Purpose of this blog

Dmitry Yudo aka Overlord, jack of all trades
David Lister aka Listy, Freelancer and Volunteer

Sunday, December 8, 2019

Miss Fit Mavis

On 23 October 1942 a PBY-5a Catalina was flying over the Solomon Sea. Around lunch time she became embroiled in a vicious gun battle with a Japanese H6K4 "Mavis" flying boat, the flying boats battered at each other with their machine guns, the PBY horribly outclassed in firepower and performance by the Japanese plane. The PBY had to stay away from the tail of the H6K4, otherwise the deadly 20mm cannon mounted there would rip them apart. As it was the machine guns would do enough damage. As ponderous dogfight pulled close to a squall, the bright sunlight glinted off the wings of a third plane overhead, which broke off to join in, the crew of the PBY saw the four engined plane in a very steep dive towards them, then lost sight of it.
Moments later the plane burst out of the squall, about fifty feet away from the PBY's tormentor. It had used the cloud to close up with the combat unseen. It was a B-17E, named Miss Fit after a series of faults and one short landing which ripped off the tail. When the prototype B-17 was unveiled it was described by the Seattle Times as a "fifteen ton Flying Fortress", simply because of the large number of guns it carried, Miss Fit now put its arsenal to work. Both the B17 and the H6K4 swung their turrets to bear and began to hammer at each other. Tracers crisscrossed the gap, the planes were almost wing tip to wing tip, and both were shuddering from the vibrations of the guns and the pelting of the bullets. Tracers could be seen ricocheting from both planes like hail.
The H6K4 pulled a tight turn away from Miss Fit, this was to bring the 20mm cannon into play which would have ended the fight straight away. The pilot of Miss Fit increased speed and had to follow the turn on the outside, in a deadly aerobatic manoeuvre. Tracers continued to flash the short distance between the planes, when nature decided to join in. The turn had brought them into the squall, and a torrential downpour lashed both sides. The H6K4 kept on using the rain and cloud to break contact, but every time Miss Fit would chase after him, and each time would catch up. This happened five times. By now the H6K4 was low to the water to prevent the B-17 from getting under him. Then the Japanese plane started to smoke, one of its engines failed and it crashed into the sea. The entire engagement had taken forty-four minutes from start to finish. The bombardier and navigator were both wounded by the storm of fire, although the navigator had remained at his gun. The H6K4 was flown by Takeshi Shimoyamada.
Back at the Shortland seaplane base in the Solomon Islands the 851 Kokutai were awaiting the return of Shimoyamada. When he failed to return the squadron commander was beside himself with anguish. Shimoyamada's plane was the latest to have just vanished while on a mission. All that the base would receive was a morse code signal from the flying boat saying "plane", then silence. A month later the total of lost planes was sixteen, when Lieutenant Tsuneo Hitsuji lifted his H6K4 into the sky on a routine patrol.

Around 0700 Lt Hitsuji's plane spotted another, it was Miss Fit. Lt Hitsuji put his plane into a dive to get as low to the sea as he could, while ordering his crew to battle stations. Miss Fit remained flying above the flying boat and slightly off to the rear starboard. Lt Hitsuji felt that she was radioing in his position. Lt Hitsuji threw his plane into a tight starboard turn, which caught the pilot of Miss Fit off guard, and allowed the H6K4 to pass under the B-17. As she entered the rear gunners arc the 20mm cannon scored several hits causing one engine to start smoking. Miss Fit broke contact and headed for home, while Lt Hitsuji continued his patrol.
The crew of the H6K4 ate their breakfast, then just after they had finished, off to the port heading right towards them came another B-17. The crew manned their guns, and Lt Hitsuji activated a CO2 fire extinguisher in the fuel tanks to fill the tanks with inert gas to prevent a fire, and they were ready. At a height of 30 meters Lt Hitsuji turned for a squall. The B-17 flew alongside out of gun range, then passed in front of the H6K4. Both planes made a head on pass, but neither side scored any hits despite filling the air with as much firepower as they could. The B-17 made several passes, each time from a slight angle to avoid the tail gun. Each time Lt Hitsuji saw the sea behind them turn white with foam from near misses. On the fourth pass the situation deteriorated, Lt Hitsuji could smell smoke, and two crew were wounded. Equally the fuel tank was hit and began to leak into the cockpit. On the sixth pass a .50 round smashed a hole next to Lt Hitsuji's foot which he could see the waves through. 
Sensing the end was near Lt Hitsuji grabbed his pistol and announced his intention to ram if the opportunity presented itself.

The B-17 came thundering in from the side, the co-pilot suddenly dived, which meant that the B-17 crossed directly astern, at a range of 30m. The 20mm in the rear could never ask for a better target and raked the B-17. Lt Hitsuji even leant out of the window and fired a few rounds from his pistol. The B-17 pulled into a turn next to the H6K4, but was not firing as all his gunners were injured or out of ammo. At that point the H6K4 entered the squall and the B-17 was lost from sight. Leaking fuel it limped back to base, where ninety-three holes were counted in her fuselage.