Royal New Zealand Air Force
BOMBER ESCORT OPERATIONS
BOMBER ESCORT OPERATIONS
Besides taking part in the Rendova patrol, No. 14 Squadron on occasions escorted American bombers attacking enemy ships and positions in the northern Solomons. On 15 July four aircraft accompanied a strike which bombed two enemy ships off Baga, near Vella Lavella. Four B25s, escorted by twelve fighters, attacked the ships, sinking one and leaving the other on fire. In the afternoon of the same day eight RNZAF aircraft flew as escorts on a similar mission in which two enemy barges off Ganongga were set on fire.
One of the most important operations in which No. 14 Squadron took part was the American strike against enemy shipping at Kahili on 17 July. By this time the Allies' air superiority in the Solomons was well established and the American Command began heavy daylight attacks against Kahili. In these attacks, of which that on 17 July was the first, the largest number of Allied aircraft yet used in the South Pacific was deployed. In this first operation seventy-one dive-bombers and torpedo-bombers and seven heavy bombers, escorted by 114 fighters, attacked enemy shipping and sank or damaged seven vessels. A large number of enemy fighters took off from the Shortland area to meet the attack, and in the ensuing combat fifty-one Japanese fighters and float-planes were claimed page 193 as destroyed for the loss of five Allied aircraft. Eight RNZAF P40s took part in the mission and four of them made passes at enemy planes without result. As they were employed as close escort and ordered to stay with the bombers, their opportunities for fighting were limited. The following day another heavy attack was made against the same area. Anti-aircraft positions on Kahili were bombed, as well as shipping in the harbour. One cargo vessel was sunk, and hits were scored on two destroyers and a cargo vessel. Twelve aircraft of No. 14 Squadron took part as close escort to the bombers; one scored hits on an enemy aircraft.
On 25 July No. 14 Squadron handed over its duties at Guadalcanal to No. 16 Squadron and moved back to Santo, where it spent a few days employed on local defence. On the 29th No. 17 Squadron arrived at Santo from New Zealand and the pilots of No. 14 returned to New Zealand the next day for leave. During their tour they had destroyed twenty-two Japanese aircraft and had probably destroyed four more, with a loss in action of four aircraft and three pilots.