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|Pilot 1st Lt. William A. Aycrigg, II, O-024020 (MIA / KIA) Darien, CT
MIA January 25, 1944
Built by Chance-Vought. Delivered to the U. S. Navy (USN) as F4U-1A Corsair bureau number 17990. Disassembled and shipped to Oahu.
Assigned to the U. S. Marine Corps (USMC) to Marine Fighting Squadron 422 "Flying Buccaneers" VMF-422. No known squadron number, nickname or nose art. This Corsair was flown from Ewa Field to Ford Island Airfield. On January 16, 1944 one of twenty-four Corsairs from VMF-422 loaded aboard USS Kalinin Bay (CVE-68).
On January 24, 1944 took off from USS Kalinin Bay (CVE-68) within sight of Tarawa (Betio) then landed at Tarawa Airfield (Hawkins Field).
On January 25, 1944 took off at 9:45am from Tarawa Airfield (Hawkins Field) piloted by 1st Lt. William A. Aycrigg, II as one of twenty-three Corsairs from VMF-422 led by F4U Corsair 17945 piloted by C. O. Major John S. Mac Laughlin, Jr. on a ferry flight bound for Nanumea Airfield then the second phase of the flight would be to Funafuti Airfield for use during "Operation Flintlock" in the Marshall Islands. One Corsair did not take off due to starter trouble.
On take off, the weather was good with cumulus clouds at 1,500' and 3/10 overcast. The flight proceeded without a navigational escort. The formation flew in three flights wide spread and were scheduled to reach Nanumea Airfield after 2 hours 30 minutes at 12:25pm.
By 12:10pm the formation was flying at an altitude of 2,000' when they encountered a weather front that developed into a violent tropical storm. Visibility was so poor no forward visibility was possible and the formation descended to sea level.
When the rest of the formation exited the storm, five Corsairs were separated: F4U Corsair 18024 piloted by Captain John F. Rogers, F4U Corsair 18025 piloted by 1st Lt Earl C. Thompson, F4U Corsair 17833 1st Lt. Robert P. Moran, F4U piloted by W. A. Wilson and F4U piloted by J. E. Hansen were separated and radio contact was maintained with three including Moran.
At 12:18pm roughly seven minutes minutes from reaching their destination, the remainder of the flight encountered another severe weather front, possibly a continuation of the first. Confused and lost, the Corsairs flew at full throttle to maintain contact with the flight leaders and the storm prevented them from flying in formation properly and required violent maneuvering and changes in throttle.
This aircraft was in formation with Captain Jeans and turned off the original course with the remaining Corsairs and climbed to 12,000' and flew square searches in an attempt to locate their destination, with two instructed to fly to 17,000' and do the same but none could locate a bearing.
At 3:30, this aircraft ran out of fuel and ditched and safely deployed his life raft. The other Corsairs formed a traffic pattern over him and each ditched together. Afterwards, Aycrigg was never seen again and officially declared Missing In Action (MIA).
In total, twenty-two of the Corsairs in the formation ditched or went missing. Afterwards, it was deemed the flight was a failure because the flight proceeded with an outdated weather forecast and because Brigadier General Lewie G. Merritt failed to authorize an escort plane with a navigator nor did his staff alert the destination to about their intended arrival to provide radio assistance or aid in rescue efforts.
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