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  F-5A-10-LO "Eager Beaver" Serial Number 42-13073 Tail 73
USAAF
5th AF
6th PRG
8th PRS

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8th PRS 1943

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RAAF February 1944

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Justin Taylan 2006

Pilot  1st Lt. Frederic G. "Fred" Hargesheimer (rescued) Rochester, MN
Crashed  June 5, 1943
MACR  none

Aircraft History
Built by Lockheed Aircraft Corporation (LAC) in Burbank, California. Constructors Number 222-7506. Built as a Lockheed P-38G-10-LO Lightning and converted into a F-5A-10-LO photographic reconnaissance version. Delivered to the U. S. Army. Disassembled and shipped overseas to Australia and reassembled.

Wartime History
Assigned to the 5th Air Force, 6th Photographic Reconnaissance Group (6th PRG), 8th Photographic Reconnaissance Squadron (8th PRS). Nicknamed "Eager Beavers". No known nose art.

Mission History
On June 5, 1943 took off from Dobudura Airfield at 1:00pm on a photo reconnaissance mission over the coastline of West New Britain in search of Japanese barge traffic.  At 2:00pm, this aircraft made a position and weather report via radio over Arawe, but his unit was unable to decipher his message because Hargesheimer was give the wrong coding card prior to take off, but was able to track his position by map coordinates.

Next, he passed over the southeastern tip of Rooke Island twice and found nothing, then circled Cape Gloucester Airfield and photographed the airfield from 6,000' and observed no activity, then flew around Lolobau Island.

Flying over the north coast of New Britain, decended to 3,000' to avoid bad weather near the Talasea peninsuala, then the sky cleared over Garua.

He observed what appeared to be a new airfield, Ubili Airfield (Sule) and circled it gaining altitude and afterwards proceeded southwards toward Gasmata, to confuse the Japanese, then turned northward again to orbit Ubili Airfield (Sule) again and the weather had cleared and Hargesheimer searched for enemy barges reported in the area and made a photographic run over Ulamon sawmill and circled Lolabu Island towards the coast of Open Bay.

After departing Lolabu, Hargesheimer was attacked from behind by a Ki-45 Nick of the 13th Sentai. The first attack caused sharp rattling noises and he checked his instruments believing he had engine problems. A second attack caused a large hole and fire on the rear of the left nacelle and observed the twin engine fighter behind him. Diving to the right, the left engine temperature gauge went into the red and he feathered the propeller and was unable to release his drop tanks. Damaged, he attempted to reach a cloud bank but the right engine was also hit and failed.

The School That Fell From the Sky, page 35-36:
"I spotted what looked like the construction of a new airfield. I leveled off and circled the area for a better look. The least I could do was shoot a set of pictures and let the photo interpreters back at the base decide if this was an important field. I carefully lined up for a low-altitude pass over what looked like a runway and set the camera intervelometer for a series of overlapping pictures. The cameras were rolling when I was startled by a series of sharp staccato sounds. Eager Beaver quivered a bit as I made a hurried check of the engine instruments. Everything seemed normal. Suddenly a long jagged tear appeared in the port engine cowling. An instant later a puff of black smoke shot out from the hole, followed by a burst of flame. Instinctively I sent Eager Beaver into a screaming dive with throttles wide open; only then did I dare sneak a glance at the rearview mirror. I was afraid to look - but afraid not to. Turing my head, I stared straight into the flaming snout of a twin-engine enemy fighter."

Opening the canopy to bail out at roughly 1,500', the hatch did not completely release and while attempting to push it away Hargesheimer was sucked clear of the plane and opened his parachute and drifted down near the Pandi River and Nakunai Mountains. His aircraft crashed below him and he landed in the same vicinity and burst into flames instantly as the wing tanks were still full. As he decended, the enemy fighter fired at him but missed before landing in trees. Hiding his parachtute, the fighter strafed where he landed but again missed.

Escape & Evasion
Wandering in the jungle for 31 days alone until he found villagers from Nantabu village who hid him for six months. Later, he was taken to the camp of Australian Commandos who arranged his rescue, along with other American and Australian aviators from behind enemy lines. On February 5, 1944 the USS Gato (SS-212) surfaced in Open Bay near Maitanakunai and transported them to Finschafen. From there, he was sent back to the United States.

Generosity To The People Who Helped Him
Back in America, Hargesheimer wondered what he could to to repay the villagers who had saved his life. Hargesheimer concluded that education and health services would be his gifts to the Nakanai people. He saved and returned to New Guinea in 1960 and in 1964 donated money to establish two schools: Ewasse Airmen's Memorial school and the Noau Primary school in West New Britain.  He and his wife even lived among the people to serve as teachers.  A health center was dedicated in 1969, with an oil palm plantation to fund the projects. Nearly every year, he returns to visit the school until July 2004.

Wreckage
In July 2006, Hargesheimer returned to New Britain and was taken by helicopter and then carried on a chair to the wreckage of his aircraft that had been discovered by locals in the Nantabu Mountains, including unxeposed film from his cameras.

Cecilie Benjamin adds:
"90 year old [Hargesheimer] reunited with his plane in the depths of the PNG jungle after 63 years. He said "well I'm glad I didn't end up in that!" when I showed him the burnt out wing section where he had been hit. Craig, John and I had spent a total of 5 hours with the wreckage. It has been washed down a beautiful rainforest rocky creek. Progressing along it we saw bits of boom, manifolds, tail sections, a radio, wing, back strut, you name it until we got back to the main body of props, engine, left wing cowling, possible inverted cockpit etc."

References
E&E Report No. 34 - Frederic G. Hargesheimer pages 1-9
PNG Museum Aircraft Status Card - F5A Lightning 42-13073
Paradise Magazine May-June Issue by Cecilie Benjamin
AP WWII Pilot who forever repaid rescuers died December 23, 2010
FredHargesheimer biographical website
The School That Fell From the Sky by Hargesheimer
Hostages to Freedom covers his escape
70,000 to One by Gordon Manuel
"We had gone out about fifty yards when one of the sailors spotted a signal from shore. It was dark now, but we could see a flashlight signaling. They turned the boat back to shore and rowed in the direction of the light. Three men were waiting for us - three men I had never seen before. They had been with Captain Stokey. They introduced themselves as Wing Commander Townsend, Flight Officer McClamont and Fred Hargesheimer."
Hargesheimer 1999 Visit (website down as of 2006)
The National "The Cheif Warrior" October 13, 2000

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Last Updated
September 26, 2018

 

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