Image size: 1600 x 1114 pixel. 773 KB
Date: Sunday, 2 July 1944
Place: Truk Lagoon, Caroline Islands, western Pacific Ocean
Photographer: William Janeshek
With its gunner visible in the back cockpit, this Japanese dive bomber (possibly Yokosuka D4Y Suisei or Nakajima B5N Kate), smoke streaming from the cowling, is headed for destruction in the water below after being shot down near Truk, Japanese stronghold in the Carolines, by a Navy PB4Y on July 2, 1944. Lieutenant Commander William Janeshek, pilot of the American plane, said the gunner acted as though he was about to bail out and then suddenly sat down and was still in the plane when it hit the water and exploded! When the Japanese Imperial Navy withdrew after the Gudalcanal campaign, some carrier aircraft and pilots operated from both Rabaul and Truk. The Allies named it 'Judy'. The D4Y was one of the fastest dive-bombers of the war. Its effectiveness was compromised by the introduction of improved American fighters, especially the Grumman F6F Hellcat. The photograph captures the last seconds before the plane impacts the water. You can see the rear gunner trying to see what is happening, but is not bailing out. When the Imperial Navy withdrew after the Gudalcanal campaign, some carrier aircraft and pilots operated from both Rabaul and Truk. Quite a number of carrier crews survived the Midway disaster. And when the Imperial Fleet withdrew, many of the air crews were transferred to Rabaul and Truk to continue the air war there even if the Imperial Fleet was withdrawn. This proved to be a terrible mistake. Most of these throughly trained air crews were gradually lost in the subsequent fighting as the Americans moved up the Solomon Chain. Carrier pilots are some of the most skilled individuals fighting the War. It takes a great deal of time and effort to train carrier pilots. And experienced pilots also have a great deal of experience and wisdom to pass on to the trainees and new crews. The Americans rotated experienced pilotsstate-side to help in the trainong of air crews. The loss of experienced Japanese air crews meant that when the Imperial Fleet finally emerged to do battle and stop the Americans from seizing the Marianas, they fought the Battle of the Philippines Sea with inexperienced, poorly trined air crews. The Americans by this time had better planes, but the catasrophe now known as the Marianas Turkey Shoot also resulted from poorly trained and led air crews.