|Pilot F/O Rex A. Byers, T-60645 (MIA / KIA) PA
MIA December 25, 1943 at 12:05pm
Built by Lockheed Aircraft Corporation (LAC) in Burbank. Construction Number 2284. Purchased with funds PR, Army Air Force Order Number AC-24636. Project number 96341R. On November 5, 1943 delivered to the U. S. Army Air Force (USAAF) as P-38J-10-LO Lightning serial number 42-67773. The same day flown to Oakland, CA. Disassembled and shipped overseas to "EPIC" arriving at Nouméa on New Caledonia on November 14, 1943 and reassembled at Tontouta Airfield (La Tontouta).
Assigned to the 13th Air Force, 18th Fighter Group, 44th Fighter Squadron. No known nickname or nose art. When lost, engines V-1710-91 serial number (left) 42-35777 and (right) 42-36027. Weapon serial numbers were noted in Missing Air Crew Report 1496 (MACR 1496).
On December 25, 1943 took off from Munda Airfield on New Georgia piloted by F/O Rex A. Byers on a mission to escort B-24 Liberators on a bombing mission against Rabaul. The weather was ceiling and visibility unlimited (CAVU).
Over the target area, last contacted by radio while over the off Duke of York Island at roughly 12:05pm.
When he failed to return from the mission he was listed as Missing In Action (MIA). Officially, this aircraft was condemned the day of the mission. Also lost was P-38H 42-66892 piloted by 1st Lt John P. Cox (POW, executed).
A P-38 engine cowling with "2284-R", the constructors number for this P-38 was found in Papua New Guinea. Salvaged by Robert Jarrett and exported to Australia. Stored at the Classic Jets Fighter Museum (CJFM) until offered for sale at auction. During 2016, this cowling was sold to Keith Hopper.
Byers was officially declared dead the day of the mission. He is memorialized on the tablets of the missing at Manila American Cemetery. Byers also has a memorial marker at Indiantown Gap National Cemetery at section MA site 213.
Individual Aircraft Record Card (IARC) - P-38J Lightning 42-67773
USAF Serial Number Search Results - P-38H-5-LO Lightning 42-67773
"67773 (18th FG, 44th FS) shot down by Japanese fighter during raid to Rabaul, New Guinea Dec 25, 1943. MACR 1496. Pilot KIA."
Missing Air Crew Report 1496 (MACR 1496)
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) Rex A. Byers
FindAGrave - FLt O Rex A Byers (tablets of the missing photo)
Rex A Byers (grave photo)
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December 25, 2018