Lt Graham Squires reduced power to avoid overshooting the flying boat, but as he was about to cross over the H8K, its pilot pulled his aircraft up sharply in an attempt to crash into the PB4Y.
During World War II, air combats between large, four engined aircraft were a comparatively rare occurrence. Allied and Axis bombers had few opportunities for such encounters, but there were clashes between maritime patrol aircraft. These aerial engagements are unique in the annals of air warfare. Patrol aircraft most often faced enemy single and twin engined fighters, but there were occasions where rival maritime machines encountered each other during their patrols.
As told by Edward M. Young in his book H6K “Mavis”/H8K “Emily” vs PB4Y-1/2 Liberator/Privateer Pacific Theater 1943-45, it was over the vast Pacific Ocean where most of these clashes took place. From August 1943 until the final combat in May 1945, aggressive PB4Y Liberators, the US Navy’s designation for the B-24, shot down 15 Imperial Japanese Naval Air Force (IJNAF) Kawanishi H6K “Mavis” and Kawanishi H8K “Emily” flying boats without loss – a remarkable record.
The impressive photos in this post show an H8K crashing after being attacked and hit by the guns of a PB4Y on Dec. 30, 1944.
On that morning Lt Graham Squires and his crew flying a PB4Y from VPB-117 sighted an H8K while patrolling off Formosa. Squires and his crew were over the South China Sea to the southwest of the southern tip of Formosa, flying on a westerly course at 6,000ft between two layers of cloud. The PB4Y was just below the upper cloud layer when the top turret gunner called out an “Emily” flying at the aircraft’s “three o’clock” position around 18 miles away to the southeast.
Squires quickly climbed into the clouds to avoid being spotted by the flying boat. Making effective use of the cloud layer, Squires had closed the range to just six miles when the “Emily” crew spotted the approaching PB4Y. The flying boat immediately turned and headed back in the direction of Formosa, with Squires in pursuit, diving into the lower cloud layer to escape. The radar operator on board the PB4Y quickly found the “Emily” on his AN/APS 15 radar scope and directed Squires toward the enemy aircraft, which had descended below the lower cloud layer and dived down toward the ocean, pulling out at 150ft. Squires closed the range and leveled off above the H8K at 200ft.
Although the PB4Y was still out of 0.50 cal range, the “Emily’s” dorsal and tail 20mm turret gunners opened fire but scored no hits on the Liberator. Coming in quickly, the PB4Y’s bow turret gunner shot out the dorsal turret, then set the No. 3 engine on fire. The top turret gunner also hit the “Emily” moments later. Squires reduced power to avoid overshooting the flying boat, but as he was about to cross over the H8K, its pilot pulled his aircraft up sharply in an attempt to crash into the PB4Y. Squires slammed the throttles forward and pulled the Liberator up and over the “Emily,” missing the Japanese aircraft by just 25ft.
The mortally wounded H8K, from the 801st Kokutai, fell away to starboard and crashed into the ocean.
H6K “Mavis”/H8K “Emily” vs PB4Y-1/2 Liberator/Privateer is published by Osprey Publishing and is available to order here.
Photo credit: NARA