Operation Cobber D-Day +2
The Japanese air force made its first appearance over Port Moresby today. A late morning attack came in from the North East. Radar on the warships of the Covering Force detected the incoming aeroplanes at around 11:23. The standing CAP of P-38’s was already in the air and the information passed on from the controllers on the battleship Revenge was quickly relayed to the USAAF pilots that sped off to engage. Visual contact was made by the Americans over the green canopy of New Guinea some 40 miles to the East of Port Moresby. 7 G4M1 bombers were incoming, escorted by around 30 A6M’s of the latest type already being mauled by Spitfires over Merauke. The USAAF pilots dove on the Japanese Zeroes from around 20,000 feet using the midday sun to hide their descent. Surprise was instant and two of the enemy fighters went down in the first flurry of dogfighting.
A running battle then ensued as the Japanese fighter pilots fought to keep the Lightnings off the Betties. Despite losing some more of their number they were able to escort their wards to their target. HMS Revenge sat pretty off Port Moresby shepherding her transports to the beaches. Today she attracted every single bomb that fell from the sky. Thankfully none came anywhere near to hitting her as all seven Japanese bombers dropped their loads way off target. Once the attack had finished the Japanese planes returned to whence they came. So far so good…
Further aerial contact, however, was forthcoming. Late in the afternoon radars on the RN ships once again picked up incoming planes from the North East. The last CAP of the day once again sped into action but this time did not meet either fighters or bombers, rather slow pondering transport planes, identified as Ki-57’s. The P-38’s swooped in but the limited fuel left in their tanks meant they only had enough gas for one sweep at the enemy transport planes. Patrolling on the ground confirmed suspicions that the Japanese were reinforcing their position at Port Moresby as soldiers from a third Naval Guard unit were picked up the 1st Australian.