|Pilot 1st Lt. Jesse M. Leach, Jr., O-016454 (MIA / KIA) MS
MIA February 24, 1944
Built by Goodyear Aircraft Corporation in Akron, Ohio as model V-166B. Delivered to the U. S. Navy (USN) as FG-1A Corsair bureau number 13212. Disassembled and shipped overseas to the Pacific and reassembled.
Assigned to the United States Marine Corps (USMC), 1st Marine Air Wing (MAW-1), Marine Air Group 14 (MAG-14) to Marine Fighting Squadron 222 (VMF-222) "Flying Deuces". This aircraft had no known nickname, nose art or squadron number.
On February 24, 1944 took off from Torokina Airfield on Bougainville piloted by 1st Lt. Jesse M. Leach, Jr. on a mission over Rabaul. Over the Duke of York Islands, the engine quit. Leach was able to radio his position before he went down into the sea. When this aircraft failed to return, it was officially listed as Missing In Action (MIA).
During the afternoon, Corsairs from VMF-222 searched for Leach and spotted him in his life raft, but were unable to get a PBY Catalina to the location to rescue him. By dawn the next morning, neither he or his life raft could be found. His fate is unknown. He is not a known to be a Japanese Prisoner Of War (POW) at Rabaul.
Captain W .O. “Pappy” Reid Diary (via David Reid, son):
“…he [Leach] saved my life one hop [2/21/44] when my engine quit over the target [Lakunai, covering B-24s] and I fell 3,000 ft. before I could start it again. He stayed with me protecting me.
Had a chow relief today. Leach’s motor quit on him over Rabaul (Duke of York Is.). Have been looking for him all afternoon. Don’t know results yet. He called up and gave his position where his motor quit. He makes the 4th man we have lost in combat, and the 8th since we left the states. Turner just came in & said Leach had been found. Very good news!”
Epilogue: Turner and others spotted Leach in his life raft but it was too late in the afternoon to get a PBY there to rescue him before dark. Leach was nowhere to be seen by dawn the next morning. The speculation among the pilots was perhaps a Japanese submarine had picked him up, a la Boyington’s experience.
Jesse Leach disappeared during the "Flying Deuces" third combat tour and had joined them some four months earlier at the beginning of VMF-222’s second combat tour."
Leach was officially declared dead January 18, 1946 and earned the Purple Heart, posthumously. He is memorialized at the courts of the missing at Honolulu Cemetery (Punchbowl). He also has a memorial marker at New Zion Cemetery in Crystal Springs, MS.
Navy Serial Number Search Results - FG-1A Corsair 13212
"13212 (VMF-222) missing on combat mission 2/24/1944 Torokina, South Pacific. Pilot MIA."
USN Overseas Aircraft Loss List February 1944 - FG Corsair 13212
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Jesse M. Leach Jr.
1Lt Jesse Murray Leach, Jr (photo, courts of the missing photo)
FindAGrave - Capt Jesse M. Leach, Jr (memorial marker photo)
USMC Aviators pages 82-83 (group photo) 86 (photo R&R at Efate), 93 (Wilson logbook)
Captain W .O. “Pappy” Reid Diary (via David Reid, son)
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January 5, 2018