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April 18, 1943
Today in World War II Pacific History
Day by day chronology
Sunday, April 18, 1943

IJN: G4M1 Betty 2656 Tail 323 with Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto plus G4M1 Betty Tail 326 with Vice-Admiral Matome Ugaki took off from Lakunai Airfield near Rabaul at 7:10am escorted by six A6M Zeros from the 204 Kōkūtai (204 Air Group) and the formation departed on schedule and flew to the southeast bound for Ballale Airfield and were scheduled to land at 9:45am local time for an inspection tour. At 9:35am over southern Bougainville, the formation was intercepted by P-38G Lightings. Although both bombers attempted to evade the attackers, both were shot down. G4M1 Betty 2656 Tail 323 crashed on southern Bougainville. Moments later, G4M1 Betty Tail 326 crashed into the sea off Moila Point on southwest Bougainville.

SOUTH PACIFIC THEATER OF OPERATIONS (Thirteenth Air Force) "Operation Peacock": G4M1 Betty 2656 Tail 323 with Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto plus G4M1 Betty Tail 326 with Vice-Admiral Matome Ugaki were intercepted by sixteen P-38G Lightnings led by Major John W. Mitchell (2 abort) took off at 0725 local from Fighter 2 on Guadalcanal and flew on a low level flight at sea level over the ocean before reaching southern Bougainville to intercept Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto who according to U. S. intelligence, was flying on an inspection trip to forward bases in the South Pacific and was due to land at Ballale Airfield at 9:45am local time. Admiral Yamamoto's punctuality was calculated to allow the interception to take place at 0935 local time, ten minutes before the landing. At 0935am, after flying for 2 hours and 15 minutes the P-38s spot the two Betty bombers escorted by six Zeros.

The four P-38s in the attack section led by Captain Thomas G. Lanphier, Jr. intercept the two Betty bombers. Meanwhile, the A6M Zeros spot P-38s at about one mile and try in vain to cut off their attack while the bombers dive to low level in an attempt to escape. G4M1 Betty 2656 Tail 323 with Admiral Yamamoto was attacked by P-38G "Miss Virginia" 43-2264 piloted by 1st Lt Rex Barber and shot down and crashed into the jungle on southern Bougainville.

Moments later, the other bomber G4M1 Betty Tail 326 with Vice-Admiral Matome Ugaki was shot down and ditched into the sea off Molai Point on southern Bougainville. Lost was P-38G pilot Hine (MIA). First to return, P-38G 43-2238 Nose 122 pilot Captain Thomas G. Lanphier, Jr. was the first pilot to land and claimed credit for both bombers shot down and was officially credited with both victories.

SOUTHWEST PACIFIC THEATER OF OPERATIONS (Fifth Air Force) B-25's bomb Penfoei Airfield. Single B-24's hit the Finschhafen and Saidor areas. A detachment of the 6th Night Fighter Squadron, 15th Fighter Group based at Kipapa Field begins operating from New Guinea with P-70's.

AMERICAN THEATER OF OPERATIONS (Eleventh Air Force) In the Aleutians, 22 P-38's (some flown by Royal Canadian Air Force pilots) and 37 P-40's hit Kiska nine times. The submarine base and gun emplacements on North Head are bombed and gun emplacements near the submarine base are silenced.

CENTRAL PACIFIC THEATER OF OPERATIONS (Seventh Air Force) The 371st Bombardment Squadron and 372d Bombardment Squadron (Heavy), 307th Bombardment Group based at Wheeler Field with B-24's begin operating from Funafuti.

CHINA (Fourteenth Air Force) In China, P-40's strafe an enemy-held supply village SE of Tengchung.

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