A History of Lt. Owen Fish

ON 27 APRIL 1942

The Japanese carried out a reconnaissance flights over Darwin on 26 April 1942. The 49th Fighter Group USAAF scrambled about 50 Kittyhawks from their three fighter squadrons when the alert was sounded just after midday on 27 April 1942.

An almost equal number of Japanese aircraft escorted the Japanese bombers. Four flights of the 8th Pursuit Squadron of the 49th Fighter Group made first contact directly over the town of Darwin.

Captain Allison W. Strauss led Green Flight comprising 2nd Lts Earl Kinglsey and Pierre Alford. They were the first flight to attack the Japs just beyond Middle Point. They were initially outnumbered seven to one.

Captain Strauss attempted to fight his way through the Jap fighter aircraft to strike at the bombers. Strauss’ Kittyhawk was hit by enemy fire and it suddenly went straight upwards through the middle of the enemy fighters and stalled before plunging into Darwin Harbour.

Kingsley and Alford had both broken away from the flight to engage the enemy. They eventually returned to Adelaide River airfield.

The other 3 Flights engaged the enemy. The sky was filled with aircraft and tracer bullets.

White Flight was led by 2nd Lt. C.C. Johnson. His wingman, 2nd Lt. Owen Fish was hit in the first attack by the Japanese Zeros. His Kittyhawk caught fire and plunged into Darwin Harbour.

Captain George Kiser (the “Kentucky Gentleman”), the Blue Flight Leader, and his wingman 2nd Lt. Clyde “Smiley” Barnett, caught the Jap bombers just before they crossed the coast west of Darwin. Kiser was well known for his gunnery skills. He used to lighten his aircraft by removing his two outer guns and reducing the ammunition to the remaining 4 guns. This gave him a better chance to keep up with the agile Japanese Zeros.

He shot down two G4M Mitsubishis and a Zero that day. Kiser’s element wingman, 2nd Lt. Harvey Martin was separated from Blue Flight in the clouds above Cox Peninsular and was shot down by a Japanese fighter aircraft. His aircraft crashed onto the coast just south of the Cape Charles lighthouse. Martin spent the night in a tree looking out across the Timor Sea.

Yellow Flight, led by Lt. Sims was prevented from reaching the Japanese bombers by the Zeros. 2nd Lt. Chet Namola and 2nd Lt. Dick Werner were both slightly wounded. They both managed to return safely to Adelaide River airfield. 2nd Lt. Namola’s plexiglass canopy was shattered and a piece of plexiglass cut his left hand. Werner’s Kittyhawk was hit by an armour piercing round on the left side of the fuselage. The round shattered when it hit the armour plate for Werner’s seat. Werner was wounded in the shoulder by a piece of flying shrapnel.

The 9th Pursuit Squadron of the 49th Fighter Group made limited contact with the Japanese that day. 2nd Lt. Michel Zawisza and his wingman Dick Taylor claimed one downed Zero and another possibly destroyed. The Japanese kill was credited to 2nd Lt. Zawisza.

After a fierce 20 minute battle with the Jap Zeros, the Kittyhawks returned to their bases at Adelaide River (8 PS) and Livingstone (9 PS). The Japanese bombers headed off to the west into heavy cloud cover.

2nd Lt. Steven Andrews of the 7th Pursuit Squadron of the 49th Fighter Group was shot down by a Japanese fighter Zero. His Kittyhawk crashed near the Cape Charles lighthouse. Andrews was an element leader in Captain Hennon’s Yellow Flight. Andrews had attacked the Japanese bombers head-on over Cox Peninsular. He was immediately attacked by the Japanese Zeros. He managed to shoot one Zero down just before another Zero riddled his Kittyhawk with bullets. He was forced to bail out from his smoking Kittyhawk at 12,000 feet near the Cape Charles Lighthouse. He parachuted into the surf. After drifting in the waves for a while he crossed over the reef to the open ground within the heavy coastal bush.

He had removed his flying boots so he could swim better in the surf. However due to this, his feet ended up being badly cut on the sharp coral on the reef. An RAAF patrol led by Lieutenant Molyneaux, was already out looking for 2nd Lt. Harvey Martin of the 8th Pursuit Squadron who had already been shot down in the same area. They found the bare footed Andrews and took him the lighthouse where he spent the night. The next day John Murry, the tracker with the RAAF patrol discovered Martin and took him back to the lighthouse as well. Martin and Andrews were later taken to Darwin by motor launch.

Australian Army Truck Driver, Vincent Arthur Doran, was probably one of those killed on the ground during this Japanese bombing raid.