Air Apaches on the Warpath, 75 Years Ago Today

Last week, we detailed the attack of the Air Apaches of the ship-busting 345th Bombardment Group against Japanese convoy HI-88J.

Just a few days later, in a low-level attack on shipping in Mako harbor on 4 April, a dozen B-25’s of the 345th Group claimed destruction of or damage to six merchant vessels.

Let us now talk about their efforts against Convoy HOMO-03, east of Amoy, China, on 6 April 1945.

Below, we see a series of images of 499th Bomb Squadron, 345th Bomb Group pilot Lt. Francis Thompson running his bat-nosed North American B-25J-22 Serial No. 4-429600 toward an IJN Kaiboken Type D-class frigate, Coast Defense Vessel No. 134. Thompson, piloting one of 24 B-25s from the Apaches that day “managed only to strafe in this low altitude, mast-height, daylight attack as he was crowded out by his wingman who scored a near miss and did probable damage to the frigate’s stern, and by the explosion of a delay-fused 500-pound bomb that had been dropped by the flight leader. ”

Both No. 134 and the Kaiboken C-class frigate CD No. 1 would be sunk that day in strikes by the 345th’s 501st and 499th Bomb Squadrons.

Less than an hour after the above images were snapped, the 345th’s 500th and 498th Bomb Squadrons would sweep in with another 24 B-25s and claim the Kagerō-class destroyer Amatsukaze. In all, the action would leave three Japanese warships wrecked and reportedly claim 700 of the Emperor’s warriors.

As detailed by Combined Fleets on their entry for Amatsukaze:

6 April:
– 1140 South of Amoy, twenty-four B-25s attack the small convoy. CD No.1 and No. 134 are quickly sunk.
– 1230 By this time AMATSUKAZE receives three direct hits from the B-25s in turn. One struck in the auxiliary machinery room (forward of No.2 turret); a second in the radio room, and the third in the wardroom. In addition, multiple rocket hits damaged the barrels of No.2 and No.3 turrets. The rear bridge was collapsed and topside damage heavy. All power was lost and Amatsukaze became adrift with bad fires raging aft. Amatsukaze claimed five planes shot down, and four damaged.(It was actually three planes destroyed).
– 2015 AMATSUKAZE has arrived off Amoy harbor continuing to drift.
– 2100 Rudder fails, and unable to anchor she runs aground (possibly deliberately to avoid sinking) on the shoals south of Amoy Harbor. Fires continue to burn throughout the night. Six officers, including Lt. Morita and 150 men survived; 3 officers, 1 passenger, and 41 crew lost.

Thompson’s run would be commemorated in a print by Jack Fellows. 


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