Maj. Williams: Jap airmen (1-17-44)

The Pittsburgh Press (January 17, 1944)


Maj. Williams: Jap airmen

By Maj. Al Williams

The sanest and best thing the American people can do to hasten the end of the war is to quit underestimating our enemies.

However, it isn’t the American people who make the news nor interpret the value of items in the news.

It’s simple enough to call the Japs “monkey people,” but if we insist upon calling names and let it go at that, okay. Name-calling, however, tends toward underestimation of an opponent, and that’s dangerous business. Our best military minds deem the Jap a tough, first-class soldier. We can call him a fanatic and whatnot, but he is evidently determined to win or die, and that’s the type of military spirit our boys encounter on the combat fronts and in the air against the Jap.

It’s this hullaballoo stuff far behind the combat fronts which upsets public psychology.

Gen. Billy Mitchell, after returning to this country from a visit to Japan, said the Jap airman is a good pilot and a hard fighter. And Mitchell, 20 years ahead of his time, showed his moral courage by saying this against the general opinion to the contrary. There’s no doubt about the fact that our forces, air, sea and land, are hurting the Jap, but we are a long way from licking him to the point where he will quit.

One of the most amazing developments in our air war against Japan is the discovery that this – as we recklessly assume – backward aeronautical nation is today building single-seater fighter planes that are topping off 350 miles an hour, possessed of a much higher maneuverability than ours, and a rate of climb that is not to be sneezed at.

No one ever dreamed, prior to the outbreak of this war, that Jap aeronautical engineers were worth their salt, nor able to do more than copy the aircraft and engine designs of foreign engineers. Be that as it may, they have done a mighty good job of assembling existing aeronautical engineering details which suited them and in turning out first-class fighting aircraft. I’m not saying the Jap fighter planes are better than ours. The Japs have their ideas of what a fighter plane should be able to do in speed, maneuverability, and rate of climb, and how many and what kind of guns it should carry, and what its armor protection should be, and what its structural factors of safety should be. And we have our own ideas on these subjects too.

Of course, American airmen are shooting down the Jap fighters, and apparently greatly in excess of our losses. But that is undoubtedly due to the fact that, man for man, training system for training system, the American airman is superior to the Jap airman, and we can outproduce the Japs.

If we can whip our advertising propensities, which largely means exaggerating, our victory in the Pacific will come all the sooner.