|Pilot 1st Lt. Glen E. Hart, O-736195 (survived) Verdon, NB
Crashed January 17, 1944 at 1:30pm
Built by Lockheed Aircraft Corporation (LAC) in Burbank, California. Constructors Number 1442. Delivered to the U. S. Army Air Force (USAAF) as P-38H-5-LO Lightning 42-66897. Disassembled and shipped overseas and reassembled.
Assigned to the 13th Air Force, 347th Fighter Group, 339th Fighter Squadron. No known nickname or nose art.
On January 17, 1944 took off from Stirling Airfield piloted by 1st Lt. Glen E. Hart on a mission to escort bombers over Rabaul. Last seen over New Ireland at 1:30pm. When this aircraft failed to return it was officially declared Missing In Action (MIA). In fact, Hart bailed out a few miles south of Ambitle Island off New Ireland and landed unhurt. Also lost were P-38J pilot Munson (MIA), P-38J 42-67179 (MIA), P-38J 42-67611 (MIA), P-38H 42-66680 (MIA), P-38H 42-67785 (MIA), P-38J 42-67171 (MIA).
Hart was able to deploy his life raft and drifted as sea for six days before his raft was spotted off Cape St. George by a
Royal New Zealand Air Force (RNZAF) pilot and reported.
On January 24, 1944 the same RNZAF pilot led a U. S. Navy (USN) PBY Catalina #17 piloted by Lt(jg) O. H. Patterson from VP-14 to rescue the pilot. Since the original sighting, Hart drifted eighteen miles to the southeast roughly 30 miles south of Cape St. George and landed. After the PBY Catalina took off, several Japanese planes pursuing a returning U. S. strike went after the Catalina, but broke off when the Catalina headed southward. At 2:15pm, the PBY landed roughly 15 miles west of Torokina to rescue pilot Major R. G. Owens pilot F4U Corsair 02285 that ditched that same day. Afterwards, took off again and flown to Blanche Harbor landing at 3:00pm. Both rescued pilots were transferred to a seaplane tender for medical care.
Hart earned the Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC) and Air Medal with six Oak Leaf Cluster. Postwar he joined the U. S. Air Force (USAF) and retired with the rank of Major. He passed away in 2007 and buried at Foothills Gardens of Memory in Longmont, CO.
USAF Serial Number Search Results - P-38H-5-LO Lightning 42-66897
"66897 (347th FG) lost Jan 17, 1944. MACR 1772"
Missing Air Crew Report 1772 (MACR 1772)
Bureau of Naval Personnel Information Bulletin, NAVPERS, July 1944:
"A tip from a New Zealand pilot, returning from Rabaul, led to the rescue of 1st Lt. Glen E. Hart, a P-38 pilot. He had been adrift off New Ireland for a week, but clung to the hope of rescue by a PBY. Too weak to paddle, he drifted for days. Then on the seventh day he saw the "Cat Kids" coming for him. Asked what his reaction was to the sight of the PBY coming alongside him, Lieutenant Hart said: 'The PBY was my only hope. When it arrived, I just broke down and cried."
Lincoln Journal Star "Verdon army pilot missing in action" January 28, 1944
Lincoln Journal Star "Mother cries at good news" February 10, 1944
Austin American Statesman "Twin-engined angels save 38 lost airmen in 35 days" February 21, 1944
The Dayton Herald "Pilot seven days on raft; drinks blood of seagull"
March 4, 1944
The Maryville Daily Forum "He drank seagull blood to survive" April 20, 1944
Thanks to Jim Sawruk and Edward Rogers for additional information
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September 25, 2018