Here we see history in the making.... the first American plane to land on Guadalcanal touches down on the airstrip only recently taken from the Japanese; August 12, 1942. See the following picture for a close-up.
Errand of Mercy
The first aircraft to land on Guadalcanal after the Americans took control of the airfield was this PBY-5A Catalina flying boat flown by William S. Sampson, aide to Vice Admiral John S. McCain. It took off later that day with a load of wounded Marines.
This PBY-5A is anchored to its mooring bouy just offshore of Guadalcanal.
Navy PBY Catalina
sits on Henderson Field, with several U.S. Marine TBF Avenger torpedo bombers in the background.
A B-17 bomber hides under camoflage netting in the jungle near Henderson Field.
The thunder of four Wright Cyclone engines
Flying Fortresses take off from Henderson Field.
Caught on the ground at Henderson Field
During the heavy Japanese shelling on the night of 13 October 1942, several B-17s of the 11th Bombardment Group were so damaged that they could not depart with the others for Espiritu Santo. A shell bursting under the wing of this plane sent shell fragments through the fuselage and left wing. The explosion tore off a flap and covered the airplane with clods of earth.
(Source: "Guadalcanal - The Island of Fire" by Robert Lawrence Ferguson)
Daytime arrival of a night fighter
A P-70 Nighthawk (night fighter version of the A-20) of the 6th Night Fighter Squadron taxis on the Marston matting of Henderson Field. Five P-70s arrived in November 1942, hoping to score against the nighttime nuisance Japanese bombers. Unfortunately, nighttime interceptions using the primitive radar sets at that time were a rare occurrence, partly due to the time needed for the P-70 to get to altitude, and partly due to the infancy of the new radar technology. Only two kills were made by P-70s in the Pacific war, neither of which were over Guadalcanal. Most of the 6th Night Fighter Squadron pilots went on to fly P-38s, while the P-70s were eventually superceded by the P-61 Black Widow later in the war.
(Source: Ralph G. Tuttle)
Royal New Zealand Air Force No 3 Squadron arrives at Henderson Field
A flight of RNZAF No 3 Squadron of Lockheed Hudson (PBO) reconnaissance bombers was moved from Santos to Guadalcanal on 23 November 1942. The six aircraft and eight crews set up camp in a jungle-clad gully close to Henderson Field. They were attached to the Air Search and Attack Command, which formed part of Task Force 63. The Search and Patrol Group conducted daily and nightly searches of the approaches to Guadalcanal, and daily low-level searches along the coastlines of islands which might be used as staging-posts for enemy movements of supplies and troops. Up till then American heavy bombers had been used for reconnaissance, or dive and torpedo bombers. The dive bombers had to return to base and bomb-up for strike missions, by which time the target often disappeared. The Hudsons had machine guns for defence, and normally carried four 500-pound bombs. They were regarded as lightly-armed sitting-ducks, and crews were told their job was to report enemy movements not to go looking for trouble.
(Source: New Zealand Defence "Defence Update" of July 2002, courtesy John Wilson of Wellington, New Zealand)
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