|Pilot 1st Lt. Eugene Victor Smith, USNR (survived)
Crashed January 22, 1944
Built by Goodyear Aircraft Corporation in Akron, Ohio. Delivered to the U. S. Navy (USN) as FG-1A Corsair bureau number 14212. 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. Eugene Victor Smith 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.
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 the B-25s released their bombs on Lakunai Airfield, the formation was engaged by enemy fighters, this Corsair fired several burst without result.
Departing via Saint Georges Channel, enemy fighters dropped several phosphorous bombs on the formation from above then departed without firing their guns. When this Corsair and failed to return from the mission, the cause of the loss was unknown. Also lost was FG Corsair 13270 piloted by Wardle (MIA).
During the mission, a Corsair was seen going down in flames and the pilot parachuting into the sea at 120° eight miles off Cape Saint George and 2 Baker-30 (PBY Catalina "Dumbo") was contacted.
Fate of the Pilot
In fact, Smith bailed out or ditched due to engine trouble into
Cape Saint George and landed unhurt in the sea. He successfully deployed his life raft and drifted overnight.
On January 23, 1944 PBY Catalina piloted by Lieutenant B. Smith from VP-14 rescued Smith in his life raft at Lat 05° 20' South, Long 154° 25' East. Afterwards, this same Catalina rescued 1st Lt. Richard Marsh.
after his plane had been forced down 22 January 1944 because of engine trouble. Same plane effected rescued of First Lieutenant Richard Marsh from a life raft at 04° 33' South, 153° 15' East, after his plane forced down earlier in the day."
Other sources incorrectly list the take off location as Torokina Airfield
Navy Serial Number Search Results - FG-1A Corsair 14212
USN Overseas Aircraft Loss List January 1944 - FG-1A Corsair 14212
NARA "Marine Fighter Squadron Three Twenty-One War Diary January 1944" pages 29-30
(Page 30) "Lts. Wardle and Lt. Smith failed to return from mission."
NARA "VMF-321 Aircraft Action Report - January 22, 1944" pages 1-3
(Page 2) "1st Lt. E. V. Smith, cause: unknown, condition or status: missing"
(Page 3) "Lts. Wardle and Lt. Smith failed to return from mission."
NARA "USS Coose Bay (AVP-25) War Diary January 1944" page 2
(Page 2) "23 January 1944. PBY5, Patrol Plane Commander Lieutenant B. Smith, USNR from Patrol Squadron 14, effected rescue of First Lieutenant Eugene Victor Smith USMCR VMF-321, from a life raft at 05° 20' South, 154° 25' East, after his plane had been forced down 22 January 1944 because of engine trouble. Same plane effected rescued of First Lieutenant Richard Marsh [F4U Corsair 50166] from a life raft at 04° 33' South, 153° 15' East, after his plane forced down earlier in the day."
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January 22, 2019