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|Pilot 2nd Lt. James O. Rice, O-702841 (MIA / KIA) Ashland, KY
MIA September 2, 1944 at 4:30pm
Built by Bell in Buffalo, New York. Delivered to the U. S. Army Air Force (USAAF) as P-39Q-5-BE Airacobra serial number 42-20353. Disassembled and shipped overseas and reassembled.
Assigned 5th Air Force, 71st Tactical Reconnaissance Group, 82nd Tactical Reconnaissance Squadron. No known nose art or nickname.
On September 2, 1944 one of three P-39s led by P-40 piloted by 1st Lt William A. Shomo that took off from Boroke Drome on Biak Island on an armed reconnaissance mission over Etna Bay to Cape Awoers to strafe targets of opportunity on the southern coast of New Guinea, at the maximum safe range for P-39s.
Weather was heavy cumulus clouds at 6,000'. Due to the clouds, the mission was aborted and the four aircraft attempted to return to base in close formation to maintain visual contact and fly the shortest route to Biak. Shomo's P-40 suffered an engine failure when his drop tank was empty and lost contact with the three P-39s. Trying them over the radio, but only heard a buzzing sound in reply. Low on fuel, Shomo returned to base alone. When this aircraft failed to return it was officially listed as Missing In Action (MIA). Also lost was P-39Q 44-3569 piloted by Bailey (MIA) and P-39Q 42-20357 piloted by Ronning (MIA).
The next day, a 3.5 hour search mission was flown by four P-39 Airacobras from the 82nd Tactical Reconnaissance Squadron Airacobras without results. Also, five B-25 Mitchells searched for five hours unsuccessfully.
Rice was officially declared dead on February 15, 1946. He earned the Purple Heart, posthumously. Rice is memorialized at Manila American Cemetery on the tablets of the missing.
Note, some sources incorrectly list the loss location for all three Airacobras as New Georgia [sic, New Guinea] and lists them as assigned to the 71st Fighter Squadron [sic, 82nd Tactical Reconnaissance Squadron], both of which are in error for all three losses.
NARA World War II Army Enlistment Records - James O. Rice
Missing Air Crew Report 8640 (MACR MACR 8640) created September 3, 1944
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - James O. Rice
FindAGrave - 2Lt James O Rice (tablets of the missing photo)
Thanks to Edward Rogers for research and analysis
Sept 2, 1944
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