Military History Books
by Harold A. Skaarup   
Warplanes of the Second World War preserved in Manchukuo (Manchuria), and Mengjiang (Inner Mongolia)

Warplanes of the Second World War preserved in Manchukuo (Manchuria), and Mengjiang (Inner Mongolia)

Data current to 9 Nov 2018.

Empire of Japan Puppet State Air Forces of Manchukuo (Manchuria), and Mengjiang (Inner Mongolia)

The government of the Empire of Japan viewed all the lands of Asia to be the rightful property of the Imperial Japanese Government and the Emperor.  The land invasion of Korea, China and parts of Russia, which had begun at the turn of the 20th century, had been taking an upswing.  The Japanese had been kept from realizing their goal of unifying or dominating the Asian lands by the presence of foreign military forces in the Philippines (United States), Hong Kong, Malaysia (United Kingdom) and the Dutch East Indies.  Japan had hoped that they could strike fast and hold off reinforcements long enough to broker a peace accord from a position of strength such as they had done during the Russo Japanese War.

Central to the Japanese goals was the taking of all Asian lands.  To be successful US, UK, and Dutch forces were to be attacked simultaneously to prevent their ability to reinforce and aid their Asian possessions.  Pivotal to the Japanese decision to attack was a tremendous need for crude oil as a result of economic sanctions imposed by the United States, the United Kingdom and the Netherlands which was weakening the Japanese economy.  The Japanese leaders were faced with a choice: end the war in China and their plans for Asian conquest, so as to end the sanctions, or declare war on three large military forces.  The current war against Britain, and Holland, and the strain of providing aid by the United States to these countries was seen as an opportunity by the Japanese to extend their “rightful” place as a ruler in Asia.

The Japanese government decided to seize resources under the control of Britain, the United States and the Netherlands. Japan had already placed over ten divisions in Formosa (Taiwan). Japanese military planners argued that the British (and the USSR should they decide to declare war), would be unable to effectively respond to a Japanese attack, given the threat posed by the Third Reich.

Manchukuo (Manchuria)

Before the Second World War, the Japanese colonized Manchukuo and used it as a base from which to invade China. I n the summer of 1939 a border dispute between Manchukuo and the Mongolian People’s Republic resulted in the Battle of Khalkhin Gol.  During this battle, a combined Soviet-Mongolian force defeated the Japanese KwantungArmy supported by limited Manchukuoan forces.

On 8 August 1945, the Soviet Union declared war on Japan, in accordance with the agreement at the Yalta Conference, and invaded Manchukuo from outer Manchuria and Outer Mongolia.  This was called the Manchurian Strategic Offensive Operation.

The Manchukuo Imperial Air Force was established in February 1937, initially with 30 men selected from the Manchukuo Imperial Army and trained at the Japanese Kwantung Army aircraft arsenal in Harbin.  The official air force’s predecessor was the Manchukuo Air Transport Company (later renamed the Manchukuo National Airways) a paramilitary airline formed in 1931, which undertook transport and reconnaissance missions for the Japanese military.

The first air unit of the Manchukuo Air Force was established at the airfield in Xinjing, under the command of 1st Lieutenant Uta, and initially had only one aircraft: a French-built Nieuport-Delage NiD 29 biplane.  Kawasaki Type 88 (KDA-2) light bombers and Nakajima Type 91 fighters were later supplied from Japan.  A second air unit was established in Fengtien and the third air unit in Harbin from 1938-1939. In July 1940, an Air Defense HQ was created in Xinjing.

Initially, only Japanese pilots and ground crews were also deployed.  After 1940, the Japanese allowed native ethnic Manchus to receive pilot training.  On 30 August 1940, a flight school was established in Fengtien to teach both military and civil pilots.  The training program received a severe setback in January 1941 when approximately 100 pilot cadets rebelled, and fled to join to anti-Japanese guerillas after killing their instructors.  During September to October 1942 the school received more than twenty training aircraft, including Tachikawa Ki-9 “Spruce”, Tachikawa Ki-55 “Ida” and Mansy? Ki-79 advanced trainers. 

In addition, a transport section with three Nakajima Ki-34 passenger aircraft was established to serve the needs of the imperial court.  Additional Junkers Ju-86Z-2, Tachikawa Ki-54 “Hickory” and Mansh? Hayabusa provided for government transportation needs.  From 1944, the Manchukuo Imperial Air Force came under the command of the Japanese 2nd Air Army.  At that point, it had around 100 to 120 combat aircraft. 

From 1941 to the end of the Second World War, the main equipment of the Manchukuo Air Force was the Nakajima Ki-27b “Nate” light fighter.  Money to pay for these fighters was “donated” by various Japanese companies based in Manchukuo.  Primarily a fighter force, the only tactical bomber in Manchukuo service during the war was the Kawasaki Ki-32.

The Manchukuo Air Force requested Type 1 Nakajima Ki-43 IIa Hayabusa “Oscar” and Type 2 Nakajima Ki-44 IIb Shoki “Tojo” fighter/interceptors from Japan in early 1945.   However, these more advanced aircraft were supplied in only small numbers. 

As American air raids against Manchukuo increased in frequency towards the end of the war, the Manchukuo Air Force resorted to Kamikaze tactics, with the first successful ramming attack (by a Ki-27) on a USAAF Boeing B-29 Superfortress strategic bomber occurring in December 1944.  The Manchukuo Air Force also suffered from a chronic shortage of fuel, as Japanese military aviation had first claim to supplies.

In 1945, the American air raids against Manchuria decreased and the threat of the Soviet invasion increased.  The Manchukuo Air Force changed its training from interception to emphasize ground attack against armored vehicles.  During the Soviet Union‘s invasion of Manchukuo, the Japanese 2nd Air Army ordered the Manchukuo Air Force to train for suicide attacks against Soviet tanks.  However, the war ended before attack plans could be executed.

From 1945 to 1948, Manchuria (Inner Manchuria) served as a base area for the People’s Liberation Army in the Chinese Civil War against the Kuomintang (KMT).  With Soviet encouragement, the Chinese Communists used Manchuria as a staging ground until the end of the Chinese Civil War in 1949.  Many Manchukuo army and Japanese Kantogun personnel served with the communist troops during the Chinese Civil War against the Nationalist forces.  Most of the 1.5 million Japanese who had been left in Manchukuo at the end of the Second World War were sent back to their homeland in 1946-1948 by US Navy ships in an operation now known as the Japanese repatriation from Huludao.

Mengjiang (Inner Mongolia)

Mengjiang was a Japanese puppet state in Inner Mongolia.  It was nominally ruled by Prince Demchugdongrub, a Mongol nobleman descended from Genghis Khan, but was in fact controlled by the Japanese military.  Mengjiang’s independence was proclaimed on 18 February 1936, following the Japanese occupation of the region.  The Inner Mongolians had several grievances against the central Chinese government in Nanking, including their policy of allowing unlimited migration of Han Chinese to the region.  Several of the young princes of Inner Mongolia began to agitate for greater freedom from the central government, and it was through these men that Japanese saw their best chance of exploiting Pan-Mongol nationalism and eventually seizing control of Outer Mongolia from the Soviet Union.

Japan created Mengjiang to exploit tensions between ethnic Mongolians and the central government of China, which in theory ruled Inner Mongolia.  When the various puppet governments of China were unified under the Wang Jingwei government in March 1940, Mengjiang retained its separate identity as an autonomous federation.  Although under the firm control of the Japanese Imperial Army, which occupied its territory, Prince Demchugdongrub had his own independent army.

Mengjiang vanished in 1945 following Japan’s defeat in the Second World War.  As Soviet forces advanced into Inner Mongolia, they met limited resistance from small detachments of Mongolian cavalry, which, like the rest of the army, were quickly overwhelmed.