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  F6F-3 "Betsy-II" Bureau Number 25839  
USN
VF-38

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USN September 1943

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Dive Gizo
1998

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Ian Williams
1999

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Justin Taylan 2003

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James Fincham 2004

Pilot  Lt(jg) Richard "Dick" W. Moore (survived) La Grande, OR
Ditched  September 16, 1943 at 3:30pm

Pilot History
Previously, pilot Richard W. Moore served aboard a carrier off Attu. Afterwards, assigned to VF-38 in the South Pacific. On January 29, 1943 he was shot down piloting "Betsy" over the Munda area.  During 1945, he was shot down off Japan and rescued by a USN destroyer. He passed away in 1978, but his wingman received news of the discovery of his Hellcat.

Aircraft History
Built by Grumman in Bethpage, New York. Constructors Number A553. On June 26, 1943 delivered to the U. S. Navy (USN) as F6F-3 Hellcat bureau number 25839.

Wartime History
On July 10, 1943 departed via Honolulu and Nouméa arriving on July 14, 1943. On September 13, 1943 assigned to VF-38 operating from Fighter One on Guadalcanal. Assigned to pilot Lt(jg) Richard W. Moore who nicknamed the aircraft "Betsy-II" after his wife. His prior aircraft, nicknamed "Betsy" was lost on January 29, 1943 when he was shot down over Munda.

Mission History
On September 16, 1943 took off from Munda Airfield at 1:15pm piloted by Lt(jg) Richard W. Moore on a mission to provide low cover for TBF Avengers bombing Ballale Island. The weather was partly cloudy.

The formation included twenty-four TBF Avengers and thirty-one SBD Dauntless on a mission to bomb Ballale Island. A multi-service fighter escort of 71 fighters included thirteen F6F Hellcats from VF-38 plus eleven F6F Hellcats from VF-40. This was the first combat mission for the Hellcat in the South Pacific theater. Also escorting were 13th AF P-38 Lightings and Royal New Zealand Air Force (RNZAF) P-40 Kittyhawks. In addition, 23 F4Us of VMF-214 "The Black Sheep" including Boyington took off from Banika Field at 1:00pm and rendezvous with the formation over New Georgia. In total, more than 100 aircraft proceeded to the target.

Over the target, the formation was intercepted by 40-50 A6M Zeros and Ki-61 Tonys [sic, none intercepted] plus anti-aircraft fire over the target area. A large, sprawling dog fight ensued. VF-38 claimed three Zeros shot down plus a probable.

The last division led by F6F Hellcat 25940 piloted by Lt(jg) Presley was providing low cover for the TBF Avengers. Lt(jg) Moore was the second section leader with wingman Lt(jg) Beaumont. As the TBFs were beginning their attack, Moore saw an F4U about a half mile away 50' above him.

VF-38 Combat Report, page 2 states:
"At first Moore thought it a 0 [A6M Zero], then recognized it as an F4U, as did his wingman. The Corsair was flying alone. Moore turned into him as the F4U came in at him straight above. The Corsair started firing at about 100 yards range, and Moore pulled up a bit and fired a burst in retaliation, as did his wingman. A 50 caliber bullet hit Moore's engine high on the port side. It started to throw oil and began smoking, although not heavily. Moore and Beaumont left the other section and set out for Munda, diving to about 500 ft."

The pair flew southward and reached the Blackett Strait about a mile south of Kolombangara before Moore's engine cut out. He had no trouble making a water landing, flaps down in full stall at approximately 3:30pm. Officially, this aircraft was stricken from the record on October 6, 1943.

Fate of the Pilot
Moore landed unhurt, exited the cockpit and stood on a wing, then dropped into the water and inflated his life jacket. He was about 100' from a reef and in shallow water. As soon as he got into his raft he saw two native canoes putting out from a small island. The first canoe carried about 15 natives and the second canoe carried about six natives and U. S. Army Pvt Nash who took him to Coastwatcher Lt. Evans on an island south of Kolombangara. Moore was given dry cloths, a cup of tea and fresh limeade. Afterwards, he was transported by canoe eastward to to Arundel arriving around 7:30pm. He remained with the U. S. Army overnight then on September 17, 1943 at 8:00am departed for Munda.

Wreckage
This Hellcat settled on a coral reef off Quomu Island at a depth of 10m / 30'. In 1986, discovered by Danny Kennedy / Dive Gizo in 10m off Quomu Island. The aircraft was in remarkably intact condition with the navigation charts in the cockpit.

Since then, this aircraft is often snorkeled and SCUBA dived by visitors to the Gizo area and often photographed.

The Hellcat is fully intact with only the fabric control surfaces missing. The right wing is covered with coral and the left wing is angled slightly upward. The flaps are fully extended and cockpit canopy is pulled back in the open position. The engine cowling and propeller are missing. The fuselage has two bullet holes caused by the .50 caliber bullets fired by the F4U: one in front of the tail and one behind the cockpit.

The only damage to the aircraft was caused by divers after the discovery that removed the ammunition covers and belted .50 caliber ammunition from both wings. The gun site was removed from the cockpit.

Michael McFadyen dove the wreck October 18, 2001:
"When I dived it, we were asked to replace some 0.50 inch rounds stolen from the plane a week earlier by a group of Sydney divers. The plane has two obvious bullet holes, one in the front of the tail and one behind the cockpit. There does not appear to be any hole in the oil tank so it would appear an oil line was hit."

References
US Navy Loss lists F6F Hellcat 25839 pilot Anderson [sic]
US Navy Loss lists F6F Hellcat (no bureau number) pilot Moore
VF-38 Combat Report, September 16, 1943
Who damaged F6F-3 Hellcat "Betsy II" 25839 research notes
The Black Sheep pages 210-209
Black Sheep One by Bruce Gamble
Michael McFadyen's Scuba Diving - Gumman Hellcat
Thanks to Danny Kennedy / Dive Gizo for additional information

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Last Updated
January 5, 2018

 

Tech Info
F6F

SCUBA
9-10m

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