Document created: 21 November 2005
Air & Space Power Journal - Español Cuarto Trimestre 2005
by Lt. Colonel Dave Howard, USAF,Retired
August 2005 marks the 60th anniversary of the end of World War II war in the Pacific. It is also the 60th anniversary of the last American fighter pilot to achieve the rare distinction of destroying five or more enemy aircraft in a single day. That honor falls to1st Lieutenant Oscar F. Perdomo who shot down five Japanese aircraft on August 13th 1945.
Oscar Perdomo was born in 1919 to Hispanic parents in El Paso, Texas. His father had been an officer in General Pancho Villa’s Division del Norte. His family moved to Los Angeles California in the mid 1920’s. Oscar joined the U. S. Army Air Corps as an aviation cadet in February, 1943 and got his wings the following January. Lt Perdomo’s initial assignment was as a flight instructor, but he sought and obtained a combat posting which came through in October 1944. By December, Lt Perdomo had joined the 464th Fighter Squadron at Dalhart Army Air Field, Texas.
The 464th was part of the 507th Fighter Group, scheduled to receive the P-47N Thunderbolt, the latest development of Republic’s heavyweight multi-role fighter. The “N” was larger and heavier than previous versions of the P-47 and powered by the new Pratt & Whitney R-2800–73 engine. The extra power of the -73 made the “N” faster than earlier versions. It also had a greater roll rate than previous Thunderbolts and was the longest ranged USAAF fighter in WWII. The 507th transitioned to the new fighter in the spring and after intensive training headed overseas. The group set up shop on the island of Ie Shima, off Okinawa, in June 1945.
Slated to be a part of the Eighth Air Force (AF), the group was temporarily assigned as escort for the Twentieth AF B-29s, until the Eighth moved from Europe to the Pacific. Routine tasking for the 507th came from the Seventh AF that used the group in a general support role. The 507th flew its first combat mission on July 1st, 1945. Lt Perdomo officially logged his first combat sortie on July 2nd and flew an assortment of bomber escort, dive-bombing and search and rescue missions over the next 6 weeks.
The atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki on August 6th and 9th respectively, caused an air of expectation with the Americans but normal operations continued in lieu of a Japanese response. On 13 August, the 507th launched a fighter sweep of the Keijo (Seoul) area of the Korean peninsula. By then, Lt Perdomo had flown nine combat missions, with no aerial victories in his P-47, Lil Meaties Meat Chopper, named in honor of his son. The mission involved a maximum effort from all three squadrons of the group: the 463rd the 465th and Perdomo’s 464th. Fifty-three aircraft took off to support the effort but after 3 hours transit, mechanical problems had whittled the group down to 38 fighters. Once in the target area they spotted approximately 50 Japanese aircraft. The fight was on!
In the twisting, turning battle that ensued, Lt Perdomo spotted three fighters identified as Nakajima Ki 43 “Oscars”, coming out of the clouds and immediately engaged them. Perdomo’s combat report describes the action:
I pushed the throttle into water injection with the prop pitch at about 2700rpm. As I gained on the Oscars, I placed my gyro sight on the last one and adjusted the sight diamonds on his wings. At this time the Oscars were flying a very loose vee. When I closed into firing range I gave him a burst and saw my bullets converge on his nose and cockpit. Something exploded in his engine and fire broke out. I was still shooting as he fell to the right.
Perdomo quickly lined up the second Oscar and hammered it. After taking several strikes, this fighter exploded as it dove into the ground. The third Oscar initiated a tight turn to evade Perdomo’s guns, hit a high-speed stall at very low altitude and snapped into the ground.
Perdomo then climbed to find other P-47s and spotted two biplane trainers in formation. They separated as Perdomo rolled in on them.
I picked the closest to me and started shooting. Flames broke out almost immediately. To slow my ship I crossed my controls and skidded. Then I shot more at him. I must have hit the pilot because the ship went into a spiral to the right and straight into the ground about 300 feet below.
Resuming his climbing search for his unit Perdomo spotted four more Oscars above. They dove on him, but Lt Perdomo used the water injection and great power of theP-47 to get above and behind them. The Oscars split into a three ship and a single as Lt Perdomo rolled onto them. Perdomo followed the single ship as it tried to evade by turning. It exploded into a fireball, his fifth victory of the day!
As Lt Perdomo rejoined the group over Keijo, he attacked an Oscar that was battling P-47s over the airfield. However, he ran out of ammunition and overshot the Oscar, which then engaged him. Lil Meatie’s Meat Chopper escaped undamaged when the pursuing Oscar got clobbered by another P-47.
In thirty minutes the fight was over and the 507th headed back to Ie Shima. The 8 hour 20 minute mission resulted in 20 enemy aircraft claimed destroyed and 2 probables for the loss of 1 P-47 (the pilot survived as a POW). Analysis of Perdomo’s gun camera film at Ie Shima showed the fighters he shot down were not Nakajima Ki 43 Oscars but the similar Nakajima Ki 84 Frank–a much more potent late-war Japanese Army Air Force fighter.
Two days later, hostilities ended and Lt Oscar Perdomo had the distinction of becoming the last USAAF ace-in-a-day of the war. According the USAF Historical Research Agency, he remains the last USAF pilot to have accomplished it. For his actions Lt Perdomo was awarded the Air Medal with one Oak Leaf Cluster and the Distinguished Service Cross for extraordinary heroism in action.
Oscar Perdomo served in the reserves after the war and came back on active duty during Korea. He left the Air Force in 1958 as a major. He passed away in March 1976 at the age of 56.
|Lt Col Dave Howard, USAF, Retired (BS, University of
Alabama, MBA, Auburn University at Montgomery, MA, University of Alabama),
is a research analyst with CADRE’s Airpower Research Institute at
Maxwell AFB, Alabama. His
principal research interests are campaign planning and military
operations, warfighting leadership and the relevance of past military
actions to current operations. During
a 24 year active duty career, he served as an air battle manager on AWACS
in a variety of positions at Tinker AFB and NATO Airbase Geilenkirchen.
He also taught at Squadron Officer School.
Upon leaving Germany, he served as seminar leader and lecturer at
CADRE’s Joint Doctrine Air Campaign Course, now the Joint Air and Space
Lt Col Howard is a graduate of Squadron Officer School, Air Command And Staff College and Air War College by seminar.
Declaración de responsabilidad:
Las ideas y opiniones expresadas en este artículo reflejan la opinión exclusiva del autor elaboradas y basadas en el ambiente académico de libertad de expresión de la Universidad del Aire. Por ningún motivo reflejan la posición oficial del Gobierno de los Estados Unidos de América o sus dependencias, el Departamento de Defensa, la Fuerza Aérea de los Estados Unidos o la Universidad del Aire. El contenido de este articulo ha sido revisado en cuanto a su seguridad y directriz y ha sido aprobado para la difusión pública según lo estipulado en la directiva AFI 35-101 de la Fuerza Aérea.
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