'Buffalo' Wong Sun-Shui
15 March 1914 – 16 March 1941 Wong Sun-Shui
was born on 15 March 1914 in Los Angeles, California. His parents were
from Toyshan county, Guangdong (Kwantung) province in China, and he
therefore spoke Cantonese, not Mandarin. He obtained a pilot's license in
Los Angeles, and went to China to continue pilot training at the Guangdong
Air Force Academy.
He joined the 6th Squadron, but was promoted and became Deputy Commander
of the 17th Squadron.
In 1934 the Chinese Air Force ordered 10 Boeing P-26 Model 281
'Peashooters'. Due to funding problems the Model 248s, as the Chinese knew
them, weren't delivered until 1936. The aircraft were delivered to 17th
Pursuit Squadron, which was commanded by Wong Pan-Yang to be used against
Japanese aircraft over Nanking in 1937.
In August 1937 the 17th PS was based at the Chuyung Airfield near Nanking.
At 13:30 on 15 August 1937 Nanking Air Defence Command received a report
that 16 Japanese aircraft had flown past Soochow towards Nanking. The
alarm was sounded, and Chinese Air Force fighters took off to meet them.
The Japanese aircraft were 20 G3Ms from the Kisarazu Ku. The Japanese
aircraft had flown in directly from Ohmura in Japan and landed back at
From Chu Yung, squadrons of the 3rd PG scrambled their aircraft. Wong
Pan-Yang led eight Boeing 281s from the 17th PS. Chen Yau-Wei, Commander
of the 8th PS, led five Fiat CR.32 fighters. Scrambled were also seven
Hawk IIs from the 28th PS, 5th PG, and one Hawk III and five Hawk II from
the 34th Provisional PS.
In the ensuing melee, four G3Ms were shot down and six damaged. Claims
were confused but it is generally acknowledged that Captain Wong Sun-Shui
(in #1703) downed the first G3M to fall in the Battle of Nanking when the
eight Boeings from the 17th PS attacked a flight of six Mitsubishi G3M
bombers over Nanking and claimed to have shot them all down without
losses. This was the No.4 aircraft in a Shotai that bombed the Ta Hsiao-chang
Airfield, most likely the No. 5 Shotai led by Lieutenant Yoshida. 17th PS’
Wong Pan-Yang and Su Ying-Hsien shared one victory at Chu-Yung while Chun
Chia-Chu claimed another which crashed south-east of Nanking. Chin Shui-Tin
also took part in this interception but didn't claim any aircraft.
The Japanese aircraft fled and the 8th PS went after them. Chen Yau-Wei
and Huang Chu-Ku shared a victory near Chu-Yung while Shen Tse-Liu and Liu
Chi-Wei together shot down an enemy plane west of Lui Shui.
Captain Chow Ting-Fong, commander of the 34th PS led six Hawks from Chia
Hsiang and followed eight Japanese aircraft to Nanking. Captain Chow
attacked one of these and shot it down over Fang Shan.
4th PG’s Captain Lee Kuei-Tan led three Hawk IIIs of the 21st PS and
Captain Huang Kuang-Han, C.O. of the 22nd PS, led eight Hawk IIIs from
Hangchow to Nanking to help in this interception and they also attacked
the bombers. Lee Kuei-Tan claimed a shared bomber together with three
other pilots. Tan Won and Yuan Chin-Han shared a victory. Cheng Hsiao-Yu,
Pa Ching-Cheng and Wu Ting-Chun each claimed one shot down. Wu Ting-Chun’s
aircraft was damaged in this combat and he was forced to make an emergency
landing. Liang Tian-Cheng claimed two victories. Huang Kuang-Han claimed a
Japanese G3M halfway between Nanking and Lui Shui.
Because of low clouds, each group fought on it’s own with little
co-ordination. A total of 14 Japanese aircraft were claimed shot down.
Five Chinese aircraft were damaged.
Early in the morning on 16 August 1937 the Kanoya Ku of the JNAF launched
two raids against Chuyung, which was an important airfield for the defence
of the capital Nanking. Lieutenant Commander Nitta led the first raid of
six G3Ms. Lieutenant Commander Nitta was leading the first Shotai (flight)
of three G3Ms and Lieutenant Osugi was acting as Buntaicho (flight leader)
for the second Shotai. They took off from Matsuyama Airfield in Taipei at
07.40 for its target, the Chuyung Airfield near Nanking. Lieutenant Ishii
led a second group of seven G3Ms in the second raid and their target was
the Yangchow Airfield.
Nitta's group arrived over Chuyung at 10.55. Because of low clouds, the
Chinese Air Raid Warning Net was only able to give a short warning. The
mechanics of both the 17th PS and 28th PS, which both were based at
Chuyung Airfield, worked frantically to get their aircraft started. John
Wong, commander of the 17th PS of the 3rd PG, was the first to get off the
ground in Boeing 281 #1701, followed by Buffalo Wong, Lieutenant Wong
Tse-Tsim (another Chinese American pilot) and Lieutenant Teng Cheng-Hsi.
Captain Chan Kee-Wong’s 28th PS managed to get two Hawk IIs in the air,
one of them flown by Lieutenant Art Chin (Hawk II #2802).
John Wong barely had time to turn towards the G3Ms when the first bombs
started bursting into the airfield compound. The 17th PS mechanics, which
had stayed and worked so bravely to start up the Boeings, scrambled for
cover. Luckily, only one was slightly injured by fragments. This
experience taught them to dig slit trenches next to the runway in the
Wong caught up with the six G3Ms flying at 900 metres and attacked the
lead flight. Attacking the aircraft of Ensign Umebyashi from the port
quarter, Wong took advantage of the blind spot created by the twin tail of
the G3M where the Japanese gunners could not hit him. Wong shot up the
G3M, causing it to fall in flames north east of the airfield. Pulling up
into a loop, Wong came down to attack another G3M from above and behind,
again from the port quarter. Hitting this G3M, Wong saw it descend with
fuel streaming from its tanks. Turning back towards Chuyung, Wong saw Wong
Tse-Tsim attacking another G3M without success. Joining in the fray, Wong
dived below the G3M, which turned out to be the lead plane flown by
Lieutenant Commander Nitta. Pulling up sharply, Wong fired a long burst at
the belly of the G3M. It caught fire immediately and crashed south of
Chuyung where its bomb load went off. Both crews of the crashed G3Ms
perished in their aircraft.
Meanwhile, Buffalo Wong had caught up with another G3M and scored some
hits. But, unfortunately, his guns malfunctioned at the critical moment,
depriving him of a kill.
Art Chin also managed to catch up with a G3M, likely to be the lead plane
of the 2nd Shotai commanded by Lieutenant Osugi. Lieutenant Teng Cheng-Hsi
of the 17th PS attacked it without success and soon broke off. The G3M had
dropped its bombs and was picking up speed trying to escape towards the
mouth of the Yangtse. Chin, in his antiquated Hawk II, could barely keep
up. Firing steadily, Chin was able to score many hits on the G3M,
puncturing its fuel tanks and wounding a crewmember. However, the lack of
speed advantage meant that the Hawk II was also an easy target for the
Japanese gunners as it hung there at zero degree deflection behind the
G3M. Chin later recalled that his Hawk II was hit many times, the Cyclone
engine stopping 2 bullets. Finally, Chin had to turn back at the mouth of
the Yangtse with Osugi's G3M descending, streaming smoke and fuel. Chin
managed to nurse the battered Hawk II to an airfield at Chia Hsing where
he made a forced landing (the Hawk II ended up on its nose as the brakes
failed). Osugi's G3M, which had been hit 58 times and with a gunner
injured, lost fuel at an alarming rate and Osugi considered turning back
to force land at the Japanese legation in Shanghai. Finally, lightening
the plane by dumping equipment and anything that can be pried loose, Osugi
managed keep the G3M in the air long enough to divert to Cheju-do off the
southern coast of Korea. Japanese records say the Osugi made an
"unscheduled landing" at Cheju-do just as his fuel ran out, meaning
anything from just an "unscheduled landing" to a crash. Based on his
report alone, the ROCAF awarded Chin a "kill" even though he never claimed
to have seen it crash.
On 19 September 1937 he was wounded in action while flying Boeing 281
#1703, in a combat with eight Japanese E7Ks.
He was promoted to command the 29th Squadron in January 1938 when the unit
converted to Gladiators.
The Chinese Gladiators made their combat debut on 24 February 1938 when
the seaplane carriers Notoro and Kinugasa Maru despatched eight and five
Type 95 (E8N) seaplanes to attacked Nan Hsiung. Some of the Japanese
aircraft carried bombs while others served as escorts. A group of twelve
Gladiators from the 28th (three Gladiators) and 29th (nine Gladiators)
Squadrons were scrambled from Nan Hsiung Airfield led by 29th PS's
Squadron Leader Buffalo Wong to meet the intruders.
They were divided into two groups immediately after becoming airborne. The
first group was led by Wong and the other group by Deputy Squadron Leader
Hsieh Chuan-Ho. Flying at 6000 feet, they sighted the E8Ns at the 9
During this combat the Gladiators where hampered by jamming guns, few had
all four functioning while two had all four jamming. (Art Chin recalled
that the problem was attributed to a bad load of ammunition from Belgium).
Wong signaled the group to follow him to dive into the enemy formations.
He single-handed shot up two Type 95's, one hit over Nan Hsiung, caught
fire, dived to extinguish the flames and flew away to the south. The other
streamed fuel after being shot up over Shaokuan but escaped towards the
south-east. He also shot up another with the help of his wingmen
Lieutenants Huang Kwang-ching, Chou Ling-hsu, Huang Neng-rong. The
Japanese plane streamed fuel but also did not go down immediately.
Lieutenants Li Yu-Rong, Chou Ling-hsu, Fan Hsin-Min and Shang Deh-Ren each
took turns to fire at another enemy aircraft. The Japanese aircraft was
seen leaving trailing black thick smoke.
Meanwhile, Deputy Squadron Leader Lieutenant Hsieh Chuan-ho and his
wingmen Lieutenant Teng Chung-Kai and Lieutenant Yang Ru-tong were
attacking a floatplane when the nimble Japanese plane turned sharply and
shot down and killed Yang (Gladiator #2902) in a head-on pass. Teng and
Hsieh believed they hit the Japanese in turn but were unable to finish him
off because of jamming guns.
A 28th PS pilot, Chen Chiwei chased an E8N 300 feet above the ground. Due
to gun(s) jamming he pressed in too close to fire his remaining guns and
lost control of his Gladiator #2808 and was unable to pull out of a
tailspin. He crashed and was lost. The air battle ended at 10.00.
The Chinese Air Force lost two Gladiators and pilots in this combat.
Additionally, Chou Ling-Hsu's Gladiator #2810 was hit by a rear gunner
shattering a wing strut and damaging an aileron and a control cable when
some of his guns jammed and he pressed in too close during his. Huang
Kwang-ching's #2907 hit a bomb crater during landing and its upper wing
and elevators snapped. Deputy Squadron Leader Xieh Chuanwo's #2901 ran off
the runway due to a brake failure inflicting minor damage to its right
wings. #2909, which was grounded due to a leaking wing tank was hit by
strafing Japanese aircraft.
No Japanese aircraft was seen to crash during the combat but two
floatplane wrecks were found after the action way to the south, one at
Tseng Cheng, 160km directly south of Shaokuan (and only 80km from Hong
Kong) and the other at Hsin Feng, 90km south of Nan Hsiung. The two that
caught fire during the combat (one claimed by Wong and one by Lieutenants
Li, Chou, Fan and Shang) were the most likely to have crashed. Japanese
records states that the one Type 95 from each of the seaplane carriers
"failed to return" and another from the Notoro was written off in a crash
landing. This last Type 95 (no. 13 over 1) was hit 138 times (!) The
observer was riddled with multiple hits and killed while the pilot was
wounded in the right leg. In addition, Notoro and Kinugasa Maru each lost
one other aircrew killed. From these casualty figures it appears that a
total of 5 floatplanes were hit badly enough to have aircrew killed (Notoro;
two lost on downed aircraft, one lost on aircraft written off in landing
and one on another aircraft. Kinugasa Maru; two lost on downed aircraft,
one on another aircraft.). This match with the Chinese claims of 5
Japanese aircraft being hit.
On 28 February 1938 Wong took off for a CAP sortie from Tienhe airbase in
Gladiator #2905. He intercepted four E8Ns along the Kowloon-Guangzhou
railroad. He attacked the Japanese floatplanes but these fled before he
was able to score anything. Wong returned to base at 08.30. However the
various sources disagrees on this combat since some sources claims that
this combat took place on 25 February against a A4N1 which was destroyed
while others claims the he actually claimed one of the E8Ns on the 28
February and 1 more as a probable.
On 13 April 1938 the Japanese carrier Kaga launched a strike on Canton
consisting of three Type 95 (A4N) fighters, three Type 96 (A5M) fighters
and 18 Type 94 (Aichi D1A1) dive-bombers. PO1c Jiro Chono in an A5M led
the fighters and Lieutenant Nishihara led the dive-bombers. Chono had
taken over when the original leader, Lieutenant Hideo Teshima, had to
abort due to mechanical problems on his A5M.
At 10:10, jingbao (intelligence) announced the approaching enemy aircraft.
Gladiators of the 5th PG were on alert and were scrambled at 10:20 from
Tienho airbase. Squadron Leader Wong Sun-Shui led nine Gladiators from the
29th PS and Captain Clifford Louie led nine from the 28th PS to intercept.
Flying in an echelon formation at 15,000ft, the 29th PS Gladiators were to
be responsible for CAP above Guangzhou while 28th PS, flying a 3,000ft
higher in two formations, were to seek and destroy enemy aircraft. At
10:50 nine dive-bombers at 13,000ft and 15 "pursuits" (actually five
fighters and nine dive-bombers) at 17,000ft were spotted by Wong Sun-Shui
above Jiangchuan (a hamlet located north-west of Tienhe airbase). It was
clear that they were heading for the Tienhe airbase and Wong Sun-Shui
wiggled his Gladiator's (no. 2913) wings to warn his wingmen of the
approaching enemy fighters and simultaneously accelerated towards the
bogeys. He led his flight consisting of Lieutenants Li Yu-Rong and Huang
Kwang-Ching in a diving pass on the nine lower dive-bombers, which were in
their bomb run on Tienho Airfield.
Wong Sun-Shui shot up one of the D1A1 and sent it down in flames. The top
cover of Japanese fighters came down to intervene. Wong Sun-Shui got into
a turning fight with one of the A4Ns and claimed to have shot it down (a
wreck was found on one of the islands in the Pearl River, which might have
been this aircraft). The flight of A5Ms then turned towards Wong Sun-Shui
who was, unfortunately, plagued by jamming guns. After only two firing
passes, he had only one of his cowl machineguns still capable of firing.
Nevertheless, he managed to down one of the A5Ms before another (the lead
plane in the flight flown by PO1c Chono) hit him from the left. Wong Sun-Shui
was wounded in the left hand and his engine caught fire, forcing him to
bail out. His Gladiator came down near Tai-Ho City north east of Canton
(the location of this crash was possibly recorded in error. It is likely
that crash site was Tai-Ho Hsiang village in Pan-Yu County south east of
Canton as the fight had moved to the south east of Canton). While
parachuting down, he witnessed his wingman downing another A5M.
The other two Gladiators in Wong Sun-Shui’s flight also came under attack.
Li Yu-Rong attacked and shot down a divebomber but he was himself hit from
behind and killed by a pursuing A5M. His Gladiator no. 2910 fell in the
south-eastern part of Canton City near Chungshan University. Lieutenant
Huang Kwang-Ching tried to intervene but was too late. While he was
dogfighting Li's assailant, two other Japanese fighters attacked him and
hit him a dozen times, puncturing one of the tires on his landing gear. It
was probably at this time when Lieutenant Teng Chung-Kai intervened,
bouncing Huang's attackers from behind and disrupting their attack,
thereby allowing Huang to escape to the north-west. Teng claimed to have
downed one of the A4Ns in flames. Continuing his chase of the Japanese
planes, Teng claimed to have downed another "Type 95" over Shi-Pai. It is
unclear whether Teng claimed this type, i.e. an A4N, specifically as most
other pilot-reports claimed only to have engaged "biplanes" (as opposed to
monoplanes - i.e. A5Ms). In the heat of combat, it may have been difficult
to differentiate between the A4Ns and the dive-bombers.
The remainder of the 29th PS was also kept busy actively attacking other
Japanese fighters. Xieh Chuanwo and his wingman Huang Xiaolen fought on
despite being outnumbered by the Japanese fighters.
Early in the action Clifford Louie and his 28th PS Gladiators also joined
the combat. Clifford Louie and his wingmen Lieutenants Wu Bo-Jun and Chen
Yu-Shen dived on the D1A1s as they were dropping their bombs. Louie
claimed to have hit one of the D1A1s and sent it descending north east of
Tienho Airfield streaming smoke. He then attacked another "biplane"
(probably another D1A1) but his guns jammed after about a dozen rounds,
forcing him to break off and climb up to a "covering position".
PO1c Tanaka commanded this D1A1 and it ditched after battle damage. Tanaka
reported that he had just completed his bomb run when a Gladiator hit him
from behind, damaging his engine, which spewed black smoke and sprayed oil
over both crewmen. The D1A1 managed to limp out to the mouth of the Pearl
River before the engine seized up. Trading height for distance, the D1A1
glided out to ditch. Tanaka and his crewman NAP1/c Katsumiha took to their
dinghy but not before stripping the Type 89 machinegun (Japanese version
of the Lewis gun) from its swivel mount. Using the gun, the two held off a
number of Chinese armed junks long enough for a floatplane commanded by
Lieutenant Yowahara to land alongside and picking them up.
As Louie pulled up to a higher altitude, his deputy Lieutenant Kwan
Yen-Sun and wingman Leong Kongyung were diving into four A4Ns. Kwan fired
a quick burst and the enemy fighters scattered. He managed to damage a
fleeing A4N and seeing that the enemy fighter was trailing white smoke
(probably from leaking fuel tank) he then attacked two other A4Ns. These
returned the fire but his wingman Leong Kongyung broke off the attack from
above. Leong then closed in on the tail on an A4N but he had to brake off
the attack after malfunctioning machine-guns.
Lieutenant Chou Geng-Hsu followed Louie's Flight down on a firing pass at
the D1A1s. He claimed to have fired over a hundred rounds at one of the
dive-bombers while diving from 30 degrees above and behind it. He claimed
to have pulled up and away after seeing the Japanese plane catch fire. At
that point, Chou Geng-Hsu spotted Chono climbing up after him in his A5M.
Chou Geng-Hsu dived at Chono and traded shots with the A5M forcing it to
PO1c Chono and the remaining A4N flown by PO3c Hatsu-o Hidaka attacked
Louie's Flight, shooting down Wu Bo-Jun who was killed when his Gladiator
no. 2810 crashed near Tai-Ho Hsiang (village) in Pan-Yu County south east
of Canton. Chen Yu-Shen was also shot up and badly wounded when he
crash-landed Gladiator no. 2812 at Bai-Ke Ao, also in Pan-Yu County.
Totally Chono and Hidaka claimed two victories each in this combat.
Lieutenant Chou Ling-Hsu also followed Louie's Flight down on the D1A1s
and spotted one circling. Diving from above and behind, Chou Ling-Hsu hit
the D1A1 (which he identified as an A4N) making it stream smoke and
descend. Fearing that the Japanese planes had an advantage at lower
altitude, Chou Ling-Hsu climbed up to a covering position (clearly, the
Chinese pilots were confusing the A4Ns with the D1A1s.). After two firing
passes, Lieutenant Fan Hsin-Min also saw a Japanese biplane showing "signs
of damage" and trying to escape.
Satoru Ono (8 victories – 3 in China) flying one of the D1A1s returned
claiming one enemy fighter shot down.
The battle lasted for 40 minutes and the Gladiators landed at 11:40. Li
Jahung returned with minor damaged to the wings of Gladiator no. 2908 and
Huang Kwang-Ching returned with more than ten bullet holes and a punctured
landing-gear tire on Gladiator no. 2917. The 28th and 29th Squadrons
claimed at least nine victories in this air combat. It would appear that
the Japanese lost at least 5 aircraft, one A5M, two A4Ns and two D1A1s
while claiming 15 enemy fighters shot down and 3 probables. The fighter
pilots lost were PO1c Naoshi Eitoku (Pilot 13), PO3c Yukio Miyasato (Otsu
3) and PO3c Yuji Mori (Otsu 3). The Chinese found a total of 4 wrecks,
which would account for the 3 fighters and almost certainly one of the
dive-bombers. One of the wrecks was found at Chi-Ao, which is on an island
way out at the mouth of the Pearl River near Macao. That may have been one
of the A4Ns that Teng chased away from Lieutenant Huang south east of
Canton. The other 3 fell around Canton City, one at Shao-Ho just north
east of Canton; one at the Chungshan University Agricultural Department
south east of Canton and the third in an island on the Pearl River near
Canton. Unfortunately, the types were not identified so it is difficult to
match them up.
On 16 November 1940 he was promoted to command of the 5th Fighter Group,
flying Soviet I-15bis.
At the end of 1940 the 5th PG was re-equipped with Polikarpov I-153s.
At 09:15 on 14 March 1941 twelve Japanese Zeroes from the 12th Kokutai
escorting ten carrier based attack planes were spotted flying towards
Chengdu in the Szechuan Province. The 3rd Route Commander of the Chinese
Air Force ordered the 3rd and 5th PGs to intercept them, while the present
bombers were ordered to relocate to Lanzhou.
The two groups had a combined strength of 31 I-153s. Major Wong Sun-Shui,
Commander of the 5th PG led nine I-153s at 7500 feet and Captain Shen Tse-Liu,
his vice-commander led eleven I-153s at 7000 feet while Captain Chou
Ling-Hsu, commander of the 28th PS of the 3rd PG led another eleven
I-15bis’ at 6800 feet. 3rd PG had t this time just flown in from Hami
The twelve Zeroes flew in two formations, with seven flying at low level,
and five providing top-cover high above. The Chinese attacked, and battle
was joined over Shangliu, southwest of Chengdu. Four of Major Wong’s
I-153s had to drop out because of mechanical problems. He, however,
pressed on with the attack and was fatally wounded after a shot in the
head. Ren Yen was also killed in this action.
Captain Shen’s eleven I-153s tangled with the Zeroes near Shangliu and
Shen was shot down and killed directly over the Shangliu airfield. Lin
Huan and Jiang Tung-Sheng were also killed in the action.
Captain Chou’s group met the Zeroes near Chengdu. The aircraft were out of
formation because of clouds and each pilot fought on his own. Chou and
Yuan Fang-Bing were both killed in this action, while a third pilot made a
forced landing on the water, but was strafed on the surface.
Three I-15bis from the 32nd PS also took part in this combat. These
aircraft had been received at the beginning of the year from depot
overhaul. Squadron commander Chen Peng-Yang was shot and a lightly wounded
pilot, Qin-Bei, escaped by parachute.
The Chinese fought courageously and with determination, but their aircraft
were totally outclassed by the Zeroes. Eleven I-153s were destroyed, seven
were damaged, and eight pilots were killed in action. According to some
sources the Chinese pilots claimed 6 enemies shot down.
Wong Sun-Shui made a forced landing at Sumatou but died two days later on
16 March in a hospital as a result of his head wound.
The returning Japanese pilots claimed 27 destroyed, 3 probables and 7
destroyed on the ground without any losses. Two and one probable was
claimed by Koshiro Yamashita during dogfights at low altitude in dense
mist while PO3c Masayuki Nakase (in his first combat) claimed five I-15s
and one probable. PO1c Matsuo Hagiri claimed three ‘improved’ I-15s while
his number two wingman, Keishu Kamihira, claimed three enemy aircraft and
General Chou Chi-Jou, C-in-C of the Chinese Air Force wept bitterly upon
learning the loss of his top flyers and re-named the air base in Chengdu
to “Tse-Liu Airfield” in honour of Shen.
Wong was short and stocky, and was given the nickname 'Buffalo' by his
flying school classmates, which also served to distinguish him from his
commanding officer in the 17th Squadron, Wong Pan-Yang.
At the time of his death, Wong Sun-Shui was credited with 5 biplane
victories and a total of 7. After his death he was promoted to Lieutenant
Colonel. He was also decorated with the Six Star Medal during the war.
His name is given as Huang Shing-Yui or Hwang Shin-Yei in some sources.
airbase to Suzhou