YELLOW SCORPIONS - P-51 Mustangs rule the skies in China
Flight Journal|January - February 2021
Using Chinese airfields, the 311th Fighter Group was the first to take World War II to the Japanese. The 311th’s 530th Fighter Squadron, which became known as the “Yellow Scorpions,” was the first squadron based in China. During their combat tour, they flew A-36 dive bombers along with all versions of the P-51 (A, B, C and D). However, it was their expertise with P-51 B and C models that earned them the respect of Japanese pilots.
WARREN E. THOMPSON

The pilots of the 530th were formidable. They flew long distances to engage enemy forces and handed out more than the Japanese could handle, with huge victories over enemy airmen who were only a few minutes from their home base. During one early mission, gunners on the bombers had trouble identifying the Mustangs from the opposing forces, so the 530th decided to paint their prop spinners yellow. That solved the problem because from that time on, the gunners on the bombers were sure they were friendly to the yellow-nosed fighters. The squadron’s outstanding kill ratio gained them a lot of publicity from “Tokyo Rose,” and in her broadcasts, she referred to them as “Yellow Scorpions.” The moniker stuck for the duration of the war.

“The Tojo whipped over, trailing a long plume of flame ...”

On October 21, 1943, the Group launched eight aircraft along with four Mustangs from the 530th on a big Japanese supply dump at Kamaing in Burma. The enemy wasn’t ready to take them on, and the target was completely destroyed. This triggered many raids in central and southern Burma. While the Allied aircraft were ready for any resistance in the air, they concentrated on ground targets such as rail centers and supply dumps. The 530th squadron’s P-51As met numerous Mitsubishi Zeros when they accompanied B-24s and B-25s on bombing missions.

On Thanksgiving Day, 1944 the squadron flew their longest mission to date, all the way to Rangoon, Burma. They were briefed to rendezvous with B-24s south of Akyub and refuel at a primitive strip at Ramu that had no outside communications. That flight was led by squadron Operations Officer Captain James J. England, and he describes what happened.

“We missed the bombers but proceeded on to Rangoon. As we drew close, we encountered a large number of enemy aircraft that were waiting on us. We went into attack formation and in an instant a Japanese Oscar [Nakajima KI-43] overshot me and pulled up on my right wing. He trailed in behind me and started firing when I went into several evasive moves and eventually shook him with a steep dive toward the ground. Leveling off, I noticed a Nick [Kawasaki Ki 45] coming straight at me in a head-on pass. I closed, firing all the way and cleared over the top of him before reversing course. As I passed, the gunner’s machine gun was moving in the slipstream, but he was not visible. I pressed the attack and could see strikes on the Nick’s tail, wing, and fuselage. It went into a slow, descending turn to the right. I had the feeling this was too easy and checked my six o’clock. Sure enough, an Oscar was closing fast on my tail. I rolled over and left the scene in a fast dive.

“On the way down, I came up behind Lt. Geoffrey Neal, who was chasing a Zero [Mitsubishi A6M] down to the deck! I latched on to their formation and watched as he drove the enemy fighter right into the ground. The pilot of the Zero had tried everything to get rid of Lt. Neal except to circle fight. At this point, Lt. Arasmith had two confirmed kills, but the fight wasn’t over. The sky was full of Japanese fighters: Tojos, Franks, and Oscars. But in an instance, two Tojos [Nakajima Ki-44s] appeared out of nowhere and Lt. Hicks turned into them with me protecting his tail. The enemy fighters were too close together to be effective, and it was evident they had not seen us. As Lt. Hicks closed to within firing range, one of the Tojo pilots had spotted him, but it was too late. His armor-piercing rounds struck the left wing and fuselage, causing the wing to crumble. The Tojo whipped over and over across the sky, trailing a long plume of flame. Suddenly, those tell-tale balls of flame floated by my left wing and once again I was in trouble. I shook him and realized at this point fuel was getting too low, so we headed back to base. The enemy fighters were within sight of their base, so fuel wasn’t a bother to them.”

Operations in 1944 included numerous daily bombing, strafing, and escort missions along with many patrols and scrambles. Targets attacked were supply dumps and troop concentration, enemy airfields, and lines of communication on the Hukawing and Mogaung Valleys. The squadron provided ground support to General Stilwell’s troops in their continued drive toward Mytkyina and a vital linkup of the Burma Road. General Stilwell’s attacks were spearheaded by his hard-hitting marauders. The pilots of the 530th received several commendations later for the ground support they provided, and the General’s men gave plenty of enthusiastic encouragement to the pilots over their air-ground walkie-talkies. In a statement to the press, General Stratemeyer claimed the 530th Squadron’s ground support in North Burma was the best in the China Burma India Theater!

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