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  P-400 Airacobra Serial Number AP347  
USAAF
5th AF
8th FG
36th FS

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Jack Taft 1984

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via Black Jack's Last Mission 1988

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Justin Taylan 2000

Pilot  Lt. Thomas Huff
Force Landed  August 15, 1943
MACR  none

Aircraft History
Built by Bell in Buffalo, New York. Assigned Royal Air Force (RAF) serial number AP347 and painted in a three-color camouflage scheme. Instead, delivered to the U.S. Army. Disassembled and shipped overseas to Australia and reassembled.

Wartime History
Assigned to the 5th Air Force, 8th Fighter Group, 36th Fighter Squadron. No known nose art or nickname.

Mission History
Took off from Port Moresby on a mission to escort C-47 Dakotas to Tsili-Tsili Airfield. During the flight, this Airacobra experienced a lost of engine power due to the failure of two cylinder heads on the left side and made a wheels down emergency landing at Bulldog Airfield. It is unclear if the date of its force landing was August 15, 1943 or August 20, 1943.

Wreckage
Until 1984, this Airacobra remained in situ at Bulldog Airfield.

Ray Fairfield flew over the area in 1968:
"I remember the strip as just north of the village of Bulldog. I was told about some intact airplanes at Bulldog that survey crew had visited, and taken a few parts off. These planes had reportedly crashed before the strip was built. When I over flew the area in 1968 or 1969 I could not see anything. Finally, after carefully looking I could just make out the former runway - if the jungle was 80' tall, the trees on the former runway were about 40', they grew that fast. I could not see any wrecks. Later, Jack Taft went in there by boat and walked to the Airacobras. He later told me a story about when he walked there, the locals told him to stop. He wondered why, and they said he was at the aircraft. It was so overgrown, he had not seen it."

Recovery
Recovered by Jack Taft who donated the funds to recovery of two P-400s at Bulldog, in exchange for an export permit for one of them. Recovered by a RAAF Chinook on November 29, 1984 and flown to Jackson Airport.

The salvage was part of an agreement between the PNG National Museum and US Military Aircraft Museum, for the recovery of P-400 AP347, and a second, P-400 AP335 for export to the United States.

Charles Darby adds:
"At one time Pacific Aircraft Ltd (New Zealand) offered to build up a ready-for-static-display P-40E in exchange for the (export of) ex-Bulldog P-400 at Jackson Field. Didn't even get a reply."

Display
Displayed at Jackson Airport in a fenced enclosure inside the Aero Club, with a 5th Air Force memorial plaque describing technical information related to the Airacobra.

References
PNG Museum Aircraft Status Card - P-400 Airacobra AP 347
Attack and Conquor, page 144 (reference to Huff)
"On November 9, 1943 Huff flew a patrol between Wards Drome and Nadzab and claimed a Ki-43 Oscar shot down and observed to crash."
Note, it is unclear if date of combat when damaged was August 2 or August 3, 1943
Australian Aviation "Recovered PNG P-39 Story" with Dave Prossor November 1997
"aircraft was being flown on escort duty on August 20, 1943 (sic) when it suffered an internal engine failure. The pilot, Lieutenant Huff glided some 8,000' down to make a wheels down landing on a short 825m (2,700') airstrip at Bulldog at the entrance to Wau Pass, near Lakekaniu (sic) in Gulf Province. The aircraft overshot the landing and touched down well into the strip, stopping in a soft patch that snapped the nose gear leg. Lt. Huff removed the machine guns and ggave them to an American meteorology sergeant at the strip and in his own words, swipped the compass and altimeter. The next day he got a ride out in a Tiger Moth."
Joe Baugher "Airacobra I for RAF, P-400"

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Last Updated
March 9, 2014

 

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