|Pilot 2nd Lt. Robert M. Wilde, O-427075 (KIA / BR) Iowa
Crashed May 12, 1942
Built by Bell in Buffalo, New York. Delivered to the U.S. Army. Delivered to the U.S. Army. Disassembled and shipped overseas to Australia and reassembled.
Assigned to the 5th Air Force, 8th Fighter Group, 35th Fighter Squadron. No known nose art or nickname.
On May 12, 1942 took off from 12 Mile Drome (Bomana) near Port Moresby on a local patrol. Returning, A6M2 Zeros of the Tainan Kōkūtai were strafing the airfield. Although low on fuel, Wilde bravely attempted to intercept the Zeros, but was shot down. Possibly, Wilde attempted to land or crash land, but was killed in the crash or had wounded or killed in the combat.
During July 1942, the wreckage of this Airacobra was found by the U. S. Army and identified. The wreckage was described as "riddled with bullet holes".
Reportedly, during 1972, the wreckage from this Airacobra was recovered from "mountain view" and taken to the The Air Museum of Papua New Guinea, likely recovered by Bill Chapman.
Recovery of Remains
During July 1942 when his aircraft was located, Wilde's remains were recovered and were buried at Port Moresby at plot D grave LL2. His date of death was incorrectly listed as July 21, 1942, likely the day he was buried or remains recovered.
Wilde was officially declared dead the day of the mission. He earned the Distinguished Flying Cross, posthumously. Later, his remains were exhumed and reburied at the Hawaii Memorial Cemetery (Punchbowl), at Plot B Row 0 Grave 1113. Wilde also has a memorial marker at Graceland Park Cemetery in Sioux City, Iowa.
PNG Museum Aircraft Status Card - P-39 Airacobra piloted by Wilde
News article "Flier Wilde Dies in Action" June 1, 1942
Joe Baugher's Navy Aircraft Serial Number lists states: "reportedly owned by N. M. Armstrong of Victoria, Australia."
FindAGrave - Lieut Robert Michael Wilde (grave photo)
FindAGrave - Robert Michael Wilde (memorial photo)
Thanks to Edward Rogers for additional information
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January 5, 2018