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  P-39 Airacobra Serial Number ?  
5th AF
18th FG
70th FS

Pilot  1st Lt. Lawrence R. McKulla (survived) WA
Crashed  January 26, 1943
MACR  none

Aircraft History
Built by Bell in Buffalo, New York. Delivered to the U. S. Army Air Force (USAAF) as P-39 Airacobra , model and serial number unknown. Disassembled and shipped overseas and reassembled.

Wartime History
Assigned to the 5th Air Force, 18th Fighter Group, 70th Fighter Squadron. No known nickname or nose art.

Mission History
On January 26, 1943 took off from Henderson Field on Guadalcanal with P-39 piloted by Fiedler on a mission to escort B-17s bombing Ballale. Returning, the Airacobras were dispatched to search off Choiseul for a man in a rubber raft, spotted two days earlier by a RNZAF Hudson from 3 Squadron.

At roughly Lat 7°  30' S, Long 157° 40' E, the pair spotted a flying boat, H6K Mavis piloted by Kira and made a single firing pass from below, damaging the hull, wounding several aboard and killing the tail gunner.

Six escorting A6M Zeros from the 252 Kokutai failed to noticed their low approach and dove down to intercept the Airacobras after their single firing pass. During the dogfight between the Zeros and the pair of Airacobras, Fiedler claimed one "Zero Mark 2" (A6M3 Hamp) south off Wagina Island, east of Choiseul Island and managed to escape. McCulla was shot down by one of the intercepting Zeros but managed to successfully bailed out and landed safely.

Fate of the Pilot
McCulla managed to reach nearby Rengi Island. He was spotted and dropped supplies from a Royal New Zealand Air Force (RNZAF) Hudson. Alone for sixteen days behind enemy lines, he survived without being detected. On February 10, 1943 after sixteen days, he was rescued by USS Grouper (SS-214).

Postwar, McKulla joined the United States Air Force (USAF). He served in the Korean War and retired as a Colonel. He passed away on August 16, 1968 and is buried at Mountain View Cemetery in Auburn, WA at plot 4th slope.

Are you a relative of McKulla? Contact Us.

Action Report 1st Lt. Lawrence R. McKulla
Escape & Evasion Report 1st Lt. Lawrence R. McKulla
Saturday Evening Post "Lt. Lawrence R. McKulla and his battle with Japanese Zeros" July 3, 1943
FindAGrave - Lawrence McKulla (grave photo)
Dramatic Rescue off Choisel by Justin Taylan
FindAGrave - Lawrence McKulla (grave photo)
Thanks to Edward Rogers for additional information

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Last Updated
February 4, 2018


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