July 29, 1943 (Thursday)

“Cactus,” Carney Field, Guadalcanal

Rained all last night and all day today. Mud. Mud. Mud.

Heard this morning that Marshall Badoglio has ordered all Italian troops in the Balkans to return to Italy, and leave all German troops in Italy to leave immediately. The beginning of the end!

Got word today that, ComAirPac has sent a dispatch to ComFair to the effect that our relief, VB-104, would be here by the 15th of August and that all of our serviceable aircraft would be left in the area. (We can’t exactly dope out what they mean by serviceable — all our airplanes are worn out, except for the four new ones delivered at Buttons two months ago.)

A Jap member of an air crew was captured up near Rendova recently and his interrogation produced quite a bit of information, among which was the following, which I thought interesting:

His plane was shot down in the attack of June 30 in which an entire striking group of Bettys was knocked down. There were 27 Bettys in the attack, escorted by 29 Navy Zeros. They were shot down immediately after launching their torpedo. Of the 27 Bettys, 18 were from the 702nd Kokutai (air group), the other nine from 705th Kokutai, both based at Vanakanau Field near Rabaul, but temporarily operating from Kahili.

These squadrons were Navy squadrons, and the personnel did not associate with the personnel of Army squadron stationed at the same field. He mentioned seeing army “Hayabusa” fighters (Oscars?) also a few new twin engine jobs. He believes that the Zero is superior to any U.S. fighter.

The 702nd Kokutai originally had 52 planes, of which four were lost on the way from Japan to Rabaul (via Tinian Island). A kokutai is composed of two or more daitai, which are composed of two or more buntai, which are composed of two or more shotai. The Buntai, containing approximately 18 planes, corresponds roughly to one of our squadrons. The planes, painted a dark green, were marked according to the Buntai to which they belong to, the markings consisting of different combinations of wide and narrow white stripes on the tail.

Their Bettys were built by Nakajima. Crew of 7 men consisted of a pilot, copilot, observer, two radiomen and two gunners. The nose turret (electric) contains 1 7.7mm. The tale stinger a 20mm cannon, and the top, left side, and right side blisters, a 7.7mm each. Range is 1200 miles. Ceiling 25,000 feet. Maximum speed 260 kn. Cruising speed 160 kn. Five gas tanks in each wing, supposedly self sealing, carrying a total of 4000 liters of fuel. Plane uses 400 liters per hour. Three bladed props. Tailwheel now retractable (not so in early models). Plane carries approximately 1000 kgs. of bombs.