USN - David McCampbell - 9 kills in one mission

Discussion in 'Aviation' started by syscom3, Oct 25, 2009.

  1. syscom3

    syscom3 Pacific Historian

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    I was researching my information for the "65 years ago" thread and read about Mr. McCampbells astounding feat today, Oct 24th 1944.

    Nine kills in a single mission.

    "On June 19, 1944, during the "Marianas Turkey Shoot," Commander McCampbell shot down seven Japanese aircraft, to become an "Ace in a day." On October 24, 1944, he repeated the feat, the only American airman to do so. McCampbell and his wingman attacked a Japanese force of 60 aircraft [Battle of Cape Engano]. McCampbell shot down nine, setting a single mission aerial combat record. When he landed his Grumman F6F Hellcat, his six machine guns had two rounds remaining and the plane had only enough fuel to keep it aloft for 10 more minutes. Commander McCampbell received the Medal of Honor for both actions, becoming the only fast carrier task force pilot to be so honored."

    David McCampbell - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
     
  2. Aaron Brooks Wolters

    Aaron Brooks Wolters Well-Known Member

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    I had read about the first feat but knew nothing of the second. Very interesting Syscom, thank you for the information.:thumbright: :cool:
     
  3. Thorlifter

    Thorlifter Well-Known Member

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    Extremely impressive!
     
  4. Watanbe

    Watanbe Member

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    That is an impressive effort, but wow it says something about the Japanese airforce.
     
  5. Wayne Little

    Wayne Little Well-Known Member

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    Well bugger me....didn't realize he did it twice!...great info Sys!:D
     
  6. Guns'n'Props

    Guns'n'Props Member

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    I agree with all comments posted so far. It seems the Marianas Turkey Shoot overshadows the actions of the 24 October'44. I wonder why ?
     
  7. syscom3

    syscom3 Pacific Historian

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    Good question. I pondered that too.

    Anyone have any theories?
     
  8. Guns'n'Props

    Guns'n'Props Member

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    I'll venture a shot syscom3: could it be the Turkey Shoot is more important because after that Japanese Naval Aviation is no longer an effective force ?

    The 24th Oct'44 Battle of Leyte Gulf, McCampbell gets his 9 victories, however against such a backdrop of intense fighting in just 4 days ie
    i.) Musashi and Princeton get severely damaged
    ii.) Battle of Surigao Strait
    iii.)Taffy 3
    iv.) Cape EngaƱo
    v.) Kamikaze

    ......McCampbell's efforts pale in contrast to the general carnage.

    Theory 2 / plan B::)
    The Turkey Shoot is largely an air to air battle albeit Japanese carriers get sunk. McCampbell's 10 kills are therefore more relevant.
    Leyte Gulf was more air to surface and ship vs ship. Here McCampbell's 9 kills seem "less" important.

    Does this make any sense ?:?:
     
  9. RabidAlien

    RabidAlien Active Member

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    Kinda hazy on this point....he got 1 MOH for his actions in BOTH encounters combined, or he got 1 MOH for each action, for a total of 2 MOH's? I'd never heard of anyone earning 2 MOH's (although there were enough brave souls who deserved two...or three...or four...)?

    Either way, :salute: :salute:

    As for his actions being overshadowed, the actions of one man, while heroic, are generally going to be not as dramatic and "news-worthy" as that of an entire fleet engagement and large-scale defeat of the enemy. Kinda like the capture of Rome on June 5, 1944 being overshadowed by the invasion of Normandy on June 6 1944. The invasion was deemed more "news-worthy", I guess.
     
  10. timshatz

    timshatz Active Member

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    He got the MOH for the second action, I am pretty sure.

    The engagement was a fairly famous one during the Battle of Leyte Gulf. Japanese Land Based aircraft attacked the fleet. McCambell was told not to fly (Admiral thought an Air Group Commander should not be goofing off in dog fights) and was grounded for intercepts. However, the Captian of the ship (I think it was the Essex), ungrounded him. As he was not expecting to fly, his aircraft was armed by not fueled. While it was on the catapult, he stalled while it was being refueled. The captian directed that if the Air Group Commander was not airborne in 2 minutes, his aircraft should sent below. McCambell took off.

    He and his wingman (and Ensign named Rush) took off for an intercept towards land. They were sent after a gaggle of approx 50 Zeros carrying bombs. When they got there, they realized they were up against it and started calling for reinforcements. No luck, there were other air attacks from land side (as well as carrier based attacks) at this time and they were keeping other fighters busy. So he and Rush were on their own and started attacking.

    The first couple of kills were work. The Zeros (and some Hamps) were using group tactics and it was difficult to get at them. McCambell later said the only reason they got the first couple was because they were so famiar with the tactics (The US Navy having used them for several years). So, McCambell and his wing man went up on a perch above the Japanese formation to look things over. Took a break, as it were. From his perspective, the Japenese were a long way out to sea, meandering around and something had to give. After a while, the Japanese started heading for land. At this point, the kills really started adding up. Both McCambell and Rush would make passes from above and break to go back up above the formation. The Japanese were keeping a rough formation and did not react to the passes. Every so often, a Zero would detach and try to attack them but by attacking together, McCambell and Rush shot them down.

    McCambell later said he really didn't start keeping score until he hit 5. After that, he started marking them on his instrument panel with a grease pencil. He claimed something more than the 9 he is credited for (I think it was 12 or 13) but was only given credit for those he and Rush saw crash. Others went off trailing smoke or they lost track of them. Rush also was given credit for 6 during this engagement.

    McCambell later said he was trying to get the leader but never did. In the end, the formation, or what was left of it, flew off towards land. His repeated attempts to get more support brought in a fighter or two but none of them had the fuel or ammo to stick around. They stayed as long as they could, made some passes, got some kills but had to clear off. For the most part, it was McCambell and Rush.

    After the engagement, he landed aboard his ship with something like 5 gallons of fuel left and only 6 rounds (all jammed in one gun). The Admiral, despite what McCambell had done, was pretty pissed off. He directed that McCambell's bird be refuelded and rearmed and he should be sent out on Anti-Torpedo Plane Patrol. More or less punishment for having disobayed the Admiral.

    McCambell was unusual in he was an Air Group Commander with an extreme drive to be THE Ace. Most CAGs were more interested in the particulars of the mission and tended to take a step back from the rough and tumble. McCambell thought he could do both and did so. In that realm, he practiced ariel gunnery until, in his words, "It wasn't possible to get any better". In his position as CAG, he consistently put himself in situations where he would get the best opportunities. In this, he was something like Galland (who used his squadron to cover him while he knocked off enemy aircraft). While McCambell did not go to that extent, he did strive to (and ended up succeeding) be the Navy's highest Ace.
     
  11. JoeB

    JoeB Member

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    It does but we generally view Marseille's claim of 17 Western Desert AF a/c in a single day (more than one sortie, though) as impressive and are perhaps less likely to say 'wow that says something about the RAF' in the same way, though it does. The Germans in the Western Desert 1941-42 held a consistent advantage over the British in fighter-fighter kill ratio, perhaps greater than the kill ratio enjoyed by USN fighters over JNAF fighters in 1944, actually.

    Allied records indicate Marseille's claims of Sept 1 1942 were probably mostly correct (see "Fighters Over the Desert" by Ring and Shores), what of McCampbell's? It's harder to decipher in a larger combat, but here's some info:

    The formation VF-15 intercepted was probably part of the main morning attack by land based JNAF a/c of the 2nd Air Fleet on Luzon against the US carriers to the east. Hata and Izawa "Japanese Naval Aces and Fighter Units in WWII" quote this force as consisting of 199 a/c; the detailed OOB in link totals a little less but agrees with H/I that it included 126 fighters; given as strike unit of 36 Type 99 Carrier Bombers (Val) plus 6 bomb carrying Zeroes of 221st Air Group; escort unit of 26 Zeroes of 252nd AG, 28 of 221st AG, 21 Shiden ('George') of 341 AG; covering force of 51 Zeroes of 203rd, 653rd and 634 AG's. 12 Susei (Judy) attacked singly (one inflicted fatal damage on CVL USS Princeton). 11 Tenzan (Jill) took off after the main wave of bombers and fighters.
    ??????????????????????????????? ??????????
    341st AG link: ????????? - Wikipedia

    McCampbell led 2 divisions of 7 total a/c; one F6F of his own div failed to launch; then initially all five others including Slack of his own division attacked fighters and bombers below (claiming 4 Vals and 2 Zekes, though also Oscars and Tony's prob or damaged) while McCampbell and Rushing took on fighters above; later Slack rejoined and the three claimed altogether 13 Zekes, 3 Oscars, and 3 Hamps (5 Zeke, 2 Oscar and 2 Hamp by McCampbell). VF-27 also had a large scale combat with Zeke/Val-heavy formation at around the same time, as well as encountering twin engine a/c not explained by the OOB above; VF-19 and -44 also made claims in the same area and time. Claims against fighters of the three squadrons totalled 39, including 7 Tojo's (probably Shiden) and 4 Tony (also Shiden? JAAF and JNAF a/c together on offensive missions was relatively rare), so 52 Japanese fighters were claimed destroyed including VF-15's claims. This is separate from many USN claims that morning on scouting/sweep missions (divisions of F6F's used as scouts) over Luzon that morning which may have been JAAF, and also included twin eng a/c so not likely the strike force described above.

    Hata and Izawa state (or assume) McCampbell engaged the 252nd AG, but don't say how they determined this. Actually, though perhaps coincidentally, the 221st and 341st accounts (see links above) both say they engaged 7 F6F's. The 221st lost 8 pilots (per link), the 252nd lost 11 a/c (per HI), 341st lost 9 a/c (link), 203rd lost at least one pilot loss named in HI, I checked original record for this day but it's missing; 653rd original record for this day only describes its ops from carriers, it had already suffered heavy losses in October and only part was operating from land; 634th lost 8 a/c (HI). So, if only the claims mentioned explain those losses, the claims were quite accurate; though that's a fairly big if. Altogether H/I say the JNAF lost 67 a/c including non-fighters and probably including other smaller raids. There's no question the VF-27 and VF-15 F6F's inflicted a lot of damage on this morning strike, though, and seems likely McCampbell scored some serious % of 9 kills, at least.

    Joe
     
  12. timshatz

    timshatz Active Member

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    Good post Joe. I was doing it all from memory. Notoriously fickle thing, memory.

    Have to wonder how accurate the records were for the Japanese in the Phillipines at this time in regards to losses.
     
  13. marshall

    marshall Member

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    I think he got one MoH and for both actions.

    MoH citation:
    For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty as commander, Air Group 15, during combat against enemy Japanese aerial forces in the first and second battles of the Philippine Sea. An inspiring leader, fighting boldly in the face of terrific odds, Comdr. McCampbell led his fighter planes against a force of 80 Japanese carrier-based aircraft bearing down on our fleet on June 19, 1944. Striking fiercely in valiant defense of our surface force, he personally destroyed 7 hostile planes during this single engagement in which the outnumbering attack force was utterly routed and virtually annihilated. During a major fleet engagement with the enemy on October 24, Comdr. McCampbell, assisted by but 1 plane, intercepted and daringly attacked a formation of 60 hostile land-based craft approaching our forces. Fighting desperately but with superb skill against such overwhelming airpower, he shot down 9 Japanese planes and, completely disorganizing the enemy group, forced the remainder to abandon the attack before a single aircraft could reach the fleet. His great personal valor and indomitable spirit of aggression under extremely perilous combat conditions reflect the highest credit upon Comdr. McCampbell and the U.S. Naval Service.
     
  14. JoeB

    JoeB Member

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    For the groups where total losses are stated I would assume they come from the 'tactical action reports' ('kodochosho') of each group and are accurate. Those records are online now. I didn't check them for the groups where HI or that series of web pages gave the total loss per group, because I've found in past that where they come from and I assume it's true here. I only checked the actual records to see if they gave additional info for 203rd and 653rd groups, which they don't, which is why they aren't quoted in those published sources. But again HI learned of the one pilot killed in 203rd, their research over the years has uncovered most of those cases. Afterall in Japan this has never been a big mystery or secret, it's mainly language barrier. The veterans knew which of their comrades had died and it was actually insulting not to remember their sacrifice or claim that it didn't occur in combat (sometimes it's the other way around actually, 'war deaths' or 'suicide crashes' hat turn out to be operational losses). And again only part of 653rd was in the landbased formation, the more experienced members had been deployed to bolster the 4 understrength carrier groups (which saw combat that day, but not likely involved in this action); and the group had already been decimated in operations v USN from Taiwan a couple of weeks before. And, adding up the known losses by group of 37 fighters, that's already a pretty high % of the 52 USN claims, higher than other large swirling furballs in attacks on carriers.

    However again when it comes to other claims of that day over land in the Philippines, some of those could conceibably also have been against this JNAF formation before it got out over the sea, or could also have been v. JAAF units, and Japanese Army air records are generally less complete. Again though I think it unlikely the F6F squadrons defending the carriers encountered Army fighters right in amongst Navy fighters, despite some of their claims being for Oscars, Tojo's and Tony's: much more likely they were mistaken identifications.

    Joe
     
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