Bill Newton: “The Firebug” Hero of the RAAF

Dare Devil A-20 Havoc ground attack pilot

Called “The Fire Bug” by his squadron mates, Bill Newton, a pilot in the Royal Australian Air Force, made sure his ground attack targets were in flames every time he bombed and strafed Japanese airfields in Papua New Guinea. He flew so low to the ground that the Japanese saw and labeled him “Blue Hat” after the blue rugby hat he wore into battle. Flying the Douglas A-20 Havoc, he used the light bomber’s .303 and .50 cal machine guns to good effect even though receiving heavy damage time and time again. His 52nd combat run resulted in his Havoc being heavily damaged so he landed it on the water. Escaping the sinking plane with his second in command, they evaded the Japanese for a short time till being captured. His second was forced to dig his own grave and then was bayoneted to death. Bill was led out to a bomb crater and was beheaded with a sword by the Japanese. Bill was later awarded the Victoria Cross, Britain’s highest award for Valor. He was the second to be awarded the VC in the RAAF. He was only 23 at the time of his death. Valor is in you. Set it free.

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