|Pilot 1st Lt. Paul G. Brown, O-417000 (survived) Oak Park, IL
Force Landed April 30, 1942
Built by Bell in Buffalo, New York. Delivered to the U.S. Army Air Force (USAAF) as P-39D-BE Airacobra serial number 41-6982. Disassembled and shipped overseas to Australia and reassembled.
Assigned to the 5th Air Force (5th AF), 8th Fighter Group (8th FG) "Cyclone's Flying Circus", 36th Fighter Squadron (36th FS) "The Flying Fiends". No nickname or nose art. This Airacobra was flown from Garbutt Airfield near Townsville via Cairns Airfield and Horn Island Airfield before arriving at 7-Mile Drome near Port Moresby on April 30, 1942. The arrival was timed to arrive after noon to avoid any Japanese air raids that were frequent in the morning hours.
On April 30, 1942 took off from 7-Mile Drome near Port Moresby at 1:00pm piloted by 1st Lt. Paul G. Brown as one of eleven Airacobra led by Lt. Col Boyd D. "Buzz" Wagner on a strafing mission against Lae Airfield. This was the 8th Fighter Group's first combat mission. At 2:37pm, the AIracobras strafed Lae Airfield hitting parked aircraft and seaplanes then departed. A6M2 Zeros of the Tainan Kōkūtai scrambled, and intercepted the Airacobras near Salamaua. This Airacobra sustained damaged but managed to reach the south coast of New Guinea before force landing on a beach near Hood Point. During the landing, the P-39 sustained a bent propeller, broken oil coolers, bent flaps and cowling damage but otherwise was intact.
Fate of the pilot
In early May 1942, Brown was taken to Abau Island where he met Japanese Prisoner Of War (POW) Yoshimitsu Maeda pilot of A6M2 Zero 1575 who force landed on April 28, 1942 in the same area. Both men and the wreckage of the Zero were transported aboard the MV Matoma to Port Moresby. Brown returned to duty with his squadron during early May 1942.
In early October, 1942 a US Army salvage team boarded a small ship that left Port Moresby bound for Hood Point to repair this Airacobra. Near their destination, the ship floundered causing salvage tools and fuel to be dumped overboard as the vessel nearly capsized. Later, some of the salvage equipment and parts were located with the help of native divers from Hula.
After locating the Airacobra, an improvised hoist was constructed from the trunks of coconut palms and used to lift the wreck, since their A-frame was lost at sea. About 100 natives were used to tow the Airacobra to a clearing and an improvised runway was marked on the beach.
On October 15, 1942 this aircraft was flown back to Port Moresby without operative flaps or landing gear. Any wartime service afterwards is unknown. Likely, it was scrapped or otherwise disappeared. Officially, this aircraft was condemned on October 31, 1944.
AWM 012768 photograph of Lt. Paul Brown
USAF Serial Number Search Results - P-39D-BE Airacobra 41-6982
PNG Museum Aircraft Status Card - P-39 Airacobra piloted by Brown
Attack & Conquer page 36, 46
Forty of the Fifth Profile #2 pages 7 - 12 (Salvage of Bevlock's P-39 41-7186 is incorrect, actually P-39D 41-6982 piloted by Brown)
Thanks to Edward Rogers for additional research and analysis
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January 29, 2020