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  P-38G-13-LO Lightning Serial Number 43-2201  
5th AF
8th FG
80th FS

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USAAF c1943

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80th FS c1943

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Mark Paler 2003
Pilot  2nd Lt. Earl W. Smith, O-732388 (MIA / KIA) Oakland, CA
Crashed  August 20, 1943
MACR  none

Aircraft History
Built by Lockheed Aircraft Corporation (LAC) in Burbank. Constructors Number 322-3310. Delivered to the U. S. Army Air Force (USAAF) as P-38G-13-LO Lightning serial number 43-2201. Disassembled and shipped overseas to Australia and reassembled.

Wartime History
Assigned to the 5th Air Force, 8th Fighter Group, 80th Fighter Squadron "Headhunters". No known nose art or nickname.

Mission History
On August 20, 1943 took off from 3 Mile Drome (Kila) near Port Moresby piloted by 2nd Lt. Earl W. Smith on a mission against Wewak. After a successful mission, this P-38 piloted by Smith decided to perform aerobatics over a ship inside Fairfax Harbor. He slow rolled and hooked a wing in the water, 300 yards off Paga Point, after an engine failure. Officially, this aircraft was written off August 23, 1943.

The wreck is broken up, in an area with moderate visibility. In 2002, Mark Palmer first dived the site and located the cockpit's radio call sign, '3-2201' confirming the aircraft's identity.

Mark Palmer adds:
"The location of this aircraft was shown to me by a local fisherman. It is one of his fishing spots and he was shown the location by his uncle. Both his uncle and his father were carriers during the war and his uncle told him that when this plane crashed he paddled out to it and picked up the pilot. The uncle is deceased we can't ask him, as the plane seems to have hit the water pretty hard and is broken up. The position lies beneath the anti aircraft guns on Paga hill and Napa Napa."

Smith was officially declared dead on the day of the mission. He earned the Air Medal. Smith is memorialized at Manila American Cemetery on the tablets of the missing.

Emily Johnson (great neice of Earl W. Smith)
Robert W. Hughes (nephew of Earl W. Smith)
"Here’s a little more info on Earl (my Uncle Buddy). His hometown was Oakland, CA. He went to the College of the Pacific (now University of the Pacific – UOP) where he was on the tennis team. He was married to our Aunt Margret. They had no children. He and my mother (his sister, Donna) were the only children of Earl and Nellie Smith (our grandparents). We (my sisters, Bonnie Fitch and Betsy Koegler) are his sole living relatives along with our children (Emily, among others). He enlisted right after Pearl Harbor. He was of slight stature (something like 5’6’’ 126 lbs.). This one picture is the one that my grandparents displayed on their old tv set. As a little guy (four years old) I used to stare at it constantly when I visited my grandparents. “That’s your Uncle Buddy,” they would say, but not much more – they were still hurting."

NARA World War II Army Enlistment Records - Earl W. Smith
Individual Aircraft Record Card (IARC) - P-38G Lightning 43-2201
USAF Serial Number Search Results - P-38G-13-LO Lightning 43-2201
"2201 (8th FG, 80th FS) crashed into sea off Paga Point, New Guinea Aug 20,1943. Pilot killed."
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Earl W. Smith
FindAGrave - 2Lt Earl W Smith (tablets of the missing)
PNG Museum Aircraft Status Card - P-38G Lightning piloted by Earl W. Smith
Ruff Stuff page 125-126
"When we came back from the mission and landed all except Earl (Smith). He decided to put on a little airs how over a transport in Port Moresby Harbor next to our strip on 3-Mile. He hooked a wing in the water and that's where he ended up. The squadron records could have called it a test hop."
Thanks to Mark Palmer for the photos and additional information.

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Last Updated
August 28, 2019


Tech Info

1 Missing

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85' / 26m
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