Biplane fighter aces

China

Captain Chow Ting-Fong

21June 1910 Ė 17 November 1985

Chow Ting-Fong (second name Futing) was born on 21June 1910 in a rich farmer family in Magu cun (village), Tungzhuang xiang , Neihuang County, Henan Province.

In 1929, after the graduation from Kaifeng first middle school (owned by the Henan province), he was admitted by the Henan medical college.

On 6 March 1931, he was admitted by the Huangpu military academy with the second best result.

On 1 September 1932, he changed over to the Hangchou Schien-Chiao Central Chinese Aviation Academyís second batch with the second best result.

In the beginning of February 1934, he was kept as a teacher in the pursuit group after his graduation because of his outstanding skills,

Before the Sino-Japanese War broke out, the air force reorganized in order to prepare for the war. The students and the primary trainers of the Central Chinese Aviation Academy withdrew towards Hankou, only the aviation instructors and the senior group of cadets stayed as a temporary group for temporary arrangements, among them the pursuit planes were organized as 34th Provisional PS, led by Captain Chow Ting-Fong. This unit was at the time equipped with Curtiss Hawk IIs and Hawk IIIs.

At 15.30 on 14 August 1937, the 34th Provisional PS received the task to bomb Shanghai Dagong Cotton Factory (occupied by Japanese) with six Hawks. Squadron Leader Captain Chow Ting-Fong flew a Hawk III loaded with two 50kg and five 18kg bombs while the other five aircraft in the formation were Hawk IIs loaded with six 18kg bombs. Since he was worried that the speed difference between the Hawks might affect the formation, Chow didnít raise the landing gear on his Hawk III in order to reduce the speed and the let the Hawk IIs with fixed landing gear more easily keep the formation.
When Chow arrived over Shanghai, a Japanese seaplane suddenly broke through the cloud layer and headed towards the 34th PS group. Chow had no enough time to respond, and also he had more important duties, so he decided not to engage this enemy plane and instead continued towards the target with his companions. When arriving over the target, Chow found that there were very many targets to attack. The six Hawks attacked separately targets independently. After accomplish their task and was on their way home, Chow and Wang Zhikai found a Japanese reconnaissance aircraft. Chow opened fire on it, but have to give up the chase when it ran away into the protective area of Japanese air defence.
During the return flight, Lieutenant Ha Huwen was forced to make an emergency landing at Jiashan airfield because of lacking oil. The other five fighters landed at Jianqiao airport at 17:10.

On the same day, the IJNAF Kanoya Kokutai dispatched nine Mitsubishi G3M1 Model 11 long-range bombers under the command of Lieutenant Commander Nitta to attack the Schien Chiao Airfield near Hangchou and nine under the command of Lieutenant Commander Asano to attack the Kwang-teh Airfield. The Japanese planes took off from Matsuyama Airfield in Taipei at 14:50 (local Japanese time), each carrying two 250kg bombs.
The raid was soon spotted by the Chinese and the Chinese intelligence reported that a number of Japanese bombers had taken-off from an airfield Taiwan, crossed the Formosa Strait and were heading north over Chekiang in the direction of Hangchou. At this time, Hangchou was only defended by a handful of Hawk IIIs flown by instructors from the Central Chinese Aviation Academy since reinforcements from Chou Chia-Kou hadn't been able to fly in due to bad weather. Colonel Kao Chi-Hang had previously flown from Nanchang to Schien Chiao to await the 4th PG's Hawk III's, which were flying in from Chou Chia-Kou in the Honan Province and which was under his command. The three squadrons of the 4th PG encountered heavy weather en route, with heavy rain and low visibility.
However barely had the warning been received when a number of Hawk IIIs from the 21st and 23rd Squadrons of the 4th PG landed. The newly arrived fighters were hurriedly re-fuelled but this was far from complete when the air alarm started due to the arrival of Lieutenant Commander Nitta's bombers. Colonel Kao rushed to his aircraft no. IV-1, which had just been landed by Captain Mao Ying-Chu. Ordering Mao to go get another aircraft, Kao jumped into IV-1 and, without waiting to be refueled, took off immediately. He joined up with Lieutenant Tan Won who had just spotted Nitta's flight (No.1 Shotai) of 3 G3Ms.
The Japanese came in at the low "attack" altitude of 500m, which made it easier for the Chinese to intercept them right after the take-off. The Japanese dropped their bombs on the airfield doing little damage. Tan opened fire on the No.3 G3M in Nitta's Shotai. However, the much more experienced Kao noted that Tan had opened fire from out of effective range. Kao then bore in himself and closed in also on the No.3 Japanese aircraft. He first silenced the two Japanese gunners and then closed in to 20m(!) firing steadily at the left engine. The wing tanks on the left wing caught fire and the G3M crashed burning near the town of Ban Shan near the airfield.
Kao then spotted the 3rd Shotai and attacked the No. 2 aircraft between Schien Chiao and Chien Tang River. Again, Kao bore in to close range firing at the fuselage and the left wing on the G3M, putting the left engine out of action. Kaoís engine was then hit by return fire forcing him to return to Schien Chiao.
While Kao was attacking the No.2 plane in the 3rd Shotai, 21st PS Squadron Leader Captain Lee Kuei-Tan and his wingmen Lieutenant Wang Wen-Hua and Lieutenant Liu Chi-Sheng caught up with the no. 3 plane of the same Shotai. Shooting at the hapless G3M repeatedly, the three brought it down near Ban Shan.
The 22nd PS refueled at Kwang-teh and took off at 16:20 to fly to Schien Chiao where they landed at around 17:00. The 22nd PS was on the ground, refueling at Schien Chiao when the Japanese bombers dropped their bombs and they scrambled trying to catch the Japanese bombers that were flying east. They flew to the mouth of the Chien Tang Chiang (river) amid low cloud and bad weather where they lost sight of the Japanese aircraft and returned to base. Pilots included in this chase were flight leader Lieutenant Le Yi-Chin and 2nd Lieutenant Chang Kwang-Ming. However, Lieutenant Cheng Hsiao-Yu of the 22nd PS managed to intercepted them. Cheng had taken off too late to intercept Nitta's flights during the attack and flew on to Chien Tang Chiang on a hunch. After passing Weng-chiao Pu Airfield, Cheng reported good visibility below the clouds. Spotting the G3Ms, Cheng gave chase and attacked one of them. Cheng reported shooting at and hitting the right wing of his target. A fire broke out but then quickly went out again. Cheng attacked 6 - 7 times before breaking off when his ammo was exhausted.
It seems that he also had attacked the 3rd Shotai, which reported bombing Schien Chiao 18:20-18:25 Japanese time (17:20-17:25 Chinese time). They reported that they were attacked two different Chinese fighters. The first time was between Schien Chiao Airfield and Chien Tang River (Kao). The second time was approximately 15 minutes after the first attack when the Japanese plane had crossed the Chien Tang River (Cheng). The No.2 plane of the 3rd Shotai was at the receiving end this time as well and managed to limp back to Matsuyama Airfield in Taipei on one engine and made a forced landing. However, as it touched down, the left landing gear collapsed and the aircraft suffered "moderate damage". The bomber had suffered 38 hits in the plane's fuselage and tail, 14 hits in the left wing with the left engine put out of action and 21 hits in the right wing. The Japanese later took this plane out of service to be displayed in Japan and, to all intents and purposes, it was written off.
Lieutenant Commander Asanoís Kwang-teh Attack group, took off from Matsuyama at 14:55 Japanese time (13:55 Chinese time) and got lost shortly after reaching the Chekiang coast at 16:45 Japanese time (15:45Chinese time) due to a typhoon in the Shanghai area, which made the weather terrible. They headed west to try and find a land mark, reaching Chu Chiang River at 17:00. They then turned north to try and find another land mark. At 17:14, Lieutenant Commander Asano gave up and headed south-east back to the Chekiang coast. At 17:45, they reached the town of Ta Ching near Wenchow on the Chekiang coast. They were then able to plot a course to Kwang-teh using two large lakes, Tai Hu and Nan Hu, as way-points. At 19:30, the Kwang-teh Attack group reported being attacked by a Chinese Hawk III just short of their target. At 19:40, the group dropped 16 250kg bombs on Kwang-teh airfield. Three G3M from this group were hit in the attack. The No. 2 plane of the 1st Shotai was hit once. The No. 3 plane of the 5th Shotai was hit twice in the left wing and three times in the right. The No.2 plane in 2nd Shotai was hit in a wing tank and was losing fuel with the crew apparently not realizing the extent of the fuel leak at the time. This G3M eventually ran out of fuel just short of the Taiwan coast and ditched just off the lighthouse at the mouth of Keelung Harbour. The ditching could have been avoided had the crew realized the extent of the fuel leak. The 2nd Shotai had not dropped all of its bombs during the attack on Kwang-teh. They decided to bomb Schien Chiao on the way home. At 20:50, they dropped their remaining bombs on Schien Chiao. However, the No.3 G3M from the Shotai became separated from the other two in the gathering darkness. The leader of the 2nd Shotai, Lieutenant Umebayashi, led his two bombers in a 40 minutes search where the No.3 eventually was found and the 2nd Shotai headed back to Taiwan together. At 22:53, the No.2 bomber ran out of fuel and ditched!
The group led by Lieutenant Commander Asano had run into a single Hawk III flown by Captain Chow Ting-Fong. Chow reported intercepting a group of Japanese twin-engine bombers after flying alone to Kwang-teh at around 18:30. Chow made four firing passes on the nine Japanese bombers from different directions. The first pass was head-on, followed by a climb and diving attack from the front. Pulling up after this pass, Chow attacked from the rear and below. Finally, Chow attacked from the front and below. The Japanese formation consisted of Asano's leading 1st Shotai with the 2nd Shotai to the left and the 5th Shotai to the right. It is now apparent that Chow attacked each of the Shotais in turn during his firing passes. According to the Japanese reports, one bomber from each Shotai was hit. Since the Kwang-teh attack group did not report being attacked by other Chinese fighters, credit for the No.2 plane of the 2nd Shotai lost in the Keelung Harbor ditching should go to Chow.
The Chinese lost one Hawk III, which ran out of fuel when it tried to take off as Nitta's G3Ms arrived overhead. This unfortunate Hawk no. 2105 crashed into a tree, mortally injuring its pilot Lieutenant Liu Shu-Fan. Another pilot from the same flight, Lieutenant Chin An-Yi, was slightly injured when his Hawk no. 2106 also ran out of fuel and ended up force landing next to an AA gun position.
So, the final tally for the day was 3 G3Ms destroyed and one written off on landing. Actually, Chinese pilots made only 3 claims but AA gun crews also made 3 additional claims. As a result, 6 claims were submitted in total (and publicized for propaganda purposes).

At 13:30 on 15 August 1937, Nanking Air Defence Command received a report that 16 Japanese aircraft had flown past Soochow towards Nanking. The alarm was sounded, and Chinese Air Force fighters took off to meet them. The Japanese aircraft were 20 G3Ms from the Kisarazu Ku. The Japanese aircraft had flown in directly from Ohmura in Japan and landed back at Cheju-do.
From Chu Yung, squadrons of the 3rd PG scrambled their aircraft. Wong Pan-Yang led eight Boeing 281s from the 17th PS. Chen Yau-Wei, Commander of the 8th PS, led five Fiat CR.32 fighters. Scrambled were also seven Hawk IIs from the 28th PS, 5th PG, and one Hawk III and five Hawk II from the 34th Provisional PS.
In the ensuing melee, four G3Ms were shot down and six damaged. Claims were confused but it is generally acknowledged that Captain Wong Sun-Shui (in #1703) downed the first G3M to fall in the Battle of Nanking when the eight Boeings from the 17th PS attacked a flight of six Mitsubishi G3M bombers over Nanking and claimed to have shot them all down without losses. This was the No.4 aircraft in a Shotai that bombed the Ta Hsiao-Chang Airfield, most likely the No. 5 Shotai led by Lieutenant Yoshida. 17th PSí Wong Pan-Yang and Su Ying-Hsien shared one victory at Chu-Yung while Chun Chia-Chu claimed another which crashed south-east of Nanking. Chin Shui-Tin also took part in this interception but didn't claim any aircraft.
The Japanese aircraft fled and the 8th PS went after them. Chen Yau-Wei and Huang Chu-Ku shared a victory near Chu-Yung while Shen Tse-Liu and Liu Chi-Wei together shot down an enemy plane west of Lui Shui.
Captain Chow Ting-Fong led six Hawks from Chia Hsiang and followed eight Japanese aircraft to Nanking. Captain Chow attacked one of these and shot it down over Fang Shan.
4th PGís Captain Lee Kuei-Tan led three Hawk IIIs of the 21st PS and Captain Huang Kuang-Han, C.O. of the 22nd PS, led eight Hawk IIIs from Hangchow to Nanking to help in this interception and they also attacked the bombers. Lee Kuei-Tan claimed a shared bomber together with three other pilots. Tan Won and Yuan Chin-Han shared a victory. Cheng Hsiao-Yu, Pa Ching-Cheng and Wu Ting-Chun each claimed one shot down. Wu Ting-Chunís aircraft was damaged in this combat and he was forced to make an emergency landing. Liang Tian-Cheng claimed two victories. Huang Kuang-Han claimed a Japanese G3M halfway between Nanking and Lui Shui.
Because of low clouds, each group fought on itís own with little co-ordination. A total of 14 Japanese aircraft were claimed shot down. Five Chinese aircraft were damaged.

Chow Ting-Fong served as commander of the 25th PS of the 3rd PG from November 1937 until April 1938.

Chow Ting-Fong ended the war with at least 21 biplane victories and a total of 6.

Chow Ting-Fong is sometimes spelled Zhou Tingfang.

Claims:
Kill no. Date Time Number Type Result Plane type Serial no. Locality Unit
  1937                
1 14/08/37 18:30- 1 G3M1 (a) Destroyed Hawk II   Kwang-teh area 34th PS
  14/08/37 18:30- 1 G3M1 (a) Damaged Hawk II   Kwang-teh area 34th PS
  14/08/37 18:30- 1 G3M1 (a) Damaged Hawk II   Kwang-teh area 34th PS
2 15/08/37   1 G3M (b) Destroyed Hawk   Fang Shan 34th PS

Biplane victories: at least 2 destroyed, 2 damaged.
TOTAL: 6 destroyed, 2 damaged.
(a) Claimed in combat with Mitsubishi G3M1 Model 11s from the Kanoya Kokutai, IJNAF, which suffered 2 damaged and 1 lost that ditched at Keelung Harbor.
(b) Probably claimed in combat with the Kisarazu Ku.

Sources:
Soviet Fighters in the sky of China, Part III - Anatolii Demin, 2000 Aviatsiia Kosmonavtika 11 (translated by George M. Mellinger)
Additional information kindly provided by Raymond Cheung, Tom Chan, Zhou Yali and Erich Wang.
Translation kindly provided by Liya Sang.




Last modified 02 May 2011