|Pilot 2nd Lt. James F. Steele, O-792172 (MIA / KIA) NC
MIA July 16, 1943
Built by Lockheed Aircraft Corporation (LAC) in Burbank, California. Constructors Number 222-7815. Delivered to the U.S. Army. Disassembled and shipped overseas and reassembled.
Assigned to the 5th Air Force, 35th Fighter Group, 39th Fighter Squadron. No known nickname or nose art.
On July 16, 1943 one of four P-38s led by Lt. Denton that took off from 14 Mile Drome (Schwimmer) near Port Moresby on a mission to escort a single F-4 Lightning from the 8th Photographic Reconnaissance Squadron (8th PRS) on a photographic reconnaissance mission over Madang. One P-38 returned early from the mission. On the return flight, the other three P-38s including this aircraft encountered bad weather with extremely low visibility. One P-38 landed at 30 Mile Drome (Rogers) while the other two piloted by Lt. Denton and Lt. Steel proceeded to Port Moresby at 6,000'.
Lt. Steel was last seen entering extremely bad weather at 6,000'. Radio tracked him over the mountains until 6:30pm when nothing further was received. It was presumed to have crashed out of fuel in the mountains near Port Moresby. When this aircraft failed to return it was officially listed as Missing In Action (MIA). Lt. Denton landed safely at Port Moresby.
Steele was officially declared dead the day of the mission. He is memorialized on the tablets of the missing at Manila American Cemetery. Steele also has a memorial marker at Chestnut Hill Cemetery in Salisbury, NC.
39th Fighter Squadron Diary - July 16, 1943
PNG Museum Aircraft Status Card - P-38H Lightning piloted by Steele
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) -
James F. Steele
FindAGrave - 2LT James F Steele (tablets of the missing)
FindAGrave - Lieut James F. Steele (memorial marker photo)
CIL List page 11
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May 3, 2016