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|Pilot 1st Lt. Robert M. Hanson, O-019154 (survived) Lucknow, India
Ditched November 1, 1943 at 1:35pm
Built by Vought. Delivered to the U. S. Navy (USN) as F4U-1 Corsair bureau number 17472. Disassembled and shipped overseas to the South Pacific.
Assigned to the U. S. Marine Corps (USMC), Marine Air Wing 1 (MAW-1), Marine Air Group 12 (MAG-12), Marine Fighting Squadron 215 "Fighting Corsairs" VMF-215. No known nickname or nose art.
On November 1, 1943 took off at 11:25am from Barakoma Airfield on Vella Lavella Island piloted by 1st Lt. Robert M. Hanson on a combat air patrol (CAP) mission over the U. S. Navy (USN) force in Empress Augusta Bay supporting the landing at landing at Torokina on the western coast of Bougainville. The weather was overcast with sun and poor visibility.
This Corsair was part of the flight led by Captain Warner with 1st Lt. Cox, this aircraft and 2nd Lt. Sampler. The formation patrolled over Empress Augusta Bay at an altitude of 20,000' until Hanson signaled he was out of oxygen and the formation descended to 13,000' then spotted six Zeros at roughly 10,000' to the northeast at 1:45pm with each member of the flight tailing one Zero and entered a dog fight with both Captain Warner and 1st Lt. Cox each claiming a Zero.
During the air combat, Hanson became separated and did not return from the mission and was initially declared Missing In Action (MIA).
Alone, Hanson claimed three aircraft (two Zeros and a Kate) attacking each from the rear before his engine was damaged, he believed by defensive fire from the Kate's rear gunner and ditched at roughly 1:35pm approximately six miles southwest of the Magine Islands in Empress Augusta Bay.
After successfully ditching, his plane sank in roughly 30 seconds. Inflating his life vest it failed to hold air and instead he deployed his life raft and began paddling towards nearby destroyers and was spotted.
Later that same day, Hanson was rescued at 6:05pm by USS Sigourney (DD-643) and transported to Tulagi arriving on November 3, 1943 during the morning. He then took a ferry to Guadalcanal and reported to duty. On November 5, 1943 he ferried another F4U Corsair back to Barakoma Airfield to rejoin the squadron.
Navy Serial Number Search Results - F4U-1A Corsair 17472
USN Overseas Aircraft Loss List November 1943 - F4U Corsair 17472
NARA "VMF-215 War Diary November 1943" page 3-5
(Page 3) "Box Score (while attached to squadron) 1st Lt. R. M. Hanson - 3"
(Page 4) "Missing - 1st Lt. Robert M. Hanson - While patrolling over Empress Augusta Bay, Lt. Hanson motioned to Captain Warner that he was out of oxygen. Captain Warner then took his flight down to 13,000 feet. There they saw 6 Zeros at about 10,000 feet coming from the northeast over Augusta Bay. Each member of the flight tailed in behind a Zero."
NARA "VMF-215 War Diary November 1943 - Aircraft Action Report No. 4" page 19-25
(Page 22) "1st Lt. R. M. Hanson: "Flying in Captain Warner's division on patrol over Augusta Bay, I became low on oxygen. I motioned to Captain Warner, as my radio was not working, and we descended from 20,000' to 13,000'. I saw a flight of six Zeros coming out of a trough in the clouds from the direction of Kieta. I also saw about 20-30 planes following this flight.
I picked one of this first flight that seemed to be diving for the beach at Augusta Bay. I tailed in behind him in his dive and gave him a burst. He seemed to try to pull away to the left but I think he had too much speed to maneuver. I gave him another burst and he started smoking and burst into flames. He slowed down and, as I passed over him, pulled up his nose and snapped a few tracers at me but missed. Then he fell off and down burning as he went. [aerial victory claim no. 1 for a Zeke, stern attack, destroyed] "
(Page 23) "I then banked to the right, then left and got in position behind another Zeke. When I was sure I had him in my sights I have him a long burst. He smoked slightly then exploded. [aerial victory claim no. 2 for a Zeke, stern attack, destroyed] I pulled up in a chandelle to the left and climbed 5 to 8,000'. There I saw about six Kates above and to my left. I had enough speed to make a low-side beam run on the nearest. He peeled off to the right as I shot. I saw no smoke or damage to this one. After I pulled through this run I ended up above the remaining planes and to their left. I started a fairly low, high-side run on the left plane of the formation. In the middle of my run they dropped their bombs in the water of Augusta Bay. I finished my run on the left plane and all but the one I shot peeled off to the right. After the first long burst the Kate nose over very slightly. Then his dive became steeper and steeper. He did not burn or smoke. I followed him down in his dive weaving from side to side, picking at him with two to four guns working spasmodically. I followed him down until he crashed into Augusta Bay [aerial victory claim no. 3 for a Kate, stern attack, destroyed], then pulled up and right to chase the other kates that had peeled off on my first run. Then I realized my engine was dead. I had no power and lost speed very rapidly. I knew I would have to make a water landing.
I believe that on my first pass on the Kates, or when I followed the one down to the water, a rear gunner must have damaged my engine although I saw no tracers. I headed toward the task force which consisted of six DD's [destroyers] and eight transports. I made a dead-stick water landing about six miles S.W. of the Magine Islands in Augusta Bay. I was about five miles from the task force. I crawled out of my plane, which sank in 30 seconds or less. I inflated my old, inferior, life jacket which deflated again almost at once. I then broke out my rubber boat, inflated it, and started paddling for the DD's. I paddled with considerable effort because I know they were due to leave soon. I was also singing 'You'd be so nice to come home to'. [Song by Cole Porter for the 1943 film Something to Shout About].
A flight of two TBF's flew over about eight times. I had my dye sea marker out but they did not see me. I paddled to within 250 yards of the DD's when they finally identified me and picked me up. I was on the water 4 1/2 hours. It was USS Segourney [sic USS Sigourney DD-643] which picked me up at 1805. They pulled out about minutes later for Tulagi.
We were at sea until the morning of November 3. I had some very welcome meals, noting the conspicuous absence of spam. The eggs, steak and ice cream were a real treat. I went ashore at Tulagi, caught the ferry to Guadalcanal and reported to Com Air Guadal [Com Air Sols}. I was treated very well and drew some gear which I had lost. After receiving proper permission I ferried an F4U back to..."
(Page 24) "...Vella Lavella, arriving there on November 5. Note - Lt. Hanson says the time element between his crash and the one seen by Captain Warner was too great. The plane Captain Warner saw crash into the bay must have been the one shot down by Lt. Cox."
History of the Marine Corps Aviation in World War II pages 182-183 (November 1, 1943 mission)
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