|Pilot Lt(jg) Keizo Kondo (survived)
Co-Pilot PO1 Takeshi Takado (seriously wounded)
Observer CPO Kiyoshi Arai (survived)
Radio PO2 Morito Fujiwara (seriously wounded)
Mechanic CPO Toshinorii Irikura (slightly wounded)
Ditched December 28, 1942
Built by Mitsubishi, either a G3M2 Model 21, Model 22 or built by Nakajima as a G3M3. Delivered to the Imperial Japanese Navy (IJN). Assigned to the 701 Kōkūtai.
On December 28, 1942 took off from Vunakanau Airfield at 7:30am as the lead aircraft in a group of three bound for Munda Airfield to pickup fighter pilots of the 252nd Kōkūtai, and transport them back to their base at Kahili Airfield (Buin). Escorted by nine Zeros, the bombers flew over Buin at 9:45.
Arriving at Munda Airfield at 10:45, the Nells began their landing course.
At the same time two P-39 Airacobras from the 70th Fighter Squadron led by Lt. Rex Barber with wingman 1st Lt. William Daggitt. They were flying a reconassiance patrol over the Munda at 9,000'. They observed Zeros orbiting at 13,000' and bombers below them at 1,000', prepairing to land.
While Daggitt made a feinting attack towards the Zeros, P-39 "Diabo" piloted by Lt. Rex Barber dove on the bombers and aimed at the leader. Barber began to fire, but found his Airacobra was sluggish, because he had forgoten to jettison his drop tank, and immediately released it. He observed hits and caused the engine to catch fire and crash into the sea off Munda Point. After only the one pass, the P-39s departed. Climbing away, Barber thought he saw F4U Corsairs, but they proved to be Zeros, but they did not intercept him. Returning to Henderson Field, Barber claimed one Nell shot down, his first victory. The shoot down had also been observed by a coastwatcher on Rendova and reported by radio.
During the attack, the engine was set on fire and three of the crew were wounded, two seriously. Pilot Kondo managed to successfully ditch, 30 meters from shore and the crew were able to exit the bomber and swim to shore.
Remains off Munda, 30 meters from shoe pointed northward toward the airfield. This wreck is well known to locals and divers, but misidentified as a "Betty" and nothing is known about its history locally.
Luke Spreadborough dove in 1993:
"When I snorkelled it I had a good
look at the thing and found that the port engine had
been on fire and the perspex on the port side of the
canopy had started to buckle from the heat. There was
panelling missing from the wing behind the engine, presumably
due to the fire. I made some enquiries among the locals
and they claim they knew a man who had seen the aircraft
ditch when he was a boy. I asked him what had happened
and he told me that the engine was onfire and smoking.
I asked him which engine and he thought for a little
while and then indicated the port engine. Very very
interesting, he had obviously seen this aircraft ditch.
According to him (and the condition of the aircraft
suggested this as well) the crew had escaped unharmed."
Justin Taylan dive this wreck in April 2006:
"I dove this site in April 2006, and was amazed to find some of the cockpit perspex still intact on the cockpit 'clam shell' hatches. In 2007, I met the pilot Keizo Kondo and interviewed him twice."
The nose and fuselage section are damaged from the ditching. No armament is present. The dive site has generally poor water visibility.
Kodochosho 701 Kōkūtai - December 28, 1942
Haran No Sora Ni Ikite by Keizo Kondo
13th Fighter Command page 97
"On the 28th [December 1942] 1Lt Rex Barber and his wingman 1Lt William Daggitt (70th FS) were flying a two plane P-39 reconnaissance patrol over Munda Point at 9,000' when nine Japanese fighters were spotted orbiting at 13,000' directly over the airfield. At the same time a Betty (Nell?) bomber was flying below at 1,000' making a landing approach on the field. Barber and Daggitt dove on the bomber, with Daggitt feinting towards the fighters while Barber, in [P-39 nicknamed] "Diablo" attacked the Betty. As he dove his aircraft seemed sluggish and would not come up to speed. He realized that he had not dropped his belly tank, jettisoned the tank, and continued his dive on the bomber and set its right engine on fire. It continued to fly on until it crashed into the ocean for Barber's first victory. As Barber climbed he saw some aircraft off to his left and he thought were Marine [F4U] Corsairs. As he closed he discovered that they were Zeros, but the two Japanese pilots saw him and high tailed it back to base. When he returned to Cactus Barber's crew chief told him that it had been reported he "bombed" a Japanese bomber. An Australian coastwatcher had seen him drop his belly tank before he fired on the enemy aircraft and thought it was a bomb!"
Thanks to Yoji Sakaida, Jim Sawruk and Ewan Stevenson for additional information
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March 17, 2019