Missions and Combat Activity for the remainder of December
For VMF-216, the month of December would set a long standing record for casualties as well as for combat action for the squadron. In fact, in the short span of a mere 12 days a total of five pilots would be listed as either KIA or MIA beginning with Captain Faulkner and Lieutenant Kemper. The tragic loss of Lts. Davey, Kamp, and Allen contrasted the triumphant air combat victories. These are all summarized in the following mission action reports:
Four plane EMPRESS AUGUSTA BAY patrol, and four plane search
for P-40 pilot down off Point Dog.
EMPRESS AUGUSTA BAY patrol performed without event. No sightings, and no contacts. One plane landed at 0630, due to engine trouble, other three planes landed at 0730. four planes on search, located P-40 pilot and flew cover over him for 15 min., from 0715 until
0730, when they returned to base. Four planes took off at 1730, performed EMPRESS AUGUSTA BAY patrol, landed at 1850 No sightings, and no contacts.
Four planes performed EMPRESS AUGUSTA BAY patrol.
Off at 1735. Landed at 1835. No sightings, and no contacts. Two planes were scrambled at 1915, to spot, and strafe enemy artillery positions, that was shelling camp area. Shortly after take off a night fighter took off and relieved them of mission. Both planes landed at 1945.;
Able search and "Special Mission".
Eight planes took off at 0815. Search coast around BUKA Island. After search, with negative results, planes proceeded up West Coast of BUKA. Strafed overturned row boat and dugout canoes pulled up on beach at Tuleau plantation. Results unobserved. Reported seeing numerous villages along coast, from LONTIS around to CAPE MAHALIS, indicating villages
were inhabited. Horses, huts, one native seen, chickens, dogs, and cultivated garden plots. Observed BUKA airfield. No activity. Many destroyed planes. One AA shell from a 3" was fired at flight from vicinity of airfield. All planes landed at 0945.
EMPRESS AUGUSTA BAY patrol.
Planes proceeded to patrol. Lt. Meeker's generator went out and he landed at 1730. Balance of planes continued normal patrol, until Dane instructed them to investigate unidentified object in water. Found to be log. Planes were then instructed to join SBD's in search for SS. Search negative. Planes landed at 1900.
Close cover escort for B-24 strike on RABAUL
Rendezvoused with bombers at 1145. Bombers went in at 20,000ft. No interceptions, or attacks made on bombers. Jap planes observed behind and below, did not close, AA, heavy, medium accurate as to altitude. Near misses observed on medium sized AK. Bombers plastered VUNAKANAU Field. Jap planes observed taking off from TOBIRA airfield.
No contacts. One plane landed at 1335. Balance of eleven planes at 1425. Nine planes took off at 1540. Mission-Escort Dumbo search for planes down in ST. GEORGE'S channel area. Planes escorted Dumbo to point 30-40 miles S.W. CAPE ST GEORGE. Dumbo landed picked up occupant of life raft. Time 1815. Took off, planes escorted Dumbo on return, landing at 1910. No sightings, and no contacts.
Search for Bogey.
Two planes were scrambled at 0545. Lts., Conrad, and Taylor. Planes were vectored by Dane. After flying on vector for about 4 min. Planes were forced to fly on instruments. Conrad became separated from Taylor. After 45 min., Conrad ran into clear weather and on checking his position, found himself over RABAUL area at 20,000 ft. He circled several times. No planes were observed, at this point Conrad's compass went out. He started return trip to base, using the sun to determine his course. Missed base while searching for bogey he heard dane directing Taylor towards, thinking he was on reciprocal course of Bogey. Search negative. He arrived over MUNDA at about 0815-0830, circled field, got his bearings, and returned to TOROKINA, landing at 0900. No sightings, an no contacts.
Escort B-25 strafing mission to ST. GEORGES Channel.
One plane, Lt Martin, joined up on a division from Crystal. Planes rendezvoused with bombers over EMPRESS AUGUSTA BAY, providing high cover. Over target at 1115. B-25's strafed and bombed Cape ST. GEORGE, majority of bombs fell in water. One B-25 was seen to hit water shot down by AA. Another was seen smoking. No interceptions, and no contacts. nine planes landed at 1200. Nine planes took off at 1205. Mission-Escort Dumbo on rescue mission to CAPE ST. GEORGE.
One lane, Lt. O'Sullivan returned to base with a gas leak in his cockpit, pancaked at 1335. Another plane returned at 1435, Lt McDonough. He put his landing gear down, with CO2, instead of purging his wing tanks. Balance of planes provided high cover for DUMBO. Search was successful DUMBO picking up a life raft full of survivors. Dumbo drew machine gun fire from CAPE ST. GEORGE. Planes in low cover strafed area from which fire was coming, silencing fire. Planes pancaked at 1510.
EMPRESS AUGUSTA BAY patrol.
Lts., Kamps, Davey, Straughn, and Riley. Four planes took off at 0515. At time of take off, Lts., Kamps, and Davey found planes assigned to them had to be grounded, one with Radio trouble, the other with engine trouble. They switched to two other planes in commission and taxied out for take off.
Lt. Kamps took off first, Lt. Davey starting down the runway shortly after him. When Lt. Davey's plane was about one
quarter of the way down the runway, it was seen, by persons in the tower, to suddenly swerve to the right, and crashed into a fire and crash truck, parked in front of the tower, plane burst into flame and bounced over into dug-out housing two Navy electricians. Pilot and both Navy men were burned to death. Cause of accident not known.
Immediately after take off. Lt. Kamps plane was seen by a gun crew, to pull up sharply to the right and fall off on it's right wing, diving into the sea. Approx. 2000 yds. south, south east of MAGINE Islands. Plane burst into flames on striking water. Crash boat searched area, but failed to pick up pilot. He was declared, Officially Missing in Action. Lts., Riley and Straughn took off at 0530.
Mission-Search for Lt. Kamps. Planes searched are where Lt. Kamps' plane was last seen. Only trace found was a large gasoline slick on water. At 0535, Lt. Harkins, and Capt. Pharr, joined up on Lts., Riley and Straughn. Four planes performed normal EMPRESS AUGUSTA BAY patrol. Landed at 0755. At 1030, Lt. Robert P. Davey, was laid at rest in the 3rd Marines Cemetery on this island. Services were conducted in the presence of the Squadron Commanding Officer, and
a small group of Lt. Davey's close friends.
Fighter sweep over RABAUL
Fourteen planes took off, eleven at 1015, two at 1035, and one at 0950.
1st Div.-Major Hargrave, Lts., Allen, Radosevich, and Fitzgibbons.
2nd Div.-Lts., Taylor, Putnam, Conrad, and Meeker.
3rd Div.-Lts., Barton Dempster, Kidwell, Means, and Hancock.
Capt. Pharr, flew number 4 man in F6F, VF-40 division.
Planes rendezvoused over EMPRESS AUGUSTA BAY. On course at 1025.
Shortly after take off, Lt. Barton was forced back. His landing gear would-
n't come up. Lt. Hancock, was standing by in his plane, heard
Major Hargrave ordered Lt. Barton back, and took off at once to fill
in for Lt. Barton. however he was unable to join up on the div.
and returned to base at 1110. Lt. Means late getting off and while
on was to join his division, spotted a friendly plane down in
MATCHIN BAY. He immediately radioed Dane and returned to Base,
circling field until Dumbo took off. He escorted Dumbo on a
successful rescue of the pilot and returned to base, landing at
1215. Lt. Conrad was forced to leave his division and return to base
landed at 1235. His hydraulic system went out.
Major Boyington just before his take-off on 27 December 1943
When sweep was about 5 miles S.E. of target, enemy planes were seen
taking off from LAKUNAI Aerodrome. When over target, Major Boyington
ordered planes, "To take it easy and not let down slowly. That the Japs would
be up in about four minutes." After completing a wide 360 turn to the left, planes
in sweep came out at about 1,000 ft. above and a little behind 10-20
Zekes. Major Boyington and Lt. Taylor's divisions, broke off
and went down to attack these planes.
Major Hargrave's division continued in a tight left turn, becoming separated
from other planes in flight. Major Hargrave started to make S turns, to cover
his tail. He then spotted a Zeke below and going away from him. He dropped
down and attacked from 6 O'Clock, firing four, 3 or 4 second bursts. he
saw Zeke split S and dive straight down, last observed on it's back
and still in dive. Shortly after he spotted a Zeke, about 1,000 ft.
below and ahead. He made a high side run on it and after his second
burst, noted puffs of smoke, coming from right wing root. The Zeke
stopped his turn, affording a full upper surface of his plane
as a target. Major Hargrave gave him another short burst, Zeke
went into a spin to the right, trailing a light blue smoke, with
flames pouring from the bottom of his ship, spinning all the way
down. Major Hargrave pulled up and attempted to join up on 3 other
F4U's, but they were going to fast for him. He eventually joined
up with Lt. Fitzgibbons. Major Hargrave took the lead, spotting
another Zeke trying to get on the tail of 4 F4U's. Major Hargrave
and Lt. Fitzgibbons, made a high side run on them, pulling out
flat and swinging in on his tail. Major Hargrave gave him two long
bursts. Zeke split S'ed away to the left and dove. Results of
burst unobserved. Seeing no other enemy aircraft in the sky,
Major Hargrave and Lt. Fitzgibbons continued on to rally point.
L. Radosevich joined up on the on the way.
Balance of planes joined up a few minutes later. One was missing,
Lt. Putnam. He was last seen by the other planes his his division at
the start of their first run. Later, Major Hargrave reported seeing an F4U
diving towards RABAUL, with two Zekes on it's tail. Smoke was
trailing from both it's oil coolers. Eight planes landed at 1255
Escort Dumbo on search for pilot down in BLANCHE BAY.
Eight planes took off at 1545.
1st Div.-Lts., Barton, Means, Hancock, and Burton.
2d Div.-Lts., Conrad, Foote, Fitzgibbons, and Harkins.
Planes escorted Dumbo on BLANCHE BAY, east to NEW
IRELAND. Search negative. At 1630 sighted Zero at maximum
visibility. Plane appeared to be a Rufe heading towards RABAUL.
Planes did not try to close. On return, Lts., Foote, and Fitz-
gibbons spotted a barge in MATCHIN BAY. Before reaching it
was pulled onto shore in camouflage. Both planes strafed shore
where barge was last seen with results unobserved. All planes
landed at 1755.
Fighter Sweep over RABAUL. Low cover.
Sixteen planes took off at 0555. Three planes took off at 0555.
Three planes, Lts., Conrad, Walden, and McGowan flew with VMF 214.
1st Div.-Major Morrell, Lts., Mattingly, Wilkerson, and Marker.
2nd. Div.-Lts., Mahoney, Foote, Riley, and Straughn.
3rd Div.-Lts., Barton, Martin, O'Brien, and Anderson.
4th Div.-Lts., McDonough, Basch, O'Sullivan, and Schwartz.
Planes rendezvoused over EMPRESS AUGUSTA BAY. Lts., Mattingly,
and Basch returned to base landing at 0700. Lt. Basch only had three guns
firing and those all in one wing. Lt. Mattingly's plane sprang a hydraulic
leak in the cockpit. Proceeded to RABAUL, south of CAPE ST. GEORGE, planes
were at 20,000 ft. Made a complete 360 circle around Simpson
Harbor. Received inaccurate AA, light, and heavy. After completing circle and when west of RABAUL, enemy fighters were observed in
the distance over LAKUNAI FIELD. Our planes headed for enemy
fighters, which were still climbing. when contact was made, several
of enemy fighters were above our fighters. Our planes engaged
enemy, fight breaking up into individual fights. all planes returned safely to
base, landing at 0920.
Four planes took off at 1715.
EMPRESS AUGUSTA BAY patrol.
Four planes took off at 1715.
Lts., Marshall, Fitzgibbons, Basch, and Meeker.
EMPRESS AUGUSTA BAY patrol.
Four planes took off at 0550.
Lts., Patton, McGowan, Dempster, and Kidwell.
normal patrol, landing at 0820.
Eight planes took off at 0815.
1st Div.-Lts., Marshall, Basch, Taylor, and Means.
2nd Div.-Major Hargrave, Lts., Allen, Radosevich, and Mattingly.
Planes performed normal patrol, at 0850, Dane instructed 1st Div. to land,
0900. Major Hargrave's division continued to
patrol. At 0925, Major Hargrave's
plane developed a gasoline leak, forcing him to land at 0945. Lt. Allen
took over the lead. At approximately 1010, Lt. Allen led his
div. through a series of aerobatics. It was during the performance of one of these maneuvers that Lt. Allen was killed. Details
of accident are covered in a separate report. Two remaining
planes landed at 1020.
Four plane division on EMPRESS AUGUSTA BAY patrol
Major Hargrave leading. Lt. Allen was flying on Major
Hargrave. Lt. Radosevich was the leader of the second section.
Planes were performing normal patrol. At about 0950, planes
started doing aerobatics. Altitude-10,000 ft. Before aerobatics
started, Major Hargrave left division and landed, having develop-
ed a gas leak. Lt. Allen executed a barrel
roll coming out at
9,000 ft., other planes in division followed. Lt. Allen then
started to execute a loop, when at top of loop he half spun com-
ing out at 7,500 ft. Planes followed but not on his tail
as they chose to pick up more speed. Then Lt. Allen performed
a series of slow rolls. Lt. Allen then started a loop at about
8,000 ft. pulling up to about 9,000 ft at the top of his loop. Lt.
Mattingly saw him when at the bottom of his loop, Allen's
while on it's back, fell off to the left, going into a three
turn spin. He recovered at about 4,500 ft. from his original
1,000 ft. in that position, he then went into a spin to the
right from which he never recovered, going straight into the
water a few seconds later, the plane was seen to explode.
Planes circled crash. Landing boats operating in the area proceeded
to scene of crash immediately. Pilots body was not recovered.
Approximate time of accident-1010.
The successes of the two-day fighter sweep over Rabaul caught the attention of the American Press which resulted in the publication of this article just a few weeks later:
"Where are they now and what are they doing, the young Navy fliers who were training here last year or the year before, but have gone on somewhere - into action?
Here is the story of eight young Marine pilots who left Corpus Christi with their new-won wings last April, and already have made history in the South Pacific skies. Fresh from the United States, their group has teamed up to become almost overnight, one of the hottest fighting squadrons to hit the Solomons since the early days of Guadalcanal. The story, written by Tech. Sgt. Harry S. Bolster, Louisville Ky., a Marine Corps combat correspondent, was received from Bougainville over press association wires this morning. It relates how in two sweeps over the great Jap base at Rabaul Dec. 27 and 28, this squadron blasted 24 enemy fighter planes from the skies. Two of their pilots were lost. Six of the eight are Texans, and after the second victory one of these commented: "There's a little bit of Rabaul that will be forever Texas." Bagging seven Jap fighters Dec. 27, the squadron, near the end of its first combat duty tour in the South Pacific, went back to Rabaul, met a stiff Jap challenge, and came away after shooting down 17 enemy fighters. These youthful Marine airmen, whose average age is 23, like to be called the "Bulldogs", the nickname their "skipper", Maj. Rivers J. Morrell, Jr., Los Angeles, Calif., earned while starring on the gridiron for the U.S. Naval Academy in 1936 and 1937. The Bulldogs' skipper wasn't on the first Rabaul sweep, but the young pilots were led by another Marine air hero, Maj. Gregory Boyington, Okanagan, Wash., who has 26 Jap planes to his credit. When the flight arrived over Rabaul late in the morning they found no Jap fighters in the air to meet them. They saw a few taking off from the fields. One of the Bulldog pilots, angered and pretty eager for action, broke the air silence and yelled over his radio: "Why don't you come up and fight?" Major Boyington shot back: "They're just taking off. Give 'em time boys. They'll be up." The Bulldogs, behind Major Boyington, twice circled over Rabaul while a swarm of Japs gained altitude. Whe the Japs were less than 1,000 feet below them the Bulldogs started peeling off. The first Marine pilot to dive down on a Zero was First Lt. Rudolph Radosevich, San Francisco, Calif. One short burst of lead sent the Zero spiraling down in flames. Second Lt. Neil W Kidwell, of Minneapolis, Minn., went in on the tail of a Zero. The first burst hit the belly of the Zero and it exploded in mid-air. That's the way the fighting went throughout the engagement. And when the Bulldogs went back to Rabaul the next day they felt like veterans. They had all the confidence in the world. They knew they were better fighters than the Japs. When the Bulldogs returned to Rabaul they were led by Major Morrell, who came out of the Guadalcanal campaign an ace. They arrived over Rabaul's Simpson Harbor and the Japs were in the air to meet them. The sky over Rabaul became a melee of marines and Japs fighting it out. Three Bulldog pilots each shot down two Zeros in rapid succession. They included First Lt. Robert F. Anderson, of Abilene, Texas.
Other Bulldog pilots who shared in the crushing two-day victory over Jap airmen, each shooting down a Jap fighter, included: Lt. Walter L. Straughn, Jr., of Beaumont, Texas; Lt. Robert E. Foote, Lancaster, Texas; Lt. John W. Barton, San Angelo, Texas; Lt. Summerfield M. Taylor, Jr. of Austin, Texas; and Lt. Harold O. Meeker of Bluff Dale, Texas."