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  F4U-1A Corsair Bureau Number 17920  
USMC
MAW-1
MAG-12
VMF-213

MIA
VMF-213 c1943
Pilot  1st Lt. Robert T. Roberts, O-018305 (MIA / KIA) TX
MIA  September 23, 1943


Aircraft History
Built by Vought. Delivered to the U. S. Navy (USN) as F4U-1A Corsair bureau number 17920. Disassembled and shipped to the South Pacific (SOPAC) and reassembled.

Wartime History
Assigned to the U. S. Marine Corps (USMC) to 1st Marine Air Wing (MAW-1), Marine Air Group 12 (MAG-12), Marine Fighting Squadron 213 "Hell Hawks" VMF-213. No known nickname or markings.

Mission History
On September 23, 1943 at 8:00am took off from the Russell Islands piloted by 1st Lt. Robert T. Roberts on a mission to provide high cover for four SBD Dauntless and twelve TBF Avengers against Jakohina on southern Bougainville. The F4U Corsairs from VMF-213 were part of a sixty fighter escort including F4U Corsairs from VMF-214.

At 8:30am rendezvoused over Munda Point on New Georgia plus four Dauntless and twelve Avengers at 10,000' then proceeded to the target climbing to 14,000'. As the bombers and fighters approached the target area, twenty-four B-24s escorted by P-38s that hit Kahili Airfield were leaving the target area to the west and passed below the Corsair high cover.

At 9:30, the bombers made their dive bombing runs as the high cover was intercepted by many Zeros and a confused air combat developed from 22,000' down to 10,000'. During the dog fights, Lt. Roberts became separated from the others and was not seen again. When this aircraft failed to return it was officially declared Missing In Action (MIA). Also lost was F4U Corsair 17917 pilot 1st Lt. W. J. Thomas (rescued).

Memorials
Roberts was officially declared dead on January 10, 1946. He earned the Purple Heart, posthumously. Roberts is memorialized at Manila American Cemetery on the tablets of the missing.

References
Navy Serial Number Search Results - F4U-1A Corsair 17920
USN Overseas Aircraft Loss List September 1943 F4U-1 Corsair 17920 pilot R. T. Roberts
NARA "VMF-213 War Diary September 1943" page 25-30
(Page 25) "September 23, 1943: Losses: 1st Lt. R. T. Robers, Missing In Action - 1 F4U."
(Page 27) "[1st Lt. E. O. Shaw] I never saw, or heard, of Roberts after we made initial contact and haven't any idea of what happened to him. It was hard to keep contact with each other at the time because the area was filled with planes."
(Page 28) "1st Lt. W. J. Thomas: ...We were at this time heading back away from the target in the direction of the Shortlands. Roberts was still flying on Shaw. Two Zeros were tailing Roberts out of range. I turned into them, fired, and they turned away, but I could not observe any results of my fire. I then returned to Shaw and Roberts and scissored a couple of times with them. As we scissored a Zero tailed in behind Roberts, and I was able to sneak in behind it, fired into it and it burst into flames and went down burning. I could see Shaw and Roberts until a Zero made a head-on at me from above, I pulled into it, fired at it and it began t burn around the wing roots and cowling. It passed under me and as I looked down, I saw the Jap pilot jetison [sic jetison] his hood and bail out. I did not see Shaw again. As I leveled off after shooting the third Zero, and F4U with a Zero on its tail, dove down under me from my port side. All I had to do was a high side to get 45° deflection shot, I fired, the Zero burst into flames and spun on down."
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Robert T. Roberts
FindAGrave - 1Lt Robert Theodore Roberts (photos, tablets of the missing)

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Last Updated
August 24, 2019

 

Tech Info
F4U

MIA
MIA
1 Missing
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