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USN February 20, 1942
|Pilot WO Kenzo Watanabe (KIA)
Co-Pilot PO3c Minoru ? (KIA)
Observer Lt. Commander Takuzo Ito C. O. 4th Kōkūtai Hikotaicho (KIA)
Observer Lt. Saburo ? (KIA)
Radio PO ? Akiba (KIA)
Radio PO1c ?-ichi Murata (KIA)
Mechanic PO1c Sukenobu Ietani (KIA)
Mechanic PO3c ? Hagio (KIA)
Crashed February 20, 1942 at 5:12pm
Built by Mitsubishi at Nagoya No. 3 Work. At the factory painted with dark green upper surfaces and gray lower surfaces. Delivered to the Imperial Japanese Navy (IJN) as Type 1 Attack Bomber Hamaki / G4M1 Model 11 Betty manufacture number unknown.
Assigned to the 4th Kōkūtai (4th Air Group), 3rd Chutai (3rd Company). Tail code F-348 with two horizontal white stripes across the tail. Between February 14, 1942 until February 17, 1942 Betty bombers from the 4th Kōkūtai (4th Air Group) arrived at Vunakanau Airfield and become the first Japanese land based bombers at Rabaul.
On February 20, 1942 at approximately 11:20am took off from Vunakanau Airfield near Rabaul piloted by WO Kenzo Watanabe with aircraft commander Lt. Commander Takuzo Ito, Commanding Officer (C. O.) Hikotaicho of the 4th Kōkūtai armed with two 250kg bombs on a mission to bomb the U. S. Navy (USN) Task Force 11 (TF-11) northeast of Rabaul. Although this aircraft was assigned to the 3rd Chutai, it was leading the 1st Chutai of eight bombers leading the 1st Shotai (1st Flight).
At 1:35pm, the 2nd Chutai spotted the enemy and began their attack. At 2:00pm the 1st Chutai found the enemy and began their attack but were intercepted by USS Lexington CV-2 Combat Air Patrol (CAF) of F4F Wildcats from VF-3. This bomber was targeted by F4F Wildcat piloted by Lt. Edward "Butch" O'Hare who claimed five shot down.
O'Hare made a firing pass and hit this Betty's left left engine and causing it to catch fire, explode and break off the engine mount and fell out of formation but regained control at low altitude and salvoed their bombs. Fatally damaged the crew spontaneously decided to crash into USS Lexington CV-2. As the damaged bomber approached, it was hit by anti-aircraft fire from the carrier and screening destroyers USS Bagley DD-386 and USS Aylwin DD-355.
A sailor aboard the aircraft carrier recorded cine film of the bomber's final moments in the air. At 5:12pm, the Betty crashed into the sea roughly 1,400m ahead of USS Lexington CV-2 and 200 yards off the starboard quarter of USS Bagley DD-386. The entire crew was killed in the attack or impact.
In total, eighteen Betty bombers were shot down and two more crash landed. The resulted in 88 Japanese airmen Missing In Action (MIA) or Killed In Action (KIA). Also lost was G4M1 pilot Ono (2 KIA, rescued)
Kodochosho, 4th Kōkūtai, February 20, 1942 translation by Minoru Kamada
The First Team (1984) pages 118, 127, 129
Mitsubishi Type 1 Rikko 'Betty' Units of World War 2 (2001) pages 36-37
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March 3, 2021
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