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USN December 1943
|Pilot F/Sgt Peter Southey Worsp, 401420 (MIA / KIA) Auckland, NZ
MIA December 24, 1943
Built by Curtiss in Buffalo, New York. Constructors Number 28505. Delivered to the U. S. Army Air Force (USAAF) as P-40N-1-CU Warhawk serial number 42-104743. Disassembled and shipped overseas to New Zealand as part of defense aid.
Assigned to the Royal New Zealand Air Force (RNZAF) as Kittyhawk NZ3140. Reassembled by No. 1 Aircraft Depot (1 AD) at Hobsonville Airfield on July 27, 1943. Assigned to 17 Squadron with tail code "P". No nickname or nose art. This P-40 was flown northward to operate from the Solomon Islands.
On December 19, 1943 took off from Ondonga Airfield on New Georgia piloted F/Lt B. H. Thomson and landed landed at Torokina Airfield on Bougainville at 7:50am to refuel. This P-40 took off from Torokina Airfield between 10:40am to 11:00am and rendezvoused with B-24 Liberators from the 5th Bombardment Group and 307th Bombardment Group at 17,000' then proceeded to Rabaul. This P-40 was leading the second section with wingman F/Sgt Speedy plus F/PO Jones and Sgt Covic and returned without incident and left the bombers south of Buka Island then landed back at Torokina Airfield to refuel then returned to Ondonga Airfield at 5:25pm.
A total of forty-eight Allied fighters were assigned to this fighter sweep of Rabaul. The formation including twenty-four RNZAF Kittyhawks: twelve from 16 Squadron and twelve from 17 Squadron. Plus, land based U. S. Navy fighters including sixteen F6F Hellcats from VF-33 plus eight F6F Hellcats from VF-40.
17 Squadron was divided into three sections of four Kittyhawks. This P-40 was no. 2 in the first section flying as wingman for the leader P-40N NZ3136 piloted by S/L P. G. H. Newton plus P-40N NZ3127 piloted by F/O A. G. S. George and P-40N NZ3178 piloted by F/Sgt I. P. Speedy.
At 11:10am the formation passed Cape Saint George on the southern tip of New Ireland and flew up Cape Saint Georges Channel. The weather was clear with 17 Squadron approaching the target area at an altitude of 18,000'. Over the target area, 16 Squadron was the first to spot two groups of roughly twenty A6M Zeros over Simpson Harbor climbing from the left and soon afterwards both RNZAF squadrons dove to intercept.
As the first section flight leader S/L P. G. H. Newton dove, Worsp followed and was last seen by F/O A. G. S. George at the start of the dog fight but was never seen again. When this aircraft failed to return it was officially listed as Missing In Action (MIA) and officially written off on January 31, 1944.
Despite the high loss of planes and pilots the mission is described in the official RNZAF history as "the most successful day in the history of the RNZAF" due to the claims by the returning Kittyhawk pilots. They reported 14 Japanese fighters as destroyed, 7 probably destroyed and 14 damaged. A total of seven Kittyhawks were lost (5 pilots failed to return and two were injured). A total of seven RNZAF Kittyhawks were lost this aircraft plus P-40N NZ3134 (MIA) P-40N NZ3174 (MIA), P-40N NZ3162 (MIA), P-40N NZ3196 (MIA) P-40N NZ3135 (pilot survived) and P-40N NZ3199 (pilot survived).
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