AnswerID: 484561 Submitted: Sunday, Apr 29, 2012 at 19:41
The stories associated with the deliveries of these first American Kittyhawks shows an appalling amount of blundering, disorganisation, arguments about command, and location of the the Kittyhawks, amongst the Allied leaders.
If they'd been properly organised, they could have delivered a real kick in the guts to the Jap aircraft that bombed Darwin
on 19th Feb, 1942.
As it was, General Wavell (British Supreme Commander of the ABDA [Australian-British-Dutch-American] command) and U.S. Air Marshall Peirse, (OIC of U.S. Army Air Forces, who was subservient to Wavell), gave instructions in mid-Feb 1942, for all aircraft being moved along the Brereton Route, to be diverted to Perth
At this time the USAF didn't exist, the U.S. Army owned all the American Military aircraft.
After Wavells & Peirse's order, 33 Kittyhawks were flown directly to Perth
and 32 were loaded on the U.S.S. Langley, which set sail for Java.
The Langley only got to just south of Tiljatjap, when it was attacked by the Japs and damaged so badly, it had to be scuttled. So much for Plan A. The Americans also lost 31 valuable USAAC officer pilots of the Kittyhawks shortly after the bombing of the Langley - when the escort ship the Edsall, was sunk a few days later by the same Jap force that had sunk the Langley.
The early Kittyhawks were a particularly unforgiving machine, particularly in the hands of gung-ho young
Americans. The early Kittyhawks were carburettor fed, and during inverted flight at low level - as in showing off - the engine often suffered fuel starvation. Many a young
American pilot met his death this way.
The P40-D & E were Allison 1710 powered, but to try and improve the P40's sluggish climb performance, the Packard-Merlin was fitted to the P40L & M series.
Then supplies of Packard-Merlins ran short, so the Allison was refitted to subsequent models. The Kittyhawks that fought in Australia
in 1942 and early 1943 were mostly P40E series.
One has to remember, that despite the bravado and bragging of the Americans, their young
pilots definitely played a big part in saving Australia
from more Japanese air attacks. An old WW2 PNG veteran who worked on Airfield Construction, told me bluntly one time - "The American fly-boys saved Australia
, don't ever be in doubt of that".
In the bombing of Darwin
, only 11 Allied (all U.S.) aircraft were serviceable and only 10 got airborne - and several were either landing or taking off when the Japs hit. All 10 Kittyhawks were shot down, and only 5 pilots survived.
These were all American pilots, and they were all around 20 and 21 yrs of age - and most had very small amounts of hours of training behind them, and no combat experience.
The history of the 49th Fighter Group - http://home.st.net.au/
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