|Pilot 1st Lt. LeGrand J. Kneeskern, 12030546 (survived) Kirkville, NY
Crashed July 31, 1943
Kneeskern was born on March 3, 1919. He graduated as an architect then enlisted in US Army Air Corps as an aviation cadet on October 31, 1941. He died on August 5, 1970.
Built by Lockheed Aircraft Corporation (LAC) in Burbank, California. Converted
from a P-38E Lightning into a F-4
photographic reconnaissance version. Delivered to the U. S. Army Air Force (USAAF) as F-4-1-LO Lightning serial number 41-2014. Disassembled and shipped overseas to Australia and reassembled.
Assigned to the 5th Air Force, 6th Photographic Reconnaissance Group, 8th Photographic Reconnaissance Squadron. No known nose art or nickname. Officially condemned on November 30, 1943.
On July 31, 1943 took off from 14 Mile Drome (Schwimmer) piloted by 1st Lt. LeGrand J. Kneeskern on a reconnaissance mission over the Markham Valley. Over the target area, Kneeskern bailed out northwest of Nadzab. When he failed to return, Kneeskern was listed as Missing In Action (MIA) by his squadron.
Fate of the Pilot
When he pulled his ripcord his back was injured by the jolt and he lost one of his boots. Kneeskern landed in a tree and remained there for a day and a half, then moved to a nearby stream, and followed it downstream for five days.
On August 10, 1943 found native people who gave him food and shelter, then took him to Australian forces and was transported to plantations until he returned to base, and found that he had been promoted to the rank of Captain while he was missing.
The Eight Ballers: Eyes of the Fifth Air Force pages 57 (photo), 78, 80
The Milwaukee Journal "Hurt in Parachute Fall; Then Solider has Jungle as Foe" Aug 28, 1943
NARA US Army Enlistment Archive spells his name "Le Grand"
Ancestry.com "World War II Honor Roll: Town of Manlius..." Kathy Crowell
Thanks to Edward Rogers and Robert Rocker for additional information
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September 26, 2018