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
|Home Fighter Squadron 31 Torpedo Squadron 31 The Missions Flown Aircraft Aircraft Carriers Participate in VF-31|