Photo: Cpl. L. M. Ashman, USMC via NHHC
Photo: via autor
The wreckage of a Wildcat after one of the Japanese raids on Henderson Field.
Capt. Joe Foss (left) became the most successful ace of the Southern Solomons campaign and the first American
aviator to match Eddie Rickenbacker’s World War I score of 26 victories.
The Ryūjō force approached Guadalcanal
from the direction of Florida and Malaita
islands at 10,000 feet. Lieutenant
Murakami led the six Kates along with
the six escorts led by Warrant Officer
Shigemi in one formation, while the
formation of nine “attack” Zeros led by
Ryūjō’s Hikōtaichō (air group commander)
Lieutenant Nōtomi, flew about 1,600 feet to
the right of the bombers.
Carl spotted the force over Tulagi. As he
wheeled his four Wildcats into position,
he radioed a warning to Henderson Field.
When the “Condition One” flag went up in
response, the r pilots scrambled to man
all the available Wildcats, followed by
a further scramble down the main runway.
While they were supposed to take off in
order of divisions and sections behind
the flight leader, in practice everyone
rushed to get airborne to gain the altitude
advantage over the incoming bombers.
Because of performance differences
between the individual planes, the system
of elements and divisions broke down,
and everyone joined up on whomever was
closest. Leading the dash was Captain
Rivers Morrell, VMF-223's executive
At 1423 hours, Carl peeled off and led
the way as the four Wildcats dived on the
Ryūjō force. Carl lined up on six airplanes
in the larger formation that turned out to
be Shigemi’s six escort Zeros. Firing from
overhead and diving through the formation
with Technical Sergeant Lindley glued to
his wing, Carl was certain he had set one
of the “bombers” on fire for his first victory
over Guadalcanal and second of the war.
Close behind, Hamilton and Gutt fired at
the same formation. While Hamilton was
drawn into a protracted dogfight with
three of the “escort” Zeros, Gutt was able
to shoot one of the Kates and dive through
the formation behind Carl and Lindley,
who became separated as they zoomed to
regain altitude for a second attack.
The Kates came directly over the beach
and lined up on the four 90mm antiaircraft
guns of Battery E, 3d Defense Battalion.
At 1428 hours the guns opened fire while
the Kates released their 36 60-kilogram
bombs in a group drop at 1430 hours.
A “Betty” was claimed by the overexcited
gunners, who actually hit nothing. The
Kate’s drop was equally ineffective, with no
damage inflicted even though the bombs
detonated on either side of the guns.
Nōtomi’s attack formation had more
success. The three shotai formations
attacked from three directions just as the
bombs were dropped, strafing the runway
with impunity. Nōtomi’s threesome caught