BOXING DAY SHOOTDOWN
When an Australian pilot shot down a Japanese fighter, he not only received a unique accolade, but also a very welcome gift
Through much of 1942, Australian forces had been engaged in bitter fighting against the Japanese in New Guinea, battling amid some of the most inhospitable terrain and climate in the world. Allied forces under US General Douglas MacArthur began the campaign to oust the Japanese in mid-November, and on December 9 the small town of Gona fell to the 7th Australian Division, thus establishing a foothold on the north coast.
During the fighting along the infamous Kokoda Trail through the Owen Stanley mountains, General Sir Thomas Blamey, the Australian commander, requested an army
co-operation squadron operating “a relatively slow aircraft” to support his operations. Accordingly, 4 Squadron, RAAF and its CAC Wirraways were deployed from Australia to 12 Mile Strip (Berri) at Port Moresby under Wing Commander Dallas Charlton.
The two-seat Wirraway was an Australian development of the North American Harvard trainer intended for army co-operation duties. Its crews trained for, among other roles, artillery spotting – akey task in the jungle warfare that confronted the Australians on the ground.