History of Tamsui Seaplane Port
For decades since 1945, no one in Tamsui knew why this small town was twice targeted by the US Navy. Thanks to Mr N Hirokawa who has finally detailed the history of Tamsui Seaplane Port, and with it, the background of the attacks. His original post, written in Japanese, can be seen here: http://www.shipboard.info/blog2/ [published on 5/8/2013]. The following is an edited version:
The aerial photo above was taken on Oct 12, 1945, by one of the 13 F6Fs of the 18th US Navy Corps. They were based on carrier "USS Intrepid (CV-11)" then operating off the southern coasts of Taiwan. Three seaplanes on the ground near the sloping runway can be clearly seen. Another appears on the surface of the water to the left with one more locating in the bunker on the right. It is not possible to distinguish if they were mono- or bi-planes from the photo; although, based on records, they were most likely the reconnaissance monoplanes. The railroads of the Tamsui Line and the two cylindrical-shaped oil storage tanks of the Rising Sun Petroleum Co also are seen.
In 1937, The Aviation Administration of the Colonial Governor General's Office began planning for the construction of a seaplane port at 鼻仔頭, near Tamsui Station. It was built in 1941. The twice-monthly flying-boat ran between Bangkok and mainland Japan, operated by the Great Japan Airlines, had used it as the port of call for refueling. Unfortunately, this civilian airline operation ceased on Dec 12, 1941, when the Pacific War broke out.
Subsequently, Model Zero reconnaissance seaplanes were dispatched from 東港Donggang Air Base in Kaohsiung-shu, and deployed in Tamsui for weather observation and security patrols. The Zero's made water-landing, grazing the sandbar, then in the middle of Tamsui River, in a maneuver known to the town folks as "wearing wooden clogs下駄履き".
The operation of the IJN in the vast Pacific Ocean was often hampered by the paucity of well-maintained air fields. The observation and guidance of the accuracy of shells fired by warships were performed by the Yokohama Air Corps using flying boats and the Donggang Air Corps with seaplanes and reconnaissance aircraft. The Mitsubishi carrier-based Zero's had also been re-deployed in many land air bases. And in addition, when outfitted with pontoons, these Zero's also could fly out of seaplane ports.
The IJN air corps were named after the locations where they were stationed. Initially, there was the Tainan Air Corps with re-deployed carrier Zero's and then the Donggang Air Corps, adding a flying boat unit. As the war progressed with re-assignments to the front lines, for counterintelligence purposes, the corps names were changed. And the Donggang Air Corps was re-designated as the 851st Air Corps.
In March, 1945, crack combat units began to move into Tamsui. The 634th IJN Air Corps that had fought in the Philippines moved into Tamsui with its 24 reconnaissance seaplanes (18 on active duty with 6 in reserve), and 250 troops including the commander, aviators, crew, and ground personnel. Barracks in Shilin had been set-up as well. This Air Corps had carried out bombing missions, scoring direct hits on enemy warships sailing from the Okinawa area. Single-wing reconnaissance seaplanes such as Type "瑞雲auspicious clouds" could actually dive-bomb with the two 60-kg or 250-kg bombs on board.
We the Tamsui-lang now understand the first US attack on Tamsui on October 12, 1944, was a pre-emptive island-wide all-out offensive against the military forces in Taiwan. The main target for the attack on May 31, 1945, was Taipei when Tamsui was also hit, probably as a retaliation for the losses incurred by the 634th Air Corps.
Civilian lives and properties of Tamsui/Taiwan lost to the aerial attacks can never be justified, however.
Additional sources: http://taiwanairpower.org/blog posts on May 19 and September 15, 2012.
Posted by EyeDoc at 上午6:04