P36 Mohawks vs JAF

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Apr 23, 2005
Some weeks ago there a few threads on the P36 which generated a fair bit of interest and certainly on my side, suprise about how well they did in combat in France.
Whilst digging around in the loft I have just turned up some info about their service against the Japenese which I thought may be of interest.

The first action was undertaken on the 18th June 1942 by 5 squadron escorting Blenhiems of 113 squadron.
From the 7th July they started ground attack missions against Kalemyo, Kalewa using a forward landing strip at Tezpur. It should be noted that the only bombs they could carry were 20 pound anti personnel bombs.

Their first kill and air to air combat came on the 20th August when a Ki27 was shot down.

On the 7th October four Ki48's were spotted one went straight at the Mohawks and escaped the other three ran one of which was destroyed.

A second squadron was formed and together they formed 169 Wing
under the command of Sqd Ldr Pitt Brown. This was ready for action in November, the first British offensive of the Asian was in the Arakan penninsular. Total air support for this offensive was
2 squadrons of Mohawks
7 squadrons of Hurricane II
1 squadron of Beaufighters
3 squadrons of Blenheims
1 squadron of Hudson bombers
1 squadron of Wellingtons
plus support and transport squadrons

On 10th November a Japenese Bombing Raid met an Allied bombing raid and the escorts clashed. Five Ki43's met eight Mohawks. Two Mohawks and one Blenheim were lost and the Japs lost two Ki43's one of which was shot down by a Blenhiem.

On the same day eight Ki43's attacked a bombing raid. Two Blenhiems were lost and in a confused melee a Mohawk collided with a Ki43, the Mohawk survived, the Ki43 didn't. A number of planes from both sides were hit but one Japenese pilot died after landing.

The next air to air combat didn't happen until 5th December when six Mohawks were scrambled to intercept 24 bombers escorted by 15 x Ki43's. One Ki43 was definately destroyed and a second claimed but the second couldn't be verified from Jap records. One Mohawk crash landed and was written off.

On the 19th January whilst escorting a bombing raid 10 Ki43's were spotted. Three Mohawks were initially sent to intercept them and the other nine joined in when the bombers had completed their mission. One Ki43 was seen diving towards the ground with smoke comming from the cockpit but he was only awarded a probable. Again their was an air to air collision between a Ki43 and a Mohawk, again the Mohawk made it and the Ki43 didn't. Tough bird the Mohawk.

We then move on to the 10th February when seven Ki43's decided to straff the airfield after a raid. They reported being attacked by numerous Hurricanes and Mohawks, losing one Ki43. If fact they were attacked by two Mohawks.

During March there were a number of calls to replace the Mohawks because some allied pilots mistook them for Ki43's and for better reasons the Maintanence of these unique planes was causing difficulties. They were one of machines that had next to nothing in common with anything else out there so you can understand this. High command due to the success they were achieving.

On 29th March 1943 six Mohawks intercepted twelve Ki43's and engaged them but there were no losses on either side.
There were a few more dogfights in the following few days where the Mohawks were outnumbered but again with no losses to either side.

Lack of numbers forced No 5 squadron to requip with Hurricanes and 155 was left as the last unit to use this old plane.

20th April 10 Mohawks intercepted 18 Ki21's and 24 Ki 43's above them. The raid was turned around and there was a general dogfight from which 2 Mohawks were lost. Interestingly no kills were claimed by the Mohawks although a number of damages and probables were awarded but the Japenese did admit to losing two planes and their pilots so honours seem to have been even.

By now the Mohawks were getting tired and in an effort to maintain performance one section had the wing guns removed. On the 21st April 8 Mohawks intercepted 27 Ki21 bombers and 16 Ki3's. Once again there was one claim on each side but no losses reported. The section with 2 x LMG's reported a number of hits on two Ki43's but with no effect.

The last air to air combat was on 9th November when 4 Mohawks intercepted 2 Ki43's shooting down one for no loss.

In the later months the Mohawks had been used as pathfinders for the Hurricanes copying the role of the Boomerangs in the RAAF. Its agility made it ideal for this task.

I have obviously summerised the air to air combet records but all through this period they were used for GA work and as you would expect, that is where the majority of their losses were incurred.

Finally on the 4th January the unit replaced its well worn Mohawks for new Spit VIII's. I don't know what the pilots thought but I bet the maintanence crews were glad.
It is I that has a deep interest in the Mohawk, and Hawk-75, combat career. It's extremely vague, and the Mohawk is an under-rated aircraft. Extremely useful, and robust, for the PTO and CBI. I'm going to get my hands on the "Bloody Shambles" series soon ... I would advise you doing the same, if you have a keen interest in the CBI air war. I hope to find more information on the Mohawk in the book.

Excellent post by the way.
I've known about all three books for quite a while, but never had enough money to get any of them. Now I have though ... 8)
You get a good deal on amazon if you buy vol. 2 'n' 3 together. So, y'know, I'm going to do it ...obviously get vol. 1 as well.
Bloody Shambles is an excellent series, even if very expensive.
2 P-36A pilots, 2nd. Lt. Gordon H. Sterling, and 1st. Lt. Lewis M. Sanders, were each credited with downing Japanese fighters at Pearl Harbor.
Very interesting indeed. I got that information out of an old Pearl Harbor book I have. It mentioned that Sterling was lost, but didn't go into the specifics.
pictures of RAF P 36s in India


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The next air to air combat didn't happen until 5th December when six Mohawks were scrambled to intercept 24 bombers escorted by 15 x Ki43's. One Ki43 was definately destroyed and a second claimed but the second couldn't be verified from Jap records. One Mohawk crash landed and was written off.
copied from MOhawks over Burma by Gerry Beauchamp
This is from the logbook of PO H Bishop for 5 Dec
In Mohawk B(BJ451) with 5 others from A flight , was sent to Chittagong for readiness. The supply ship was in the harbour . We had to do our own refuelling and starting. Two pilots were on standby ,strapped in , others at readiness . We continuously scrambled throughout the day after a recce plane but were too late each time. The Japanese Dinah returned after 2.5 hours. We calculated that it took him 1 hr to return to Akyab ,half hour to refuel and 1 hour to come back. Sure enough it came back 2.5 hours later . We were scrambled for his 1530 visit , but instead 24+ betty bombers escorted by 12+ fighters raided Chittagong. We were vectored to the enemy formation from in front and below. We could not get up to them in time , but we followed along and soon were in a general melee. Tony Dunford , who shot one down ,was shot up himself , and the instant he touched down - I had landed in front of him and was at the end of the Rwy watching -and his tires burst he flipped over on his back. I got on the back of a motorbike and we tore down the Rwy towards the crash . It so happened there were 100's of coolies working on the strip. I arranged for about 60 to lift the Mohawk up and I crawled underneath. Tony was hanging in his straps unconcious and fuel all over . We got him out and the coolies moved the plane to the edge of the edge of the strip so the rest of the chaps could land . he was very lucky he did not burn but he broke both wrists and had a concussion
I have the version Tony Dunfords log I'll post later

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