|Pilot Lt(jg) John H. Keith, O-145236 (MIA / KIA) KA
Ditched November 1, 1943 at 6:10pm
Built by Vought. Assigned to the US Navy to VF-17 "The Jolly Rogers". No known nose art or nickname.
One of eight Corsairs from 'Flight 2' that took off from Ondonga Airfield at 8:45 to patrol over Empress Augusta Bay at 28,000'. Led by Halford, the patrol encounters heavy cloud cover over patrol area. Bogies spotted at 1045, but contact lost before they could be engaged. Returning, the fighters strafed Ballale Airfield.
Later that afternoon, 'Flight 2' again took off from Ondonga Airfield at 15:45 for another two hour patrol over Empress Augusta Bay, but failed to spot any enemy aircraft. On the return flight, they again strafed Ballale Airfield. This time, they encounter intense anti-aircraft fire from the island.
This fighter was hit and begin to smoke heavily, then ditched five miles southeast of the island at 18:10. The pilot was observed to swim clear of the fighter. His wing man Ens Country Landreth (Landrew?) circled until after sunset, until he lost sight of him in the darkness and departed. While he circled, Keith did not deploy his life raft.
During the night and into the next day, a PT boat and PBY Catalina search for Keith, yielded no results and he was never spotted again.
The Jolly Rogers, page 111 Blackburn recalled:
"[November 2, 1943] I learned that the meticulous, thorough search for Johnny Keith had produced no results. I wanted to hold out hope - downed pilots were known to turn up weeks and even months after going in - but I knew that it was not fair to withhold the news from Johnny's family. That afternoon, I wrote the first of all too many heart-wrenching next-of-kin letters from the forward area."
Keith was officially declared dead on January 11, 1946. Memorialized on the tablets of the missing at Manila American Cemetery.
Mary M. Ogborn (sister)
"My brother, Lt. jg John Henry Keith was shot down in a Corsair making a run over Ballale. I was just a kid and remember little about it all except for the grief."
The Jolly Rogers pages 108-109, 111
US Navy Loss Microfilm lists loss location as Poporang Island
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June 29, 2019