P-40E KITTYHAWK AND
A JAPANESE KAWANISHI H6K "MAVIS" FLYING BOAT
BOTH CRASHED BETWEEN DARWIN AND TIMOR
AFTER AN AIR BATTLE
ON 15 FEBRUARY 1942
Lt. Robert G. Oestreicher and Lt. Robert J. Buel had been left behind in Darwin in the Northern Territory with their 2 unserviceable aircraft when the rest of the 3rd Pursuit Squadron left for Java on 10 February 1942.
On 15 February 1942, the USS Houston broke radio silence to advise that its convoy was being followed by a Japanese Kawanishi H6K "Mavis" flying boat of the 21st Air Flotilla based at Ceram. The flying boat followed the convoy for about 3 hours before it eventually dropped a number of 60 kg bombs from 3,000 metres. Lt. Buel and Lt. Oestreicher were both on patrol at the time, but only Lt. Buel could be contacted by radio. He was ordered to intercept the Japanese flying boat. Buel attacked the Flying Boat from the rear but was shot down by the rear gunner in the flying boat. Buel's smoking aircraft crashed into the sea.
Buel however was also successful in hitting the Japanese flying Boat. It crashed into the sea with a fire at the front of the fuselage. The radio operator was killed in the crash. The rest of the crew of the flying boat escaped the wrecked "Mavis" flying boat and clambered into a life raft. The rest of the crew were as follows:-
Sichishima died from his injuries in the raft two days later. The rest of the crew were captured and after being interrogated they were sent to the Cowra POW Camp in New south Wales.
Note:- The story that Robert Oestreicher also shot down two Vals is disputed by several historians. Bob Alford in the second edition of Darwin’s Air War, was joined by Tom Lewis and Peter Ingman in Carrier Attack, arguing he shot down nothing, using evidence from Japanese records and through logical analysis. Lewis has gone further in a paper presented at NT Archives, and in the Territory Tribute Writers’ Festival, where he analyses Oestreicher’s story to the extent of finding numerous falsehoods, while noting he was never accredited in the official WWII histories, and nothing was known of the two Vals claimed until July 1942, when the USAAF pilot wrote of them in a letter home, which was made much of by newspapers.”
"Darwin's Air War - 1942-1945. An
By the Aviation Historical Society of the Northern Territory (Bob Alford)
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© Peter Dunn 2015
This page first produced 10 February 2002
This page last updated 19 April 2019