|Pilot 2nd Lt. Richard L. Hancock, O-750579 (MIA / KIA, BR) Clark County, WA
Crashed January 16, 1944
Built by Lockheed Aircraft Corporation (LAC) in Burbank. Constructors Number 1250. Delivered to the U. S. Army Air Force (USAAF) as P-38H-5-LO Lightning serial number 42-66739. Disassembled and shipped overseas and reassembled.
Assigned to the 5th Air Force, 475th Fighter Group, 433rd Fighter Squadron. No known nickname or nose art. Tail Number 187. When lost, engines V1710-91 and V1710-89 serial numbers 42-94019 and 42-29836. Armed with Oldsmobile 20mm cannon serial number 58406 plus Browning .50 caliber machine guns serial numbers 222729, 222729, 222925, 222827 and 78676.
On January 16, 1944 took off from North Borio Airfield (Dobodura No. 15) near Dobodura piloted 2nd Lt. Richard L. Hancock on a mission to escort bombers against Cape Gourdon on the north coast of New Guinea. The weather had a thin low layer of stratus clouds at 3,000'.
Returning from the mission with the right engine feathered and one drop tank still attached, this P-38 was seen to spin, stall and crash roughly 20 miles west of Alexishafen. The crash was observed by Captain Thomas J. Farley. When this aircraft failed to return it was officially listed as Missing In Action (MIA).
Captain Thomas H. Farley via Missing Air Crew Report 2051 (MACR 2051) page 10:
"Eyewitness Statement - Lieutenant Hancock returning from a mission with his right engine prop feathered, and unable to drop one of his belly tanks, assumed an exaggerated angle of climb and stalled straight ahead. Again he had his nose a way up past a normal climb, he rolled about a half turn and then it snapped and spun lazily down from about 3,000 feet. He did about 5 turns of the spin before he hit a hill (about 500 feet high) and a plume of smoke rose immediately and I saw the blaze a short time afterwards. The spot where he hit was about 15 to 20 miles west of Alexishafen, New Guinea, and right one mile north of a small island in a river(?). I saw no parachute nor signs of life.
No search was conducted for this aircraft or pilot.
In fact, this P-38 crashed to the north of Mawan and the pilot's body was burned in the crash and found by local people who claimed the Japanese never located or visited the crash site. Later in 1944, this crash site was visited and reported by patrol officer (kiap) Warrant Officer 2nd Class T. W. J. Lega and reported. He reported the number "187" on the tail fins and the tip of the starboard fin was painted blue and tips of the port side were red.
Recovery of Remains
After the crash, the remains of the pilot were located by local people and transported to Mawan and buried. Later in 1944, these remains were reported by patrol officer (kiap) Warrant Officer 2nd Class T. W. J. Lega. Sometime afterwards,
these remains were collected and transported to Manila.
Hancock was officially declared dead January 16, 1944. He earned the Air Medal and Purple Heart, posthumously. After his remains were recovered, he was buried at Manila American Cemetery at plot D row 9 grave 124.
NARA World War II Army Enlistment Records - Richard L. Hancock
USAF Serial Number Search Results - P-38H-5-LO Lightning 42-66734
"66739 (475th FG, 433rd FS) MIA"
Missing Air Crew Report 2051 (MACR 2051) created January 17, 1943
Report to ANGAU District Officer - HQ Madang 5 August 1944
"Location: Ref Madang East Sheet - Prov Ser 491269, approximately 1 hour 15 minutes walking time North of Mawan (487250) P-38 (Lockheed Lightning) -- totally destroyed by fire. Number of the tail fins 187. Tips of starboard fin was blue: tips of port side were red Pilot was incinerated but his remains were gathered by Mawan natives and they are now buried at Mawan village. The plane was shot down approximately five months ago and the Japanese were still in the vicinity but they did not visit wreckage. Signed T. W. J. Lega, WO II [Warrant Officer 2nd Class] Patrol Officer ANGAU"
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Richard L. Hancock
FindAGrave - Richard L. 2Lt Richard Louis Hancock (grave)
Possum, Clover & Hades: 475th Fighter Group in World War II pages 289
Thanks to Keith Hopper and Edward Rogers for research and analysis
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June 29, 2019