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  P-39D-1-BE Airacobra Serial Number 41-38351 Nose Z
5th AF
35th FG
41st FS

Former Assignments
8th FG
36th FS

Click For Enlargement
via Claringbould 1964

Click For Enlargement
Justin Taylan 2000

Pilot  1st Lt. Richard Culton, O-724713 (WIA, survived)
Crashed  April 12, 1943
MACR  none

Aircraft History
Built by Bell in Buffalo, New York. Delivered to the U. S. Army on June 24, 1942. Disassembled and shipped overseas to Australia around August 14, 1942 and reassembled at Amberley Airfield.

Wartime History
Assigned to the 5th Air Force, 8th Fighter Group, 36th Fighter Squadron. No known nose art or nickname. Nose letter Z. Assigned to pilot McCoy with crew chief Dygas. Operated from 7 Mile Drome near Port Moresby. Later, transfered to the 35th Fighter Group, 41st Fighter Squadron. No known nose art or nickname.

Mission History
On April 12, 1943 took off from 7 Mile Drome near Port Moresby on a mission to intercept the last Japanese daylight raid against Port Moresby on April 12, 1943. Engaged a Zero, which Culton claimed. Another Zero opened fire from his six o'clock, and pieces of 20mm shrapnel exploded off the engine block and a piece lodged in his neck. Culton successfully bailed out and landed near Haima village near 17 Mile Drome (Durand) and his P-39 crashed about two kilometers northwest of northwest of Haima village.

Fate of the Pilot
At Haima village, he was given a cup of tea by the villagers and waited until a jeep arrived and transported him back to his squadron.

Richard Culton recalls:
"12 April 1943 was my 70th combat mission. As I remember we only had 15 aircraft take off that day, including 2 Australian BoFighters (sic), 3 P-38, 7 P-39, 2 B-25 and 1 B-26 to attack the Japanese aircraft. I never did find out how many they had, also I never found out of any other of our aircraft than those I have listed. When I got into the hospital much of what happened got very blurry. I spent 1,004 days in 18 different hospitals before finally being returned to general military duty on flying status."

In 1947 RAAF Searcher Team led by F/Lt Coape-Smith investigated two crash sites near Haima (a village near Jackson Airport). They found two wrecks in the inland swamp country: a P-47 Thunderbolt and the wreckage of a fighter, possibly an Airacobra (not a P-40) likely this aircraft.

On December 19, 1980, PNG Museum modern history curator Bruce Hoy recovered the tail section and a propeller blade from the crash site. At the time, an elderly villager recalled how the aircraft crashed in flames and villagers rescued the pilot, brought him to Haima village and gave him a cup of tea.

Since December 19, 1980 the recovered tail section of this aircraft was displayed at the PNG War Museum indoors in the back room, suspended from the ceiling.

During 1988, one of the propeller blades was exported to Australia by Bruce Hoy when he finished at the museum and remains in his possession.

Sometime after July 2000, the tail section was removed by Robert Greinert / HARS, placed into a container and exported to Australia. At the time, Greinert claimed "[this] tail will be used in his 'P-39 project". Precisely which project or by whom is unknown. Likely, this tail section was either sold or "donated" to another organization or entity by Robert Greinert. The whereabouts of the tail section today are unknown.

41st Fighter Squadron History - April 12, 1943
RAAF schedule incorrectly lists this aircraft as a P-47D
PNG Museum Aircraft Status Card - P-39 Airacobra 41-38351

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Last Updated
February 4, 2018


Tech Info

Richard Culton

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