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  P-40N-5-CU "Mr. Five by Five / Punkins" Serial Number 42-104977 Nose 55
5th AF
49th FG
8th FS

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Thorvaldson c1943

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Thorvaldson Sept 22 1943

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John Douglas 2004

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Justin Taylan 2006

Pilot  1st Lt Joel D. Thorvaldson, O-727586 (survived) Spanish Fork, UT
Crashed  September 13, 1943

Aircraft History
Built by Curtiss in Buffalo, New York. Delivered to the U. S. Army. Disassembled and shipped overseas and reassembled.

Wartime History
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.

Wartime History
This P-40 was equipped with wing bomb racks. Used on a bombing mission in the Ramu Valley armed with two 265 lbs bombs.

Mission History
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 bullet holes in 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:
"When 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 River. It 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.

The 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 13, 1943
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
FAA 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
Thanks to Joel D. Thorvaldson for additional information

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Last Updated
February 4, 2018


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