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  P-38H-1-LO Lightning Serial Number 42-66???  
USAAF
5th AF
8th FG
36th FS

Pilot  1st Lt. Eugene Zielinski, O-662717 (survived)
Crashed  April 16, 1944 "Black Sunday" at 3:00pm
MACR  unknown

Aircraft History
Built by Lockheed Aircraft Corporation (LAC) in Burbank, California. Delivered to the U. S. Army, serial number unknown, presumed to be 42-66???. Disassembled and shipped overseas to Australia 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 April 16, 1944 "Black Sunday" took off from Nadzab No. 4 Airfield (APO 713, Unit 1) at 10:20am as part of a four plane flight "Agate Special" lead by 1st Lt. Eugene Zielinski with wingman P-38H 42-66555 piloted by Mikucky, plus element leader P-38H 42-66832 piloted by Reeves and element P-38H 42-66668 piloted by Keown.

The formation escorted a single B-25 Mitchell from the 38th Bombardment Group searching for B-25G 42-64835 that force landed four days earlier. The five aircraft reached the Sepik River delta about an hour and a half later. While the B-25 crew searched the river and swamps for nearly two hours without results with the four Lightnings weaving closely behind, until their fuel became low by 1:30pm. Weather was overcast from 3,000' to 6,000'.

Returning, the formation flew a course approximately 50 miles inland from the coast and encountered heavy overcast 15 miles south of Annenberg with overcast down to 1,000' and rain. The formation proceeded towards Madang in hopes of landing at Saidor Airfield.

The formation encountered severe weather with overcast down to 1,000' and visibility of 300' and attempted to turn out towards the sea to find an opening in the clouds. Circling off Yalu Point off Yamai Airfield for 20 minutes before finding a hole in the clouds. With poor visibility, the formation broke up with Zielinski and Mikucky turning to the left while Reeves and Keown turned to the right at 2:40pm.

Low on fuel, Zielinski feathered his right engine and radioed his wingman Mikucky, telling him that he was bailing out and instructed him to do the same. Zielinski bailed out from approximately 800' and landed unhurt into the sea off Yalu Point at 3:00pm.

Rescue
A few minutes later, he was rescued by an American barge. and transported to Saidor. Zielinski returned to his squadron the next day.

Eugene Zielinski reported:
"...we encountered a heavy overcast about 15 miles south of Annanberg that had gotten down to 1,000 feet and rain squalls. At this point I changed our course and headed for Madang, with the intention of landing at Saidor. When we reached the coast at Yalu Point the overcast was again down to 1,000 feet and a solid sheet of rain falling. With my flight still together, we headed out to sea in an attempt to find an opening in the clouds. Off Yalu Point we found a hole and circled for 20 minutes, and then I radioed my flight that I was turning to the left. My wingman, Lt Mickucky, followed by element leader and his wingman turned to the right. This was at 14:40, and the last I saw of the element. With my right engine already feathered, I radioed my wingman, telling him that I was bailing out and instructed him to do the same it being impossible to get through the weather with a shortage of fuel. I bailed out off Yalu Point from approximately 800 feet, landing in the water one and a half miles from shore. This occurred at 1500 hours. In a few minutes I was rescued by a barge, and was told that my wingman, Lt Mickucky, had crashed into the sea and exploded about a mile away."

References
PNG Museum Aircraft Status Card - P-38 Lightning Zielinski
Black Sunday page 100

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Last Updated
June 4, 2018

 

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P-38

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