|Pilot 2nd Lt. John Clay Smith, O-736392
(MIA / KIA) Portsmith, OH
Crashed November 9, 1943 at 10:25am
Built by Lockheed Aircraft Corporation (LAC) in Burbank, California. Delivered to the U.S. Army. Disassembled and shipped overseas and reassembled.
Assigned to the 5th Air Force, 475th Fighter Group, 433rd Fighter Squadron. Tail number 179. No known nose art or nickname.
On November 9, 1943 took off from North Borio Airstrip (Dobodura No. 15) near Dobodura on a mission to escort B-25 Mitchells and A-20 Havocs on a mission over Alexishafen Airfield. Leading the flight of four was P-38H 42-66834 Captain Roberts with P-38H 42-66546 piloted by Meyers flying as his wing man with element leader Lt. Jeakle and wingman Lt. Grady.
Over the target at 10:20am, they engaged 25 enemy fighters near Alexishafen over Sek Harbor. During a dogfight with enemy fighters over the target, this P-38 collided with a Ki-43 Oscar over Fredrich Karl Harbor (Nagada Harbor) near Madang and crashed onto land near Fredrich Karl Harbor.
Also lost over the target in an aerial collision were P-38H 42-66834 and P-38H-"Charlcie Jeann II" 42-66546.
Recovery of Remains
Sometime after the crash, the Japanese buried the remains of the pilot in a grave nearby.
During 1949, American Graves Registration Service (AGRS) visited the crash site and located an isolated burial nearby. According
to natives: "The plane crashed as a result
were found near the wreckage of the plane." Possibly, these remains were the remains of the Ki-43 pilot and Smith, or was another unrelated burials.
The remains were
assumed to be Smith and were temporarily buried at Saidor Cemetery and later reinterred at Finschafen Cemetery.
Afterwards, transported to the Philippines and stored in the AGRS Mausoleum at Manila American Cemetery.
Brian Bennett adds:
"John C. Smith's remains were listed as X-000021 (Manus) UNK
X-575 (interned at Saidor), stating that two remains were recovered
from isolated burial near Fredrich Karl Harbor, near Madang.
And was buried at
Saidor and reinterred at Finschafen, finally being stored at
at AGRS Mausoleum,
as Unknown X8 Finsch #1 and Unknown X-575. Smith's status was
reverted to unknown when contradictory dental characteristics were discovered.
Available records indicate the identification of Smith was based
primarily on association of aircraft part numbers. There is a
possibly two sets of remains were recovered at this crash site."
Smith was officially listed as Missing In Action until officially declared dead in 1950. After the recovery of remains presumed to be Smith were transported to the United States for permanent burial. During August 1950, he was permenantly buried in a private cemetery in his hometown of Portsmith, Ohio.
Justin Taylan visited the crash site during 2003:
"Enough wreckage is still present at Nagada Harbor to identify it as
a P-38, and read the tail number "179" on the tail, and part of the serial
villagers lore about the wreck is that its haunted,
the wreckage. They told me when ever anyone goes near it,
they get sick or bad things happen to them. Also, nearby they told
me there was a 'wing' which they were unable to relocate, and further
north, but in the same vicinity, the wreckage of a 'Japanese
fighter'. I was unable to see this second wreck because an outsider
had partially scrapped the wreckage, and the same man denied me
from inspecting what remained."
MACR 1259 detailing P-38H 42-66843 contains references to John C. Smith's status as KIA, and recommends his status changed to MIA based on the statement of 2nd Lt. Jack A. Fisk.
X File X-000021 (Manus) UNK
X-575, Unknown X8 Finsch #1
PNG Museum Aircraft Status Card - P-38H Lightning 42-66596
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January 5, 2018