|Pilot 2nd Lt. William H. Melville, O-742880 (MIA / KIA) Mineapolis, MN
Crashed October 28, 1943
Built by Bell in Buffalo, New York. Delivered to the U.S. Army. Disassembled and shipped overseas and reassembled.
Assigned 5th Air Force, 8th Fighter Group, 36th Fighter Squadron. No known nose art or nickname. This aircraft had a white painted tail and U. S. star and bar markings. When lost, engine V1710-85 serial number 42-98044. Armed with 50 caliber machine guns serial numbers 659092, 661109, 507518, 507410 and 37mm cannon 5946.
On October 28, 1943 one of four Airacobras that took off from 5 Mile Drome (Wards) near Port Moresby at 3:10pm piloted by 2nd Lt. William H. Melville on an armed patrol bound for the Nadzab area. The four plane formation was led by P-39Q 42-19987 piloted by 1st Lt. Pitonyak. During the flight, the formation experienced a violent weather front with 100% overcast with visibility above overcast of twenty miles, and flew along the coast at 20,000' to avoid the weather.
The flight was was last seen by 1st Lt John J. Perkins roughly 25 miles north of Bulldog in bad weather at approximately 4:10pm. Returning to base alone, P-39Q piloted by 1st Lt. Perkins periodically attempted to reach his flight by radio without result. At 5:05pm, he landed safely at 5 Mile Drome. The other three Airacobras failed to return and were officially listed as Missing In Action (MIA): P-39Q 42-19987, P-39Q 42-20031 and this aircraft.
The next day, two P-39s searched for 2.5 hours for the missing aircraft along the coast from Port Moresby to "Kermina" (Kerema?) and inland to the mountain range. That same day, four other P-39s patrolling the Bulldog area also looked for the lost planes. On October 30, an A-24 searched the mountains beyond Bulldog and Kokoda Pass area. Also, a PBY also searched for the missing planes along the coast to the Fly River but failed to find anything. On October 31, one A-24 and two P-39s continued to search, but found nothing.
Post war, the wreckage of this Airacobra was reportedly located near Okavail village (Okavai / Otamai)? in one foot of water in an impact crater.
During late September 2014, Michael Claringbould claimed to visit the crash site of a Airacobra reported to be this aircraft and photographed the tail painted white with traces of "219" visible on both sides and a yellow and red horizontal stripe at the tip of the tail. Also, one of the cockpit doors. In fact, was the crash site of P-39N Airacobra 42-19041.
Melville was officially declared dead the day of the mission. He is memorialized on the tablets of the missing at Manila American Cemetery. Melville remains Missing In Action (MIA) to this day.
NARA World War II Army Enlistment Records William H. Melville
Missing Air Crew Report 1006 (MACR 1006)
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - William H. Melville
FindAGrave - 2Lt William Henry Melville (tablets of the missing)
PNG Museum Aircraft Status Card - P-39Q Airacobra 42-19959
Attack & Conquer page 313 notes this aircraft incorrectly as "42-19955"
Flightpath Magazine "Cobra in the Clouds" by Michael Claringbould May-June 2015 Volume 26, No. 4 pages 32-36 details the loss of William H. Melville
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February 4, 2018