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From: (CDB100620)
Subject: Re: continuing saga of the Thach Weave
Date: 11 Aug 1997
Newsgroups: rec.aviation.military

While I am reading a lot of defense of the Thach Weave and explanations of
what it was, I note that there seems to be a complete lack of awareness of
the fact that there were two different American air forces fighting the
Japanese, one navy, one army.  They flew different types of aircraft with
very different performance characteristics--and they developed different
tactics to handle their common foe.

The USAAF in the SWPA did not use the Thach Weave.  One reason for this
was the aircraft they flew, in particular the P-40 and later the P-38 (and
to a limted extent the P-47).  Let's stick to the P-40  because it was
contemporary with the F4F and was used by the army in the SWPA until Sept.
1944, and because the army pilots wrought havoc among the Japanese with
it. But keep in mind that all army fighters  were very fast-diving ships
with good roll rates (even the P-38, which could overcome initial inertial
resistance to rolling by throttling back the inside engine briefly).  [The
F4U had a good rate of roll, but the F6F did not.]  {Army pilots who got a
chance to fly the Navy fighers liked the F4U but did not think much of
either the F4F or F6F.}

The P-40 was faster in level flight both on the deck and at the altitudes
most fighter combat took place at in the Pacific  than either the F4F or
the Zero.  It could accelerate faster than the F4F in level flight.  It
could outroll it by a margin of at least two to one.  The F4F was only
marginally able to outdive the Zero, if at all.  It's acceleration in the
dive was poor.  The P-40 could easily outdive the F4F and the Zero.  Its
acceleration in the dive was phenomenal.  The rate of climb of the F4F-4
was on par with that of the P-40E or P-40K.  The P-40N could easily
outclimb it.  In a fast, shallow climb, the P-40 could outclimb the Zero.
The F4F-4 could not do that.  The P-40 had light controls and handled
beautifully.  The F4F-4 had heavy controls and had to be manhandled
through aerobatics.  Both the P-40 and F4F had good low-speed stall
characteristics, but the P-40 had a tighter turning circle.  It could also
"ride the stall" better than the F4F, which tended to drop a wing.
Because its controls were so stiff, when that happened the pilot had to
devote his attention to controlling his aircraft, not what was going on
outside his cockpit.  The P-40 driver, on the other hand, was in charge of
an airplane so responsive that he could always keep his head outside the

Army pilots in New Guinea and environs encountered not only the Zero and
the Oscar, but the Tony, the Tojo and the Nick.  Their missions included
everything from escorting A-24 dive bombers (the SBD in olive drab) to
A-20 low level straffers to C-47s dropping parachute troops to B-24s on
high-level attacks, not to mention their own fighter sweeps and
anti-surface and anti-shipping attacks.

They developed a specific suite of tactics to handle their job.  The two
men who were most instrumental in developing tactics used by the 49th
Fighter Group (which scored the highest number of air-to-air kills by a
USAAF fighter group in the Pacific and the third highest total in the war)
and by extension to other groups  were Col. Paul "Squeeze" Wurtsmith,
group CO  and Maj. Boyd "Buzz" Wagner, Ops Exec in the early days.  Wagner
was the first USAAF ace of WWII.
The key points were:
*Point-blank shooting.
*The four-ship flight divided into two-ship elements, each aircraft flying
well apart from the others.

The rule was get close.  Then get closer.  When you are so close you  are
afraid of a collision, get in closer.  Only then open fire.

A later Ops Exec, Gerry Johnson (22 kill), normally an affable guy, would
become furious with pilots who damaged enemy aircraft or got only
"probables."  He would ream a pilot's butt out in public in no uncertain
terms.  "You outflew the bastard," he would shout.  "You got close enough
to hit him, but you let him get away.  The next time, ram your guns up his

Deflection shooting was known and understood.  A number of kills were made
using it.  The method of carrying it out was to track from behind the e/a
and bring the sight through the aircraft, just the same as if you were
shooting skeet.

But to ensure a kill, the preferred method was to goose the enemy pilot
with your prop spinner.

On the P-40, guns were boresighted to converge into a 12-inch box at 200

Four ships in a loose flight of two elements was the cornerstone.  The two
ships in the element flew very loosely--definitely not a leader-wingman
formation.  The leader was the shooter, the trailer designated to keep e/a
off his ass.   Roles could be reversed, with the wingman becoming the
leader and shooter while the erstwhile leader became the eyeball man.  The
two planes in the element could reverse roles many time during a fight.
If a flight was bounced, the two elements would split-S away in opposite
directions, then come back fast.  It  definitely did not mean the pilot
was fleeing, or abandoning his escort duties.   It did mean he was
escaping the attentions of an e/a.  It did mean he was picking up speed,
which he would transform into altitude very, very quickly.  The P-40 was
particularly good at Split-S-ing because its roll rate was so quick.  A
P-40 could simply disappear from the gunsight of an attacking Japanese
plane, showing up next not thousands of feet below--but thousands of feet
above, the pilot having zoom climbed in a chandelle above his foe.

If circumstances were such that you found it expedient to turn into a
Japanese fighter, normally he would break upward.  While it would be
tempting to follow him upward, the sensible thing to do was to break down
and away.  So whether attacked from ahead or behind, the P-40 pilot
dove--this was not running away; it was using your airplane to its best
advantage.  In air combat, speed is life, and diving gave you speed.

No one carried out "lone wolf" maneuvers, but it was not uncommon to
become separated from wingmen.  I'm sure this happened to Navy pilots, as
well.  Lone wolves usually became dead wolves, so when separated the
highest priority was to link up with somebody--anybody--else.

Very often, because of the USAAF pilots'  loose formation, attacking
Japanese pilots would not spot the wingman of an element or the second
element of a flight, placing themselves in immediate peril.

Buzz Wagner told his boys that they must always keep three words uppermost
in their mind when encountering the enemy:  Attack, Attack, Attack.
Gen. George Kenney told his fighter pilots that he wanted them to be "Jap
 Col. Wurthsmith told his pilots that the best way to protect bombers they
were escorting was to attack enemy aircraft so vigorously that they would
have time to think only of saving themselves.
Army pilots, in short, were taught to be aggressive and never to think

Japanese pilots had a saying:  "No one every returns alive from New
Guinea."   Curtis LeMay said that the battle for air superiority over
Tokyo was won in the skies of New Guinea.
Entire air regiments were wiped out by U.S. Army pilots.  Fully 95 percent
of all Japanese army pilot with over 300 hours flight time died in New
Guinea.  Japanese Navy pilots who encountered U.S. Army pilots were
savaged, as well.  (I believe Dick Bong's first kill was a Navy Zero.)

The 49FG scored 668 confirmed air-to-air kills.  P-40 drivers accounted
for 313 of these.

[Regarding the efficacy of the Thach Weave in high performance aircraft
facing Zero type planes, the 475FG, an all P-38 unit, did not use the navy
maneuver, but nonetheless were credited with shooting down in air combat
547 Japanese planes while losing only 27 of their own to enemy aircraft.]

When U.S. Navy carrier planes raided the Philippines in Aug. and Sept.,
1944, opposition was so light that Adm. William Halsey's chief of staff,
Rear Admiral Robert Carey, wrote to Gen. Richard Sutherland that Gen.
George Kenney's army pilots had "just about spoiled the war for our

That says it all.

From: (CDB100620)
Subject: Re: P-40B Warhawk
Date: 29 Jan 1998
Newsgroups: rec.aviation.military

> Does anyone know which variant of the p-40 the Australians
>flew against the Japanese over Papua New Guinea in 1942.

In the spring--er, fall--of 1942 (March, April), RAAF 75 Squadron based at Port
Moresby was equipped with a version of the Curtiss H87-A, the Kittyhawk I
(probably comparable to the US Army's P-40D--but maybe not; don't even want to
get into that).  Later they go P-40Es.  When the Americans arrived at Port
Moresby at the beginning of April, '42, equipped with P-39s, 75 Squadron was
down to about half a dozen flyable P-40s.
Towards the end of April, after a lull, the Japanese intensified their air
raids on Moresby.  On April 28, the 75S was able to hurl 7 P-40s at a force of
8 bombers and 9 fighters the Japanese sent over.  Results no Japanese lost, two
P-40s lost (one chute sighted but pilot MIA within sight of the field, if you
can believe it--that's how rugged the terrain was in N.G.  The other pilot
killed was Flight Officer Jack Jackson, a veteran of North Africa and months
fighting the Japanese.  He had spent much time briefing the newly arriving
Americans about flying conditions in N.G. and the nature of the Japanese
opposition.  He was well liked and  his loss was keenly felt.)
 At that time, the Japanese had established air supremacy over New Guinea.  The
US was beginning to feed airplanes and crews into Moresby, but as fast as they
arrived the Japs wrecked them.  On the April 27 raid, the squints (as they were
dubbed) destroyed 12 A-24s, a B-26 and a B-17 on the ground (75 Squadron was
unable to make contact before the raiders skeedaddled).
At this point, 75 Squadron was basically finished as a fighting force, as was
much of the RAAF in Australia--remember most of the Aussies were in the Med
saving Britain.  They were too few, had fought too long alone against too many,
and could only do so much.
The brilliant Col. Buzz Wagner led a flight of some two dozen P-39s into Port
Moresby on the 30th, took a look at the situation and said to his troops, "Boys
the best defense is a good offense, so lets go offend some squints."  He had a
dozen of the Bell ships refueled and they took off heading slightly west of
north to pay a visit to Lae.  The 'Cobras wheezed over the Owen Stanleys (one
aborted) and came howling down on the Lae airstrip at tree top level, catching
about 10 bombers and 10 fighters readying for a raid on The Port.  In one
screaming pass Wagner and his boys torched five of the bombers, then banked out
over the harbor and turned three moored floatplanes into flaming scrap.  Wagner
then led his mob over to Salamaua where they shot the shit out of everything in
sight, including an ammo dump which blew with a terrific bang.
This raid marks the true end of the Japanese offensive in the SWPA.  From that
day forward, the Japanese would be pushed increasingly onto the defensive.  The
RAAF played a significant role in the events that followed, especially with
their Beaufighters.  They were extremely capable pilots.  They transferred much
needed knowledge to the Americans without which USAAF successes would have been
fewer,especially in the early days, and casualties far higher.

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