|Pilot 2nd Lt. Paul M. Yeager (survived) Nowata, OK
Crashed June 2, 1943
Built by Lockheed Aircraft Corporation (LAC) in Burbank, California. Delivered to the U. S. Army, serial number unknown. Disassembled and shipped overseas to Australia and reassembled.
Assigned to the 5th Air Force, 49th Fighter Group, 9th Fighter Squadron. No known nickname or nose art.
On June 2, 1943 took off from Horanda Drome (Dobodura 4) on an escort mission over Madang Airfield. Returning from the mission and within sight of the airfield, this P-38 reported an engine failure and caught fire. Yeager bailed out south of the airfield and landed in a tree about three miles southwest of Big Embi Lake.
Fate of the Pilot
Yeager spent the night suspended in the tree. His bail out was observed from Horanda Drome (Dobodura 4) and Captain Woods organized an effort to locate him.
The next morning, a rescue party including Captain Woods, Ops Exec Blachly and a U. S. Army medic departed along a hunting trail plus an Australian Army patrol. Reaching Yeager, he was cut down from the tree and the group spent the night in the jungle.
On June 5, 1943 the group departed carrying Yeager on a litter. Overhead, a P-38 Lightning piloted by Richard I. "Dick" Bong took off overhead on a two hour patrol. While the rescue party crossed one of the Embi Lakes in a life raft, Bong observed a large crocodile in their path with his 20mm cannon. After returning safely, Yeager rested for a week then returned to duty.
In 1968, Yeager retired as a Colonel in the U. S. Air Force (USAF). He passed away on October 19, 2011 and is buried in McKinney, Texas.
The Evening Advocate (Innisfail, Qld) "U.S. Pilot Shoots Up Crocodile from Air" June 22, 1943 page 2
"NEW GUINEA. — First-Lieutenant Richard Bong, a U.S. .fighter pilot, who has shot down 10 enemy aircraft in the Southwest Pacific, has become the foundation member of the Crocodile Club.
With cannon fire from his Lightning fighter, he strafed and killed a crocodile which was trailing a frail rubber boat which contained three pilots who were bound on a rescue mission.
Previously a pilot from Lieutenant Bong's unit was reported lost in the jungle, and the pilot who located him radioed that he could best be reached by boat across a lake, as it would take hours to reach the spot through the jungle.
Three pilots of the unit inflated a small collapsible boat and set out to rescue their comrade. They saw what they took to be a huge log floating towards them from the edge of the lake, but paid it no attention.
The pilot who had started the rescue party saw the crocodile and radioed warnings to circling Lightnings. Lieutenant Bong skimmed across the surface of the lake, and with a short burst from his 20 mm. cannon destroyed the crocodile."
The Courier-Mail (Brisbane, Qld) "Lightning Kills 'Gator" June 10, 1943 page 3
"NEW GUINEA, Wednesday — A United States fighter pilot has become the foundation member of the Alligator Club.
With cannon fire from his Lightning [he] killed a giant alligator trailing a rubber boat containing three pilots on a rescue mission. The pilot is First Lieutenant Richard Bong, who has shot down 10 enemy aircraft in the South-west Pacific.
A pilot from Bong's unit was reported lost in the jungle, and the Piper Cub (trainer plane) pilot who located him radioed that he could best be reached by boat across a lake.
Three pilots of the unit inflated a small collapsible boat and set out to rescue their comrade. They reported later that they had seen 'a huge log' floating towards them from the edge of the lake. One thought it was a native canoe.
The pilot of the Cub spotted the reptile and radioed to circling Lightnings for a strafing job. Skimming across the surface of the lake, Bong sent a 20 M.M. cannon burst into the alligator. The missing airman was rescued by another group of Americans."
49th Fighter Group History, frame 490 pilot's rescue by Captain Sidney S. Wood and Lt. Ross Blachley
PNG Museum Aircraft Status Card - P-38 Lightning piloted by Yeager
Protect and Avenge page 164
Aces High: The Heroic Saga of the Two Top-scoring American Aces of World War II page 121-122
FindAGrave - Col Paul M Yeager (photo)
Thanks to Keith Hopper and Edward Rogers for additional information
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January 5, 2018