U.S. Navy and Marine Aircraft of World War II (1): Dive and Torpedo Bombers
Saratoga CV-3 and Enterprise CV-6 had been torpedoed or bombed and sent back to rear area repair stations. The remaining carriers, Hornet CV-8 and Wasp CV-7 , patrolled off Guadalcanal, their captains and admirals decidedly uneasy about exposing the last American flattops in the Pacific as meaty targets to the numerically superior Japanese ships and aircraft. Wasp took a lurking Japanese submarine's torpedoes on 15 September while covering a convoy. Now only Hornet remained. Navy planes and crews from Enterprise, Saratoga, and now Wasp flew into Henderson Field to supplement the hard-pressed Marine fighter and bomber squadrons there.
However, two days later, the crews from Enterprise's contingent took their planes out to meet their carrier steaming in to arrive on station off Guadalcanal. As the weather broke on the 27th, the Enterprise crews took their leave of Guadalcanal. The next day, the Japanese mounted their first raid in nearly two weeks.
Warned by the coast-watchers, Navy and Marine fighters rose to intercept the plane force. Now a lieutenant colonel, Harold "Indian Joe" Bauer was making one of his periodic visits from Efate, and scored a kill, a Zero, before landing. A veteran of 10 years as a Marine aviator, he watched the progress of the campaign at Guadalcanal from his rear-area base on Efate. He would come north, using as an excuse the need to check on those members of his squadron who had been Sent to Henderson and would occasionally fly with the Cactus fighters. His victory on the 28th was his first, and soon, Bauer was a familiar face to the Henderson crews.
Bauer was visiting VMF on 3 October when a coastwatcher reported a large group of Japanese bombers inbound for Henderson. VMF and took off to intercept the raiders. The Marine Wildcats accounted for 11 enemy aircraft; Lieutenant Colonel Bauer claimed four, making him an ace. Nimitz departed in a blinding rain after presenting a total of 27 medals to the men of the Cactus Air Force. Foss came from Sioux Falls, South Dakota, and as a boy had developed a shooting eye which would stand him in good stead over Guadalcanal.
He enlisted in the Marine Corps in February and received his wings of gold 13 months later. Originally considered too old to fly fighters he was 27 , he was ordered to a photo reconnaissance squadron in San Diego. However, he kept submitting requests for transfer to fighters and was finally sent to VMF A few days after arriving at Henderson, Foss scored his first victory on 13 October. As an attacking Zero fired and missed, Foss fired his guns sending the enemy fighter down. Three more Zeros then attacked Foss, putting holes in his Wildcat's oil system. The newly blooded pilot had to make a deadstick landing back at Cactus Base.
Other veterans of the campaign had not stayed idle. Smith exited a cloud to confront three Zeros. He blasted a fighter into a ball of flame. However, the two remaining Zeros got on his tail and peppered the struggling little blue-gray F4F with cannon and machine gun fire. Smith's aircraft was mortally wounded, and he tried to regain the field. He finally had to make a deadstick landing six miles from the strip and walk back, watching all the time for roving Japanese patrols.
Second Lieutenant Charles H. Kendrick was not as fortunate as his skipper. The Zeros had gotten him on their first pass, and he tried to guide his stricken fighter to a crash landing. He apparently landed close to Henderson, but his fighter flipped over on its back, killing the young pilot. Major Smith led a party to the crash site. They found Kendrick still in his cockpit. They released and buried him beside his plane.
Stan Nicolay recalled, "I don't know how many we lost that day. We really took a beating. Several others required major repair. VMF's skipper was also shot down. Bob Galer bailed out over the water--his third shootdown in less than three weeks--and was rescued.
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He had accounted for two Zeros, however. He recalled:. Major Galer struggled ashore where he encountered four men armed with machetes and spears. Fortunately, the natives were friendly and took the bedraggled pilot to their village. After enjoying what hospitality his hosts could offer, Major Galer rode in a native canoe to a Marine camp on a beach five miles away. He made his way back to Henderson from there. Marine Aircraft Group 23 and the rest of its squadrons also left the following day, having earned a rest from the intense combat of the last two-and-a-half months.
The score had not come free, though. Twenty-two pilots of the group, as well as 33 aviators from other Navy, Marine, and Army squadrons assigned to the Cactus Air Force, had been lost. John Smith had seen his last engagement. He received the Medal of Honor for his leadership during the Guadalcanal campaign and finished the war as the sixth highest on the. He gained two more kills--a Ki. His final score at the end of the war was The night of October saw the Japanese pound beleaguered Henderson Field with every gun they could fire from their assembled flotilla offshore, as well as the entrenched artillery positions hidden in the dense jungle surrounding the field.
The night-long barrage might very well have been the end for the Cactus Marines. The new day revealed that of 39 Dauntlesses, only seven could be considered operational, only a few Army fighters could stagger into the air, and all the TBF Avenger torpedo bombers were destroyed or down. The only saving factor was that the fighter strip was relatively untouched. By the afternoon, a few Wildcats were sent up to mount a patrol over Henderson while it pulled itself together. For the next few days, the Cactus Air ForceMarine, Navy, and Army--flew as though its collective life was on the line, which it was.
With empty gas tanks, the 18 Wildcats were running on fumes as they entered the landing pattern in time to see a U. Without hesitating, Bauer broke from the pattern and charged into the Vals, shooting down four of them. It was an incredible way to advertise the arrival of his squadron. Joe Foss took off on the afternoon of 23 October to intercept an incoming force of Betty bombers, escorted by Zeros.
Five of the escorting fighters dove toward Foss and his flight, followed by 20 more Zeros. He fired at the Japanese fighter, shredding it with his six. Without losing speed, Foss racked his aircraft into a loop behind another Zero. He destroyed this second Mitsubishi while both fighters hung inverted over Guadalcanal. As he came out of the loop, Foss hit a third Zero. A fourth kill finished off a highly productive mission. On 25 October, Foss took off again against a Japanese raid, and this time, he shot down two enemy aircraft.
Later the same day, Foss gunned down three more Zeros for a total of five in one day, and an overall score of 16 kills. Captain Fleming was a dive-bomber pilot at Midway in On 5 June , Captain Fleming was last seen diving on a Japanese ship amidst a wall of flak.
His Vindicator struck the cruiser's aft turret. Two of the remaining nine awards were for specific actions; the other seven were for periods of continued service or more than one mission. Seven of these awards were for service in the Solomons-Guadalcanal Campaign. Swett 7 April Five of these awards were originally posthumous. However, Major Gregory Boyington made a surprise return from captivity as a prisoner of war to receive his award in person from President Harry S.
For service from September to January in the Central Solomons. First Lieutenant Jefferson J. DeBlanc , VMF For action on 31 January Grumman F4F-4 Wildcat. Elrod , VMF For action on Wake Island December Grumman F4F-3 Wildcat. Fleming , VMSB For action at the Battle of Midway, June Vought SB2U-3 Vindicator. Captain Joseph J. Foss , VMF For service in the Guadalcanal Campaign, October January Hanson , VMF For action in the Central Solomons, November and January Vought F4U-1 Corsair.
Major Robert L. Smith , VMF For service in the Guadalcanal Campaign, August-September First Lieutenant James E. Swett , VMF For action on 7 April over Guadalcanal. First Lieutenant Kenneth A. Walsh , VMF For action on 15 and 30 August Before the big mission on 23 October, the Coach had told his pilots, "When you see Zeros, dogfight 'em! Joe Foss' success on this day seemed to vindicate Bauer, however. Up to this time the Zero was considered the best fighter in the Pacific.
This belief stemmed from the fact that the Zero had spectacular characteristics of performance in both maneuverability, rate of climb, and radius of action, all first noted at the Battles of the Coral Sea and Midway. And it was because of its performances in these actions that it achieved the seeming invincibility that it did. At the same time, the Zero was highly flammable because it lacked armor plate in any form in its design and also because it had no self-sealing fuel tanks, such as existed in U.
Initially in the war, in the hands of a good pilot, the Zero could usually take care of itself against its heavier and tougher American opponents, but early in the air battles over Guadalcanal, its days of supremacy became numbered. By the end of the war in the Pacific, the kill ratio of U. What made the difference as far as Lieutenant Colonel Bauer was concerned was his feeling that, in the 10 months of intense combat after Pearl Harbor, including their disastrous and failed adventure at Midway, the Japanese had lost many of their most experienced pilots, and their replacements were neither so good nor experienced.
Many of the major aces of the Zero squadrons--the ones who had accumulated many combat hours over China--had, indeed, been lost or been rotated out of the combat zone. Whatever the situation, most of the Marine pilots in this early part of the war in the South Pacific would still admit that the Japanese remained a force to be reckoned with. The Japanese endeavored to reassert their dominance on 25 October. In a last-ditch effort to remove American carriers from the South Pacific, a fleet including three aircraft carriers sortied to find the U.
The Japanese fleet was discovered during an intensive search by PBY flying boats, and the battle was joined early in the morning of 26 October. What became known as the Battle of Santa Cruz occurred some miles southeast of Guadalcanal. Indeed, most of the Marine and Navy flight crews attempting to blunt remaining enemy air raids still plaguing the positions of the embattled ground forces on Guadalcanal had no idea that another desperate fight was being waged that would have a distinct impact on their situation back at Henderson.
Many American Navy flight crews received their baptism of fire during Santa Cruz. Hornet was hit by Japanese dive-bombers and eventually abandoned--one of the few times that a still-floating American ship had been left to the enemy, even though she was burning from stem to stern. The carrier was only a year old. Enterprise was hit by Val dive-bombers, and the aircraft of her Air Group 10 were ultimately forced to land on Guadalcanal. The displaced Navy crews remained at Henderson until 10 November, while their ship underwent repairs at Noumea, New Caledonia.
Like Midway, Santa Cruz deprived the Japanese of many of their vital aircraft and their experienced flight crews and flight commanders. Thus, as the frantic month of October gave way to November, and although they did not know it at the time, the Cactus Air Force crews had been given a respite, and. Brigadier General Roy S. He was 57 years old, and he had been a Marine for 35 of those years, commanded a squadron in France in World War I, served a number of tours fighting the bandits in Central America, and had served in the Philippines and China.
He was designated a naval aviator in June , thus becoming the fifth flyer in the Marine Corps and the 49th in the naval service. In the course of his career, he had a number of assignments to staff and command billets as well as tours at senior military courses such as the ones at the Army Command and Staff School at Fort Leavenworth, the Army War College at Carlisle, and the Navy War College at Newport. He also was both a student and instructor at various times at the Marine Corps Schools, Quantico, Virginia. Among other reasons, it was because of his sound training in strategy, and tactics at these schools and his long experience as a Marine that he was so well equipped to assume command of I Marine Amphibious Corps later III Amphibious Corps for the Bougainville, Guam, Peleliu, and Okinawa operations.
He was then 60, an age when many men in civilian life looked forward to retirement. But it was at Guadalcanal, where his knowledge of Marine planes and pilots was so important in defeating the myth of Japanese invincibility in the air, that he first made his mark in the Pacific War. A short, husky, tanned, and white-haired Marine, whose deep blue eyes were piercing and whose reputation had preceded him, compelled instant attention, recognition, and dedication on the part of his junior pilots, many of whom had but a few hours of experience in the planes they were flying.
As told in this pamphlet, out of meager beginnings grew the reputation and success in combat of the aces in the Solomons. Meanwhile, under the command of Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto, the Japanese decided to make one more try to land troops and material on Guadalcanal and to regain the island and its airstrips.
The Americans were also bringing new squadrons and men in to fortify Cactus Base and Henderson Field. Geiger as commander of the Cactus Air Force. Both men were pioneer Marine aviators, and Geiger had led his squadrons through some of the most intense combat to be seen during the war. But, almost inevitably, the strain was beginning to show on the tough, year-old Geiger. He had once taken off in an SBD in full view of his troops and dropped a 1,pound bomb on a Japanese position, showing his troops that a former squadron commander in France in World War I could still do it.
As new planes and crews arrived at Henderson and the frustrated Japanese planned their final attacks, the Cactus Marines fought on. The heavily laden aircraft took some 30 minutes to climb to 12, feet as their crews searched for the enemy flotilla. As he looked ahead and below, Foss spotted six Japanese floatplane Zeros--a modification of the A6M2 model of the land-and carrier-based Zero--crossing from right to left, descending. Alerting his squadron mates, he dropped his light bombs and headed toward the unsuspecting enemy fighters. In one slashing pass, Foss' Wildcats shot down five of the six Zeros, Foss' target literally disintegrating under the weight of his heavy machine gun fire.
One of the other Wildcats shot down the surviving Zero. All six enemy pilots bailed out of their fighters and seemed to be out of danger as they floated toward the water. As the incredulous Marine pilots watched, however, the six Japanese aviators unlatched their parachute harnesses and fell to their deaths. Foss called for his fighters to regroup in preparation for a strafing run on the enemy warships below.
He spotted a slow float biplane--probably a Mitsubishi type used for reconnaissance-and lined up for what he thought would be an easy kill. However, the two-seater was surprisingly maneuverable, and its pilot chopped the throttle, letting his rear gunner get a good shot at the surprised American fighter.
The gunner's aim was good and Foss' Wildcat suffered heavy damage before he finally dispatched the audacious little floatplane. Soon, the VMF executive officer found a third victim, another floatplane, and shot it down. Regrouping with a portion of his group, he flew back to Henderson Field with another badly damaged Wildcat.
However, the two cripples were spotted en route by enemy fighters. The two American fighters tried to get to the protection of clouds. Foss succeeded, but his wingman was apparently shot down by the enemy flight. Foss was not out of danger, however, as his engine finally quit, forcing him to glide toward the sea, 3, feet below. He dropped through heavy rain, trying to gauge the best way to put his aircraft down in the water. He spotted a small village on the coast of a nearby island and wondered if the natives would turn him over to the Japanese.
He hit the water with enough force to slam his canopy shut, momentarily trapping him in the cockpit as the Wildcat began to sink. In a few seconds which seemed like an. His aircraft was well below the surface and only after an adrenalin-charged push, was he able to ram the canopy back and shoot from his plane.
He remembered to inflate his Mae West life preserver, which helped him get to the surface where he lay gasping for air. After floating for a long time as darkness fell, Foss was finally rescued by natives and a missionary priest from the village he had seen as he dropped toward the water. The rescue came none too soon as sharks, which frequented the waters near the island, had begun to appear around the Marine pilot.
A PBY flew up from Henderson the next day to collect him and he was back in action the day after he returned. On 12 November, he scored three kills, making him the top American ace of the war, and the first to reach 20 kills. The next day, 14 November, the Second Battle of Guadalcanal pitted aircraft from the carrier Enterprise and Henderson Field against a large enemy force trying to run the Slot, the body of water running down the Solomons chain between Guadalcanal and New Georgia. By midnight, another naval engagement was underway. This battle turned out differently for the Japanese, who lost several ships, including 10 transports carrying more than 4, troops and their equipment.
The Navy and Marines from Enterprise and Henderson hammered the enemy ships, while the Americans on the island, in turn, were harassed day and night by well-entrenched enemy artillery positions still on Guadalcanal and the huge guns of the Japanese battleships and cruisers offshore. During these furious engagements, Lieutenant Colonel Bauer had dutifully stayed on the ground, organizing Cactus air strikes and ordering other people into the air.
Two Zeros sneaked up on the Marine fighters, but Bauer turned to meet the threat, shooting down one of the Japanese attackers. The second Zero dragged Foss and Furlow over a Japanese destroyer which did its best to take out the Wildcats. By the time they had shaken the Zero and returned to the point where they last saw the Coach, they found a large oil slick with Colonel Bauer in the middle, wearing his yellow Mae West, waving furiously at his squadron mates.
Foss quickly flew back to Henderson and jumped into a Grumman Duck, a large amphibian used as a hack transport and rescue vehicle. Precious time was lost as the Duck had to hold for a squadron of Army B bombers landing after a flight from New Caledonia; they were nearly out of gas. Renner, roared off in the last light of the day. By the time they arrived over Bauer's last position, it was dark and the Coach was nowhere to be seen. The next morning a desperate search found nothing of Lieutenant Colonel Bauer. He was never found and was presumed to have drowned or have been attacked by the sharks which were a constant threat to all aviators forced to parachute into the waters around Guadalcanal during the campaign.
Bauer's official score of 11 Japanese aircraft destroyed revised lists credit him with 10 did not begin to tell the impact the loss the tough veteran had on the young Marine and Navy crews at Henderson. He was decorated with a Medal of Honor posthumously for his flight on 16 October, when he shot down four Japanese Val dive-bombers, but the high award could also be considered as having been given in recognition of his leadership of his own squadron, VMF, and later, as the commander of the fighters of the Cactus Air Force.
The loss of the Coach was a hard blow. Another loss, albeit temporary, was that of Joe Foss who became severely ill with malaria. Many of the Cactus Air Force aviators, like the ground troops, battled one tropical malady or another during their combat tours. Foss flew out to New Caledonia on 19 November with a temperature of degrees. He spent the next month on sick leave, also losing 37 pounds. In one of his conversations with them, he told the Aussies, "We have a saying up at Guadalcanal, if you're alone and you meet a Zero, run like hell because you're outnumbered.
Foss returned to Guadalcanal on 31 December , and remained on combat status until 17 February , when he was ordered back to the U. By this time, besides enduring several return bouts with malaria, he had shot down another six Japanese aircraft for a final total of 26 aircraft and no balloons, thus becoming the first American pilot to equal the score of Captain Edward Rickenbacker, the top U. In that war, tethered balloons shot down counted as aircraft splashed.
Of the 26 planes Rickenbacker was given credit for, four were balloons. Joe Foss was one of the Cactus Marines who was awarded the Medal of Honor for his cumulative work during their intense campaign. Originally nicknamed "Joe's Jokers,'' in deference to their famous skipper, VMF flew a short combat tour from Bougainville during May when there was little or no enemy air activity from and above Rabaul.
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Major Foss did not add to his score. In a wild melee, DeBlanc, who already had three Zeros to his credit, shot down three more before hearing a call for help from the bombers now under attack by floatplane Zeros. DeBlanc and his flight climbed back to the formation and dispersed the float Zeros. He engaged and destroyed these two attackers with his badly damaged Wildcat. Fellton, had to abandon their F4Fs over Kolombangara.
A coastwatcher cared for the two Marine aviators until a plane could come from Henderson to retrieve them. DeBlanc received the Medal of Honor for his day's work. The Japanese evacuated Guadalcanal on the night of February The campaign had been costly for both sides, but in the longer term, the Japanese were the big losers. Their myth of invincibility on the ground in the jungle was shattered, as was the myth surrounding the Zero and the pilots who flew it.
The lack of reliable records by both sides leaves historians with only wide-ranging estimates of losses. Estimates placed Japanese aircraft lost, while American losses were put at Ninety-four American pilots were also killed in action during the campaign. On 7 April , the enemy sent a huge strike against Allied shipping around Guadalcanal. The Japanese force consisted of more than Zero escorts and perhaps 70 bombers, dive bombers, and torpedo bombers. It was an incredibly large raid, the likes of which had not been seen in the Solomons for several months. But it was also, at best, a last desperate gamble by the Japanese in the area.
Swett, leading one of the squadron's divisions, waded into a formation of Val dive bombers. Swett had arrived on Guadalcanal in February and had participated in a few patrols, but had yet to fire his guns in combat. As he led his four Wildcats toward the Japanese formation, Swett ignored the flak from the American ships below. He targeted two Vals and brought them down. He got a third dive-bomber as a flak shell put a hole in his Wildcat's port wing. Disengaging, Swett tested his wounded fighter, and satisfied that he could still fly and fight with it, he reentered the fight.
Spotting five Vals hightailing it home, he caught up with the little formation and methodically disposed of four of the fixed-gear Vals. The gunner of the fifth bomber, however, hit Swett's Wildcat with a well-aimed burst from his light machine gun, putting. Wounded from the shattering glass, and with his vision obscured from spouting engine oil, Swett pumped more fire into the Val, killing the gunner. The Japanese aircraft disappeared into a cloud, leaving a smoke trail behind. American soldiers later found the Val, with its dead crew. The troops presented Swett with the radio code from the Val's cockpit.
However, the aircraft was apparently never credited to Swett's account, leaving his official total for the day at seven. Swett struggled toward Henderson but over Tulagi harbor, his aircraft's engine quit, leaving him to. Swett's engagement was part of the last great aerial battle in the Solomons. The Japanese were forced to turn their attention elsewhere as the American strategy of island-hopping began to gather momentum.
All the Marine Corps Wildcat squadrons at Henderson soon transitioned to the next generation of Marine fighter aircraft, the world-beating Vought F4U Corsair which would also provide its own generation of Leatherneck aces in the coming months. By 11 May , when he shot down his last victim, a Japanese kamikaze, he had a total of Once secured, however, by 7 February , Guadalcanal quickly became the major support base for the remainder of the Solomons campaign.
While Marine ground forces slugged their way up the Solomons chain in the middle of , Allied air power provided much-needed support, primarily from newly secured Guadalcanal. Marine and Navy squadrons were accompanied by Army and New Zealand squadrons as they made low-level sweeps along the islands, or escorted bombers against the harbor and airfields around Rabaul. For Marine aviators, it was the time of the Corsair aces. As the Allied offensive across the Pacific gathered momentum, the fighting above the Solomons and the surrounding islands continued as the Japanese constantly harassed the advancing Allied troops.
The Corsair's first engagements were tentative. The pilots of the first squadron, VMF, had only an average of 25 hours each in the plane when they landed at Guadalcanal. It was a lot to ask, but they did it, taking some losses of both. While it was a rough start, the Marines soon settled down and began to exploit the great performance of this new machine, soon to become known to the Japanese as "Whistling Death," and to the Corsair pilots as the "Bent Wing Widow Maker. After the first few missions, the new experience with the Corsair's capabilities began to really take hold.
Walsh, a former enlisted pilot he received his wings of gold as a private , shot down three enemy aircraft on 1 April. Six weeks later, after several patrols, Walsh dropped three more Zeros on 13 May , becoming the first Corsair ace. By 15 August, Walsh had 10 victories to his credit. On 30 August, he was scheduled to fly escort for Army Bs on a strike against the Japanese airfield at Kahili, Bougainville. Walsh's four-plane section launched before noontime to make the flight to a forward base on Banika in the Russell Islands. After refueling and grabbing some lunch, the four Marine pilots took off again to rendezvous with the bombers.
As the escorts--more F4Us and Army Ps--joined up with the bombers, Walsh's engine acted up, forcing him to make an emergency landing at Munda. A friend, Major James L. Neefus, was in charge of the Munda airfield, and he let Walsh choose another fighter from Corsairs that were parked on Munda's airstrip. Walsh took off in his borrowed fighter and headed toward Kahili to try to find and rejoin with his division. As he finally approached the enemy base, he saw the Bs in their bomb runs, beset by swarms of angry Zeros.
Alone, at least for the moment, Walsh piled into the enemy interceptors which had already begun to work on the Army bombers. As Walsh fought off several attacks by some 50 Zeros, thereby disrupting to a degree their attack on the bombers, he wondered where all the other American fighters might be. Finally, several other Corsairs appeared to relieve the hard-pressed ace. As other aircraft took the burden from Walsh, he eased his damaged fighter east to take stock of his situation.
He was able to shoot down two Zeros, but the enemy interceptors were nearly overwhelming. The Bs were struggling to turn for home as more Zeros took off from Kahili. Lieutenant Walsh managed to down two more Zeros before he had to disengage his badly damaged Corsair. Pursued by the Japanese, who pumped cannon and machine gun fire into his plane, Walsh knew he would not return this Corsair to. Major Neefus at Munda. Several Corsairs and a lone P arrived to scatter the Zeros which were using Walsh for target practice.
He ditched his battered fighter off Vella Lavella and was picked up by the Seabees who borrowed a boat after watching the Marine Corsair splash into the sea. For his spirited single-handed defense of the Bs over Bougainville, Lieutenant Walsh became the first Corsair pilot to receive the Medal of Honor.
The four Zeros he shot down during this incredible mission ran his score to Ken Walsh shot down one more aircraft, another Zero, off Okinawa on 22 June , the day the island was secured. At the time, Walsh was the operations officer for VMF, shore based on the newly secured island. A series of assaults during the spring and summer of netted the Allies several important islands up the Solomons chain. An amphibious assault of Bougainville at Empress Augusta Bay on 1 November , caught the Japanese defenders off guard.
In spite of Japanese reaction and reinforcement, a secure perimeter was quickly established, and within 40 days, the first of three airfields was in operation with two more to follow by the new year. With the establishment of this air strength at Bougainville, the rest of the island was effectively bypassed, and the fate of Rabaul sealed. Marine aircraft began flying from their base at Torokina Point at Empress Augusta Bay, the site for the initial landing on Bougainville's midwestern coast. Piva Village was a settlement on the Piva River, east of the airfield complex.
The official Marine Corps history noted that "whenever there was no combat air patrol over the beachhead, the Japanese were quite apt to drop shells into the airfield area. The Seabees and Marine engineers moved to the end of the field which was not being hit and continued to work. The best estimate places A6M2 production at over 1, A native of Idaho, Gregory Boyington went through flight training as a Marine Aviation Cadet, earning a reputation for irreverence and highjinks that did not go down well with his superiors. His thirst for adventure, as well as his accumulated financial debts, led him to resign his commission as a first lieutenant and join the American Volunteer Group AVG , better known as the Flying Tigers.
Like other service pilots who joined the AVG, he first resigned his commission and this letter was then put in a safe to be redeemed and torn up when he rejoined the Marine Corps. Boyington claimed to have shot down six Japanese aircraft while with the Flying Tigers. However, AVG records were poorly kept, and were lost in air raids. To compound the problem, the U. Thus, the best confirmation that can be obtained on Boyington's record with the AVG is that he scored 3. Whatever today's accounts show, Boyington returned to the U. He was perhaps the first Marine aviator to have flown in combat against the Japanese, though, and he felt he would easily regain his commission in the Marine Corps.
To his frustration, no one in any service seemed to want him. His reputation was well known and this made his reception not exactly open armed. Boyington finally telegrammed his qualifications to Secretary of the Navy Frank Knox, and as a result, found himself back in the Marine Corps on active duty as a Reserve major. He was based at Espiritu Santo, initially flying squadron training, non-combat missions. He deployed for a short but inactive tour at Guadalcanal in March , and after the squadron was withdrawn, he relieved Major Elmer Brackett as commanding officer in April His first command tour was disappointing.
He eventually landed in VMF, which he commanded for three weeks in the rear area. Prior to forward deployment, he broke his leg while wrestling and was hospitalized.
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Boyington got another chance and took command of a reconstituted VMF The original unit had returned from a combat tour, during which it had lost its commanding officer, Major William Pace. When the squadron returned from a short rest and recreation tour in Australia, the decision was made to reorganize the unit because the squadron did not have a full complement of combat-ready pilots.
Thus, the squadron number went to a newly organized squadron under Major Boyington. In his illuminating wartime memoir, Once They. Major Boyington was the right rank for a squadron commander; he was an experienced combat pilot; he was available; and the need was great. These assets overcame such reservations as the general [Major General Ralph J. General Mitchell made the decision. We'll go with Boyington. Much has been written about Boyington and his squadron.
At 31, Boyington was older than his year-old lieutenants. His men called him "Gramps" or "Pappy. The squadron wanted to call themselves the alliterative "Boyington's Bastards," but s sensitivities would not allow such language. They decided on the more evocative "Black Sheep. The popular image of VMF as a collection of malcontents and ne'er-do-wells is not at all accurate. The television program of the late s did nothing to dispel this inaccurate impression.
In truth, Pappy's squadron was much like any other fighter squadron, with a cross-section of people of varying capabilities and experience. The two things that welded the new squadron into such a fearsome fighting unit was its new mount, the F4U-1 Corsair, and its indomitable leader.
Boyington took his squadron to Munda on New Georgia in September. On the 16th, the Black Sheep flew their first mission, a bomber escort to Ballale, a Japanese airfield on a small island about five miles southeast of Bougainville. The mission turned into a free-for-all as about 40 Zeros descended on the bombers. Boyington downed a Zero for his squadron's first kill He quickly added four more.
Six other Black Sheep scored kills. It was an auspicious debut, marred only by the loss of one pilot, Captain Robert T. The following weeks were filled with continuous action. Boyington and his squadron rampaged through the enemy formations, whether the Marine Corsairs were escorting bombers, or making pure fighter sweeps. The frustrated Japanese tried to lure Pappy into several traps, but the pugnacious ace taunted them over the radio, challenging.
By mid-December , VMF, along with the other Allied fighter squadrons, began mounting large fighter sweeps staged through the new fighter strip at Torokina Point on Bougainville. Author Barrett Tillman described the state of affairs in the area at the end of December This strategy was fine, except that Boyington was beginning to feel the pressure that being a top ace seemed to bring.
Joe Foss had already equaled the early ace's total, but was now out of action. Boyington scored four kills on 23 December , bringing his tally to Boyington was certainly feeling the pressure to break Rickenbacker's year-old record. Boyington's intelligence officer, First Lieutenant Frank Walton, wrote of his tenseness and quick flare-ups when pressed about when and by how much he would surpass the magic A few days before his final mission, Boyington reacted to a persistent public affairs officer.
I'd like to get 40 if I could. The more we can shoot down here, the fewer there'll be up the line to stop us. Later that night, Boyington told Walton, "Christ, I don't care if I break the record or not, if they'd just leave me alone. Like a melodrama, however, Boyington's life now seemed to revolve around raising his score. Even those devoted members of his squadron could not help wondering--if only to cheer their squadron commander on--when he would do it.
Pappy's agony was about to come to a crashing halt. He got a single kill on 27 December during a huge fight against 60 Zeros. But, after taking off on a mission against Rabaul on 2 January , at the head of 56 Navy and Marine fighters, Boyington had problems with his Corsair's engine. He returned without adding to his score. The following day, he launched at the head of another sweep staging through Bougainville. By late morning, other VMF pilots returned with the news that Boyington had, indeed, been in action.
When they last saw him, Pappy had already disposed of one Zero, and together with his wingman, Captain George M. Ashmun, was hot on the tails of other victims. The initial happy anticipation turned to apprehension as the day wore on and neither Pappy nor Ashmun returned. By the afternoon, without word from other bases, the squadron had to face the unthinkable: Boyington was missing.
The Black Sheep mounted patrols to look for their leader, but within a few days, they had to admit that Pappy was not coming back. In fact, Boyington and his wingman had been shot down after Pappy had bagged three more Zeros, thus bringing his claimed total to 28, breaking the Rickenbacker tally, and establishing Boyington as the top-scoring Marine ace of the war, and, for that matter, of all time. However, these final victories were unknown until Boyington's return from a Japanese prison camp in Boyington's last two kills were thus unconfirmed.
The only one who could have seen Pappy's victories was his wingman, Captain Ashmun, shot down along with his skipper. While there is no reason to doubt his claims, the strict rules of verifying kills were apparently relaxed for the returning hero when he was recovered from a prisoner of war camp after the war. Pappy and his wingman had been overwhelmed by a swarm of Zeros and had to bail out of their faltering Corsairs near Cape St. George on New Ireland. Captain Ashmun was never recovered, but Boyington was retrieved by a Japanese submarine after being strafed by the vengeful Zeros that had just shot him down.
Boyington spent the next 20 months as a prisoner of war, although no one in the U. He endured torture and beatings during interrogations, and was finally rescued when someone painted "Boyington Here! Aircraft dropping supplies to the prisoners shortly after the ceasefire in August spotted the message and soon. Although he had never received a single decoration while he was in combat, Boyington returned to the U. With Pappy Boyington gone, several other young Marine aviators began to make themselves known.
The most productive, and unfortunately, the one with the shortest career, was First Lieutenant Robert M. Hanson of VMF Although born in India of missionary parents, Hanson called Massachusetts home. A husky, competitive man, he quickly took to the life of a Marine combat aviator. During his first and second tours, flying from Vella Lavella with other squadrons, including Boyington's Black Sheep, Hanson shot down five Japanese planes, although during one of these fights, he, himself, was forced to ditch his Corsair in Empress Augusta Bay.
For his third tour, he joined VMF at Torokina. By mid-January, Hanson had begun such a hot streak of kills, that the young pilot had earned the name "Butcher Bob. On 18 January , he disposed of five enemy aircraft. On 24 January, he added four more Zeros. Another four Japanese planes went down before Hanson's Corsair on 30 January.
His score now stood at 25, 20 of which had been gained in 13 days in only six missions. Hanson's successes were happening so quickly that he was relatively unknown outside his combat area. Very few combat correspondents knew of his record until later. Lieutenant Hanson took off for a mission on 3 February The next day would be his 24th birthday, and the squadron's third tour would end in a few days.
He was going back home. He called his flight commander, Captain Harold L. Spears, and asked if he could strafe Japanese antiaircraft artillery positions at Cape St. George on New Ireland, the same general area over which Pappy Boyington had been shot down a month before.
Hanson made his run, firing his plane's six. The Japanese returned fire as the big, blue-gray Marine fighter rocketed past, seemingly under control. However, Hanson's plane dove into the water from a low altitude, leaving only an oil slick. Hanson's meteoric career saw him become the highest-scoring Marine Corsair ace, and the second Marine high-scorer, one behind Joe Foss.
Lieutenant Hanson received a posthumous Medal of Honor for his third tour of combat. And the youngest. Certainly, Japanese society was completely alien to most Americans. Adherence to ancestral codes of honor and a national history--one of constant internal, localized strife where personal weakness was not tolerated, especially in the Samurai class of professional warriors--did not permit the individual Japanese soldier to surrender even in the face of overwhelming odds.
This capability did not come by accident. Japanese training was tough. Marine Corps boot training. However, as the war turned against them, the Japanese relaxed their stringent prewar requirements and mass-produced pilots to replace the veterans who were lost at Midway and in the Solomons. For instance, before the war, pilots learned navigation and how to pack a parachute. After , these subjects were eliminated from training to save time. Their instructors--mostly enlisted--were literally their rulers, with nearly life-or-death control of the recruits' existence.
After surviving the physical training, the recruits began flight training where the rigors of their preflight classes were maintained. By the time Japanese troops evacuated Guadalcanal in February , however, their edge had begun wearing thin as they had lost many of their most experienced pilots and flight commanders, along with their aircraft. The failed Japanese adventure at midway in June , as well as the heavy losses in the almost daily combat over Guadalcanal and the Solomons deprived them of irreplaceable talent.
Even the most experienced pilots eventually came up against a losing roll of the dice. As noted in the main text, Japanese aces such as Sakai, Sasai, and Ota were invalided out of combat, or eventually killed. Rotation of pilots out of the war zone was a system employed neither by the Japanese nor the Germans, as a matter of fact.
As several surviving Axis aces have noted in their memoirs, they flew until they couldn't. Indeed many Japanese and German aces flew. Unfortunately, Japanese records are not as complete as Allied histories, perhaps because of the tremendous damage and confusion wrought by the U. Thus, certainly Japanese scores are not as firm as they are for Allied aviators.
In the popularly accepted sense, the Japanese did not have "aces. A pilot's report of his successes was taken at face value, without a confirmation system such as required by the Allies. Without medals or formal recognition, it was believed that there was little need for selfpromotion. Fighters did not have gun cameras, either.
Japanese air strategy was to inflict as much damage as possible without worrying about confirming a kill. This outwardly cavalier attitude about claiming victories is somewhat suspect since many Zeros carried large "scoreboards" on their tails and fuselages. These markings might have been attributed to the aircraft rather than to a specific pilot. After graduating from flight training, Sakai joined a squadron in China flying Mitsubishi Type 96 fighters, small, open-cockpit, fixed-landing-gear fighters.
He later joined the Tainan Kokutai Tainan air wing , which would become one of the Navy's premier fighter units, and participated in the Pacific war's opening actions in the Philippines. A colorful personality, Sakai was also a dedicated flight leader. He never lost a wingman in combat, and also tried to pass on his hard-won expertise to more junior pilots. After a particularly unsuccessful mission in April , where his flight failed to bring down a single American bomber from a flight of seven Martin Marauders, he sternly lectured his pilots about maintaining flight discipline instead of hurling themselves against their foes.
His words had great effectSakai was respected by subordinates and superiors alike and his men soon formed a well-working unit, responsible for many kills in the early months of the Pacific war. Typically, Junichi Sasai, a lieutenant, junior grade, and one of Sakai's young aces with 27 confirmed kills, was posthumously promoted two grades to lieutenant commander. This practice was common for those. Japanese aviators with proven records, or high scores, who were killed during the war. Japan was unique among all the combatants during the war in that it had no regular or defined system of awards, except for occasional inclusion in war newswhat the British might call being "mentioned in dispatches.
This somewhat frustrating lack of recognition was described by Masatake Okumiya, a Navy fighter commander, in his classic book Zero! Describing a meeting with senior officers, he asked them, "Why in the name of heaven does Headquarters delay so long in according our combat men the honors they deserve? Our Navy does absolutely nothing to recognize its heroes Occasionally, senior officers would give gifts, such as ceremonial swords, to those pilots who had performed great services. And sometimes, superiors would try to buck the unbending system without much success.
Saburo Sakai described one instance in June where the captain in charge of his wing summoned him and Lieutenant Sasai to his quarters. Dejectedly, the captain told his two pilots how he had asked Tokyo to recognize them for their great accomplishments. Tokyo is adamant about making any changes at this time," he said. Perhaps one of the most enigmatic, yet enduring, personalities of the Zero pilots was the man who is generally acknowledged to be the top-scoring Japanese ace, Hiroyoshi Nishizawa.
Saburo Sakai described him as "tall and lanky for a Japanese, nearly five feet, eight inches in height," and possessing "almost supernatural vision. Nishizawa kept himself usually aloof, enjoying a detached but respected status as he rolled up an impressive victory tally through the Solomons campaign.
He was eventually promoted to warrant officer in November Like a few other high-scoring aces, Nishizawa met death in an unexpected manner in the Philippines. He was shot down while riding as a passenger in a bomber used to transport him to another base to ferry a Zero in late October In keeping with the established tradition, Nishizawa was posthumously promoted two ranks to lieutenant junior grade. His score has been variously given as , , and as high as However, the currently accepted total for him is Iwamoto claimed victories, many of which were against U.
Marine Corps aircraft, including at Rabaul. I don't believe his claims are accurate, but I don't believe Nishizawa's total of 87, either. I might believe His actual score might be around Several of Sho-ichi Sugita's kills--which are informally reckoned to total were Marine aircraft.
He was barely 19 when he first saw combat in the Solomons. He had flown at Midway but saw little of the fighting. Sugita was one of the six Zero escort pilots that watched as Ps shot down Admiral Yamamoto's Betty on 18 April There was little they could do to alert the bombers carrying the admiral and his staff since their Zeros' primitive radios had been taken out to save weight.
The problem of keeping accurate records probably came from the directive issued in June by Tokyo forbidding the recording of individual records, the better to foster teamwork in the seemingly once-invincible Zero squadrons. The Japanese Navy pilots roamed where they wished and attacked when they wanted, assured in the superiority of their fighters. Occasionally, discipline would disappear as flight leaders dove into Allied bomber formations, their wingmen hugging their tails as they attacked with their maneuverable Zeros, seemingly simulating their Samurai role models whose expertise with swords is legendary.
Most of the Japanese aces, and most of the rank-and-file pilots, were enlisted petty officers. In fact, no other combatant nation had so many enlisted fighter pilots. Britain and Germany had a considerable number of enlisted aviators without whose services they could not have maintained the momentum of their respective campaigns. However, the Japanese officer corps was relatively small, and the number of those commissioned pilots serving as combat flight commanders was even smaller. Thus, the main task of fighting the growing Allied air threat in the Pacific fell to dedicated enlisted pilots, many of them barely out of their teens.
During a recent interview, Saburo Sakai shed light on the role of Japanese officer-pilots. He said:. VMF's five-month tour of combat created eight aces, including Pappy Boyington. The Black Sheep accounted for 97 Japanese aircraft downed. VMF's tour lasted four-and-a-half months, and Bob Hanson and his squadron mates-the squadron's roster included 10 aces-destroyed enemy aircraft, in the last six weeks. Besides Boyington, the Black Sheep alumnus who had one of the most interesting careers was John Bolt. Then-First Lieutenant Bolt shot down six aircraft in the Pacific.
Ten years later, now-Major Bolt flew Fs as an exchange pilot with the U. Air Force in Korea. During a three-month period, May-July , he shot down six Russian-built MiGs, becoming the Marine Corps' first and only jet ace, and one of a very select number of pilots who became aces in two wars. While Lieutenant Robert Hanson was the star of VMF for a few short weeks, there were two captains who were just as busy. Donald N.
USS Yorktown (CV-5) in World War II
Aldrich eventually scored 20 kills, while Harold L. Spears accounted for 15 Japanese planes. The two aces were among the senior flight leaders of VMF Don Aldrich had been turned down by recruiters before Pearl Harbor because he was married. Like many other eager young men of his generation, he went across the Canadian border and enlisted in the Royal Canadian Air Force in February He got his wings that November.
But the RCAF put the new aviator to work as an instructor. Lockheed Ventura. Registration on my sample is perfect. The Ventura was a derivative of the popular Lockheed Hudson then in service with Coastal Command but the Hudson had in fact been tried for daylight bombing by the RAF and proved to have weaknesses. Apparently, there were two Liberator crashes at Whenuapai airport c. Patrol bomber. On 11 October No. They were to operate under Fighter Command control until the formation of the Allied Expeditionary Air Force five months later.
Australian War Memorial. While 18 squadrons had been originally planned for service with the RAF, No. Browse our daily deals for even more savings! Free delivery and free returns on eBay Plus items! Find Ww2 Fighter Raf Fighter for less on our site or store. General History of the Lockheed Hudson. I estimated that we left Green Island somewhere around the 18th of October.
Regards Alan. The Hind was one of several obsolescent types acquired by the RNZAF for training purposes pending the arrival of more modern aircraft. See more ideas about World war two, Military aircraft and Ww2 aircraft. The Hudson, a twin engined, twin tailed low wing aircraft, was a bomber version of the Model 14 Super Electra airliner. Ventura Publications. Trent With the drums of war building in Europe in , the Royal Air Force asked Lockheed for a twin-engine bomber to be used for anti-submarine and coastal patrols. Over Imperial War Museums Task Group The Ventura was not popular with the RAF as a bomber, it seemed to offer little more than the Hudson and used more fuel.
Formed as a light bomber unit within No 2 Group at Feltwell on 15 August , it was equipped with Venturas, beginning operations the following December. A dangerous game. Death in the hills. I and IIs entered service with three squadrons of No. This had been produced after the relative failure of the Model 14 in the civil market, In November operating Hudson patrol bombers from Henderson Field at Guadalcanal, it was the first RNZAF operational squadron to engage in direct combat with the Japanese.
Often, PV-1s would lead B bomber formations, since they were equipped with radar. Squadron Ventura, Mosquito. This aircraft began life as an FB. As the entire air bombardment concept owed itself to Gen. This is a dictation from my father-in-law Leonard Lewis who served with Ron 28 in the Pacific. Only then did the full story of the disastrous Ventura bombing raid of May became known, and on 1st March , Leonard Trent was awarded a VC for his leadership and devotion to duty.
Navy BuNo , after a belly landing. The Ventura was the penultimate aircraft in the family which stretched from the Electra to the Harpoon. It remains on active duty and logged 2, hours flight time in V continued into the postwar era, and some remained with No. Updated 24 August I was at the point of ditching this kit in favour of the nice shiny new Revell Ventura - so how to turn this plastic monstrosity into a fast easy build? Hmmmmmm The slots in the wing tips would need an interior made to connect the upper and lower surface so how about we just cut off those nasty wings.
South African use of the Ventura Mk. Visit us and save. We got natives on Green Island to quickly assemble some bamboo rafts which would float low in the water. Vs diverted from Royal Air Force contracts. It was established in December and disbanded in March In all likelihood, the target was I Shot down by Unteroffizier H. With the drums of war building in Europe in , the Royal Air Force asked Lockheed for a twin-engine bomber to be used for anti-submarine and coastal patrols. The RNZAF then began to receive supplies of bomber, reconnaissance, transport and fighter aircraft direct from America.
He hasn't been back to the site of the Oxford crash for 25 years, but it's a find he'll never forget. Advanced Search. The Lockheed Hudson was a medium bomber, built in the United States but primarily operated by British and Commonwealth air forces. Wellington taking off - possibly from Bassingbourn. Our squadron arrived at Green Island, many other PT boats were already there. Navy see Venturas in U. The supplementary decal sheet with nose art is equally well printed, but you will need to cut out the individual markings before they are applied to the model.
Japan invades Hong Kong
In late. The JB-2 is a U. Errol worked for the Forest Service for 16 years, getting to know the mountain as well as his back yard. As the RNZAF prepared for the Island hopping war in the South Pacific it was decided that the Aircrew would be the Squadron and the Aircraft and servicing teams would be positioned as required, irrespective of the Squadron that was flying the aircraft. So indeed an important figure in the history ofthe General Reconnaissnce story. Based on the RAF's own experience with the Hudson which was based on the Lockheed 14 Electra airliner, Lockheed offered a bomber version of the Model 18 Lodestar transport as the Ventura.
The other major claim to fame they had was the introduction of the Ventura to RAF Service, flying more sorties then any other Ventura Sqd of the war. At the end of May the squadron returned to New Zealand for a rest having flown 3, hours on sorties during this tour. Photographer William D Martin. Squadron flying Buffaloes in Malaya—and a motley collection of obsolete aircraft—e. Reformed after the war and renamed No. The RNZAF fighters flew their last mission as bomber escorts on the 6th of the month, and three days later American bombers made their first unescorted attack.
They were a development from the Lockheed Hudson that was used successfully by the RAF for coastal patrols and anti-submarine work. You can add any aviation accident or incident you like: general aviation, military, helicopters etc. Box , Wellington, New Zealand www. Based on our records the first release by Ventura Decals was roughly 11 years ago in the year It was developed from the Lockheed Lodestar transport, as a replacement for the Lockheed Hudson bombers then in service with the Royal Air Force.
The squadron also flew a daily shipping count mission over Rabaul. Most RAF squadron records have survived and are fairly detailed. Task Group Role henceforth predominantly night bombing attacks, but also took part in several special daylight precision attacks. Fuchs of the 4. New refers to a brand-new, unused, unopened, undamaged item, while Used refers to an item that has been used previously. This collection of panels consists of completed restorations or restorations-in-progress. Their crew converted to Lockheed Ventura aircraft and over the following 3 months, became.
The final version of this family was the PV-2 Harpoon maritime patrol bomber. Established in mid, the squadron served in the European theatre, under the operational command of the Royal Air Force. It was developed from the Lockheed Model 18 Lodestar transport, as a replacement for the Lockheed Hudson bombers then in service with the Royal Air Force. The numbers shown relate only to what actually flew with the RAAF.