How a Corsair Pilot Got a Kill with No Weapons

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Robert Klingman was in his fighter plane, 35,000 feet above the ocean, chasing down an enemy aircraft. Finally, after an hour and a half of chase, he pulled up behind the Japanese Ki-45 only to find out that he had no weapon.

Read on to know how this amazing Corsair pilot would find a way to complete this almost impossible mission:

The Corsair’s Most Bizarre Mission

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One of the airmen who took part in the Corsair’s most bizarre mission was Marine Lt. Robert Klingman, who was assigned to the legendary squadron VMFA 312, aka the Checkered Boards.

Bloody Conflict in Okinawa

The battle in Okinawa was bloody. Instead of traditional attacks, the Japanese would deploy waves of kamikazes, killing thousands of Allied sailors and damaging dozens of ships.

This created the primary role of the F4U Corsair, defending the allies from these lethal attacks.

No Ordinary Japanese Fighter

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On May 10, 1945, Klingman and his squadron were sent to take down a recon plane – a Ki-45 twin-engine aircraft.

This plane was no ordinary fighter, however. It could fly at over 35,000 ft, acting more like an interceptor/strike fighter.

Once the four Corsairs flew at 20,000 feet, their flight leader asked them to fire some of their ammunition to reduce weight and lighten their planes. 

However, at 30,000 feet, two Corsairs headed back due to engine trouble at high altitudes. Their captain used most of his ammo, while Klingman had one final shot. He knew he had a speed advantage over the Ki-45, but it wouldn’t last long.

Finding a Way

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Low on fuel, Klingman also knew his plane couldn’t survive this level of throttle power for much longer. He came up close to the Japanese aircraft and pulled the trigger. But all he heard was utter silence.

The high altitude caused the lubrication of his guns to thicken, making it inoperable. He also knew he didn’t have enough fuel to make it home. So, he radioed his wingman, “I’m going to hit him with my plane.”

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He pointed his nose downward, right at the recon aircraft, causing the propeller of his plane to strike the Ki-45’s fuselage and tail section multiple times. His propeller then tore into the tail section’s supporting area, sawing it off. The impact caused both planes to go into a controllable spin, hurdling them back to the ground.

Miraculous Landing

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After falling thousands of feet, Klingman regained control of the fighter, gliding it down to a lower altitude. With his wingman’s help, they set a course at a nearby American airfield. At 10,000 feet, he was out of fuel, and his propeller was inoperable. His captain told him to bail out, but he insisted on a normal landing.

Miraculously, the Corsair made it to the airfield and landed safely on the runway. When he exited his plane, he was famously quoted, “It’s a hell of a way to earn a buck.” After WWII, he served in Korea and passed away at 87 in 2004.