|Pilot PO2c Inao Itsuda (KIA)
Co-Pilot Sea2c Sueo Chiba (KIA)
Observer PO1c Takeshi Fujii (KIA)
Observer Sea2c Jitsuo Ieda (KIA)
Radio Sea1c Hiroaki Honda (KIA)
Radio Sea1c Teruo Gotō (KIA)
Mechanic PO1c Takeo Kitagawa (KIA)
Mechanic PO3c Tairaku Yamamoto (KIA)
Crashed March 27, 1942
Built by Mitsubishi at Nagoya No. 3 Works. Delivered to the Imperial Japanese Navy (IJN). Assigned to the 4th Kōkūtai.
Tail code F-???, last three digits unknown.
On March 27, 1942 took off from Lae Airfield at 7:05am local time armed with nine 60kg bombs on a mission to bomb 7 Mile Drome near Port Moresby. At 7:35am, the Betty bombers were met by three A6M2 Zeros from the 4th Kokutai that proceeded ahead of the bomber to perform a fighter sweep. Over the
At 7:40am due to an engine malfunction, this bomber separated from the formation and was ordered to bomb Kokoda Airfield and patrol, but instead this bomber continued to Port Moresby.
Over Port Moresby, this bomber was intercepted by P-40E piloted by John Piper and P-40E piloted by Ron Bailey from the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) 75 Squadron. Attacking from 12,000', the Kittyhawks made two firing passes. On the second pass, Piper hit this Betty's left engine, causing it to burst into flames. Targeting the right engine, this Betty dove for cloud cover and crashed in flames inland from from Rigo. At 8:45am, the formation lost contact with this bomber.
This bomber was observed in flames and crashing by Australian troops at Rigo who immediately began searching for the crash site. They located the wreckage on March 29 or 30. At the crash site, they recovered the tail Type 99 20mm cannon and ammunition to Rigo then loaded it aboard MV Matamo on March 29 or 30 and transported the cannon to Fairfax Harbor arriving at sunset on March 30, 1942. Afterwards, the fate of this cannon is unknown. possibly studied by Allied intelligence.
On March 31, 1942 the rest of the bomber was found with the remains of the crew inside. During the early 2000s, Japanese dataplate were recovered from wreckage by locals from this area, presumably from this wreck. On October 15, 2016 John Douglas located the crash site.
Kodochosho, 4th Kokutai March 27, 1942
Note, some RAAF records and sources incorrectly state this bomber was lost on March 26
Eaton Diary entries for March 25 - 30, 1942 via The Swamp Ghost DVD
"March 30 - We have on board a Japanese cannon and shells taken off a bomber shot down near Rigo."
ANGAU War Diary 1 MAR 42 to 31 MAR 42
"ADO Rigo endeavors to locate enemy aircraft seen to crash in flames approximately 30 miles east of Port Moresby." [30 March] "ADO Rigo reports that enemy bomber found - parts recovered and that he can lead a party to wreckage inland."
Intelligence Report No. 21 8th Military District - 1200 hrs 27 March 42 to 1200 hrs 3 April 42.
"Search still proceeding at RIGO on 31 March for further wreckage of plane crashed down 27 March. Occupants found dead, bodies burnt and mutilated."
Seek and Strike page 19
"On March 27, 1942 took off on a morning reconnaissance mission against Port Moresby. Intercepted by 75 Squadron P-40 Kittyhawk piloted by Piper, who made two passes against it, who observed return fire from the gunners and started a fire in the port wing fuel tank. After a third burst, it turned to port and jettisoned two bombs, then flipped over and crashed into the sea near Hood Point."
New Guinea Force HQ & G [AIR] formation and unit Diary 52/1/5/51; March-April 1942
"March 25 Air Raid 20: From 0820-0845 Two Bombers escorted by 5 fighters dropped 16 bombs on drome. One enemy bomber was shot down and we lost one fighter. A search is being made for the pilot of our plane, who was seen parachuting."
44 Days pages 134-135 incorrectly states this combat happened on March 28, 1942
"This was precisely the scenario that faced John Piper and his wingman Ron Bailey when, on the afternoon of 28 March [sic, 27 March 1942]. While this had been happening, John
Piper and Ron Bailey went after a formation of Bombers at 12,000 feet, managing to et up to 12,000 feet before attacking one of them. It took two passes, but on the second, Piper's guns hit the Betty's port motor, which burst into flame. Baily then went for the starboard before the enemy dived for cloud cover. It crashed in flames to the jungle floor just east of Port Moresby. A few days later a search party located the wreck, finding all eight dead Japanese crewmen on board and souveniring one of the bombers 20mm cannons. Between them Piper and Bailey had accounted for a Japanese Bomber."
Thanks to Minoru Kamada, Luca Ruffato, Edward Rogers and John Douglas for additional information
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January 5, 2018