Beginning 2nd July, all PlayStation Plus members will get a free plane in War Thunder – the P-36A Curtis Hawk of 2nd Lieutenant Philip Rasmussen, who earned a Silver Star while defending Pearl Harbor in World War II. And here’s a little history behind it.
Philip Rasmussen awoke to the shouts and explosions of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, 7th December 1941. It was 8.00am when 25 Aichi D3A1 “Val” dive-bombers plummeted onto their targets at Wheeler Field on the island of Oahu; their 250 kilogram bombs striking the maintenance hangers and P-40 and P36 fighters parked closely together on the flight line and strafing the barracks and tents causing many casualties before leaving the battered airfield.
Сlad only in his purple silk pajamas, Rasmussen raced across the open ground to rescue what aircraft remained. He was joined by 1st Lieutenant Lewis Sanders with 2nd Lieutenants John Thacker and Gordon Sterling.
The four P-36A Curtiss Hawks took flight and soon saw 11 Japanese planes attacking the Bellows Air Fields. The group attacked, using speed and surprise to their advantage, but Rasmussen soon found his guns firing away out of control. When a Val dive-bomber passed directly in front of the runaway guns’ line of fire it was stitched with rounds across its fuselage and heaved over, diving into the sea.
Rasmussen then attempted to line up his next target, but the runaway guns played havoc and he was unable to confirm any hits. Without warning Rasmussen’s canopy exploded, Japanese 7.7mm and 20mm rounds struck the P-36’s fuselage and canopy, rounds tore into the tail of the aircraft shattering the rudder, the tail wheel and the control cables and hydraulic lines in the tail of the aircraft. Rasmussen was saved when the radio behind his seat absorbed two 20mm canon rounds and numerous machine gun rounds.
There were now two Zero fighters on his tail pouring hundreds of rounds into his beleaguered aircraft and the third one going for head on, but in the end, Rasmussen found shelter in a bank of clouds before turning towards Wheeler Field. Still wearing his purple pajamas, Rasmussen jumped down from his aircraft to survey the damage. It was extensive – well over 500 hits on the aircraft.
Rasmussen would go on to fly P47s over the Pacific earning Oak Leaf clusters to his Silver Star, and would continue serving with the air-force until retiring in 1965 at the rank of Lieutenant Colonel. Philip M, Rasmussen passed away on April 30th 2005, he now lies at Arlington National Cemetery Virginia.