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  P-40N-5-CU Kittyhawk Serial Number NZ3162 Code 62
RNZAF
16 Squadron

Pilot  Flying Officer Montague Eric Dark, 411862 (MIA / KIA) Wellington, NZ
MIA  December 24, 1943


Aircraft History
Built by Curtiss in Buffalo, New York. Constructors Number 29074. Delivered to the U. S. Army Air Force (USAAF) as P-40N-5-CU Warhawk serial number 42-105312. Disassembled and shipped overseas to New Zealand as part of defense aid.

Wartime History
Assigned to the Royal New Zealand Air Force (RNZAF) as Kittyhawk NZ3162. Reassembled by No. 1 Aircraft Depot (1 AD) at Hobsonville Airfield on August 9, 1943. Assigned to 16 Squadron with tail code "62". No nickname or nose art. This P-40 was flown northward to operate from the Solomon Islands.

On December 17, 1943 took off Ondonga Airfield on New Georgia piloted by Sgt F. A. Donaldson at 5:15am and landed at Torokina Airfield on Bougainville to refuel. This P-40 took off from Torokina Airfield at 9:00am on a fighter sweep over Rabaul by twelve aircraft, but two aborted. 16 Squadron was divided into three sections of four aircraft. This P-40 was no. 4 in the third section led by P-40 piloted by F/Lt. G. A. Delves, P-40 NZ3151 piloted by F/O P. A. Bull and P-40 NZ3190 piloted by F/O J. N. Williams. A total of seventy-five Allied aircraft participated in the fighter sweep along with twelve Kittyhawks from 14 Squadron plus thirty-one F4U Corsair and twenty-two F6F Hellcats. After the initial dog fight, Donaldson became separated and attacked a Zeke below him, then pulled up to attack a Zeke attacking a P-40, then realized they were both enemy planes and attacked him. After taking evasive action and dove. Alone over the target at 11:00am, he returned to base alone and landed safely.

Mission History
On December 24, 1943 took off from Ondonga Airfield on New Georgia piloted by Flying Officer Montague E. Dark at 6:25am and landed at Torokina Airfield on Bougainville at 7:35am to refuel. This P-40 took off from Torokina Airfield at 10:00am on a fighter sweep over Rabaul.

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.

16 Squadron was divided into three sections of four Kittyhawks. This P-40 was no. 3 in the first section led by P-40N NZ3189 pilot S/L J. H. Arkwright with wingman F/Lt. F. J. Adams, this aircraft and P-40N NZ3190 pilot Sgt A. S. Mills.

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 16 Squadron approaching the target area at an altitude of 16,000'. 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 J. H. Arkwright dove, Dark followed and was last seen by his wingman Mills at the start of the dog fight engaging Zeros 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.

Sgt A. S. Mills combat report December 24, 1943:
"...I followed my no. 1 [F/O Dark] round in a tight turn as he was on the tail of a Zeke which out-turned us. We pulled away from the Zekes and found several just below after two P-40s. My no. 1 [Dark] half-rolled and I followed him down and skidded out from him on to the tail of a P-40 and about 70 to 100 yards behind. I closed fairly quickly on the Zeke and opened fire at 350 yards. I held the trigger down until I passed both Zeke and P-40, approximately an eight second burst. I could see my tracers entering the Zeke, but with no results. About 50 yards astern of the Zeke, I could see its tracers entering the P-40. I do not know what happened to either of the aircraft. I broke up to a single P-40 with four Zekes on my tail. I had lost my no. 1 [Dark]. I weaved with this P-40, which was one of no. 17 Squadron's pilots, and could feel canon shell[s] striking my aircraft..."

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 NZ3140 (MIA), P-40N NZ3196 (MIA) P-40N NZ3135 (pilot survived) and P-40N NZ3199 (pilot survived).

Memorials
Dark was officially declared dead the day of the mission. He is memorialized at the Bourail War Cemetery on Bourail Memorial on panel 4.

References
USAF Serial Number Search Results - P-40N-5-CU Warhawk 42-105312
"105312 (MSN 29074) to New Zealand as NZ3162. Assembled by No.1 Aircraft Depot, Hobsonville and BoC at Hobsonville on 9 August 1943. Coded "62". To No.16 Squadron. Crashed during a fighter sweep by 48 aircraft over Rabaul on 24 December 1943. The aircraft were attacked by enemy fighters and NZ3162 was one of 5 RNZAF P-40s which failed to return from the mission."
ADF Serials Kittyhawk NZ3162
Air to Air The Story Behind the air-to-air combat claims of the RNZAF pages 209--216 (17 December 1943), 225-22 (24 December 1943), 227-235 (24 January 1943 - 16 Squadron), 251 (summary of RNZAF aircraft destroyed 24 December 1943), 398 (index Dark), 404 (index NZ3140)
CWGC - Montague Eric Dark

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Last Updated
May 27, 2018

 

Tech Info
P-40

MIA
MIA
1 Missing
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