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Captain Louis C. Martin
5th Air Force,
49th Fighter Group,
Louie Martin enlisted in Feb. 1941 and after basic training entered a new pilot program called “Sergeant Pilots”. This was a program designed to expedite pilots for combat when the war broke out who had not gone through officers training After completing pilot and fighter school, he was shipped to Australia where he was assigned to the 49th Fighter Group, 7th squadron. They were equipped with the Curtis P-40, a rugged buy fairly outdated fighter plane at the time the war broke out. As they moved up the coast of New Guinea and the war progressed the 8th and 9th squadrons were required with P-38s, and that left the 7th squadron with the P40s who were used primarily for ground support and bomber escort. During this time Lt. Martin had plenty of encounters with Zeros, with many holes in his plane to show for it.
One support mission was to assist Australian ground troops after a call came in from their commander for air support. The Japanese were dug in on an open hill and the Aussies took serious casualties trying to take it. The 7th fighter group came in and straffed and bomb the trenches. My father said he could see the carnage in the trenches when they were diving for more passes. After the mission, the Aussie commander wrote a letter of thanks to the squadron. The Aussies took the hill unopposed and counted almost 700 dead Japanese soldiers.
They were flying a routine patrol over their base in Gusap when a flight of Japanese Betty bombers coming into attack the base was sighted. The 7th squadron planes on patrol attacked and Lt. Martins first pass he made multiple hits on one of the bombers and one of the planes’ engines started on fire. The crippled bomber fell out of formation and slowly went down, crashing into the jungle beyond the airfield. Making a second pass, Lt. Martin was hit by 20mm cannon fire from the tail gunners of the other bombers. Hit with shrapnel in both legs and his engine overheating, he made a “dead stick” landing at the base. A few days later an Aussie soldier came into the field hospital asking who the Yank was that shot down the bomber. He presented Louie with a Nambu pistol and one thousand stitch cloth belt with a tracer round through it. He recovered them from the bomber.
There was one other aerial victory that he lost in a coin flip. His squadron was in a dog fight with a bunch of Zeros, and one made a fatal mistake of turning into his sights. He made multiple hits and saw the pilot slump in the cockpit. The Zero started to dive straight to the ocean and another P-40 made a pass at it. That pilot claimed the victory too and won the coin flip after they were back at the base. After 18 months in combat, Lt. Martin flew 188 missions and logged over 600 hours in “Pops Blue Ribbon” #8″.
When he rotated back to the States he flew P-63s in Puerto Rico for B-29 gunnery training until he was discharged. Later on, he learned that the B29s he was training with were used for the atomic bomb droppings in Japan.
Medals awarded include the Distinguished Flying Cross, Air Medal with 5 Oak Clusters, Purple Heart and Theater medals.
Louis C. Martin passed away at the age of 92 on August 25, 2015, my parents 70th wedding anniversary, with his family at his side.