How tough was Geoff Fisken, the World War II fighter pilot from New Zealand who went on to become the highest scoring British Commonwealth pilot in the Pacific?
Once, following a sortie, Fisken’s mechanic fainted when he alighted from his aircraft with shrapnel protruding from his hip, according to a story by the Rotorua Review.
“I didn’t know it was there,” Fisken told the Review in 2000. ‘”It felt sore, with blood all down my leg. I tried to pull it out with a pair of pliers at the hospital but it was still too sore. They cut it out and put on some sulthalimide, strapped it up and I was able to fly again in three or four days.”
Fisken, who registered 11 kills while piloting CAC Wirraways, Brewster Buffaloes and Curtis P-40s, died over the weekend in New Zealand at age 96.
That he survived the war in the Pacific was nothing short of miraculous.
At most times, allied aircraft were outnumbered roughly 16 to one, Fisken recalled. “It was nothing to see 200 or 300 Japanese aircraft in the sky. Anybody in Malaya who tried to dogfight was just a bloody fool.
“It was supposed to be all right in England where there were dogfights all the time, but in Malaya you were dead in five minutes,” he added. “The Japanese could out-maneuver you quite easily with their Zeros.”
Fisken was a member of No. 243 Squadron RAF when the Japanese attacked Allied territories in Asia and the Pacific on Dec. 8, 1941. As the Japanese advanced down the Malay Peninsula, 243 Squadron was given the task of defending the city.
By mid-January of 1942, 243 Squadron had lost the majority of its pilots and virtually all its aircraft, and Fisken was merged into another squadron. He was evacuated to New Zealand shortly before the fall of Singapore in 1942.
Burdened by his injuries, he was medically discharged from the service at the end of 1943.
The son of a farmer, Fisken returned to farming after the war.
(Above: New Zealand ace Geoff Fisken pictured alongside his Wairarapa Wild Cat, with 11 Japanese kills registered on the fuselage of his aircraft. Photo courtesy of Rotorua Review.)