Note on Sources and Terminology

I. Sources

There is no single source or set of sources for a story such as this. Given the relatively obscure nature of the topic, information from an eclectic variety of sources must be melded to present anything close to a comprehensive and organized rendition of “Tuluvu’s air war.” Gaps and unevenness of coverage remain even after collating and sifting these varied sources. Fully footnoting this work could easily have doubled its size. This section summarizes sources used in preparing this monograph. Copies of most materials not generally available are in the possession of the author.

Much of the previously unpublished material in this monograph is based on translations of Japanese documents captured during World War II. These documents come from a number of sources but are primarily documents translated by the Allied Translator and Interpreter Section (ATIS) of the SWPA command (later Supreme Commander, Allied Powers). Others are contained in intelligence summaries and bulletins issued by various commands. ATIS documents are available in microform at a number of repositories and can be found in original form at the U.S. National Archives in Record Group (RG) 165. These documents vary from official war diaries, operations orders, action reports and intelligence reports to individual diaries and fragments of documents. Some are full text and some are abstracts. An additional source of original Japanese material came from translations of intercepted radio messages. The primary sources for these are RGs 38 and 457 at the National Archives. Some of this material as well as additional translated material is available at the history centers of the U.S. Army, Navy and Air Force. Translations of Japanese official communiqués and news releases were also consulted, as were Japanese media reports. The author is fully aware that, in working with primary source documents, the fact that a document may be authentic does not guarantee that it contains accurate information. Due care and diligence have been utilized. Any errors of judgment in relying upon particular sources are the author’s.

Among the other primary source documents utilized were individual and unit combat reports and war diaries of the various Allied units involved. Considerable reference was made to intelligence summaries especially the Intelligence Summaries of the Allied Air Forces, SWPA.

Among the most important secondary sources were published and unpublished numbers of the Japanese Monograph Series compiled by the Army’s Office of the Chief of Military History. These documents are of uneven quality but when used judiciously and tested against primary sources can become extremely valuable. These monographs were written in the immediate post-war period. Japanese authors that had both personal knowledge of the subject matter and access to pertinent records wrote the best examples. They were then accurately translated and edited. Figures 1 and 2 are substantially based on Japanese monographs, for example, but supported by other data. The worst are vague, poorly written, poorly translated with little or no effort expended on editing them. Even numbers that fall below the best sometimes contain valuable insights or charts and graphs clearly based on authentic source documents and when understood as such can be useful.

Monographs in the U.S. Air Force monograph series were consulted. Two concerning 5th Air Force operations were particularly helpful. Figure 6 was modeled substantially upon material contained in one of those monographs.

Officially published histories of the Army, Navy, Marine Corps and Army Air Forces for the relevant campaigns and periods were consulted. Limited use was also made of the Japanese official history (BKS, vol. 7) partially through the good offices of Sam Tagaya in responding to the author’s questions and partially by using graphically presented material understandable to someone with virtually non-existent Japanese language skills. (Sam also graciously provided information from other Japanese primary source materials and publications). The relevant Australian official histories were consulted as were pertinent Australian and Japanese documents and histories available on the Australian War Memorial website.

Various studies, monographs, and unpublished or limited availability documents and manuscripts were made available by a number of individuals. Yasuho Izawa’s manuscript on Japanese navy medium bombers was relied upon in several instances. Jim Long’s research studies on aircraft serial numbers and production dates have provided information used in telling the story of several of Tuluvu’s aircraft.

A wide variety of popular histories of units and campaigns in the South Pacific were consulted.
The work of Hata and Izawa on Japanese army and navy fighters is a boon to anyone working in this area. The available literature varies widely in quality. On one end of the scale is an excellent work like Richard Frank’s volume on the Guadalcanal campaign. Unfortunately many books perpetuate myths or inaccuracies, or are simply poorly researched. Eric Bergerud’s pretentious tome on the air war in the South Pacific (Fire in the Sky) deserves special mention. In 676 pages of text he mentions Cape Gloucester in a single sentence but manages to convey misinformation on the air campaigns in both the SWPA and SoPac in that same sentence (this author should certainly be forgiven one lapse but his work suggests that he is a dilettante masquerading as an expert).

In a number of instances factual statements made in this monograph contradict or are at least somewhat at odds with previously published accounts covering the same events. As a minor example, more than one source states Dick Bong was escorting B-25s in an attack on Japanese destroyers on July 28th. As the account in this narrative shows B-25s did attack destroyers on July 28th and Bong did escort B-25s but the B-25s he was escorting did not attack destroyers and the attackers did not even know they were in the vicinity. George C. Kenney (General Kenney Reports, pp. 272-273) wrote about this action. He compressed the two B-25 missions together, got facts wrong and out of sequence and then added a few colorful non-facts. One published account says General Adachi fled to Rabaul after the August 2nd encounter rather than Tuluvu. More to the point, some accounts accept Allied aerial victory claims and enemy aircraft identifications at face value. Where possible this monograph corrects those. Whenever factual assertions of this kind are made they are based on authoritative sources and where possible multiple or confirmatory sources. Having said the foregoing it should also be recognized that some judgment must necessarily be exercised in order to synthesize a single account of events reported from differing perspectives. It should be clear from the text when the author has done this.

Photographs embedded or linked to this article are USAAC or USMC photos via the National Archives except for two photos of B-25s that are USAAC photos from the author’s collection. The line drawn map is from Japanese Monograph No. 127.


The convention adopted in this monograph is to use Japanese aircraft designations for Japanese aircraft when discussing them from a Japanese perspective. The Allied terminology actually used (typically, but not always, the Allied code name) is utilized when discussing the same aircraft from an Allied perspective. A common phenomenon in air combat is the misidentification of enemy aircraft. When Allied reports for a particular action identify an enemy aircraft by code name that is the designation used in the text even if the identification is wrong. Such misidentifications are usually evident in context and sometimes expressly referenced in the text.

In adopting Japanese aircraft designations this monographs tries to use designations officially or commonly used by the Japanese in World War 2. These sometimes vary from designations routinely found in post-war literature.

One of the systems widely used in current literature is the Japanese army’s kitai (airframe) designation. This is a convenient system since that designation was assigned early in an aircraft’s life and stayed with it. In modern practice sub-type designations can be easily formed using the basic designation. For example, Ki 43-Ic, is commonly used in contemporary literature to designate the major production version (two 12.7mm guns) of the first model of the Japanese army’s Type 1 fighter (OSCAR). The trouble with this is that it is both unauthentic and inaccurate. The inaccuracy of this designation and the myth that the twin 12.7mm version was the final and major production version of this aircraft is demonstrated in the author’s article on this aircraft found elsewhere on the j-aircraft website. The unauthentic nature of the kitai designation arises from the fact that it was seldom actually used (or even known) by the personnel that flew the aircraft. The system was certainly used and was the preferred system in certain contexts, it simply wasn’t as commonly used as current literature suggests. Thus, kitai designations are used sparingly in this monograph.

Japanese official designations changed over time. A Japanese navy aircraft might have an experimental designation (“year 13 experimental twin-engine land fighter”), and then be officially adopted with another designation (“Type 2 land reconnaissance plane”), and eventually have that changed as it took on a new role (“Gekko”). Prior to receiving the official designation as Gekko the night fighting version of this aircraft was referred to interchangeably as a night fighter or reconnaissance plane. Later still it was commonly referred to as a Hei fighter even though that was a generic class designation for night fighters not a specific aircraft designation. This aircraft was used in combat as a reconnaissance plane and later as a night fighter from August 1942 until early 1944 before it received an Allied code name (IRVING). Referring to a Gekko as an IRVING in the context of 1943 would not be entirely incorrect but certainly would not be authentic and might incorrectly imply to the uninitiated that the Allies knew enough details about the aircraft to assign it a codename (which they had not at that point).

Zero fighters at Pearl Harbor are often referred to as A6M2 model 21 Zeros. This designation is partially correct but unauthentic. The model 21 designation was not officially adopted until many months after Pearl Harbor. Zero mark one carrier borne fighter model two (rei-shiki ichi-go kanjo sentoki ni-gata) would have been technically correct. The pilots likely referred to the aircraft as Zero, fighter, carrier-fighter, or possibly “Zero with folding wingtips” depending on the circumstances.

The official long-form designation eventually adopted for the Pearl Harbor Zero was “type 0 carrier-based fighter, model 21”. The model–type designation was A6M2. These two differing systems were possibly merged in common practice but probably less frequently than current usage indicates. The simple “Zero” is predominately adopted in this monograph. Reference to model numbers is made when necessary for clarity.

Japanese navy dive-bombers were officially “carrier bombers” (alternatively “carrier borne” or “ship borne” bombers) but referring to them as dive-bombers is certainly not incorrect. Navy “land based attack bombers” were also commonly referred to as “medium” bombers (chukos). The equivalent class of aircraft serving in the Japanese army was referred to as a “heavy” bomber. The Allies considered both types medium bombers. The Japanese army also used the term “heavy fighter” to refer to an aircraft officially designated “two-seat” fighter.

When utilizing the full, or a modified version, of the Japanese long-form aircraft designation I have used an initial capital letter and have chosen not to hyphenate the type number (“Type 99 light bomber” not “type-99 light bomber” or “Type 99 Light Bomber”). No claim is made that this is any more correct than other methods of presenting the same designation. Some translated documents use all initial capitals, some capitalize “Type”, some use hyphens, some don’t. Many Allied war-time documents use an abbreviated presentation (T.99 L/B) which while not used by the Japanese themselves may be a useful way to present a shorthand version of the actual Japanese designation. The trend in contemporary publications seems to lean toward capitalizing “Type” if not the whole designation. These same publications, however, seem to over-utilize the convenient kitai designation rendering their authority at least somewhat suspect.

Without striving for perfect consistency an attempt is made in this monograph to use authentic aircraft designations in the sense that they were acceptable or commonly used during the period under discussion. Whether this proves helpful or an annoyance to the reader is a matter of interest to the author.

The author has adopted “FR” as the abbreviation for a Japanese army Flying Regiment instead of the officially sanctioned “F”. Not only is “FR” more expressive as the abbreviation for Flying Regiment but it was actually more commonly used by the Japanese during World War 2 than the official abbreviation. Convenient abbreviations have been adopted in other cases as well, with the abbreviation in parentheses on first usage.

While I use the Japanese “Ku” as an abbreviation, I have avoided using made up anglicized versions such as AG (Air Group) or NAG (Naval Air Group). Though not incorrect, these seem a bit contrived to me. The shorthand “Air” (meaning Naval Air Group) is more authentic but not very descriptive. I’ve used it in the past and may return to it in future works.

Japanese terminology that seems superfluous in context (such as adding “Navy” [kaigun] before a rank or unit designation) has been omitted. Generally, what the author understands to be commonly accepted translations of Japanese terms have been adopted. Chutai variously translated as squadron, company, or navy division has been left in the original. In both the Japanese army and navy this was the command of a junior (“company grade”) officer but at full-strength might field a dozen or more fighters and thus be considerably stronger then its closest equivalent, an air force “flight” (company-equivalent) or navy “division”. In the Japanese navy the chutai was the tactical alter ego of a parallel administrative buntai. In the Japanese army the chutai had both a tactical and administrative function. Absent an obvious best translation for this term and not wishing to discuss this in the main narrative, it is left un-translated and the discussion consigned here.

While less rigor and consistency has been applied to terminology other than aircraft designations, terminology has been chosen in other cases in the hope it will be accurate and illustrative but not presented in such detailed or arcane fashion as to be a distraction from the narrative.

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