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  P-38J-5 Lightning Serial Number 42-67155  
13th AF
18th FG
44th FS

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Cotesworth Head 1942
Pilot Captain Cotesworth B. Head, Jr. O-727452 (MIA / KIA) CA
Ditched  January 18, 1944
MACR  1780

Aircraft History
Built by Lockheed Aircraft Corporation (LAC) in Burbank, California. Delivered to the U. S. Army. Disassembled and shipped overseas and reassembled.

Wartime History
Assigned to the 13th Air Force, 18th Fighter Group, 44th Fighter Squadron. No known nose art or nickname.

Mission History
Took off from Stirling Airfield on a mission to escort bombers over Rabaul. His plane was reported at 1300 near the Warangoi River: The combat report states: "last seen making water landing 10 miles east of mouth of Warangoi River.”

Henry Sakaida adds:
"[Head] probably swam ashore. Two days later,  2/Lt Dwight M. Kelly probably parachuted and was seen by Head, who went looking for him. I surmise that on 20 January, the two P-38 pilots found each other. Then, they saw a dogfight and a parachute (Ishida). Thinking that he may be an American, they went to look for him also, and found Ishida instead.

Ishida was stunned to come face-to-face with two Americans! One of them had a pistol in his hand. Ishida smiled and approached them, as if he was going to shake hands. The Americans, knowing that he was unarmed, let their guards down, smiled, and closed. Suddenly, Ishida kicked the gun out of the American’s hand. He hit him between the eyes with his fist and a vicious hand-to-hand struggle ensued.

The details are unclear, but the Zero pilot strangled one opponent with a leather belt. Ishida was a 2nd Degree Judo Blackbelt. He probably killed both of them. He fled in the direction where he heard engine sounds and was rescued by an Army patrol. Undoubtedly, the patrol went looking for the two Americans, but according to my research, their names do not show up as prisoners."

Head was officially declared dead on January 16, 1946. He is memorialized on the tablets of the missing at Manila American Cemetery. He earned the Distinguished Flying Cross with 2 Oak Leaf Clusters, Air Medal with 9 Oak Leaf Clusters, Purple Heart (posthumously).

Head was the squadron leader and an ace.
Jungle Encounter by Henry Sakaida

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Last Updated
June 29, 2019


Technical Info

1 Missing

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