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431st FS December 1944
David Mason 2000
David Mason 2007
Thomas B. McGuire, Jr. O-437031 (MIA / KIA / BR) Ridgewood, NJ
Crashed January 7, 1945 at 7:10am
Built by Lockheed Aircraft Corporation (LAC) in Burbank. Constructors Number 422-5849. This aircraft had a natural aluminum finish. Delivered to the U. S. Army Air Force (USAAF) as P-38L-1-LO Lightning serial number 44-24845. Disassembled and shipped overseas to the South West Pacific Area (SWPA) and reassembled.
During October 1944 assigned to the 5th Air Force (5th AF), 475th Fighter Group (475th FG) "Satan's Angles", 431st Fighter Squadron (431st FS) "Hades". Tail Number 112 was painted in red on the outer engine cowing and tail with red upper and lower tips on each tail. No known nickname or nose art. 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. Armed with .50 caliber machine guns manufactured by Buffalo Arms serial numbers 1304905, 1304776, 1304950, 1304500 also 20mm cannon manufactured by International Harvester serial number 123888. When lost, this aircraft had accumulated 221 hours of flying time for 42 combat missions.
On January 6, 1945 in the evening, McGuire planned a fighter sweep to search for enemy aircraft to shoot down, in hopes of scoring aerial victories to equal or exceed the forty aerial 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.
On January 7, 1945 took off at 6:20am from Dulag Airfield on Leyte piloted by Major Thomas B. McGuire, Jr. leading "Daddy Flight" on a fighter sweep bound for Mindoro in hopes of finding Japanese aircraft to shoot down and add to McGuire's aerial victory credits.
The four Lightnings flew in a "four finger formation" with this aircraft piloted by McGuire the flight leader in the no. 1 position. The flight wingman in the no. 2 position was P-38J 43-28836 piloted by Major Jack B. Rittmayer. The element leader in the no. 3 position was P-38L "Doots" 44-24876 piloted by Captain Edwin R. Weaver. The element wingman in the no. 4 position was P-38J "Miss Gee Gee" 43-28525 piloted by 2nd Lt. Douglas S. Thropp, Jr.
The weather was overcast with stratus layers from 1,500' to 6,000'. As the formation flew over northwestern Negros at an altitude of roughly 2,000', they turned over Fabrica Airfield, but did not spot any Japanese planes on the ground or in the air.
Next, they proceeded to Caroline Airfield where they spotted a single Ki-43 Oscar piloted by Warrant Officer Akira Sugimoto from the 54th Hiko Sentai who had taken off from Fabrica Airfield on a mission to patrol north of Negros southward to the Guimaras Strait and report the presence of any American ships he might encounter.
Before intercepting, McGuire told his flight to "hold your tanks" (not release their drop tanks) took retain fuel in anticipation of flying further to engage in more combat. With their drop tanks still attached, the P-38s were slower and less maneuverable. During the dogfight with the Oscar, McGuire crashed. On the ground, Filipinos saw a P-38 flying upside down before hitting trees and crashing east of a ravine and exploded on impact.
After McGuire's loss, Major Rittmayer took the lead and the three remaining three P-38s chased the Ki-43 Oscar piloted Sugimoto. Thropp managed to fire a burst at it that caused damage before it escaped into clouds. Damaged, Sugimoto force landed but was shot by Filipino guerrillas when he did not surrender to them. Although none of the P-38 pilots observed McGuire's crash, after disengaging from the combat, they saw a fire on the ground roughly one mile northeast of Pinansmaan.
Next, a Ki-84 Frank piloted by Sgt Mizunori Fukuda from the 71st Hiko Sentai arrived in the vicinity. Earlier, he had taken off from Carolina Airfield (Manapla) on a mission to patrol to the west of Bacolod to report the presence of any American ships he might encounter and was armed with a 150kg bomb under his left wing.
When he arrived he saw a crashed aircraft burning [McGuire's crash] then entered the air combat and made a head on attack against P-38J 43-28836 and shot it down on the first pass sometime after 7:10am. Afterwards, he was fired on by Weaver and damaged. He managed to fire on Thropp but was again hit by Weaver and his engine began loosing power. After disengaging, Fukuda attempted to make a force landed at Carolina Airfield. While landing, his aircraft flipped over injuring him.
Precisely what caused McGuire to crash is unknown. Most published accounts claim McGuire turned too sharply while trying to get a deflection burst into a Ki-43 Oscar and it was assumed he snap-rolled to the left and hit the ground inverted from about 300'. The snap-roll theory for his crash is only an assumption as none of the pilots in the air witnessed him crash. Another theory is that he experienced a high speed stall at low altitude and crashed.
Missing Air Crew Report 11589 (MACR 11589) states the loss of McGuire was a "loss attributed to enemy aircraft". Ki-43 Oscar pilot W.O. Sugimoto and entered a turning battle with McGuire's P-38 and fired on his aircraft. Therefore, W.O. Sugimoto could be credited for shooting down or causing McGuire to crash according to USAAF victory claiming methodology.
Captain Edwin R. Weaver made a witness statement in Missing Air Crew Report 11589 (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."
Medal of Honor citation (G.O. No.: 24, 7 March 1946) related to McGuire's January 7, 1945 mission:
"On 7 January 1945, while leading a voluntary fighter sweep over Los Negros Island, he risked an extremely hazardous maneuver at low altitude in an attempt to save a fellow flyer from attack, crashed, and was reported missing in action. With gallant initiative, deep and unselfish concern for the safety of others, and heroic determination to destroy the enemy at all costs, Maj. McGuire set an inspiring example in keeping with the highest traditions of the military service."
Afterwards, no search was made for either McGuire or Rittmayer.
Recovery of Remains
During the crash McGuire's body was severed on impact and afterwards found by Filipinos Agapito Flores and Carlos Dorin, who noted pilot was wearing a ring. Together, they collected his remains and placed them into a wooden box and took the remains to Hacienda Progreso (the plantation owner's house) where they secretly buried the box nearby to prevent the Japanese from finding the body. In 1948, a team from the U. S. Army investigating his loss interviewed both Filipinos and recovered his remains. Afterwards, the remains were transported to Manila to the American Graves Registration Service Mausoleum (AGRS Mausoleum) then shipped to the United States for permanent burial.
After the crash, most of the wreckage was scrapped or otherwise removed. During 2000, David Mason rediscovered the crash site and documented it. Using a metal detector he was able to dig up about two dozen small pieces of the Lightning within 12" of the surface and were heavily corroded. The pieces consist of a flight control cable pulley, an unfired 20mm bullet, unexpended .50 caliber shells and projectiles, a firing pin and breech assembly for a .50 caliber M2 machine gun, numerous phillips head screws, flat head screws plus various nuts and bolts.
McGuire was officially declared dead the day of the mission. After McGuire went missing, San Jose Airfield was renamed "McGuire Drome" in honor of McGuire.
On March 7, 1946 he earned the Medal of Honor, posthumously for his actions between December 25, 1944–January 7, 1945.
On May 17, 1950, McGuire was buried at Arlington National Cemetery at section 11, grave 426-SH.
During 1948, Fort Dix Army Air Force Base in Wrightstown, New Jersey was renamed McGuire Air Force Base (McGuire AFB) in honor of McGuire. Today known as Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst. Near the main gate is the Major Thomas B. McGuire, Jr. Memorial and displayed nearby is F-5G Lightning 44-53015 is painted in the markings of P-38L "Pudgy V" 42-66817 assigned to McGuire.
Artifacts recovered from McGuire's crash site by David Mason in 2000 were donated to Clark Air Base Museum and put on public display. During 2007, David Mason erected a memorial and plaque at McGuire crash site on Negros.
USAF Serial Number Search Results - P-38L-1-LO Lightning 44-24845
"24845 (475th FG, 432st FS) shot down during fighter sweep over Negros Island Jan 7, 1945. MACR 11589"
Missing Air Crew Report 11589 (MACR 11589)
Individual Combat Report (ICR) Captain Edwin R. Weaver January 7, 1945
Individual Combat Report (ICR) 2nd Lt. Douglas S. Thropp, Jr. January 7, 1945
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
"What Really Happened to McGuire?" by David Mason with introduction by Michael Claringbould via Wayback Machine January 27, 2012
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. (2009) by David J. Mason
ANC Explorer - Thomas B. McGuire, Jr
FindAGrave - Thomas B. McGuire, Jr. (photos, grave photo)
Map MACR Jan 7, 1945
Jan 7, 1945
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