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February 14, 1943
Today in World War II Pacific History
Day by day chronology

Sunday, February 14, 1943
SOUTHWEST PACIFIC THEATER OF OPERATIONS (Fifth Air Force) B-17s and B-24s bomb Rabaul, Kokopo and Watom plus vessels off Kokopo and Cape Nelson. Individual B-24s hit the sawmill at Ubili. Individual B-24s attack the Madang area while B-25s bomb Lae Airfield.

CBI (Tenth Air Force) In Burma, B-25s unsuccessfully attack the bridge at Myitnge. Fourteen P-40s hit the town area of Maingkwan and the barracks to the southwest.

ALASKA (Eleventh Air Force) The weather reconnaissance aircraft turns back due to weather, as does the morning patrol of one B-25 and four P-38s over Amchitka. Other missions from Adak Airfield are also called off. Seven enemy float-type aircraft bomb and strafe Constantine Harbor on Amchitka without effect.

SOUTH PACIFIC THEATER OF OPERATIONS (Thirteenth Air Force) P-39s and Navy aircraft bomb and strafe Munda Airfield and hit AA positions and other targets at Munda Point.

On a morning visual and photographic reconnaissance mission over the the Buin-Shortland area, lost is F5A 42-12678 (MIA).

Saint Valentines Day Massacre (St. Valentines Day Massacre)
Nine PB4Y-1 Liberators from VB-101 took off from Henderson Field on Guadalcanal on a mission to bomb shipping in the Buin-Shortland area. The bombers were escorted by ten P-38 Lightnings from the 347th Fighter Group, 339th Fighter Squadron plus twelve F4U Corsairs from VMF-124 took off from Fighter 2 (Kukum). The weather was ceiling and visibility unlimited (CAVU).

The U. S. formation included the following:

Nine PB4Y-1 Liberators from VB-101, each armed with a single 1,000 pound bomb:
PB4Y-1 Liberator ????? / 51-P-1 pilot LCDR William A. Moffett, Jr. (C. O. VB-101)
PB4Y-1 Liberator 31951 / 51-P-13 pilot Lt. William R. Beswick
PB4Y-1 Liberator ????? / 51-P-9 pilot Lt. Carl W. Heywood
PB4Y-1 Liberator 31948 / 51-P-11 pilot Lt. Frank M. Fisler
PB4Y-1 Liberator ????? / 51-P-12 pilot Lt. Samuel F. Glover
PB4Y-1 Liberator 31960 / 51-P-6 pilot
Lt. James C. Nolan
PB4Y-1 Liberator ????? / 51-P-4 Lt(jg) Donald H. Lehman

PB4Y-1 Liberator ????? / 51-P-? pilot Lt. Jay Darwin Bacon, Jr. (MIA /KIA)
PB4Y-1 Liberator ????? / 51-P-? pilot Lt. Stuart Trumble Cooper (MIA /KIA)

Ten P-38 Lightnings from the 347th Fighter Group, 339th Fighter Squadron took off at 10:00am flying high cover:
P-38 pilot Captain James Geyer, flight leader, claimed two victories
P-38 pilot 1st Lt. William Griffith, wingman, claimed one victory
P-38 pilot Lt. Kerstedter
P-38 pilot Lt. Isakson
P-38 pilot Lt. Brown
P-38 pilot ?
P-38G pilot Finkenstein (MIA)
P-38G pilot White (MIA)
P-38G pilot Mulvey (rescued)
P-38G pilot Huey

Twelve F4U Corsairs from squadron VMF-124 flying close cover:
F4U pilot ?
F4U pilot ?
F4U pilot ?
F4U pilot ?
F4U pilot ?
F4U pilot ?
F4U pilot ?
F4U pilot ?
F4U pilot ?
F4U pilot 1st Lt. Lloyd Pearson
F4U-1 02187 pilot Lyon (MIA)
F4U-1 02249 pilot Stewart (MIA)

Over the target, the bombers released their bombs over shipping off southern Bougainville. They scored several hits on enemy cargo ships including the Hitachi Maru and near misses on two others including Kisaragi Maru.

Meanwhile, the Japanese had detected the incoming American aircraft and scrambled from three different locations. The Japanese fighter force included a total of 31 fighters from three Kokutai (Air Group):

Thirteen A6M Zeros from the 204 Kokutai that took off from Kahil Airfield (Buin) all returned safely and they claimed two B-24s shot down.
A6M Zero pilot Lt. Zenjirō Miyano (C.O. 204 Kokutai)
A6M Zero pilot ?
A6M Zero pilot L/S Shō Sugita
A6M Zero pilot WO Hatsuo Hidaka
A6M Zero pilot ?
A6M Zero pilot LS Ryoji Ōhara
A6M Zero pilot ?
A6M Zero pilot ?
A6M Zero pilot LS Nakazawa
A6M Zero pilot ?
A6M Zero pilot ?
A6M Zero pilot ?
A6M Zero pilot ?

Eighteen A6M Zeros from the 252 Kokutai took off from Ballale Airfield in two flights: the first four on CAP followed by 14 more to intercept.
A6M Zero pilot PO2c Tamotsu Okabayashi (CAP patrol)
A6M Zero pilot ? (CAP patrol)
A6M Zero pilot ? (CAP patrol)
A6M Zero pilot ? (CAP patrol)
A6M Zero pilot Ens. Chiyoyuki Shibata
A6M Zero pilot LS Gen'ichi Matsuda, failed to take off, flipped upside down taking off, unhurt, did not participate in the mission.
A6M Zero pilot PO2c Yoshio Yoshida (MIA / KIA)
A6M Zero pilot ?
A6M Zero pilot ?
A6M Zero pilot ?
A6M Zero pilot ?
A6M Zero pilot ?
A6M Zero pilot ?
A6M Zero pilot ?
A6M Zero pilot ?
A6M Zero pilot CPO Ryōichi Hanabusa, returned with bullet holes in aircraft
A6M Zero pilot ?
A6M Zero pilot ?

Eleven A6M2-N Rufes from 802 Kokutai took off from Shortland Harbor Seaplane Base.
A6M2-N Rufe pilot Lt(jg) Takeshi Yokoyama (C.O. 802 Kokutai)
A6M2-N Rufe pilot ?
A6M2-N Rufe pilot LS Hachirō Narita
A6M2-N Rufe pilot ?
A6M2-N Rufe pilot ?
A6M2-N Rufe pilot Lt(jg) Keizō Yamazaki
A6M2-N Rufe pilot ?
A6M2-N Rufe pilot PO Ryōzō Soejima
A6M2-N Rufe pilot ?
A6M2-N Rufe pilot ?
A6M2-N Rufe pilot ?

Ten minutes before the bomb run, the escorting P-38s observed enemy planes taking off from Kahil Airfield (Buin) these were A6M Zeros from 204 Kokutai. During the bomb run, the formation experienced anti-aircraft fire from both the ships and land based batteries.

Over the target, the PB4Y-1 Liberators dropped their 1,000 pound bombs at enemy ships in Buin-Shortland area and claimed "several hits" against enemy vessels. In the anchorage between Buin and Shortland were Hitachi Maru, Kisaragi Maru, Toyu Maru, Nissan Maru No. 3, Hibari Maru and Nojima Maru. Likely, other vessels were present in the area including subcasters or other vessels. Two bombs hit Hatachi Maru the first amidship and the second on the starboard side. Four of the crew were killed in the attack. This vessel settled or was beached in shallow water near Moila Point off southern Bougainville. Nearby, Kisaragi Maru suffered near misses and was slightly damaged.

After the bomb run, the Japanese fighters pressed their attacks against the bombers and fighters.

Both sides claimed extensive aerial victories and misidentified some aircraft types.

U. S. claims:
14 Zekes and 1 F1M2 Pete [mis-identified A6M2-N Rufe] shot down.

Japanese claims:
204 Ku claimed 2 x B-24, 1 x F4U and 4 x P-38
252 Ku claimed a "B-24", 8 x P-38s, 1 x P-39 and 2 x F4U
(Note: 252 Ku and 204 Ku cooperatively claimed a B-24, 1 x P-38, 2 x P-39 and 1 x F4U)
802 Ku claimed 2 x "B-24s" shot down and a P-40.

The Japanese lost only one aircraft:
A6M Zero pilot PO2c Yoshida (MIA), two 252 Kokutai pilots suffered minor wounds but landed safely.

U. S. losses included eight aircraft: PB4Y-1 pilot Bacon (MIA), PB4Y-1 pilot Cooper (MIA), P-38G piloted Finkenstein (MIA), P-38G pilot White (MIA), P-38G pilot Mulvey (rescued), P-38G pilot Huey (POW), F4U-1 02187 (MIA) and F4U-1 02249 (MIA).

Due to the severe American losses, this mission became known as the "Saint Valentines Day Massacre". Because of the losses sustained on February 13, 1943 and February 14, 1943, all daylight bombing missions in the northern Solomons were suspended until adequate fighter protection could be furnished in October 1943.

Kodochosho, 204 Kōkūtai, December 28, 1942
Kodochosho, 252 Kōkūtai, December 28, 1942
Kodochosho, 802 Kōkūtai, December 28, 1942
347th Fighter Group Advanced Echelon - Combat Report - Fighter Escort February 14, 1943
Guadalcanal and the Origins of the 13th Air Force page 182, 240 [PDF] via Wayback Machine May 20, 2006
(Page 182) "Next day [February 14, 1943] the Liberators tried again. Nine more went up to Buin, accompanied this time by 10 P-38's and 12 of the Marine's new F4U's. Again the Jap sent up 45 fighters to intercept, and again the cost was heavy. One B-24 [PB4Y-1] was shot down in a head-on attack, another crash landed off New Georgia; two of the Corsairs went down, while the 339th Fighter Squadron, on one of its blackest days, lost 4 of its P-38's. Bombers and escorts had shot down [claimed] 12 Zeros and the B-24s sank a large cargo vessel 2 miles off Kahili, but the price was too high. [Footnote 17] It was immediately apparent that operations of this type could not long be sustained. Consequently on 14 February daylight attacks on the Buin area were discontinued until more adequate fighter cover could be provided. [Footnote 18]"
(Page 240) "Footnote 17. Ibid. War Diary, MAW-2, 14 Feb. 1943; History of the 339th Fighter Squadron (TE). One of the P-38 pilots, Lt. John R. Mulvey, was rescued the following day.
Footnote 18. War Diary, MAW-2, 14 Feb. 1943; incl. (War Diary MAG-12), "Record of Events, Fighter Command, Guadalcanal, February 1, 1943 to July 25, 1943," in USMC Hist. Div. files."
Japanese Naval Air Force Fighter Units and Their Aces, 1932-1945 pages 50, 196-197 (204 Ku) 392, 203-204 (252 Ku), 238-239 (802 Ku)
(Page 50) "Next day [14 February 1943] 253 Ku intercepted a raid on Buin [Kahili], 24 A6M taking part, pilots claiming a B-24, nine P-38s, a P-39 and two new Vought F4U Corsairs, for one loss. They also shared a further B-24, a P-38, two P-39s and an F4U and four P-38s, while ten A6M2N pilots of 802 Ku claimed two more B-24s and probably a P-40 [sic], without loss."
(Page 239) "Until 14 February [1943] the unit continued to fly patrols and air defence sorties over Shortland."
(Page 392) "Yoshio Yoshida PO2c Otsu 11 252 Ku Feb/13/43 Buin"
History of Marine Corps Aviation in World War II page 135
"On 14 February, their third day in the combat area, the F4U pilots learned that Japanese flyers had not lost their skill or aggressiveness. About 50 well-alerted Zeros were waiting from the raid on Kahili Field in southern Bougainville. The Japanese shot down two F4U's, two Navy PB4Y's, two P-40's [sic, those were lost February 13, 1943] and the entire top cover of four P-38's, with a loss to themselves of only three Zeros, [sic only one was lost], one of which collided with a F4U. This 'Saint Valentine's Day massacre' was a painful blow to the Guadalcanal-based flyers of all services."
13th Fighter Command In World War II page 118
"Despite the losses of the previous day, on the 14th nine PB4Ys escorted by ten P-38s of the 339FS flying high cover, and 12 F4Us of VMF-124 flying close cover, again attacked the shipping off Shortlands-Buin. The bombers got several hits on a cargo ship and several near misses on two others. s they turned home 30 Zero s from Kahili supported by 15 float planes came up and attacked the Americans. A PB4Y was hit in the cockpit and crashed into the sea off Shortland. Another bomber was hit by AA fire and struggled as far as 12 miles off New Georgia before it had to ditch. The top cover P-38s were divided in two three-plane sections and four-plane flight when the Zeros attacked. Capt. James Geyer, leading the four-plane flight, shot down [claimed] two Zeros and a probable, and 1Lt. William Griffith of his flight splashed another and claimed a probable. Geyer's flight lost two P-38s, and two more P-38s were lost from the three plane sections. Geyer's flight lost two P-38s, and two more P-38s were lost from the three plane sections. Four 339FS pilots were lost: Joseph Frinkenstein [Finkenstein]; Wellman Huey; John Mulvey; and Donald White. Mulvey ditched and was rescued near Russell Island the next day. A post-war Japanese book described that Huey had bailed out of his P-38 and landed on a Japanese airfield and was severely beaten, probably to death. The Marine Corsairs claimed three Zeros and a Pete [sic] and lost two of their own, one to a mid-air collision with a Zero. The PB4Y gunners claimed nine Zeros - a very questionable number, as the Japanese records for the day show only three Zeros lost. The totals for the day were a cargo ship sunk, five (or three) Zeros (plus the nine claimed by the PB4Y gunners!), and a Pet on the Japanese side. The Americans lost two two PB4Ys, four P-38s, and two F4Us, and the mission was referred to as the 'St. Valentine's Day Massacre.' Losses of this magnitude could not be sustained for small-scale daylight attacks, and all daylight missions on the Buin area were discontinued until improved fighter escort could be provided. Daylight raids on major Japanese bases were discontinued and night attacks resumed. That day six 12FS pilots were given a respite from combat when they rotated to Fiji for R&R."
Zero's Chronicle in the Solomons Campaign pages 32-36
Minoru Kamada adds: "Author Umemoto writes that Zekes took a nose-nose tactics against a PB4Y and the Liberator was shot down. But some source says flaks were responsible. (I don't know the source). By the time Leading Seaman Nakazawa took off, Zeros were already chasing after Americans. By the time Nakazawa caught up with enemy planes near of Shortland Island and made the first fire and repeated firing until he got to Isabel I. His plane was shot and the engine stopped for a short time and both of the landing gear lowered but he kept on firing and witnessed a B-24 falling down. Author Umemoto suspects that this could be a PB4Y ditching off of New Georgia Island."
Thanks to Jim Sawruk, Minoru Kamada and Edward Rogers for additional information.

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