|Pilot 1st Lt. Wayne L. Mueller (KIA, BR) TX
Observer Captain Henry L. Leonhardt (KIA, BR) Bridgeport, OK
Crashed December 17, 1943
Built by Stinson. Delivered to the U. S. Army. Shipped overseas to New Guinea. Assigned to the U.S. Army or U.S. Army Air Force. No known nickname or nose art.
On December 17, 1943 took off from 14 Mile Drome (Schwimmer) near Port Moresby piloted by 1st Lt. Wayne L. Mueller with observer Captain Henry L. Leonhardt on a local flight. This aircraft crashed roughly 40 miles to the northwest in the vicinity of the Laloki River and Gorohu River in the Waigani Swamp (Gavagabada). Both were killed on impact. When this aircraft failed to return, it was declared Missing In Action (MIA).
This L-5 crashed with the tail sticking upwards into the Waigani Swamp (Gavagabada) a few hundred yards away from the wreckage of P-47D "Carter's Li'l Pill" 42-8066 that force landed on October 1, 1943.
A few hours after the crash, a search aircraft located the wreckage with the tail sticking upwards out of the swamp.
Two search parties were sent to the crash site: five Americans and a Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) Air Sea Rescue launch.
The RAAF Air Sea Rescue launch led by Flight Lieutenant Shelton departed from Port Moresby to search for the the missing plane. From above they were guided by a spotter plane dropping messages and guiding them to the crash site. The rescue party traveled up the Laloki River, hacking through kunai grass and swimming through the swamp. Only Shelton reached the crash site
and found the two dead crew but was unable to recover the bodies and returned to the launch.
A search party of five Americans departed 14 Mile Drome (Schwimmer) but they became lost in the swamps and the RAAF Air Sea Rescue located this party in rubber life rafts upstream and rescued them. The crowded launch was forced to anchor in the river overnight before returning to Port Moresby.
Mueller and Leonhardt were officially declared dead the day of the mission.
After their remains were recovered they were buried at Bomana War Cemetery near Port Moresby.
Postwar, their remains were transported via Australia to the United States for permanent burial. On March 15, 1948 Mueller was buried at Fort Sam Houston National Cemetery at section M Site 123. On April 8, 1948 Leonhardt was permanently buried at Fort Snelling National Cemetery at plot OFFIC, 320.
Previously, Leonhardt survived the force landing of F-5A Lighting 42-13084 into Waigani Swamp
Wings Official Magazine of the RAAF "RAAF 'Fleet' Rescues" by P/O C. A. Burley page 10-11
Air Sea Rescues - Moresby Area extracts from No. 74 wing file 908/1/P1 taken a Port Moresby on 4th December 1944 page 2-3
"On the 19th December 1943 at Loloci [sic] River Galley Reach aircraft L5 type crashed. F/Lt. Shelton led party from launch through extremely difficult country consisting of dense jungle high kunai grass and crocodile infested swamp. The conditions were so bad that only Flight Lieutenant Shelton reached the scene of the crash to find that both occupants were dead and, owing to his exhausted condition he could not retrieve the bodies nor could he have been able to do so could he have taken them back to the river."
The Eight Ballers Eyes of the Fifth Air Force: The 8th Photo Reconnaissance Squadron in World War II page 97-98
"17 December 1943 - Friday
"...Lt. Klages took off for Madang and Saidor area loaded with color film, but the wrong filter. Lucky enough for Camera Repair that the weather was bad, and the film wasn't wasted because of the filter. On the way back, Klages flew low over the wrecked P-47 he and others had spent two days and nights getting to. A few hundred yards from the P-47, he noticed the tail of a L-5 sticking up out of the swamp [this aircraft]. A special flight was made over the wreck, and the ship was identified as the one Capt. Henry Leonhardt and Lt. Wayne Mueller had been flying a few hours earlier. A party was launched from here in two rubber boats on the Laloki. Another party, Australians, took a power boat up the Laloki from Red Scar Bay.
The Aussies reached the wreck first, after tedious hours of work plowing through swamps and kunai grass. The bodies were found and identified as those of Lt. Mueller and Capt. Leonhardt.
Lt. Mueller was one of the best glider pilots in the theater and had an enviable record in assisting A-3 in planning airborne operations. For some time he had been attached to the 2nd Air Task Force at Marilinan and had made countless rescue flights up into the Ramu and Markham Valleys, often far over Japanese lines. While Lt. Mueller has not been with the Squadron for some time, his loss hits us just as hard as if he were now one of our own men, and the theater and Fifth Air Force suffer a distinct loss.
Capt. Leonhardt came over with "B" Flight in June 1942 and has been a mainstay in the ground echelon ever since. He has been responsible for all the extensive construction carried out by the outfit since its transfer to New Guinea, and, by actually rolling up his sleeves and helping ours, has endeared himself to all the officers and enlisted men of the organizations. Henry is the sort of fellow who is almost impossible to replace."
In memory of Captain Army Air Corps Henry Lewis Leonhardt
FindAGrave - Capt Henry Lewis Leonhardt (grave photo)
"KIA New Guinea. Married Mildred Alice Hoy Dec 6, 1929. Survived by four children 1. Marilyn Jean, 2. Donna Marie, 3. Robert Hoy, 4. James Lewis"
Wayne L Mueller (grave photo)
Thanks to Edward Rogers, John Stanaway Neil Whiting and Robert Rocker for additional information
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February 4, 2018