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23rd Fighter Group: Chennaults Sharks by Carl Molesworth

By Carl Molesworth

Staffed with green USAAF pilots and led by means of a handful of pro veterans of the yankee Volunteer team (AVG), the twenty third FG was once shaped within the box at Kunming, in China, on July four, 1942 and flew wrestle missions that very same day. The teams 3 squadrons - the 74th, seventy fifth and 76th Fighter Squadrons - have been at first built with war-weary P-40s passed down from the AVG. those have been supplemented by means of the hooked up sixteenth FS, flying new P-40Es, and all squadrons decorated the noses in their airplanes with fearsome and iconic sharksmouth designs.

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50-calmachine gun in a pit at the southern end of the Suichuan airfield when a strafing Ki-4 3 flew over him and pulled up in a steep dive to reverse direction for another pass. Spencer got a good lead on the aeroplane and fired 125 rounds in two bursts before his gun jammed. Although he did not see his rounds inflict any damage on the fighter, a group of me hanics taking shel ter at the northern end of the field saw the 'Oscar' nose into the ground and blow up. SSgt Spencer was subsequently awarded a ilver Star for this action.

Chinese Forces held the ily oFChangsha For several weeks, but when it Fell Hengyang was left: exposed. Col Vincem ord red the 68th CW to abandon its Hengyang base on 16 June, leaving Lingling and Kweilin as the primary airfields available to the 23rd FG. On the plus side, the Chinese defence had stiffened again as the enemy approached Hengyang. At Hengshan, 25 miles north of the city, the deFenders held a strong position and were reFusing to yield. 89 w Lt Stephen J Bonner Jr, who was a five-victory ace with the 76th FS, poses in his P-51B (43-7028) in mid- 2Lt Don Lopez's P-40N '194' of the 75th FS got a mouthful of aluminium when a P-51 taxied into it at Yang Tong airfield, Kweilin, on 12 June 1944.

The weather was awful, with a low overcast restricting visibility, but mission after mission went OLit anyway. The majority of these strikes were river sweeps designed to catch the Japanese moving men and supplies along the siang River to support their frontline troops. The pilots of the 23rd FG flew 538 sorties in nine days and lost just ne aircraft - Lt David Rust of the 75th FS experienced engine failure in his P-40 and had to make a belly landing ten miles north of Lingling. The bad weather was a factor in the 23rd FC's low loss rate because Japanese fighters at Hankow were having more trouble reaching the frontline area than the Americans were.

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