Force Landed January ?, 1944
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.
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
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.
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
restart them, and force landed on the salt flats near Lea
Lea. The pilot and exact date of this force landing is unknown.
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."
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.
The wreckage was then displayed at the PNG War Museum as the main outdoor exhibit from 1978 - to the
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.
Greinert stated via email on April 19, 2005:
"The mortal remains of various P-38 parts have been dispatched
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
The rest of the aircraft minus the outer wing panels and engines remains at the PNG
Linda Goffinet (niece of Wayne
Rothgeb passed away in
New Guinea Skies: A Fighter Pilot's View of WWII by Wayne
Flightpath Magazine, Vol 4 No 2 by Bruce Hoy
Aircraft Society Rejects Smuggling Claim 9 News, December 22, 2005
to Bruce Hoy and
Are you a relative or associated with any person mentioned?
Do you have photos or additional information to add?
January 1, 2014