The Japanese campaign for New Guinea is at full swing. Just two days ago the Japanese Imperial Navy has landed invasion troops in at Buna and Gona in eastern New Guinea as part of their Operation Mo. attempting to take the city and important military base of Port Moresby by land over the Owen Stanley Range via the Kokoda Track.
Port Moresby September 9th 1942 – Yesterday we got the news about the devastating Battle of the Coral Sea where our Navy lost one of the carriers and some other ships. At least the Japanese seem to be retiring, their own carriers being heavily hit as well.
Today 36th Persuit Squadron USAAF was briefed on an escort mission for a tactical bombing. The target is a bridge near the air base of Lae. The squadron is to escort bombers from 90th Bombardment Squadron operating from Australia. Captain Falletta , our squadron commander, gives himself quite an “Gung ho!” air. To me it looks like he wants to impress top brass no matter what. I hope he won’t be careless with my machines. I want all the birds back in my nest and in a repairable state.
Due to adverse weather conditions take-off is late. When the bombers come into sight they are allready near the target bridge and under attack from a squadron of Japanese Ki-43 fighters. Fuel is allready critical. Falletta orders an immediate attack to keep the Japanese fighters away from the bombers.
The Japanese slamm into the bomber formation and tear it up. Two bombers jettison their load and drop out of the formation with critical damage to their instruments and crewmen wounded. Shortly after, Faletta’s wingman, 1st Lt. Bennet , reports he is low on fuel and must head home! This smells like cowardice in the face of the enemy. Where is his man’s obnoxious optimism now?
Only one bomber is left to carry through the mission and one fighter is allready returnig home. This must not be allowed to be another desaster for the squadron. Again it is up to the captain himself to save the reputation of the unit. And indeed, he prays on a Jap unawares of him aproaching from the flanks. The “Oscar” explodes after being hit by a full .5 cal. cannon burst.
At 2 o’clock he sees the lead bomber falling apart after being hit by a Ki-43 fighter. The Group leader will not like this at all, and Captain Falletta will get all the blame. This must not happen! So at least the flight must save the two crippled bombers and escort them home no matter what the cost.
Frustrated he poures burst after burst into a Ki-43 fighter he is tailing. But nothing seems to work on this “Oscar”. Instead there is a jerk and half his guns jam. Dammit! But he must pull himself together. Iron discipline makes him an ace quality shooter for today! He looks for his pray and tails another Ki-43 fighter that is going after one of the cripled bombers. A full burst dispaches the pilot! Another air victory for Falletta!
Bombing mission USAAF: Ki-43 Hayabusa| IJAAF: B-25 Mitchell | failed
The mission is a nominal failure, but a personal victory for the squadron leader. The two kills should reconceil his superiours. And indeed, comming back to the base, the group commander is in need of a hero. Captain Falletta gets commended for the Air Medal.
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