Home » When a Japanese Kawanishi H6K “Mavis” flying boat was brought down by a USAAF B-17 Flying Fortress

When a Japanese Kawanishi H6K “Mavis” flying boat was brought down by a USAAF B-17 Flying Fortress

by Till Daisd
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The Japanese, who referred to the B-17 Flying Fortress as a four-engine fighter, gave it a bad reputation in the Pacific

One of the most recognizable aircraft ever constructed is the Flying Fortress. 28th July 1935 saw the first flight of the B-17 prototype.

When the British Royal Air Force received four B-17s for high-altitude missions in 1941, the first B-17s entered battle. The bombers need more armor and armament as World War II progressed.

The B-17E, the first Flying Fortress variant to be produced in large quantities, was equipped with nine machine guns and a 4,000-pound bomb load. Compared to the prototypes, it weighed several tons more and was heavily armed. For better control and stability during high-altitude bombing, it was the first Boeing aircraft with a distinctive, huge tail. Each variant had more powerful weapons.

The Fortresses were also renowned for their remarkable resilience under heavy assault. According to Walt Miller, Former 0311/0302 at United States Marine Corps (1973-1993), on Quora, the Japanese in the Pacific called the aircraft “four-engine fighters” because of its deadly reputation.

The following intriguing story from Roger Freeman’s book B-17 Fortress at War supports the assertion.

“Confidence in the Fortress was always high amongst men of the squadrons operating in the southwest Pacific. It was considered a ‘rugged ship’, highly durable which aircrew felt they had a chance and was quite able to give any formation of Zeros a tough time. […] A Japanese assessment of the B-17 referred to it as ‘a fighting plane used for all purposes’ rather than a heavy bomber. This attribute was not without foundation, for apart from general bombing, patrol, reconnaissance, and even transport, there were several instances when the Fortress had been used as a gunship, low-level strafer, and even pursuit plane. …Fortresses also intercepted and destroyed a number of enemy patrol bombers. One such incident involved a Kawanishi H6K ‘Mavis’ which a lone Fortress on oceanic patrol encountered. Captain Walter Lucas took his aircraft in to attack coming up below the four-engined flying boat so that the top turret and waist guns could bring fire to bear. Then, pulling up abreast of the enemy, a twenty-minute running battle took place until the Mavis had an engine catch fire and was forced to land in the sea where it was enveloped in flames.”

Photo by Jack Fellows illustration via Weapons and Warfare

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