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|Pilot 1st Lt. Lelen Taylor Wardle, O-017018 (MIA / KIA) Ogden, UT
MIA January 22, 1944
Built by Goodyear Aircraft Corporation in Akron, Ohio. Delivered to the U. S. Navy (USN) as FG-1A Corsair bureau number 13270. Disassembled and shipped overseas to the South Pacific and reassembled.
Assigned to the United States Marine Corps (USMC), Marine Air Wing 2 (MAW-2), Marine Air Group 12 (MAG-12), Marine Fighting Squadron 321 "Hell’s Angels" VMF-321. No known nose art or nickname.
On January 22, 1944 took off at 12:45pm from Piva South Airfield (Piva Yoke) on Bougainville piloted by 1st Lt. Lelen Taylor Wardle as one of sixteen Corsairs on a mission to escort B-25 Mitchells over Rabaul. Other aircraft escorting included other Corsairs, P-38 Lightnings, P-40 Warhawks and F6F Hellcats. Weather was scattered cumulus clouds at 8,000' and unlimited visibility.
The ten Corsairs including four from VMF-321 including Lt. Keim, Lt. Fughe, Lt. Wardle and Lt. Amburgery flew ahead of the bombers, circling Rabaul at 24,000'. Over the target, anti-aircraft fire was heavy and accurate at 10-11,000'. After observing the bombers drop their bombs on Lakunai Airfield, the formation was engaged by enemy fighters, fired several burst without result. Departing via St. George's Channel, enemy fighters dropped several phosphorous bombs on the formation from above then departed without firing their guns.
A Corsair was seen going down in flames and the pilot parachuting into the sea at 120° eight miles off Cape St. George and 2 Baker-30 (PBY Catalina "Dumbo") was contacted.
This Corsair and failed to return from the mission, cause of loss was unknown. He was officially declared Missing In Action (MIA). Also lost was FG Corsair 14212 piloted by Smith.
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