10th May 1943
Marine Bomber Squadron 231 today carried out the first bombing raid from the air strips at Lunga. Having conquered Lunga Point, then weathered the storm of aerial and naval bombardment, US Army and USMC units have been establish a strong position on the southern half of Guadalcanal. Fighters from Lunga had already carried out sweep missions over Munda but today saw a new twist in the Solomons Campaign.
SBD-3’s spotted and engaged a Japanese fast transport Task Force at Vella Lavella. 18 SBD-3’s were escorted by several F4F-4 fighters as they sped north. Three enemy ships were seen docked at Vella Lavella, seemingly taking troops aboard. The squadron divided into four, four plane vics and they all followed the brace of Dauntlesses that led the dive down from 12,000 feet. They screamed down as their escorting fighters circeld above keeping a watchful eye for any A6M3’s that were operating in the vicinity of Shortlands and Buka. The first two bombers scored near misses on a wildly twisting and turning APD. It avoided the first two bombs but its luck run out soon after. It took three consecutive direct hits that saw it split in two and sink beneath the waves in record time!
A light cruiser (later identified as the Natori) was also hit by a brace of 1000lbers, leaving it aflame and gushing dark oily smoke that made the descent of the last group of dive bombers difficult. The last vics concentrated on another APD that was using the pall of smoke as cover to escape to the north. It took two more bombs that left its stern section in tatters and as it slewed to a crawl the enemy vessel began to leaving a snaking trail of oil behind it. The SBD’s rejoined their escorts and headed back to Lunga where jubilant ground crews set to maintenance duties while the crews headed to the debriefing tents. The fighter jocks were somewhat disappointed that the Japanese did not have any fighters in the immediate area of Vella Lavella for them to engage. PBY-4 Liberators bombing Buka, however did meet enemy fighters in the form of A6M3a’s