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  P-38L-1-LO "Eileen-Ann" Serial Number 44-24845 Tail 112
USAAF
5th AF
475th FG
431st FS

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431st FS December 1944

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David Mason 2000

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David Mason 2007

Pilot  Major Thomas B. McGuire, Jr. O-437031 (MIA / KIA / BR) Ridgewood, NJ
Crashed  January 7, 1945
MACR  11589

Aircraft History
Built by Lockheed Aircraft Corporation (LAC) in Burbank, California. Delivered to the U. S. Army. This aircraft had a natural aluminum finish. Disassembled and shipped overseas and reassembled.

Wartime History
Assigned to the 5th Air Force, 475th Fighter Group, 431st Fighter Squadron during October 1944. Tail Number 112 was painted in red on the outer sides of the tail with red upper and lower tips on each tail. Assigned to pilot Captain Fred Champlin who nicknamed it "Eileen-Ann" after his wife.

When lost, engines V-1710-113 and V-1710-111 serial numbers A-057604 and A-058935. Weapon serial numbers noted in MACR. 50 caliber machine guns manufactured by Buffalo Arms serial numbers 1304905, 1304776, 1304950, 1304500. 20mm cannon manufactured by International Harvester serial number 123888. This aircraft had accumulated 221 hours of flying during 42 combat missions when lost.

During the night of January 6, 1945 McGuire planned a fighter sweep to search for enemy aircraft to shoot down, in hopes of boosting his aerial victories to equal or exceed the forty victories credited to Major Richard I. Bong who had already rotated back to the United States. For reasons unknown, McGuire did not fly his personal aircraft, P-38L "Pudgy V" 42-66817 on his final mission.

Mission History
On January 7, 1945 McGuire took off at dawn from Dulag Airfield on Leyte leading "Daddy Flight". His wing man in the no. 2 position was P-38J 43-28836 Tail 128 piloted by Major Jack B. Rittmayer. The element leader in the no. 3 position was P-38L "Doots" 44-24876 Tail 122 piloted by Captain Edwin R. Weaver and his wing man in the no. 4 position was P-38J "Miss Gee Gee" 43-28525 Tail 130 piloted by 2nd Lt. Douglas S. Thropp, Jr.

Weather was overcast with stratus layers from 1,500' to 6,000'. Their plan was to fly westward on a fighter sweep over Mindoro in hopes of finding Japanese aircraft. Flying over Negros at roughly 2,000', their formation turned over Fabrica Airfield, but did not spot any Japanese aircraft in the air or on the ground.

Next, the formation proceeded to Caroline Airfield where they spotted a single Ki-43 Oscar piloted by Warrant Officer Akira Sugimoto. McGuire made the controversial decision to "hold your tanks" (not release drop tanks) in an anticipation of further combat later in the patrol and their formation entered a dogfight with Sugimoto that resulted in McGuire crashing.

Captain Edwin R. Weaver made a witness statement in MACR 11589:
"I last saw Major McGuire's plane at an altitude of less than 1,000 feet in an inverted position with the nose down about 30 degrees. Because of the altitude of my ship I then lost sight of him. Seconds later I saw the fire and explosion of his crashed plane. A more precise estimation of the situation is difficult, due to the violence of the action."

Although none of the other pilots observed McGuire's crash, only the explosion and fire on the ground after he impacted the ground roughly one mile northeast of Pinansmaan. Filipinos on the ground witnessed this P-38 flying upside down before impacting the ground east of a ravine, hit trees and then smashed into the west side of the ravine and explode.

Missing Air Crew Report (MACR) 11589 states the loss of McGuire was a "loss attributed to enemy aircraft". According to Ki-43 pilot Sgt Mizunori Fukuda. McGuire entered a turning battle with him and he fired on the McGuire's aircraft. Therefore, W.O. Sugimoto could be credited for shooting down or causing McGuire to crash. Afterwards, the other P-38s chased Sugimoto and Thropp damaged his aircraft before it escaped into clouds and soon afterwards force landed. Sugimoto survived the landing but was shot by Filipino guerillias when he did not surrender to them.

Afterwards, a Ki-84 Frank piloted by Sgt Mizunori Fukuda observed McGuire's burning wreckage and engaged the three remainging P-38s, attacking Rittmayer head on an shooting him down and was fired on by Weaver and damaged, but fired on Thropp and was hit again be Weaver, causing his engine to begin loosing power. Disengaging, Fukuda force landed at Carolina Airfield and flipped over on landing destroying his plane and injuring him.

Most previously published accounts claim McGuire turned too sharply while trying to get a deflection burst into an Ki-43 Oscar. His Lightning was assumed to have snap-rolled to the left and hit the ground inverted from about three hundred feet. The snap-roll theory for his crash is only an assumption as none of the pilots in the air witnessed him crash.

Search
No search was made for McGuire or Rittmayer.

Recovery of Remains
McGuire's remains were severed during the crash and identified by Filipinos Agapito Flores and Carlos Dorin, who noted the ring he wore. They collected his remains into a wooden box, and took it to the Hacienda Progreso (plantation owner's house) and secretly buried it.

and secretly buried them nearby to prevent the Japanese from locating them. His body was recovered by the US Army during 1948, and transported to the United States for final burial.

Wreckage
Most of the wreckage was scrapped or otherwise removed. During 2000, David Mason discovered the crash site and documented it. Using a metal detector he was able to dig up about two dozen pieces of his aircraft. The pieces consist of a flight control cable pulley, an unfired 20mm bullet, unexpended .50 caliber brass shells and bullets, a firing pin and breech assembly for a .50 cal Browning M2 gun, numerous Philips flat head screws, and various nuts and bolts. These were all found in 12" of soil and were heavily corroded.

Memorials
Officially declared dead the day of the mission. During 1949, McGuire was buried at Arlington National Cemetery at section 11, grave 426 C H / SH. During 2007, David Mason erected a memorial and plaque at the crash site of McGuire's aircraft on Negros.

During 1948, Fort Dix Army Air Force Base was renamed McGuire Air Force Base in honor of Thomas B. McGuire. Today known as Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst. F-5G Lightning 44-53015 is painted in the markings of McGurire's P-38L "Pudgy V" is displayed at the Major Thomas B. McGuire, Jr. Memorial near the main gate.

Artifacts recovered from McGuire's crash site by David Mason in 2000 were donated to the Clark Air Base Museum on display. 

References
Missing Air Crew Report (MACR) 11589
Air Force Journal "Death of a Great Flyer" April 1945
"Air Ace's Body Is Found" June 16, 1949 - Major T. B. McGuire of Ridgewood Killed in Philippine Fighting
WASHINGTON, The Air Force announced today that it had recovered the body of Major Thomas B. McGuire of Ridgewood, New Jersey, who had thirty-eight Japanese planes to his credit when he was shot down in the Philippines over four years ago.
His body was among the war dead arriving at San Francisco on an Army transport. Burial will be in Arlington National Cemetery.
He was listed as missing for four years after he disappeared during combat over Los Negros Island. He was last seen going to the aid of a fellow flier who was outnumbered by enemy planes. Early this year a graves registration team found his body, today’s announcement said. Nearby was the wreckage of a P-38 identified as the plane he had been flying.
New Jersey’s only Air Force Base, McGuire Field at Fort Dix, was named after Major McGuire.
The Air Force’s top-ranking ace was Major Richard Bong, who downed forty enemy planes. He died in a crash after the war had ended."
McGuire, Pacific Ace, Buried in Arlington May 17, 1950
WASHINGTON – Major Thomas B. McGuire, Medal of Honor winner during the war in the Pacific, was reburied with military honors in Arlington National Cemetery today.
Seven BV-25 medium bombers flew over as the Fifth Air Force ace, a native of Ridgewood, New Jersey, was laid to rest in the presence of his family and members of the New Jersey Congressional delegation. General George C. Kenny, Major McGuire’s commander in the South Pacific, was chief honorary pall bearer.
The P-38 fighter pilot was killed after he had shot down thirty eight Japanese planes in action. He received the Medal of Honor for gallantry over Luzon, Philippine Islands, on Christmas Day, 1944. He was killed two weeks later in the same area attempting to aid a comrade under fire by Japanese planes.
The services today were attended by his father, Thomas B. McGuire of Ridgewood, and his widow, now Mrs. Marilyn Stankowski of San Antonio, Texas."
The Last Great Ace biography of Thomas McGuire
McGuire's Last Mission by Caroll Anderson
Aerothentic "What Really Happened to McGuire?" by David Mason with introduction by Michael Claringbould
The Search For The Crash Site of Major Thomas B. McGuire, Jr. by David Mason, 2000
McGuire Final Report: Investigation into the final combat mission of Major Thomas B. McGuire, Jr. by David J. Mason
FindAGrave - Thomas B. McGuire, Jr. (photos, grave photo)

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Last Updated
September 26, 2018

 

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