Papua New Guinea

 

21 March 1942 

75 Squadron, Port Moresby

 

 

 

75 Squadron had been formed under the command of S/Ldr Peter Jeffrey, only 17 days before its arrival at the front line at Port Moresby. Of the initial pilots posted to New Guinea only three pilots had fighter combat experience. John Jackson, Peter Turnbull and Monty Ellerton, were already Middle Eastern veterans with more than a 16 aircraft destroyed between them. However such was the urgency of the squadron's deployment that by the time they landed in New Guinea some pilots had only a handful of hours on P-40s, and in some circumstances had only fired its guns only once. In the case of P/O "Cocky" Brereton, he had arrived with the squadron and converted to the P-40 three days before deployment. 

S/Ldr John Jackson took command of the squadron on the 19th, and the first two P-40s flown by Jeffrey, and Barry Cox, began staging north on the same day. 14 aircraft followed the next day, joining Jeffrey and Cox at Horn Island. Jeffrey then led Wilbur Wackett, Cox, and Oswald Channon onto Port Moresby, two hours ahead of the main force. The first flight of four aircraft arrived and rounded the beacon at Port Moresby at 14.00 hours on the 21st. Authorities had been informed of their pending arrival and identification of the four had been verified. However as the P-40s made their approach, with wheels and flaps extended, a machine-gunner opened up on them. Unaccustomed to friendly aircraft, other nervous gunners soon followed. Worse still their fire was accurate. All of the aircraft sustained damage. Jeffrey was lucky to be alive after a bullet passed between his headrest and his head, missing it by half an inch!

At 15:53 Cox and Wackett took off in two of the lesser damaged P-40s to try and intercept the daily Japanese reconnaissance flight. Climbing through 6000 ft they sighted a silver bellied, brown and green, twin engine aircraft another 4000 ft above them. Observed by the approaching aircraft, the bomber jettisoned its bombs and attempted to make cloud cover. However the two fighters closed on the now violently skidding bomber, which had failed to close its bomb doors, and delivered astern and quarter attacks. Each P-40 fired about 10 separate bursts and return fire was at first vigorous. It was Cox who inflicted the first damaging strike, putting a burst into the port engine. Smoke and oil began to spew from the failing engine and return fire began to be more spasmodic. Now down to 500 ft it was Wackett who delivered the final blow, with a burst that ripped through the starboard engine, causing the bomber to blow up and fall into the sea, one mile west of Basilik Beacon.

Not long after this the second formation of 75 Squadron P-40s, led by Jackson, arrived from Horn Island over Port Moresby. This time they landed without incident. Apart from Sgt R.S Bailey, who due to engine problems was forced down to 60ft above the water, before his engine regained power and he was able to rejoin the formation. To the garrison at Port Moresby the arrival of 75 Squadron was a great boost to morale. However these few P-40s were now the only land based fighters in New Guinea.

 

Combat Claims

 

F/O B.M Cox

.5 Betty destroyed

(Q) A29-17

CFR

F/O W.L Wackett

.5 Betty destroyed

(F) A29-6

CFR

 

Other Known Participants

 Nil

 

RAAF Losses

Nil

 

Japanese Forces

1 Mitsubishi G4M "Betty" Bomber

 

 

 

6 April 1942                                                    

75 Squadron, Port Moresby

 

 

 

 

On 5 April a number of USAAF aircraft arrived at 7 Mile Drome bound for a combined effort against Rabaul and Gasmata. Among them was a detachment of five 36th Fighter Squadron Bell P-39 Airacobras sent to serve a combat familiarization attachment with 75 Squadron RAAF. The following day two of these aircraft flown by 1Lt Charles Faletta & 1Lt Louis Meng where patrolling with nine 75 Squadron P-40s over Port Moresby. At around 1043 they engaged an incoming force of seven Dai-4 kokutai bombers escorted by Tainan kokutai fighters. 1Lt Meng was first to engage from 22,500 feet, firing a "long machine gun burst developing into a beam attack" on a bomber. Both he and Lt Falletta's 37mm cannons failed to fire during the action. A problem later attributed to poor breach loading. Meng reported that he saw tracer enter the fuselage of the bomber but did not claim in what was the first engagement by an Airacobra in the SWPA. Lt Falletta who was mixing it with the Kittyhawks made an attack on a bomber a few minutes later with similar results.

Flying together F/O Pete Masters and P/O "Ossie" Channon both made climbing beam attacks on the bombers which turned to port in response. Masters second burst had hit the third bomber in the port 'V' formation piloted by FPO1c Hattori Kaoru which returned fire from its side blisters. No sooner had the two RAAF pilots made their attack when they themselves came under attack. Masters was forced to dive out of the combat as he saw tracers racing past his aircraft from behind. Channon had barely squeezed off a burst before he broke off with a fighter on his tail. Hattori Kaoru's co-pilot Flyer1c Shirai Mitsuru later died of wounds, probably as a result of Master's & Channon's attacks. Although his vision was impaired due to an oil weeper valve smearing oil over the front of his screen, Sgt Jack Pettett attempted a port quarter attack on a bomber. However the instant he fired he was hit in the starboard tail plane by an explosive shell which caused him to spin out of the combat. At a later debriefing ground personnel were amazed to see the amount of damage on Pettett's aircraft from what appeared to be a single strike. Sgt Vern Sims too attempted a rear quarter attack on a bomber, only to be attacked by a Zero head on which broke away to starboard. Sims managed to get away a long burst at it before the fighter maneuvered onto his tail.

What was clear in the engagement was how well the Japanese fighter escort was working on this day. Nearly all the Allied attacks on the bomber formation were thwarted by Tainan Group fighters before they could do any serious damage. On their return to Lae the Zero pilots would report five fighters destroyed but in reality only two Kittyhawks were downed. Les Jackson was attacked head on by several fighters' line astern. Jackson returned fire before breaking to port. He observed that his tracer had entered two of the attacking fighters. Jackson's motor had been hit during the engagement and he was forced to crash land on a coral reef in Bootless Bay, landing in around six feet of water and a few hundred yards offshore. Although a little shaken Jackson was unhurt and climbed out onto wing and waited for rescue. His Kittyhawk was later salvaged by locals who floated it ashore on a bamboo raft but it was written off and stripped for parts.

Edmund Johnson made a climbing quarter attack on a bomber but he too was jumped from the rear as he fired. Two bullets hit his motor causing it to falter 15 miles southwest of Port Moresby, and then fail at 2000ft. He was forced to make a wheels up landing in an inland swamp. His aircraft began to smoke badly for some 30 minutes after landing but eventually stopped. He was at first challenged by local natives with bush knives who thought he may be Japanese. However he managed to explain who he was and the natives offered to transport him to the nearest village. Allied troops in the area thought the canoe was suspicious and open fired on the vessel causing the natives to abandon ship, leaving Johnson under a hail of bullets. Johnson's wild gesticulations finally brought an end to the firing and the natives rejoined him in the canoe. He was to arrive back at Port Moresby some days later. His Kittyhawk was subsequently salvaged and eventually flew again but was written off after a forced landing in Australia in August 1944.

 

Combat claims

F/Lt. Les D. Jackson

2 Zeros Damaged

(N) A29-9

CFR

F/O Peter A. Masters

1 Type 97 Damaged

(Y) A29-48

CFR

 

 

Other Known Participants

P/O Oswald Channon (A29-11),  S/Ldr John Jackson,  Sgt Jack Pettett (A29-28),  Sgt. Vern J.Sims (A29-21),  P/O Edmund Johnson (A29-32),  1Lt Charles Faletta (USAAF),  1Lt Louis Meng (USAAF)

 

RAAF Losses

Kittyhawk A29-9: F/Lt Les Jackson crash landed onto a reef and escaped unhurt.

Kittyhawk A29-32: P/O Edmund Johnson belly landed in swamp and escaped unhurt.

 

Japanese Forces

7 Dai-4 Kokutai bombers: Flyer1c Shirai Mitsuru died of wounds.

Unknown number of Tainan Kokutai fighters.

 

 

 

 

10 March 1943  

75 Squadron, Urasi Island

 

At 0902, 75 Squadron commander and Middle East ace S/Ldr Wilfred "Woof" Arthur (A29-125) and Sgt Keith Wilson (A29-127) departed Milne Bay on a reconnaissance patrol to Urasi Island. At 0950 when about five to seven miles from Fergusson Island, toward the Trobriand Islands, Arthur, flying at 21,000 feet spotted an aircraft approximately 4,000 feet below. Silhouetted against a bank of cumulous cloud, the aircraft was flying toward them at seven to eight miles distance. Knowing that a friendly aircraft was carrying out a photographic reconnaissance in the area the two pilots initially maintained course and height. Upon seeing that it was a twin engine aircraft, Arthur called Wilson into position and the two pilots dropped belly tanks. Wilson then followed his commanding officer into a dive to port and soon the red Hinormaru's on a greenish brown Betty bomber came clearly into view. Alerted to the presence of the fighters the bomber appeared to drop its bomb load, but then failed to close its bomb doors.

It was Arthur who pressed the first attack, coming in on the port beam. Under inaccurate fire from the bombers port blister and tail guns he managed to "get in a good burst". After which the Betty made a slow turn from east to a north east direction. Wilson in his first combat then followed with a rear quarter attack, but observed his tracer falling just below his target. Soon after, the twin tail guns fell silent, and remained pointing skyward for the duration of the combat. Arthur's guns had stopped, so he reloaded and made several attacks from the same position as his first attack. However on each pass he could only get one gun to fire. Wilson tried another beam attack but again observed no hits. By this time the bomber had entered a shallow dive and was heading toward a bank of cloud.

Arthur again recharged his guns and chased the aircraft down. Closing rapidly, he fired another short burst then pulled away to starboard as it entered the cloud. As the Betty emerged from the cloud, Arthur found himself in a good position for a bow attack, which he commenced from about 400 yards. His tracer entered the starboard engine and forward fuselage before he broke away at 70 yards. Once again his guns stopped, but he managed to get three going again before making a final quarter attack. With the side gunner on the Betty firing wildly he closed to 15 yards in the stern position. Another burst from Arthur saw his tracer entering the fuselage before he pulled away to starboard.  The bomber began to turn towards the sea, Wilson making a stern attack as it did so. Closing from 500 yards down to 150 yards, he saw a few small pieces fly off the aircraft before the starboard engine caught fire. Wilson broke away at a height of 2000ft with flames extending from the Betty's leading edge to the tail. The aircraft continued on its shallow dive until it struck the water and exploded. The two Kittyhawks flew low over the wreckage which burnt for less than a minute. The main wheels being the only recognisable objects floating in the oily yellow slick left behind. Both pilots then returned to Turnbull Strip, arriving at 1039.

 

Combat Claims

 

S/Ldr. W.S Arthur

.5 Betty destroyed

(Y) A29-125

CFR

Sgt. K.R Wilson

.5 Betty destroyed

(L) A29-127

CFR

 

Other Known Participants

Nil

 

RAAF Losses

Nil

 

Japanese Forces

1 Mitsubishi G4M "Betty" Bomber