By Carl Molesworth
Staffed with green USAAF pilots and led through a handful of pro veterans of the yank Volunteer crew (AVG), the twenty third FG was once shaped within the box at Kunming, in China, on July four, 1942 and flew wrestle missions that very same day. The teams 3 squadrons - the 74th, seventy fifth and 76th Fighter Squadrons - have been firstly outfitted with war-weary P-40s passed down from the AVG. those have been supplemented via the hooked up sixteenth FS, flying new P-40Es, and all squadrons embellished the noses in their airplanes with fearsome and iconic sharksmouth designs.
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Col Vincem ord red the 68th CW to abandon its Hengyang base on 16 June, leaving Lingling and Kweilin as the primary airfields available to the 23rd FG. On the plus side, the Chinese defence had stiffened again as the enemy approached Hengyang. At Hengshan, 25 miles north of the city, the deFenders held a strong position and were reFusing to yield. 89 w Lt Stephen J Bonner Jr, who was a five-victory ace with the 76th FS, poses in his P-51B (43-7028) in mid- 2Lt Don Lopez's P-40N '194' of the 75th FS got a mouthful of aluminium when a P-51 taxied into it at Yang Tong airfield, Kweilin, on 12 June 1944.
The P-51 As returned ro Kweilin rhe nexr day. Accolades poured in ro Col Vincent's office in Kweilin over rhe nexr few days from as far away as India. The mission was deemed ro have been a complere success, for nor only had it inflicred specific damage on Japancsc aircrafr and insrallarions ar Shinchiku, ir also had srraregic value. 0 longer could rhe Japanese assume rhar Formosa was our of reach from an enemy air arrack. The JAAF would have ro bolsrer irs air defences on rhe island, using aircrafr and men badly needed ro oppose Allied advances in rhe Sourh Pacific.
Lt Glen Beneda of the 76th FS was shot down (the first combat loss of a P-51 Bin China), but he baled out successfully and returned to the squadron twO months later. The P-38s also engaged some Ki-43s, but the only kill credited to an American pilot went to Col H ill. 75 victories. This clearly made him the highest scoring ace among active Fourteenth Air Force pilots that were active at that ti me. Action picked up for the 23rd FG over the coming week, although the 74th FS at Kweilin had to wait until June to engage JAAF aircraft once again.