The Japanese Army and Navy have two classifications for their pilots
and bombardiers, namely: "Division I" and "Division II". This classification
is based on combat experience, initiative, and combat ability.
The pilots and bombardiers of Division I usually have had approximately
4 years combat experience in China. This Division totals about 1,500 pilots,
including Army and Navy.
The performance of the personnel of Division II is not comparable with
that of Division I, as was demonstrated during the Port Darwin bombardment of
March 19 when the pilots and bombardiers of Division I, in one flight of 18 bombers,
sank 11 of 17 ships on their first time over, from a height of 24,000 feet.
Meanwhile, the personnel of Division II were indiscriminately bombing the airfield
and hangars. Recent reports have indicated that the Japanese, in order to
conserve their first-line pilot strength, are sending out their less-experienced
pilots on routine missions with the leader alone coming from their first-line group.
The first-line Japanese pilot is well trained and resourceful, and handles
his plane in a skillful manner; he will initiate attack, is aggressive in combat,
and is a fighting airman not to be underestimated. It is also noteworthy that
they will change their methods with alacrity whenever they find their aerial
operations successfully countered. They are alert, and quick to take advantage
of any evident weakness. A disabled plane will receive more fire than other
planes in formation. Stragglers are sure to be concentrated on, and a gun not
firing is a sure point of attack. Several instances have also been reported
where our airmen have been machine-gunned from Japanese planes while
parachuting to earth. Our airmen should delay opening the parachute when forced to
leave the plane.
While there is little information available concerning the number of
pilots being trained in Japan, conservative estimates placed this figure at 360 per
month prior to December 7, 1941, and concluded that there were at that time
approximately 9,750 trained pilots, many of whom had seen service in China. It
is estimated that the Japanese have lost approximately 400 planes per month for
the first 5 months of the war. Thus the rates of loss and replacement are
approximately the same. The above estimated Japanese losses and production of
pilots apply to a period when very little opposition was encountered by the
Japanese, and it is safe to assume that when the United Nations undertake a more
determined offense, the losses will be at a substantially higher rate. It is
reasonable to assume that the Japanese have anticipated this and have increased
the production of trained pilot personnel to meet this expected higher monthly
loss. Therefore, a fair inference would be that Japan must at the present time
be turning out, at the minimum, 600 to 700 new pilots per month in order to take
care of losses and provide for expansion of the air forces.
In Japan it has been the tradition that Naval officers are of a higher type
than officers of the Army, and it has been observed that in planes of corresponding
type, the naval pilot is much harder to combat, and that apparently the
materiel, quality of personnel, and training in the Naval Service are of a higher
standard than in the Japanese Army Air Forces. However, morale is undoubtedly
high in both services.