|Pilot 1st Lt. Ralph L. Hays, O-791103 (MIA / KIA) PA
MIA October 13, 1943
Built by Lockheed Aircraft Corporation (LAC) in Burbank. Delivered to the U. S. Army. Disassembled and shipped overseas to Australia.
Assigned to the 5th Air Force, 49th Fighter Group, 9th Fighter Squadron. No known nickname or nose art. When lost, engines V-1710-51 and V-1710-55 serial numbers: 42-31764 and 42-29299. Weapon serial numbers listed in in Missing Air Crew Report 1104.
On October 13, 1943 took off Kiriwina Airfield at 10:20am on an mission to escort B-24 Liberators over Rabaul. Hays was flying as part of "Green Flight" with wingman P-38G 42-12856 piloted by 1st Lt. Frank G. Wunder Jr. The P-38s rendezvoused with the B-24s north of Kiriwina.
Inbound to the target, the weather was approaching frontal region with precipitation and clouds. The P-38s entered bad weather this aircraft was last sighted by Captain Gerald R. Johnson at roughly Lat 7° S Long 152° E over the Solomon Sea.
When this aircraft failed to return it was officially declared Missing In Action (MIA). Also lost were P-38H "Charlcie Jeann" 42-66516 (MIA) and P-38G 42-12856 (MIA).
Captain Gerald R. Johnson, MACR 1116 page 6 / MACR 1104 page 6:
"Green flight lost Lt. Ralph L. Hays and Lt. Frank G. Wunder, Jr., wingman, and the remainder of the flight returned to Dobodura... I believe the reason for the loss of these pilots was due to mid-air collision. All pilots had sufficient experience to turn out of the rain."
On October 14, 1943 a search was initiated by P-38s from the squadron the searched between Dobodura and Kiriwina and offshore islands. The search found a B-24 bellied in on a reef whose crew had already been rescued. The aircraft also searched from Kiriwina to Woodlark with nil sightings. The entire search lasted 5-7 hours.
Hays was officially declared dead the day of the mission. He is memorialized at the tablets of the missing at Manila American Cemetery. Hays also has a memorial marker
Arlington Cemetery in Drexel Hill, PA.
Wunder was credited with a single aerial victory over Salamaua, but it does not appear in the official USAF credits for the destruction of enemy aircraft, World War II.
Pilot Roster, 9th Fighter Squadron 1942-1943 via Edward Rogers
Missing Air Crew Report 1116 (MACR 1116) created October 15, 1943
The Journal-Herald "Lt. Frank Wunder Missing In Action" November 4, 1943
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Ralph L. Hays
FindAGrave - 1Lt Ralph L Hays (tablets of the missing photo)
Ralph L Hays, Jr (memorial marker photo)
Fighter Pilot page 50-51
"My flight was the first to land, and we waited two hours for the rest of the squadron to straggle in. Three planes were missing - Frank Wunder, Ralph Hays and Theron Price, the pilots. I had my ship refueled and four of us searched until dark without finding a trace of them. Early the next morning we received permission to conduct a full-scale search; for three days we combed the area without success. The fourth day [October 17, 1943] we were needed for another Rabaul raid, so the search was called off."
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August 6, 2019