ON 22 MARCH 1942


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Mitsubishi Ki-15 reconnaissance aircraft


On 22 March 1942, a single Japanese Mitsubishi Ki-15 reconnaissance aircraft took off from Koepang, Java to spy on the defences of Darwin in readiness for a larger strike force of Takao Kokutai G4M bombers.

Coast watchers on Bathurst Island notified Darwin of the approaching aircraft at around midday.  The RAAF Radar at Dripstone Cliffs confirmed the sighting and urgently relayed a message to the 9th Pursuit Squadron of the 49th Fighter Group who were carrying out a four aircraft patrol just south of Melville Island. They broke into two flights to search for the Japanese aircraft.


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2nd Lt. Steven Poleschuk

At 1:10pm 2nd Lt. Clyde Harvey and 2nd Lt. Steven "Polly" Poleschuk sighted the Mitsubishi glinting in the sun. The Japanese pilot spotted the two Kittyhawks and tried to escape. Both Kittyhawks made firing runs on the Jap aircraft until it trailed heavy smoke and dropped towards the sea just west of Bathurst Island. One of the Ki-15's crew was seen to parachute from the aircraft. He was never found.

Running low on fuel Harvey and Poleschuk returned to Darwin RAAF airfield. They refuelled and headed back to Batchelor airfield. A toss of the coin was used to decide who was credited with this Japanese "kill". Poleschuk won the toss.

As anticipated, the Japanese Takao Kokutai made a bombing raid that same day much further inland at Katherine. They presumably were hoping to find Allied bombers at the airfield. This was not the case.



"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