|Pilot 2nd Lt John J. Durkin, O-7489321 (survived) Westfield, NJ
Force Landed November 16, 1943
Built by Lockheed Aircraft Corporation (LAC) in Burbank, California. Delivered to the U. S. Army Air Force (USAAF) as P-38H-5-LO Lightning serial number 42-66826. Disassembled and shipped overseas and reassembled.
Assigned to the 5th Air Force, 475th Fighter Group, 431st Fighter Squadron. Nose Number unknown something in the range of 110-140. Possibly, nicknamed "Hold Everything".
On November 16, 1943 took off from Dobodura Airfield No. 12 on a mission against Wewak. Inbound to the target, Durkin aborted the mission due to low fuel and returned to base. Returning, he was jumped by a pair of Japanese "Zeros" (Ki-43 Oscars) and took evasive action and lost them both in the clouds. Afterwards, his electric compass stopped working and he became lost and proceeded southward until he reached an unfamiliar coastline. With very little fuel remaining, one engine cut out, forcing him to force landed in what he thought was kunai grass but turned out to be a swamp. Durkin survived the landing unhurt.
Fate of the Pilot
After landing, Durkin spent the night sleeping on the wing of his plane, the only part above the swamp. The next day, he proceeded towards a nearby village and was met by friendly natives and taken to their village roughly 10 miles away. With their help, he was taken to the coast two days later. Transported aboard a lakatoi to Daru Island where he was handed over to Australian forces while the lakatoi went to another location to radio
his whereabouts. A PBY Catalina arrived and transported him to Port Moresby. On December 7, 1943 he returned to his squadron.
Previously, Durkin survived the ditching of P-38H Lightning off Porlock Harbor
E&E Report No. 19 "Mission Date: 16 November, 1943. Narration of Lt. John J. Durkin"
The Courier-Mail "Lifetime of thrills in 6 weeks' flying" by J. E. Vine, Courier-Mail War Correspondent, Friday 10 December 1943
"NEW GUINEA, Dec. 9. — A Lightning pilot, Lieut. John J. Durkin, of Westfield, New Jersey, began his New Guinea flying in late October. He has packed enough excitement into the six weeks which have passed since then to last most folk a lifetime.
Eight days separated two crash landings — one into the sea, the other into a jungle swamp. For the first there was a naval craft conveniently at hand to rescue him from the water, but it took 18 days and a series of adventures to get him out of the second jam. Life proceeded smoothly for Lieut. Durkin. who is 23, until November 8. It was then that he made his Bismarck Sea landing off Cape Nelson, after his unit had been scattered by a vicious storm. Four days later he was flying, again. On November 16, high over Wewak, he had to signal to his formation leader that his gasolene [sic gasoline] was low and he was returning to his base. He reached his base 18 days later in a Catalina. On the lonely journey home he was jumped by two Zeros. He eluded them after playing hide and seek in the cumulus clouds For 10 minutes. But if the Zeros were gone, so was his electric compass. Probably it had been smashed by tracer from the Jap planes. Lieut. Durkin set a course for what he thought was home. One engine had coughed and stuttered to a stop and the other was just about to cut out for lack of fuel as he nosed his ship down on to what seemed a verdant level stretch. He landed in a six-foot deep swamp.
Lieut. Durkin spent that night on the wing of his plane, one of the few parts not submerged. Next day he started to pull himself through the slime and weeds toward a native village, and was picked up by natives in a crude native canoe. They took him to their village 10 miles away. Two days later with his native escort he reached the Dutch New Guinea coast. From then on he was passed from village to village. Natives fed him on bananas, coconuts, and fish, once on baked turtle. Finally he reached a village which boasted a seagoing lakatoi, and set out with his native crew for an island garrisoned by a small body of Australians. By day they were becalmed, but at night a storm arose and they ran aground on a reef. They reached the island next morning. Sig. Fred Turbit, of Sydney, and Sig. Ron. Burr, of N.S.W., made him at home. Meantime the lakatoi went to another island 50 miles away equipped with a radio transmitting set. A radio message went through and a Catalina picked up Lieut. Durkin. Tomorrow he will rejoin his unit."
475th FG, 431st FS History
J B lists: "66826 (475th FG, 432st FS, "Hold Everything") damaged by enemy fighters and ditched in swamp in New Guinea November 17, 1943. Pilot returned."
PNG Museum Aircraft Status Card - P-38 Lightning 42-66826
John Stanaway adds: "Lt John J. Durkin is listed in the 432nd FS, and his prewar address was 1001 Cleveland Ave., Westfield, NJ."
Thanks to Bruce Hoy and Edward Rogers for additional information.
Are you a relative or associated with any person mentioned?
Do you have photos or additional information to add?
January 5, 2018