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  P-39F-1-BE Airacobra Serial Number 41-7122 Letter M
5th AF
8th FG
36th FS

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H Sakaguchi 2004

Pilot  2nd Lt. Jessie M. Bland (survived) New Bern, NC
Ditched  May 17, 1942
MACR  none

Aircraft History
Built by Bell in Buffalo, New York. Delivered to the U.S. Army. Disassembled and shipped overseas to Australia and reassembled.

Wartime History
Assigned to the 5th Air Force, 8th Fighter Group, 36th Fighter Squadron. No known nickname or nose art. Assigned squadron Letter "M".

Mission History
On May 17, 1942 took off from 7-Mile Drome near Port Moresby on an mission to intercept A6M2 Zeros of the Tainan Kōkūtai. Bland fired into the side of one of the Zeros, and saw his traces enter the enemy's engine and fuselage. He was then fired on by another Zero, and his engine failed, forcing him to land into the sea across from Bootless Bay off Pyramid Point, 100-150m from shore, in 1m of water, nosing over in the crash. Bland was wounded when his head struck the gun site on impact.

Fate of the Pilot
After the crash, villagers paddled out to Bland and rescued him. Afterwards, he was returned to base and returned to duty.

During the war, the machine guns from this Airacobra were salvaged, but the 37mm canon was abandoned. The wreckage includes the engine, wing and portions of the nose, including the empty 30 caliber gun tubes.

Harumi Sakaguchi dived the site in 2004:
"The engine was still there on the engine not having been souvenired by divers. What was interesting was that way the engine was found, the plane was upside down."

Bill Bland

36th FS History, Frame 418
Combat (Fighter) Report Lt. Jesse M. Bland plane no. 7122
In May 1945, Bland died in a airplane crash while flying through a storm near Thomasville Georgia.
Sun-Journal, New Bern, NC "Capt. Jesse Bland Dies in Plane Crash Tuesday" March 22, 1945
"Returning home from a visit with his mother who is ill, Capt. Jesse Bland, 27, of the United States Army Air Corps, stationed at the Thomasville, Ga., Army Air Base, was killed in a crash landing about a mile from his home base Tuesday night between 9:30 and 10 o'clock, according to word received here Wednesday by the victim's mother, Mrs. Rosa J. Bland. There were few details available here Wednesday.
Captain Bland came to New Bern Tuesday, arriving about 1 o'clock and after a visit with his mother, he left returning to Thomasville about 4:30 o'clock Nearing his base he ran into a flash storm and crashed in an effort to put his plane down in a field on a plantation near Thomasville. The body was brought to New Bern for funeral service and burial. It was accompanied by a military escort but the time of arrival was not known here Wednesday. Mrs. Bland, who was the former Miss Eunice Williams of Tallahassee, Fla., accompanied by a sister, was to leave Thomasville Wednesday night for New Bern.
Captain Bland, one of New Bern's most popular young men, had been in the air corps for four years. After graduating from the New Bern High School he entered N. C. State college and after his junior year he enlisted in the air corps. He received his training as a fighter plane pilot and was commissioned at Summerville, Ala. After several months training in the states he was among the first American fliers to be sent to the south west Pacific area, He served for 17 months overseas and was awarded a number of decorations for distinguished service. He returned to the states more than a year ago and has been stationed at Thomasville."
Thanks to Edward Rogers for additional information

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Last Updated
February 4, 2018


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