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"Thunderbolts / Lucifer's Messengers"
|Pilot 1st Lt James A. Foley, Jr., O-25369 (MIA / KIA) NY
MIA August 31, 1944
Built by Vought. Delivered to the U. S. Navy (USN) as F4U-1A Corsair bureau number 56261. Disassembled and shipped to the South Pacific (SOPAC) and reassembled.
Assigned to the United States Marine Corps (USMC), Marine Air Wing 1, Marine Air Group 24 (MAG-24), Marine Observation Squadron 251 "Thunderbolts / Lucifer's Messengers" VMO-251. Squadron Number 739. No known nickname or nose art.
On August 31, 1944 at 10:10am took off Piva North Airfield (Piva Uncle) on Bougainville piloted by 1st Lt James A. Foley, Jr. armed with a single 500 pound bomb on a low-level bombing mission against the eastern shore of Talili Bay near Rabaul. The formation included thirteen F4U-1 Corsairs plus two FG-1A Corsairs. Inbound to the target, one F4U-1 aborted the mission. The weather was 10/10 at 10,000' over the target area.
Over the target, hit by 20mm anti-aircraft fire in the lower engine cowl and crashed into Talili Bay roughly 1 1/2 miles northwest (other sources say two miles north) of Tavui Point. Afterwards, an oil slick was seen on the surface and no trace of the pilot. When this aircraft failed to return it was officially listed as Missing In Action (MIA).
Foley was officially declared dead the day of the mission. He earned the Purple Heart, posthumously. He is memorialized at Manila American Cemetery on the tablets of the missing.
Steven G. Foley (son) adds:
"We are currently investigating side scan sonar technology in order to conduct a search of the area in the near future yet there are some questions we need answered that may further pinpoint the location of this aircraft. Do you know where "Rataval 130" is? We believe it is or was located along the Tunnel Hill on Talili Bay. There are a few Ratavals I'll check on this one (the locals have a habit of moving a few km and building a settlement and naming after their old place so the names are often repeated across the peninsular). Are there any war ruins about 350 yards inland, 2 miles south of Tunnel Hill Road on Talili Bay? Nothing springs to mind, there are bunkers on the coast, an aircraft engine on the reef, and a tanks bogey set where the road has been eroded, and people are always digging things up, but there is nothing major. Are there ruins of the Japanese supply area just east of Kabagada Point? I'll have to look on a map to check were this is. There are tunnels all along the coast. Is there a village or war ruins about one mile in on Kurakakaul Road? There will be villages, it is one of the most heavily populated parts of PNG. War ruins will be those buried."
Navy Serial Number Search Results - F4U-1A Corsair 56261
USN Overseas Aircraft Loss List August 1944 - F4U-1A Corsair 56261
NARA "Aircraft Action Report (AAR) VMO-251 August 31, 1944" pages 26-30
(Page 27) "VI. Loss or Damage: F4U-1 / VMO-251 / Hit by 20mm AA / underneth engine / plane lost
"VII Personnel Casualties: VMO-251 / Foley, James A. 1st Lt. / Plane hit by AA / Killed In Action"
(Page 29) "Barton flew wing of Foley. Foley believed he got a direct hit and went back to look at target. When at 1200 feet between Lomandah and Tawui Point [sic Tavui Point]s, he was hit by 20mm explosive shell in engine. The AA was believed to have come from Tawui Point. Foley went right into the water 1 1/2 miles NW of Tawui Point [sic Tavui Point]. Oil slick was cloud covered in about ten minutes. There was no sign of life."
(Page 30) "Mission Log: Plane No: [Squadron Number] 739 / Pilot: Foley / Remarks: Direct hit [bomb]"
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - James A. Foley Jr.
FindAGrave - 1Lt James A Foley, Jr (tablets of the missing)
Thanks to Steven G. Foley for additional information
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