WONZ 249 – Pacific War 80th Anniversary

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Guests: Max Speedy, Marty Irons, and the late Geoffrey Fisken

Host: Dave Homewood

Recorded: 22nd of Nov 2021 (Max Speedy, and Marty Irons) and 16th of Sept 2009 (Geoff Fisken)

Released: 7th of December 2021

Duration: 2 hours 51 minutes 47 seconds

This special episode is a three-part special commemorating the 80th Anniversary of the Pacific War. On the 7th of December, NZ time, Japan forces started it attack into the Pacific by striking Malaya, and on the 8th of December (or 7th, local time) they attacked the US Navy and Army bases at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. With the entry of Japan into the Second World War, this also brought the USA into the fight. The latter became major Allies of New Zealand, who had already been fighting the German Navy in the Pacific, and would now join the Allied forces in defeating the Japanese expansion into the Pacific.

The Pacific War and Ian Speedy’s part in it
In this episode Dave Homewood presents three separate interviews. The first is with former Royal Australian Navy Commander Max Speedy, a New Zealand born naval aviator, who gives an overview of the Pacific conflict, and tells the story of his father’s war. Max’s Dad was Ian Speedy, an RNZAF fighter pilot who served with No. 17 (F) Squadron on Curtiss P-40 Kittyhawks and Warhawks, including three tours in the Pacific. He then served a further tour in the Pacific with No. 22 (F) Squadron, flying Chance Vought Corsairs.

Above: Commander Max Speedy
Ian Speedy during his training in WWII
No. 17 (Fighter) Squadron pilots involved in the first bomber assault on Rabaul. Ondonga, New Georgia. L-R: Pat Bradley, Ian Speedy, Doug Jones, Don Williams, Peter Worsp, Johnny Mills, Guy Newton, Alex George (partly obscured), Bruce Thomson, Robert Covic, Jack Edwards, Bruce McHardie.
Above: A map of the area of operations discussed by Max in the segment.

This is the first in a short series of episodes that Max will be appearing in, the next episode down the track will cover his flying during the Vietnam War. To read more about him, see this link: Commander Max Speedy

Corsair Down
The second segment, starting at 1 hour, 13 minutes, features an interview with Marty Irons of Vermont, USA, who has just written a new book called Corsair Down: Tales of Rescue and Survival During WWII. The book is a collection of stories, many first hand accounts, about Corsair pilots who found themselves shot down or forced down into the water or the jungles of the Pacific war, and requiring rescue. Among the stories are not not US Navy and USMC pilots, but also New Zealanders who flew Corsairs with the RNZAF, and also Kiwis among the rescuers with No. 6 (Flying Boat) Squadron, flying the “Dumbo” rescue missions in Catalinas.

New Zealanders can order this book through Mighty Ape – CLICK HERE

Australians can order through Booktopia – CLICK HERE

And for the USA and the rest of the world there is Amazon -CLICK HERE

Above: Marty Irons next to a Corsair.
Another photo of Marty with a Corsair.

Geoff Fisken
In the final segment, starting at 1 hour 40 minutes into the show, Dave dips into the archive to produce a very special and never before heard interview he did in 2009 with Geoffrey Fisken DFC, New Zealand’s and the British Empire’s leading fighter ace in the Pacific War. Geoff talks about his early life and his time in the RNZAF before he went overseas. He discusses his time in Malaya flying initially Short Singapores and Consolidated Catalinas with No. 205 Squadron, then he transferred to fighters. He became the leading Allied ace in the Singapore-Malaya campaign, flying Brewster Buffalo fighters with No. 243 Squadron RAF.

Following the defeat of Singapore and his return to New Zealand, Geoff joined No. 488 Squadron, which a month later was renamed No. 14 (Fighter) Squadron. He talks about flying with this famous squadron at Masterton, and at Espiritu Santo and Guadalcanal. He talks about his combat with the Japanese in both the Malayan and the Solomons theatres, and life in general, plus his feud with his commander Stan Quill.

At the time of this interview Geoff was approaching the age of 95, and whilst his memory was vivid for most things there are a couple of points that have become muddled. His aircraft, NZ3072 – the Wairarapa Wildcat – was not one of the P-40’s that ended up in the sea. It was in fact damaged by another aircraft upon landing at New Caledonia on a separate ferry flight north. Geoff was not involved with that so he can be forgiven for the muddle, and that is where his memory of the aircraft being “cut in half” comes from. It was repaired and allocated to Geoff, and though he will be forever associated with that aircraft, he actually only flew it nine times.

Geoff was invalided out of the RNZAF due to the injuries he suffered, which he described. He passed away on the 12th of June 2011, aged 96, after an illness. This could quite possibly be the last interview he ever gave.

Geoff Fisken.
No. 14 Squadron pilot, Flying Officer Geoffrey Bryson Fisken, standing next to the nose art on Kittyhawk NZ3072 ‘Wairarapa Wildcat’. Guadalcanal. AFMNZ PR1158
No. 14 Squadron pilots with a Dodge weapons carrier, grouped together after a patrol. Guadalcanal. See PR1161a for a key for names. 1. J. “Bags” Baragwanath (Adjutant), 2. Noel Hanna, 3. Ron C. C. Nairn, 4. Rex Weber, 5. Doug. Robertson, 6. Paul Green, 7. Allan Sievers, 8. Jack Meharry, 9. “Sandy” Eaton, 10. Harry Wigley, 11. G. B. Fisken, 12. Frank Ferrier, 13. Don Clow (supplied names), 14. “Snow” Renolds, 15. Brian Stringer (Administration), 16. Mort. Bullen, 17. Arthur “Zoot” Stanley, 18. Warwick Blundell (Intelligence Officer), 19. John Polson. AFMNZ PR1161
No. 14 Squadron pilot Flying Officer GB Fisken standing in front of Curtiss P-40 Kittyhawk NZ3072 ‘Wairarapa Wildcat’. Guadalcanal.
AFMNZ PR1206
Dave Homewood, left, and Geoff Fisken during the interview on the 16th of September 2009.

Lest We Forget

NB: The music at the end of this episode is Wild Flower by Joakim Karud

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