|Pilot 2nd Lt. Robert Parker Rist, O-730612 (MIA / KIA) Minneapolis, MN
MIA February 13, 1943
Rist was born in Minneapolis, Minnesota, on July 29, 1920. In 1926, his family moved to North Dakota. After graduating from high school there in 1938, he attended the University of North Dakota as a pre-med student, then transferred to the University of Minnesota. On January 20, 1942, he quit college and enlisted in the U. S. Army Air Forces as an aviation cadet. During November 1942 he was sent overseas, and assigned to the 339th Fighter Squadron.
On January 13, 1943 Rist flew his first mission from Guadalcanal. On February 10, he claimed his first kill, a Mitsubishi Ki-21 Sally. Three days later, he was shot down. Rist was earned the Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC), Distinguished Service Cross (DSC) and Purple Heart, posthumously.
Built by Lockheed Aircraft Corporation (LAC) in Burbank, California. Delivered to the U. S. Army, serial number unknown, 43-????. Disassembled and shipped overseas to the South Pacific and reassembled.
Assigned to the 13th Air Force, 347th Fighter Group, 339th Fighter Squadron. No known nickname or nose art.
On February 13, 1943 one of six P-38s that took off from Fighter 2 (Kukum) on Guadalcanal on a mission along with ten P-40s to escort six B-24s on the second wave of a bombing missions against the Shortland to Buin area. Inbound to the target, two P-38s and three P-40s aborted the mission and returned to Guadalcanal, leaving four P-38s and seven P-40s to escort the bombers.
Over the target area, the B-24s were attacked by 30 A6M Zeros and 15 float-equipped fighters (A6M2-N Rufes?), with heavy flak fired by naval vessels below. B-24D Liberator 41-23975 was hit, its wing and engine on fire and dropped out of formation. Rist escorted it toward Choiseul. Ten to twelve A6M Zeros tried to finish it off. Rist claimed two Zeros, then, out of ammunition, continued to divert the attackers by diving on them.
His efforts enabled Lieutenant Harold G. McNeese to fly his crippled B-24 to the north coast of Choiseul and ditch. Finally, Rist was shot down. The MACR states: "Last seen by Major Westbrook, 44th FG, with right engine smoking and Zeros on his tail." Rist's aircraft and body were never located, suspected to crash.
Justin Taylan adds:
"I researched this mission at the Tokyo Defense archives. The following Japanese aircraft intercepted the American formation: 11 Rufes (one aborted) of 802 Kōkūtai, 20 Zeros of the 252 Kōkūtai and 9 Zeros of the 204 Kōkūtai for a total of 39 Japanese aircraft."
Rist was offiically declared dead on December 15, 1945. He is memorialized on the tablets of the missing at Manila American Cemetery.
Missing Air Crew Report (MACR) 586 was generated retroactively. Details on this Lightning are not noted in the MACR, probably generated after the combat. It is presumed to be a G model.
Air & Space A Bougainville Mystery Paul A. Roales, Nov 2006
HEROS #1 in a series Lt. Robert P. Rist, Minneapolis Minnesota by Paul Roales
Guadalcanal and the Origins of the 13th Air Force, page 180-181
Vampire Squadron, page 25-26
Kodochosho, 802 Kōkūtai, February 13, 1943
Kodochosho, 204 Kōkūtai, February 13, 1943
Kodochosho, 252 Kōkūtai, February 13, 1943
Thanks to Paul Roales for additional information
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February 4, 2018