From: The Netherlands
Two minor corrections:
Yes the Dutch aircraft were lighter because they mounted four .303 cal MG instead of the British & US versions with the .50 cal MG,
The Dutch B-339s were equipped with two .303 and two .50 caliber weapons. The Wikipedia article on the plane claims they carried four of the lighter guns, but the source referenced for this claim (The Loss of Java, P.C. Boer 2006) clearly lists the heavier armament. Earlier works by the same author give the same data. The point about differing levels of protection is entirely valid.
[...]and even the export Curtiss Hawks could perform adequately with Zeroes and Oscars in a dogfight but they faced numerical superiority and were whittled down.
Unfortunately, by the time the war started, the Hawks had been in service for some time and their engines were nearly worn out. They first saw action in 3 February 1942 during a Japanese raid on Maospati airfield by 27 G4Ms, 17 A6Ms, and a single C5M observer. The Hawk pilots had little warning and were forced to take off while bombs were already falling.
Two of the eight combat-ready aircraft suffered engine failures shortly after takeoff and the pilots were forced to return to base. Both were attacked by Zeroes while trying to land, but both pilots managed to land their planes before they went up in flames, and both managed to get out alive by jumping out of their burning, still-moving fighters.
Of the other six, the group commander broke off and attacked a group of six Zeroes by himself (likely no one followed him due to poor commmunications caused by weather) which cost him his life, and the remaining five attacked the retreating bombers. They were recalled before engaging and directed to Soerabaja to defend against another air raid, but only three received this message. Two of those were shot down on their way to Soerabaja when they ran into eight Zeroes. The third, which made it to Soerabaja, was flown by Sergeant De Wilde, who managed to surprise two Zeroes:
He surprised the Japanese fighters and believed he had hit both. One of the Japanese fighters turned away. De Wilde noticed in the dogfight with the second Navy o that his Hawk was the lesser. He withdrew from the fight with a steep dive. His craft had nearly no ammunition and fuel left, reason why he landed at Perak.
The two Hawks who did not receive the recall order fired all their ammunition at the retreating G4Ms at Maospati, damaging five, but all bombers managed to return to base.
Only two Hawks remained operational after this day, although ground crews were working on another five. Work was slow because many Indonesian workers stopped showing up, the state of the engines was poor, and reserve engines were not available. On 5 February the Japanese attacked Soerabaja again, and the two operational Hawks were among the Dutch fighters sent to intercept. Zeroes found them first; one was shot down immediately, the other barely escaped with heavy damage after fifteen minutes of treetop-level maneuvering. Pilot Sergeant Hermans managed a wheels-up landing at Maospati and walked away, but the plane was totalled.
After this, the Hawks were forbidden to take off until at least six were combat-ready, but by 18 February Commando Militaire Luchtvaart (Military Aviation Command) ordered that the Hawks not be used operationally again, due to severely unreliable engines.
The Brewsters more than held their own during the war and, as said elsewhere, were hampered mostly by circumstance and numerical inferiority. The Interceptors also had their brief but spectacular moment of glory, but the Hawks were sadly unsuited for frontline service even before the first shots were fired. It hurts to think of these brave men who had to take to the air and face a numerically and qualitatively superior enemy in such unreliable machines.
Source: De luchtstrijd om Indië, P.C. Boer et al., unavailable in English to my knowledge, which is a shame because it and its companion about the fight over Borneo are fantastic works.
Dutch Hawks in better days:
< Message edited by WriterNotViking -- 3/19/2021 12:51:37 AM >
Calm down, dear boy! We're writers, not Vikings...