Built by Lockheed Aircraft Corporation (LAC) in Burbank, California. Delivered to the U. S. Army Air Force (USAAF) as P-38H Lightning serial number 42-6682? (last digit unconfirmed). Ferried overseas to Australia and reassembled.
Assigned to the 5th Air Force. No known nickname or nose art.
Force landed in a flat area of the Bula Plains near Bensbach. The pilot and precise identity of this aircraft is unknown, but presumed to have survived and returned to duty. Likely, this P-38 took off from Port Moresby or Dobodura on a mission against Wewak and afterwards flew southward to this location before running low on fuel and force landing.
This P-38 is in an area that is subject to flooding with a brackish mix of freshwater and seawater during the half year wet season, submerging the aircraft to the tips of the upper propeller blades. The annual submersion caused the aluminum to rapidly corrode and rot away.
The earliest known photograph of this aircraft was taken by Dr. Eric Lindgren in 1969 or 1970. At that time, the P-38 was largely intact, but already subject to extensive corrosion in the nose section. Most of the cowling had also fallen off and spot corrosion was visible on the booms and wings. By October 1980, both tail booms had completely corroded and disappeared, leaving only the wing center section.
Dr. Eric Lindgren recalls:
"My photo was a Kodachrome taken 1 September 1969, in the company of two of my assistants while we were doing research work on the Javan Rusa deer for the administration of TPNG. The two assistants are investigating the cockpit area in this picture. The aircraft was in reasonably good condition, and could probably have been restored if it was in a less remote area. It has progressively deteriorated since then. I have seen photographs taken about 10 years ago and there was just a heap of rubbish present. There is an indistinct serial number on the outer left tail fin and all I can make out is 2???2? - the first 2?? represent space enough to fit two numbers of the size of the 2 and 7, the second ? at the end might be 5, and there appears to be a half-sized 5 to the right of it. This is the best I can do at the moment."
Bruce Hoy adds:
The serial number is actually incomplete. From what I have tried to determine from my limited eyesight available to me, it reads 2668 and possibly a 2, making the number 42-6682-. If the last digit is a “2” the aircraft falls within the P-38H range of 42-66820 to 42-66829, all of which were assigned to the 5th Air Force. P-38H 42-66821 was lost on 2 November 1943 in the Rabaul area. P-38H "Hold Everything" 42-66826 piloted by Dirkin was also missing on 16 November 1943, P-38H 42-66828 was missing on 23 June 1944 in the Milne Bay area."
Richard Leahy adds:
"In the 1980s, this
wreck today has all but disappeared, sunk into the soil and nothing
more than an outline from the air."
Eric Lindgren and Richard Leahy for additional information.
Europeans in Bensbach area often speculate this P-38 took off from Australia and ditched. This is likely incorrect.
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September 25, 2018