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Japanese missions against Tsili Tsili
August 15, 1943–September 13, 1943

August 11, 1943
(JAAF) A Japanese reconnaissance plane discovers Tsili Tsili Airfield.

August 15, 1943
At 9:10AM, seven Ki-48 Lilys from 208 Sentai took off from Alexishafen Airfield led by 1st Lt Imai, escorted by 22 Ki-43 Oscars of the 59th Sentai and 12 Ki-43 Oscars from 24th Hiko Sentai (24th Flying Regiment) on a bombing mission against Tsili Tsili Airfield for the first time.

Near Tsili-Tsili, the Japanese formation was intercepted by P-39 Airacobras from the 41st Fighter Squadron (41st FS) and 40th Fighter Squadron (40th FS) that each earned a presidental unit citation for this action escorting C-47s to Tsili Tsili Airfield. None of the bombers were able to hit the airstrip, the closest being one Lily that crash landed at the edge of the runway. American pilots claim a total of 14 airplanes downed for the loss of 4 P-39s: P-39N pilote Hilbert (survived) P-39N pilot Bomar (survived), P-39N pilot Bomar (survived) and P-39N piloted by Mikiska (survived) P-39N pilot Topolcany (KIA). In addition, two Dakotas are lost while attempting to land: C-47 "Liliane" 41-18682 and C-47 41-18668.

American claims included 9 of 11 claims for Lilys. (Actually only 7 Ki-48s were in the raid). They also claimed 2 of the 3 OSCARS shot down.

Japanese loose 6 bombers, 3 fighters. Among the Ki-48 Lily losses were 1210, 1235, 1242, 1249 and 1250 (wrecks inspected at Tsili Tsili, Pesen, and Babauf).

The 40th FS pilots were credited with:
Lt. Dick Schmalz (1)
Lt. Robert Yaeger flying P-39N 42-19012 Aircraft Number 147 (1 Lily & 1 Oscar).

The 41st FS pilots were credited:
Robert Alder (2 Lilys, recorded on gun camera film)
Frank "Duby" Dubisher P-39N 42-18802 (3 Lilys)
Carey Wooley (1 Oscar)

Richard Dunn adds:
"Souces are confused on Lilys versus Sallys. On 15 Aug there really is no dispute. Captured docs clearly establish them as Type 99 Light Bombers. In addition Impact magazine (Dec 43) has gun camera photos of several Lilys in the action. I also have the crash reports and s/ns from most of the losses. Escort of 22 from 59th and 12 from 24th.

41st Squadron Diary
On 15 August 1943, Beaver Red, White, Blue, and Yellow flights took off at 0756/K as close escort and cover for 12 transports to Marilinan and return. Out 12 P-39's arrived over the target area at 0900/K and at 0910/K, 9 medium bombers (Sally) were sighted at 10,000 feet about one mile northwest of target area, escorted by 15-20 Oscars, Type 3, and twin engine fighters. Fighters were above and behind the bombers at about 15,000 feet, and some of them higher. Our flights engaged the bombers as they circled to make run on target. They were in vics of 3 and took no evasive action. Nine bombers and two fighters were definitely destroyed. Three of our aircraft failed to return and another crash-landed at Tsili Tsili. The three missing pilots are: Capt George A. Hilbert Jr., 2nd Lt Frank J. Topolcany, and 2nd Lt John E. Bomar. 2nd Lt Richard L. Mikiska crash-landed at Tsili Tsili; no injury sustained. Capt George A. Hilbert, Jr., and 2nd Lt. John E. Bomar bailed out from planes and returned to Tsili Tsili base uninjured. 2nd Lt. Frank J. Topolcany was found dead in his crashed plane.

Edward Rogers adds:
"I found the entry in the 41st Squadron diary for 15 August 1943. 2nd Lt. Frank J. Topolcany [not Fred A. Topolocany] was KIA. Bomar and Hilbert both bailed out and RTD while Mikiska force landed back at TsiliTsili. Twelve Airacobras of 41st and 40th Squadrons, 35th Fighter Group

Pilot Sqdn Claims
2nd Lt. Robert T. Alder 41st = 2
Captain John D. Bailey 41st = 2
2nd Lt. John E. Bomar 41st 0, bailed out RTD
Capt. Francis E. Dubisher 41st 3
Capt. George A. Hilbert Jr. 41st 0 bailed out RTD
2nd Lt. Richard L. Mikiska 41st 0 force landed at TsiliTsili
1st Lt. Harold L. Nus 41st 1
Capt. Tony Prince Jr. 41st 1
1st L.t Carey J. Wooley Jr. 41st 2
2nd Lt. Frank J. Topolcany 41st 0 KIA
1st Lt. Richard A. Schamlz 40th 1
1st Lt. Robert R. Yaeger Jr. 40th 2

2nd Lt. Frank J. Topolcany, O-667875: The Squadron was engaging an enemy formation over the Marilianan area. Lt. Topolcany was firing in an enemy bomber from the rear. The bomber caught fire and crashed. Lt. Topolcany evidently had been seriously wounded, for he followed the bomber into the ground, crashing about 200 ft. [from it?] Action took place on 15 August, 1943.
Note: Despite this description there are no claims for Topolcany under the "Aerial Victory Credits".

2nd Lt. John E. Bomar, 0-386459: The Squadron was engaging an enemy formation over the Marilianan area. As a result of enemy action, Lt. Bomar was force[d] to abandon his airplane. He was seen parachuting safely to the ground. The action took place 15 August 1943. Lt. Bomar returned to duty 22 August 1944 [1943?]

41st Squadron casualty file: 24 July 1942 - 24 March 1944

Dan Dannacher adds:
"Then came the move to Tsili-Tsili, a higly-secret, landlocked strip 200 miles north of Port Moresby. The first escort of C-47s began on 14 August. On the 15th, Lts. Dick Schamlz and Bob Yaeger tacked onto a 41st flight which got to the Tsili-Tsili area just as the first Japanese raid came in. Lt. Schmalz got one victory and Lt. Yaeger got two. The 40th moved to Tsili-Tsili on 25 Aug 1943 for some of the most rugged and severe flying and living conditions. Fuel, food and munitions supply could only come in by C-47. Mud and heat prevailed in the extremes, and cloud build-up over the surrounding mountains made every flight hazardous."

Craven & Cate's account has four Airacobras being lost. It states that the second flight of C-47's returned to PM.

"By camouflage and clever flying of the troop carriers, the existence of the field at Tsili Tsili was hidden from the enemy for a time. The first attack on 15 August caught the troop carriers as they were flying in the ground echelons of the first fighter squadrons to be based at Tsili Tsili. One flight of the C-47's had just landed when twelve Sallys, escorted by an equal number of fighters and flying low enough to have avoided the Allied radar, roared in though mountain passes. Japanese shells riddled one airborne C-47 of the second flight and caused it to crash, killing all occupants; another transport vanished into the surrounding mountains and was never found. The remainder of the second flight turned back to Port Moresby, making their getaway by some skillful flying at treetop levels. Fortunately, the escorting P-39's engaged the attention of the Japanese fighters. When the fight was over, four P-39's had been lost, but three of the four pilots saved themselves and claims showed eleven Sallys and two or three of the fighter escort shot down.59 Damage on the ground had been slight.

The Japanese followed through with another raid on the 16th, but P-47's and P-38's, which had been sent up that day on escort, knocked down approximately fifteen of the strafing fighters. Thereafter, enemy planes kept away. In fact, it became evident that the Japanese had [p. 178] decided to conserve their strength. Except for the two attacks on Tsili Tsili, hostile raids during August were largely restricted to a few bombs dropped on Kiriwina and Woodlark Islands.60"

Footnote 59. History, 35th Ftr. Gp.; CM-IN-11980 (8-16-43), Brisbane to WAR, C4827, 16 Aug. 1943; Form 34, 15-21 Aug. 1943, 40th and 41st Ftr. Sqs.

Footnote 60. History, 475th Ftr. Gp.; Form 34, 12-21 Aug. 1943, 340th, 341st, and 431st Ftr. Sqs.; cable opns. rpts. for August; History, 67th Ftr. Sq. p. 177-78

Chapter VI: Huon Gulf and Peninsula - by Richard L. Watson, Duke University
"The Army Air Forces in World War II"
"Vol. IV The Pacific: Guadalcanal to Saipan August 1942 to July 1944"
Wesley F. Craven and James L. Cate, eds.

August 16, 1943
12 P-38's (475th FG, 431st FS) and 32 P-47's (16 from 340th FS and 16 from 341st FS of the 348th FG). Intercept 33 Ki-43 Oscars (other sources claim 25) and 7 x Ki-48 Lily bombers attempting to attack C-47s near Tsili Tsili Airfield and bomb the airifled. The strike is completely thwarted and 12 fighters shot down. This marks first the combat use of the P-47 in this theater

24 C-47s take off from Port Moresby, moving aviation fuel and supplies to the new airbase at Tsili-Tsili and Marilinan. 32 P-47 Thunderbolts of the 340th and 341st Fighter Squadrons (348th FG) and 12 P-38's of the 431st Squadron (475th FG) which had only recently begun operations in New Guinea provide escort.

The 5th Air Force provided a much stronger fighter escort for the C-47s following the loss of two transports to Japanese Army fighters the previous day August 15, 1943 over Tsili Tsili. All of the 24 transports landed safely at Tsili Tsili Airfield. While unloading was underway a Japanese strike from Wewak consisting of 33 type I Ki-43 Oscar fighters and 3 Type 99 Ki-48 bombers arrived to attempt another attack on Tsili Tsili Airfield.

Each US Squadron became involved in separate combats with the Type I fighters and numerous claims were made on both sides. P-47D piloted by Leighton was lost and P-38 piloted by Blythe is damaged and lands at Tsili Tsili Airfield.

The Japanese report losing two pilots. The Japanese attack is thwarted and no transports are lost. This marked the first the combat use of the P-47 in this theater.

American Claims: 340th Squadorn - 1, 341st Squadron - 2, 431st Squadron - 12

Richard Dunn adds:
"Strangely the Type 99 LBs shot down on the 16th were claimed as Kates! There were also 7 LBs in that raid."

Capt. Max R. Wiecks 340th Sqdn / 348th FG FG 1 fighter
1st lt. Wilburn S. Henderson 341st Sqdn / 348th FG 1
2nd Lt. Leonard G. Leighton 341st Sqdn 348th FG 1 fighter MIA/ DOW

1st Lt. David W. Allen 431st Sqdn 2
1st Lt. Warren R. Lewis 431st Sqdn 1
1st Lt. Lowell C. Lutton 431st Sqdn 1
1st lt. Jack C. Mankin 431st Sqdn 2
1st lt. Arthur E. Wenige 431st Sqdn 2
2nd Lt. Paul Smith 431st Sqdn 1
Capt. Harry W. Brown 431st Sqdn 3

Japanese claims: 21
US claims: 15

Japanese losses: 2 [3?] Ki-43 Oscars
US losses: Lost: P-47 piloted by Leighton, Damaged: P-38 piloted by Blythe

September 13, 1943
(JAAF) Japanese sent 42 Ki-43 Oscars and Ki-61 Tonys to escort 12 Ki-49 Helen bombers. Japanese accounts mention only P-38s in both phases of the interception, no mention is made of P-40s and P-47s that were also involved.

P-39 Airacobra Units of WWII (2001) pages 38-41 (August 15, 1943)
American Fighter Aces - Lawrence F. O’Neill an Ace with Kearby's Thunderbolts by John Guttman mentions September 13, 1943 mission
Thanks to the 41st Fighter Squadron Association, Richard Dunn and Edward Rogers for additional information.

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