AVG II - What IF US Bombers were based in China ?

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robdab
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AVG II - What IF US Bombers were based in China ?

Post by robdab » 20 Jan 2010 22:43

Gents,

I've been reading "Preemptive Strike" by Alan Armstrong (2006) wherein he states that FDR had authorized that B-17s could be sold to China (and operated from bases there by ex-military American aircrews - the American Voluteer Group) in a similar fashion to the 100 P-40 fighters of Chenault's "Flying Tigers".

Since the British had a more urgent need for B-17s to use against Hitler, this was later downgraded to just 66 Lockheed Hudson medium bombers to be diverted from British Lend/Lease supplies. Before disappearing altogether when the British shifted those Hudsons north to Canadian airfields for training purposes there.

My questions being:

1.) Can anyone here provide further info/sources on this AVG II concept ?

and

2.) Had the Americans sent a substantial bomber force to the Chinese (who had requested some 350 eventually) and operated it with firebombs from bases there under "Flying Tiger" fighter cover, what might have been the effect on Japan's war efforts in China and on the upcoming southern invasion plans against the NEIs ? Keeping in mind that Chenault had personnally scouted Japan's "paper cities" while on his pre-war way to China.

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Tim Smith
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Re: AVG II - What IF US Bombers were based in China ?

Post by Tim Smith » 20 Jan 2010 23:36

The AVG had its first combat on 20 December 1941 - nearly two weeks after Pearl Harbor. So the AVG can't affect any Japanese invasion plans unless that date is moved back.

See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flying_Tigers

Also, if we are talking about B-17s being operational in China in December 1941, then we are talking about the early B-17C model (20 of which went to the RAF historically as the 'Fortress Mk I'.) This model had no 'Tokyo tanks' and had a range of 1,000 miles less than the B-17G. The B-17C can't reach Japanese cities from AVG bases in western China, not unless it's a one-way trip - so its targets would be in China. Also, it had only half the defensive armament of the B-17G, only 5 or 6 x 0.5in machine guns. This is not exactly a very combat-ready B-17.

I think the effect of twenty-odd B-17Cs in China in December 1941 would be fairly minimal on a strategic level, although they would be enough to scare the IJAAF and the old Ki-27 Nate fighters in China would have terrible trouble with them. Even the new Ki-43-I Hayabusa didn't have the firepower to knock down a B-17C.

Actually, their greatest effect might be in encouraging the IJAAF to prioritise heavier armament for its fighter force - they would have to think about putting wing cannon on the Ki-44 Shoki earlier.

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Re: AVG II - What IF US Bombers were based in China ?

Post by robdab » 21 Jan 2010 00:16

Tim,

Thanks for your reply.

The first 46 pages of Armstrong's book can be previewed at http://books.google.com/books?id=45ilPa ... q=&f=false

I would recommend page #33 there which explains that when she was sunk by Japanese warplanes, the USS Paney housed the secrets of several wrecked Japanese warplanes which Chenault had stored aboard her. Is this finally a good reason for the Japanese to have bombed that river patrol vessel even though doing so might have sparked an early war with the Americans ? I've always wondered about why the Japanese risked that one.

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Tim Smith
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Re: AVG II - What IF US Bombers were based in China ?

Post by Tim Smith » 21 Jan 2010 00:46

The Panay was sunk in December 1937 - so any wrecked Japanese planes aboard her (probably Army planes, rather than Navy ones) would have been shot down by the Chinese before that.

So we are talking about older Japanese aircraft, that were mostly biplanes, and mostly no longer in service four years later in December 1941 - so the intelligence information gained from them if the Panay had made it home would have been of little long-term value in any case.

See this thread for older Japanese Army warplanes: http://forum.axishistory.com/viewtopic.php?f=69&t=23229

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Takao
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Re: AVG II - What IF US Bombers were based in China ?

Post by Takao » 21 Jan 2010 02:27

B-17s to China, yeah, that would have worked out well, NOT! Thank God General Marshall had sense enough to object to it. Given its low production numbers and great need for the bomber in the US, I really doubt that China would have received any. Even the British only received 20 and that was because the US Army wanted the B-17 combat tested. Given that the Chinese were looking for 150 bombers, surplus models of the B-10 or B-18 would probably be what the Chinese would have gotten had their request been processed faster than in the OTL. But, then again, look at everything the US had to go through to get the B-29s flying from China. Now try that a few years earlier. It would have been an utter waste of men and material.

Also, this "What If" would depend on the pilots, would they be Americans flying the planes or would the planes have been sold "lock, stock, and barrel" to the Chinese and have had Chinese pilots behind the stick. Most of what I have read is that the aircraft consignment, of fighters, A-20s, and DB-7s, was going to the Chinese Air Force. So, I would think that the pilots would have been Chinese. If so, I have very little faith in such an aerial endeavor. The C.A.F. performed abysmally against the Japanese. Poorly trained and poorly equipped(logistically), the addition some 500 aircraft would only exacerbated the problems the C.A.F. was suffering from. US pilots would have been better qualified, but the logistical problems would probably be insurmountable.

Regarding the USS Panay, Tim Smith is correct, the pieces of Japanese aircraft would have been nothing special. The parts were rather common. Even the "new"(introduced into frontline service in 1937) IJN Mitsubishi A5M "Claude" and IJA Nakajima Ki-27 "Nate" contained no "revolutionary" pieces of equipment. What was important, would have been any reports on the performance of the Japanese fighters, and these could have been sent via courier, radio, or telephone. IIRC, reports on the performance of Japanese aircraft were forwarded to Washington, but were either ignored or dismissed.

A good overview of the OTL C.A.F. and of what we are discussing can be found here.
http://www.warbirdforum.com/elusive.htm
and on the performance of the C.A.F.
http://www.warbirdforum.com/dunnp661.htm
On the AVG
http://www.warbirdforum.com/avg.htm

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Re: AVG II - What IF US Bombers were based in China ?

Post by robdab » 22 Jan 2010 02:17

Gents,

Thanks for the info/sources.

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Re: AVG II - What IF US Bombers were based in China ?

Post by glenn239 » 23 Jan 2010 01:50

My suspicion is that if the B-17’s could be placed within bombing range of major Japanese cities it may have had a positive effect on the Allied war effort by diverting Japanese offensive efforts towards conquering their bases. Recall that Doolittle’s Raid achieved nothing of military value but did have a massive impact on the Japanese leadership. The argument that a few dozen bombers were too precious a resource seems farfetched – B-17’s in and of themselves were useless at the strategic level except in masses of hundreds or thousands. If a few dozen managed to bomb the Emperor’s palace (or whatever) and cause the entire Japanese war strategy to alter focus overnight, how could anything else these bombers could have done compete in effect with that?

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No supply line

Post by Dave Bender » 23 Jan 2010 02:19

The rail line from Haiphong to Kunming was the last main supply line to KMT China. When Japan forced it to close that ended any chance for conducting heavy bomber operations from China. It also wrecked the Chinese war effort as they could not receive Lend-Lease equipment in substantial quantities.

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Re: AVG II - What IF US Bombers were based in China ?

Post by phylo_roadking » 23 Jan 2010 02:22

Some concerns...

1. Would any Chinese airfields in range of Japan be able to accomodate B-17s? I mean physically - long enough metalled runways, covered maintenance facilities etc.

2. They'd be vulnerable to the Japanese counter-raiding bases from Chinese mainland fields, a problem the RAF and USAAF never really had to worry about, the LW trying to fly in daylight through the Air defence network of the UK in the second half of the war.

3/ The B17-B was indeed HIGHLY unsatisfactory in RAF service. They didn't have the defensive armament for flying in self-covering box formation, nor the locations to mount more. The Americans wouldn't sell them abroad with Norden sights to anyone - even the British got the troublesome-at-altitude Sperrys. As a result they proved useless to Bomber Command - who tried to use them for some time, 26 raids with 7 aircraft lost...for half the raids being aborted early - and eventually the survivors were given over to Coastal, who DID get some very useful longer-range ASW patrolling out of them for a couple of years.
Given that the Chinese were looking for 150 bombers, surplus models of the B-10 or B-18 would probably be what the Chinese would have gotten had their request been processed faster than in the OTL
IIRC there would be one major sticker over this - there weren't many surplus! 8O There were only 342 B-10s ever built, and while the Chinese DID get a few (9!), the U.S. was also supplying OTHER users in difficulty, like the ML-KNIL in the NEI. Meanwhile, export models in the late '30's (counted IN that 342) had been sold to Turkey, Argentina, and a number of others.

They were also OLD...the Army's had been flying since 1935, and had been flown hard in the absence of newer aircraft coming in. B-10s were having to be used heavily as transport aircraft in the Canal Zone for instance in the absence of other types there.

Getting the B-18 Bolo would be even more problematical - it was still the USAAF's current front-line "medium" bomber in the Pacific and Carribean. Because of this - transfers abroad were only ever small...Canada got 20 and Brazil got 3!

Right down at the heart of it - the reason these WERE still in active use by the USAAF at December 7th was that nothing else was coming onstream yet in quantity except the early-mark B-17s. I doubt if the Pentagon would seriously reckon that any were "surplus" in that circumstance...they were using whatever they had to expand their own OOB in the various Department commands...

The AVG's P-40s were different, they were simply shipped new straight off the Tomahawk IIB production line producing aircraft for the BRITISH anyway :wink: So they didn't put a hole in the USAAF's roster.

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Takao
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Re: AVG II - What IF US Bombers were based in China ?

Post by Takao » 23 Jan 2010 03:26

It looks good on paper, but could the B-17s reach Tokyo and still remain safe from Japanese counterstrikes? Given a B-17C range of 2,400 miles with 4,000lbs. of bombs, its radius would be 1,200 miles which would place it just at the edge of Japanese controlled territory in China(Hefei area). Of course, it could fly further with less bombs, but Nanyang, approx 300 miles east of Hefei still has Japanese forces less than 100 miles to the north and south. So, you would need to find a suitable location first. This is the map that I am using at the moment. http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/c ... _-_Map.jpg

Than you will encouter your logistical problems. Not only will you probably have to construct a new base or bases. But, you will have to get bombs, ammunition, gas, spare parts, etc. to the new base/s. Since the Chinese had a very poor rail net, this would mean shipping everything overland. Given that these supplies would probably be unloaded at Rangoon, sent up the Rangoon-Lashio railway, over the Burma Road, and then overland to China. Would the logistical network then in place be able to handle such an increase in traffic and still get the supplies to the airfields in a timely fashion? This does not mention the fact that any fighters sent to China were sent disassembled and had to be reassembled in China. However, the bombers would probably be flown in.

Furthermore, given the high US expectations of the B-17, that all US commands wanted to get their hands on these bombers, coupled with the fact that the US was not at war with Japan, and the poor performance of the Chinese Air Force. I don't see General Marshall giving his OK to any plan giving the Chinese B-17s, the Hudsons and DB-7s would be much more palatable to the US military.

Glenn239 points out to us about the Doolittle Raid. It did throw off the Japanese High Command, but that was only because of the US carriers involved and this would precipitate the Battle of Midway. The resulting Japanese land offensive easily swept aside Chinese resistance and captured the airfields to be used by the B-25s. Doolittle bombed Japan on April 18, 1942, the large modern airbase at Chuchow(which had been modernized for the hoped for B-17s) fell on June 6, 1942. It lasted approximately a month and a half. This also neglects the fact that the port of Rangoon fell in early March, 1942 and the Laisho railhead would fall, shortly after Doolittle's raid, at the end of April, 1942.

So, aside from a brief shock to Japan, the B-17s would have no effect on the Pacific War as a whole. And they would likely sone be destroyed or otherwise rendered combat ineffective. For the AVG2 to have any chance at all, it would have to have been begun much earlier than it historically was, possibly in 1938 or the beginning of 1939, so that everything was in place and properly situated for an extended bombing campaign against Japan.

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Takao
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Re: AVG II - What IF US Bombers were based in China ?

Post by Takao » 23 Jan 2010 04:09

1. The Chinese had modernized some airbases to handle the B-17, Chuchow(along the coast) was one, and Chengtu was another, and there are likely more I have not read about. However, bombers operating from Chengtu would be expected to use advance airbases to fly their bombing missions to Japan.

2. Most true, most true. The Chinese airbases were very vulnerable to counter raids.

3. IIRC, the B-17C was the British "Fortress I", not the B-17B. But, no matter, it still performed poorly as a bomber. Although the Americans were critical of the RAF's usage of the B-17, flying above designed height, badly overloaded, not flying in formation, etc. The criticisms were true, however the Americans were also trying to protect their prized bomber.

Your point that there was no surplus to be had is also true. This is why General Marshall kept putting off the AVG2. He had managed to delay training until 1942 due to a lack of aircraft and personnel.

Another question, since this is WI is likely to take place before "Lend-Lease", could China afford to purchase 500 aircraft from the US?

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Tim Smith
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Re: AVG II - What IF US Bombers were based in China ?

Post by Tim Smith » 23 Jan 2010 14:07

Takao wrote: Another question, since this is WI is likely to take place before "Lend-Lease", could China afford to purchase 500 aircraft from the US?
No. Which is why I suggested 20 B-17s and not 350.
Last edited by Tim Smith on 23 Jan 2010 17:16, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: AVG II - What IF US Bombers were based in China ?

Post by glenn239 » 23 Jan 2010 16:41

The resulting Japanese land offensive easily swept aside Chinese resistance and captured the airfields to be used by the B-25s.
The Southern Operation being complete by that point. This scenario postulates the requirement for a major offensive in China before the Southern Operation has even begun.

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Re: AVG II - What IF US Bombers were based in China ?

Post by phylo_roadking » 23 Jan 2010 17:24

Tim, 20 isn't enough to maintain anything like a sustained effort. It's only one squadron-worth plus spares...which would VERY soon be
A/ attrited, and
B/ x-number out of service on even normally-rotated maintenance.

Don't forget also - 20 B-17s is 80 engines requiring maintenance and spares....or the equivalent of SIX fighter squadrons plus a number of spare aircraft 8O

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Tim Smith
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Re: AVG II - What IF US Bombers were based in China ?

Post by Tim Smith » 23 Jan 2010 19:00

phylo_roadking wrote:Tim, 20 isn't enough to maintain anything like a sustained effort. It's only one squadron-worth plus spares...which would VERY soon be
A/ attrited, and
B/ x-number out of service on even normally-rotated maintenance.

Don't forget also - 20 B-17s is 80 engines requiring maintenance and spares....or the equivalent of SIX fighter squadrons plus a number of spare aircraft 8O
Exactly - which is why 20 is a realistic number of B-17s to be 'given' to China before Dec 7, 1941. And why 350 is not a realistic number.

B-17's definitely produced before Dec 7, 1941:

Pre-production:
1 Model 299 (prototype, which crashed)
13 Y1B-17 (pre-production series)
1 Y1B-17A (prototype - B-17A production did not take place.)
Total: 15. And fit only for testing purposes in the USA.

Series Production:
39 B-17B (first flown June 1939)
38 B-17C (first flown July 1940)
42 B-17D (first flown Feb 1941)
Total: 119 'supposedly combat-ready' B-17s.

B-17E: 512 produced in total - first one test-flown in September 1941 - last one built in May 1942. About 10 months in production. Average of 51 built per month, but monthly production was much lower in September 1941 and much higher in May 1942, so probably only about 61 built before Dec 7, 1941.

So, no more than 180 'combat-ready' B-17s built IN TOTAL before Dec 7, 1941. And obviously, the USAAF has first call on production, not China.

So giving 20 B-17C's to China, instead of to the British, to be combat-tested by ex-USAAF personnel in China, people with at least one year's experience of training with the B-17, is a realistic scenario.

China having 350 B-17's in December 1941 is not a realistic scenario - that's twice the historical total production of B-17s as of that date.

And yes, I'm aware that 20 B-17s isn't enough of a force to have any major strategic or even tactical impact on the war. Too bad. All it does is give the Americans more valuable combat experience with the B-17 than they'd get from the British, and give the Japanese more early experience of fighting B-17s, for all the good that will do them.

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