First Blood Dec 10, 1943 - The lost files of the Burma Banshees
Captain Maxwell got his orders yesterday. He had been getting ready to go home. He had just taken a picture of the Operations personnel when Lieutenant Shuman came hurriedly out of the Intelligence basha and called to Major Terry, “What's this about zeros shooting the shit out of FT Hertz? Have you got anything on it?
"Hell no, but I will, "was the reply as Major Terry went for the hot line to Control. There he got a garbled story about two bombers confirmed, maybe more, and Captain Harrell’s flight of the forward patrol was on the way back.
It was a hectic afternoon. 88th operations said Lt. Schlagel claimed a zero confirmed. Their forward patrol had contacted the enemy aircraft at about the same time. The Colonel said, "Al was in on this, the lucky something or other.” "Everyone sweated until the patrols had landed. The best part of the confusion was we had already received a message saying Captain Harrell's flight has landed safely but at the time we received it we didn't know what was up.
The initial interception was made by the flight led by Captain Harrell. The patrol took off at 0900 and 1115 hours was at 14,000 feet flying east of Fort Hertz. They saw three medium bombers and four fighters so they dropped their belly tanks and headed up toward the enemy formation. The enemy was at 15,000 feet and their fighter protection was 500 feet higher. The patrol climbed to 16,000 feet and attacked. When still 2,000 yards away the two lead enemy fighters pulled up. Captain Harrell made a slight weave to the left. He fired at an enemy fighter. So did his wing man, Lt. McCarty. Captain Harrell saw the enemy plane smoke at the engine, rollover and head towards the ground. He continued through the bombers and shot the bomber on the “V" directly astern. He saw the right engine explode, left engine smoking badly, and the ship dive straight into the ground. He then pulled up to the left and saw smoke and fire where the fighter had hit. He went into a nosedive.
Lt. McCarthy followed through on Captain Harrell. He went up and over the fighters and down into the bombers. He saw Captain Harrell’s action against the right Bomber. Lt. McCarty fire a burst at the lead bomber, passed underneath the bombers with Captain Harrell, and and they made a steep turn to the left. He saw the Lieutenant Whitley get the left hand bomber – It completely burst into flames, headed for the ground, crashed, and exploded. There was only the lead barber left. Captain Harrell came in from behind and below, fired a burst, broke away underneath and to the left. Lt. McCarty got stern and 10 degrees to left of stern shot, saw lead
bomber burst into flames from amidships back; pieces fly off the tail assembly. He then banked steeply to the left to follow Captain Harrell, who is smoking from the engine. Lieutenant McCarty climbed in observed in enemy fighter peel off 1,000 feet above, coming straight down at him. He dived straight down at about 400 mph, pulled up at 5,000 feet – his tail was clear – so he climbed and rejoined the second element. Lt. Shepherd headed home with engine trouble. Captain Harrell said over the radio that he was landing at Fort Hertz. Lt. Whitley turned back to cover the landing but Captain Harrell decided to try to make it home because the field at Fort Hertz was under strafing attack. Lt. McCarty and Lt. Whitley circled the area of hills west of Fort HERTZ for about 10 minutes and saw four fires on the ground. There was no further activity in the air.
Lt. Whitley had come into the fight third. He dived through the enemy fighters, one got on his tail so he rolled on his back, dived straight down and lost him. He pulled out 500 feet below the bombers and 500 feet behind them. The right bomber was missing. The lead bomber was smoking badly from the right engine and amidships. He pulled up and under the left bomber, indicating about 325 mph and closed rapidly (the bombers speed was an estimated 180 mph), staying on his tail until both engines and the whole front of the bomber caught fire.
The bomber pulled up slightly, slipped off on the left wing and went into a straight dive. Lt. Whitley followed him all the way to 2,500 feet – the Jap made two complete revolutions on the way down, to the left. About halfway down he exploded in midair and part of the canopy and fairing blew off, Lt. Whitley flying right through them. He saw the bomber crash and burn on the slight knoll southwest of Fort Hertz. After pulling up he noticed four distinct fires.
Lt. Shepherd had come into attack last but by-passed Lt. Whitley. He made a stern pass at the left hand bomber. He went over the top of the bomber and dived straight at the ground indicating 400 mph. He pulled up with a steep chandelle to the left to about 13,000 feet – leveled off – noted two enemy fighter aircraft diving on Lt. McCarty, one on his tail and one from about thirty-five degrees. He peeled off and got directly to astern and slightly below, gave him two short bursts at 300 yards. Closing fast, he saw smoke and observed the enemy fighter roll on his back and burst into flames. He pulled up sharply to the right, climbed to 12,000 feet, turned left and saw one enemy fighter coming in at about thirty-five degrees, left tail and above, diving. Lt. Shepherd did a split-S and went straight for the ground with the enemy fighter following – at about 5,000 feet he pulled up and went over Fort Hertz where his engine cut out. With only 35. gallons of fuel left he headed for home. He made it.
Lt. Schlegel's flight took off at 1000 hours and climbed to 20,000 feet and went into their patrol area. At 1120 they saw eight transports. Lt. Schlegel and Lt. Roane went down to 7000 feet to look them over. Lt. Pappert went down to join the other two, leaving his wing man, Lt. Anderson at 11,000 feet. A Zero slow-rolled to the right of Lt. Schlegel more came from 5 o'clock at Lt. Pappert, past him, and on at the other two. Lt. Pappert pulled up toward the second zero, fired a burst and went into a flat spin. Lieutenant Schlegel turn to the right and made a pass at the lead zero. The Zero started to smoke. Lt. Schlegel and Lt. Roane dived away while the Zeros climbed. After one and a half turns Lieutenant Pappert recovered from the spin headed north. Above him is Zero started a split s. Lt. Pappert pulled inside his turn and as their Zero dived past him upside down he got in a burst, then dove away as another Zero was on his tail. Lt. Pappert returned to base alone at 1230. Lts. Schlagel and Roane also returned together.
At the same time as the first attack on the lower three planes a separate attack was made on Lt. Anderson. Three Zeros approached from about 8 o'clock at a slightly higher altitude. Lt. Anderson turned into the lead zero, which flipped over to the left, exposing his belly. Lt. Anderson got a burst of 90 rounds into the belly of this ship. At this moment A fourth Zero attacked from the right getting on his tail. Lieutenant Anderson dived to tree-top level. Three of the Zeros did too, and followed him to the vicinity of Fort Hertz, where he outdistanced them. He then proceeded to Base alone. This was Lt. Anderson's third combat mission.
Major Evans and his flight met two zeros at 1215 while flying at 15,000 feet, south of Fort Hertz. They were going east when the two Zeros appeared in the north and attacked head on, passing between the elements of Major Evans flight. Major Evans got in a burst on this pass then dived straight ahead, turning to the north. Lt. May and Matulevicz turned into the two Zeros firing bursts, then dived south. Zeros went north. Lts. May and Matulevicz then turn north and we joined Major Evans and Lt. Martinez, who was on his first combat mission. Immediately an attack by four zeros followed.
One got on Lieutenant Martinez's tail. Major Evans crossed in front of the second element who chased off the Zero. All four ships dove. Lts. May and Matulevicz got in several more passes but none went down. Major Evans, Lt. May and Lt. Martinez returned to base. Lt. Matulevicz, the last to get out, completed his last pass at about 2000 feet and headed to Fort Hertz with two Zeros on his tail. When the Zeros turned away about 10 miles from Fort Hertz he headed for the field at Sadiya where he refueled and returned to his home field. Lt. Matulevicz and Lt. May each received credit for one damaged enemy aircraft. Lt. Martinez received a 10 inch hole in his wing. Lieutenant Matuleviczs comment of the experience was "Believe it, a Zero can turn inside a P-40, I saw them do it today."
Other credits received in the days operations were Captain Harrell, who had confirmed destroyed one fighter and one bomber, Lieutenant McCarty who is credited with one bomber confirmed destroyed, Lt. Whitley the same, and Lt. Shepherd, who got one fighter confirmed destroyed. Captain Harrell received hits in the wing, fuselage, canopy, And engine.Lt. Schlegel claimed a probably destroyed fighter. Lt. Pappert damaged two fighters and Lt. Anderson damaged one fighter.
We lost no ships and no personnel were injured. The A.T.C that day lost a B-25 from attack by three enemy fighters. A C-46 from Yunnanyi and a C-47 are missing. One C 47 was shot up and crash landed at fort Hertz with engines on fire. Another was shot down by fighters and all on board lost. Four A-36s and two P-51s were escorting the C-47’s. They confirmed as destroyed two fighters, with three probably destroyed and three more damaged.
Note: This account is believed to have been written by an unnamed member of the Burma Banshees, perhaps Brad Shuman, perhaps intelligence officer Reeder or Bill Harrell. It was located in the files of fellow Burma Banshee member Philip Adair.