|Pilot 1st Lt. William W. Morton, O-439666 (MIA / KIA) VA
Crashed March 16, 1943
Built by Lockheed Aircraft Corporation (LAC) in Burbank, California. Constructors Number 5358. Converted
from a E model into a F-4
photographic reconnaissance version. Delivered to the U. S. Army. 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.
On March 16, 1943 took off from 14 Mile Drome (Schwimmer) near Port Moresby piloted by 1st Lt. William W. Morton on a photo reconnaissance mission over the Ramu Valley and Markham Valley. Morten radioed Port Moresby that he was "over the ranges". This was taken to mean that he was south of the Owen Stanley Mountain Ranges. No further broadcasts were heard. When Morton failed to return from the mission, he was listed as Missing In Action (MIA).
In fact, this Lightning crashed due to unknown reasons into the sea northwest of Fishermans Island (Daugo Island) south of Port Moresby. The remains of the pilot have never been found.
This aircraft crashed upside down on a sandy bottom in roughly 10m of water. Wreckage includes one of the propellers, upside down wing and main landing gear with tire. During the early 1990s, this P-38 was discovered by SCUBA divers. The instrument panel was recovered from the wreckage which included the radio call sign, confirming serial number and constructors number.
Morton was officially declared dead on March 17, 1944. He is memorialized on the tablets of the missing at Manila American Cemetery.
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) -
William W. Morton
PNG Museum Aircraft Status Card - P-38 Lightning 41-2140
Wrecks & Reefs pages 156 - 159
The Eight Ballers: Eyes of the Fifth Air Force pages 160
Thanks to Keith Hopper for additional information
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September 26, 2018