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  P-38F-5-LO Lightning Serial Number 42-12647 Nose 34
USAAF
5th AF

Former Assignments
35th FG
39th FS

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Via PNGBD 1968
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John Loughman 1969
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Bruce Hoy 1978
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Justin Taylan 2000Click For Enlargement
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Justin Taylan 2003
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Justin Taylan 2003

Pilot  ?
Force Landed  January ?, 1944

Aircraft History
Built by Lockheed. Constructors Number 222-7081. Accepted into the US Army Air Force during June 1942, part of the first batch of P-38 Lightnings shipped overseas to Australia. Assigned to the 5th Air Force, 35th Fighter Group, 39th Fighter Squadron. Nose Number 34.

Wartime History
Flown by 1/Lt Ralph C Bills. Allocated squadron call number 34 painted on the tail. 1/Lt Bills while flying this aircraft shot down his second Zero on December 31, 1942.  It was also flown by many other 39th Fighter Squadron pilots, including Lt. Richard E. Smith and Lt. Stanley Andrews. Others have said that this aircraft was also assigned to the 80FS, and assigned to Lt. Cornelius "Corky" Smith as "Dottie From Brooklyn" (named after Smith's wife, Dot).

Assigned to Lt Wayne Rothgeb. On May 14, 1943 it was flown on an interception mission from Dobodura. During the mission, the right turbocharger exploded an altitude of 27,000' forcing Rothgeb to return to Schwimmer (14 Mile Drome) on one engine, and a safe landing was made.

After this flight, the P-38 was written off on May 14, 1943. Although US Air Force records indicate the aircraft was written off, it was repaired and reassigned to unknown unit, likely a service unit.

Mission History
Sometime during January 1944, this P-38 was on a local flight over Port Moresby. According to Australian soldiers on the ground, the pilot cut both engines, and was unable to restart them, and force landed on the salt flats near Lea Lea. The pilot and exact date of this force landing is unknown.

Wreckage
Abandoned, the wreckage remained in situ until late in 1978.

Bruce Hoy adds:
"The left engine was under power when the aircraft made its emergency landing as evidenced by the destruction of its reduction gearbox housing as well as an aerial photo I have somewhere that shows the left propeller separated from the engine and all three blades being bent. There are bullet holes of a large calibre that could not have been caused when it was sitting on the ground due to their trajectory, and lastly the lower airframe has evidence of an on-board fire, from memory, coming from the left engine."

Salvage
In 1975, Monty Armstrong acting on behalf of Yesterday's Air Force / David Tallichet removed the nose section.

Bruce Hoy adds:
"As far as I was able to determine, Bill Chapman never owned the recovery rights for this aircraft, and therefore it can be presumed that Armstrong had no right to the removal of the nose section."

On 14 November, 1978, the aircraft's tail and booms were disconnected, and on the 16th, the aircraft in two sections, wing and cockpit gondola with the tail/booms sitting on top, were recovered on behalf of the PNG National Museum by the Directorate of Technical Services, Papua New Guinea Defense Force under the leadership of Major Doug Crosdale. David Thollar (Air Niugini engineer) provided technical advice with the dismemberment of the tail and boom units. Modern History Department Curator Bruce Hoy was also present at the recovery. The wreckage was transported to Port Moresby by low-loader, the journey taking two days.

Display
The wreckage was then displayed at the PNG War Museum as the main outdoor exhibit from 1978 - to the present day.

Removal of Parts
In an deal to statically restore the P-38 for the museum, portions of the aircraft including the outer wing panels and tail booms were removed in 2001 by Robert Greinert / HARS and exported to Australia.

In 2003, the pieces were in storage at Bankstown Airfield.   The aircraft is slated for a full restoration and return to the PNG Museum along with Ki-61 640 as part of the Minister for Culture and Tourism.

Aside from the removal of parts from this P-38 and other wrecks, no restoration work has been performed on this "P-38 project" by Robert Greinert, although it has been mentioned in an articles as late as December 22, 2005. Robert Greinert is quoted in Aircraft society rejects smuggling claim: "Since 2000, HARS has been involved in a project with the museum to restore free of charge an American P38 Lightning fighter aircraft and a Japanese Kawasaki Tony fighter for display in PNG."

During early 2005, the booms and outer wings of this P-38 were moved to Precision Aerospace, and stored outdoors.

Robert Greinert stated via email on April 19, 2005:
"The mortal remains of various P-38 parts have been dispatched to Precision Aerospace at Wangarratta for the purposes of remanufacturing various components e.g. new centre section wing spars which will be applied to the [PNG] National Museum's P-38 restoration. You will be able to garner further information throughout the year from reputable media sources such as Classic Wings."

The rest of the aircraft minus the outer wing panels and engines remains at the PNG War Museum.

Relatives
Linda Goffinet (niece of Wayne Rothgeb)
"Wayne Rothgeb passed away in 1993."

References
New Guinea Skies: A Fighter Pilot's View of WWII by Wayne Rothgeb
Flightpath Magazine, Vol 4 No 2 by Bruce Hoy
Aircraft Society Rejects Smuggling Claim 9 News, December 22, 2005
Thanks to Bruce Hoy and Phil Bradley for additional information

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Last Updated
January 1, 2014

 

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