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John Douglas 2016
|Pilot PO2c Inao Itsuda (KIA)
Co-Pilot Sea2c Sueo Chiba (KIA)
Commander PO1c Takeshi Fujii (KIA)
Observer Sea2c Jitsuo Ieda (KIA)
Radio Sea1c Hiroaki Honda (KIA)
Radio Sea1c Teruo Gotō (KIA)
Mechanic PO1c Takeo Kitagawa (KIA)
Mechanic PO3c Tairaku Yamamoto (KIA)
Crashed March 27, 1942 at 8:45am
Built by Mitsubishi at Nagoya No. 3 Works. At the factory painted with green upper surfaces and gray lower surfaces with black engine cowlings. Delivered to the Imperial Japanese Navy (IJN) as Type 1 Attack Bomber Hamaki / G4M1 Model 11 Betty manufacture number unknown (four digits).
Assigned to the 4th Kōkūtai (4th Air Group). Tail code F-??? (three digits unknown). No known markings.
On March 27, 1942 at 7:05am took off from Lae Airfield under the command of PO1c Takeshi Fujii armed with nine 60 kg bombs as one of four Bettys led by WO Kameichi Hasegawa on a bombing mission against 7 Mile Drome near Port Moresby. At 7:35am, the bombers rendezvoused with three A6M2 Zeros from the 4th Kōkūtai (4th Air Group) that proceeded ahead of the bomber formation to perform a fighter sweep.
Inbound to the target, this Betty experienced an engine malfunction and became separated from the formation and was ordered to bomb Kokoda Airfield and patrol, but instead proceeded to the original target.
Over Port Moresby, this Betty was intercepted by P-40E pilot John Piper and P-40E pilot Ron Bailey from Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) No. 75 Squadron. Attacking from 12,000', the pair of Kittyhawks made two firing passes. On the second pass, Piper hit this Betty's left engine causing it to burst into flames then they targeted the right engine. Damaged, this Betty dove for clouds and crashed in flames inland from Rigo. At 8:45am, the formation lost contact with this bomber.
On the ground, Australian Army soldiers at Rigo observed this Betty in flames and to crash inland. Immediately, they began searching for the crash site and found the wreckage several days later.
On March 29, 1942 or March 30, 1942 Australian Army personnel locate the section and recovered the Type 99 20mm cannon and ammunition from the tail turret and carried them back to Rigo. On March 29, 1942 or March 30, 1942 the gun and ammunition was loaded aboard MV Matamo and transported to Port Moresby arriving in Fairfax Harbor at sunset on March 30, 1942. Afterwards, the fate of this cannon is unknown. possibly it was turned over to Allied intelligence for evaluation.
On March 31, 1942 the rest of the bomber wreckage was located with the remains of the crew inside. During the early 2000s, Japanese dataplate were recovered from wreckage by locals from this area, presumably from this wreck. On October 15, 2016 John Douglas visited what remained of the crash site.
Kodochosho, 4th Kokutai March 27, 1942
Note, some RAAF records and sources incorrectly state this bomber was lost on March 26
Frederick C. Eaton Diary entries for March 25–30, 1942 via The Swamp Ghost DVD
"March 30 - We have on board a Japanese cannon and shells taken off a bomber shot down near Rigo."
ANGAU War Diary 1 MAR 42 to 31 MAR 42
"ADO Rigo endeavors to locate enemy aircraft seen to crash in flames approximately 30 miles east of Port Moresby." [30 March] "ADO Rigo reports that enemy bomber found - parts recovered and that he can lead a party to wreckage inland."
Intelligence Report No. 21 8th Military District - 1200 hrs 27 March 42 to 1200 hrs 3 April 42.
"Search still proceeding at RIGO on 31 March for further wreckage of plane crashed down 27 March. Occupants found dead, bodies burnt and mutilated."
War Diary 1942 (1984) pages 44-45
"Two [sic] Jap heavy bombers and three Zeros came over for a small-scale hit-run raid. Did no damage but dropped one bomb within 3 feet [of a] huge bomb dump of 250 pounders! Two of our fighters engaged them and shot down one bomber in flames [G4M1 Betty commanded by Fujii]. One of our fighters [P-40E A29-19] was shot down but the pilot parachuted to safety [sic, pilot P/O O’Connor missing]. Later a force of Japanese bombers raided Kokoda, up in the mountains, without causing much damage."
Seek and Strike (2002) page 19
"On March 27, 1942 took off on a morning reconnaissance mission against Port Moresby. Intercepted by 75 Squadron P-40 Kittyhawk piloted by Piper, who made two passes against it, who observed return fire from the gunners and started a fire in the port wing fuel tank. After a third burst, it turned to port and jettisoned two bombs, then flipped over and crashed into the sea near Hood Point."
New Guinea Force HQ & G [AIR] formation and unit Diary 52/1/5/51; March-April 1942
"March 25 Air Raid 20: From 0820-0845 Two Bombers escorted by 5 fighters dropped 16 bombs on drome. One enemy bomber was shot down and we lost one fighter. A search is being made for the pilot of our plane, who was seen parachuting."
44 Days (2016) pages 134-135 incorrectly states this combat happened on March 28, 1942
"This was precisely the scenario that faced John Piper and his wingman Ron Bailey when, on the afternoon of 28 March [sic, 27 March 1942]. While this had been happening, John Piper and Ron Bailey went after a formation of Bombers at 12,000 feet, managing to et up to 12,000 feet before attacking one of them. It took two passes, but on the second, Piper's guns hit the Betty's port motor, which burst into flame. Baily then went for the starboard before the enemy dived for cloud cover. It crashed in flames to the jungle floor just east of Port Moresby. A few days later a search party located the wreck, finding all eight dead Japanese crewmen on board and souveniring one of the bombers 20mm cannons. Between them Piper and Bailey had accounted for a Japanese Bomber."
Thanks to Minoru Kamada, Luca Ruffato, Edward Rogers and John Douglas for additional information
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March 29, 2021
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