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CONFIDENTIAL CONFIDENTIAL

 

 

AIR BATTLE NOTES

From the

SOUTH PACIFIC

- No. 16 -

May 11, 1943

 

P-38's AND F4U's IN THE SOLOMONS

I.  4 Lightnings Shoot Dowm 7 of 11 Zekes.
II.  P-38 Fighter Sweep Bags 6 Japs.
III.  46" of Wing Knocked Off - Corsair Flies Home.
IV.  4 F4U's Turn Back 40 Nips.

(Re-issued by Air Information Branch, Bureau of Aeronautics)
May 29, 1943

 

 

 

UNITED STATES PACIFIC FLEET

SOUTH PACIFIC FORCE

INTELLIGENCE DIVISION

 


CONFIDENTIAL

     I. 4 Lightnings Shoot Down 7 of 11 Zekes

     On April 7, 1943, off Guadalcanal, a flight of four P-38's met eleven enemy fighters (Zekes) in two separate flights of three and eight Ø's each. In the combat that ensued, they shot down seven sure and very probably two others. The Lightnings returned to base without a single bullet in any of them.

     The nature of the combat was such as to offer an excellent test of the Lightning versus the Zeke. The following informational and tactical data was proffered by the four pilots concerned in the action. Each of them had at least one hundred combat hours in the P-38 and other fighter planes.

     When the flight was scrambled, the P-38's, in close formation, climbed to an altitude of 31,000 feet in twenty-two minutes. Fighter Director directed them to a point of interception, where they sighted 3 Ø's, 1000 feet below them, three miles distant, and going away. It took about four minutes for the P-38's to overtake them. During the pursuit the Lightnings indicated 260 MPH, pulling 40" of mercury. Approaching the enemy the 38's slowed up and moved in behind the Nips' "loose V" formation at 30,000 feet. The right rear Zero straggled somewhat and the P-38s leader sent him down in flames, having fired into him from 50 yards and directly astern.

     The two remaining Zeros had pulled up in loops, and the wingman of the 38's caught one of them at the top of his loop and exploded him from close range. The last enemy completed his loop and went into a steep dive, followed by the second section of the P-38 flight. One of them pulled up and abandoned the chase at 25,000 feet, but the other followed the Zero in the dive, with the maneuver flaps down - throttle retarded. Indicating 350 MPH in the 70º dive, he caught the Zero at 22,000 feet and exploded him, as the Nip bailed out. After this attack the P-38 zoomed up to 28,000 feet where he rejoined his flight.

     Immediately afterwards, a flight of eight Zekes was sighted at 28,000 feet and 4 miles distant, attacking a three-plane F4F patrol. The Lightnings, on the same level, approached the dog-fight in a slight climb, indicating 200 MPH, then passed through the melee in a correspondingly slight dive. Each element picked out a Zero,

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CONFIDENTIAL

and followed the target through its evasive loop. The leader of the first element set afire his Zero at the top of the loop, rolled out and found a Zeke on his tail; his wing man was there to cover, though, and shot down the trailer from behind at close range.

     Meanwhile, the leader of the second element had overshot his target, which then immediately turned back upon the tail of the P-38. The Lightning was put into a shallow 30º climb, at an indicated climbing speed of 170 MPH from 25,000 feet to 28,000 feet, at which point the Zero had to abandon and fall off in a half roll. The P-38 pilot then whipped around in pursuit, just in time to see his covering wing man pick off the Zero from behind.

     The F4F's had fallen out of the scrap and gone after a target at a lower altitude, so now there were four P-38's against the remaining four Zeros. A dogfight ensued for 5 minutes within the altitude of 22,000 to 25,000 feet. On one hand the Lightnings were using their superior level speed, and superior shallow climbing ability - both for attacking and evasive maneuvers. The Zeros were using a uniform evasive measure to shake off the following P-38's. They would go into a full roll and a half, always to the right, then dive down and climb up underneath the Lightnings. It was a chasing and evading action; a great deal of shooting ensued, and two Zeros fell out of the fight, probably destroyed.

     One Zero now went into a low, flat power dive toward home. Two p-38's a mile to the rear, went after him. They in turn were being followed by the other Zero an additional mile behind, and the last two P-38's, three miles to the rear. The P-38 leader, following the first Zero on his 20-30 degree dive indicated 4l0 MPH, with all coolant and oil shutters closed, 2800 RPM and 45" of mercury at 15,000 feet. Even at this terrific speed, it was almost 3½ minutes before the chase ended at 3,000 feet with the Zero being shot down from so close a range that the P-38 was somewhat disturbed by the Zero's prop-wash.

     While this was going on, the second Zero had closed up on the P-38 (who had slowed down behind the target in order to get into a good shooting position) and fired tracers over the wings. Here the Lightning firewalled both the throttles, indicating the maximum manifold pressure and an air speed of 480 MPH was built up in a dive to 1,000 feet at which point he entered a convenient cloud.

     The P-38's formed up on the other side of the cloud, and returned to base.

II.  P38 Fighter Sweep Bags 6 Japs

     On the morning of April 18, 16 Lightnings were ordered on a fighter sweep to Buin with the mission of engaging any planes encountered in the area. Of these, four were designated as the attacking force under leadership of Capt. Thomas G. Lanphier, Jr. The other twelve under Major John W. Mitchell, commander of the entire flight, furnished protective cover.

Although not mentioned in this report, this mission was the mission Yamamoto was shot down and killed.

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CONFIDENTIAL

     From Guadalcanal the flight followed a circuitous all-water route of 4l0 miles to avoid visual detection from enemy observation posts, and at an altitude of 10 to 30 feet to avoid possible radar detection. Radio silence was strictly observed until the enemy was sighted.

     The Lightnings were heading toward Bougainville and just beginning to climb for altitude for the attack when the enemy was sighted about 3 miles distant proceeding down the southwest coastline towards Kihili. Two bombers were flying together at 4,500 feet with two sections of 3 Ø's each, 1500 feet above and slightly astern. As the enemy force, apparently unaware of opposition, pursued its course, Maj. Mitchell led his covering group in their climb for altitude, ultimately reaching 15-l8,000 feet. Capt. Lanphier led his flight parallel to the course of the enemy, indicating 200 MPH in a 35º climb. The P-38's actually climbed at 2200 feet per minute. When level with the bombers, and about 2 miles away, Lanphier and his wing man, 1st Lt. Rex T. Barber, dropped their belly tanks and swung in to the attack at at 280 MPH indicated. 1st Lt. Besley T. Holmes had difficulty in releasing his tank, and 1st Lt. Raymond K. Hine remained with him in the second section until he could do so.

     When Lanphier and Barber were within one mile of contact, their attack was observed by the enemy. The bombers nosed down, one started a 360 turn dive, the other going out and away toward the shoreline; the Ø's dropped their belly tanks and three peeled down, in a string, to intercept Lanphier. When he saw that he could not reach the bomber he turned up and into the enemy, exploding the first Ø, and firing into the others as they passed. By this time he had reached 6,000 feet, so he nosed over, and went down to the tree tops after his escaping objective. He came into the bomber broadside and fired into it. A wing flew off and the plane went flaming to the earth.

     The Ø's were now pursuing him and had the benefit of altitude. His mission accomplished, he hedgehopped the treetops and made desperate maneuvers to escape. He kicked rudders, slipped, and skidded, while tracers flew past his plane - but he finally outran them. In all the action he received two 7.7's in his horizontal stabilizer.

     Barber had gone in with Lanphier on the initial attack. He went for one of the bombers but its maneuvers caused him to overshoot a little. He whipped back, however, and although pursued by Ø's caught the bomber and destroyed it. When he fired, the tail section flew off, the bomber turned over on its back and plummeted to earth. This was Yamamoto's plane.

     By this time, Holmes had been able to drop his tank and with Hine came in to ward off the Ø's which were pursuing Barber. A dogfight ensued, but results were not observed. The flight was on its way out of the area (in the neighborhood of enemy bases at Kihili, Ballale and Shortland-Faisi) when Holmes noticed another bomber near Moila Point flying low over the water. He dove on it, his bursts setting it smoking in the left engine. Hine also shot at it and Barber polished it off with a burst in the fuselage which exploded it. A piece, of the plane flew off, cut through his left wing and knocked out his left inner

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CONFIDENTIAL

cooler and other chunks leaving paint streaks on his wing - so close was his attack driven home.

     Holmes, Hine and Barber then turned home. However, Zeros were coming in on Barber's tail and Holmes whipped up and around and shot one down in flames. During another attack Barber shot down another 0, About this time, Hine's left engine started to smoke and he was last seen losing altitude south of Shortland Island. Hine also probably shot down a Ø as a total of three enemy fighters were seen to fall into the sea during this part of the combat.(Japanese pilot Warrant Officer Kenji Yanagiya later reported downing a P-38 over the island of Kolombangara, but Japanese records after the war report no lost Zeros fom this mission)

     Holmes eventually ran out of gas and made a successful landing at the Russell Islands; from which he later brought his plane safely back. The damage to the cooling system of Barber's left motor prevented him from pulling more than 30 inches of mercury at low levels and 25 inches at 4 to 5,000 feet, but despite this limitation to his speed and rate of climb he also brought his plane in safely to base.

III. 46" of Wing Knocked Off - Corsair Flies Home

     A Corsair, which lost 46" of its right wing, probably as the result of anti-aircraft fire, returned to its base on Fighter 1, Guadalcanal, April 23, 1943, from a strike at the Japanese base at Munda Point, New Georgia Island, 185 miles away.

     The plane, one of 4 Corsairs, took off at 1545 and made a strafing run at tree top level at about 1715 from east to west, along the southern side of the runway. At a point about 1/3 of the length of the runway, the pilot noticed the absence of the end portion of his right wing. He did not notice hitting any tree nor did he observe any peculiar behavior of his plane until he was well past the trees, tending to indicate that the wing tip was shot off and that it was not torn off by trees. The right wing seemed to drop and the plane pulled to the right and developed an unusual vibration. The motor at this time was turning up 2350 RPM and the plane was lower than the tree tops. The pilot pushed the stick slightly forward and all the way over to the left, then almost immediately put the plane into a climb, reaching about 500 feet.

     When he was over the water, he dropped the plane down to 100 feet, proceeding at that altitude until he joined the two planes of the leading section about 15 miles from Munda and west of the northern portion of Rendova Island. The plane vibrated considerably and continuously pulled to the right. The pilot had to keep the stick all the way over to the left at all times in order to keep his right wing up. He put his plane into a gradual climb and reached 3,000 feet. In climbing his motor heated to 240º. He cruised home at 3,000 feet and his motor temperature dropped back when he retarded his RPM to 2,000, to the normal level of 190º. He maintained a speed of about 150 knots.

     On landing, his speed was 110 knots compared with the usual landing speed of 90 knots. The right wing seemed to fall and the plane went up on its nose, sliding about 200 feet on two blades, of the prop and its two wheels until it came to a stop. The right tire blew out. The pilot was unhurt.

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CONFIDENTIAL

IV. Four Corsairs Turn Back 40 Hips

    At 1000 April 25, 1943, four Corsairs took off on a strafing mission against the village of Vanga Vanga on the southwest coast of Kolombangara where enemy barges and supplies had been reported. The approach was made in company with eight other Corsairs which were escorting 6 SBD's on a simultaneous strike against Vila airfield. At a point over Wana Wana Island the strafing flight consisting of Major M. K. Peyton, Lt. Hilton Vedder, Lt. Milton Peck and Lt. Eckart of VMF-213 The Hellhawks broke off from the Vila strike, and proceeded to Vanga Vanga. They made four strafing runs at tree-top-level on the village and two runs on a position in a small cove nearby, leaving the two positions smoking.

    After completing strafing, the flight started homeward, climbing to 3,000 feet. They continued, at this altitude, in a course directly toward Buraku Island. When at a point South of Vangunu Island they noticed a formation of planes high, to their right and approximately 30 miles away. The F4U's made a wide left turn, climbing from 3,000 feat to l4,000 feet in six minutes. This climb was made behind a very dense cloud and without detection by the enemy. The enemy was heading on a line with the northwestern portion of the Russell Islands and Tulagi. There were approximately 12 to 16 twin-engined monoplane Jap bombers, which appeared to be black. These bombers were at l4,000 feet. Above the bombers there were three layers of cover furnished by Ø's.

    The low cover consisted of eight Zeros about 500 feet over the bombers flying in two divisions of four each, which weaved back and forth in scissor fashion. The intermediate cover consisted of eight Zeros also, which flew at approximately 1500 feet over the bombers and used the same weaving formation and tactics as low cover, while the high cover consisted of approximately 12 to 16 Zeros flying at about approximately 2500 feet above the bombers.

    Due to the fact that the F4U's were able to make their climb behind the clouds, they were first sighted when on level with bombers and immediately were attacked by 16 to 20 Zeros. The Zeros, before making their attack, dropped their belly tanks in unison. The fight lasted only a few minutes, but the F4U's, confronting overwhelming odds and conceding nearly all advantages, succeeded in breaking up the raid and turning the enemy back, before they could reach their objective. In addition to repulsing the enemy this flight of F4U's shot clown six Zeros as against the loss of two F4U's and one pilot, Lt. Eckart.

Lt. Pock shot down 1 Zero.
Major Peyton shot down 3 Zeros.
Lt. Vedder shot down 2 Zeros.

    Lt. Peck landed unharmed at Guadalcanal. Major Peyton returned with wounds in left arm and left knee. His plane was shot badly, receiving a total of 78 bullet holes - both 20 mm and 7.7 mm. Lt. Vedder was shot down south of Vangunu Island, parachuting from an altitude of 500 feet and landing safely in the water. He used his rubber raft and paddled to shore and two days later was returned to his base. He received a 20 mm wound in the outer portion of his right thigh.

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CONFIDENTIAL

    Lt. Vedder observed two Zeros dive into the water, after he himself had fallen and was paddling toward shore in his rubber life raft. These two planes are probably not included in the planes claimed above by the pilots.

Pilots Comments:

     Major Peyton - "We were flying at 3,000 feet and the enemy was high and about 20 to 30 miles south of our position. Knowing that our strike of 6 SBD's and 8 F4U's should be returning and in that vicinity I decided to climb up and investigate.

     "We made the climb behind a cloud. The bombers were about l4,000 feet, and the time was about 1230. I had to determine whether to return to base and report my observations or engage the enemy and attempt to turn them back. I realized there were many of our ships in the harbor. I thought that to break up the formation and turn them back would be of more value than to permit them to continue, with the possibility of gaining their objective. I thought that the fighter directors on both the Russels and Guadalcanal were aware of their presence, but that possibly they could slip through on the tail of our other formation.

     "On reaching 12,000 feet we headed in the direction of the enemy, at an angle of 70 degrees. At this time the enemy became aware of our presence. The bombers immediately spread out and started a turn to the left, the low cover staying with them. The intermediate cover made left turn in front of us forming a single file and dropped their belly tanks. We were about level with the bombers when the Zeros started to run on us. We had climbed from 3,000 to l4,000 feet in six minutes switching to low blower at 8,000 feet. Our speed was about 180 knots. The Zeros came at us in a continuous stream, the first four hitting at Eckart and Peck and the second four hitting at Vedder and myself. Eckart couldn't be observed at this time because he was below and behind us. Vedder and I criss-crossed giving each other mutual protection. On my first weave over Vedder I fired point blank at the first Zero and saw it disintegrate in the air, completely flying to pieces. We continued to weave and each time I had an ideal shot at a Zero. I shot down two Zeros on the third and fourth weaves, respectively. All these shots were at very close range. The second Zero I shot began to give off heavy black smoke from the cockpit and forward thereof. When I last saw this Zero it was still giving off a great deal of smoke, in a spin and very close to the water, approximately 1500 to 2000 feet. It appeared completely out of control, and the pilot's vision was completely obstructed by smoke pouring back over the cockpit. The third Zero that I shot was at such close range that we almost collided. After firing at him I saw the pilot slump forward and to the left, his head hanging limply. This Zero gave off both black and white smoke. The black smoke was coming mostly from the engine in great quantities and the white smoke was coming from the vicinity of the root of the wing and the after-part of the engine. This Zero fell completely out of control and in a violent spin, but I could not observe him after he had dropped about 1000 feet below us. I saw pieces fly from all three of these Zeros, especially the first one.

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CONFIDENTIAL

     "On my second or third weave, I saw Peck, slightly aft and below. He was in a stalled position and shooting at a Zero that was diving on his nose. The Zero ducked under hin flaming and plummeted toward the water. Peck went into a spin, the Zero falling under him.

     "About my second weave over Vedder, I saw a Zero, that he had apparently been firing on, go into about 65 or 75 degree dive, turning slowly. I could see the pilot of the Zero attempting to regain control of his plane, but he succeeded only in getting the nose up slightly, then it would fall back into the dive again. This plane was giving off black smoke, extensively. I did not see it hit the water, but last saw it close to the water and its condition showed no improvement.

     "On my sixth or seventh weave, I called to Vedder to dive and start for home at which time I nosed my plane over into a dive finally leveling off at about 150 feet from the water. This was the last time I saw Vedder's plane. My indicated speed in the dive was 350 knots. A few Zeros attempted to follow me in my initial dive, but I pulled away from them. On coming out of my dive I looked for the other members of the flight, but could see none of them.

     "My plane had been hit a number of times and hot oil fumes filled the cockpit forcing me to remove my goggles and open the hood. The plane was under good control and performing very well. Just west of Buraku Island, I was attacked by a lone Zero which succeeded in shooting the hydraulic system off my tail wheel and destroying my transmitter.

     "The plane received a total of 78 bullet holes. Both wins tanks were shot through by 20 mm. and did not catch fire. When contact was imminent I purged the wing tanks. The hydraulic system was completely out, due to the fact that the hydraulic lead line to the tail was severed, which also caused the tail wheel to drop down and the cowl flaps to open up. The return lines to the oil tank had been hit which caused loss of oil. The oil tank was completely empty on landing and the only oil was that in the engine. Prop had one bullet hole through one blade; three hits on second blade, without penetration; and one hit on the third blade, without penetration. The armor plate in the cockpit was hit many times. The plane vibrated a great deal and had tendency to shudder, but was under good control at all times."

     Lt. Vedder - "Eckart was low and behind and they attacked him first. About 10 Ø's seemed to go for Eckart, attempting to make high sides but they had misjudged their altitude. I did not see Eckart after this.

     "After their run on Eckart they pulled around on our tails where they scissored above and behind us. We also scissored and every time we scissored they would switch tails on us. I crossed to pick a Ø off of Peyton's tail - bullets going into the cockpit - pieces flying from the vicinity of his cockpit and forward. A Ø that was off to my right got shots into my radio and my leg. I turned back and fired at another Ø in exactly the same manner that I shot the first one. I could see my bullets hitting the Øs cockpit and forward between cockpit and motor.

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CONFIDENTIAL

     "While in the run on the second Ø, another shot out the right aileron on my plane. I pushed forward on the stick and dove away. I tried to bail out at 10,000 feet but I couldn't get out of the cockpit. At 300 feet I pulled the plane into a loop and succeeded in getting out when the plane was at about 700 feet and upside down.

     "I floated about 5 minutes before I succeeded in getting my boat inflated. All my equipment worked well. I paddled to land on southeastern tip of Vangunu." (Lt. Vedder was returned to Tulagi by a PBY rescue plane and rejoined his squadron on April 28.)

     Lt. Peck - "We were level with the bombers, heading for them at an angle of about 70º, when the intermediate cover and some of the high cover attacked us. They headed directly for us diving in divisions of fours and in single file. They underestimated our altitude. They circled in front of us and made their runs almost head on, slightly from our left - apparently an attempted high side but they didn't have enough altitude.

"My speed at this time was about 135 knots. I pulled up directly toward the first or second Ø and fired but due to loss of flying speed, my plane went into a stall and spun out. I saw pieces fly off the Ø when I fired. When I pulled out of my dive at about 3,000 feet I could see where a plane had hit the water just ahead of me. At this moment I saw a Ø coming down on my tail so I dove again, successfully shaking the Ø."

 

 

 

 

 

 

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CONFIDENTIAL

BATTLE NOTES NO. 16

DISTRIBUTION

COMINCH 1   USS BONHOMME RICHARD 10
CINCPAC 5   USS CURTISS 2
BUAER 1   USS MACKINAC 2
VICE OPNAV (ONI) 1   USS TANGIER 2
COMAIRPAC 1   USS BALLARD 1
ICPOA 10   USS THORNTON 1
COMSOWESPAC 3   COMTASKFOR 10 3
COMAIRSOPAC 10   COMTASKFOR 11 5
COMAIRSOWESPAC 1   C0MTASKFOR 11.6 5
COMSERONSOPAC 1   COMTASKFOR l4 5
COMFAIR NOUMEA 2   COMTASKFOR 18 2
COMFAIR WING ONE 5   COMTASKFOR 19 2
COMAMHIBFOR 1   COMGEN WARD 1
COMGENSOPAC 1   COMGEN PEON 1
COMGENIMAC 2   COMGEN ACID 1
COMGEN 1st MARDIV 3   COMGEN EPIC 1
COMGEN 2nd MARDIV 3   COMGEN MULE 1
COMGEN 3rd MARDIV 3   COMGEN EBON 1
COMMARAIRWINGS PACIFIC, Ewa 3   COMGEN EDIT 1
COMMARAIRWINGS SOPAC 5   COMGEN FAKE 1
COMADOPTRAINING JACKSONVILLE 1   COMFAIR WEST COAST 25
DIRECTOR OF AVIATION, USMC 1   ADV INTEL CENTER KODIAK 10
AVIATION SECT MARINE CORPS, 3   NACIOS, QUONSET 5
  H.Q., Navy Dept.     A-2 ARMY AIR FORCE 5
COMGEN 1st MARAIRIWING 5   NZNB 1
COMGEN 2nd MARAIRWING 5   AIRCRAFT ARMAMENT UNIT, 1
COMGEN 13th AIR FORCE 3   NAS, NORFOLK
COMAIR SOLOMONS (INTELLIGENCE) 10   COMAIRPAC, (ACI) 25
USS SARATOGA 10   SCAT HEADQUARTERS 1
USS ENTERPRISE 10   COMCARDIV 22 1
USS CHENANGO 5   COIC. AIR DEPT., 1
USS SUWANEE 5     WELLINGTON, N.Z.  
USS SANGAMON 5   S/L McCOLL., RAAF 2
HMS VICTORIOUS 5   S/L CANNING, RNZAF 2
        #1 Is. Grp., APO 708  

UNITED STATES PACIFIC FLEET

SOUTH PACIFIC FORCE

INTELLIGENCE DIVISION

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CONFIDENTIAL

DISTRIBUTION BY BUREAU OF AERONAUTICS

 



Aviation Intelligence Section,
 Advanced Intelligence Center, NAS, Kodiak -----------------------
 25
ComFair, Seattle -------------------------------------------------  50
ComFair, Alameda -------------------------------------------------  50
ComFair, West Coast ---------------------------------------------- 75
ComFair, Quonset ------------------------------------------------- 50
VCNO, Division of Naval Intelligence------------------------------   4
Air Information Center, ComAirLant, (Administrative Command),
    NAS, Norfolk, Va.---------------------------------------------
100
Commander, Naval Air Operational Training, Naval Air Operational
           Training Command, Jacksonville, Florida. (Staff)-------
 50
   
TOTAL  404

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


SOURCE:
13th Naval District, Commandant's Office, Central Subject Files, 1942-43
National Archives & Records Administration, Seattle Branch

Transcribed by RESEARCHER @ LARGE. Formatting & Comments Copyright R@L.

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