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  P-38L-1 Lightning Serial Number 44-?????  
USAAF
5th AF
8th FG
36th FS

Pilot  2nd Lt. Donald Henderson (KIA, BR) KS
Crashed  July 13, 1945
MACR  none

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

Wartime History
Assigned to the 5th Air Force, 8th Fighter Group, 36th Fighter Squadron. No known nose art or nickname.

Mission History
On July 13, 1945 took off from Murtha Airfield on Mindoro one of four P-38s on an orientation flight for two new pilots: P-38L 44-26538 piloted by 1st Lt. Stier and this aircraft piloted by 2nd Lt. Donald Henderson, flying in the number 2 position. As part of the orientation, the two experienced pilots showed the new pilots the various airfields in the southwest corner of Mindoro. Both new pilots were tested by the flight leader in an exercise called "rat racing", a series of maneuvers that one might use in aerial dog fights. As part of this "rat racing," the flight leader took the group into a split-S dive through clouds. Lt. Henderson and Lt. Stier never pulled out of their dive. The reason for this is unknown. possibly vertigo or wing compressibility problem inherent to P-38's during dives, or the possibility that Henderson and Stier collided in the clouds. When Henderson failed to return, he was listed as Missing In Action (MIA). Also lost was P-38L 44-26538.

Recovery of Remains
During late 1945, Lt. Henderson's body was found by Filipinos and returned to the U. S. Army.

Memorials
Henderson was officially declared dead the day of the mission. After the recovery of remains, he was transported to the United States and is buried at Golden Gate National Cemetery at section B site 732.

Wreckage
Mary Beth Kustra (daughter of Stier) visited the crash site during 2001:
"We immediately learned about a P-38 crash which appeared to be that of Lt. Henderson, i.e., this pilot's remains of this plane were eventually turned over to US military authorities in late 1945. Our FVP friends found a witness (Philippe "Pepe" Castillio) who, as a young boy, had played in the wreckage at this site in the late 1940's. This man's elder brother and a neighbor boy had been killed when a "bomb" (20mm shell) they retrieved from this crash site exploded. This eye witness provided us with a tubular frame part of a plane he had recovered many years ago from this wreckage site. According to his testimony, his uncle had seen this plane explode when it crashed into a swamp near the uncle's home at the end of the war."

References
Richard P. Stier - Missing P-38L Lightning crash site on Mindoro
FindAGrave - Donald D Henderson (grave photo)

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Last Updated
May 24, 2018

 

Tech Info
P-38

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