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  P-40N-15-CU Kittyhawk Serial Number NZ3196 Code 76
16 Squadron

Pilot  Flying Officer Denis Bernard Page, 405004 (MIA / KIA) Wellington, NZ
MIA  December 24, 1943

Aircraft History
Built by Curtiss in Buffalo, New York. Constructors Number 30151. Delivered to the U. S. Army Air Force (USAAF) as P-40N-15-CU Warhawk serial number 42-106389. 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 NZ3196. Reassembled by No. 1 Aircraft Depot (1 AD) at Hobsonville Airfield on November 24, 1943. Assigned to 16 Squadron with tail code "76". No nickname or nose art. This P-40 was flown northward to operate from the Solomon Islands.

Mission History

On December 24, 1943 took off from Ondonga Airfield on New Georgia piloted by Flying Officer Denis Page 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. 4 in the 2nd section flying as wingman for P-40N NZ3200 piloted by F/Sgt P. A. Tilyard with P-40N NZ3173 pilot F/Lt C. P. Jones with P-40N NZ3199 pilot F/O K. W. Starnes.

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 February 2, 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 NZ3140 (MIA), P-40N NZ3162 (MIA) P-40N NZ3135 (pilot survived) and P-40N NZ3199 (pilot survived).

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

USAF Serial Number Search Results - P-40N-15-CU Warhawk 42-106389
"106389 (MSN 30151) to New Zealand as NZ3196. Assembled by No.1 Aircraft Depot, Hobsonville and BoC at Hobsonville on 24 November 1943. Coded "76". 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 NZ3196 was one of 5 RNZAF P-40s which failed to return from the mission."
ADF Serials Kittyhawk NZ3196
Air to Air The Story Behind the air-to-air combat claims of the RNZAF pages 225-22 (24 December 1943), 227-235 (24 January 1943 - 16 Squadron), 251 (summary of RNZAF aircraft destroyed 24 December 1943), 398 (index Page), 404 (index NZ3196/76)
CWGC - Denis Bernard Page

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Last Updated
June 29, 2019


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