31 MARCH 1942


After 1:00 pm on 31 March 1942, a flight of Warhawks (Kittyhawks) led by 2nd Lieutenant Andy Reynolds from the 9th Pursuit Squadron of the 49th Pursuit Group, headed from Beagle Gulf southwest towards the mainland and met a formation of Japanese aircraft headed to bomb Darwin. A vicious dogfight took place. Reynolds shot down a Zero off the north shore of Cox Peninsula.

The P-40E Warhawk #41-5574 "Elmer", of rookie 2nd Lieutenant Jim Porter was damaged when machine gun fire shredded his rudder. He returned to Batchelor RAAF airfield and made a belly landing next to the runway. The aircraft was subsequently salvaged for spare parts.

Another rookie, 2nd Lieutenant McComsy was hit while diving towards East Arm inlet. His Warhawk's Allison engine overheated, and then seized up. He parachuted out of the aircraft just over the tip of Middle Point.

A second flight of Warhawks scrambled from Batchelor airfield but only caught the end of the dogfight. Only two other Warhawks were damaged with bullet holes.

mccomsey.jpg (16591 bytes)

2nd Lt. Bob McComsey

McComsy landed on the marshy tidal flat not far from where his Warhawk had crashed about 3 miles on the southern side of the harbour. The RAAF had a lot of trouble rescuing McComsy. The terrain of tree roots, underbrush, marshes and mud flats made it almost impossible to reach him. They then tried again to reach him by boat the next morning. Other pilots from the 9th Pursuit Squadron attempted to drop food and water to McComsy on his piece of high ground just above the evening rising tide. One can of tomato soup fell close enough for him to reach it.

He was attacked by thousands of flies and mosquitoes and played a game of tag with a saltwater crocodile. Just after sunset he rested in the branches of a small tree. The next morning, totally exhausted by dehydration, and lack of sleep he was picked up by the RAAF in a motor launch. He was immediately taken to the RAAF hospital on the west side of Darwin where he then recuperated for a number of days.



"Protect & Revenge"
"The 49th Fighter Group in World War II"
by S.W. Ferguson & William K. Pascalis


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This page first produced 2 November 1999

This page last updated 21 February 2020