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After Action Report
Marine Fighting Squadron 251

Date of Action: January 30, 2009
Base of Operations: A40
Division Assignment: Strike O'Hara

VMF-251 rolled at 2300 SW out of A40, part of Strike Group O'Hara. Squadron assigned to escort B-25Cs of Nightmares VMF-101 in attack on A18 on Bougainville. Squadron formed by flights and turned around on course 000 for climbout.

Red Flight
Maj. Wyatt
W. O. Joffe
Capt. Sidle
W. O. Coronado

Blue Flight
Capt. MEF4UD
1st Lt. Trol
2nd Lt. Gwardyak

White Flight
Capt. Morgan
2nd Lt. Bodie
2nd Lt. King
1st Lt. Santana

VMF-251 fell behind strike formation on climbout. Wyatt turned squadron NW to intercept after reaching cruise altitude of 25,000ft, then turned W on course for target area. Enroute CiC directed VMF-251 to proceed with bombers as close escort at conclusion of bombing run.

At about 2330 contact made with high Zeros. VMF-251 made shallow turn to southwest to locate low bogies spotted by formation and saw small group of A6Ms at 10 o'clock low position. Wyatt ordered squadron to engage. VMF-251 dropped on Zeros out of the sun and enemy made no attempt to evade. Wyatt splashed one at 2332, Joffe another at 2333. Additional Zeros downed by Wyatt and Coronado at 2334.

After short action remaining Zeros down and squadron turned W for climbout and rendezvous with bomber formation. Additional contact with high Zero by trailing elements of squadron, remainder of 251 turned in to assist.

VMF-251 dove out in effort to pull enemy down. Gwardyak shot down 2340. Coronado shot down A6M at 2341.Wyatt claimed additional Zero at 2344, Corando one at 2345 and Joffe another at 2347. Bodie crashed 2347 and Poseign shot down 2348.

Heavy furball developed on the deck, joined by additional high Zeros. Majority of squadron unable to disengage. Wyatt, Sidle, and Joffe egressed out SW to grab for altitude, then turned back in to rejoin engagement. Santana and Wyatt shot down Zeros at 2353. Trol crashed 2353. Sidle claimed Zero 2354 and Joffe shot another at 2355. Morgan collided with and destroyed Zero at 2355.

King crashed 2357. Santana shot down 2358. Wyatt shot down two Zeros at 2358, Joffe and Sidle each shot down Zeros at 2358, with Sidle and Coronado each claiming another at 2359.

Remainder of squadron egressed out of engagement area. MEF4UD returned to Vella Lavella with damage and safely recovered at 0007. Wyatt, Joffe, Sidle and Coronado continued egress SW side of Shortland Island. Coronado heavily damaged and losing fuel, ran out and attempted to ditch. Encountered lone Ki-61 and forced down.

Wyatt, Joffe and Sidle proceeded SE. Vella Lavella, Kolombangara and A10 on New Georgia under attack, made for A9 but redirected back to 10 once clear when A9 came under attack. Wyatt and Joffe landed A10 and proceeded to rearm while Sidle provided top-cover. Rearm completed by 0034 and took off again. Sidle landed with damage and recovered safely at 0039.

Wyatt and Joffe climbed for altitude SE on takeoff. Received emergency broadcast from gunplt reporting pursuit by large number of Zeros on deck off Vella Lavella. Wyatt and Joffe joined with hastily assembled group of additional fighters to assist and intercepted off Kolombangara. In short engagement Wyatt claimed two additional Zeros at 0046 and 0047.

Area around Vella Lavella and Kolombangara reported clear. Wyatt and Joffe safely returned to base at 0051.

Personnel Status
Maj. David Wyatt Landed Safely
W.O. Ben Joffe Landed Safely
Capt. Michael Sidle Landed Safely
W.O. Eli Coronado Shot Down
Capt. MEF4UD Landed Safely
Poseign Shot Down
1st Lt. Trol Crashed
2nd Lt. Karl Gwardyak Shot Down
Capt. Charlie Morgan Collision
2nd Lt. Norwood Bodie Shot Down
2nd Lt. Frank King Crashed
1st Lt. Jonathan Santana Shot Down

Equipment Status
12 F4U-1A 4 Recovered Safely

8 Lost

Pilot Victories
Maj. David Wyatt 8
W.O. Ben Joffe 4
Capt. Michael Sidle 3
W.O. Eli Coronado 4
1st Lt. Jonathan Santana 1