July 17, 1943 (Saturday)

“Cactus,” Carney Field, Guadalcanal

Charlie was over for about two hours last night, dropping bombs mostly around our field. The night fighters had no luck and the AA managed only to bark (plenty) but not to bite. There was a beautifully clear sky overhead with a full moon. The lights got on one Jap for a full two or three minutes while the AA held their fire in hopes that the night fighter would get him, but the night fighter must’ve been somewhere else, possibly after one of the others, and the lights finally lost the Jap and in a last desperate burst from the disappointed AA outfits.

For a second, once Charlie was silhouetted against the full moon. The first time I’ve ever seen it happen.

Six planes out on the night strike over Kahili last night (three of our ours in three of 102’s). One of 102’s planes were shot down in flames by a Jap night fighter off Buin. The first time I’ve ever heard of the B-24 going down in flames. (Also the first Jap night fighter success in this area.)

The other crews that saw it, said they saw a stream of tracer, then a small fire, which slowly blossomed into a roaring mass of flames as the plane dove towards the harbor. The wreckage floated and burned for a short while in the water. That’s two for 102 in two weeks. They’re beginning to understand what we’ve been up against for the past six months.

On 16 July (yesterday) the last survivors of the Helena were picked up from Vella Lavella by two APDs covered by eight DDs. Picked up were 116 men (five stretcher cases) and 60 Chinese refugees from various New Georgia plantations. Many dead Japs were seen in the water around Kula Gulf. A few live ones refused to be picked up.

A big and successful strike was pulled on Kahili today by 78 bombers (B-24s, TBFs, SBDs) covered by 114 fighters (P-38s, F4Us, F4Fs, P-40s) Shot down 47 Zeros and five float biplanes. Sank four DDs, one AO; beached one AK; damaged one CL, two DDs. Pretty damn good for a loss of only two P-38s, one F4U, one SBD, and one TBF. The whole operation proved more successful and infinitely cheaper than the recent surface force brawls around Kolombangara. Once again aviation triumphs over the surface navy! They may as well go home and freeze ice cream.

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