|Pilot 2nd Lt. Robert E. Feehan, O-743435 (MIA / KIA) Trenton, NJ
Crashed August 21, 1943
Robert E. Feehan was born in Trenton, NJ. He completed two years of college and was single before enlisting in the U. S. Army on January 27, 1941 with serial number 20245133 and was initially in the field artillery. He joined the Air Corps and part of flight class 43-D
Built by Lockheed Aircraft Corporation (LAC) in Burbank, California. Delivered to the U. S. Army, serial number unknown. Likely, this aircraft was a P-38H or early model P-38G. Disassembled and shipped overseas to Australia and reassembled.
Assigned to the 5th Air Force, 8th Fighter Group, 80th Fighter Squadron. No known nickname or nose art.
On August 21, 1943 took off from 3-Mile Drome near Port Moresby around 10:00am as one of sixteen P-38s providing close escort for B-25 Mitchells on a mission against Dagua and But near Wewak.
Part of a four fighter element led by Norbert "Norb" Ruff. When Ruff's aircraft experienced an oil failure and he was forced to aboard and return to base alone, and turned the flight over to John Guttel.
There were scattered clouds over the target and an overcast en route over the mountains. The formation was attacked by between 20 and 40 Ki-43 Oscars about 15 miles south of Dagua, eleven of which were claimed to have been shot down. One P-38 smoking badly was seen in the vicinity of Dagua. It went through the clouds at 1,000' and was not seen again.
When this aircraft failed to return, it was officially listed as Missing In Action (MIA). Also lost were P-38 piloted by Guttel and P-38 piloted by Krisher.
Fates of the Pilot
Feehan's fate is unknown. Possibly, he was taken prisoner, died in captivity or was executed.
When the Australian Army captured the Wewak area in May 1945, they discovered on a Japanese cemetery on Mission Point with five graves with the names and dates: #1 Tierney, #2 Feehan, #3 Power, #4 Name Illegible, #5 Sheroden. All had a date of death listed as "Nov 1942" The date of death was deemed to be in error. After being exhumed, the remains were transported to the American Cemetery at Finschafen.
The U. S. Army determined the remains in grave #1 listed as "Tierney" to be 2nd Lt. Robert E. Feehan. Grave #3 listed as "Power" was determined to be S/Sgt Mont O. Bower. The remains in grave #5 listed as "Sheroden" were determined to be 2nd Lt. John D. Elliott. All three were crew members aboard B-24D "Miss Carriage" 41-24207 crashed August 20, 1943.
After the recovery of remains, Feehan was buried at Finschhafen #4 Cemetery (USAF Cemetery #4) at grave 5 as X-File X-12.
Afterwards, the fate of Feehan's remains are unknown. He remains officially listed as Missing In Action (MIA).
Feehan was declared dead the day of the mission. He is memorialized on the tablets of the missing at Manila American Cemetery.
Michael Feehan (nephew of Robert E. Feehan)
"My Uncle Robert E. Feehan, 2nd Lt., served with the 80th Fighter Squadron as a P-38 pilot in the summer of 1943. He was killed on August 21, 1943 and is listed as missing in action or buried at sea. Looking for someone who knew him or has any information as to what happened to him. I am attaching a recently added paragraph from 2011 noting that the body of Robert E Feehan may have been exumed from the Japanese cemetery at Mission Point and moved another cemetery at Finschafen from which all bodies were moved after the war. The American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) still list him as MIA and memorialized at the tablets of the Missing in Manila. Do you have any other information regarding where the body might have been moved? If his body was actually found and moved to another site my family would be very anxious to locate information in that regard."
NARA World War II Army Enlistment Records - Robert E. Feehan
No Missing Air Crew Report (MACR) was created for this loss
AGRS Hq First Aust Army (AIF) "Grave: US Service Personnel" May 3, 1946
"1. Comd 6 Aust Div advises that the graves of 5 American serviceman have been located at map reference WEWAK WEST 346054 (Netherlands East Indies Grid I-inch to I Mile).
2. The particulars on
the crosses erected identify the deceased as follows; -
T/S Edward M. Tierney, US Air Force
Lt. Robert Feehan, "
T/S Mont Power, "
Particulars on cross illegible
3. The area appears to have an extensive burial ground and portions of clothing of clothing of US patter which have been found indicate the possibility that bodies of other US personnel are buried in the vicinity.
4. Investigations are proceeding and any further information will be forwarded in our course."
X-File 293-UNK X-33 Finschhafen #4 page 25, 27, 29 originally identified as Feehan, but determined to be Edward M. Tierney
X-File 293-UNK X-14 Finschhafen #4 page 14
"1. The following identifications have been established from information available to this office and by comparison of dental charts of remains interred in U. S. Armed Forces Cemetery Finschhafen #4, New Guinea
X-12 FEEHAN, Robert E. 2nd Lt., O-743435, Air Corps
Plot - -, Row - -, Grave 5
KIA - 21 August 1943
Emergency Address: Mrs. Mary K. Feehan (Mother) 122 Burton Avenue, Trenton, New Jersey
Religious Preference: Catholic"
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Robert E. Feehan
FindAGrave - 2Lt Robert E Feehan (tablets of the missing photo)
Ruff Stuff page 128
"[Feehan] was part of one of the most costly missions flown by the 80th on August 21, 1943; one that still affects Norb today. None of the other pilots who returned from this mission knew what had happened to them."
Legacy of the 90th Bombardment Group page 74 (reference to 1945 grave)
Japanese Army Air Force Fighter Units And Their Aces appendix
PNG Museum Aircraft Status Card - P-38 Lightning piloted by Feehan
80th Fighter Group Headhunters - World War II Memoir by Paul Murphey
"Twelve of us were picked to be the first of 43-D to go overseas. Edwin L. DeGraffenreid, Richard E. Dotson, Robert E. Feehan, Stanley Johnson, Paul C. Murphey, John C. McClean, Jennngs L. Myers, Louis Schriber, James R. Farris, Robert W. Wood, William F. Williams and Murtha J. McCarthey [sic McCarthy]... All this early action came at Bogadjim, Madang, and Lae. We lost our second man (Feeham) at the same place two weeks later. Losing these two men so quick sure focused your attention on what you were doing."
MacArthur's Eagles: The U.S. Air War Over New Guinea, 1943-1944 page 84, 341
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September 25, 2018