On the first of February, Lieutenant Bob Dilworth and his crew were sent to Finschafen at the end of the Huon Peninsula on the northern coast of New Guinea, to operate from the San Pablo. Finschafen had been secured by the Allies in October 1943 but Japanese ground forces were not far away and the installation was a handy target for enemy air strikes. The new occupants were still somewhat edgy, and on three occasions while operating from Finschafen, Dilworth’s plane was fired upon by friendly ships in the area. The Cat crew discovered the reason for this sensitivity on the 13th, during an enemy air attack in which the San Pablo dispatched one of the enemy aircraft with her guns. But despite these diversions, the duty was not particularly exciting for the members of the Cat crew, compared to their activities in November and December just past. Dilworth found a way to remedy the situation.

On the night of February 11-12, after an uneventful flight during which they were shot at only once by shore batteries at Cape Gloucester, Dilworth decided to look in on the big Japanese air base at Wewak. Approaching from the north with rain squalls at his back, he first spotted lights. Then as he got closer, he was able to make out the airfield and a cargo vessel moored nearby.

Dilworth climbed to 1,500 feet and flew between layers of clouds until he had almost reached the airfield. Then he dropped down out of the clouds and proceeded across the field at 1,000 feet. To his great surprise he found himself caught up in the landing pattern with enemy planes all around him. They were easy to see because all had their lights on. One was directly ahead of him at a safe interval while another was only a few hundred feet behind. The PBY had cut the Japanese pilot out of the pattern and he was annoyed about it. Pulling alongside he flashed his lights on and off to signal what he thought was one of his own pilots to turn on his lights. He was so dose by this time that the waist gunners in the PBY could see his cockpit lights. Dilworth kept going as if he belonged there.

When the Cat reached the edge of the field it did not turn with the other aircraft but nosed over and commenced a run on the ship which was riding at anchor just offthe end of the runway. "Let em go!" Dilworth yelled to his copilot, who squeezed the electrical-release pickle switch to drop one bomb. "All of them!" shouted Dilworth, and the copilot got them off in quick succession.

 The first bomb hit the Wewak lighthouse and demolished it. The second and third bombs hit the ship. As the Cat made a steep turn to the right, the unfortunate enemy vessel was seen to roll bottom up and begin to sink. It was a fine sight and a worthy effort, but Dilworth was just getting hot. Bringing the plane’s machine guns to bear, he proceeded to strafe shore facilities and barges tied up alongside the piers, handling the old Cat as if she was a fighter. By the time the astonished Japanese pilots in the landing pattern realized what had happened, the Black Cat had conducted its business, made its departure, and was swallowed up by the darkness.

Bob Dilworth was awarded the Silver Star for his night’s work and became something of a legend in his own time.

(The above section of text was taken from "Black Cat Raiders of WWII" by Richard C. Knott, 1982)(now out of print)


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