Author Topic: New Mission: McGuire At Luzon  (Read 962 times)

Offline bbosen

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New Mission: McGuire At Luzon
« on: January 26, 2015, 07:28:41 AM »
By the 26th of December, 1944, the Americans had returned to the Phillippines and had expanded their hold, with a strong presence on Leyte and with primitive bases on several other islands. They were finally able to launch serious, escorted heavy bomber strikes against the big Japanese bases on Luzon Island.

America's top aces were there. Dick Bong had scored his 40th air-to-air victory in his P38, and had just been sent home to a hero's welcome. Back on Leyte, Major Thomas B. McGuire, with 34 victories, was itching for action and anxious to get 40 or more victories of his own. He led the "Daddy Flight" of his 431st Fighter Squadron on an escort mission from Dulag airstrip, headed for rendezvous with B24s and other P38s over Masbate Island on the way to Japanese-held Luzon and the massive, well-developed Clark Field.

It was a long, long trip. Two massive drop tanks were strapped  beneath the wings of each fighter plane. Every P38 pilot knew he'd be strapped into his airplane all day without a break, and that it would be necessary to tune those mighty Allison engines to just sip aviation fuel all the way into and out of the target area. Even with the most careful fuel management, they might not make it home if the combat over Clark Field lasted too long, so they were briefed on the possibility of an emergency fuel stop down at the Southern end of Mindoro, where a new strip had just been made ready. It wasn't really on the way home, but it was closer than Dulag and it might save their lives.

They knew the Japanese had a lot of fighter planes waiting at Clark Field to oppose them. They got what they expected: a big fight! The bombers had to fly into dangerous ack-ack fire over Clark field, along with the P38s assigned to "close escort" duty. There was no opposition from Japanese fighters until after the B24s dropped their bombs. Then, about 1 minute later just as they turned for home, McGuire saw a trio of Japanese "Zero" fighters diving out of the sun toward a big cluster of bombers. He broke radio silence and directed his flight of four P38s up and to the left, to cut them off. Soon, more Zeroes and more P38s joined the fight, which swirled down to tree-top level and lasted for almost 25 minutes until the last of the Americans had to withdraw in order to preserve enough avgas to get to the emergency refueling strip down at the tip of Mindoro. Major McGuire scored his 35th, 36th, 37th, and 38th victories in this fight. Let's see how you do as a member of McGuire's squadron!

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