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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 2000

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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. Delivered to the U. S. Army during June 1942. Disassembled and shipped overseas to Australia and reassembled, part of the first batch of P-38 Lightnings shipped overseas.

Wartime History
Assigned to the 5th Air Force, 35th Fighter Group, 39th Fighter Squadron. No known nickname or nose art. Squadron Number 34 painted on the tail. This aircraft was flown by 1st Lt Ralph C Bills.

On December 31, 1942 took off piloted by Bills on an escort mission over Lae. Over the target, he claimed his second Zero shot down.

This Lightning was flown by many other pilots including Lt. Richard E. Smith and Lt. Stanley Andrews. Others have said that this aircraft was also assigned to the 80th Fighter Squadron to pilot Lt. Cornelius "Corky" Smith who nicknamed the aircraft "Dottie From Brooklyn" in honor of his wife Dot.

Afterwards, assigned to Lt Wayne Rothgeb. On May 14, 1943 took off from Dobodura on an interception mission. During the flight, the right turbocharger exploded an altitude of 27,000' forcing Rothgeb to return to Schwimmer (14 Mile Drome) on one engine but made a safe landing. After this flight, the P-38 was officially written off on May 14, 1943.

Although written off, this P-38 was repaired and reassigned to another unit, likely a service squadron and continued to fly.

Mission History
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 the force landing are unknown.

Wreckage
Until 1975, this P-38 remained in situ where it force landed.

During 1975, Monty Armstrong acting on behalf of Yesterday's Air Force / David Tallichet removed the nose section of this P-38.

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."

Salvage
On November 14, 1978, the P-38's tail and booms were disconnected, and on November 16, the aircraft was recovered in two sections: the wing and cockpit gondola with the tail/booms sitting on top, were recovered for the PNG National Museum by the Directorate of Technical Services, Papua New Guinea Defense Force (PNGDF) led by Major Doug Crosdale. Air Niugini engineer David Thollar provided technical advice with the disassembly of the tail and booms. PNG Museum modern history curator Bruce Hoy was also present at the recovery. The aircraft was transported to Port Moresby aboard a low loader over two days.

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."

Display
On November 18, 1978 this P-38 was put on display at the PNG War Museum as the main outdoor exhibit. It is believed, this is the earliest E model Lightning on display anywhere in the world.

During 1980 the nose section from P-38G "Dumbo!" 42-12847 was attached to the nose of this aircraft to make the aircraft more externally complete. Also, parts from F-5A Lightning 42-13084 were used to restore this aircraft.

During 2001, in a "deal" to statically restore this P-38 for the PNG Museum, portions of the aircraft including the outer wing panels and tail booms were removed by Robert Greinert / HARS and exported to Australia. These pieces have never been returned nor any restoration work done on them for the PNG Museum.

In 2003, the removed pieces were in storage in a hanger rented by Robert Greinert at Bankstown Airfield.   AAt the time, he agreed to statically restoration and return the P-38 to the PNG Museum along with Ki-61 Tony 640 as part of an agreement with the PNG Minister for Culture and Tourism.

Aside from the removal of parts from this P-38 and other P-38 wrecks around Papua New Guinea, no restoration work has been performed on this "P-38 project" by Robert Greinert, although this restoration for the PNG Museum has been mentioned in Classic Wings articles 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 [PNG] 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 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."

Sometime later, the nose section was also removed by Robert Greinert to Australia and was never returned.

The remainder 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
PNG Museum Aircraft Status Card - P-38F Lightning 42-12647
Thanks to Bruce Hoy and Phil Bradley for additional information

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Last Updated
March 14, 2014

 

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