Northrop's Lethal Spider: The P-61 Black Widow
Part Two: Far Eastern Nights

By Chris Banyai-Riepl

The night war in the Pacific was an interesting conflict due to the large expanses covered as well as the limited ground resources. In spite of these difficulties the P-61 managed to rack up some impressive kills, made all the more impressive by the strong decline of Japanese night flying. The P-61s flying in the Far East were split into two main groups, the Pacific squadrons and the China/Burma/India squadrons. Between the two groups a total of ten squadrons flew the Widow (two for CBI and the other eight for the Pacific).

P-61A-10 42-5615 "I'll Get By"
426th NFS, Chengtu, 1944
Capt. John Wilfong

On the night of November 21, 1944 Captain John Wilfong and Lieutenant Glenn Ashley intercepted a Mitsubishi Ki-46 Dinah and at an altitude of approximately 14,000 ft performed a textbook shootdown, firing roughly 40 rounds from their 20mm cannons into the Dinah. This would be the only kill by this team during the war. Like all CBI Black Widows, this plane has the top turret removed and an ADF antenna in its place. The single Japanese kill marking is on the nose, above the script "I'll Get By".

P-61A-10 42-5626 "Jing-Bow Joy-Ride"
426th NFS, Chengtu, 1945
Capt. Carl Absmeier & Lt. James R. Smith

With a total of two kills, "Jing-Bow Joy-Ride" was the leading nightfighter team of the 426th. The team of Absmeier and Smith intercepted Ki-48 Lily bombers on two occasions and shot both of them down. Other Lily kills by the 426th include one by Scott and Phillips in "Merry-Widow" and one by Heise and Brock in an unnamed plane. These kills, plus the Dinah by "I'll Get By" mark the grand total of night kills by the 426th.

P-61A-10 42-5619 "Satan 13"
426th NFS, Kunming, 1944
Capt. John Pemberton & Flt. Off. C. W. Phillips

Flying from Kunming, China, "Satan 13" would be one of the several nightfighting teams of the 426th to remain scoreless throughout the war, a result of heavy attrition during the day of the Japanese air forces. The ADF antenna on this plane is painted black and the "Satan 13" is in red and white on the nose.

P-61B-15 42-39586 "Black Panther"
418th NFS, Pacific, 1944
Lt. Stan Logan & Lt. George Kamajian

One of the eight squadrons flying over the islands of the South Pacific, the 418th NFS also has the distinction of being the top scoring unit against the Japanese and also had the only nightfighter ace in the Pacific/CBI theater. Logan's plane "Black Panther" didn't achieve any kills but it is a nice example of a P-61B flown by the 418th. The name and the panther outline are yellow, with white and red details on the panther.

P-61A-10 42-39369 "Ally R"
418th NFS, Pacific, 1944
Maj. Bill Sellers & Lt. Hap Holliday

Another plane from the 418th, this one also managed to finish the war scoreless. The name on the nose is yellow, shaded in white. Of interest are the tail markings, which show a crescent moon and star in white, with a blue band outlined in white. The serial is also in white. The colors of the tail markings are taken from references including Stan Logan's memory and a color photo of "Wanda'er" in similar markings.


References:

Northrop P-61 Black Widow, Warren Thompson, Wings of Fame Volume 15
Black Widow, Warren E. Thompson, Combat Aircraft, November 1997
P-61 Black Widow in Action, Squadron-Signal Publications
Part Three: OD & Gray and Post-War Widows COMING SOON!

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