Lt Joel D. Thorvaldson, O-727586 (survived) Spanish Fork, UT
Crashed September 13, 1943
Built by Curtiss in Buffalo, New York. Delivered to the U. S. Army Air Force (USAAF) as P-40N-5-CU Warhawk serial number 42-104977. Disassembled and shipped overseas and reassembled.
Assigned to the 5th Air Force, 49th Fighter Group, 8th Fighter Squadron. Assigned to pilot 1st Lt. Joel D. Thorvaldson with Squadron number 55. The
right side of the plane was decorated by the crew chief, who nicknamed the aircraft "Mr.
Five by Five". The left side was
"Punkins" in block letters Thorvaldson's
nickname for his wife.
During 1943, this P-40 operated from Horanda Airfield (Dobodura 4) and later from Tsili Tsili Airfield. Later in 1943, equipped with bomb racks and used on at least one bombing against Japanese targets in the Ramu Valley armed with two 265 pound bombs.
On September 13, 1943 took off from Tsili Tsili Airfield piloted by 1st
Lt Joel D. Thorvaldson on a mission to intercept
Japanese fighters over Tsili
Tsili. During the combat, this P-40 was hit and the engine started
to malfunction and later caught fire. Damaged, Thorvaldson made a force landing north of Lae near
the junction of the Waffia River and Markham River and landed unhurt.
Joel D. Thorvaldson recalls:
"I'm interested in photographic evidence of enemy
my engine section. My left hand was wounded but I never got my
Purple Heart because I couldn't prove I was shot. The command
denied my Silver Star also, they acted like it was a mechanical problem.
I was shooting without a gun sight, and a damaged prop."
Fate of the Pilot
After the force landing, Thorvaldson found himself in tall kunai grass and used his flare gun to burn the grass. He then made made his way to the nearest river and was dropped a life raft by a friendly plane and floated down the river until he was located by the Australian Army and returned to his squadron.
Joel D. Thorvaldson recalls:
I got on the ground, the kunai grass was so high, I fired a flare to burn
the grass. They
knew i was out there. A friendly plane spotted me on a
river bank and dropped me a raft that I used to go down the nearby Ramu
took me nine days to get back. At the mouth of the River, the Australians
picked me up. They had only taken Lae two days before they picked me up.
I had gotten credited for one kill before I even got back, because everyone
had seen me shoot this plane down over the strip. I
was the first rescue for the squadron too, they did a victory roll for
me when I got back. I claimed 2 and a bomber. I was supposed to get
a purple heart for my wounds but they said my plane crashed from mechanical
failure, not enemy fire, so I didn't get it. Now, from your photos of the
wreck, it looks like it will finally get my purple heart! I did see a piece
go by in the air, but had no idea they even hit me.
wreckage included the tail group, engine and some of the
wing section. There is proof of bullet holes and damage to the engine
and propeller of the wreck. The wreck site was undisturbed until 2005,
when it was recovered.
During February 2005 the wreckage of this aircraft was salvaged by Robert
Greinert / Historic Aircraft Restoration Society (HARS) and exported in a container to Australia.
After arrival in Sydney this aircraft was shipped to Precision
Aerospace and placed into storage. During 2005, the recovered wreckage was sold to Mike Spaulding / North
Queensland Warbirds (Warbird Adventures) for use
in a new built P-40N restoration. Reportedly, the tail wheel assembly from the crash site was used as the basis of the original historical identity.
Registered in Australia as VH-MIK. By 2007, the wings were attached to the fuselage. By 2008, the new built P-40 was restored to flying condition. and painted in the markings of a Royal Air Force (RAF) P-40 Kittyhawk coded BU-B.
On August 16, 2009 took off piloted by owner Mike Spualding on a local flight and when landing at Mareeba Airfield, the P-40 suffered a right landing gear collapse. Afterwards, shipped to Precision
Aerospace for repairs and was converted to a dual controls at the same time.
After the repairs and conversion, sold to John F. Davis, III of Elizabeth, CO and shipped from Australia to the United States.
On August 19, 2015 registered in the United States as N977WH.
During April 2018 sold to Thom Richard plus a financial backer and on June 25, 2018 re-registered to TP40 LLC of Winter Park, Florida.
USAF Serial Number Search Results - P-40N-5-CU Warhawk 42-104977
"104977 (MSN 28739, 55th FS, "Punkins/Mr Five by Five") crashlanded after being shot down by Japanese aircraft in Lae, New Guinea and w/o Sep 13, 1943. Recovered in Feb 2005 and sold in Australia to North Queensland warbirds for spares. Some parts remained after spares use, since was registered to Cairns Airport Hangars of Cairns as VH-MIK. Only parts recovered were remains of tail, wings, and engine, so restoration invoved parts from numerous other sources. First flight after restoration Jun 2009."
49th Fighter Group combat report September
Narrative Report of Lt. Joel D. Thorvaldson September 19, 1943 page 1-2
PNG Museum Aircraft Status Card - P-40N 42-104977
Pilot of three wars honors two Medals Salvation Army Gave Him
Registry N977WH - P-40N 42-104977
American Fighter Aces - Lawrence F. O’Neill an Ace with Kearby's Thunderbolts by John Guttman mentions September 13, 1943 mission
Flightpath Magazine "Six Decades Of... " by Michael Claringbould pages 50-54
Curtis P-40 Tomahawk / Warhawk / Kittyhawk P-40N 42-104977 page 23 of 33 [PDF]
Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) N-Number Inquiry Results - N977WH
Registered August 19, 2015 / Re-Registered June 25, 2018 to TP40 LLC
Thanks to Joel D. Thorvaldson for additional information.
Are you a relative or associated with any person mentioned?
Do you have photos or additional information to add?
September 17, 2018