by Gabriel Garrido
Japanese air force defending the Kuriles
    There is little or no accurate information about the Japanese air force in the Kuriles in 1945. The Russians recovered at least six unidentified but presumably A6M5 Zeke fighters, two unidentified single-engine bombers and a half dozen of older torpedo bomber, the B5N2 Kate, at the airfields on Shimushu  ( the most northward island of the Kuriles chain ). Further up to 7 or 8 were claimed by the Soviet vessels, and some reports a Soviet vessel was crashed by an aircraft acting as a Kamikaze. It is known that in 1944 a force of 19 Zeros has been left as the Shimushu Detachment by Naval Air Group 203, when that group departed back to the Home Islands and thence to the Philippines (where it was destroyed). It is possible that a few Nakajima J1N1-S Irving night fighters were also left, as the US was conducting occasional bombing operations on Paramushiro by Navy PV-1 Venturas, and their succesors PV-2 Harpoons; and Army B-24 Liberators from the Aleutian bases.
    During 1943 and 1944, Japanese Army fighters on Paramushiro (the largest island at the northern end of Kuriles chain and southward of Shimushu) had included Ki.43 Oscar  and Ki.44 Tojo interceptors, but the author of this article lacked IJAAF order of battle data to know what was still there in 1945, although several Oscars were seen as late as June  [1]. Similarly, in the past a unit of Mitsubishi G3M Bettys [2] had provided offensive capability, along with a unit of four-engine flying boats (probably the H6K2 Mavis), but these had apparently been withdrawn by summer 1945.
    There was also a Japanese air early warning radar of unspecified type on the southern cape of Paramushiro, Kurabu Zaki, but its view of Shimushu was likely blocked by the 5958 foot volcano (apparently named Suribachi, like the one on Iwo Jima) in the center of  Paramushiro.
Soviet air force support of the Kuriles invasion [3]
    The Soviet air cover and support for the Shimushu landings were provided by the 128 SAD, their 888 IAP had the P-63 Kingcobra, which they had received only in August 1945, before that they remained the last active Soviet fighter regiment with the I-16.  The 410 ShAP, also of the same division also had converted to the P-63, in their case from the Il-2 (It is uncertain but possible that they may have been redesignated as 410 IAP.).  The third regiment in the division flew a mixture of A-20 and SB bombers, and a few PV-1s which had been interned prior to August 1945.
    The naval torpedo bomber unit was the 2 MTAD (division), consisting of the 4 MTAP (Il-4 & DB-3), 49 MTAP (Il-4, A-20G, & A-20H), & 52 MTAP (DB-3).  
The Invasion
     Its unclear when the Russian landing force left Petropavlosk,  but it was intended to land around dawn on 18th August. The Russian convoy´s passage across the First Kurile Strait took place in a typical sub-Artic dense fog. This meant that the landing took the Japanese defenders by surprise, but it also prevented the Russian air units from flying from Kamchatka´s airfields until as noon of August 18th. After that, several groups of 8 to 16 aircraft each made a number of raids on Katoaka and Kashiwara bases, with the objective of preventing transportation of the Japanese troops from Paramushiro to Shimushu. In their turn the Japanese aircraft conducted some attacks vs the Cape Lopatka shore battery of four 130 mm guns that was giving land-base fire support to the landings (Cape Lopatka coast defense artillery was on the Kamchatka mainland,12km from the Shimushu north coast). And also attacked the Russian landing craft and their escorts. While sources are mixed, between 10:30 AM and 01:30 PM  either two aircraft or a flight of 7 or 8, attempted to attack the T-525 minesweeper, but were shot down or driven off by the ship´s AA fire in the Sea of Okhotsk, off the Shimushu western coast. One crashed ashore. Further at least some sources report that Minesweeping cutter (mottor boat) KT-152 was sunk by a Japanese Kamikaze aircraft attack on 18th or 19th August 1945 in the Shimushu area.
[1] On the back cover of a Russian magazine some years ago there was a color photo of a Ki-43 landing gear sticking out of a Kurile bog, and a brief mention that some Russians were planning on restoring a Ki-43 from assorted parts.  There has been no further word about that delightful project. (This information was kindly provided by George M. Mellinger ).
[2]  I supose that this is a failure of the author and he wanted to say G4M.
[3]  This information was also kindly provided by George M. Mellinger.