|Pilot Lt. Thomas L. "Tommy"
Hayes, O-403857 Brooks, OR
Crash Landing February 20, 1942
Built by Curtiss in Buffalo, New York. Assigned to the 17th Pursuit Squadron and assigned to pilot Lt. Jesse Hague who nicknamed it "Colleen" on the fuselage in honor of his girlfriend in America. The only number appearing on this aircraft was white '6' on the tail.
One of sixteen P-40s that took off from Ngoro Airfield at 6:15–6:30am with a drop tank attached. This P-40 piloted by Hayes was flying in Ed Gimore's flight. First, the formation flew down to Singosari Airfield to escort seven A-24 Dive Bombers from the 27th Bombardment Group plus three LB-30s on a mission against Japanese ships off the southern coast of Bali.
Over the target area at 8:12am, the P-40s were jumped by A6M2 Zeros of the 3rd Kōkūtai at 8:12am. Over his radio, Hayes heard "break – Zeros on your tail – break left" but too late and was hit by 20mm shells in the fuselage and tail as he dove away from the attacker. Leveling out and damaged, he attempted to return to base with a damaged elevator and a jammed canopy but managed to crash land back at Ngoro Airfield.
The 17th Pursuit Squadron diary recorded:
"Four of our P-40's failed to return, and another, piloted by Lt. Hayes, cracked up at field on attempting to land. It had been shot up during the fight."
Hayes later recalled in an interview with Jon Guttman:
"While the A-24s were making their almost vertical dives, I heard: 'Break Zero on your tail break left!' I kicked that airplane hard left, looked behind and saw the sparkling gun barrels along the leading edge of that Zero's wings. Then I heard a deafening crash as his cannon shells hit the tail and fuselage behind me. The canopy was dislodged an inch off its track, so I couldn't crank the handle and I couldn't budge the canopy. I was about 150 miles from base and knew I had to get home or belly-land the aircraft. I couldn't bail out. ... And I knew that I couldn't trim the aircraft. I extended my final approach and carried extra power. But the damage to the tail was greater than I realized. Flare-out was over a grove of coconut trees. As I eased the excess power, the tail dropped off. As the first jute fronds slapped across the windscreen, I turned power off and turned my head left (to avoid striking the gun sight head-on). I did see the propeller and gear box cart wheeling ahead, but I did not feel or was not aware of the impact when the tree trunk stopped forward movement. On being helped out I noticed the left wing had been torn off at the fuselage."
Every Day A Nightmare page 247-248, 250
Jon Guttman's interview with Brig. Gen. Hayes, Tommy Hayes: From Bali to Berlin published in the February 2001 issue of World War II Magazine.
Thanks to William Bartsch and Edward Rogers for additional information
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February 4, 2018