From: email@example.com (CDB100620)
Subject: Re: P-47 vs. Bf109G and Zero
Date: 29 Oct 1996
Correct name = Neel Kearby. A very likeable guy. Commanded newly formed
348FG in July 1943, equipped with P-47s based at Dobodura. Parked at
northeast side of the field just east of "Warhawk Row" where the P-40s of
49FG were parked. Nobody at 49FG had seen P-47s before and were astounded
by these huge machines. Tails were painted white so they would not be
mistaken for Zeros and Oscars by 49FG boys. Some rear echelon guy thought
that up because no way could anyone mistake a beautiful Oscar or Zero for
the Republic beast. 49FG 9FS P-38 crew chiefs wandered over to look at
the P-47s and were struck dumb by the vast complexity of their elaborate
turbocharged engine plumbing. Everybody was awestruck by P-47's
firepower--eight .50s with 425 rpg. Lots of nails. 348FG took over
standing patrols of the Oro Bay area, freeing P-40s for tactical missions
over Salamaua and Lae.
On Aug. 11, 348FG P-47s patroling Oro Bay were mistaken for Japanese
planes by 49FG 9FS P-38 pilots (so they said; hard to believe). They
bounced them and scattered them six ways from Sunday, while howls of glee
and malevolent laughter were heard over the radio. A series of individual
dogfights broke out between the P-47s and P-38s (nobody exchanged a shot).
End result was that the P-47s couldn't get on the tail of a single P-38
and the P-38s could not be shaken off by the P-47s. Dogfight began at
20,000 ft and went down to wave-top height. An example of the rough fun
of figter pilots. Capt. Johnson of 9FS gave Maj. Kearby two bottles of
gin after landing to calm him down. He was hot and wanted to punch
somebody out, but a few shots of gin mellowed him out. He finally allowed
as how he was glad "the God-damned Japs aren't flying P-38s."
On Oct. 6, Lt Col Kearby (got promoted) led the 348FG on a sweep of Wewak.
They got into one hell of a fight with the Japs right over the airstrip.
Kearby himself shot down seven Jap planes, zooming and booming his Jug for
all it was worth. Gen. Kenney was pleased as punch because he demanded
his fighter jocks be aggressive or else. He personally gave Kearby an
attaboy handshake (may seem unimportant, but Kenney was very well
respected and a word of praise from him was treasured). A few days later
Kearby was awarded the medal of honor.
Despite Kearby's successes with it, P-47 was not looked on with favor in
New Guinea, especially by ex-P-38 pilots assigned to it. It was called
"an engineering nightmare with wings." D-4 models used in NG weighed
something like 13,000 lbs in combat trim and even after burning off fuel
could not effectively maneuver in the heavy, wet air over the NG jungles.
The exhaust from the aft-mounted supercharger vented directly onto the
tailwheel, ruining it and causing many a routine landing to turn into
disaster when the weakened tailwheel tire burst, throwing the plane out of
control. The weight of the plane also caused frequent maingear tire
blow-outs too. Temps were usually 100-degrees plus, which may have helped
reduce tire life. Plane had poor take-off performance (as did that later
Republic pig, the F-84). Common saying was that if the army engineers
built a runway all the way around the world, Republic would build an
airplane that needed every foot of it.
P-47 was great at high altitude, but there wasn't much call for that in
the SWPA. It was a great diver, too. Kearby challenged more than one
P-38 driver to a diving contest, and the P-47, in his hands at least, was
clearly the faster in a dive--which means it was really, really fast,
because the P-38 was very fast in a dive. Kearby used the superior diving
speed of the P-47 to make most of his kills. He liked to take his boys
way, way up in the sky where the Japs couldn't spot them, then, using his
wonderful eyesight, pick out Japs below and fall on them like the wrath of
God, blowing them apart with his eight .50s and zooming back up into the
blue, leaving Japs milling around wondering what the hell happened.
Kearby was killed in a dogfight over Wewak on March 5, 1944. He shouldn't
have gotten into a dogfight in a P-47. He knew that. He did it anyway.
He was trying to beat Rickenbacker's record of 26 victories in World War
One. Gen Kenney had met with top scoring pilots and, despite his desire
for aggressive fighter pilots, urged them to caution, saying the record
would fall to one of them in due course and not to push it. But these
were competitive guys who were keyed up from too much combat flying and
not thinking straight.
By the way, the Japanese pilots in New Guinea were very good, and
Japanese planes were very good, too, if somewhat lightly armed. But it
doesn't take much lead to bring down a plane. A few rounds in the right
place will do it.
Just as the P-38 wasn't quite suitable for northern European operations,
so the P-47 wasn't really suitable for SWPA operations. The USAAF was
lucky to have sufficiently capable aircraft makers to develop planes that
worked well in each theater.
Sure would like to know the exact name of that book on Kearby. Like most
of the Pacific Theater Army pilots, he is forgotten. Damn shame. They
were a great bunch.