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339th FS c1943
|Pilot 2nd Lt. Benjamin H. King, O-666955 (rescued) Add Lee, OK
Ditched July 17, 1943 at 9:40am
Built by Lockheed Aircraft Corporation (LAC) in Burbank. Constructors Number 322-3315. Delivered to the U. S. Army Air Force (USAAF) as P-38G-13-LO Lightning serial number 43-2206. Disassembled and shipped overseas and reassembled.
Assigned to the 13th Air Force (13th AF), 347th Fighter Group (347th FG), 339th Fighter Squadron (339th FS). Assigned to pilot 2nd Lt. Benjamin H. King. Nicknamed "Matilda" after King's mother. Nose Number 141.
known nickname or nose art. Nose Number 141. When lost, engines V1710-51-35 serial numbers 42-32888 and 42-29116. Weapon serial numbers were not noted in Missing Air Crew Report 83 (MACR 83). King claimed three enemy aircraft shot down on the mission prior to his loss.
On July 17, 1943 took off from Fighter 2 Airfield (Kukum) on Guadalcanal piloted by 2nd Lt. Benjamin H. King on a mission to escort B-24 Liberators over Kahili Airfield (Buin) on southern Bougainville. The weather was clear with unlimited visibility. Over the target at 20,000', the formation was intercepted by Japanese fighters. During the air combat, King claimed two Zeros shot down that were later credited to him as aerial victories.
Returning from the mission, other pilots reported a P-38 smoking and being chased by Zeros. At roughly 9:40am, King was observed to ditch off Kotulu Island near Vella Lavella. According to his after action report, he reported he ditched "five miles east of Shortland." When this aircraft failed to return, it was officially listed as Missing In Action (MIA). Also lost was P-38G 42-13361 pilot 1st James W. Hoyle (MIA).
Fate of Pilot
After ditching, King was unhurt and successfully deployed his life raft and spent five days at sea before making landfall on Mono Island on July 22, 1943. The native people observed two A6M2-N Rufes strafing something in the water off Mono and came to his rescue. Taking him ashore King join the crew of TBF Avenger 47448 who ditched June 16, 1943 and been hiding on the island since June 18, 1943. The next day, the three crew members of TBF Avenger 05923 ditched July 18, 1943 and arrived on the island and joined the group.
Hidden on the island by the local people, the group of seven aviators ate only one chicken and no other meat and rotated reading the Bible at night to keep up their spirits, and on several occasions avoided nearby Japanese patrols. King suffered a throat problem, thought to be strep throat and took sulfa tablets and was given a brew from leaves by the native doctor that cured him two days later.
After nearly three months, a portion of the group (Peck, Teft, Mitchell and King) planned to sail to the south and bring help to the others on Mono. Using one of their life rafts and departed on September 13, 1943 during a moonlit night and spent four days in the raft at sea observing Japanese and Allied aircraft overhead.
On September 17, 1943 their raft was spotted by a patrol plane that dropped rations, but they were not able to retrieve them and the plane departed. A PT-Boat was deployed to search for them, but was unsuccessful. At 6:00, a PBY Catalina escorted by fighters over flew their raft but departed. At 10pm, a PBY Catalina piloted by Lt(jg) Fred H. Gage, USNR from VP-54 was on a routine night patrol of the Vella Lavella-Shortland-Fauro area. When the men in the raft heard it, they lit a flare in a can of kerosene as a signal.
Spotting the light, the Catalina circled for 2 1/2 hours before attempting to land on September 18, 1943 at 2:30am and pulled alongside the raft, then roughly six miles NW of Vella Lavella. The men were too weak after 96 hours at sea and had to be lifted aboard, and then their raft was destroyed. Afterwards, they were flown to Henderson Field on Guadalcanal and again had to be carried off the Catalina. Afterwards, the men were returned to the United States.
King remained in the U. S. Air Force (USAF) and served in the Vietnam War and retired as a Brigadier General during January 1971. He passed away October 7, 2004.
NARA World War II Army Enlistment Records - Benjamin H. King
USAF Serial Number Search Results - P-38G-13-LO Lightning 43-2206
"2206 (339th FS, 347th FG) lost in Solomon Islands Jul 17, 1943. MACR 83"
Missing Air Crew Report 83 (MACR 83)
Medical Report on Survivors Marooned on a South Pacific Island
USAF Brigadier General Benjamin King
American Fighter Ace Association "BG Benjamin King WWII Army Air Corps Aerial Ace"
Obituary Brigadier General Benjamin King Dec 9, 1919 - Oct 7, 2004 via Wayback Machine December 10, 2010
"Stranded! There were 7 Japs and the sea to fight" by Seth Bailey
"Airmen Reports Miracle Rescue"
Lonely Vigil (1977) pages 282-283
Atlanta Georgia News "How a crashed WWII airman survived enemy bullets" by Bo Emerson May 25, 2017
July 17, 1943
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