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Joe Rosbert's Book
The following excerpts are from Joe Rosbert's Book
"Flying Tiger Joe's Adventure Story Cookbook"
February 24, 1942, Rangoon, Burma
Five of our planes went to escort a flight of British Lancaster bombers on a mission to hit the Japanese ground forces just north of Moulmein. Except for the danger of being hit by anti-aircraft fire, the operation was fairly routine. So we were surprised when one of our returning planes did a double victory roll over the field; that meant he had shot down two Japs. Soon the others came over also doing victory rolls.
We had an excited discussion with the pilots. They were just heading back from the escort mission when they ran into a Japanese fighter patrol. Six enemy aircraft were shot down, for sure, with an equal number of probables. We were all keyed up with anticipation for further encounters with the Japs.
The following day, I was playing a game of Acey-Ducey with Dick Rossi. The other pilots were lounging on cots inside the alert shack, or outside taking sunbaths in the hot tropical sun in just their shorts. The afternoon quiet was pierced by the loud jangle of the telephone. We all turned to watch Bob Little's face as he picked up the receiver.
He said nothing to the other end but hollered, "Scramble!"
That was it - we all jammed the doorway like stampeding cattle. I catapulted onto the wing of my plane and we took off in pairs in clouds of dust.
It seemed like hours to get to altitude, but was probably only about ten minutes. Bob Little waggled his wings and pointed south. I could tell from his devilish grin that we were in for something. Turning quickly I saw two formations of twenty-seven bombers, each headed for the airdrome.
I checked the gun switches "ON" then "OFF" and "ON" again just to be sure. I had a bomber picked out as my target and was getting my finger set on the gun button when we found ourselves in the midst of a group of fighters flying crazily in a bunch like bees. In a flash one appeared in my sight at close range; the two ugly red suns on the wings stood out. I managed one quick burst and almost immediately flew through the smoke and pieces that came from the plane. As I dove down and away I saw him catch fire and spin earthward.
Pulling up to gain precious altitude, I looked around and all the planes seemed to have disappeared as if by magic. I took a heading towards Moulmein. Ahead and below, I spotted a foolhardy Nip pointed towards home. I closed on him with all guns blazing. Although white smoke appeared behind his engine, he made a sharp turn and went out of sight below of me. Looking back I saw two of his mates trying to train their sights on me. I pushed the stick forward so hard I almost catapulted through the canopy. As I hurtled downward, I crouched down expecting at any moment the thud of bullets on the armor plate behind. Finally, I looked back on both sides. Not only had I lost my pursuers but there was nothing in sight.
With the all-clear message came the return of our flight, one by one. What a day! I had gotten my first Jap fighter and one probable. There was great excitement as we filled out our combat reports. Dick Rossi had gotten two planes. Our score; twenty-one confirmed and thirty probables. The Jap bombers had left a few craters on the field and killed one RAF man on the ground. But their losses must have convinced them that the AVG had, by no means, been destroyed as was told by the Japanese propaganda machine.