"when he came along, I just go -- brrrrrr"
March 3, 2012 12:15 PM   Subscribe

Seventy years ago today nine Japanese Zero fighters attacked the North-Australian town of Broome, destroying more than twenty aircraft and killing over eighty people. Only one Zero was lost, shot down from the ground by Dutch flight lieutenant Gus Winckel.

Flight lieutenant Gus Winckel had just managed to get the machine gun out from his Lodestar plane when a Zero came to strafe it. Winckel kept his calm, aimed and fired as the Zero flew down so low he could see the pilot in his cockpit, managing to shoot it down but not before his own plane had been destroyed as well. That was the only plane the Japanese lost that day, while some twentytwo allied planes were destroyed on the ground and in the air by them, mainly transport planes.

Before the Second World War Broome was a stop over point and refueling station for air flights from the then Dutch East Indies to Australia, with an anchor point for flying boats in Roebuck Bay and a RAAF airbase nearby. When the Japanese attacked these places on March 3, 1942, the planes they attacked were involved in evacuating military personnel and their families from the Dutch East Indies, with several of the Dornier Do-24 and Catalina flying boats that were attacked actually loaded with refugees which explains the high death toll, with almost fifty refugees, including women and children, killed.

Today Broome marked the seventy anniversary of this event, with several Dutch survivors having come over for the ceremony.
posted by MartinWisse (13 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Winkel says he's the "only one who ever put down -- shot down an attacking Japanese plane from the ground," which is not true, of course. But if he used a Thompson to do it (he says Colt, but I think he's confused. There's no way he used this) then he may be right!
posted by Hey Dean Yeager! at 1:18 PM on March 3, 2012

The Wikipedia article claims he sustained burns on his shoulder where he balanced the machine gun. I'm pretty sure a Thompson wouldn't do that, would it?
posted by koeselitz at 1:25 PM on March 3, 2012

(Er, no – the Wiki article says the burns were on his forearm, which obviously could happen with a Thompson. Sorry.)
posted by koeselitz at 1:25 PM on March 3, 2012

However – the claim is that the gun had been mounted on his aircraft, and he removed it to fire. I don't think they mounted Thompsons on any aircrafts, but I may be wrong.
posted by koeselitz at 1:27 PM on March 3, 2012 [1 favorite]

I'm pretty confident that he's talking about something like this. You'd burn your forearm if you held this on your shoulder to fire it, because the barrel is the part that gets hot. And if this is what he did, he could presumably radiate away excess heat with his humongous balls.
posted by me & my monkey at 1:29 PM on March 3, 2012 [8 favorites]

You're probably right, koeselitz. He says he removed the gun from it's bracket, and I pictured a Thompson stowed away on a bulkhead or something.
posted by Hey Dean Yeager! at 1:32 PM on March 3, 2012

Or a Lewis gun which was a pretty standard aircraft mount
posted by mattoxic at 1:35 PM on March 3, 2012

Lodestars weren't normally armed of course, so whatever weaponry it had was improvised, which means it might've been anything.
posted by MartinWisse at 1:50 PM on March 3, 2012

From what I've read he used a Colt MG40 which is a Colt licensed version of the Browning 1919.
posted by the_artificer at 1:54 PM on March 3, 2012 [2 favorites]

So, which one of you is going to go over and tell him he's wrong?

I'll be over here, admiring a bust of Churchill and acting very proper, JIC.
posted by IAmBroom at 10:04 PM on March 3, 2012

Is "Gus" pronounced "guss" or "goose" in Dutch? Because it would be great if a big war hero introduced himself as goose vinkle.
posted by pracowity at 11:19 PM on March 3, 2012

It's pronounce "Guss" - but with a softer G than the english language has. It's one of those sounds only the dutch can make :-)
posted by DreamerFi at 1:01 AM on March 4, 2012

I'd had no idea about Broome or the Dutch evacuation through Australia! It's fascinating stuff. Thanks.
posted by kagredon at 6:07 PM on March 4, 2012

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