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|Pilot 1st Lt. Ronald W. Hilken, O-431435 (MIA / KIA) Anoka County, MN
MIA January 5, 1943
MACR ??? / 691
Built by Lockheed Aircraft Corporation (LAC) in Burbank. Delivered to the U. S. Army Air Force (USAAF) as P-38G Lightning serial number unknown. Disassembled and shipped overseas to the South Pacific and reassembled.
Assigned to the 13th Air Force (13th AF), 347th Fighter Group (347th FG), 339th Fighter Squadron (339th FS). No known nose art or nickname. When lost engine and weapon serial numbers not listed in Missing Air Crew Report 593 (MACR 593).
On January 5, 1943 took off from Fighter 2 Airfield on Guadalcanal piloted by 1st Lt. Ronald W. Hilken as one of six P-38s led by Major John W. Mitchell flying in two elements of three P-38s each on an escort mission above and behind B-17 Flying Fortresses from the 11th Bombardment Group on a bombing mission against a Japanese cruiser off Buin and Tonolei Harbor on the southern coast of Bougainville and off Shortland Island.
Over the target, they are intercepted by what the U. S. side claimed were twenty-five A6M Zeros and float biplanes and claimed three shot down. In fact, the Japanese force were two A6M2-N Rufes from the 802 Kokutai, six A6M Zeros from the 204 Kokutai plus F1M2 Petes from the 11th Seaplane Tender Division.
At the start of the combat, A6M2-N Rufe piloted by Leading Airman Matsuyama, jumped this P-38 and was joined by F1M2 Petes and set the right engine on fire before the attackers were driven off by Lt. Betsy Holmes and Lt. Emmett Noris. This P-38 was last seen going down toward Vella Lavella. When this aircraft failed to return, it was officially listed as Missing In Action (MIA). Also shot down was P-38G piloted by 1st Lt. Dinn (MIA).
Hilken was officially declared dead the day of the mission. He earned the Silver Star, Air Medal and Purple Heart, posthumously. Hilken is memorialized at Manila American Cemetery on the tablets of the missing. He also has a memorial marker at Sunset Memorial Park Cemetery in Minneapolis, MN.
NARA World War II Army Enlistment Records - Ronald W. Hilken
347th Fighter Group Advanced Echelon APO 709 "Preliminary Intelligence Summary of Operations of Army Fighter Planes at Cactus - December 1, 1942 to February 17, 1943" February 21, 1943
(Page 2) "Date: 1/5 Type: P-38 How Lost: Shot down in combat near Vella Lavella Pilot: Lt. Hilken - missing."
Missing Air Crew Report ??? (MACR ???) created September 17, 1943
Missing Air Crew Report 691 (MACR 691) created October 13, 1943 mentions Hilken
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Ronald W. Hilken
FindAGrave - 1Lt Ronald W Hilken (tablets of the missing photo)
FindAGrave - Lieut Ronald William Hilken (memorial marker photo)
Fortress Against The Sun (2001) by Gene Salecker pages 317-318, 440 (footnote 26 Daily Diary 26th BS Jan 5, 1943)
"At 10:00am five 26th BS [B-17s], escorted by a small group of American fighters [P-38s], set off to attack shipping in Tonolei Harbor [one aborted]. The other four B-17s continued on an although they met light anti-aircraft fire, they managed to damage one Japanese transport with their 1,000-lb. bombs. At the same time that the 26th BS planes were hitting Tonolei Harbor, a flight of 42nd BS B-17s struck the airport at Kahili."
Operation KE (2012) by Roger & Dennis Letourneau pages 86, 262 [sic], 363 (index Dinn)
"The Lightnings flew in two elements of three planes above and behind the bombers. After the Forts made their run on a 'cruiser,' the 11th's Rufes and Petes, in the company of the 204th Zeros, quickly moved in. One Rufe piloted by Leading Airman Matsuyama, pounced on Lt. Ron Hiklen at the outset. A Pete quickly joined in. Before they were driven off by Lt. Betsy Holmes and Lt. Emmett Noris, they had set Hilken's right engine on fire. He was last seen going down toward Vella Lavella. Matsuyama also shot out Lt. Wally Dinn's left engine with 20-mm fire, sending Dinn spinning into the water one final, fatal time."
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