Spitfires over Darwin

Discussion in 'Aviation' started by Wildcat, Apr 29, 2013.

  1. Wildcat

    Wildcat Well-Known Member

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    Following on from the Hellcat Vs Spitfire thread, this thread will be used to discuss the airwar over Darwin. namely the 1943 campaign which always seems to get heated. Lets try and keep it civil guys, as this theatre of war is quite an interesting one (IMO anyway). So I start by posting -

    Spitfire units –
    54 RAF
    452 RAAF
    457 RAAF

    IJNAF units
    202Ku Zero’s
    753AG Betty’s
    934Ku Jake Rufe floatplanes

    IJAAF
    59th Sentai Oscar
    61st Sentai Helen bombers
    75th Sentai Lily bomber
    70th DCS Dinah

    During the 1943 campaign No1FW claimed 70 enemy aircraft destroyed – 34 fighters, 29 bombers, 7 recon aircraft. From various sources I’ve compiled the following actual losses –
    6 Feb 43 – 1 Ki-46 destroyed (Lt Kurasuki Setaguti Lt Fumio Mori 70th DCS) 54RAF
    7 Mar 43 - 1 Ki-46 destroyed (Lt Yutaka Tonoi Lt Chokiti Orihara 70th DCS) 457RAAF
    15 Mar 43 - 1 Zero destroyed (PO2c Seiji Tajiri (a/c 6540) Ku202) – F/O Mawer RAAF 54RAF
    8 Betty’s damaged (753Ku)
    2 May 43 – 7 Zero’s damaged, 7 Betty’s damaged
    10 May 43 - 1 Zero destroyed (PO1c Kunio Sakai Ku202) – F/Sgt Watson – 457RAAF
    1 Zero destroyed (CPO Tadao Yamanaka Ku202) – P/O Morse – 457RAAF
    23 May 43 – 1 Ki-46 damaged 54RAF
    28 May 43 – 2 Betty’s destroyed (753Ku) 457RAAF
    1 Betty crash landed (753Ku) 457RAAF
    20 Jun 43 - 1 Oscar destroyed (1LT Shigeto Kawata 59th Sentai)
    1 Helen destroyed (LT Kenjiro Matsuhara 61st Sentai)
    1 Helen destroyed (Capt Katsuhiro Ohta 61st Sentai (a/c 174))
    1 Helen crash landed (1/Lt Yoshio Kawamura 3KIA 61st Sentai)
    1 Lily force landed (1/Lt Masakatsu Yamazaki 75th Sentai)
    1 Lily force landed (WO Shinzo Miura 75th Sentai)
    28 Jun 43 – 1 Betty crash landed (753Ku)
    1 Betty 3 zero’s damaged
    30 Jun 43 – 1 Betty crash landed (753Ku)
    6 Jul 43 - 1 Betty destroyed (FCPO Masao Kobayashi 753 Ku (a/c 3677))
    2 Betty’s crash landed (753Ku)
    2 Zero’s damaged
    18 Jul 43 - 1 Ki-46 destroyed (Capt Shunji Sasaki (70th DCS CO) Lt Akira Eguchi 70th DCS (a/c 2414)) – S/Ldr James 457RAAF
    10 Aug 43 - 1 Jake destroyed (PO/3 Ishiwata, WO Nagano PO/2 Takagami 934th Ku) – F/O Young P/O Coombes – 452 RAAF
    1 Rufe damaged (LT Toshiharu Ikeda CO 934th Ku) as above
    17 Aug 43 - 1 Ki-46 destroyed (Lt Kyuichi Okomoto Lt Yasuro Yamamoto (a/c2250) 70th DCS) – F/L Watson – 457RAAF
    1 Ki-46 destroyed (Lt Saburo Shinohara Lt Hideo Ura (a/c2273) 70th DCS) – F/Sgt Jenkins F/Sgt Watson – 457RAAF
    1 Ki-46 destroyed (Lt Shir-Ichi Matsu-ura Lt Kyotoshi Shiraki (a/c2237) 70th DCS) – S/L James – 457RAAF
    1 Ki-46 destroyed (Sgt Tomihiko Tanaka Sgt Kinji Kawahara Ku202) – W/C Caldwell – No1 FW
    7 Sep 43 - 1 Zero destroyed (PO1c Yoshio Terai Ku202)
    6 Nov 43 – 1 Ki-46 damaged 457RAAF
    11/12 Nov 43 - 1 Betty destroyed (Cdr Michio Horii XO, Lt Takeji Fujiwara wing leader 753 Ku) – F/O Smithson – 457RAAF night time interception.

    From this I get 5 fighters destroyed, 6 bombers destroyed 8 force/crash landed (on Japanese held Islands) and 7 recce 1 floatplane destroyed.
    How many of these crash landed bomber never flew again, I don't know. The two Lily's were finished off by a RAAF Beaufighter strike a few days later. The above is wide open to corrections and additions.
     
  2. Jabberwocky

    Jabberwocky Active Member

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    #2 Jabberwocky, Apr 29, 2013
    Last edited: Apr 29, 2013
    Wildcat, do you have 'Darwin Spitfires' by Anthony Cooper?

    If not, I suggest you get it, as its the best treatment of the air battles over Darwin I've read, by far.

    The appendicies on his website give the following for the 1943 air battles

    Japanese claims: 90
    Allied aircraft written off by enemy action: 28
    Allied claims: 65
    Japanese aircraft written off by allied action: 30
    Allied combat aircraft destroyed on ground: 6

    He also provides a breakdown of the Allied aircraft written off by enemy action:

    Surprised while attacking bombers or re-positioning: 19
    Hit while dogfighting: 5
    Hit while diving away attempting to disengage from fighters: 3
    Hit by bomber return fire: 2
    Unknown: 1

    According to Cooper, a maximum of seven losses occured while Sptifres were dogfighting Zeros: the five known losses in dogfights, the one 'unknown' and one pilot hitting the ground while low altitude turn fighting. He judges that they gave better than they got in dogfights, particularly because most of the happened above 20-25,000 ft, where the Spitfire had a performance advantage.

    The main advantage that the Zeros had were their ingress at very high altitude. With the bombers a couple of thousand feet below them, they usually had time to set-up on the large-ish formations of Spitfires, pick a victim or two and pounce on them while either climbing to attack or leveling out to attack.

    I'd just stress that the Japanese losses are a minimum number as well. Cooper notes multiple discrepancies between the unit diaries/histories and the official Japanese histories when discussing losses. Unit diaries/histories mention losses where there are none reported in the official history, and vica versa.
     
  3. Wildcat

    Wildcat Well-Known Member

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    I have Coopers book and regard it as a "must have" book on this campaign. What's interesting about your numbers posted above is that the majority of the spitfire loses were suffered when the zero's made a bounce on aircraft attacking the bomber formations. Coupled with the fact that the majority of spitfire attacks against the bombers were made individually and without the protection of wingmen, it's not surprising that many were lost this way. The cumbersome and rigid "big wing" tactics employed definitely failed over Darwin and only brought modest returns for the Spitfire wing.
     
  4. Glider

    Glider Well-Known Member

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    Can I thank you for this thread. Its an area I know next to nothing about and am lookinng forward to what comes
     
  5. vinnye

    vinnye Member

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    I did not know the Big Wing tactic was used outside Britain.
    I am not surprised it did not work well over Darwin either!
     
  6. bobbysocks

    bobbysocks Well-Known Member

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    i am going to have to get this book as well. this is something i never knew about either. but what you said above makes it sould like the spits didnt fly with any top cover. did they fly all in one formation because they didnt have the numbers or ???
     
  7. CobberKane

    CobberKane Banned

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    Sounds like a mini BOB doesn't it, with the Spits going for the bombers and ceding a bounce to the Zeros. Except of course the Zeros had plenty of endurance.
    Weren't Kittyhawks flying from Darwin at the same time? Would it have been possible to sic the Kittyhawks onto the bombers while the Spits took on the Zeros, or was the air too thin up there for the P40?
     
  8. parsifal

    parsifal Well-Known Member

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    Ive got the figures at home, but there is a big difference between claimed losses and admitted losses. admitted Japanese losses for whole of 1943 in this TO is just 35 a/c. Admitted losses for the USAAF and RAAF (ne RAF) is about 130 a/c.

    The Spitfire wing is a much maligned and misunderstood organization, it was put there to win air superiority but failed. Questions still arise from that failure
     
  9. Wildcat

    Wildcat Well-Known Member

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    Is this just over Darwin, or does it include Allied losses over Timor, etc? And are these combat losses or all causes?
     
  10. Wildcat

    Wildcat Well-Known Member

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    The P-40 squadrons (USAAF RAAF) had all relocated to New Guinea by this stage. The only other aircraft that could have been used in a defensive role were 31sqn Beaufighters, or if REALLY desperate, Wirraways of 12 sqn!
     
  11. Aozora

    Aozora Well-Known Member

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    Some good information here. One big problem was that the organisation of the supply lines was awful, leading to lack of everything from "slipper" tanks to spare parts and Spitfires:

    Shortages of drop tanks, spares and Spitfires | Darwin Spitfires, the real battle for Australia - 452/A58 Spitfires spares aircraft

    Interesting that the Spitfire in these circumstances had a "ravenous appetite for spare parts"

    In spite of this it's interesting to read the loss rates inflicted by the Spitfire Wing

    Appendix 9 - Japanese loss rates to Spitfires in daylight raids | Darwin Spitfires, the real battle for Australia - Spitfires

    BTW: The Spitfire was code named "Capstan" by the Australians.
     
  12. Wildcat

    Wildcat Well-Known Member

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    The lack of spares certainly was a hindrance to No1 FW, especially the absence of slipper tanks which no doubt would have been a major benefit particularly in light of the events of 2 May. It's interesting to note that 79sqn in the Pacific was to also suffer from lack of spares when in mid '44 they were only able to put up a handful of aircraft at any given time.
    Problems with the Hispano 20mm cannon was mentioned in the other thread as being a contributing factor in the failure of the Spitfires to shoot down a greater number of aircraft. Going through Cooper's book I compiled the following statistics -

    2 Mar 6a/c engaged 2a/c suffered cannon failure
    15 Mar 19 '' 8 " " " "
    2 May 28 " 10 " " "
    20 Jun 37 " 12 " " "
    28 Jun 14 " 3 " " "
    30 Jun 31 " 19 " " "
    6 Jul 30 " 12 " " "
    7 Sep 33 " 3 " " "

    So of 198 spitfire that engaged in aerial combat, 69 aircraft suffered one or both cannons failures. That's close to 35% of the attacking force, not ideal in anyones book I would imagine.
     
  13. parsifal

    parsifal Well-Known Member

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    I made the statement on the basis of the following, which i found in one of the ADF Serials forums (I think)

    Military Aircraft Crashes in the Northern Territory during 1943
     
  14. Aozora

    Aozora Well-Known Member

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    #14 Aozora, Apr 30, 2013
    Last edited: Apr 30, 2013
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