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|Pilot 2nd Lt. Christopher O. Bartlett, O-743303 (POW, died January 10, 1944, MIA) Fresno, CA
Crashed October 29, 1943 at 1:00pm
Built by Lockheed Aircraft Corporation (LAC) in Burbank. Delivered to the U. S. Army Air Force (USAAF) as P-38H-1-LO Lightning serial number 42-66523. Disassembled and shipped overseas to Australia and reassembled.
Assigned to the 5th Air Force (5th AF), 475th Fighter Group (475th FG) "Satan's Angles", 432nd Fighter Squadron (432nd FS) "Clover". No known nose art or nickname. When lost, engine V-1710-91 serial number 42-93617 and engine V-1710-89 serial number 42-29710. Armed with 20mm cannon serial number 111061 plus .50 caliber machine guns serial numbers 223106, 222993, 409410 and 223531.
On October 29, 1943 one of sixteen P-38s that took off from North Borio Airfield (Dobodura No. 15) (APO 503 Strip No. 15) on a escort mission escorting B-24s on a bombing mission over Rabaul. The weather was good. Over the target, the formation was intercepted by 20-30 enemy fighters identified as Ki-43 Oscars and A6M Zeros over Wide Bay near Tarobi village.
Bartlett's flight dove to 10,000' to attack eight enemy fighters. Leveling out, the flight leader noticed Bartlett was missing. Last seen by 1st Lt. Arthur L. Peregoy at 10,000' directly over the north shore of Wide Bay. After Bartlett came out of his dive he was likely damaged and flew to the north coast of New Britain then ditched into a swamp roughly a half mile from Bakoba Point.
Keith Hopper adds:
"Tarobi village is on the north side of New Britain at least 60nm away. I suspect he was in action over Wide Bay, sustained battle damage and headed as far west away from Rabaul as his damaged P-38 would take him. Perhaps the battle / damage and/or loss of altitude caused him to be on the north side of the island. His track home would have been south west, so being on the south side of the island would have been preferable. But if he realized how badly his plane was damaged, he may have been reluctant to commit to a long over water flight. Also there are several 5th Air Force P-38's still missing on that Rabaul to Kiriwina sector."
Fate of the Pilot
Bartlett survived the ditching unhurt. He met native people who were friendly and cared for him and hid him in their village for nearly two months. According to the villagers, a German missionary in charge of the mission near the village betraying his presence to the Japanese who sent a patrol to the village and to apprehend him. In late December 1943, the presence of the villagers, Bartlett was not treated poorly and taken away. The villagers believed he was being transported to Rabaul.
Bartlett became a Prisoner Of War (POW) and his precise fate is unknown. Likely he was executed by the Japanese or otherwise died in captivity at Rabaul. He was officially declared dead on January 10, 1044.
During the mission, when the flight leader noticed Bartlett missing, the rest of the flight circled the the northern edge of Wide Bay but saw no trace of him or his aircraft. No other specific search was conducted for him or his plane.
During the middle of 1944, his brother Captain Floyd I. Bartlett, O-424652 of the 40th Infantry Division, 185th Infantry Regiment, Company H was stationed on New Britain and wrote a letter on June 26, 1944 to the his commanding officer, Major John S. Loisel requesting details about his brother's P-38 and details about his loss which were provided to him in a reply dated July 24, 1944.
After Allied forces occupied the area, Captain Barlett located the wreckage of his brother's P-38, with the assistance of the luluwai (chief) from a nearby village and learned how he was lived with them for two months until betrayed by the German missionary to the Japanese.
Bartlett was officially declared dead on January 10, 1944. He earned the Air Medal. Bartlett is memorialized at Manila American Cemetery on the tablets of the missing.
Captain Floyd I. Bartlett, O-424652 (brother)
USAF Serial Number Search Results - P-38H-1-LO Lightning 42-66523
"66523 (475th FG, 432nd FS) damaged by a Zero and force landed near Tarobi, New Guinea Oct 29, 1943. Pilot evaded for two months, then captured and executed. MACR 1193."
Missing Air Crew Report 1193 (MACR 1193) created November 1, 1943
Historical Narrative September 1944
NARA World War II Army Enlistment Records - Christopher O. Bartlett
NARA World War II Prisoners of War Data File Christopher O. Bartlett notes detaining power Germany (incorrectly), died as POW as of 1/10/44 by sources considered official at Rabaul POW Camp
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Christopher O. Bartlett
FindAGrave - 2Lt Christopher O Bartlett (tablets of the missing)
PNG Museum Aircraft Status Card - P-38H Lightning 42-66523
Thanks to Lt. Col Ken Tilley AETC AFHRA/RSA and Keith Hopper for additional information
Oct 29, 1944
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