Placeholder Image

字幕表 動画を再生する

  • Outnumbered American fighter pilots battle marauding Japanese airmen

  • to control the skies over a sweltering Pacific Island called Guadalcanal.

  • During a grueling 6 month slug (?)fest, their combat in the sky

  • will help decide the course of the Pacific War.

  • Through state of the art computer animation,

  • you're in the cockpit as America's rugged F4F Wildcats

  • face off against lethal Japanese Zero and Oscar fighters.

  • Experience the battle. Dissect the tactics.

  • Relive the dogfights of Guadalcanal.

  • August 30, 1942,

  • a formation of US Marine Corps F4F Wildcats

  • and Army P400 Air Cobras patronal the skies of Guadalcanal.

  • Their mission: stop Japanese bombers and fighters threatening

  • the American detail.

  • Leading the flight is Marine Captain John L. Smith

  • The P400s have no oxygen equipment and level off by 12,000 ft.

  • But Smith pushes his Wildcats above the slower and more vulnerable P400s.

  • Smith scans the sky for enemy aircraft but spots nothing.

  • Then his radio crackles to life.

  • Captain Smith receives a frantic radio call from one of the P400s

  • whose tally on(?) enemy fighters are inbound.

  • Japanese Zeros.

  • A swarm of more than 20 Zeros threaten

  • the Army Air Cobra from the rear.

  • The P400s are here.

  • The Zeros are here attacking the P400s from behind.

  • Smith and the Wildcats are here,

  • 3,000 feet above.

  • The Zeros don't see them.

  • I wouldn't say they used P400s as a bait.

  • But the P400s normally would get in trouble

  • and the Marines would come down

  • and shoot Zeros off the tails of the 400s.

  • The Marines dive to rescue the P400s.

  • Captain Smith closes fast on a unsuspected Zero

  • and takes aim.

  • What they found is if they can aim

  • just after the canopy, towards the wing root

  • where the wings join the fuselage of Japanese Zero

  • That's right about the fuel tanks are.

  • If they can execute a direct hit at that point,

  • Japanese Zero immediately burns and oftentimes the wings fall off.

  • Catching the Zero in a shallow left turn,

  • he opens fire.

  • It's Smith's 6th kill of the war.

  • But there's no time to celebrate.

  • The skies are still filled with Zeros.

  • And Smith and his men are heading into 6 months of legendary dogfights,

  • battling for the most important location in the Pacific in 1942,

  • a green speck of land called Guadalcanal.

  • 3 months earlier,

  • Allied reconnaissance discovered

  • that the Japanese were building an airfield on Guadalcanal,

  • a 90 mile long jungle island

  • at the southern end of the Solomon Island chain.

  • If the Japanese can control Guadalcanal,

  • they'll sever the vital supply line

  • from the US to the South Pacific.

  • Australia and New Zealand will be open to invasion and conquest.

  • The Allies have to act.

  • Depending upon who controlled that airstrip,

  • had an enormous effect

  • on Japanese and American fortunes in that area.

  • August 7 1942,

  • America launches its first

  • amphibious assault of WWII.

  • Over 11,000 US Marines storm ashore at Guadalcanal.

  • The marines quickly gain a foothold on the island.

  • By the 2nd day, they take the Japanese airstrip,

  • renaming it Henderson Field.

  • The Japanese bring in thousands of fresh troops to Guadalcanal

  • and attack the Americans relentlessly,

  • trying to drive them off the island.

  • The Marines fight off attacks

  • while desperately trying to prepare Henderson Field for operations.

  • Japanese tractors and equipment are commandeered

  • to improve the small, crushed coral runway.

  • Bomb damage is repaired,

  • and PSP, perforated steel planking

  • is hurriedly laid down.

  • After two weeks, they finish the airstrip

  • and fly in 19 F4F Wildcat fighters

  • and 12 SBD Dauntless dive bombers.

  • It was only because of the ability of the Americans

  • to place aircraft on Henderson Field

  • to protect the supply ships bringing in reinforcements

  • and supplies to the Marines on Guadalcanal

  • that the island could be held.

  • Because the Allied code name for Guadalcanal is "Cactus,"

  • Henderson Field becomes the home of the tiny Cactus Air Force,

  • at first consisting of just 43 pilots and ground crew.

  • The men of Henderson Field soon discover

  • it isn't just the enemy making their lives hell.

  • The island was a fly-infested, dirty, stinking,

  • blood-soaked damned island

  • that was just dangerous to even walk on the beaches

  • because there was so much unexploded ammunition around.

  • The pilots and ground crew live in mud-floored tents.

  • The latrine is a trench with a log seat,

  • and the bathtub is the Lunga River

  • --complete with crocodiles and leeches.

  • The flyers of the Cactus Air Force are outnumbered

  • and short on supplies.

  • Their fighters, the F4F Wildcat,

  • can't match the agility of the enemy Zero.

  • But a big advantage for the Cactus Air Force

  • is that they are commanded by a born leader in 27-year-old John Smith.

  • Smith's an aggressive dogfighter and skilled tactician.

  • He always preached and devised his tactics around

  • have to pay your strength, against the enemy's weakness.

  • And that is as true today

  • as it ever was since the first airplane ever flew in combat.

  • Now on August 30, 1942,

  • Captain John Smith and his men are protecting Guadalcanal

  • from approaching bombers and fighters.

  • In his eight days on the island, Smith has already scored five kills,

  • making him an ace. Today, he's racked up one more.

  • Then he spots another Zero below, breaking from a cloud.

  • The Zero is here. Smith is here, high above him.

  • He plans to use the Wildcat's diving speed to try and drop behind the Japanese plane.

  • Smith first rolls inverted, then dives.

  • This creates positive G-force instead of negative Gs.

  • If you roll on your back, pull aft on the stick,

  • and pull positive Gs

  • so you're pushed into your seat,

  • You're gonna be able to pull more Gs,

  • which means you can pull your nose downhill faster.

  • The maneuver works. Smith rolls back over...

  • then levels out behind the Zero...

  • and fires.

  • The Wildcat's 6 .50-caliber guns deliver 200 rounds in a 4-second burst.

  • White-hot, phosphorous-filled incendiary bullets ignite the Zero's fuel tank.

  • But as Smith arcs away from s second victim,

  • the predator becomes the prey.

  • A Japanese Zero closes in on Smith from dead ahead.

  • High above the green jungle canopy of Guadalcanal,

  • the planes converge at over 600 miles per hour.

  • the Zero opens up with his 20-millimeter cannon.

  • Smith answers with his 50 caliber machine guns.

  • It's basically a slugfest all the way to the merge.

  • Who's going to flinch first?

  • Or who's going to blow up first?

  • Both planes are taking hits.

  • But Smith's Wildcat has thicker armor, and he's withstanding the blows.

  • And then the overwhelming firepower of the Navy airplane cut this guy into ribbons.

  • He exploded. And then what Smith did is dump the nose over

  • very hard, very abruptly, and flew underneath the debris field and escaped.

  • The Zero has made a fatal error.

  • He fought the Wildcat's fight.

  • Built by Grumman Aircraft, the Wildcat is first flown in 1937.

  • The rugged plane features cockpit armor

  • and self-sealing fuel tanks.

  • These tanks are coated with layers of rubber

  • that expand and reseal if they're punctured.

  • The Wildcat faces the most famous of all Japanese aircraft,

  • the deadly Mitsubishi A6M3 Zero.

  • The lightweight Zero can out-turn and out-climb the Wildcat

  • --a lethal advantage in a dogfight.

  • But its thin armor protection and lack of self-sealing fuel tanks

  • means it can't survive a slugging match with the tougher Wildcat.

  • The Zero is faster, more maneuverable,

  • and can out-climb the Wildcat,

  • while the Grumman is tougher, more heavily armed, and can out-dive the Zero.

  • Wildcat pilots, in general, would want to

  • avoid the turning fight with the Zero.

  • That would not be their fight.

  • The Wildcat, with its six .50-cal machine guns,

  • heavy body armor, heavy armor around the engine cowling,

  • preferred head-on attacks, frontal attacks.

  • And it would just basically plow through that Zero.

  • The air battle of August 30 is a resounding victory for Smith and his pilots.

  • They shoot down 14 of the 22 attacking Zeros.

  • The Japanese bombers the Zeros were protecting

  • retreat before reaching Guadalcanal.

  • Believing the engagement is over,

  • Smith sets course for Henderson Field.

  • But there are two more deadly Zeros just ahead.

  • August 30, 1942. 3 weeks into the battle for Guadalcanal.

  • Japanese aircraft are on the attack.

  • Marine fighter pilot John L. Smith has killed three enemy Zeros.

  • Captain smith is RTB, returning to base from his mission,

  • thinking the mission's over,

  • and he gains tally of two Zeros

  • that have just strafed Henderson Field. So strafing his home.

  • So the natural pilot tendency-- What does he do?

  • He's going to roll in and attack those guys that just attacked his home.

  • Smith is outnumbered once again,

  • but he's high above the Zeros, and they haven't spotted him yet.

  • The Zeros are here.

  • Smith is here, 800 feet above the enemy.

  • He's hoping a steep diving turn will put him

  • on the Zeros' tail before they can react.

  • Smith rolls inverted and dives towards the enemy.

  • He levels out at six o'clock low,

  • below and behind the trailing Zero,

  • positioned perfectly for the kill.

  • The Zero takes evasive action. He breaks hard left.

  • But Smith has anticipated the move. He stays right with him,

  • raking the enemy with his .50-cals.

  • Cutting his speed and breaking back right,

  • the Japanese pilot hopes to make Smith overshoot.

  • But Smith chops power and stays in trail.

  • The Zero is directly in the sights of a Marine ace.

  • A final burst from Smith's Wildcat seals his fourth kill of the day.

  • It's a victory for Captain Smith and inspiration to his men.

  • He led by example.

  • He would be the first one to roll in on a Zero formation.

  • And his guys would follow him to the gates of hell because of that,

  • because they knew he was putting his tail on the line

  • every time.

  • Smith and the Cactus Air Force have delivered a staggering blow

  • in what is becoming a drawn-out brawl.

  • The American pilots can only fly by day.

  • They lack the radar and navigation aids that enable night fighting.

  • The Japanese Navy had perfected night fighting in the 1930s,

  • using powerful optics and range finders.

  • Crews were trained to work in total darkness.

  • The Guadalcanal campaign developed into this extraordinary situation

  • for the change of sea control every 12 hours.

  • The Americans controlled in daylight, thanks to their aircraft in Henderson Field.

  • But every time the sun went down, the Japanese ruled the waters off Guadalcanal.

  • After dark, the Japanese Navy controls "The Slot,"

  • a wide channel that runs from Guadalcanal to the Japanese base on Rabaul.

  • The Japanese supply ships arrive with such regularity

  • that the Marines nickname them "The Tokyo Express."

  • By early September, a month into the campaign,

  • the Japanese have landed over 20,000 new ground troops on Guadalcanal,

  • deployed against 23,000 U.S. Marines and Army soldiers.

  • The Allied forces advance slowly across the mountainous island.

  • But the Japanese launch large-scale counterattacks,

  • supported by air and naval bombardment.

  • While Japanese ground assaults can't stop

  • the pilots at Henderson Field,

  • constant air combat, primitive conditions and rampant disease take their toll.

  • They were constantly having to refurbish the airfield

  • in order to be able to operate out of it.

  • Constantly fending off attacks. They had malaria, dry rot.

  • Jungle conditions, which wreaks havoc on aircraft and maintenance.

  • Old hands like John L. Smith are eventually rotated out.

  • But before he leaves Guadalcanal,

  • Smith scores 19 kills and is awarded the Medal of Honor.

  • Many of the new Cactus Air Force pilots are green replacements,

  • like Marine Second Lieutenant Jefferson De Blanc.

  • The 21-year-old Cajun from Lockport, Louisiana

  • enters combat not long after his first flight in an F4F Wildcat.

  • I had less than 10 hours of flying time

  • in the fighter I was going to fight with against the Japanese.

  • January 31, 1943, 6 months into the battle for Guadalcanal,

  • Jeff De Blanc will get an accelerated course in air-to-air combat.

  • He's about to launch into one of the most famous dogfights of the campaign.

  • De Blanc leads a flight of 8 Wildcats escorting 12 SBD Dauntless dive bombers.

  • The Douglas SBD Dauntless is the Navy's frontline carrier-based dive bomber.