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Built by Vought. Delivered to the U. S. Navy (USN) as F4U-1D Corsair bureau number unknown (five digits). Disassembled and shipped overseas and reassembled.
Assigned to the U.S. Marine Corps (USMC) to Marine Fighting Squadron 312 "Day's Knights" VMF-312. No known nickname or nose art.
On May 10, 1945 at 8:00am took off from Kadena Airfield on Okinawa piloted by 1st Lt Robert R. Klingman on Combat Air Patrol (CAP) over Ie Shima as part of a four plane division as wingman for F4U Corsair pilot Captain Kenneth L. Reusser. The weather was clear with unlimited visibility with scattered cirrus stratus clouds at 35,000'.
Flying at 10,000' they spotted the vapor trails from two enemy aircraft roughly 35,000' ten miles north of Kadena Airfield. After requesting permission to investigate, the Corsairs climbed to high altitude but two were unable to climb beyond 32,000' and 36,000' respectively and broke off. Spotted, the enemy planes likely on a reconnaissance mission turned northward. Only Reusser and Klingman were able to continue climbing after both fired half their ammunition to lighten their aircraft. At 38,000' and turned into the enemy plane and began to close in, despite the enemy's superior speed.
The pair finally caught the enemy plane roughly 125 miles north of Okinawa after a 150 mile chase. The enemy aircraft was claimed to be a Ki-45 Nick [sic Ki-46 Dinah] painted green olive drab with silver band on the tail and was believed to be on a reconnaissance mission.
After closing to gun range, Reusser opened fire damaging the right wing and set the right engine on fire and lost speed. Next, Klingman closed to within 50' but when he hit the trigger, his guns had frozen and instead spontaneously decided to deliberately ram the enemy with his propeller to hitting the rudder. During the ramming he saw the rear gunner frantically banning his machine gun, likely because it was frozen and not firing. Afterwards, he made a second pass and cut off the rudder and damaged the right stabilizer. Between each pass, the rear gunner was firing at Klingman's Corsair. Finally, he made a third pass that cut off the stabilizer and caused the Dinah to go into a spin. As the enemy plane spun downward, both Corsair pilots saw the wings break off at 15,000' before crashing into the sea. No parachutes were observed.
Klingman pressed his attack believing he was low on fuel and would be unable to return to base. Although his engine was producing little power and his Corsair was loosing altitude, Klingman made a dead stick landing at Kadena Airfield.
On the ground, one of his propeller blades had 6" broken off from the tip. Also, the wings and engine had bullet holes from the rear gunner's 7.7mm machine gun. Pieces of the enemy plane were stuck in the engine cowling and propeller. Afterwards, the engine was stricken but the airframe damage was deemed to be repairable locally.
For this interception, Reusser and Klingman were each credited with 1/2 aerial victory. Afterwards, Klingman earned the Navy Cross and Air Medal with gold star for his actions on this mission. Two days later, Klingman bailed out of another F4U Corsair and was rescued and returned to duty.
Richard Dunn adds:
"Note aircraft he rammed was almost certainly not a Ki-45 Nick / Type 2 two-seat fighter credited with a service ceiling of 10,000m (32,800'). However, the Ki-46 / Type 100 HQ reconnaissance plane was made by the same company, Kawasaki, and bore superficial resemblance to the Type 2 fighter. The latest version Ki-46-4 was credited with a service ceiling of 11,000m (36,080'). It had turbo-superchargers and methanol/water injection. Apart from likely being able to fly higher as fuel was burned off here are a couple points on Japanese performance data. Unlike U.S. where factory and official numbers were always higher than average performance obtained in the field, with the Japanese it was just the opposite. The official max speed of the Ki-46-4 at 30,000' was just less than 400 mph. In February 1945 two Ki 46-4s after reconnaissance to Peking flew back to Fussa Airfield at an average speed of 440 mph at 26,000 to 30,000'."
Afterwards, this Corsair was likely repaired locally at Kadena Airfield. Ultimate fate unknown, likely scrapped or otherwise disappeared.
Klingman earned the Navy Cross, Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC) and Air Medal with gold star. During the Korean War, he served as a forward air traffic controller with the 1st Marine Division. In 1966, he retired from the U. S. Marine Corps (USMC) with the rank of Lieutenant Colonel.
NARA "VMF-312 War Diary May 1945 page 5, 12"
NARA "Aircraft Action Report No. 27 (AAR No. 27) May 10, 1945" enemy plane as a Ki-45 Nick [sic Ki-46 Dinah]
USMC page 392 "Klingman's Way" identifies the enemy plane as a Ki-45 Nick [sic Ki-46 Dinah]
Navy Cross citation May 10, 1945
"The President of the United States of America takes pleasure in presenting the Navy Cross to First Lieutenant Robert R. Klingman (MCSN: 0-28160), United States Marine Corps Reserve, for extraordinary heroism and distinguished service in the line of his profession as Pilot of a Fighter Plane in Marine Fighting Squadron THREE HUNDRED TWELVE (VMF-312), Marine Air Group THIRTY-THREE (MAG-33), FOURTH Marine Aircraft Wing, in aerial combat against enemy Japanese forces during the assault on Okinawa, Ryukyu islands, on 10 May 1945. Finding his guns jammed when he closed within firing range of an enemy reconnaissance plane during an extended pursuit at extremely high altitudes, First Lieutenant Klingman persisted in his attacks in the face of heavy fire from the Japanese tail gunner until the propeller of his plane severed a sufficient portion of the tail surface of the hostile plane to destroy it. By his outstanding airmanship, indomitable fighting spirit and courageous devotion to duty, First Lieutenant Klingman prevented the enemy from obtaining valuable photographs of friendly installations, and his gallant conduct upheld the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service. General Orders: SPOT AWARD, Commander, Amphibious Forces Pacific: Serial 00608 (SofN Signed January 26, 1948)"
Marine Corps Base Hawaii "Story of Bob; drummer, pilot, legend" by Robert Klingman April 9, 2015
FindAGrave - LTC Robert R Klingman, Sr. (photos, grave photo)
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