1130 local time
26 May 1942
Greetings all, having just wrapped up the Coral Sea battles, I figured it’s time to head back to my U.S. Army Air Corps fighter squadron, the 565th Tactical Fighter Squadron, better known as the “Chickenhawks.” The last we saw of the Chickenhawks was back in February of 1942; they’d started out fighting the Japanese over the Dutch East Indies before falling back to Australia and becoming embroiled in the fighting over Darwin. After things quieted down there, they ended up moving over to Brisbane, where they had a quiet period of daily patrolling to bring in replacements and get them trained up. But they got word at the end of April that they’d be moving soon, and immediately after the Battle of Coral Sea they packed up and shipped out, heading up to Port Moresby on New Guinea, making Kila Kila Airfield, AKA “3 Mile Drome,” their new home on 11 May 1942. They only had a couple days before they were called to action.
On 13 May, Captain Cotton led six P-40s against four Zeros and six Bettys. One Zero and one Betty were downed at the cost of three P-40s and 25/30 damage points on the New Guinea Harbor Facilities.
On 14 May, Captain Goode led a depleted flight of only four P-40s up against four Zeros and six Bettys, and it was an unmitigated disaster. All four US fighters were shot down, with Captain Goode and Lt O’Brien killed in action, while the enemy didn’t lose a single aircraft! The Japanese bombers quickly finished off the Harbor Facilities, and pounded the Marshalling Area (22/30 damage points).
On 16 May, Major Jordan led the squadron aloft to intercept six Bettys escorted by four Zeros, but Lt Daniel was the star of the show. The Americans lost a single P-40, but they knocked down two Zeros and four Bettys, with Lt Daniel knocking down four of those aircraft and winning the Distinguished Flying Cross. The remaining two Japanese bombers jettisoned their bombs and returned to base, so no bombs fell on the Allied Marshalling Area (still 22/30).
On 18 May, 1st Lt Pace led a flight of four P-40s on escort duty for six B-25 Mitchells detailed to pound Wewak’s POL storage tanks. They met five Zeros over the target, with all five being shot down, though two of those were actually by the bomber crews, who took heavy losses. While the Chickenhawks only lost one P-40, four of the six bombers were shot down, and they barely scratched the POL target (6/30 damage points).
On 19 May, two patrols ran into each other over No Man’s Land, ending with each side losing a single fighter.
On 21 May, two young Lieutenants found themselves escorting a flight of five B-25 Mitchells over to Wewak again, where a pair of Zeros rise up to meet them. Both Zeros were downed, for the loss of a single P-40s, and all five bombers made it, though they didn’t score very well (only 12 more damage points, so 18/30 on the POL target).
On 22 May, five Bettys escorted by a single Zero were met by 1st Lt Daniel and three other P-40s. The Chickenhawks knocked down the lone Zero and three of the Bettys, turning back the last two, but they lost two of their own to defensive fire from the enemy bombers.
On 25 May, Lt Daniel led an escort of four P-40s with six B-25s against a Japanese Combat Air Patrol of four Zeros. All four Zeros were shot down (two by the bomber crews!), and no P-40s were lost, but two B-25s were shot down and two more were damaged and forced to return to base, so their combat power was seriously reduced and only caused seven points of damage on the Wewak POL storage tanks (25/30 total).
Now it’s 26 May, and Major Jordan is leading a five-ship Combat Air Patrol up to intercept six inbound Bettys escorted by two Zeros.
Those damn Zekes always seem to get the first punch in!
But the Yanks will not be denied, and push their way straight into the bombers, bringing hell with them!
Lt Lageman has an historic day!
To see how the fight went, please check the blog at:
Well, that sews up the Chickenhawks first tour in New Guinea, and it was a lot of fun, felt luckier than the Killer Pelicans at Coral Sea. Here’s the breakdown:
Chickenhawks sorties: 37
Friendly bomber sorties: 17
Chickenhawks losses: 14 P-40s (two by Betty defensive fire)
Friendly bomber losses: 6 B-25s
Enemy fighter losses: 11 Zeros (though four were to bomber defensive fire)
Enemy bomber losses: 13 Bettys
Awards: 2nd Lt Lageman was awarded the Medal of Honor, 1st Lt Daniel was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross
The Chickenhawks lost 14 of their 18 aircraft, had six pilots WIA, three KIA (including an Ace), and one MIA (also an Ace, as well as their Squadron Leader). At this point the 565th Tactical Fighter Squadron, after only 25 days of action, are completely combat ineffective, and thus they are being pulled back to Brisbane, Australia, for some rest and recuperation.
More to come.