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. Disassembled and shipped overseas and reassembled.
Assigned to the 5th Air Force, 49th Fighter Group, 8th Fighter Squadron. Squadron number 55. Assigned to pilot 1st Lt. Joel D. Thorvaldson. The
right side of the plane was decorated by the crew chief, who nicknamed the aircraft "Mr.
Five by Five". The left side was
named "Punkins" in block letters, Thorvaldson's
nickname for his wife.
This P-40 was equipped with wing bomb racks. Used on a bombing mission in the Ramu Valley armed with two 265 lbs bombs.
On September 13, 1943 took off from Tsili Tsili Airfield on an interception mission against
Japanese fighters over Tsili
Tsili. During the combat, this P-40 was hit and the engine started
to malfunction and later caught fire. Pilot Thorvaldson made a force landing near
the Waffia River and Markham River, north of Lae 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 / HARS and exported to Australia.
Stored at Precision
Aerospace then resold to North
Queensland Warbirds (Warbird Adventures) for use
in their replica P-40N restoration, that uses the tail wheel assembly and uses its historical identity.
Circa 2015, sold to John F. Davis, III of Elizabeth, CO transported to the United States to Colorado.
This P-40 registered with the FAA as N977WH on August 19, 2015.
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
Joel D. Thorvaldson for additional information
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February 4, 2018