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M. Freeman July 1944
|Pilot PO1c Kosuke Ono (survived)
Co-Pilot 飛 Kenji Toyama (survived)
Observer PO3c Kiyoshi Mikuni (survived)
Radio PO2c ? Sato (survived)
Radio 飛 Kazuo Hirano (survived)
Mechanic PO2c Ginji Okamoto (survived)
Mechanic PO2c Yoshi Uenishi (survived)
Ditched February 20, 1942 at 4:25pm
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), 1st Chutai (1st Company). Tail code F-??? three digits unknown.
On February 20, 1942 at approximately took off from Vunakanau Airfield near Rabaul piloted by PO1c Kosuke Ono armed with two 250kg bombs on a mission to bomb the U. S. Navy (USN) Task Force 11 (TF-11) northeast of Rabaul. This bomber was flying in the 1st Chutai, 1st Shotai led by G4M1 Betty F-348 aircraft commander Ito as the no. 3 bomber.
At 1:35pm, the 2nd Chutai located 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 including Lt. Edward "Butch" O'Hare who claimed five shot down and faced heavy anti-aircraft fire from the warships and carrier. Despite the fighters and gunfire, this Betty released both bombs at USS Lexington CV-2 but missed.
Returning, this Betty was chased 150 miles westward for 45 minutes by SBD Dauntless piloted by Allen from SB-2 His rear gunner Rountee fired his twin .30 caliber machine guns at Betty inflicting further damage. Aboard this Betty, the right engine was damaged and fuel tanks punctured resulting in a fuel to leak. Aboard, two of the crew were killed.
At 4:25pm the damaged Betty reached Nuguria Atoll and ditched off Nugava Island. Other bombers in the formation witness the ditching and noted the location as "Sugaaba Island".
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).
In total, eighteen Betty bombers were shot down and two others crash landed, including this bomber. A total of 88 Japanese airmen were Missing In Action / Killed In Action on this mission. Also lost was G4M1 Betty F-348 Lt Cdr Ito.
Fates of the Crew
Later, the surviving crew were rescued by a Japanese barge back to Rabaul.
On April 9, 1944 the wreckage of this Betty discovered by a pair of U. S. Navy (USN) PT Boats from Nissan Island patrolling Nuguria Atoll. Locals reported three of the crew were rescued by a Japanese barge, and were the only Japanese they ever met. After returning from the patrol, the PT Boats reported the discovery.
During July 1944, PT-124 "Who Me?" was sent to investigate with intelligence personnel from Air Technical Intelligence Unit (ATIU). The team took at least two photographs of the bomber and recovered documents from inside.
Today, only a few pieces of wreckage remain visible.
John Douglas adds:
"I made a visit to Nuguria several years ago and photographed the remains of a Betty near the shoreline. There were scraps of fuselage and wings buried, with obviously more under the sand."
Kodochosho, 4th Kōkūtai, February 20, 1942 translation by Minoru Kamada
Japan Times & Advertiser "Ono's Account of the mission" March 9, 1942
The First Team (1984) pages 118, 130-131, 636
At Close Quarters (1962) page 154
Airpower Magazine Volume 24, No. 4 July 1994 "Spying Behind Japanese Lines with the Coastwatchers in the South Pacific" by Michael Freeman
"The one to this downed Mitsubishi G4M Betty bomber was made aboard an eight foot Elco PT boat [PT-124]. The Betty lay in shallow water off a remote coral atoll near Nuguria Island. The author took these photos and checked the inside, while an Air Force captain inspected the outside. During their investigation in April, 1944, they were strafed by a Japanese Zero."
Behind Enemy Lines (1997) includes photographs of this Betty and the story of July 1944 visit
Mitsubishi Type 1 Rikko 'Betty' Units of World War 2 (2001) page 37
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March 3, 2021
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