing this airfield.

15 July 1937
During the day the mobilization of the Japanese Army was ordered. This included aviation units.

19 July 1937
First Lieutenant Akira Nakagawa (46th Class) of the 2nd Daitai was killed in an accident in the Yamaguchi Prefecture.

24 July 1937
The 2nd Daitai and the 9th I F Chutai arrived at Fengtian on 24 July, joined on that date by the 8th Daitai from Tachiarai

27 July 1937
Fighters from the 2nd Daitai and the 9th I F Chutai flew a sweep over the Beijing-Tianjin area.

28 July 1937
On 28 July Beijing was lost to the Japanese, which was occupied during the next two days together with Tianjin.

During the day the 8th Daitai moved forward to Tianjin to fly ground support missions, carrying pairs of 30 kg bombs beneath their wings.
At the same time the 2nd Daitai also arrived at Tianjin.

29 July 1937
At dawn the 2nd Daitai was involved in strafing advancing Chinese troops close to their airfield at Tianjin.

30 July 1937
On 30 July Tientsin fell. This was followed by the fall of Kalgan and other cities.

August 1937

The ground war

By early August newly-arrived Chinese forces were threatening the Japanese in the Beijing area from the west, and in an effort to allay this situation, an attack was launched on Zhangjiakou, supported by the newly arrived air force units and by those still in Manchuria. By the latter part of August, this objective had been taken.

The battle for Shanghai began on 13 August when Chiang Kai-shek opened a second front and Marines of the Japanese Navy clashed with the Chinese Army whilst seeking to protect Japanese interests in Shanghai during mid-August.

On 21 August China and the USSR signed a Treaty of Nonaggression and agreements on military-technical assistance.

During the night of 22/23 August the Japanese launched an amphibious operation to relieve the Shanghai garrison and establish a beachhead within which was built an airfield (Kunda airfield).

On 24 August, Japanese forces attacked Nankou (north-west of Beijing).

Chinese Air Force

On 13 August the Aviation Committee (AK) of the Kuomintang government issued order No. 1 to the Chinese Air Force on conducting combat operations.

On 14 August combat activity in the entire Chinese territory with the large-scale use of aviation began and during the day the 4th PG moved to Schien-Chiao when Japanese troops landed in Shanghai.

After the Nonaggression Treaty with the USSR the Air Force prepared to receive aircraft from Soviet. Retraining on the I-16 proceeded at Lanzhou, and on the I-15bis at Sian and Siangfan (Hubei Province).

After the reorganisation of the Chinese Air Force in 1935-1936, independent aviation squadrons, consisting of flights from the various provinces of China were combined into several air groups, each of 3 squadrons (of 10 aircraft each). At the beginning of the war with Japan there were about 600 combat aircraft, of which 305 were fighters and the remainder light bombers and reconnaissance aircraft. Medium bombers (the Chinese classified them as “heavy”) were not more than 20 machines.
Fighters were the 3rd, 4th and 5th PG (Pursuit Group), and the independent 29th PS (Pursuit Squadron).
“New Hawks” (as the Chinese called the Hawk III) equipped the 4th and 5th PG and also the 7th and 29th squadrons (before the war the 7th PS still retained a few Italian Breda Ba.27s). The other squadrons of the 3rd PG, the 8th PS and 17th PS were equipped respectively with approximately 15 Italian Fiat CR.32 and the American Boeing 281 (P-26). The 5th PG and the Flight schools had about 50 obsolete Hawk IIs.
All heavy bombers belonged to the three squadrons of the 8th Air Group (in Chinese- “Dadui” that is “Large Detachment”). The 10th BS (“Zhongdui” - “Medium Detachment”) flew the Italian three-motor Savoia S.72. By the beginning of the Sino-Japanese war all six S.72s were in shabby condition and were suitable only for transport. The 19th BS was equipped with Heinkel He111A-0s which had been rejected by the Luftwaffe (In 1935 six machines were purchased by the aviation command of Guangdong Province). Finally, the 30th BS were equipped with American Martin 139WCs (9 machines purchased in 1935, with the first 6 machines arriving in Shanghai in February 1937 for assembly and the training of crews).

The Chinese Air Force suffered large losses during the whole conflict with Japan. During the first weeks of the war the Chinese lost almost all of their medium bombers. This was a pattern that would be repeated again and again.

The 28th PS of the 5th PG under the command of Captain Chan Kee-Wong was deployed to the Chuyung Airfield near Nanking on 15 August.

In mid-August 1937 the 8th BG was joined by the 13th Squadron, receiving four SM.81B bombers in Nanchang. The aircraft had been assembled in the local aviation factory.

At the end of August both the 7th and 8th PS of the 3rd PG received an order to prepare to rebase to Sian (Shansi Province) to re-equip with the I-15bis.

During August the Chinese Air Force flew 409 offensive sorties over the Yangtze River and 300 defensive sorties. They reportedly lost 27 aircraft with 33 pilots killed or missing and a further 33 wounded..

On 30 August, the CAF strength was:

Group Number of aircraft
2nd BG 12
3rd BG 6
4th PG 13
5th PG 13
6th RG 25
7th RG 16
8th BG 8
9th AG 5
20th RS 6
29th PS 7
Other Groups 34
Total 145

When the war started a number of Air Transport Commands were set up by the China National Aviation Corporation (CNAC) to help the CAF. Some of the aircraft, including Ford Tri-motor No. 27, were impressed and CNAC in fact became a semi-military operation when all civilian airline service were suspended on 22 August.
The CNAC workshops and headquarters were evacuated to Hankow on 24 August.


At the start of the “China Incident” the Army estimated that the Chinese Air Force possessed 251 reconnaissance aircraft, 212 fighters and 257 bombers, although from this total of 720, it was considered that only 60-80 reconnaissance aircraft, 45-70 fighters and 50-60 bombers were currently serviceable. It was also estimated that these aircraft formed nine flying groups and seven independent squadrons. To combat these, it was decided to despatch 24 chutais, including five fighter, six reconnaissance, four light bomber and three heavy bomber units. These were all despatched directly after the mobilization on 15 July.
Following this mobilisation from the homeland, Korea and Formosa the Kanto-gun in Manchuria despatched six further chutais comprising two of fighters, two reconnaissance and two of heavy bombers, to northern China. Movement had begun on 9 July, the 1st Daitai of the 16th Rentai (with two Ki-10 fighter chutais) moving from Mudanjing to Shanhaiguan. Two days later the fighters and the heavy bomber units moved to Tianjin.
Thus immediately after the mobilisation the Army had 24 chutais in northern China, 13 in Manchuria and 15 remaining in the homeland, Korea and Formosa.

At the end of August some flying units returned to Manchuria while two chutais each of fighters, reconnaissance aircraft and heavy bombers remained in China, forming a Rinji Hikodan (Temporary Hikodan).

On 22 August the fighter daitai of the 16th Rentai, which formed the fighter element of the Rinji Hikodan, moved to Zhangkai to patrol this area.


At the start of the conflict, the IJNAF had available to take part some 84 carrier aircraft, 118 land-based aircraft and 62 floatplanes (including those on ships of the 3rd Fleet). This represented some 65% of the service's 408 first-line aircraft at the time.

At the start of the battle for Shanghai the Japanese intelligence warned that with the support of aviation from the aerodromes in the region of Nanking, the Chinese forces could in the course of several days wipe out the surrounded Japanese. The Japanese did not have any aerodromes in the region of Shanghai, and the ground forces were at risk of remaining without aviation support. The light aircraft carrier Hosho with ancient A2N fighters was posted together with the carrier Ryujo to 1st Carrier Division of the 3rd Fleet, leaving the port of Sasebo on 12 August. Arriving in the Ma-an-shan Islands area, they started supporting land operations beginning on 16 August. During this period, both Kaga and Ryujo groups had opportunity to engage in aerial battles.

Between 10 to 20 August the heavier aircraft carrier Kaga acted in support of the transportation of army units to China. Starting on 15 August it conducted aerial operations off Shanghai. As of 15 August, aircraft on board the Kaga consisted of 22 carrier attack aircraft (Mitsubishi B2Ms), 14 carrier bombers (Aichi D1A1s) and 16 A2N fighters.
Hosho and Ryujo each had aboard 21 A2Ns, 12 dive-bombers and nine torpedo-bombers.

The 12th Kokutai was formed from the Saeki Kokutai on 11 July. It was equipped with twelve Type 95 carrier fighters (Nakajima A4N1), twelve Type 94 carrier bombers (Aichi D1A1) and twelve Type 92 carrier attack aircraft (Yokosuka B3Y1). The Kokutai was immediately posted to the 2nd Rengo Kokutai (Combined Air Group). On 7 August the unit advanced to the Chowshihtze (Shusuishi) airport in Luda (Dairen) where it was engaged in convoy escort duties. There were no opportunities for aerial combat and the unit returned to Japan towards the end of August.

The 13th Kokutai was formed from the Omura Kokutai on 11 July. It was equipped with twelve Type 96 carrier fighters (Mitsubishi A5M), six Type 96 carrier bombers (Aichi D1A2) and twelve Type 96 carrier attack aircraft (Yokosuka B4Y1). On 7 August the unit advanced to the Chowshihtze (Shusuishi) airport but returned to its own base by the end of August.

In August the Kanoya Kokutai was integrated into the 1st Rengo Konutai and advanced to the base at Taipei.

The Kisarazu Kokutai lost one Hiro G2H1 (Type 95 land-based attack aircraft) (of a total of seven G2H1s) when they flew to Cheju-Do during August.

After having flown ground support sorties as the principal duty until 22 August, The Miwa Daitai moved to Zhangbei.


14 August 1937
At 15:30, the 34th Provisional PS received the task to bomb Shanghai Dagong Cotton Factory (occupied by Japanese) with six Hawks. Squadron Leader Captain Chow Ting-Fong flew a Hawk III loaded with two 50kg and five 18kg bombs while the other five aircraft in the formation were Hawk IIs loaded with six 18kg bombs. Since he was worried that the speed difference between the Hawks might affect the formation, Chow Ting-Fong didn’t raise the landing gear on his Hawk III in order to reduce the speed and the let the Hawk IIs with fixed landing gear more easily keep the formation.
When Chow Ting-Fong arrived over Shanghai, a Japanese seaplane suddenly broke through the cloud layer and headed towards the 34th PS group. Chow Ting-Fong had no enough time to respond, and also he had more important duties, so he decided not to engage this enemy plane and instead continued towards the target with his companions. When arriving over the target, Chow found that there were very many targets to attack. The six Hawks attacked separately targets independently. After accomplish their task and was on their way home, Chow and Wang Zhikai found a Japanese reconnaissance aircraft. Chow opened fire on it, but have to give up the chase when it ran away into the protective area of Japanese air defence.
During the return flight, Lieutenant Ha Huwen was forced to make an emergency landing at Jiashan airfield because of lacking oil. The other five fighters landed at Jianqiao airport at 17:10.

The IJNAF Kanoya Kokutai dispatched nine Mitsubishi G3M1 Model 11 long-range bombers under the command of Lieutenant Commander Nitta to attack the Schien Chiao Airfield near Hangchou and nine under the command of Lieutenant Commander Asano to attack the Kwang-teh Airfield. The Japanese planes took off from Matsuyama Airfield in Taipei at 14:50 (local Japanese time), each carrying two 250kg bombs.
The raid was soon spotted by the Chinese and the Chinese intelligence reported that a number of Japanese bombers had taken-off from an airfield Taiwan, crossed the Formosa Strait and were heading north over Chekiang in the direction of Hangchou. At this time, Hangchou was only defended by a handful of Hawk IIIs flown by instructors from the Central Chinese Aviation Academy since reinforcements from Chou Chia-Kou hadn't been able to fly in due to bad weather. Colonel Kao Chi-Hang had previously flown from Nanchang to Schien Chiao to await the 4th PG's Hawk III's, which were flying in from Chou Chia-Kou in the Honan Province and which was under his command. The three squadrons of the 4th PG encountered heavy weather en route, with heavy rain and low visibility.
However barely had the warning been received when a number of Hawk IIIs from the 21st and 23rd Squadrons of the 4th PG landed. The newly arrived fighters were hurriedly re-fuelled but this was far from complete when the air alarm started due to the arrival of Lieutenant Commander Nitta's bombers. Colonel Kao rushed to his aircraft no. IV-1, which had just been landed by Captain Mao Ying-Chu. Ordering Mao to go get another aircraft, Kao jumped into IV-1 and, without waiting to be refueled, took off immediately. He joined up with Lieutenant Tan Won who had just spotted Nitta's flight (No.1 Shotai) of 3 G3Ms.
The Japanese came in at the low "attack" altitude of 500m, which made it easier for the Chinese to intercept them right after the take-off. The Japanese dropped their bombs on the airfield doing little damage. Tan opened fire on the No.3 G3M in Nitta's Shotai. However, the much more experienced Kao noted that Tan had opened fire from out of effective range. Kao then bore in himself and closed in also on the No.3 Japanese aircraft. He first silenced the two Japanese gunners and then closed in to 20m(!) firing steadily at the left engine. The wing tanks on the left wing caught fire and the G3M crashed burning near the town of Ban Shan near the airfield.
Kao then spotted the 3rd Shotai and attacked the No. 2 aircraft between Schien Chiao and Chien Tang River. Again, Kao bore in to close range firing at the fuselage and the left wing on the G3M, putting the left engine out of action. Kao’s engine was then hit by return fire forcing him to return to Schien Chiao.
While Kao was attacking the No.2 plane in the 3rd Shotai, 21st PS Squadron Leader Captain Lee Kuei-Tan and his wingmen Lieutenant Wang Wen-Hua and Lieutenant Liu Chi-Sheng caught up with the no. 3 plane of the same Shotai. Shooting at the hapless G3M repeatedly, the three brought it down near Ban Shan.
The 22nd PS refueled at Kwang-teh and took off at 16:20 to fly to Schien Chiao where they landed at around 17:00. The 22nd PS was on the ground, refueling at Schien Chiao when the Japanese bombers dropped their bombs and they scrambled trying to catch the Japanese bombers that were flying east. They flew to the mouth of the Chien Tang Chiang (river) amid low cloud and bad weather where they lost sight of the Japanese aircraft and returned to base. Pilots included in this chase were flight leader Lieutenant Le Yi-Chin and 2nd Lieutenant Chang Kwang-Ming. However, Lieutenant Cheng Hsiao-Yu of the 22nd PS managed to intercepted them. Cheng had taken off too late to intercept Nitta's flights during the attack and flew on to Chien Tang Chiang on a hunch. After passing Weng-chiao Pu Airfield, Cheng reported good visibility below the clouds. Spotting the G3Ms, Cheng gave chase and attacked one of them. Cheng reported shooting at and hitting the right wing of his target. A fire broke out but then quickly went out again. Cheng attacked 6 - 7 times before breaking off when his ammo was exhausted.
It seems that he also had attacked the 3rd Shotai, which reported bombing Schien Chiao 18:20-18:25 Japanese time (17:20-17:25 Chinese time). They reported that they were attacked two different Chinese fighters. The first time was between Schien Chiao Airfield and Chien Tang River (Kao). The second time was approximately 15 minutes after the first attack when the Japanese plane had crossed the Chien Tang River (Cheng). The No.2 plane of the 3rd Shotai was at the receiving end this time as well and managed to limp back to Matsuyama Airfield in Taipei on one engine and made a forced landing. However, as it touched down, the left landing gear collapsed and the aircraft suffered "moderate damage". The bomber had suffered 38 hits in the plane's fuselage and tail, 14 hits in the left wing with the left engine put out of action and 21 hits in the right wing. The Japanese later took this plane out of service to be displayed in Japan and, to all intents and purposes, it was written off.
Lieutenant Commander Asano’s Kwang-teh Attack group, took off from Matsuyama at 14:55 Japanese time (13:55 Chinese time) and got lost shortly after reaching the Chekiang coast at 16:45 Japanese time (15:45Chinese time) due to a typhoon in the Shanghai area, which made the weather terrible. They headed west to try and find a land mark, reaching Chu Chiang River at 17:00. They then turned north to try and find another land mark. At 17:14, Lieutenant Commander Asano gave up and headed south-east back to the Chekiang coast. At 17:45, they reached the town of Ta Ching near Wenchow on the Chekiang coast. They were then able to plot a course to Kwang-teh using two large lakes, Tai Hu and Nan Hu, as way-points. At 19:30, the Kwang-teh Attack group reported being attacked by a Chinese Hawk III just short of their target. At 19:40, the group dropped 16 250kg bombs on Kwang-teh airfield. Three G3M from this group were hit in the attack. The No. 2 plane of the 1st Shotai was hit once. The No. 3 plane of the 5th Shotai was hit twice in the left wing and three times in the right. The No.2 plane in 2nd Shotai was hit in a wing tank and was losing fuel with the crew apparently not realizing the extent of the fuel leak at the time. This G3M eventually ran out of fuel just short of the Taiwan coast and ditched just off the lighthouse at the mouth of Keelung Harbour. The ditching could have been avoided had the crew realized the extent of the fuel leak. The 2nd Shotai had not dropped all of its bombs during the attack on Kwang-teh. They decided to bomb Schien Chiao on the way home. At 20:50, they dropped their remaining bombs on Schien Chiao. However, the No.3 G3M from the Shotai became separated from the other two in the gathering darkness. The leader of the 2nd Shotai, Lieutenant Umebayashi, led his two bombers in a 40 minutes search where the No.3 eventually was found and the 2nd Shotai headed back to Taiwan together. At 22:53, the No.2 bomber ran out of fuel and ditched!
The group led by Lieutenant Commander Asano had run into a single Hawk III flown by Captain Chow Ting-Fong (Squadron Leader of the 34th Provisional Pursuit Squadron made up of cadets flying Hawk IIs). Chow was a flight instructor from the Air Force Academy and he reported intercepting a group of Japanese twin engine bombers after flying alone to Kwang-teh at around 18:30. Chow made four firing passes on the nine Japanese bombers from different directions. The first pass was head-on, followed by a climb and diving attack from the front. Pulling up after this pass, Chow attacked from the rear and below. Finally, Chow attacked from the front and below. The Japanese formation consisted of Asano's leading 1st Shotai with the 2nd Shotai to the left and the 5th Shotai to the right. It is now apparent that Chow attacked each of the Shotais in turn during his firing passes. According to the Japanese reports, one bomber from each Shotai was hit. Since the Kwang-teh attack group did not report being attacked by other Chinese fighters, credit for the No.2 plane of the 2nd Shotai lost in the Keelung Harbor ditching should go to Chow.
The Chinese lost one Hawk III which ran out of fuel when it tried to take off as Nitta's G3Ms arrived overhead. This unfortunate Hawk no. 2105 crashed into a tree, mortally injuring its pilot Lieutenant Liu Shu-Fan. Another pilot from the same flight, Lieutenant Chin An-Yi, was slightly injured when his Hawk no. 2106 also ran out of fuel and ended up force landing next to an AA gun position.
So, the final tally for the day was 3 G3Ms destroyed and one written off on landing. Actually, Chinese pilots made only 3 claims but AA gun crews also made 3 additional claims. As a result, 6 claims were submitted in total (and publicized for propaganda purposes).

The 14th Squadron’s Northrops 2E light bombers bombed Japanese lines during the day.

During the day, Claire Chennault (acting as operational CO of the Chinese Air Force) launched Chinese aircraft against the Japanese fleet off Shanghai. The Chinese aircraft failed to hit any ships and mistakenly attacked the British cruiser HMS Cumberland but fortunately their bombs fell wide of the ship. They also dropped bombs into the Shanghai city centre, accidentally killing more than 1700 civilians and wounding a further 1800.
It seems that the Japanese fleet had been preparing for an initial strike on Chinese airfields and other targets when a typhoon struck the ships offshore delaying them. The Japanese reported that a force of about 40 Chinese fighters and bombers attacked the fleet and the Japanese Marine Headquarters in Shanghai. In the conditions prevailing only the single floatplanes from the cruiser Izumo and the light cruiser Sendai managed to get off, claiming victories over a Curtiss Hawk and a Northrop bomber. Fortuitously for the Japanese, aerial combat had become one of the subjects taught to two-seat floatplane crews since 1932, and such aircraft would frequently be launched to intercept incoming raiders.

15 August 1937
During the night of 14 and 15 August the pilots of the 4th PG at Schien-Chiao airbase had to prepare their fighters themselves since the ground personnel had left the field to take shelter during the air raid on 14 August and had not returned. The pilots carried cans of fuel on their backs from the storage building to the field, punched holes on the cans and fuelled the aircraft themselves. They had not eaten since noon, and were not able to go to bed until 1:30 a.m. They did not sleep long because alarm sounded less than two hours later.
In the early morning on 15 August Colonel Kao Chi-Hang led 21 Hawk III's from the 4th PG to intercept a dawn attack on Hangchou by twelve Type 89 torpedo bombers from the Japanese carrier Kaga. In the confused action in and out of clouds, the 4th PG made 17 claims, more than the total number of Japanese planes in the action. The actual losses were six shot down and two ditched in Hangchou Bay.
Kao quickly shot down one of the Type 89s on the edge of the formation and then attacked another setting it alight. A lucky shot from the starboard quarter hit Kao in the right arm before passing through the instrument panel and damaging the engine in his Hawk no. IV-1. He was forced to land at Schien-Chiao and was out of action for 2 months.
21st PS's Squadron Leader Captain Lee Kuei-Tan in no. 2101 attacked the no. 2 Shotai, shooting down the no. 2 plane over Chao-Er. Two out of the crew of three were seen to bail out but they were over the Chao-er River and probably did not survive. Lee then teamed up with Lieutenant Cheng Hsiao-Yu of 22nd PS in no. 2202 to claim another Type 89. Return fire from the tightly packed Japanese formation was heavy and Lee's no. 2101 received slight damage to its upper wings while Cheng’s no. 2202 took a shot in one of its landing wheels. Cheng’s wingman, 2nd Lieutenant Chang Kuang-Ming also claimed a victory in this combat when he attacked the leader of a group of Japanese bombers. He opened fire with his two machine guns. Tracers and bullets truck his target, and the enemy plane turned into a fireball and plunged out of the sky. He broke off immediately and turned around for another strike.
Lieutenant Huang Yan-Po in no. 2107 attacked the first Shotai, claiming to have shot down the no. 3 aircraft in flames. He too took a shot in the landing wheel. Lieutenant Tan Won in no. 2104 also attacked the same Shotai and claimed another Type 89. This may have been the aircraft of the Kaga's Commander, Air Group (CAG) Commander Iwai who was killed in this action along with his deputy. Lieutenant Wang Wen-Hua caught two Type 89's trying to attack Schien-chiao from the south and shot one down in flames. One of the crew, a young ensign, bailed out and was captured. (This unnamed ensign later defected to the Chinese side and helped translate decoded Japanese radio messages). Lieutenant Yuan Chin-Han in no. 2108 went after the No.1 Shotai in a formation and claimed to have shot down the leader in flames (this may also have been Iwai's plane, it is almost certain that many Chinese pilots shot at the same planes). Lieutenant Liu Chi-Sheng in no. 2102 also claimed one Type 89 over Woong-Chia-Fu but was hit in the fuel tank and force landed at Chaio-shi Airfield where his plane was further damaged by bombing.
Lieutenant Le Yi-Chin from the 22nd PS made no less than 4 claims but these are almost certainly duplicates of other claims or overoptimistic.
Squadron vice-commander Lai Ming-Tang landed to refuel and took off again to claim a shared kill with his wingman Lieutenant Liang Tian-Cheng.
Of the 23rd PS, Captain Mao Ying-Chu, Lieutenant Yang Yu-Ching and Lieutenant Wang Yin-Hua each claimed one Type 89.

At 13:30 on the same day the Nanking Air Defence Command received a report that 16 Japanese aircraft had flown past Soochow towards Nanking. The alarm was sounded, and Chinese Air Force fighters took off to meet them. The Japanese aircraft were 20 G3Ms from the Kisarazu Kokutai. The Japanese aircraft had flown in directly from Ohmura in Japan and landed back at Cheju-Do.
From Chu Yung, squadrons of the 3rd PG scrambled their aircraft. Wong Pan-Yang led eight Boeing 281s from the 17th PS. Chen Yau-Wei, Commander of the 8th PS, led five Fiat CR.32 fighters. Scrambled were also seven Hawk IIs from the 28th PS, 5th PG, and one Hawk III and five Hawk II from the 34th Provisional PS.
In the ensuing melee, four G3Ms were shot down and six damaged. Claims were confused but it is generally acknowledged that Captain Wong Sun-Shui (in no. 1703) downed the first G3M to fall in the Battle of Nanking when the eight Boeings from the 17th PS attacked a flight of six Mitsubishi G3M bombers over Nanking and claimed to have shot them all down without losses. This was the No.4 aircraft in a Shotai that bombed the Ta Hsiao-Chang Airfield, most likely the no. 5 Shotai led by Lieutenant Yoshida. 17th PS’ Wong Pan-Yang and Su Ying-Hsien shared one victory at Chu-Yung while Chun Chia-Chu claimed another which crashed south-east of Nanking. Chin Shui-Tin also took part in this interception but didn't claim any aircraft.
The Japanese aircraft fled and the 8th PS went after them. Chen Yau-Wei and Huang Chu-Ku shared a victory near Chu-Yung while Shen Tse-Liu and Liu Chi-Wei together shot down an enemy plane west of Lui Shui.
Captain Chow Ting-Fong, commander of the 34th PS led six Hawks from Chia Hsiang and followed eight Japanese aircraft to Nanking. Captain Chow attacked one of these and shot it down over Fang Shan.
4th PG’s Captain Lee Kuei-Tan led three Hawk IIIs of the 21st PS and Captain Huang Kuang-Han, C.O. of the 22nd PS, led eight Hawk IIIs from Hangchou to Nanking to help in this interception and they also attacked the bombers. Lee Kuei-Tan claimed a shared bomber together with three other pilots. Tan Won and Yuan Chin-Han shared a victory. Cheng Hsiao-Yu, Pa Ching-Cheng and Wu Ting-Chun each claimed one shot down. Wu Ting-Chun’s aircraft was damaged in this combat and he was forced to make an emergency landing. Liang Tian-Cheng claimed two victories. Huang Kuang-Han claimed a Japanese G3M halfway between Nanking and Lui Shui.
Because of low clouds, each group fought on it’s own with little co-ordination. A total of 14 Japanese aircraft were claimed shot down. Five Chinese aircraft were damaged.

During the day vice-commander Teng Ming-Teh of the 25th PS (Hawk IIIs) of the 5th PG led an attack on Japanese warships on the Huangpu River. Because of bad weather, he was forced to land at Chao Tze near Shanghai. Japanese aircraft bombed the field but he took off and attacked them, shooting down a Type 96 bomber.

The Kanoya Kokutai flew its first oversea bombing raid during the day.

16 August 1937
During the day the Japanese in southern China destroyed the 32nd Squadron, equipped with Douglas O-2MCs. Instructors from the Central Bombardment Aviation School had urgently formed the squadron during the beginning of August and the squadron was disbanded and the instructors returned to the aviation school.
The number was allocated to a second squadron organised at an airbase in the Guanxi Province. Their equipment was the American Vultee V-11 ground attack aircraft, but these were counted as fighters and quickly were relocated from Liuzhou to Nan Ning as air defence of the provincial capital.

Early in the morning on 16 August 1937 the Kanoya Kokutai of the IJNAF launched two raids against Chuyung, which was an important airfield for the defence of the capital Nanking. Lieutenant Commander Nitta led the first raid of six G3Ms. Lieutenant Commander Nitta was leading the first Shotai (flight) of three G3Ms and Lieutenant Osugi was acting as Buntaicho (flight leader) for the second Shotai. They took off from Matsuyama Airfield in Taipei at 07:40 for its target, the Chu Yung Airfield near Nanking. Lieutenant Ishii led a second group of seven G3Ms in the second raid and their target was the Yangchow Airfield.
Nitta's group arrived over Chu Yung at 10:55. Because of low clouds, the Chinese Air Raid Warning Net was only able to give a short warning. The mechanics of both the 17th PS and 28th PS, which both were based at Chuyung Airfield, worked frantically to get their aircraft started. John Wong, commander of the 17th PS of the 3rd PG, was the first to get off the ground in Boeing 281 no. 1701, followed by Buffalo Wong, Lieutenant Wong Tse-Tsim (another Chinese American pilot) and Lieutenant Teng Cheng-Hsi. Captain Chan Kee-Wong’s 28th PS managed to get two Hawk IIs in the air, one of them flown by Lieutenant Chin Shui-Tin (Hawk II no. 2802).
John Wong barely had time to turn towards the G3M's when the first bombs started bursting into the airfield compound. The 17th PS mechanics, which had stayed and worked so bravely to start up the Boeings, scrambled for cover. Luckily, only one was slightly injured by fragments. This experience taught them to dig slit trenches next to the runway in the future.
Wong caught up with the six G3Ms flying at 900 metres and attacked the lead flight. Attacking the aircraft of Ensign Umebyashi from the port quarter, Wong took advantage of the blind spot created by the twin tail of the G3M where the Japanese gunners could not hit him. Wong shot up the G3M, causing it to fall in flames north east of the airfield. Pulling up into a loop, Wong came down to attack another G3M from above and behind, again from the port quarter. Hitting this G3M, Wong saw it descend with fuel streaming from its tanks. Turning back towards Chu Yung, Wong saw Wong Tse-Tsim attacking another G3M without success. Joining in the fray, Wong dived below the G3M, which turned out to be the lead plane flown by Lieutenant Commander Nitta. Pulling up sharply, Wong fired a long burst at the belly of the G3M. It caught fire immediately and crashed south of Chuyung where its bomb load went off. Both crews of the crashed G3Ms perished in their aircraft.
Meanwhile, Buffalo Wong had caught up with another G3M and scored some hits. But, unfortunately, his guns malfunctioned at the critical moment, depriving him of a kill.
Chin Shui-Tin also managed to catch up with a G3M, likely to be the lead plane of the 2nd Shotai commanded by Lieutenant Osugi. Lieutenant Teng Cheng-Hsi of the 17th PS attacked it without success and soon broke off. The G3M had dropped its bombs and was picking up speed trying to escape towards the mouth of the Yangtse. Chin, in his antiquated Hawk II, could barely keep up. Firing steadily, Chin was able to score many hits on the G3M, puncturing its fuel tanks and wounding a crewmember. However, the lack of speed advantage meant that the Hawk II was also an easy target for the Japanese gunners as it hung there at zero degree deflection behind the G3M. Chin later recalled that his Hawk II was hit many times, the Cyclone engine stopping 2 bullets. Finally, Chin had to turn back at the mouth of the Yangtse with Osugi's G3M descending, streaming smoke and fuel. Chin managed to nurse the battered Hawk II to an airfield at Chia Hsing where he made a forced landing (the Hawk II ended up on its nose as the brakes failed). Osugi's G3M, which had been hit 58 times and with a gunner injured, lost fuel at an alarming rate and Osugi considered turning back to force land at the Japanese legation in Shanghai. Finally, lightening the plane by dumping equipment and anything that can be pried loose, Osugi managed keep the G3M in the air long enough to divert to Cheju-do off the southern coast of Korea. Japanese records say the Osugi made an "unscheduled landing" at Cheju-do just as his fuel ran out, meaning anything from just an "unscheduled landing" to a crash. Based on his report alone, the ROCAF awarded Chin a "kill" even though he never claimed to have seen it crash.

Squadron Leader Captain Liu Chui-Kang of the 24th PS, 5th PG claimed an E8N north-west of Shanghai while flying Curtiss Hawk III no. 2401.

During the day six A2Ns from Kaga commanded by Lieutenant Chikamasa Igarashi, engaged four enemy aircraft over Kiangwan. Three of the enemy aircraft were shot down, one Corsair and two Douglas O-38s. One of the Douglases was claimed jointly by Akio Matsuba and another pilot. This was Matsuba’s first combat and first victory.

R-112 was flown by PO3c Kumumoto (wingman) from Kaga.
This plane was damaged during a raid on Suchow on 16 August and force-landed on the shore of Chung Ming Island.
© Sidnei E. Maneta

A floatplane crew from the Japanese cruiser Izumo claimed a Hawk during the day.

17 August 1937
Squadron Leader Captain Liu Chui-Kang of the 24th PS, 5th PG claimed an enemy bomber in the Shanghai area while flying Curtiss Hawk III no. 2401.

During the day four A2Ns from Kaga commanded by Warrant Officer Toyoda shot down two enemy aircraft over Kiangwan.

R-106 was flown by a wingman of the carrier Kaga.
This plane was damaged during a raid on Suchow on 17 August but managed to return to Kaga and was repaired.
© Sidnei E. Maneta

Totally during the day the Chinese Air Force flew 44 sorties (17 by Curtiss Hawks, 12 by Northrop Gammas and 15 by Vought Corsairs).

18 August 1937
CNAC’s Ford Tri-motor No. 29 ”Kweichow” was lost at Shasi (damaged?).
This aircraft had been transferred to CNAC from the CAF.

20 August 1937
On 20 August 1937 Squadron Leader Captain Liu Chui-Kang of the 24th PS, 5th PG claimed an A4N north-west of Shanghai while flying Curtiss Hawk III no. 2401.
During the day he also claimed an E8N over the Yangtze River in no. 2401.

21 August 1937
Lieutenant Le Yi-Chin of 22nd PS (Hawk IIIs), 4th PG, claimed a Japanese fighter west of Shanghai.

Six Japanese floatplane crews claimed six Chinese aircraft during the day over the fleet off Shanghai. One of the floatplanes was seriously damaged.

22 August 1937
During Major Kao Chi-Hang convalescence he initially was replaced by Captain Wang Tien-Hsiang as the active commander of the 4th PG (Hawk IIIs).
At 07:00 on 22 August Captain Wang Tien-Hsiang led 18 Hawk IIIs (including five aircraft from the 5th PG) to attack Japanese surface forces in the Liu Ho area near Shanghai.
Four A2Ns under the command of Lieutenant (junior grade) Tadashi Kaneko discovered the 18 Curtiss Hawk fighters that were scouting at a height of three thousand meters while they were flying a patrol over Pao-Shan. They made a surprise attack on them from the rear. Six enemy aircraft were shot down and the Japanese fighters did not even receive a single hit. Three of these were claimed by the number two wingman PO2c Yoshi-o Fukui while Kaneko claimed two. This was the first fighter sortie by the fighters from the Ryujo.
After the combat it was reported that Captain Wang had shot down two enemy fighters before his own aircraft was damaged and crashed, killing him. Four more Chinese Hawks were lost. Hawks nos. 2404 and 2405 landed at Sushui while the 22nd PS returned to Nanking.
Japanese aircraft were very active after the Chinese attack and Captain Liu Chui-Kang of the 24th PS (5th PG) was delayed to land for over one hour until 13:45 due to retaliating Japanese attacks.

On 22 August two A5Ms (Type 96 carrier fighters) were ferried from Kaga to the front and made their first sorties. No enemy aircraft was encountered.

23 August 1937
At 08:40, four aircraft from Ryujo under the command of Lieutenant (junior grade) Minoru Suzuki discovered a mixed force of 27 enemy aircraft, including Boeing 281s, while they were scouting over Pao-Shan. The units engaged in battle and a total of nine (or ten) enemy aircraft were downed, including those downed by three aircraft of Suzuki’s force. Two of the Chinese fighters were claimed by Suzuki’s number two wingman, PO1c Masa-ichi Kondo. The Japanese fighters returned without losses.
The China Area Fleet commander in chief issued a letter of commendation in connection with this battle.
The Japanese fighters had engaged a mixed force of 19 aircraft under the command of Captain Huang Kuang-Han, Squadron Leader of the 22nd PS, 4th PG. During the combat the Chinese lost Boeing 281 no.1702 flown by flight leader Gin Jia-Zhu of the 17th PS. Boeing 281 no.1704 flown by Ma Kuo-Lien was hit 23 times before making a forced-landing and turning over. Squadron Leader Captain Liu Chui-Kang of the 24th PS, 5th PG claimed an A4N south-west of Shanghai while flying Curtiss Hawk III no. 2401.

At noon the Japanese and Chinese clashed again when five Hawk IIIs led by Captain Lee Kuei-Tan of the 21st PS met an estimated nine Japanese aircraft. The Chinese aircraft was flying in the Wan Chao Bin area in Shanghai in support of ground forces.
During the combat Lee was hit by a bullet and crash-landed at Su-Zhou. Lieutenant Yuan Chin-Han claimed an enemy aircraft while trying to rescue Lee before being attacked by two other enemy aircraft. He was hit eight times by the fighters (according to other sources he was hit by AA fire) and a bullet hit his right cheek and severed his right ear. He passed out and didn’t become conscious before he was down to 1000 feet. He crash-landed his plane on a rice field in enemy territory. The plane overturned and Yuan dug himself out with his hands on the soft mud in the rice field. He collapsed next to his plane with mud and blood all over his body. He was captured by a group of five Japanese soldiers. They found him soaked with blood and hardly breathing and they thought he could not live. They abandoned him and left for a farm house two hundred meters away. When Yuan found himself alone, he got up and dashed over 1000 meters to the west towards Chinese-held territory in a single stretch. Yuan was a former 400-meter and 800-meter runner and represented his province in regional athletic meets in North China. His track experience and athletic stamina made his daring escape possible even though he was severely wounded.

24 August 1937
At 21:30 six G3Ms of the Kisarazu Kokutai from Cheju-Do, Korea attacked the Da Jiao-Chang airport in Nanking and burned two Hawk IIIs (no. 2403 and “V-2”) and two Focke-Wulf Fw44s.

25 August 1937
During the day three Type 90 carrier fighters (Nakajima A2N) from Hosho led by Lieutenant (junior grade) Harutoshi Okamoto engaged three Martin bombers over Shanghai. One of the Martins was claimed shot down.

Three He-111As of the 19th BS (Heavy) attacked Japanese ships in the area of Shizilin and Yuncaobin during the day. Two He-111As were shot down; He-111A no. 1905 crash-landed at Chang-Zhou and He-111A no. 1903 crash-landed at Hang-Kou airfield in Shanghai and was then burned by bombing. Only the leader, Xie Wang managed to return safely to base.

Curtiss A-12s (Shrikes) of the 9th AG bombed the Japanese fleet in Yangtze but lost lost two A-12s.

26 August 1937
Flight leader Lu Ji-Chun of the 23rd PS (Hawk IIIs), 4th PG, claimed two Japanese aircraft on 26 August near Tien-Chang.

27 August 1937
At daybreak eight G3Ms of the Kisarazu Kokutai and six G3Ms from the Kanoya Kokutai attacked Nanking without causing any damage.
Captain Mao Ying-Chu and Flight leader Lu Ji-Chun of the 23rd PS (Hawk IIIs), 4th PG, caught two of the G3M2s near Tien-Chang. Lu Ji-Chun attacked and claimed one bomber while the second escaped.

31 August 1937
On 31 August 1937 the Japanese Navy Kanoya Kokutai sent nine G3Ms to attack Canton. The 29th Independent Pursuit Squadron scrambled 8 Hawk IIIs under Captain Ho Ching-Wei to intercept. The Chinese caught up with the Japanese formation over Tung Kwan (Dongguan) and managed to shoot down one of the G3Ms in flames (confirmed by Japanese records). Two of the Chinese Hawks were slightly damaged. Lieutenant Teng Chung-Kai was credited with a "shared" victory in this combat.

September 1937

The ground war

By 5 September, the Japanese Second and Third Fleets blockaded much of the Chinese coast.

After the arrival of reinforcements, the Japanese began a general offensive at Shanghai on 8 September.
On the same day, Yankou was captured.

Chinese Air Force

On 2 September, the CAF strength was:

Group Number of aircraft
2nd BG 9
3rd BG 6
4th PG 10
5th PG 14
6th RG 26
7th RG 16
8th BG 9
9th AG 5
20th RS 5
29th PS 8
Other Groups 33
Total 141

During the first months of the Sino-Japanese war the losses of the Chinese Air Force was extraordinarily high and in September 1937 (long before the first official grant of a credit of 50 million dollars in March 1938) there was a Soviet resolution to deliver 225 combat aircraft on credit to China. Among the type supplied were 62 I-15bis, 93 I-16s and 8 UTI-4s. This was the beginning of the secret “Operation Z (Zet)”, envisaging not only the dispatch of aviation equipment, but also the tours of Soviet volunteers for participation in battle.
In China the Soviet fighters received new nicknames and the I-16 was known as ’Lastochka’ (Swallow) and the I-15bis as ’Chizh’ (Siskin).

In September the first Chinese pilots were sent to Lanzhou for the new fighters, long before they arrived in China.

The Chinese delegation returned to Stalin on 14 September 1937 with a request for Soviet volunteers. Soon the Komissar of Defense K. E. Voroshilov received an order to assemble the best volunteer aviators and send a squadron of I-16 fighters (31 aircraft and 101 men) and a squadron of SB bombers (31 aircraft and 153 men) to China. At this time a Soviet ‘eskadrilya’ consisted of 31 aircraft in 3 ‘otryady’, each otryad was having 10 aircraft. The remaining aircraft was for the commander. Two or more eskadrilyas equalled a ‘brigada’. During 1938 the ‘eskadrilya‘ was redesignated to ’polk’ (regiment), while the ‘otryad’ was redesignated as an ‘eskadrilya’. The strength or structure did not change, only the names, though later the regiments began to organize with 4 to even 6 component squadrons, while the squadrons themselves became 15 aircraft formations.
A ‘southern’ route was prepared for the bombers. It was planned to send the aircraft in crates to Alma-Ata, assemble them there, and ferry them the rest of the way to China by air. The itinerary, beginning in Alma-Ata, passed through Kuldzhu (Yingying), Shihe, Urumchi, Gucheng (Qitai), Hami, Anxi, Suzhou (Jiuquan), Liangzhou (Wuwei), and concluded in Lanzhou on the Huanghe River. The first commander of the ferry route was the already well-known NII-VVS test pilot Kombrig A. Zalevskii. The base at Alma-Ata was commanded by Kombrig Alekseev. At the series of Chinese aerodromes along the route there were also organized airbases with Soviet ground personnel, including meteorologists, radio operators, and maintenance technicians. At Urumchi the chief of the base was Moiseev, and then A. V. Platonov, at Gucheng - A. V. Politiken, at Suzhou - Glazyrin, at Liangzhou - G. I. Baz’, and at Lanzhou - V. M. Akimov.
The first bombers, ten SBs, were shipped from Moscow on 17 September. They were followed by another 16 aircraft on the 24 September and on 27 September five more. In all, 31 aircraft, which were the full complement of a bomber squadron, were sent during September.
For fulfilment of the “special government assignments” the selected voluntary Soviet fighter and bomber pilots assembled from across the country in conditions of the strictest secrecy from the middle of September and through the first ten days of October (‘Operation Zet (Z)’). Many of those who were chosen at first believed that they were headed for “the Spanish corrida”, but their long road led to “the Sino-Japanese tea ceremony”.
Fighter pilots sent from all districts for the Far Eastern special aviation units were inspected by the “Spaniards” Kombrigs Ya. V. Smushkevich and Petr Pumpur. Many veterans from the 9 OIAE (Independent Fighter Squadron) were chosen but also some fresh pilots, including Dimitriy Kudymov, Korestelev, Bredikhin and Viktor Kuznetsov. From the 32 OIAE of the Pacific Ocean Fleet six were chosen, among them Aleksey Dushin, S. Remizov and Manuilov. In the command staff of the air group several test pilots were included; among these was A. N. Chernoburov.
Airmen for the bombers were selected mainly from units of the 1st Army of Special Designation. From there arrived 22 SB crews, five for the TB-3s and seven for the DB-3s. The last aircraft type, having just appeared as the “super-new” aircraft in Soviet bomber aviation, had not been gathered to hand over to the Chinese. At first they were to be used as fast transports for servicing the ferry route itself. Each DB-3 could carry 11 passengers or equivalent cargo. Transport TB-3s and the old civil ANT-9 were also used alongside them on the route in the beginning to transport specialists and cargo.

The 9th BS (Light) and the 11th BS (Light) of the 2nd BG were sent to Lanzhou to re-equip with SBs in September 1937.

On 15 September an Air Force headquarters was organized at Canton (Gunagzhou), the provincial capital of Guangdung, to which were subordinated the 28th PS and 29th PS, both with Hawk IIIs and the 18th BS with the Douglas O-2MC.

On 21 September the Aviation Committee ordered the 4th PG to transfer all its remaining Hawk IIIs to the 5th PG, and to depart to get Polikarpov I-16 Type 5s (“Early”) and I-15bis.

The 28th PS was tasked with defending Nanking in August 1937 but with pressing demands for air defense in both Northern China and Southern China, the 28th PS was split into two. One group of four 28th PS Curtiss Hawk IIs, reinforced by three others from the Air Force Academy, went sent north to Tai Yuan under the command of Captain Chan Kee-Wong. The remaining four Hawk IIs, led by Captain Chin Shui-Tin, were sent south to protect the Shaokwan Aircraft Factory in Canton Province.
Captain Chan’s contingent arrived in Tai Yuan on 16 September. Up to this point, IJAAF aircraft had been able to operate freely in support of the Japanese Army in Northern China.


Due to the clashes between Japanese and Chinese forces in Shanghai during August the Japanese High Command decided to send in reinforcements, and units of the Army Air Force were mobilised on Formosa during September. On 13 September the 10th Independent Flying Chutai was set up from fighter chutais of the 8th Flying Rentai at Pingdong, and was placed under the command of the 3rd Hikodan. Ki-10s of the chutai moved to Wangbin airfield, Shanghai, on 18 September.
Here Japanese Navy A5Ms had already operated over the city several times, and had gained aerial superiority, so that the 10th I F Chutai enjoyed few chanses to indulge in aerial combat.


From September the Japanese started to employ in increasing quantity the A5M (Type 96) fighter, which performance considerably outclassed the Hawk III, then the best fighter in the Chinese Air Force.

On 1 September Hosho left Shanghai to return to Sasebo for refuelling.
Hosho and Ryujo proceeded south on 5 September, and starting 21 September, conducted several attacks on enemy bases in the vicinity of Canton.
Attacks were conducted almost daily but however, almost no opportunities were present to engage in aerial battles (except on 21 September).

For a period of about ten days starting on 15 September, the Kaga Carrier Air Unit dispatched six A2Ns, six A5Ms, 18 carrier bombers and 18 carrier attack aircraft, which served in support of land operations.
At the same time starting on 19 September, A5Ms participated in aerial attacks on Nanking.

As the war situation in the Shanghai area became more critical, the 12th Kokutai was posted to the 3rd Fleet on 5 September and advanced to the Kunda base in Shanghai. The unit was employed in ground support and air defense operations.

On 5 September the 13th Kokutai also received orders to move to Shanghai. On 9 September the unit deployed via Cheju Island to the Kunda airfield in Shanghai, then under bombardment. For a few days the unit was engaged in strafing enemy ground forces in the vicinity of the air base.

Lieutenant Shichitaro Yamashita, commander of the 13th Kokutai’s fighter daitai made an emergency landing in September and was taken POW. He was replaced by Lieutenant Mochifumi Nango.


Early September 1937
Early in September a Type 95 reconnaissance aircraft was lost in the area of the Chinese Air force base at Tai Yuan.

2 September 1937
Three Japanese floatplanes engaged nine Chinese Curtiss Hawks during the day, claiming three shot down and forced down for the loss of one floatplane.

3 September 1937
During an attack on Japanese positions near Shanghai in the afternoon on 3 September by the 21st PS, flight leader Tan Won’s Hawk III (no. 2310) was damaged. He returned to Da Jiao-Chang airfield in his damaged fighter at 17:30.
It seems that the Hawk was a write-off.

4 September 1937
The first combat with the new A5Ms was reported during the day when a pair of A5Ms led by Lieutenant Tadashi Nakajima from the aircraft carrier Kaga met nine Chinese Hawk IIIs under the command of Captain Mao Ying-Chu of the 23rd PS, 4th PG, over Lake Taihu. Lieutenant Cheng Hsiao-Yu’s aircraft (Hawk III no. 2209) was damaged when he made a forced landing at Yang-Lin Kou.
The returning Japanese pilots claimed three Chinese fighters and returned to the Kaga undamaged.

On 4 September flight leader Lu Ji-Chun of the 23rd PS (Hawk IIIs), 4th PG, claimed a Japanese E8N over Shanghai.

7 September 1937
On 7 September three A5Ms led by Lieutenant Chikamasa Igarashi escorted six Type 96 carrier bombers from the Kaga. At 07:50 they were intercepted by a three-aircraft formation of Curtiss Hawk IIIs including Lieutenant Lai Ming-Tang, squadron vice-commander of the 22nd PS (Hawk III no. New-1), Flight leader Lieutenant Lu Ji-Chun of the 23rd PS (Hawk III no. 2303) and Chou Geng-Hsu of the 25th PS near Tai Hue.
Lu and Chou attacked the bombers and claimed one each. The Chinese fighters were then engaged by the A5Ms and tangled with them for half an hour before being able to disengage and return to Nanking at 08:30. When returning Lai’s Hawk had been hit 61 times and Lu had been hit in the buttock. He made an emergency landing and touched ground safely at Nanking Base. In the hospital, he told his fellow pilots how he felt when he was hit:

“When the bullet entered my leg muscles it felt cool and not burning hot. I did not feel any pain then, but realized that a bulging item has lodged in my flesh. Then blood gushed out and soaked my flight suit. It also felt cool, but the sensation of pain increased every second and every ensuing minute. When I landed the plane, the pain was almost unbearable.”
When returning to the Kaga the Japanese fighters reported that they had been involved in combat with seven Curtiss Hawks while supporting a carrier attack unit. The Japanese fighters claimed five Chinese aircraft of which Igarashi claimed three and PO1c Watari Handa (flying as number two) claimed one. No Chinese aircraft was lost in this combat.

17 September 1937
On 17 September 1937 Squadron Leader Captain Liu Chui-Kang of the 24th PS, 5th PG (Hawk IIIs) claimed a probable enemy bomber in the Shanghai area. This claim was never reported.

18 September 1937
In the morning, the 28th PS Hawk IIs were scrambled and forced an IJAAF reconnaissance plane to abort its mission to Tai Yuan.

Later that afternoon at 16:00, two Japanese Army Type 94 observation aircraft (Nakajima Ki-4) from the 12th Hiko Rentai returned to Tai Yuan to investigate reports of increased Chinese Air Force activities there. Seven Hawk IIs were again scrambled to intercept. This time, the Chinese caught and shot up both of the hapless Japanese observation planes. Lieutenant Louie Yim-Qun chased one of the Type 94s flown by a Captain Henaga and shot it down over Chinhsien. Both of the IJAAF aircrew were killed.
Louie Yim-Qun was slightly injured in the leg by return fire from the IJAAF plane but he managed to return to base.

Captain Kazue Sato (38th Class), 2nd chutai leader from the 2nd Daitai, was shot down by ground fire whilst strafing Chinese troops during the day over Baoding. He made an emergency landing and being pursued by Chinese soldiers, according to some sources, he committed suicide, while others claim that he died as a result of the Chinese fire.

19 September 1937
On 19 September 1937 Captain Wong Sun-Shui 17th PS, 3rd PG, was wounded in action while flying Boeing 281 no. 1703, in a combat with eight Japanese E7Ks.

On 19 September 12 A5Ms led by Lieutenant Shichitaro Yamashita of the 13th Kokutai participated in the first air attack on Nanking as escort for the 17 carrier bombers commanded by Lieutenant Commander Tetsujiro Wada. Three fighters from Kaga under the command of Lieutenant Chikamasa Igarashi were also added to the main force and 16 reconnaissance seaplanes also took part in this attack. Engaging in air battle with some reported twenty Curtiss Hawks and Boeing 281s that had risen to intercept them, twelve enemy aircraft and three probables were claimed shot down by the fighters. Totally it seems that the Japanese claimed 33 victories and 6 probables in this combat. Kiyoto Koga of the 13th Kokutai, who participated in his first combat, returned claiming two Curtiss Hawks shot down while shotai leader PO1c Tadashi Torakuma of the 13th Kokutai (also in his first combat) claimed two enemy aircraft. Toshiyuki Sueda of the same unit in his first combat claimed two enemy aircraft (of a total of 9 – 6 in China). One victory was also claimed by Osamu Kudo of the 13th Kokutai over Nanking but his aircraft was hit and he was forced to ditch in the Yangtze River but he was rescued. Juzo Okamoto of the 13th Kokutai claimed his first victory (of a total of 9 – 3 in China) while flying as the number three wingman to Lieutenant Shichiro Yamashita. Of the three fighters from Kaga both Lieutenant Igarashi’s and the number two wingman’s aircraft developed malfunctions and returned but over Nanking PO2c Ki-ichi Oda, who had carried on, claimed two and one probable Curtiss Hawk. Three Japanese carrier bombers and one seaplane were lost.
It seems that they were intercepted by 23 Chinese aircraft; eight Hawk IIIs of the 4th PG, eight Hawk IIIs from the 5th PG and five Boeing 281s and two CR.32s from the 3rd PG. It seems that eleven Chinese aircraft were lost for only one claimed, this one being made by Lieutenant Chen Huai-Min of the 23rd PS, 4th PG (Hawk IIIs), which claimed one Japanese aircraft shot down. Four Chinese pilots were lost in this combat. They were Dai Guang-Jin (Hawk III no.2509), Liu Lin-Qing (Boeing281), Huang Ju-Gu and Liu Chi-Hung, flight leader of the 8th PS (CR.32). Four more Chinese pilots were wounded including flight leader Liu Chung-Wu of the 25th PS (Hawk III no.2101), which was hit in the left leg and returned to Ju-Rong airfield near Nanking. Wu Ting-Chun’s (Hawk III no.2102) leg was also hit by bullets and he made a force landing at Yang-Zhou airfield. Liu Yi-Jun was injured and baled out of Hawk III no.2512 and the same fate fell to Yang Ji-En, which also was wounded and baled out of Hawk III no.2306. Four more Hawk IIIs returned damaged; “IV-1” flown by Captain Mao Ying-Chu, no. 2404 flown by vice-commander Teng Ming-Teh of the 25th PS, one aircraft flown by Chou Geng-Hsu of the 25th PS and no.2405 flown by Chen Huai-Min of the 23rd PS. Two Boeing 281s were also lost in this combat.

On 19 September 1937 nine of the 2nd (Mizutani) chutai’s aircraft of the Miwa Daitai (1st Daitai, 16th Hiko Rentai) patrolled over Tai Yuan led by Captain Tsutomu Mizutani when Yoshio Hirose’s flight engaged four biplane bombers identified as O-38s. Hirose and his wingmen claiming all shot down (one each) for the first victories ever claimed by Japanese Army fighters.
Congratulatory telegrams arrived from many sources after this combat.

20 September 1937
At 10:00 32 Japanese aircraft raided Nanking.
Nine Chinese Hawk IIIs and two Boeing 281 s (no. 1706 and no. 1707) led by Squadron Leader Captain Liu Chui-Kang of the 24th PS, 5th PG were scrambled but didn’t intercept the Japanese formation. Suddenly six more Japanese bombers escorted by three fighters were spotted and attacked by Liu’s formation. Liu (Hawk III no. 2202) damaged a lagging enemy bomber before downing an E8N in the Nanking area. Lieutenant Le Yi-Chin (Hawk III ‘IV-1’) of 22nd PS, 4th PG, claimed a light enemy bomber west of Zhen-Jiang. Three of the Hawks suffered combat damage in this combat; Liu’s no. 2202, Le’s ‘IV-1’ and no. 2206. Boeing no. 1706 suffered some hit in the undercarriage and wings but all Chinese aircraft landed safely at 14:00.
The Japanese A5Ms returned claiming four victories. Three of these were claimed by PO1c Watari Handa from Kaga (victories nos. 2-4 of a total of 13 – 6 of them claimed in China).

The Kisarazu Kokutai’s Hirosho G2H1s flew their first mission when they attacked Shanghai under the command of Lieutenant Motokazu Mihara.

21 September 1937
On 21 September 1937 aircraft from the Japanese aircraft carriers Hosho and Ryujo (1st Carrier Division) attacked Canton despite bad weather under the leadership of Shosa (Lieutenant Commander) Kozono. During the first raid in the morning, the 29th PS scrambled seven Hawk IIIs under Captain Ho Ching-Wei to intercept twelve Type 94 dive-bombers and three torpedo (level) bombers and 15 Type 90 fighters (six from Hosho). A fierce dogfight ensued which lasted over 30 minutes. Two of the Hawk IIIs were shot down and both pilots killed (Hawks nos. 5239 and 5232). The Japanese carrier fighters also caught two Chinese observation planes and shot them down, killing one pilot (the other bailed out). The Japanese were not, however, to escape losses, Lieutenant Teng Chung-Kai and his fellow 29th PS pilots under Captain Ho fought so tenaciously that five of the Hosho's fighters ran out of fuel short of their carrier and ditched. Destroyers and other vessels rescued the Japanese pilots but this incident resulted in the biggest single loss of Japanese Navy fighters during the Sino-Japanese War 1937-1941.

Teng Chung-Kai was up again in the afternoon when the Japanese carriers sent 16 Type 94 dive-bombers escorted by nine Type 90 fighters back to Canton. All five remaining flyable Hawk III's went up, led by Lieutenant Chen Shun-Nan. Two of the Hawk IIIs headed off to Hu-Men at the mouth of the Pearl River to search for the enemy, leaving three, which actually made contact with Japanese over Canton. This time, Teng’s aircraft (no. 5231) was hit, caught fire and he was forced to bail out.
Totally the fighters from Hosho and Ryujo claimed 16 victories and one probable (five victories and the probable during the afternoon raid) for the loss of five fighters during the day. Shotai leader PO1c Koshiro Yamashita of the Ryujo fighter daitai claimed one Chinese aircraft and a second as a shared. PO2c Yoshi-o Fukui from the Ryujo was the one who discovered a group of intercepting Chinese fighters and plunged into them claiming two shot down.
According to Japanese sources the Chinese totally admitted 11 losses in these two raids.

During the day fourteen Mitsubishi Ki-2 bombers of the Japanese Army Air Force’s 12th Hiko Rentai attacked Tai Yuan escorted by seven Kawasaki Ki-10 fighters of the 1st Daitai of the 16th Hiko Rentai. Major Hiroshi Miwa, commander of the 1st Daitai, 16th Hiko Rentai, led the IJAAF fighters. Hiroshi was well known to a number of Chinese pilots who were trained by him in Marshall Chang's flight school in Manchuria.
When approaching the IJAAF Ki-10s caught and shot down two V-65 Corsairs observation planes of the 12th Recon Squadron, which were on their way to Tai Yuan after undergoing repairs at Tai Ku. Both Chinese pilots, including Kwok Loy Louie – classmate of Louie Yim-Qun at the Portland Chinese Flight School, were killed.
Seven Curtiss Hawk IIs from the 28th PS, 3rd PG were scrambled at 14:00 to intercept the IJAAF raiders. Captain Chan Kee-Wong, commander of the 28th PS, flying Hawk II No.7 from the Academy, led them. The IJAAF fighters arrived before the Chinese Hawks were able to climb to altitude. Diving into the attack, the IJAAF fighters scattered the Chinese Hawks. Lieutenant Liang Ting-Yuan in Hawk no. 2810 was shot down and killed. Lieutenant Louie Yim-Qun’s guns jammed and he had to retire from the action.
Captain Chan found himself all alone facing three IJAAF Ki-10s led by Major Miwa. In what appeared to a challenge to "single combat", Miwa apparently ordered his wingmen to circle above while he took on Chan alone. Chan saw Miwa dive at him from above. Chan countered by pulling his nose up to face Miwa head-on. Anticipating that Miwa would need to pull out of his dive after they pass each other, Chan pulled into a tight chandelle. He was into his manoeuvre even before Miwa passed him head-on. As a result, Chan was able get turned around and was above and behind Miwa when he began to pull out of his dive. Taking advantage of his position for a zero-deflection shooting pass, Chan shot up Miwa's Ki-10, sending it crashing into a field near Ta Meng. Miwa was pulled from the wreckage alive but later died of his injuries.
After seeing their flight leader downed, the two remaining Ki-10s dived into the attack. Without a wingman to cover him, Chan was put at a big disadvantage. Chan fought desperately to hold off the two Ki-10s, which were co-ordinating their attacks. After a series of frenzied turns, Chan found that he had lost a lot of altitude and running out of room to manoeuvre. In an attempt to shake his pursuers, Chan headed for the walls of Tai Yuan. Chan had hoped that ground fire from the Tai Yuan defenders would help drive off the IJAAF fighters. However, as he passed, Chan saw that the defensive positions on Tai Yuan's walls were empty. The defenders had probably taken cover when they saw what appeared to be three aircraft in a diving pass at them. Chan led the two Ki-10s in a mad dash above the rooftops of Tai Yuan, dodging around the smokestacks of the industrial city. Finally, the inevitable happened. Turning to avoid one of the Ki-10s, Chan was caught from behind by the gunfire of the other. Raking across the Hawk's unarmored seat from behind, two bullets hit Chan, one in the small of his back and the other in his left elbow. Chan recalled that his left arm "went cold" and he began to feel faint. Fearing that he would go into shock and lose control, Chan quickly looked for a place to land. He made for the playing fields of the Tai Yuan Women's High School, but could not clear one of the school buildings that was in the way. The stricken Hawk II crashed into the roof of the building causing Chan further injuries. Pulled from the wreckage gravely injured, Chan was evacuated to the rear. Doctors from the famous American-run Hsiang-Ya Hospital in Hunan were able to save Chan’s arm but his flying career was over.
The Japanese pilots returning claiming totally five victories and two damaged for the loss of Miwa. One of the Japanese victories was probably claimed by Yoshio Hirose of the 2nd chutai (Mizutani chutai) of the Miwa Daitai (Ki-10s), who claimed one victory over Tai Yuan during the day.

On 21 September during a heavy air attack, four Douglases from 18th BS were given the order to disperse and fly to the northwest. The Japanese spotted them and quickly shot down the commander of the group, Liang Guopeng and set fire to the aircraft of Liu Baosheng who baled out. From this battle only one aviator survived, the rest perished. After this the 18th BS was sent back to the bomber school at Yichang to reform.

22 September 1937
On 22 September Japanese A5Ms claimed four victories. At least two Chinese aircraft were damaged and force-landed during the day when Shen Tse-Liu of the 8th PS was wounded in the face. The second aircraft was Boeing 281 no. 1706 flown by Captain Wong Pan-Yang, commander of the 17th PS.

During the sixth attack on Nanking PO1c Tadashi Torakuma of the 13th Kokutai (A5Ms) was on his way back to base alone, when he was jumped by an Chinese Curtiss Hawk near Chang-Chow. Torakuma’s aircraft was peppered from behind with a total of twenty-one 13mm and 7.7mm bullet hits, but they were all deflected and did not penetrate the fuselage. Torakuma then turned the tables on the attacking aircraft and shot it down. This was Torakuma’s third victory (of a total of 7 – all claimed over China).
Kiyoto Koga of the 13th Kokutai also claimed two Curtiss Hawks (victories nos. 3-4) over Nanking during the attack while Juzo Okamoto from the same unit claimed one more enemy aircraft (his second victory).

25 September 1937
CNAC’s Loening No. 4 ”Kiukiang” (C/n 241 received 22/10/29) was sunk at Wuling.

26 September 1937
On 26 September Lo Ying-Teh of the 24th PS (Hawk IIIs) of the 5th PG, surprised Lieutenant Shichiro Buntaicho Yamashita (57th Class), division officer of the 13th Kokutai on a recon mission, shot him up and forced him to crash land over Central China.
Yamashita survived to be taken POW but later died.
This was the first intact A5M captured by the Chinese. This aircraft was later sent to the Soviet Union for testing.

27 September 1937
On 27 September 1937, three IJNAF G3Ms from the Kanoya Kokutai attacked the Hankou-Canton Railway in the Kwangtung Province. Lieutenant Chen Shun-Nan led three Hawk IIIs of the 29th PS from Tien-Ho Airfield in Canton and Chin Shui-Tin led four Hawk IIs of the 28th PS from Shao-Kuan Airfield to intercept.
Both groups attacked the G3M's over Lok Cheung (Le Chang in Pin-yin) and the 29th PS claimed to have downed one G3M and damaged another. Chin Shui-Tin only claimed to have shot up an IJNAF plane and "drove it away".
IJNAF records indicate that none of the G3M's went down immediately but the No.2 aircraft commanded by a Lieutenant Yoshida was badly shot up. On the initial attack, one Hawk III hit and wounded one of the Japanese gunners and put two holes in the fuel tank. This was followed by an attack described by the Japanese as being by "another fighter aircraft" (probably referring to Hawk IIs as distinguished from Hawk IIIs with retractable landing gears). This attack was much more devastating, shooting up the fuselage, fuel tanks and wounding the two remaining gunners as well as Lieutenant Yoshida. The G3M managed to fly out to sea before running out of fuel and ditching off the coast of Swatow. A British freighter rescued the Japanese crew but one of the gunners died of his wounds. Credit for this kill should be given to both squadrons involved and was most probably the aircraft attacked by Chin Shui-Tin.

Fighters from Hosho took part in an air raid on Canton during the day. Akira Yamamoto, who flew as number two to Lieutenant Kiyoto Hanamoto, discovered two Curtiss Hawks. He challenged them single-handedly and claimed the enemy number two wingman’s aircraft. This was Yamamoto’s first victory.

October 1937

The ground war

The Japanese 5th Division attacked and captured Hsinkouchen on 13 October.

Chinese Air Force

On 6 October, the CAF strength was:

Group Number of aircraft
2nd BG 7
3rd BG 2
4th PG 6
5th PG 10
6th RG 20
7th RG 15
8th BG 7
9th AG 0
20th RS 0
29th PS 2
Other Groups 26
Total 95

During the first month of air combat, beginning on 14 August 1937 the Chinese Air Force totally claimed more than 60 Japanese aircraft. Historians in the Chinese People’s Republic claim that in 1937 during the fighting in the region Sunzyan-Shanghai the Chinese Air Force together with the ground forces shot down 230 aircraft, killing 327 Japanese airmen.
According to Japanese data, during the period 14 August to 10 October they lost a total of 39 aircraft, destroying 181 Chinese aircraft in the air and 140 on the ground.

In October 1937 the voluntary Soviet pilots from the Far East travelled to Moscow where the volunteers from all over the country assembled at the flying brigade of the Zhukovskii Academy. None of them had any experience from Spain. The pilots acquainted themselves with the basic characteristics of the Japanese fighter Type 95 (Ki-10).

At the beginning of October two DB-3s arrived at Moscow from the 11th Air Brigade based at Voronezh, and two from the 23rd Air Brigade at Monino. At Factory no. 39 their bombing gear was removed and replaced by supplementary fuel tanks. In the second half of the month the whole group flew off on the route Moscow-Engels-Tashkent-Alma-Ata. As they approached Tashkent, there was sufficient fuel remaining in the tanks, and they decided to fly directly on to Alma-Ata. But on the approach to that city, due to the suddenly arriving darkness, they lost orientation and all four DB-3s landed at different airfields. Kaduk, the commander of the group landed at one field, the crews of Lomakin and Ul’yanov at another and the pilot Dorofeev, while landing in the foothills, 70 km from Alma-Ata, broke his undercarriage (this was a weak point on the early DB-3s).

Without awaiting the completion of the supply route, bombers were dispatched along it. This was urgently demanded by the Ya. I. Alksnis, Chief of the Administration the VVS -RKKA. Almost every day he bombarded Alma-Ata with enciphered telegrams. 13 October: “In order not to waste time, immediately send the first echelon of SBs in a quantity of 10 examples as specified…”. On 14 October: “The delay of the flight of the first echelon is incomprehensible and intolerable.”. And so on until the departure was accomplished.
The first group of SBs (the first commander was N. G. Kidalinskii and later M. G. Machin) flew off to China in mid-October 1937. The whole group was divided into the sections of I. Kozlov and P. Murav’yov, and a separate flight of N. Litvinov. In all 21 aircraft set out while the remainder served as leaders for ferrying flights of fighters. In place of the gunners the aircraft carried mechanics, a full load of ammunition and a bombload of 600 kg (the detonators were carried separately).
On 20 October the first seven SBs landed safely in Urumchi, except for one which blew a tire on landing. It had to be left behind. On take-off from Urumchi, Zakharov’s aircraft was damaged, and the remaining five reached Suzhou. On 24 October the first SBs arrived at Lanzhou, and by 26 October there were already nine machines. There were daily reports to Moscow about the movement of aircraft along the route. Operation “Zet” was given very great significance.
According to the status report of 30 October eight SBs still remained in Alma-Ata, two were in Urumchi (one of them damaged), nine in Lanzhou, two in Suzhou, two in Angxingzhou (one was a leader for I-16 fighters) and eight had only just flown off from Urumchi.

On 22 October at Alma-Ata, six TB-3RN heavy bombers took off. These machines had been used in the VVS-RKKA about a year. Four of them came from the 23rd Air Brigade and two flew over from Rostov. The Otryad was commanded by Captain Dontsov. In distinction from the SBs, a significant share of which were to fight with Soviet crews, the TB-3s were intended to be handed over to the Chinese. The Soviet aviators participated only as ferrying crews and instructors.
From Alma-Ata the aircraft took off with extra cargo, each ten FAB-100 bombs internally, and two FAB-500 or four FAB-250 beneath the wings. Additionally, each aircraft carried two complements of ammunition for its guns. As with the SBs, the bombs and detonators were transported separately. On 27 October the TB-3s landed in Urumchi, and then flew without incident along the route as far as Lanzhou, where they arrived on 31 October.

By 21 October 447 Soviet volunteers were prepared (including ground personnel, specialists in airfield maintenance, engineers and workers for assembling the aircraft) for departure to the Far East. Changing into “civilian uniform” the volunteer pilots travelled by train to Alma-Ata. They were accompanied to the station by Smushkevich himself, unintentionally spoiling the secrecy. None the less, on the train, the pilots represented themselves as a sporting expedition. The “Spaniard” Georgiy Zakharov (a future Hero of he Soviet Union), however represented himself to the railway authorities and everyone else as the oldest of the legendary track athlete Znamenskii brothers and distributed forged autographs!
On arrival at Alma-Ata it was discovered that waiting for them were more than 30 already assembled but unflown I-16s and that most pilots in the group only had experience on the I-15. In consequence, during the course of two-three weeks waiting for a new group of pilots, it fell to Zakharov to train each of the new pilots on the I-16.

From 31 October Kombrig Petr Pumpur commanded the southern route. Learning of the flying accidents in the Kurdyumov group (Kurdyumov was killed on 28 October), he changed the already set flight date for the second group of I-16s. This group consisted mostly of Far Easterners from the 9 and 32 OIAEs. Petr Pumpur began to train the pilots intensively for flights at maximum altitude, with landings in almost inaccessible places in the hills, and limited landing strips. The pilot Korestelev, who nosed over on a short landing strip in the mountains was removed from flight status, and was almost returned to his unit, but his comrades displaying bravery, stood firm. This group stood out for its preparedness.
Supplementary TB-3s were required in the transport role because the DB-3s kept having accidents and crashes. While returning from Lanzhou to Kuldzhu, Group Commander Kayuk made a mistake and crashed when he flew into a gorge. Only two in the tail of the airplane survived; a passenger, colonel Zhuravlev, and the flight mechanic Talalikhin. They reached Kuldzhu after a month wearing their flying boots and fur gloves!

The northern route began to function with a great delay although its organization began almost simultaneously with the southern route. On 23 September 1937 Marshal K. E. Voroshilov ordered the organization of ferrying of bombers “along a special route” from Irkutsk through Ulan Bator and Dalan-Dzadagad, and then to Lanzhou. Thirty-one SBs were dispatched to Irkutsk along the Transsiberian Railway, where the local Aircraft Factory no. 125 was charged with their assembly. It is supposed that this entire group of aircraft was handed over to the Chinese and the ferrying was accomplished by the 64th Air Brigade under the command of Major G. I. Tkhor.
The operation was planned to have been completed by 15 November, but it could not be accomplished in this time. To Moscow went the telegram “Assembly of the birds in Irkutsk has been delayed”. The assembly assignment was give to the Moscow SB factory, not reducing the original plan. On 20 October the Chief of the GUAP (Main Administration of Aircraft Industry) M. M. Kaganovich gave the factory director an order to speed up preparation of the machines. And as soon as 26 October they began to test the first ten SBs. Major Tkhor relocated his group to the factory aerodrome and began to train his crews. He gave his pilots the assignment of conducting flights up to30-35 hours, in all weather conditions, and to develop the habit of navigating to unknown locations. The director of the aircraft factory complained about the Major to Moscow, demanding that he remove the aircraft which were taking up the limited space of the factory airstrip, but his complaints were ignored. Tkhor himself personally flew the entire route to Lanzhou and back in an R-5 communications aircraft. But preceding his SB group, three TB-3s flew along the route through Ulan Bator, delivering supplies of bombs and ammunition from the Transbaikal Military District. This was the reasons to that the first group of SBs to reach Lanzhou was only able to accomplish a single mission. The Chinese had a reserve of foreign bombs, but without adaptors, our bombers were unable to use them (Chinese technicians were later successfully able to manufacture such a device.). On 19 November three TB-3s landed at Suzhou. Along their journey they were supported by two R-5s, not so much for protection, as for assistance in the case of forced landing.
Captain V. I. Klevtsov led the first otryad of 15 SBs from Irkutsk. By 7 December nine bombers and 3 R-5s with cargo arrived in Suzhou. They flew further along the already explored route to Lanzhou. There an encoded telegram awaited Tkhor: “Return Tkhor to his place of service - Loktionov”. Evidently, the Major dearly wanted to fight, but he had to submit. In 1938 he returned to China as main Air Forces advisor.

In October 1937 the training of the Chinese bomber pilots began at Lanzhou. Almost none of them had previously flown a twin-engines aircraft and in general the level of training of both the flying and maintenance personnel of the Chinese Air Force was very low. First to begin retraining were the crews of the 1st and 2nd squadrons of the 1st BG. They had found themselves without aircraft at the beginning of the Sino-Japanese war when the surviving Northrop Gammas were taken to help replace the severe losses suffered by the 2nd BG. Soon they were joined by the airmen of the 11th BS (Light) of the 2nd BG and the 4th RS. Their instructors were the Soviet pilots F. I. Dobysh, V. F. Nyukhtilin, N. Novodranov and Saranchev.
On 31 October a Chinese pilot cleanly wiped off the landing gear of his SB during a landing.

During October 1937 Colonel Kao Chi-Hang was promoted to Commander of Pursuit of the Chinese Air Force, while remaining at the same time as commander of the 4th PG.

In the beginning of October the 28th PS of the 5th PG began to replace their destroyed Hawk II and III with three dozen English Gloster Gladiators Mark I

On 27 October, the CAF strength was:

Group Number of aircraft
2nd BG 5
3rd BG 0
4th PG 2
5th PG 3
6th RG 13
7th RG 12
8th BG 4
9th AG 0
20th RS 3
29th PS 4
Other Groups 14
Total 60


Early in October the 1st Daitai of the 16th Rentai returned to Hailang, Manchuria.


On 3 October the 1st Carrier Division (Hosho and Ryujo) was again off Shanghai, and the aircraft units were dispatched to the Kunda airfield after 5 October for ground support in the Shanghai and Nanking areas.
Hosho transferred her aircraft to the Ryujo and returned to the homeland on 17 October and was placed in reserve on 1 December.
The total force at Kunda came to 21 carrier fighters, 15 carrier bombers and 6 carrier attack aircraft.

Kaga entered Sasebo Naval base on 26 September. Aircraft on board were replaced by the following: 16 A5M, 16 Aichi D1A2 and 32 Yokosuka B4Y1. In early October the carrier moved into operations in the South China area.

Gradually from October through November the 12th Kokutai’s fighter Daitai replaced its Nakajima A4N1s with Mitsubishi A5Ms (Type 96).


1 October 1937
The 8th Daitai together with other units attacked Tai Yuan, where the airfield was strafed.
During this mission, the top cover encountered Chinese aircraft. Captain Hajime Kawada and Lieutenant Kiyoshi Nishikawa met a Curtiss Hawk, which they jointly claimed to have shot down, while Warrant Officer Masayoshi Ohtsubo claimed a light bomber.

During the day, a Heinkel He111A-0 of 19th BS (Heavy) was shot down over Hankou by mistake by a Chinese Hawk fighter.

3 October 1937
From 3 October and three weeks forward A5Ms from the 13 Kokutai completed 27 missions during the second “air offensive” on Nanking.

6 October 1937
There were two attacks on Nanking during the day where ten A5Ms fought two battles with 23 Chinese fighters in all, in which they supposedly claimed ten victories without loss.
The first encounter at 10:30 between four Japanese bombers escorted by eleven fighters and twelve Chinese Hawks ended without any loss on either side.
At 15:00, three bombers with five escorting fighters were met by twelve Chinese Hawks again in two groups, and the Chinese lost two planes.
Shotai leader Kiyoto Koga of the 13th Kokutai (A5Ms) claimed three aircraft in this area during the day (victories nos. 5-7). Toshiyuki Sueda of the same unit, despite the fact that his machine guns were not operating properly, pursued an enemy aircraft until it crashed into the ground. This made him well known as the proponent of the ”Mutekatsu-ryu gekitsui” (“knock’em down without shooting ‘em”) method. At the same time, Sueda’s aircraft was hit and he was unable to find his bearing to return to base. He followed the banks of the Yangtze River and was able to return to base by evening.
Squadron Leader Captain Liu Chui-Kang of the 24th PS, 5th PG claimed a damaged A5M south-west of Nanking while flying Curtiss Hawk III no. 2407.
Flight Leader Wang Zhou of the 24th PS (Hawk III no. 2102) returned from a combat mission in the morning with 20 hits in his aircraft. Another Hawk III (no. 2109) flown by Teng Ging-Xiang of the 24th PS was damaged and force-landed near the artillery school during the afternoon. A third Hawk III (no. 2203) flown by Cadet Ma Jin-Zhong was shot down in combat during the day and the pilot was killed.

The 2nd Daitai gained it first success when three Ki-10s led by First Lieutenant Mitsugu Sawada engaged three Curtiss Shrikes of the 12th RS just before they were about to land at Baoding. Splitting up, they cornered one of them and Sawada shot it down.

7 October 1937
At 12:00, twelve Japanese planes attacked Shaoguan and eight Chinese Hawks from the 28th PS and 29th PS rose to meet the intruders. Hawk II no. 2807 piloted by Huang Yuan-Po was shot and the pilot killed, and Hawk III no. 2909 piloted by Chen Shun- Nan was shot down in flames and suffered the same fate. One pilot made a forced landing at Shaxing while a second pilot was wounded and returned to the aerodrome. The Chinese fighters claimed two Japanese fighters.
One of the Japanese claimants was PO2c Ki-ichi Oda from the Kaga, who claimed one victory.
After this battle, there only remained a single combat-ready Hawk II in the 28th PS.
According to Taiwanese historians “all the remaining aircraft were quantitatively and qualitatively outclassed by the Japanese, therefore they began to avoid taking part in combat”.

8 October 1937
Six Corsairs attempted to bomb the Hsinle Bridge. The bombs were too small to destroy the bridge, and one aircraft did not return.

9 October 1937
28 Japanese bombers in three groups attacked Shaoguan. Three Hawks from the 29th PS scrambled but did not offer battle due to numerical superiority of the Japanese. The airfield was hit hard and two aircraft under repair were damaged.

Corporal Sojo Sugiyama of the 9th I F Chutai was killed in combat during the day.

12 October 1937
After recuperating for 2 months, Colonel Kao Chi-Hang returned to action in October. By that time, the Chinese pursuit force defending Nanking was down to roughly a squadron. Unable to replenish its losses and lacking the parts to keep some of the damaged aircraft flying, the Chinese had pooled all the remaining fighters from the 3rd, 4th and 5th PG under one provisional group. Most of the 4th PG pilots had been sent to the Soviet border to receive I-15bis and I-16s. Facing constant attacks from Japanese A5Ms from the 13th Kokutai, the Chinese had resorted to guerrilla tactics, and avoiding Japanese fighters and making hit-and-run attacks on the bombers. Most of the pilots were exhausted and morale was low. Kao came back and set to work immediately to shake things up. First, he stripped down the Hawk IIIs to make them lighter and more suited to dogfighting the A5Ms. Off went the bomb racks, the cowling for the belly tank, and even the landing lights. Then Kao handpicked three of the most experienced pilots to go with him on the next intercept in the stripped down Hawk IIIs.
The opportunity came on 12 October when the Air Raid Warning Net phoned in a report of two floatplanes flying from Shanghai, apparently on a reconnaissance mission. Colonel Kao’s flight met the two Type 95 floatplanes from the seaplane carrier Kamoi over Chiang-yin. The Chinese Hawk IIIs dived into the attack. Lieutenant Yuan Bao-Kang in no. 2404 got a little too aggressive and collided with one of the floatplanes. The Type 95 crashed in flames but Yuan managed to force land in Chang Chow minus his lower left wing and part of his right upper wing. Yuan suffered only a black eye on landing. The other Type 95 was badly shot up and tried to land on the Yangtse. The Hawk IIIs strafed it until it sank. Both sets of crews, including Lieutenant Commander Nambu, the Squadron Leader, were killed.

Later the same day the Japanese attacked Nanking with nine G3Ms escorted by eleven A5Ms from the 13th Kokutai led by Lieutenant Commander Nakano. Colonel Kao Chi-Hang led six Hawk IIIs, two Boeing 281s and one Fiat CR.32 to intercept. Wong Pan-Yang, in Boeing no. 1706, spotted the Japanese planes first. Diving on the tail end Shotai led by Warrant Officer Torakuma's A5M, Wong attacked the no. 3 plane flown by PO1c Mazazumi Ino (Pilot 30) and shot it down. Ino was on his first mission and may have mistaken the Boeings for friendly A5Ms.
The Japanese formation broke down immediately into a melee as the Chinese fighters mixed it up with them for the first time in over a month. So surprised and confused were they that the Japanese later reported that Chinese "Breda 27s" surrounded them when in actual fact there were only two Boeings involved. Actually, Wong dived away right after his successful firing pass. He had pulled up to rejoin the battle when he saw another Japanese plane below. Diving into the attack, his map case broke loose and struck him in the face with such violence that completely disoriented him. Realising that a sky full of angry Japanese fighters was no place to be he dived out of the fight.
Meanwhile, Kao was busy tangling with the A5Ms to give his comrades a chance to get at the bombers. However, the A5Ms were able to divert most of the attacks and even downed one of the Hawks killing the inexperienced sub-lieutenant Chao Fang-Chen of the 24th PS. Captain Liu Chui-Kang in Hawk III no. 2407 (or no. 2401) was hit and lost a bracing wire as he made a pass at the G3Ms. The A5M clung to his tail like a leech. However, next to Kao and Wong, Liu was probably the most experienced Chinese pilot. He led the A5M in a dive towards Nanking and then pulled up in a series of tight loops. On the 3rd loop, the A5M overshot, ending up squarely in Liu’s sights. A quick burst sent the A5M crashing into a Mr. Yang's residence in the southern part of Nanking.
Back at altitude, Kao spotted an A5M closely pursuing Lieutenant Lo Ying-Teh, flight leader in the 24th PS. This was shotai leader Warrant Officer Torakuma trying to avenge his wingman. Not spotting Kao in time, Torakuma's A5M was riddled with gunfire and had to crash land on the banks of the Yangtse. The hapless pilot survived and was saved by the Japanese Navy. Lieutenant Lo also made good his escape but three A5Ms almost cornered Kao. Handling the Hawk III masterfully, using tight turns and even the outside loop, he was able to keep out of the gun sights of the Japanese pilots. Every so often, Kao was able to get in snap shot at the Japanese planes. Finally, two of the A5Ms broke off, probably for the lack of fuel. One continued to fly in a series of loops, seemingly oblivious to the Chinese plane. Kao finally managed to pull alongside the A5M and look into the cockpit where he saw the Japanese pilot staring straight ahead and clutching the stick to his stomach. His chest had been ripped open by bullets. Somewhere during the dogfight, one of Kao's snap shots had scored and the A5M was flying with a dead man at the controls. Eventually, the A5M crash-landed after it ran out of fuel. Kao went to examine the largely intact A5M and marvelled at its modern design. (This was actually the second A5M to be captured intact by the Chinese. On 26 September Lieutenant Lo Ying-Teh forced down the first A5M. Eventually, both A5Ms were turned over to the Russians and sent to the Soviet Union for testing).
Japanese records showed that three pilots from 13th Kokutai were killed - PO3c Nagaharu Umeda (Pilot 32), PO3c Torata Takiguchi (Pilot 25) and Ino while four A5Ms were lost in this action, while claiming 5 shot down (all these claimes seems to have been made by the Torakuma shotai) and 2 destroyed on the ground. Only Kao, Liu and Wong made claims so there was no debate from the Chinese side as to who scored (except there were not enough details in the reports of both sides to match up the victims of Kao and Liu). It was the first time the A5M were trounced so convincingly and all the more remarkable as the Chinese were outnumbered as usual. The critical factor here was the experience of the Chinese pilots, particularly Kao, first Chinese pilot to single-handedly score a double-kill against the formidable A5Ms.

14 October 1937
During the first half of the day, the Japanese shot down and killed Cadet Fan Tao of the 7th PS (Hawk III no. 2207). Lieutenant Zhang Tao-Liang of the 8th PS (Hawk III no. 2102) was also shot down and killed in combat during the day.

An air battle occurred over Nanking. The Chinese scrambled six fighters when nine Japanese A5Ms approached. The Chinese fighters originally did not intend to offer battle since they were under orders to preserve the remaining planes; nonetheless, the weather was perfect and two Chinese Hawks from the 24th PS were unable to escape and were shot down.

At 16:00, 18 aircraft (three Martin 139WCs, two Heinkel He111s, five Douglas O-2MCs, three Hawk IIIs and five Northrop Gammas) took off from Nanking to attack Shanghai airfields and warehouses. They were barely able to escape attacks by five Japanese bombers escorted by five fighters, which arrived about five minutes after the aircraft took off. The Japanese planes bombed the vacant airfield without inflicting much damage.

Starting at 21:00, one aircraft was sent every hour to bomb targets in Shanghai until 03:00 on 15 October.

15 October 1937
At 03:50, two Martin 139WCs of the 30th BS took off. Within two minutes, the first Martin (no. 3003) lost altitude and exploded when it hit the ground, killing all four crew. The second Martin (no. 3004) also went into a slow descent and crashed, killing three of the crew while the other was able to parachute to safety. The Martins were grounded while investigation was underway to determine the cause of the crashes.

Two De Havillands escorted by three Hawks from the 28th and 31st PS took off to bomb bridges at Kuohsien. The bombers arrived first and returned safety. The three Hawks arrived later and attacked the same target. On return, they ran into four Japanese fighters over Yuanping and only one returned. One of the missing pilots was Su Yin-Hsiang of the 28th PS and Liao Chao-Chiung (Hawk III no. 8) of the 31st PS.
Hawk III no. 8 of the 31st PS had not long before been mobilised from one of the training schools. After this battle, having lost all but one of their Hawk IIs and IIIs, the 28th PS received the English Gloster Gladiator Mk.I.

The 8th Daitai claimed two victories over Xinxian.

One Corsair crashed after take-off, killing the crew; Yen Wen-Chuang and Yun I-An.

18 October 1937
Corporal Jiro Kato of the 10th I F Chutai was shot down and killed by AA fire over Shanghai during the day.

On 18 October one of the DB-3s completed the first flight to China. The pilot was ordered to supply to the Suzhou detachment equipment and a barrel of ethyl liquid. However, the aircraft did not fly all the way to the designated location. During an intermediate landing at Hami the strut of the left landing gear leg was broken. The next day a second DB-3 was sent out as a replacement. It delivered to the intermediate field, mechanics, radio operators, various equipment, instruments and spare parts.

19 October 1937
One Heinkel of the 19th BS was destroyed on the ground at Hankou.

Two A-12s attacked targets near Ping-yuan.

20 October 1937
At 13:30, five Northrop Gammas took off and evaded four Japanese aircraft. At 14:30, they sighted Japanese vehicles near Ping-Yuan station and attacked and destroyed both the station and the vehicles.

Five Douglas O-2MCs bombed targets in Shanghai in single aircraft night sorties. All aircraft returned safely, though Japanese fighters attacked one of the aircraft.

21 October 1937
During the day was Flight Leader Song En-Ru of the 25th PS (Hawk III no.2107) intercepted by enemy aircraft during a reconnaissance mission between Wu-Song and Bao-Shan. The Hawk was probably hit by enemy fire and became uncontrolled and Song baled out.

22 October 1937
In August-September five of the six Martins of the 30th BS (Heavy) were destroyed on the ground while bombed by Japanese forces near Shanghai.
The sixth and last was shot down on 22 October when five Douglas bombers from Hangchou attacked Baoshan airfield around 17:45 after avoiding Japanese fighters on the way. One of the Douglas (no. 401) piloted by Chen Yu-Wen crash-landed on return, injuring two crewmembers (including Chen) slightly. Other planes scheduled to join in the attack was delayed by a Japanese raid on the Nanking airport, and did not get under way until 22:30. A Martin of the 30th BS in the attacking force had just arrived from Hankou but had problems, which was fixed. On returning from the raid, the Martin crashed during landing killing three of the crewmembers Yang Chi-Hao (pilot), Yuan Ju-Cheng and Wu Fan.

Two A-12s and two De Havillands attacked targets in northern Shansi.

23 October 1937
On 23 October, the second DB-3, which had been sent out to relieve the first Soviet DB-3, made a forced landing in a more or less suitable landing field about 70 km northeast of Angxingzhou due to loss of orientation. The result was a broken the landing gear, bent propeller blades and crumpled motor cowlings.

24 October 1937
At 03:20, twelve Japanese aircraft bombed the Hankou airfield, destroying one Douglas O-2MC (no. 408) belonging to the 8th BG on the ground and damaged two other aircraft.

At 11:30 one Northrop Gamma (no. 902) of the 2nd BS was trying to land at Nanking but was caught by five Japanese aircraft as it tried to escape to Anking. The aircraft went down in flames killing the two crewmen, Quan Zheng-Xi and Yu Yun-Chang.

At 19:40, one Hawk attacked the Baoshan airfield with ten incendiary bombs, followed by another attack conducted by two Hawks around midnight. Several single aircraft bombing raids by the Douglas O-2MC were conducted at night

One Hirosho G2H1 of the Kisarazu Kokutai caught fire during engine start and blew up (it was armed with 3 x 250kg, 5 x 60kg and 5 x 50kg bombs) and the resulting explosions destroyed four other G2H1s, leaving only one G2H1 left and this was also badly damaged.
Totally, the six G2H1s of the Kisarazu Kokutai had flown ten operations.

25 October 1937
During the afternoon, First Lieutenant Kosuke Kawahara’s flight from the 1st chutai of the 2nd Daitai (Ki-10s) flew as escort to First Lieutenant Mitsugu Sawada, who flew as a courier to Tsu-Chang with an unarmed aircraft. Over the front-line they met a Chinese Vought Corsair biplane, which was shot down by Kawahara.
In the evening, Sawada returned from Tsu-Chang and again they met a Corsair over the front-line, which was jointly shot down by Kawahara and Sergeant Major Hiroshi Sekiguchi.
Of the three Vought Corsairs of the 7th RG sent on a reconnaissance mission to Anyang, only one returned at 18:00. The other two (nos. 602 and 1205) were lost together with the four crew; Wang Kan and Han Shih-Yu and Ting Chia-Hsien and Wang Wen-Hsiu.

During the night, Sergeant Major Kiyonori Sano of the 10th I F Chutai (Ki-10s) shot down a bomber over Shanghai. This was both the unit’s first victory and the first Japanese victory by night.
Chinese nightly single plane sorties against target in Shanghai continued, this time carried out by three Douglas O-2MCs of the 6th RG, which didn’t suffer any losses.

26 October 1937
Captain Liu Chui-Kang flew in his Curtiss Hawk III to Taiyuan in the Shansi Province to take over the command of the 28th PS (of which Louie Yim-Qun was vice-commander) as replacement for Captain Chan Kee-Wong, who had been injured in action on 21 September.
Liu Chui-Kang was leading a flight of four Hawks to Taiyuan. At 07:00, the four fighters took off from Nanking, arriving at Hankou at 09:30. Leaving Hankou at 11:30, they arrived at 13:25 at Loyang. They departed Loyang at 16:15. By 18:00, they still had not reached Loyang but it was getting dark, and the planes were separated while getting through some clouds. Only one of the fighters were able to get back to Loyang safely at 20:45. Low on fuel and with the approaching darkness, Liu dropped a flare and tried to land, but hit a tower south of Taiyuan and was killed. The two other fighters also crashed – fortunately the two pilots, Tsou Keng-Hsu and Xu Bao-Yun were able to bail out safely.
Liu Chui-Kang was posthumously promoted to Major. At the time of his death, he was credited with 7 biplane victories.

28 October 1937
While landing at the Suzhou aerodrome, located in the middle of the mountains, the commander of a group of ten I-16s, starshiy leitenant Vasily Mikheevich Kurdyumov (born 1906) did not note the decreased air density and increased landing speed. The aircraft didn’t stop until the end of the runway where it turned over and burst into flames, killing the pilot.

30 October 1937
The 8th Daitai claimed one victory over Xinkou during the day.
This was probably claimed in combat with the 7th RG., which had sent six Vought Corsairs to bomb Yuanping. They ran into four Japanese fighters. Two attacked no. 3106 and two converged on no. 1204. The former had its tank punctured and had to crash-land when it ran out of fuel; the other was also damaged. Another plane (no. 1602) had to crash-land when in bad weather; but all planes were repairable.

November 1937

The ground war

On 5 November the Japanese landed at Hangchou and struck north towards Shanghai.

On 9 November Tai Yuan fell.

During the ten first days in November Shanghai fell.

After the capture of Shanghai the Japanese forces moved up the Yangtse River toward Nanking, which had became the provisional capital.

Chinese Air Force

On 3 November, the CAF strength was:

Group Number of aircraft
2nd BG 6
3rd BG 2
4th PG 3
5th PG 5
6th RG 7
7th RG 9
8th BG 0
9th AG 0
20th RS 0
29th PS 4
Other Groups 6
Total 42

On 11 November, the CAF strength was:

Group Number of aircraft
2nd BG 1
3rd BG 2
4th PG 3
5th PG 3
6th RG 6
7th RG 7
8th BG 0
9th AG 0
20th RS 0
29th PS 4
Other Groups 5
Total 31

In November, activity of the Chinese fighters was very limited and during the first three weeks of the month, there occurred only a single air battle (on 11 November).

By 6 November 27 SBs, 57 I-16s, 6 TB-3s and 4 UTI-4s had taken off from Alma-Ata for China. After ten days 22 SBs, 35 I-16s, 4 UTI-4s and 6 TB-3s had turned up in Lanzhou. In the entire Chinese territory there were already 58 SBs, which began the transfer of the second Soviet bomber aviation group (again of 31 aircraft) under the command of F. P. Polynin. The aircraft traveled in relative safety as far as Urumchi where a sand storm arose. For fifteen days they waited out the bad weather, with their aircraft tethered to stakes driven into the ground. There were no further special misfortunes, although reports of minor flying accidents occurred periodically. Far from all of the Soviet pilots had sufficient flying experience on the relatively new aircraft. Nor were the series of intervening mountain airfields, located at heights of up to 1900 meters always taken into account. Reports from the route informed “...flew into the earthen wall and wiped off his undercarriage”, “...became stuck in the mud and broke a strut”, “...landed wide of the mark and damaged the left leg”. Also doing its bit was the low quality, polluted Chinese petrol, with which the motors could not produce full power. In addition, on one occasion at Urumchi, the Chinese erroneously began to fill the fuel tanks with water!
A DB-3 was lost in an accident at Shihe when the motors seized because of bad fuel. It was repaired only in March 1938. By then Moscow had dispatched a fifth DB-3 with Major Chekalin’s crew. This was a new aircraft built at Factory no. 39 and specially converted to the passenger variant. It was not equipped with armament and in factory documents was called “Aircraft no. 24”. Even the Soviet ambassador in China I. T. Luganets-Orelskii, flying directly from Alma-Ata to Lanzhou, in full accordance with “diplomatic etiquette” had to squeeze into the cabin together with the radio operator-gunner. In addition to the passenger version, there was one rarer example of the DB-3 on the route, a flying fuel tanker, also specially converted in Moscow.
The landing fields with a weak soil base along the route were poorly suited for the SBs. Navigator P. T. Sobin reminisces that the aerodromes along the route Alma-Ata-Liangzhou as a rule were built on the sites of old graveyards. There were instances when the wheels broke into the tombs. For protection against mudslides from the mountains, stone fences surrounded the landing fields, but many stones generally lay on the runways. The local population were mobilized for their daily removal, but all the same the stones remained.

In the end of November there were only 23 I-16s (the group of Captain G. M. Prokof’ev) in China.

At Lanzhou, they also prepared Chinese crews for the TB-3RNs and at the end of November one aircraft was written off by a Chinese pilot.
On 30 November, the remaining five aircraft with mixed Soviet-Chinese crews flew to Nanchang.

Already by the middle of November, the SBs began to redeploy deep into China. By 30 November there were 13 SBs at Sian and by 18 December 18 machines had already departed from Lanzhou.

The 25th PS was transferred from the 5th PG to the 3rd PG in November and moved to Hankou.

In the end of 1937 and in the beginning of 1938 the 21st PS was re-equipped with Polikarpov I-16s.

The pilots of the 4th PG quickly transitioned from the Hawk III to the I-16 Type 5. Already by the second half of November the first group of Chinese in the I-16 were able to return to Nanking, but during the flight they went off course and during a forced landing a portion of the machines were wrecked, though the details are unknown.

The 29th PS was assigned to the 5th PG during November.

The 6th RG was sent to Lanzhou to re-equip with I-15bis in November 1937.

Soviet pilots began to fight literally from the first hours of arriving at the forward aerodromes. Having lost their commander, V. Kurdyumov, the first group (including Veshkin, Demidov, V. P. Zhukotskii, P. Kazachenko, Konev, P. Panin, Panyushkin, I. G. Puntus, S. Remizov, Seleznev) entered combat as early as 21 November.



In November Kaga was temporarily sent to the Shanghai area.
From that time until the end of the battle for Kwangtung in late 1938, the Kaga returned only twice to Sasebo Naval Base, both for short periods of time.

Until about 22 December A5M fighters from the 12th and 13th Kokutais, and the aircraft carrier Kaga continually escorted the Hiro G2H1 and Mitsubishi G3M2 bombers. During these missions the A5Ms supposedly destroyed 38 enemy aircraft. Nonetheless, the Japanese recognised that the Soviet I-15bis and I-16 fighters hastily entering the battles over Nanking and Nanchang, had established a certain degree of local air superiority.


4 November 1937
Corporal Shizuo Nakamura of the 2nd Daitai was shot down and killed by AA fire over Cixian during the day.

Seven Vought Corsairs of the 12th RS attacked Anyang and all aircraft returned safely.

7 November 1937
The Soviet volunteers Nikolay Ivanovich Kirillov (born 1910) and leitenant Nikolay Zakharovich Tkachenko (born 1911) were killed in an aircraft crash. They are buried in Changzhou.
Tkachenko received a posthumous Order of the Red Star in 1938.

8 November 1937
Warrant Officer Hei-ichiro Mase (Pilot 8) of the 12th Kokutai was shot down and killed by AA fire over Shoko, near Shanghai, during the day.

11 November 1937
At 09:25, three Northrop 2ECs of the 2nd BG led by Yu C. Y. attacked the carrier Kaga off the Maanshan Islands. They didn’t hit the carrier and were intercepted by three A5Ms from Kaga. Two of them were shot down; one was claimed by PO3c Hatsu-o Hidaka while the second was claimed by the shotai leader Jiro Chono (his first combat and first victory).
Gammas no. 1405 (Sung I-Ching and Li Xi-Yong) and no. 1402 (Peng Te-Ming and Li Huan-Chieh) were both shot down. Yu managed to return to base with the third Northrop after escaping by diving into the clouds even if it also was damaged.

At 12:00, the Luoyang airfield was bombed by the 2nd and 8th Daitais. One Vought V-65 Corsair was claimed during the attack, this one being claimed by 2nd Daitai’s First Lieutenant Mitsugu Sawada.
It seems that they escorted Army Ki-21 bombers (Type 97 – heavy bomber), which attacked Luoyang airfield during the day, claiming several enemy aircraft damaged on the ground.
Vought Corsair no. 605 piloted by Cheung I-Min was shot down when it was attempting to take off and Cheung was killed. The airfield was cratered but otherwise there was no loss.

At 14:00, six heavy bombers with nine escorts bombed the Nanking airfield, destroying one Northrop completely and damaging three others. Two Hawk IIIs (no. 2307 and no. 2309) of the 4th PG were also damaged.

At the end of this day, only 31 operational Chinese combat aircraft were left (some 27 others were used for training purposes).

12 November 1937
On 12 November IJAAF Ki-21s made a surprise attack on Changan and destroyed an unknown number of aircraft on the ground.

15 November 1937
PO1c Rizo Harada (Pilot 29) of the 12th Kokutai was shot down and killed by AA fire over Shanghai during the day.

20 November 1937
After the capture of Shanghai the Japanese forces moved up the Yangtse River toward Nanking. On 20 November began the third and final Japanese air offensive on the provisional capital of China. Although resistance on the ground was ineffective the aerial protection of the city of Nanking had become the second basic goal. The air defence was strongly reinforced by the volunteer squadrons of the VVS RKKA, arriving at exactly just the time to strengthen the fairly tattered anti-aircraft defences.

In Nanchang Teng Ming-Teh commanded the unified Soviet-Chinese fighter aviation group of 30 machines for some time.

21 November 1937
By November 1937 Colonel Kao Chi-Hang’s 4th PG had re-equipped with the Polikarpov I-16 Type 5 and he led the second group in their return-flight to Nanking on 21 November.
While refuelling at Chowkiakou Airfield (Honan Province), they were caught by some Japanese ten G3M2s, who evidently were conducting a reconnaissance. The bombs were already falling when Colonel Kao Chi-Hang ran to his I-16. The engine of the fighter wouldn't start and with the bombs falling closer, the ground crew, deciding that discretion was the better part of valour, left the aircraft to take cover. Chasing after them Kao brought them back at the point of his service revolver to help him start the engine but lost his life when a bomb exploded alongside the aircraft.
This was the first operational loss of an I-16.
At the time of his death Kao had claimed 5 biplane victories, these being claimed while flying the Curtiss Hawk III. According to official record of the ROCAF (Republic of China Air Force) he is only credited with 3.5 victories and thus awarded the Three Star Medal.

Captain Lee Kuei-Tan took over command over the 4th PG after Kao.

In battle with 20 Japanese, seven I-16s piloted by Soviet volunteers from the Kurdyumov group shot down without loss three Japanese aircraft (2 Type 96 fighters and 1 bomber) over Nanking on 21 November.
This was the first combat for the Soviet volunteers in China.

22 November 1937
Japanese aircraft attacked Nanking escorted by A5Ms from the 13th Kokutai. In this, his first combat PO3c Kan-ichi Kashimura of the 13th Kokutai claimed two aircraft. These two claims seem to have been the only ones made by the IJNAF in the area during the day.
It seems that the Japanese aircraft had been involved in combat with Soviet volunteers since during the day G. M. Prokof’ev’s group scored its first victory when six I-16s fought six A5Ms and shot down the Japanese pilot PO3c Koji Miyazaki (Pilot 29) of the 13th Kokutai. The Kurdyumov group also reported combat when 11 bombers attacked Nanking, but two or three I-16s of the Kurdyumov group chased them away from the airfield and shot down one aircraft.
One of Kashimura’s claims might have been Leitenant Nikolay Nikiforovich Nezhdanov, who according to data in the Russian Ministry of Defense archives was killed in an air battle on 22 November 1937. Leitenant Nezhdanov (born 1913) received a posthumous Order of the Red Banner in 1938.

24 November 1937
On 24 November six A5Ms escorting eight bombers damaged three of six intercepting I-16s over Nanking. The Japanese themselves asserted two victories, one of these being claimed by Kiyoto Koga of the 13th Kokutai (victory no. 8?).

December 1937

The ground war

Nanking fell on 13 December and the Chinese government fled to Hankow to continue the resistance from there.

Hangzhou fell on 27 December.

Chinese Air Force

The first successes of the Soviet volunteers led to the Chinese government, as early as mid-December, to request the USSR to increase the delivery of aviation equipment. Soon a new resolution was enacted in which it was decided to prepare and send to China without delay additional 62 I-15bis and 10 standard loads of aviation munitions.
The success of the Soviet volunteers quickly became the property of the world’s presses. Already by 18 December an American pilot having come to Hong Kong from the southern province of Guarngdung announced that in the sky of China were bravely fighting 50 Soviet aviators, who had shot down 11 Japanese aircraft in their first battles. After two days the Times’ Hong Kong correspondent noted the appearance, after a long interruption of Chinese aviation, and that Russian “pilots displayed enormous courage.”

After the beginning of the war the aircraft factory at Shaoguan relocated to Kunming and received the designation 1 Air Force Aircraft Factory. By the end of 1937 it only assembled twelve Hawks partially from parts salvaged from destroyed aircraft.

Official training of Chinese pilots on the fighter trainers began at Lanzhou on 3 December. After three months 73 Chinese pilots had been prepared. In addition to this, a number of Chinese cities (Chendu (an air mechanics school), Suinin (a pilot school, training on the SB), Lyangshan (air school), Laohekou (air school, later transferred to Lanzhou) and others) opened flying and aviation-mechanical schools where Soviet aviation specialists directly participated in training national aviation cadres until 1942. Sometimes combat pilots came to the aerodromes of the aviation schools in new or repaired aircraft. Then they conducted demonstration air battles for the cadets, thus once Georgiy Zakharov and Aleksey Dushin “fought”, sharing their combat experience. Several of the fighter pilots, among them Dimitriy Kudymov, during quiet periods specially traveled to Lanzhou to teach Chinese pilots on the I-16. In 1938 the already combat-experienced test pilot A. N. Chernoburov became head of one of these schools.
Also, some Chinese pilots travelled to the USSR to train. Two hundred pilots were trained in Soviet flying schools by the spring of 1938. Soviet volunteers remembered that in China attached to them was a certain Colonel Chan who had earlier completed the Borisoglebsk flying school. In addition to the Nationalists, the Chinese Communist party also sent cadets to study, a very large group being sent in the winter of 1937. Chu De sent 43 men from the 8th Red Army to study aerial mastery and the acquisition of technical knowledge at the flight school at Xinziang (Sheng Shicai led it). Later, beginning in 1949 this cadre became the nucleus of the air Forces of the Chinese Peoples Liberation Army.
During the Sino-Japanese war Nationalist aviation units with I-16s and I-15bis began to participate in battles only from February-March 1938.

The Soviet volunteers were sent on at the end of November. The personnel of the I-15bis squadron (99 men of whom 39 were pilots) under the command of Captain Aleksey Blagoveshchenskiy travelled to China in three groups in November, December and January 1938.

The first groups of I-15bis and I-16s together with the bombers were ferried along the southern route Alma-Ata – Lanzhou (Gansu Province).
The I-15bis were delivered by truck to Hami, where they were assembled and flown to Lanzhou.

Until the opening of the northern route in across Mongolia, the only alternative to the southern route was by sea, which the Chinese government decided to establish for military equipment. For this the Chinese chartered several English steamships which delivered the weapons to Hong Kong for re-shipment to the Chinese authorities. Eventually, Haiphong and Rangoon served as designated ports. From their moorings, military equipment and weapons were transferred to China by motor or railroad transport. The first two steamers with 6182 tons of military cargo departed Sevastopol in the second half of November 1937. On board, among the motor and armoured vehicles (82 T-26 tanks, 30 motors, and 568 crates of spare parts for the T-26, 30 Komintern tractors, 10 ZIS-6 trucks), various infantry and artillery weapons, were also included 20 76mm anti-aircraft guns and 40 thousand rounds for them, 207 crates with control mechanisms for them, 4 searchlight units, 2 sound locators, and aviation armaments.
Avoiding an undesired meeting with Japanese warships, the steamships arrived safely to their appointed locations at the end of January. In February from China a telegram was sent to the USSR: “Cargo of the first and second ships arrived in Haiphong and Hong Kong. Ships unloaded and beginning of transhipment or cargo to centre of China. In a few days the transhipment should be complete...”. The weakly developed transportation net however, did not permit a high rate of delivery of military equipment to the zone of military action. This took another 1.5 to 2 months.
It is natural that similar operations for delivery of aviation equipment were unacceptable. But if the landing fields of the southern route, high altitude, of small dimensions, and ill-equipped, were poorly suited for fast bombers, for fighters they were simply dangerous, especially for the I-16 with its high landing speed. And further, the machines were overloaded. As Georgiy Zakharov wrote, “apart form the full load of fuel and ammunition, we had to carry what we would need in the event of a forced landing. Hooks, rope, tent, tools, even spare parts. In truth, every fighter was turned into a truck.”
Winter weather also did its bit. While Zakharov’s group was overnighting at Gucheng, “overnight the airfield and aircraft became snowbound, and by morning, it was impossible to fly. There was no way to clear the landing field; the area was wild, with few people. Then I freed two fighters as far as the runway, and in the space of 2 ½ -3 hours, taxiing one after another they wore down a rut. Taking off from such a rut was dangerous; it is not at all like going out skiing with a rucksack on your back. A meter to either side... and a crash! But there was no other way out.” Eventually Zakharov flew off. A short time later, one of the groups of I-16s was stranded for a month at Gucheng and there greeted the new year (1938) in a small clay hut. When the blizzard subsided, in the words of mechanic V. D. Zemlyanskii, “it seemed you could only guess where the fighters were under the snow”. For clearing the airfield they mobilised a number of local inhabitants – Chinese, Uigurs, Dungans, who cut a runway through the snowy obstruction.

In his memoirs, the navigator P. T. Sobin wrote in detail how from September 1937 to June 1938 he and the pilots A. A. Skvortsov or A. Shorokhov repeatedly led groups of 10-12 fighters. For ferrying the very first group of I-16 fighters, as navigator for A. Shorokhov, N. I. Ishchenko who already was familiar with the route was brought in by TB-3. Ferrying the I-16s and I-15bis usually proceeded along the following scenario: First the leader took off, and then circling he collected the other fighters taking off individually. Along the route they flew in zvenos (flights – either 3 or 5 aircraft) or pairs, with the crew leader attentively watching his wingmen so that none fell behind. On approach to the airfield, the leader dispersed the formation; the fighters formed a circle and landed individually. The intervening aerodromes, in general were located at the limits of the fighters’ range, therefore the assembly of a group after take-off proceeded very quickly and they landed directly. Occasionally there was insufficient fuel. The leader would land last. Then the commander critiqued the flight and gave the pilots orders of the next leg of the journey.
According to Sobin, during his entire time ferrying, there occurred only one occasion of losing an aircraft en route. As a result of a malfunctioning motor, an I-16 made a forced landing in the region of Mulei (70 km east of Gucheng). During the landing the pilot received a concussion, and the damaged aircraft remained in that location until the arrival of a repair brigade.

A group of nine I-16s flew out from Alma-Ata at the beginning of December 1937, led by Kombrig Petr Pumpur. (Later another commander of the route, Kombrig A. Zalevskii also sometimes escorted ferrying groups in an I-15bis, which he often flew to Hami for instruction of inexperienced pilots who frequently nosed over the I-15bis while landing). The group flew to Lanzhou without any incidents. There they turned the I-16s over to the Chinese and returned to Alma-Ata in a transport aircraft for a new group of machines. As the volunteer Dimitriy Kudymov remembers, after the second successful journey Pumpur requested this group to continue in the role of ferry pilots, but then taking pity on them, let them go to war anyway.
The Chinese pilots Tun, Lo and Li (flying Hawk IIIs) led the group on to Shanghai.
Unfortunately the Soviet volunteers remembered at best distorted names of the Chinese, more like nicknames; and in Chinese sources the family names of Soviet are not understood either, and are written in ideographs, and therefore it is practically impossible to establish for certain the interaction between Soviet and Chinese pilots in the vast majority of cases. But in the given situation, it is known that the leaders were the new commander of the 4th PG Lee Kuei-Tan, the commander of the 21st PS Teng Ming-Teh, and his deputy Le Yi-Chin. From the moment of arrival of this group at Shanghai were busy with the Japanese, and by the beginning of December the entire group had been deployed together with Chinese fighter units at Nanking.

In the middle of November it was requested that Moscow send another ten SBs to replace those lost along the route. They were assembled at Alma-Ata and by 12 December they were dispatched along the route.

Two combat groups of Soviet aviators with SBs flew into China and M. G. Machin’s group deployed to Nanking. After the fall of this town they were moved to Nanchang.
The second Soviet air group under the command of F. P. Polynin began operations a little bit later. Included in it were a group of crews from the Transbaikal who believed at first that they would only be ferrying the bombers and then flying home again in the TB-3s. The first four SBs of this group flew to Suzhou on 18 December. They flew further to Hankow where it was planned to base a group of 12 Soviet bombers with a fighter covering of approximately 60 fighters of assorted types. At Hankow Polynin’s group had to land “in the water” since the landing field turned out to be covered with 15-20 cm of water after that the Japanese had destroyed a dam. While landing they were protected by Chinese Hawk fighters.

On 1 December 86 aircraft of various types were handed over to the Chinese representative in Shanghai.

During December was the 17th PS transferred from the 3rd PG to the 5th PG and moved to Hankow to re-equip with the Polikarpov I-15bis.

In December the 1st BG started to re-equip with SBs at Lanzhou.

In December, after the fall of Nanjing to the Japanese forces, the 18th Squadron was posted to Yichang, Hubei Province, and attached to the 8th BG to form a training school for Chinese bomber pilots using three Italian Savoia Marchetti SM.81B twin-engine medium bombers and one German Heinkel He 111A twin-engine medium bomber. The training flights were often disrupted by Japanese air attacks, and the school was disbanded in May 1938 after all three SM.81Bs were damaged in training accidents.

At the end of the year the personnel of the 19th BS (Heavy) arrived at Lanzhou for conversion, having lost the largest part of their Heinkels (on 2 October they had only 2 aircraft remaining).
By December 40-45 Chinese pilots had already mastered flying the SB.

The Italian Air Mission was withdrawn from China during December and the SINAW (Sino-Italian National Aircraft Works) factory at Nanchang was closed on 9 December. By this time the factory had delivered two S.81Bs to the Chinese Air Force and were readying a third for acceptance trial; three more S.81Bs were at different stages of assembly.
The SINAW had been created by a consortium of four Italian companies (Breda, Caproni, Fiat and Savoia). The companies had been reluctant to this but had been forced to comply with Italian Government wishes. The SINAW factory was supposed to produce Breda Ba.65s, but the lack of co-operation from the Chinese Commission of Aeronautical Affairs (CAA) made things very difficult for the Italian management. As an interim solution, a few Savoia-Marchetti S.81Bs were built before the Japanese attacks put an end to all SINAW activities.
At its peak the Italian Air Mission numbered 14 people.


The 2nd Daitai escorted Navy Rikkos (Mitsubishi G3M heavy bombers) to Luoyang on three occasions in late November/early December, then undertaking ground support duties from Taiyuan against Chinese forces in north-western China.

The 8th Daitai was transferred to the Central China Front. 24 Ki-10s (Type 95s) led by Major Takeo Tateyama departed Taiyua in late December 1937, arriving at Dajiaochang on 26 December.


Six of Kaga’s A5Ms were dispatched to Shanghai and Nanking between 9 December 1937 and 15 January.
During December the carrier was posted to the 1st Carrier Division.

Ryujo returned to the Japanese mainland on 1 December and was assigned to training activities.

With the capture of Nanking in December, the 12th and 13th Kokutais advanced to Daikojo airfield in the suburbs of Nanking. Both units participated in the attacks on Nanchang and Hankow.

The Kanoya Kokutai moved to Shanghai in December and was active in bombing key areas in Central China such as Hankow and Nanchang.


1 December 1937
On 1 December the fighters rose to battle with bombers approaching the aerodrome at Nanking. In all, that day, during five flights, the Soviet volunteers shot down or damaged about 10 bombers and four fighters. Two I-16s were lost, their pilots escaping by parachute. One fighter landed in the water of a rice paddy due to malfunctioning fuel system. Chinese peasants pulled it out with oxen.

2 December 1937
The Soviet fighter pilots Bespalov, A. Kovrygin, Samonin, Shubich and others in five flights without loss claimed six bombers over Nanking. One A5M was claimed by Leytenant Dimitriy Kudymov flying a Polikarpov I-16.
The Japanese claimed that during the attack of eight Yokosuka B4Y assault aircraft with an escort of six A5Ms of the 2nd shotai of the 13th Kokutai under the command of Lieutenant Mochifumi Nango they claimed 13 destroyed and 3 probables without losses in a battle with twenty Chinese fighters. Nango claimed two enemy fighters while one and one probable I-16 was claimed by PO3c Kiyonobu Suzuki, who flew as number three wingman (totally 9 victories – 3 in China). This was Suzuki’s first combat and victories. Kiyoto Koga of the 13th Kokutai claimed one bomber (victory no. 9?).
It seems that seven Chinese fighters (I-16s according to some sources) and three SBs were lost (According to other sources ten of twelve interceptors were lost). The Japanese pilots explained their success, in general to the inexperience of the Soviet pilots.
The Nango Hikotai received a citation for this combat.

Corporal Tezio Kanamaru of the 10th I F Chutai first met enemy fighters and bombers over Nanking on 2 December 1937, claiming two of the bombers shot down.

According to the archives of the Soviet Ministry of Defence, on 2 December1937 killed and buried at Nanking were Starshiy Leytenant A. N. Burdanov, Leytenant V. S. Alekseev, Leytenant M. I. Andreev, Leytenant A. P. Petrov, and Starshina S. G. Popov – two I-16 pilots and an SB crew.

Nine SBs from Machin’s group attacked the Japanese airbase at Shanghai. From Nanking the aircraft flew along the right bank of the Yangtze and then turned northeast and flew out about 30-40 km over the sea. This manoeuvre allowed them to approach their target from a direction unexpected by the enemy. However, on their first pass they failed to find the aerodrome and had to make a second approach. One aircraft was damaged by anti-aircraft fire and then the group was attacked by six Japanese fighters. The dense defensive fire of the gunners and navigators did not permit them to approach the bombers and two fighters were claimed damaged. A second attack by the Japanese was unsuccessful and another of their fighters was claimed shot down. The damaged SB was able to fly as far as Hanzhou, where it landed. According to the evaluation of the Soviet aviators, in all they claimed 30-35 Japanese aircraft destroyed on the aerodrome.
Soon afterward the same group conducted a strike on Japanese shipping on the Yangtze River.
Also during the first days of December M. G. Machin’s group lost its first SB during a raid on the Japanese aerodrome at Hankou. They were attacking near the city and the commander saw how the SB, flying at an altitude of about 100 meters, was shot down and exploded on hitting the ground.

3 December 1937
Teng Ming-Teh, commander of 21st PS (Hawk IIIs), 4th PG, and his deputy Lieutenant Le Yi-Chin took part in a combat over Nanking. During the combat Le Yi-Chin was shot down and killed.
At the time of his death Le was credited with 6 biplane victories, these being claimed while flying the Curtiss Hawk III.
Taking part in this attack on Nanking where Ki-10s of the 10th I F Chutai led by Captain Isao Abe escorted reconnaissance aircraft to the area, strafing Daijiaochang airfield, where two aircraft were claimed destroyed on the ground. Other attempted to intercept, and eight more were claimed shot down.

During the day Soviet volunteers claimed four Japanese aircraft. One bomber was claimed by Leytenant Dimitriy Kudymov flying an I-16.

On unknown dates between 1-3 December four fighters flown by Teng Ming-Teh (21st PS), Khlyastych, Panyukov and Leytenant Dimitriy Kudymov (one claimed while flying an I-16) destroyed five bombers, in one combat and in another the pilot Zhukotskii shot down two A5Ms.

4 December 1937
On 4 December in an attack on Nanking, Sea1c Kaneyoshi Muto of the 13th Kokutai (A5Ms) was engaged in combat with an I-16 and shot it down. This was his first air combat and first victory (of a total of an estimated 28 – 5 of these being claimed in China).

Japanese reconnaissance aircraft had observed the concentration of new aircraft at Lanzhou and attempted to destroy them on the ground. On 4 December 11 Japanese bombers attacked the aerodrome and they made one pass, each dropping three bombs. Four I-16s and four SBs managed to get airborne, but the Japanese would not risk a repeated pass and declined battle. The bombs were dropped wide and there were no losses.

9 December 1937
On 9 December 1937 fifteen Japanese bombers escorted by eight fighters attacked Nanchang, the capital of the Kiangsi Province. Captain Wang Han-Hsun, commander of the 26th PS of the 5th PG, engaged them leading four Curtiss Hawk IIIs from Wuhan. During the engagement he shot down a Type 96 fighter. Three of his aircraft was however lost, among them Hawk no. 2604, flown by Chou Ke-Yi, who was killed. Kuan Chung-Chieh of 8th PS (Hawk no. 2606) managed to parachute from his burning aircraft but was strafed and killed by Japanese aircraft on the ground. 29th PS’s new commander, Lin Tian-Jiao, also took part in this combat and was shot down.
The Japanese reported that eight A5Ms had battled with 20 Chinese and Soviet fighters. The Japanese claimed that they shot down twelve enemy aircraft while losing one A5M (the one shot down by Han-Hsun). Twelve more Chinese aircraft were claimed destroyed on the ground. It seems that the lost Japanese pilot was PO3c Naoshi Teramatsu of the 13th Kokutai (even if there is some uncertainties regarding the place of his death).
PO3c Kan-ichi Kashimura of the 13th Kokutai was involved in a combat with a large number of Curtiss Hawks and after shooting down one of them, he collided in the air with another Chinese Hawk III, which already had been shot down and was falling out of control. A third of the left wing of the A5M1 (no. 4-115) was thorn away, but Kashimura was able to return to base. After four landing attempts, the aircraft somersaulted on touching the ground on its fourth approach and lost its tail in the subsequent crash. Kashimura walked away from the wreckage without any injuries. Kashimura’s exploits in this combat was widely published in Japan. Kashimura was killed in combat over Russell Island on 6 March 1943 and at the time of his death he was credited with 12 victories (10 of them over China).
In this combat Sea1c Kuniyoshi Tanaka of the 13th Kokutai (in his first combat) used up all his ammunition in claiming to have shot down a Curtiss, a Hawk and a Corsair (his first three victories of a total of 17 – twelve of them claimed during the China Incident). Kiyoto Koga of the 13th Kokutai claimed three I-16s in this combat (victory nos. 11-13).

13 December 1937
The fall of Nanking.

At the time of the evacuation of the Chinese forces from Nanking, the Soviet voluntary pilot Zhukotskiy was unable to take off with the rest of the group due to a malfunctioning motor on his I-16 but the mechanic, Nikol’skiy, repaired the motor at the very last minute. The Japanese soldiers approaching the aerodrome were already visible as he started the motor, and squeezed himself into the cockpit. Together they flew off to Nanchang, landing at the nearest airfield of Anquin.

On 30 November five TB-3s had arrived to Nanchang. There they were discovered by Japanese bombers. On 13 December during an air attack they attempted to take off and fly to Jian (Jiyangxi Province) but were unsuccessful. The Japanese destroyed two aircraft and seriously damaged two. On 25 December three TB-3s, including the two repaired returned to Lanzhou.

15 December 1937
On 15 December Machin’s group attacked their old base at Nanking at almost full strength led by F. I. Dobysh. Flying with them were also nine SBs with Chinese or mixed crews. Twenty-seven SBs flew to the target in nine wedges and attacking the field from an altitude of 4300 m. with high explosive and fragmentation-incendiary bombs in a fifty-fifty ratio. Later, in his memoirs Machin described the result: “From the aerodrome arose gigantic tongues of flame and billowing clouds of dark smoke, punctuated by explosions. A fiery train moved across the airfield. The entire area around the aerodrome was also wrapped in smoke and flame. There burned and exploded Japanese bombers, fuel depots, ammunition dumps.”
On the aerodrome at Nanking they claimed 40 aircraft destroyed.
During the return journey while flying along the Yangtze east of the city of Wuhu the group was intercepted by ten Japanese fighters. They managed to shoot down one SB with a Chinese crew but during their first attack two fighters were claimed shot down by the defensive fire and on their second attack two more were claimed.

22 December 1937
On 22 December Lieutenant Norito Obayashi, division officer of the 13th Kokutai crashed into an I-16 and perished over Nanchang. He flew at the head of a group of 12 A5Ms of the 13th Kokutai and the aircraft carrier Kaga. His “vis-a-vis” appears to have been Lieutenant G. Ya. Kashin since he was the only causality on this day. Kashin is buried in Nanchang. According to Japanese sources, Obayashi’s followers that day destroyed an additional dozen Chinese fighters in this battle. One of these was claimed by PO3c Juzo Okamoto of the 13th Kokutai who claimed his third victory in the attack and one more as a probable.
It is not very clear whether Obayashi and other Japanese were completely “kamikazes”, or whether their ramming attacks was initiated during the course of battle. A veteran of Spain and Khalkin Gol, the fighter pilot B. Smirnov recollects that in the last battles in Mongolia among the Japanese fighters there appeared suicide pilots:

“I cannot support that with any documents, but just the same I am certain of it, because several times I observed attacks of Japanese obviously intent on midair collisions. And not only I saw it, but also may of my comrades. We became careful, and when the Japanese went to ram, tried to shoot them down with the first burst. And that we managed to do.”
The volunteers who fought in China do not report similar incidents.

25 December 1937
On 25 December the Soviet volunteer, Aleksey Dushin smelled a whiff of acid in the cockpit while flying an I-15bis to Lanzhou and then the aircraft began to slip out of control. Fortunately he managed to land successfully in a relatively level open space and save the machine. But after repair, while taking off from the strip, the machine fell apart, and he came down again, among the rocks and trees.

During an air alarm during the day Tu Zhangan of the 25th PS took off from Shao-Kuan in an I-15bis. During the flight to the Dengjiangan Station he was mistakenly shot down by Chinese antiaircraft fire. The pilot had flown this aircraft to Shao-Kuan to be copied with the purpose of doing copies of the type by the Chinese aviation industry. Evidently, immediately before the destruction of the aircraft, the aircraft had been conveyed to the local aircraft factory and examined with the possibility of simply creating drawings.

31 December 1937
On 31 December Kiyoto Koga of the 13th Kokutai was awarded a personal citation by Admiral Kiyoshi Hasegawa, nothing his destruction of 11 fighters and 2 bombers. These had been claimed in around six air battles fought until 9 December.

Known units taking part in combat over China during 1937

Chinese Air Force

Known units, commanders and stations
Squadrons Groups Commanders Stations Aircraft types Note
  1st BG Tsao Ping-Wen (08/37 – )     Deactivated in autumn 1937.
To Lanzhou to re-equip with SBs in December 1937.
1st BS (Light) 1st BG Lee Tzu-Chen Nanchang
Lanzhou (10/37 – )
Northrop Gamma Deactivated in autumn 1937.
To Lanzhou to re-equip with SBs in December 1937.
2nd BS (Light) 1st BG Hsu Kang-Liang Nanchang
Lanzhou (10/37 – )
Northrop Gamma Deactivated in autumn 1937.
To Lanzhou to re-equip to with SBs in December 1937.
  2nd BG Chang Ting-Meng (08/37 – )
Sun Tong- Gang
Lanzhou (09/37 – )
Northrop Gamma
Tupolev SB
To Lanzhou to re-equip with SBs in September 1937.
9th BS (Light) 2nd BG Hsieh Yu-Ching Tsining
Lanzhou (09/37 – )
Northrop Gamma
Tupolev SB
To Lanzhou to re-equip with SBs in September 1937.
11th BS (Light) 2nd BG Huang Cheng-Yu Tsining
Lanzhou (09/37 – )
Northrop Gamma
Tupolev SB
To Lanzhou to re-equip with SBs in September 1937.
14th BS (Light) 2nd BG Chao Ting-Chen ( – 24/10/37) Tsining
Hankou (11/37 – 03/38)
Fiat BR.3
Northrop Gamma
  3rd PG Chiang Chi-Yen      
7th PS 3rd PG Hao Hung-Tsao Chuyung ( – 08/37)
Sian (08/37 – )
Curtiss Hawk III
Breda Ba.27
8th PS 3rd PG Captain Wang Tien-Hsiang ( – 15/08/37)
Chen Yau-Wei (15/08/37 – )
Chuyung ( – 08/37)
Sian (08/37 – )
Fiat CR.32
Curtiss Hawk III
17th PS 3rd PG, 5th PG Wong Pan-Yang Chuyung Boeing 281
Polikarpov I-15bis
Transferred to the 5th PG in December 1937.
  4th PG Colonel Kao Chi-Hang ( – 15/08/37)
Captain Wang Tien-Hsiang (15/08/37 – 22/08/37)
Wang Chang-Li (22/08/37 – 10/37)
Colonel Kao Chi-Hang (10/37 – 21/11/37)
Captain Lee Kuei-Tan (21/11/37 – 18/02/38)
Chou Chia-Kou ( – 14/08/37)
Schien-Chiao (14/08/37 – )
Lanzhou (21/09/37 – )
Curtiss Hawk III
Polikarpov I-15bis (09/37 – )
Polikarpov I-16 (09/37 – )
21st PS 4th PG Captain Lee Kuei-Tan ( – 21/11/37)
Teng Ming-Teh (21/11/37 – 1938)
Chou Chia-Kou ( – 14/08/37)
Schien-Chiao (14/08/37 – )
Lanzhou (21/09/37 – )
Curtiss Hawk III
Polikarpov I-16 (09/37 – 09/38)
22nd PS 4th PG Captain Huang Kuang-Han Chou Chia-Kou ( – 14/08/37)
Schien-Chiao (14/08/37 – )
Lanzhou (21/09/37 – )
Curtiss Hawk III
Polikarpov I-15bis (09/37 – )
23rd PS 4th PG Captain Mao Ying-Chu Chou Chia-Kou ( – 14/08/37)
Schien-Chiao (14/08/37 – )
Lanzhou (21/09/37 – )
Curtiss Hawk III
Polikarpov I-15bis (09/37 – )
  5th PG Ting Chi-Hsu (16/10/36 – 03/09/37)
Ning Ming-Jie (03/09/37 – 1938)
24th PS 5th PG Captain Liu Chui-Kang (16/10/36 – 26/10/37)
Liang Yi-Guan (27/10/37 – )
Yangchou Curtiss Hawk II
Curtiss Hawk III
Under the command of the 5th PG from 16 October 1936.
25th PS 5th PG, 3rd PG Hu Chuang-Ju (16/10/36 – 11/37)
Captain Chow Ting-Fong (11/37 – 04/38)
Hankou (11/37 – )
Curtiss Hawk II
Curtiss Hawk III
Transferred to the 3rd PG in November 1937.
28th PS 5th PG Captain Chan Kee-Wong (1937 – 21/09/37)
Captain Liu Chui-Kang (26/10/37 – 26/10/37)
Chu Yung (15/08/37 – 14/09/37)
Shao-Kuan (15/09/37 – )
Tai Yuan (16/09/37 – )
Curtiss Hawk II
Curtiss Hawk III
Gloster Gladiator
Split into two during September 1937.
29th PS 5th PG Captain Ho Ching-Wei ( – 12/37)
Lin Tian-Jiao (12/37 – 09/12/37)
Tien-Ho (15/09/37 – )
Guangzhou (late 1937 – )
Curtiss Hawk II
Curtiss Hawk III
Started the war as an independent squadron but came under the 5th PG in November 1937.
  6th RG Chan Hsi-Hsia      
3rd RS 6th RG Sun Hsien-San Hangchou
Lanzhou (11/37 – )
Douglas O-2MC To Lanzhou to re-equip with I-15bis in November 1937.
4th RS 6th RG Tan I-Te Nanking
Lanzhou (11/37 – )
Douglas O-2MC To Lanzhou to re-equip with I-15bis in November 1937.
5th RS 6th RG Yang Hung-Ting Hangchou
Lanzhou (11/37 – )
Curtiss Hawk III To Lanzhou to re-equip with I-15bis in November 1937.
15th RS 6th RG Huang Chih-Kang Nanking
Lanzhou (11/37 – )
Douglas O-2MC To Lanzhou to re-equip with I-15bis in November 1937.
  7th RG Tao Tso-Te      
6th RS 7th RG Chin Wen Sian Vought V-65 Corsair
Curtiss Hawk III
Defended Shensi Province in autumn 1937.
12th RS 7th RG An Chia-Chu Sian
Tai Yuan
Vought V-65 Corsair
Curtiss A-12 Shrike
Defended Shensi Province in autumn 1937.
16th RS 7th RG Tan Tao Sian Vought V-65 Corsair
Curtiss Hawk III
Defended Shensi Province in autumn 1937.
  8th BG Yen Yu-Tsung;      
10th BS (Heavy) 8th BG Cheng Chih-Chen Nanchang
Savoia S.72 Most of the S.72s were destroyed on the ground during air attacks in 1937.
13th BS (Heavy) HQG, 8th BG Lee I-Chieh Hsuchow
Douglas O-2MC
Savoia SM.81B
The Headquarters Group had air defence and maritime reconnaissance duties around Canton in autumn 1937.
Joined the 8th BG in mid-August 1937
19th BS (Heavy) 8th BG Hsieh Mang Nanchang
Heinkel He111A-0 One Heinkel was transferred to the 13th BS (Heavy) for training.
They had only two He111 left on 2 October 1937.
30th BS (Heavy) 8th BG Shih Yu-San Sinsiang Martin 139WC
Heinkel He111A-0
The last Martin bomber was destroyed on 22 October 1937.
  9th AG Ch’o-Jan      
26th AS, 26th PS 9th AG, 5th PG Wang Han-Hsun Tsao-o
Curtiss A-12 Shrike
Vought V-65 Corsair
Curtiss Hawk III
Moved to the 5th PG in the end of 1937.
27th AS 9th AG Meng Kuang-Hsin (05/36 – 04/38) Taming Curtiss A-12 Shrike
Vought V-65 Corsair
18th RS HQG Major Yang Yibai (楊一白) (07/37 - 02/41) Tianhe (07/37 - )
Canton (15/09/37 – )
Yichang (21/09/37 – )
Yichang (12/37 - )
Vought V-65 Corsair
Douglas O-2MC
Caproni Ca.101
Formed in July 1938.
The Headquarters Group had air defence and maritime reconnaissance duties around Canton in autumn 1937.
20th BS (Light) HQG Ao Yuan-Ching Hankou
Douglas O-2MC
Vought V-65 Corsair
The Headquarters Group had air defence and maritime reconnaissance duties around Canton in autumn 1937.
32nd PS HQG Chang Po-Shou
Guo Han-Ting (08/37 – )
Douglas O-2MC ( – 16/08/37)
Vultee V-11
Provisional squadron.
34th PS HQG Teng Ti
Captain Chow Ting-Fong
  Curtiss Hawk II
Curtiss Hawk III
Provisional squadron made up of cadets.
35th PS       Curtiss Hawk II Provisional squadron made up of cadets.

Additional in August 1937 the Flight schools were also equipped with Curtiss Hawk IIs (totally there were about 50 Hawk IIs in the schools and 5th PG).

Voluntary Soviet units
Unit Commanders Stations Aircraft types Note
Kurdyumov group V. M. Kurdyumov ( –28/10/37) Nanking (11/37 – 12/37) Polikarpov I-16 Entered combat on 21 November 1937.
Prokof’ev group Captain G. M. Prokof’ev Nanking (11/37 – 12/37) Polikarpov I-16 Entered combat on 22 November 1937.
Machin group Kapitan N. G. Kidalinskii
M. G. Machin (11/37 – )
Nanking (11/37 – 12/37)
Nanchang (12/37 – )
Tupolev SB Entered combat on 2 December 1937.
Blagoveshchenskiy group Captain Aleksey Blagoveshchenskiy   Polikarpov I-15bis Travelled to China in three groups during November 1937 – January 1938.
Polynin group F. P. Polynin Hankou (12/37 – ) Tupolev SB Travelled to China in three groups during November 1937 – January 1938.


Known units, commanders and stations
Regiments Squadrons Commanders Stations Aircraft types Note
1st Hiko Daitai/16th Hiko Rentai   Major Hiroshi Miwa (12/35 – 21/09/37)
Major Shuichi Okamoto (10/37 – 09/38)
Tienchen (07/37 – 08/37)
Changpeh (08/37 – 09/37)
Hailang (10/37 – 09/38)
Kawasaki Ki-10 (1936 – autumn/39) Part of the Rinji Hikodan from the end of August 1937.
1st Hiko Daitai/16th Hiko Rentai 1st chutai Captain Takeshi Takahashi (12/35 – 12/37)
Captain Tadashi Ishikawa (12/37 – 08/38)
Tienchen (07/37 – 08/37)
Changpeh (08/37 – 09/37)
Hailang (10/37 – 09/38)
Kawasaki Ki-10 (1936 – autumn/39) Part of the Rinji Hikodan from the end of August 1937.
1st Hiko Daitai/16th Hiko Rentai 2nd chutai Captain Tsutomu Mizutani (08/36 – 07/38) Tienchen (07/37 – 08/37)
Changpeh (08/37 – 09/37)
Hailang (10/37 – 09/38)
Kawasaki Ki-10 (1936 – autumn/39) Part of the Rinji Hikodan from the end of August 1937.
Light bomber daitai/16th Hiko Rentai       Type 88 reconnaissance aircraft Part of the Rinji Hikodan from the end of August 1937.
2nd Hiko Daitai   Major Saburo Kondo (07/37 – 03/38) Fengtian (07/37 - 07/37)
Tientsin (07/37 – 12/37)
Kawasaki Ki-10  
2nd Hiko Daitai 1st chutai Captain Tateo Kato (07/37 – 05/38) Fengtian (07/37 – 07/37)
Langfang (08/37 – 09/37)
Paoting (10/37 – 10/37)
Shihkiachwang (10/37 – 01/38)
Kawasaki Ki-10  
2nd Hiko Daitai 2nd chutai Captain Kazue Sato (07/37 – 18/09/37)
Captain Juichi Morimoto (10/37 – 08/38)
Fengtian (07/37 – 07/37)
Tientsin (07/37 – 12/37)
Tai Yuan (12/37 – 01/38)
Kawasaki Ki-10  
8th Hiko Daitai   Colonel Makoto Sasa (07/37 – 11/37)
Colonel Sojiro Takeda (11/37 – 07/38)
Tachiarai (07/37 – 07/37)
Tienchen (07/37 – summer/37)
Suichung (summer/37)
Nanyuan (summer/37 – autumn/37)
Paoting (summer/37 – autumn/37)
Tatung (summer/37 – autumn/37)
Shihkiachwang (summer/37 – autumn/37)
Chengting (10/37 – 11/37)
Nanking (11/37 – 04/38)
Kawasaki Ki-10  
8th Hiko Daitai 1st chutai Captain Katsuji Sugiura (07/37 – 07/38) Tachiarai (07/37 – 07/37)
Tienchen (07/37 – summer/37)
Suichung (summer/37)
Nanyuan (summer/37 – autumn/37)
Paoting (summer/37 – autumn/37)
Tatung (summer/37 – autumn/37)
Shihkiachwang (summer/37 – autumn/37)
Chengting (10/37 – 11/37)
Nanking (11/37 – 04/38)
Kawasaki Ki-10  
8th Hiko Daitai 2nd chutai Captain Hiroshi Yoshioka (07/37 – 07/38) Tachiarai (07/37 – 07/37)
Tienchen (07/37 – summer/37)
Suichung (summer/37)
Nanyuan (summer/37 – autumn/37)
Paoting (summer/37 – autumn/37)
Tatung (summer/37 – autumn/37)
Shihkiachwang (summer/37 – autumn/37)
Taixian (10/37 – 11/37)
Nanking (11/37 – 04/38)
Kawasaki Ki-10  
12th Hiko Rentai       Mitsubishi Ki-2
Type 94 observation aircraft
Independent 3rd Dokuritsu Hiko Chutai       Heavy bomber squadron.
Independent 4th Dokuritsu Hiko Chutai       Reconnaissance squadron.
Independent 6th Dokuritsu Hiko Chutai       Reconnaissance squadron.
Independent 9th Dokuritsu Hiko Chutai Captain Kumao Akita (07/37 – 03/38) Nanyuan (08/37 – 08/37)
Langfang (08/37 – 09/37)
Paoting (10/37 – 10/37)
Kawasaki Ki-10  
Independent 10th Dokuritsu Hiko Chutai Captain Isao Abe (07/37 – 07/38) Pingtun (09/37 – 09/37)
Shanghai (09/37 – 12/37)
Hangchow (12/37 – 03/38)
Kawasaki Ki-10  


Known units, commanders and stations
Group Squadrons Commander Station Aircraft type Note
Hosho Fighter daitai Lieutenant Kiyoto Hanamoto (01/37 – 10/37) off Shanghai (07/37 – 01/09/37)
off Canton (09/37 – 09/37)
off Shanghai (10/37 – 17/10/37)
Japan (17/10/37)
Nakajima A2N  
Hosho Bomber daitai   off Shanghai (07/37 – 01/09/37)
off Canton (09/37 – 09/37)
off Shanghai (10/37 – 17/10/37)
Japan (17/10/37)
Hosho Attack daitai   off Shanghai (07/37 – 01/09/37)
off Canton (09/37 – 09/37)
off Shanghai (10/37 – 17/10/37)
Japan (17/10/37)
Kaga Fighter daitai   off Shanghai (09/37 – )
Sasebo (26/09/37 – )
off South China (10/37 – 10/37)
off Shanghai (11/37 – )
off Shanghai (09/12/37 – 15/01/38)
off Nanking (09/12/37 – 15/01/38)
Nakajima A2N
Mitsubishi A5M
Kaga Bomber daitai   off Shanghai (09/37 – )
Sasebo (26/09/37 – )
off South China (10/37 – 10/37)
off Shanghai (11/37 – )
Aichi D1A1
Aichi D1A2
Kaga Attack daitai   off Shanghai (09/37 – )
Sasebo (26/09/37 – )
off South China (10/37 – 10/37)
off Shanghai (11/37 – )
Mitsubishi B2M
Yokosuka B4Y1
Ryujo Fighter daitai   off Shanghai (12/08/37 – 08/37)
Sasebo (02/09/37 – 05/09/37)
off South China (20/09/37 – 30/09/37)
off Shanghai (03/10/37 – 01/12/37)
Nakajima A2N  
Ryujo Bomber daitai   off Shanghai (12/08/37 – 08/37)
Sasebo (02/09/37 – 05/09/37)
off South China (20/09/37 – 30/09/37)
off Shanghai (03/10/37 – 01/12/37)
Ryujo Attack daitai   off Shanghai (12/08/37 – 08/37)
Sasebo (02/09/37 – 05/09/37)
off South China (20/09/37 – 30/09/37)
off Shanghai (03/10/37 – 01/12/37)
12th Kokutai Fighter daitai   Chowshihtze (07/08/37 – end/08/37)
Japan (end/08/37 – 09/37)
Kunda (09/37 – 12/37)
Daikojo (12/37 – 03/38)
Nakajima A4N1
Mitsubishi A5M
12th Kokutai Bomber daitai   Chowshihtze (07/08/37 – end/08/37)
Japan (end/08/37 – 09/37)
Kunda (09/37 – 12/37)
Daikojo (12/37 – 03/38)
Aichi D1A1  
12th Kokutai Attack daitai   Chowshihtze (07/08/37 – end/08/37)
Japan (end/08/37 – 09/37)
Kunda (09/37 – 12/37)
Daikojo (12/37 – 03/38)
Yokosuka B3Y1  
13th Kokutai Fighter daitai Lieutenant Shichitaro Yamashita (07/37 – 09/37)
Lieutenant Mochifumi Nango (10/37 – 12/37)
Chowshihtze (07/08/37 – end/08/37)
Japan (end/08/37 – 09/37)
Kunda (09/37 – 12/37)
Daikojo (12/37 – 03/38)
Mitsubishi A5M  
13th Kokutai Bomber daitai   Chowshihtze (07/08/37 – end/08/37)
Japan (end/08/37 – 09/37)
Kunda (09/37 – 12/37)
Daikojo (12/37 – 03/38)
Aichi D1A2  
13th Kokutai Attack daitai   Chowshihtze (07/08/37 – end/08/37)
Japan (end/08/37 – 09/37)
Kunda (09/37 – 12/37)
Daikojo (12/37 – 03/38)
Yokosuka B4Y1  
21st Kokutai     North China Nakajima E8N  
22nd Kokutai     Central and South China Nakajima E8N  
Kanoya Kokutai Fighter daitai   Taipei (08/37 – 11/37)
Shanghai (12/37 – 03/38)
Nakajima A4N1  
Kanoya Kokutai Bomber daitai   Taipei (08/37 – 11/37)
Shanghai (12/37 – 03/38)
Mitsubishi G3M  
Kisarazu Kokutai     Omura
Hirosho G2H1
Mitsubishi G3M2
Kamoi       Type 95 floatplane  

Last modified 26 September 2023