War in the Pacific Admiral’s Edition. Game vs Herb

Action was also hotting up in the Santa Cruz-Solomon Islands Front. The USAAF’s 39th Fighter Squadron had earned itself  somewhat of a hot shot reputation with many of its pilots achieving at least one kill and had several aces on its roster. It was also the first unit in the Pacific to be equipped with the new P-38 Lightning fighter, and later to upgrade to the G version of said plane. It has started with P-39’s and had spent a few months gaining its battle spurs at Ndeni and then at Horn Island against the IJNAF and IJAAF. It had also received a glut of new pilots, rotated back to the front after spending some time sharing their battle earned skills with rookie pilots Stateside. One illustrious new pilot one the roster was one Major Boyington, former of the AVG in China. As such the squadron was sometimes derogatorily know as The Flying Celebs. However 8th December was to prove that sometimes their hot shot reputation was well deserved.

Tasked with flying a Sweep mission over Lunga for three squadrons of B-17s tasked with bombing the airfield there, there was some difficulty in timing the arrival over Guadalcanal before the bombers. Bad weather on their flight route caused them to take a longer flight route to avoid several tropical storms. As such they caught the panicked screams of the crews of the B-17s claiming they were being assaulted by hundreds of enemy fighters over their target. The fighter jocks were somewhat sceptical as it was well established among the fighter crews that bomber fliers see 10 enemy planes for every real one there. But for once they were wrong as there were indeed ‘hundreds’ of enemy planes over Lunga, waiting for the Americans to come over and dance the merry dance! Into the maelstrom sailed the B-17s and their name ‘Fortresses’ was an apt nickname. 50 and 30cals spat out deadly fire at the swooping Zeroes and Oscars. Only one B-17 was actually shot down over the target area, but another 5 were posted MIA as they never reached home base…

When the 39th actually got over Lunga, a few minutes after the bombers had headed for home, they did indeed see a mass of enemy fighters, stacked at different heights over Lunga Point. Smoke from fires around the airfield was testament to the bravery of the bomber crews that carried out their mission despite the odds. Flying at 20,000 feet the squadron leader gave the order for the squadron to engage the enemy and thus swooped down guns and cannons blazing as he lined up a Ki-44 in his sights and blew it out of the tropical sky…

Over 20 enemy fighters were shot down, that added to a total of 52 across the theatre for a loss of 11 on our side. Yet the news was tinged with sadness as it was confirmed that 5 Kill Ace 2LT Gilmore and 7 Kill Ace LTC Lynch were Killed in Action over Gudalacanal.

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