|Pilot 1st Lt. Gordon Whitaker, Jr. O-726866 (MIA / KIA) NC
Crashed April 29, 1943
Built by Lockheed Aircraft Corporation (LAC) in Burbank, California. Delivered to the U. S. Army. Disassembled and shipped overseas and reassembled.
Assigned to the 13th Air Force, 18th Fighter Group 12th Fighter Squadron. No known nickname or nose art.
When lost, engines V-1710-55 serial numbers (left) 43-32018 (right) 42-2?368. Weapon serial numbers not recorded.
Took off from Fighter 2 (Kukum) on Guadalcanal as one of two escorts for a F-5A Lighting on a photographic reconnaissance over Kahili Airfield (Buin) on Bougainville. During the mission, the escorting P-38s had considerable difficulty keeping up with the faster F-5A. The weather was reported as fair with poor visibility.
In fact, he was shot down by an A6M Zero piloted by PO Sekiya of the 582 Kōkūtai. Whitaker bailed out roughly 45 miles west of Kieta on Bougainville near ofshore islands.
Whitaker was officially declared dead on January 19, 1946. He was officially declared non-recoverable on October 7, 1948. He is memorialized on the tablets of the missing at Manila American Cemetery.
On April 18, 1943 Whitaker flew on the "Yamamoto Mission" in the first flight as top cover, as section leader Kittel's wingman.
Missing Air Crew Report (MACR) 613 states:
"It is thought that his plane simply 'gave out'. He bailed out about 45 miles west of Keita on Bougainville and is thought to have parachuted safely. (page 5) Thought to have landed safely, in enemy territory, presumably somewhere on eastern half of island [Bougainville] (page 2)."
13th Fighter Command in World War II pages 139, 148
Thanks to Richard Dunn for additional information
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January 5, 2018