Lieutenant Li Yu-Rong
Li Yu-Rong served with 29th Pursuit Squadron of the 5th Pursuit Group in February 1938. The squadron was at this time equipped with Gloster Gladiator Mk.Is.
The Chinese Gladiators made their combat debut on 24 February 1938 when the seaplane carriers Notoro and Kinugasa Maru despatched eight and five Type 95 (E8N) seaplanes to attacked Nan Hsiung. Some of the Japanese aircraft carried bombs while others served as escorts. A group of twelve Gladiators from the 28th (three Gladiators) and 29th (nine Gladiators) Squadrons were scrambled from Nan Hsiung Airfield led by 29th PS's Squadron Leader Buffalo Wong to meet the intruders.
They were divided into two groups immediately after becoming airborne. The first group was led by Buffalo Wong and the other group by Deputy Squadron Leader Hsieh Chuan-ho. Flying at 6000 feet, they sighted the E8Ns at the 9 o'clock position.
During this combat the Gladiators where hampered by jamming guns, few had all four functioning while two had all four jamming. (Art Chin recalled that the problem was attributed to a bad load of ammunition from Belgium).
Buffalo Wong signalled the group to follow him to dive into the enemy formations. Buffalo Wong single-handed shot up two Type 95's, one hit over Nan Hsiung, caught fire, dived to extinguish the flames and flew away to the south. The other streamed fuel after being shot up over Shaokuan but escaped towards the south-east. Buffalo Wong also shot up another with the help of his wingmen Lieutenants Huang Kwang-ching, Chou Ling-hsu, Huang Neng-Rong. The Japanese plane streamed fuel but also did not go down immediately.
Lieutenants Li Yu-rong, Chou Ling-Hsu, Fan Hsin-Min and Shang Deh-Ren each took turns to fire at another enemy aircraft. The Japanese aircraft was seen leaving trailing black thick smoke.
Meanwhile, Deputy Squadron Leader Lieutenant Hsieh Chuan-ho and his wingmen Lieutenant Teng Chung-Kai and Lieutenant Yang Ru-Tong were attacking a floatplane when the nimble Japanese plane turned sharply and shot down and killed Yang (Gladiator #2902) in a head-on pass. Teng and Hsieh believed they hit the Japanese in turn but were unable to finish him off because of jamming guns.
A 28th PS pilot, Chen Chi-Wei chased an E8N 300 feet above the ground. Due to gun(s) jamming he pressed in too close to fire his remaining guns and lost control of his Gladiator #2808 and was unable to pull out of a tailspin. He crashed and was lost. The air battle ended at 10.00.
The Chinese Air Force lost two Gladiators and pilots in this combat. Additionally, Chou Ling-Hsu's Gladiator #2810 was hit by a rear gunner shattering a wing strut and damaging an aileron and a control cable when some of his guns jammed and he pressed in too close during his. Huang Kwang-Ching's #2907 hit a bomb crater during landing and its upper wing and elevators snapped. Deputy Squadron Leader Xieh Chuanwo's #2901 ran off the runway due to a brake failure inflicting minor damage to its right wings. #2909, which was grounded due to a leaking wing tank was hit by strafing Japanese aircraft.
No Japanese aircraft was seen to crash during the combat but two floatplane wrecks were found after the action way to the south, one at Tseng Cheng, 160km directly south of Shaokuan (and only 80km from Hong Kong) and the other at Hsin Feng, 90km south of Nan Hsiung. The two that caught fire during the combat (one claimed by Buffalo Wong and one by Lieutenants Li, Chou, Fan and Shang) were the most likely to have crashed. Japanese records states that the one Type 95 from each of the seaplane carriers "failed to return" and another from the Notoro was written off in a crash landing. This last Type 95 (no. 13 over 1) was hit 138 times (!) The observer was riddled with multiple hits and killed while the pilot was wounded in the right leg. In addition, Notoro and Kinugasa Maru each lost one other aircrew killed. From these casualty figures it appears that a total of 5 floatplanes were hit badly enough to have aircrew killed (Notoro; two lost on downed aircraft, one lost on aircraft written off in landing and one on another aircraft. Kinugasa Maru; two lost on downed aircraft, one on another aircraft.). This match with the Chinese claims of 5 Japanese aircraft being hit.
On 27 February 1938 the 28th Squadron Deputy Leader Louie Yim-Qun led five Gladiators on a mission to seek and destroy enemy planes in a response to an alarm indication six unidentified aircraft heading for Shenzhen. Immediately after take off Chen Yuxin in Gladiator #2903 was forced to divert to Baoan due to a nagging engine problem. Louie Yim-Qun and his wingmen, Wu Zhenhua, Chou Geng-Hsu and Li Yu-Rong continued their search. They met two E8Ns at 7000 feet above the Sun Yat-Sen University. As the Gladiators positioned themselves for an attack, the E8Ns wisely avoided confrontation. Louie Yim-Qun and his wingmen thus had to return to base empty handed after 1 hour and 20 minutes in the air.
On 13 April 1938 the Japanese carrier Kaga launched a strike on Canton consisting of three Type 95 (A4N) fighters, three Type 96 (A5M) fighters and 18 Type 94 (Aichi D1A1) dive-bombers. PO1c Jiro Chono in an A5M led the fighters and Lieutenant Nishihara led the dive-bombers. Chono had taken over when the original leader, Lieutenant Hideo Teshima, had to abort due to mechanical problems on his A5M.
At 10:10, jingbao (intelligence) announced the approaching enemy aircraft. Gladiators of the 5th PG were on alert and were scrambled at 10:20 from Tienho airbase. Squadron Leader Wong Sun-Shui led nine Gladiators from the 29th PS and Captain Clifford Louie led nine from the 28th PS to intercept.
Flying in an echelon formation at 15,000ft, the 29th PS Gladiators were to be responsible for CAP above Guangzhou while 28th PS, flying a 3,000ft higher in two formations, were to seek and destroy enemy aircraft. At 10:50 nine dive-bombers at 13,000ft and 15 "pursuits" (actually five fighters and nine dive-bombers) at 17,000ft were spotted by Wong Sun-Shui above Jiangchuan (a hamlet located north-west of Tienhe airbase). It was clear that they were heading for the Tienhe airbase and Wong Sun-Shui wiggled his Gladiator's (no. 2913) wings to warn his wingmen of the approaching enemy fighters and simultaneously accelerated towards the bogeys. He led his flight consisting of Lieutenants Li Yu-Rong and Huang Kwang-Ching in a diving pass on the nine lower dive-bombers, which were in their bomb run on Tienho Airfield.
Wong Sun-Shui shot up one of the D1A1 and sent it down in flames. The top cover of Japanese fighters came down to intervene. Wong Sun-Shui got into a turning fight with one of the A4Ns and claimed to have shot it down (a wreck was found on one of the islands in the Pearl River, which might have been this aircraft). The flight of A5Ms then turned towards Wong Sun-Shui who was, unfortunately, plagued by jamming guns. After only two firing passes, he had only one of his cowl machineguns still capable of firing. Nevertheless, he managed to down one of the A5Ms before another (the lead plane in the flight flown by PO1c Chono) hit him from the left. Wong Sun-Shui was wounded in the left hand and his engine caught fire, forcing him to bail out. His Gladiator came down near Tai-Ho City north east of Canton (the location of this crash was possibly recorded in error. It is likely that crash site was Tai-Ho Hsiang village in Pan-Yu County south east of Canton as the fight had moved to the south east of Canton). While parachuting down, he witnessed his wingman downing another A5M.
The other two Gladiators in Wong Sun-Shui’s flight also came under attack. Li Yu-Rong attacked and shot down a divebomber but he was himself hit from behind and killed by a pursuing A5M. His Gladiator no. 2910 fell in the south-eastern part of Canton City near Chungshan University. Lieutenant Huang Kwang-Ching tried to intervene but was too late. While he was dogfighting Li's assailant, two other Japanese fighters attacked him and hit him a dozen times, puncturing one of the tires on his landing gear. It was probably at this time when Lieutenant Teng Chung-Kai intervened, bouncing Huang's attackers from behind and disrupting their attack, thereby allowing Huang to escape to the north-west. Teng claimed to have downed one of the A4Ns in flames. Continuing his chase of the Japanese planes, Teng claimed to have downed another "Type 95" over Shi-Pai. It is unclear whether Teng claimed this type, i.e. an A4N, specifically as most other pilot-reports claimed only to have engaged "biplanes" (as opposed to monoplanes - i.e. A5Ms). In the heat of combat, it may have been difficult to differentiate between the A4Ns and the dive-bombers.
The remainder of the 29th PS was also kept busy actively attacking other Japanese fighters. Xieh Chuanwo and his wingman Huang Xiaolen fought on despite being outnumbered by the Japanese fighters.
Early in the action Clifford Louie and his 28th PS Gladiators also joined the combat. Clifford Louie and his wingmen Lieutenants Wu Bo-Jun and Chen Yu-Shen dived on the D1A1s as they were dropping their bombs. Louie claimed to have hit one of the D1A1s and sent it descending north east of Tienho Airfield streaming smoke. He then attacked another "biplane" (probably another D1A1) but his guns jammed after about a dozen rounds, forcing him to break off and climb up to a "covering position".
PO1c Tanaka commanded this D1A1 and it ditched after battle damage. Tanaka reported that he had just completed his bomb run when a Gladiator hit him from behind, damaging his engine, which spewed black smoke and sprayed oil over both crewmen. The D1A1 managed to limp out to the mouth of the Pearl River before the engine seized up. Trading height for distance, the D1A1 glided out to ditch. Tanaka and his crewman NAP1/c Katsumiha took to their dinghy but not before stripping the Type 89 machinegun (Japanese version of the Lewis gun) from its swivel mount. Using the gun, the two held off a number of Chinese armed junks long enough for a floatplane commanded by Lieutenant Yowahara to land alongside and picking them up.
As Louie pulled up to a higher altitude, his deputy Lieutenant Kwan Yen-Sun and wingman Leong Kongyung were diving into four A4Ns. Kwan fired a quick burst and the enemy fighters scattered. He managed to damage a fleeing A4N and seeing that the enemy fighter was trailing white smoke (probably from leaking fuel tank) he then attacked two other A4Ns. These returned the fire but his wingman Leong Kongyung broke off the attack from above. Leong then closed in on the tail on an A4N but he had to brake off the attack after malfunctioning machine-guns.
Lieutenant Chou Geng-Hsu followed Louie's Flight down on a firing pass at the D1A1s. He claimed to have fired over a hundred rounds at one of the dive-bombers while diving from 30 degrees above and behind it. He claimed to have pulled up and away after seeing the Japanese plane catch fire. At that point, Chou Geng-Hsu spotted Chono climbing up after him in his A5M. Chou Geng-Hsu dived at Chono and traded shots with the A5M forcing it to dive away.
PO1c Chono and the remaining A4N flown by PO3c Hatsu-o Hidaka attacked Louie's Flight, shooting down Wu Bo-Jun who was killed when his Gladiator no. 2810 crashed near Tai-Ho Hsiang (village) in Pan-Yu County south east of Canton. Chen Yu-Shen was also shot up and badly wounded when he crash-landed Gladiator no. 2812 at Bai-Ke Ao, also in Pan-Yu County. Totally Chono and Hidaka claimed two victories each in this combat.
Lieutenant Chou Ling-Hsu also followed Louie's Flight down on the D1A1s and spotted one circling. Diving from above and behind, Chou Ling-Hsu hit the D1A1 (which he identified as an A4N) making it stream smoke and descend. Fearing that the Japanese planes had an advantage at lower altitude, Chou Ling-Hsu climbed up to a covering position (clearly, the Chinese pilots were confusing the A4Ns with the D1A1s.). After two firing passes, Lieutenant Fan Hsin-Min also saw a Japanese biplane showing "signs of damage" and trying to escape.
Satoru Ono (8 victories – 3 in China) flying one of the D1A1s returned claiming one enemy fighter shot down.
The battle lasted for 40 minutes and the Gladiators landed at 11:40. Li Jahung returned with minor damaged to the wings of Gladiator no. 2908 and Huang Kwang-Ching returned with more than ten bullet holes and a punctured landing-gear tire on Gladiator no. 2917. The 28th and 29th Squadrons claimed at least nine victories in this air combat. It would appear that the Japanese lost at least 5 aircraft, one A5M, two A4Ns and two D1A1s while claiming 15 enemy fighters shot down and 3 probables. The fighter pilots lost were PO1c Naoshi Eitoku (Pilot 13), PO3c Yukio Miyasato (Otsu 3) and PO3c Yuji Mori (Otsu 3). The Chinese found a total of 4 wrecks, which would account for the 3 fighters and almost certainly one of the dive-bombers. One of the wrecks was found at Chi-Ao, which is on an island way out at the mouth of the Pearl River near Macao. That may have been one of the A4Ns that Teng chased away from Lieutenant Huang south east of Canton. The other 3 fell around Canton City, one at Shao-Ho just north east of Canton; one at the Chungshan University Agricultural Department south east of Canton and the third in an island on the Pearl River near Canton. Unfortunately, the types were not identified so it is difficult to match them up.
At the time of his death Li Yu-Rong was credited with 1 biplane victory this one being claimed while flying Gloster Gladiator Mk.I.
|Kill no.||Date||Number||Type||Result||Plane type||Serial no.||Locality||Unit|
|24/02/38||1/4||E8N (a)||Shared destroyed||Gladiator I||Nan Hsiung area||29th PS|
|1||13/04/38||1||D1A1 (b)||Destroyed||Gladiator I||#2910||NW Tienhe airbase||29th PS|
Biplane victories: 1 and 1 shared destroyed.
TOTAL: 1 and 1 shared destroyed.
(a) Claimed in combat with E8N's from the seaplane carriers Notoro and Kinugasa Maru. The Chinese pilots claimed 2 aircraft (and 3 damaged) but the seaplane carriers only lost one aircraft each in the combat.
(b) The 28th and 29th PS claimed at least nine victories (5 D1A1s, 3 A4Ns and 2 A5Ms) in this air combat while losing four Gladiators. The fighters from the Kaga claimed four victories while losing at least 5 aircraft, one A5M, two A4N and two D1A1. The Chinese found a total of 4 wrecks, which would account for the 3 fighters and almost certainly one of the dive-bombers.
Chinese Air Force Gladiators in Action - D. Y. Louie, 1998 Small Air Forces Observer vol. 22 no. 4 (88) December 1998 kindly provided by Santiago Flores.
Japanese Naval Aces and Fighter Units in World War II - Ikuhiko Hata and Yasuho Izawa, translated by Don Cyril Gorham, 1989 United States Naval Institute, Annapolis, ISBN 0-87021-315-6
Much additional information kindly provided by Raymond Cheung.