KITS 03/2021

P-39Q-5, 42-19896, Lt. William W. Gambill, 363rd FS, 357th FG, 8th AF, Oroville CA,

USA, autumn 1943

363rd FS was formed in December 1942 at Hamilton Field airbase in California. The aircraft used for the unit’s pilot training were factory-fresh P-39Q Airacobras. In the fall of 1943 357th Fighter Group, which 363rd Fighter Squadron was part of, was deployed to the Great Britain

where it was, as a first Fighter Group, re-equipped with the outstanding P-51B and C Mustangs. Within 8th AF it flew bomber escort sorties

over occupied Europe. On March 8th, 1944, Gambill’s Mustang was shot down by Messerschmitts Bf 109 near Mehringen. Lt. Gambill was

killed during the British night bomber raid on Frankfurt during the night of March 22nd-23rd, 1944, when Dulag Luft (Durchgangslager der

Luftwaffe, Transit Camp of the Air force) was hit as well. The standard Airacobra camouflage of Olive Drab/Neutral Gray was during the training at 363rd FS complemented by the red coat of the tail surfaces and red stripe on the nose. The cockpit doors sported the unit’s emblem.

P-39Q-5, 42-20043, 70th FS, 347th FG, 13th AF, Torokina airfield, Bougainville,

Solomon Islands, autumn 1943

70th FS was formed on December 14th, 1940, and on December 5th, 1941, it was ordered to Philippines. Due to the fall of Philippines the

unit deployment did not take place and the unit got shortly stuck in Hawaii. Another stopover before the combat deployment was Fiji where

the unit transferred in the end of January 1942 equipped with Bell P-39 Airacobra. Since November 1942 until the spring of 1944 when the

combat activities ceased, 70th FS operated in Solomon Islands area within 347th FG and was credited with over 50 enemy aircraft destroyed

in the air-to-air combat. The unit’s equipment changed, from flying the most popular P-38 Lightning in the first half of 1943 to P-39 and P-40

for the rest of the deployment period. Since the end of 1943 70th FS operated from Torokina airfield and kept Bell P-39 in its inventory until

April 1944. The missions flown were bomber escorts, defense of the home base and most frequently the ground attacks. Airacobra “SNAFU”

was delivered to the combat zone in the end of summer 1943. The original marking was in the form of the large numeral 6 on both fuselage

sides in front of the cockpit door. Later the marking was relocated to the aircraft nose and changed to numeral 106.

30 eduard

INFO Eduard - March 2021