Biplane fighter aces


'John' Wong Pan-Yang

Wong was born in Seattle, Washington, but his father was from Jungshan county, Guangdong (Kwantung) province, China.

He obtained a private pilot's license at the Portland Flying School, Oregon, and went to China in 1932 to join the Guangdong (Cantonese) Provincial Air Force.

He received air-to-air gunnery training from the Luftwaffe at Laager Lechtfeld.

Later he became commanding officer of the 17th Pursuit Squadron of the 5th Pursuit Group.

In 1934 the Chinese Air Force ordered 10 Boeing P-26 Model 281 'Peashooters'. Due to funding problems the Model 248s, as the Chinese knew them, weren't delivered until 1936. The aircraft were delivered to 17th Pursuit Squadron, which was commanded by Wong Pan-Yang to be used against Japanese aircraft over Nanking in 1937.
In August 1937 the 17th PS was based at the Chuyung Airfield near Nanking.

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 PS’ 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, commander of the 34th PS 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 PG’s 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-Chun’s 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 it’s own with little co-ordination. A total of 14 Japanese aircraft were claimed shot down. Five Chinese aircraft were damaged.

Early in the morning on 16 August 1937 the Kanoya Ku of the JNAF launched two raids against Chuyung, which was an important airfield for the defence of the capital Nanking. Lieutenant Commander Nitta led the first raid of six G3Ms. Lieutenant Commander Nitta was leading the first Shotai (flight) of three G3Ms and Lieutenant Osugi was acting as Buntaicho (flight leader) for the second Shotai. They took off from Matsuyama Airfield in Taipei at 07.40 for its target, the Chuyung Airfield near Nanking. Lieutenant Ishii led a second group of seven G3Ms in the second raid and their target was the Yangchow Airfield.
Nitta's group arrived over Chuyung at 10.55. Because of low clouds, the Chinese Air Raid Warning Net was only able to give a short warning. The mechanics of both the 17th PS and 28th PS, which both were based at Chuyung Airfield, worked frantically to get their aircraft started. John Wong, commander of the 17th PS of the 3rd PG, was the first to get off the ground in Boeing 281 #1701, followed by Buffalo Wong, Lieutenant Wong Tse-Tsim (another Chinese American pilot) and Lieutenant Teng Cheng-Hsi. Captain Chan Kee-Wong’s 28th PS managed to get two Hawk IIs in the air, one of them flown by Lieutenant Art Chin (Hawk II #2802).
John Wong barely had time to turn towards the G3M's when the first bombs started bursting into the airfield compound. The 17th PS mechanics, which had stayed and worked so bravely to start up the Boeings, scrambled for cover. Luckily, only one was slightly injured by fragments. This experience taught them to dig slit trenches next to the runway in the future.
He caught up with the six G3Ms flying at 900 meters and attacked the lead flight. Attacking the aircraft of Ensign Umebyashi from the port quarter, he took advantage of the blind spot created by the twin tail of the G3M where the Japanese gunners could not hit him. He shot up the G3M, causing it to fall in flames north east of the airfield. Pulling up into a loop, he came down to attack another G3M from above and behind, again from the port quarter. Hitting this G3M, he saw it descend with fuel streaming from its tanks. Turning back towards Chuyung, he saw Wong Tse-Tsim attacking another G3M without success. Joining in the fray, he dived below the G3M, which turned out to be the lead plane flown by Lieutenant Commander Nitta. Pulling up sharply, he fired a long burst at the belly of the G3M. It caught fire immediately and crashed south of Chuyung where its bomb load went off. Both crews of the crashed G3Ms perished in their aircraft.
Meanwhile, Buffalo Wong had caught up with another G3M and scored some hits. But, unfortunately, his guns malfunctioned at the critical moment, depriving him of a kill.
Art Chin also managed to catch up with a G3M, likely to be the lead plane of the 2nd Shotai commanded by Lieutenant Osugi. Lieutenant Teng Cheng-Hsi of the 17th PS attacked it without success and soon broke off. The G3M had dropped its bombs and was picking up speed trying to escape towards the mouth of the Yangtse. Chin, in his antiquated Hawk II, could barely keep up. Firing steadily, Chin was able to score many hits on the G3M, puncturing its fuel tanks and wounding a crewmember. However, the lack of speed advantage meant that the Hawk II was also an easy target for the Japanese gunners as it hung there at zero degree deflection behind the G3M. Chin later recalled that his Hawk II was hit many times, the Cyclone engine stopping 2 bullets. Finally, Chin had to turn back at the mouth of the Yangtse with Osugi's G3M descending, streaming smoke and fuel. Chin managed to nurse the battered Hawk II to an airfield at Chia Hsing where he made a forced landing (the Hawk II ended up on its nose as the brakes failed). Osugi's G3M, which had been hit 58 times and with a gunner injured, lost fuel at an alarming rate and Osugi considered turning back to force land at the Japanese legation in Shanghai. Finally, lightening the plane by dumping equipment and anything that can be pried loose, Osugi managed keep the G3M in the air long enough to divert to Cheju-do off the southern coast of Korea. Japanese records say the Osugi made an "unscheduled landing" at Cheju-do just as his fuel ran out, meaning anything from just an "unscheduled landing" to a crash. Based on his report alone, the ROCAF awarded Chin a "kill" even though he never claimed to have seen it crash.

On 22 September Japanese A5Ms claimed four victories. At least two Chinese aircraft were damaged and force-landed during the day when Shen Tse-Liu of the 8th PS was wounded in the face. The second aircraft was Boeing 281 no. 1706 flown by Captain Wong Pan-Yang, commander of the 17th PS.

On 12 October the Japanese attacked Nanking with nine G3Ms escorted by eleven A5Ms from the 13th Kokutai led by Lieutenant Commander Nakano. Colonel Kao Chi-Hang led six Hawk IIIs, two Boeing 281s and one Fiat CR.32 to intercept. Wong Pan-Yang, in Boeing No. 1706, spotted the Japanese planes first. Diving on the tail end Shotai led by Warrant Officer Torakuma's A5M, Wong attacked the No. 3 plane flown by PO1c Mazazumi Ino (Pilot 30) and shot it down. Ino was on his first mission and may have mistaken the Boeings for friendly A5Ms.
The Japanese formation broke down immediately into a melee as the Chinese fighters mixed it up with them for the first time in over a month. So surprised and confused were they that the Japanese later reported that Chinese "Breda 27s" surrounded them when in actual fact there were only two Boeings involved. Actually, Wong dived away right after his successful firing pass. He had pulled up to rejoin the battle when he saw another Japanese plane below. Diving into the attack, his map case broke loose and struck him in the face with such violence that completely disoriented him. Realising that a sky full of angry Japanese fighters was no place to be he dived out of the fight.
Meanwhile, Kao was busy tangling with the A5Ms to give his comrades a chance to get at the bombers. However, the A5Ms were able to divert most of the attacks and even downed one of the Hawks killing the inexperienced sub-lieutenant Chao Fang-Chen of the 24th PS. Captain Liu Chui-Kang in Hawk III No. 2407 (or no. 2401) was hit and lost a bracing wire as he made a pass at the G3Ms. The A5M clung to his tail like a leech. However, next to Kao and Wong, Liu was probably the most experienced Chinese pilot. He led the A5M in a dive towards Nanking and then pulled up in a series of tight loops. On the 3rd loop, the A5M overshot, ending up squarely in Liu’s sights. A quick burst sent the A5M crashing into a Mr. Yang's residence in the southern part of Nanking.
Back at altitude, Kao spotted an A5M closely pursuing Lieutenant Lo Ying-Teh, flight leader in the 24th PS. This was shotai leader Warrant Officer Torakuma trying to avenge his wingman. Not spotting Kao in time, Torakuma's A5M was riddled with gunfire and had to crash land on the banks of the Yangtse. The hapless pilot survived and was saved by the Japanese Navy. Lieutenant Lo also made good his escape but three A5Ms almost cornered Kao. Handling the Hawk III masterfully, using tight turns and even the outside loop, he was able to keep out of the gun sights of the Japanese pilots. Every so often, Kao was able to get in snap shot at the Japanese planes. Finally, two of the A5Ms broke off, probably for the lack of fuel. One continued to fly in a series of loops, seemingly oblivious to the Chinese plane. Kao finally managed to pull alongside the A5M and look into the cockpit where he saw the Japanese pilot staring straight ahead and clutching the stick to his stomach. His chest had been ripped open by bullets. Somewhere during the dogfight, one of Kao's snap shots had scored and the A5M was flying with a dead man at the controls. Eventually, the A5M crash-landed after it ran out of fuel. Kao went to examine the largely intact A5M and marvelled at its modern design. (This was actually the second A5M to be captured intact by the Chinese. On 26 September Lieutenant Lo Ying-Teh forced down the first A5M. Eventually, both A5Ms were turned over to the Russians and sent to the Soviet Union for testing).
Japanese records showed that three pilots from 13th Kokutai were killed - PO3c Nagaharu Umeda (Pilot 32), PO3c Torata Takiguchi (Pilot 25) and Ino while four A5Ms were lost in this action, while claiming 5 shot down (all these claimes seems to have been made by the Torakuma shotai) and 2 destroyed on the ground. Only Kao, Liu and Wong made claims so there was no debate from the Chinese side as to who scored (except there were not enough details in the reports of both sides to match up the victims of Kao and Liu). It was the first time the A5M were trounced so convincingly and all the more remarkable as the Chinese were outnumbered as usual. The critical factor here was the experience of the Chinese pilots, particularly Kao, first Chinese pilot to single-handedly score a double-kill against the formidable A5Ms.

The rigors of combat and primitive operational conditions took a heavy toll on the Boeing fighters. By the end of 1937 none of them remained operational and the 17th Pursuit Squadron was re-equipped with Gloster Gladiators.

In February 1938 he was in command of the whole 5th Pursuit Group.

In the early hours of the 9 February, the commander of the 5th PG, Wong Pan-Yang took off from Heng Yang in a Vought V-92C Corsair in order to guide 11 Gladiators from the 28th PS up from Nanchang. When the group ran into a snowstorm Wong’s engine started to play up and he was forced to turn back to Heng Yang. The Gladiators continued on to Nanchang but only eight aircraft made it. Chin Shui-Tin (Gladiator no. 2801) flew low to see if he could find a landmark but ended up crashing into a hill, writing off the aircraft and suffering injuries to the orbit of his right eye. Chou Geng-Hsu (alternatively Flight Leader Chou Yung-Shu) (no. 2805) also got lost during this flight and he had to bail out. Chou Ling-Hsu (no. 2810) became lost and put down at Gaon.

On 16 June 1938 reports indicated that nine enemy fighters were sighted near Nan Hsiung. John Wong, commander of the 5th Air Group, and eight Gladiators were dispatched from Xiaoquan airbase to search for enemy planes. As they reached 13000 feet above Xixin, Teng Chung-Kai saw what they identified as six Ki-21 heavy bombers in two 'V' formations flying 2000 feet below him.
In fact the Japanese aircraft were six JNAF Type 96 G3Ms from the Takao Ku. Lieutenant Yoneda led one flight of three while the second was led by Lieutenant (jg) Fumio Iwaya (author of "Chukoh").
Teng swirled his Gladiator #2809 slightly to notify Wong who then gave the signal to attack. Wong in Gladiator #2909, Art Chin in Gladiator #2802 and Teng took the lead to dive into the second enemy bomber 3-plane formation (Yoneda's flight).
Wong attacked Yoneda in the lead bomber with his favourite approach of diving from above and pulling up to shoot at the belly of the bombers. He hit the bomber's externally slung bomb-load (8 x 60kg bombs) under the belly and detonated one of the bombs, destroying the Japanese aircraft. The explosion possibly also damaged the other two bombers in the formation.
Chin shot down the aircraft flying to the left of the lead bomber and it went down in flames. Wong also claimed three additional shared destroyed in this combat. The Japanese Lieutenant (jg) Iwaya reported that he saw all three G3Ms from Yoneda's flight descend into the cloud cover, one of them wrapped in flames from the explosion, a second aircraft streamed fuel from its right wing tank while a third was in a 90 degree bank. ROCAF records indicate that two wrecks were found in rice fields between Lok-Cheung (Le Chang) and Yun Fa (Ren Hua), almost certainly that of Yoneda and his No.2 wingman.
Other Gladiators followed and attacked the remaining bombers. After an hour of fierce combat, three more Japanese bombers were claimed shot down and the only surviving bomber sought refuge in thick clouds, escaping with a leaking wing tank trailing white smoke. The Chinese Air Force claimed five victories in this combat, which had taken place between 10.30 and 11.30 but in fact none of the G3Ms in Iwaya's flight was lost although all of them were damaged and streaming fuel from punctured wing tanks. One of the gunners from the No.2 in this flight was badly injured. The Chinese however lost two Gladiators in this combat. Kwan Yensun in Gladiator #2811 was hit by enemy fire and he was forced to bail out with minor facial burns. The other Gladiator lost was #2814, piloted by Shen Mu-Hsiu, which force-landed near Chennam due to damaged sustained from enemy fire. Louie Yim-Qun, who claimed a shared destroyed in this combat, landed with a punctured wing tank and Wong's Gladiator sported many holes caused by the explosion of the enemy bomber he hit.
The No.3 aircraft of Yoneda's flight also failed to return from this action, but it didn't go done at the same place as the other two. The Chinese found it farther away by Tong-tse Wan (Tong-Tse Bay) at the Wu Shui River near Lok Cheung. Indications are that it was Chin who finished this G3M off since when he landed a mechanic ran to his aircraft and told him that the Air Raid Warning Net phoned in a report that there was a lone G3M flying along the coast. He took off once again and caught up with this G3M over the bank of the Wu Shui River that runs past the city of Lok Cheung (Le Chang). He fired his remaining ammunition into this bomber and sent it away smoking heavily. This is almost certainly the No.3 from the Yoneda flight. Perhaps it was damaged in the initial encounter with John Wong's flight and was searching for its bearings after descending through the cloud layer. In any event, Chin's description of the lone aircraft and the crash site supports this theory. Chin only claimed this as a damaged at 12.00.

He is noted in Claire Chennault's Way of a Fighter as:

"John Wong, a slim, malarial U.S.-born Cantonese pilot who shot down 13 Japs and was later Chinese air attaché in London"

Wong returned to the US after the war.

Wong Pan-Yang ended the war with 1 biplane victory and a total of 4.

His name is given as Hwang Pei-Yang or John Pung-Yung Hwang in some sources.

Kill no. Date Number Type Result Plane type Serial no. Locality Unit
  15/08/37 ˝ G3M (a) Shared destroyed Boeing 281   Chu-Yung area 17th PS
1 16/08/37 1 G3M (b) Destroyed Boeing 281 #1701 Chuyung airfield 17th PS
2 16/08/37 1 G3M (c) Destroyed Boeing 281 #1701 S Chuyung 17th PS
  16/08/37 1 G3M (d) Damaged Boeing 281 #1701 Chuyung area 17th PS
  22/09/37 ˝ A5M Shared destroyed Boeing 281 #1706   17th PS
  22/09/37 ˝ A5M Shared destroyed Boeing 281 #1706   17th PS
3 12/10/37 1 A5M (e) Destroyed Boeing 281 #1706 Nanking area 17th PS
4 16/06/38 1 Ki-21 (f) Destroyed Gladiator #2909 Nan Hsiung 5th PG
  16/06/38 ˝ Ki-21 (f) Shared destroyed Gladiator #2909 Nan Hsiung 5th PG
  16/06/38 ˝ Ki-21 (f) Shared destroyed Gladiator #2909 Nan Hsiung 5th PG
  16/06/38 ˝ Ki-21 (f) Shared destroyed Gladiator #2909 Nan Hsiung 5th PG

Biplane victories: 1 and 3 shared destroyed.
TOTAL: 4 and 6 shared destroyed, 1 damaged.
(a) Probably claimed in combat with the Kisarazu Ku.
(b) G3M of the Kanoya Ku, JNAF, flown by Ensign Umebyashi shot down. The crew perished.
(c) G3M of the Kanoya Ku, JNAF, flown by Lieutenant Commander Nitta shot down. The crew perished.
(d) Claimed in combat with G3Ms of the Kanoya Ku, JNAF.
(e) The Chinese pilots claimed four destroyed in this combat. 13th Kokutai lost three pilots; PO3c Nagaharu Umeda (Pilot 32), PO3c Torata Takiguchi (Pilot 25) and PO1c Mazazumi Ino (Pilot 30) (shot down by Wong Pan-Yang) and four A5Ms in this action. Warrant Officer Torkuma (shot down by Kao Chi-Hang) was safe.
(f) Five Japanese aircraft were claimed in combat with a formation of six Type 96 G3M's from the Takao Kokutai but only three were in fact lost.

Boeing P-26 - Robert Guttman
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.
Chukoh - Fumio Iwaya kindly provided by Raymond Cheung.
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
Soviet Fighters in the sky of China, Part II - Anatolii Demin, 2000 Aviatsiia Kosmonavtika 10 (translated by George M. Mellinger)
Stars & Bars - Frank Olynyk, 1995 Grub Street, London
Additional information kindly provided by Raymond Cheung, Tom Chan, Alex Crawford and Ronnie Olsthoorn.

Last modified 10/17/2011