Washing Machine Charlie

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Washing Machine Charlie or Bedcheck Charlie was a name given by Allies (primarily US) to Imperial Japanese aircraft that performed usually solitary, nocturnal operations over Henderson Field, Guadalcanal during the Guadalcanal Campaign. The name comes from the distinctive sound of the aircraft engines.

During the campaign, the Japanese sent solitary aircraft on nighttime missions over Guadalcanal for various reasons. The reasons included scouting, dropping flares over Allied positions to assist Japanese naval or ground forces operating on or near the island, to bomb the airfield or Allied installations, and/or to harass the Allied troops and disrupt their sleep.

Various aircraft were used in the role by Japanese forces, including ship or shore-based single-engine seaplanes, and, on occasion a two engine airplane, probably a Betty Bomber, whose pilot had made sure his engines were out of synchronization. The vibration was bad enough to wake most people, and then the waiting for the bomb, (most of which missed) kept the men awake for the rest of the night.

Later in the war, night fighters were developed to help stop these raiders.

Independent of these Japanese raiders, Bedcheck Charlie was well known to US troops in Europe, when lone German planes appeared over their lines in late afternoon/evenings.

In Popular Culture[edit]

In the Episode "Washing Machine Charlie" Season 1, Episode 22 of McHale's Navy (1963). Complications develop, when McHale and the 73 Crew go after a certain Japanese Pilot - Known as 'Washing Machine Charlie' - Who has been attacking the Taratupa base, on a daily basis.

In the episode "5 o'clock Charlie" of the sitcom M*A*S*H, the 4077 is repeatedly buzzed by a punctual, but inept, North Korean pilot whose comically inaccurate attempts to hit a nearby ammo dump become a source of a betting pool for the camp personnel.

The character returned in the episode "there's nothing like a nurse". The nursing staff is evacuated based on intelligence that there may be an aerial attack on the camp but at the end of the episode, the "attack" is revealed to be "Charlie" dropping propaganda leaflets.

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