|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 Air Force (USAAF) as P-38G-13-LO Lightning serial number 43-2218. Disassembled and shipped overseas to the South Pacific 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. Armed with a 20mm cannon and four .50 caliber machine guns. Weapon serial numbers not noted in Missing Air Crew Report 613 (MACR 613).
On April 29, 1943 took off from Fighter 2 (Kukum) on Guadalcanal piloted by 1st Lt. Gordon Whitaker, Jr. as one of two P-38 Lightning escorting a single F-5A Lighting on a photographic reconnaissance over Kahili Airfield (Buin) on southern Bougainville. The weather was reported as fair with poor visibility.
During the mission, the escorting P-38s had considerable difficulty keeping up with the faster F-5A Lightning. When this aircraft failed to return it was officially declared Missing In Action (MIA).
In fact, he was shot down by an A6M Zero piloted by PO Sekiya of the 582 Kōkūtai. Shot down, Whitaker bailed out roughly 45 miles west of Kieta on Bougainville near off shore 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.
Previously, Whitaker flew the April 18, 1943 "Yamamoto Mission" as part of the first flight providing top cover, as section leader Kittel's wingman.
Missing Air Crew Report 613 (MACR 613)
(Page 2) "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]"
13th Fighter Command in World War II pages 139, 148
Thanks to Richard Dunn for additional information
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April 24, 2018