Lt. Wirth's Account

Detail of Action Over Target

At Dawn 30 March 1944

I joined up on the first three planes I saw, but these joined up with two other divisions which went in over the target, where the first sight of enemy planes was a formation of 5 or 6 Zekes at 12 O'clock up, distance about 3 miles. We were at about 7500 feet and the enemy was at 9000 feet.  Enemy course was perpendicular to ours. I immediately changed course to converge on them, climbing all the way with full military power.  I made a low side run from 4 O'clock on the nearest Zeke which immediately turned toward me and started a tight spiral down to the right. It finally straightened out in a dive and continued to push over.  It was very difficult to get a shot at him because he passed the vertical. He was in this attitude when he hit the ground and I barely pulled out myself.

The second plane I engaged was another Zeke which I saw emerge from a cloud at about 10 O'clock down.  My altitude was about 8000 feet, his about 7000 feet.  I turned toward him, nosing down, and was closing rapidly when he must have seen me.  He turned away eventually getting back in cloud cover. I closed to within 300 yards and opened fire with 6 guns until I was fairly close. At about 100 yards, he seemed to fall apart all of a sudden and I pulled up in order not to hit the flying debris,  I recollect a wing section coming toward me.

Between this action and ensuing action with enemy aircraft I responded to a call for cover for TBF's and SB2C's. They said Zekes were after them so I descended rapidly in the direction of the lagoon. It was about 5 miles from where I engaged the last enemy plane. I accompanied some TBF's on an attack and strafed an AK (cargo ship) with 4 guns, then acted as cover for some TBF's retiring toward the rendezvous point.  As they entered a rain squall I saw a Zeke obviously preparing to intercept the TBF's on the other side of the squall.  I pulled up in the clear and headed for the Zeke but lost him.  When I had gained about 7000 feet altitude I saw Hamp level and to my left about 9 O'clock. He also turned away but I closed on him slowly.  As I was about to open fire, he turned to the left and I in turn swung inside and opened fire with 6 guns. I saw my bullets hit in the cockpit area on the second burst; my first was not on but behind due insufficient lead. When my bullets were hitting, they would sparkle brightly and he pushed over in a dive. I got about two more bursts into him on this dive and he was past the vertical when he entered a cloud at about 2000 feet. I had turned during the dive and recovered in a cloud going in the opposite direction from the enemy.  I do not claim a kill on this Hamp but I do claim a probable because in my estimation it would have been impossible for him to recover.

Our speed was about 35o knots indicated when he entered the cloud and I broke off pursuit. After this action I joined with another fighter and returned to base.

Between my first and second action I was attacked by a Hamp. I executed a tight 360 nose dive turn when a cannon shell was fired at me. It seemed to pass between the cockpit and the wing and made a noise like a prolonged thump.  I believe it passed between my propeller arc and in one case it looked like a fiery basket ball.  As I straightened out from my first turn I was again fired on from behind and I tried a tight turn to the left.  As I recall, I straightened out and was fired on again, by one cannon shell.  I became frantic and thinking escape impossible, I pulled the stick straight back with two hands and kicked hard right rudder. I was indicating about 200 knots and the plane went into a snap roll and out of control, as I must have held the stick back for about three turns. I finally recovered after going through thin clouds and leveled off. The Hamp was gone, and I came on back alone.

I further certify that this account is true and accurate to the best of my knowledge.  I am still confused on some aspects but in general this is what occurred.

J. L. Wirth
Lt. (jg) U.S.N

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