|Pilot 2nd Lt. Christ A. Props, O-727539 (KIA, BR) SD
Crashed April 27, 1943
Built by Curtiss in Buffalo, New York. Delivered to the U. S. Army. Disassembled and shipped overseas to Australia and reassembled.
Assigned to the 5th Air Force, 49th Fighter Group, 7th Fighter Squadron. Assigned Commanding Officer (C.O.) Captain Ray Melikian. Nicknamed "Swing It". A diagonal
blue strip was painted on the fuselage near the tail. The squadron
number "30" was painted on the tail with the prior number "5" beneath it. A nude Varga style
was painted on the side of the nose.
Above the fuselage U. S. Army serial number stencil was painted "Capt. R. Meikian" with five bomb markings indicating bombing missions flown and and three Japanese flag kill markings indicating victory claims, representing Melikian's claims on July 30, 1942, August 23, 1942 and March 5, 1943.
On April 27, 1943 took off from Horanda Drome (Dobodura 4) piloted by 2nd Lt. Props and climbed to join formation at 18,000' on an escort mission to Lae Airfield. Returning to the Dobodura area, this aircraft fell out of the formation and went into a spin. There was no smoke, no apparent attempt to regain control and the pilot was not observed to bail out. This P-40 crashed east of Hamburata village, near
the Ambogo River.
During September 1946 the wreckage of this aircraft was discovered in a swamp. Inside was the incomplete skeletal remains of the pilot. Wreckage included the engine, wings and fuselage.
During late March 1965, rediscovered
by a District Officer in Oro Province. During the middle of July 1965, Investigated by a RAAF Search Team led by S/L Keith M. Rundell. More
remains were discovered deliberately laid out on the wing. Evidence at
the time suggested that parts and flight instruments were salvaged prior
to the visit, probably
by locals, who also laid the remains out as is their custom.
The remains were recovered and delivered to the American authorities.
The left side of the cockpit (with five bomb markings and three kill markings, and the name "Capt. R. Melikian') with the throttle quadrant was recovered (likely in 1965 by Rundell) and was donated to the Charters Towers Museum.
During the late 1970s, Charles Darby photographed this tail section and published the photo in Pacific
Later, pieces of the cockpit were cut out
and recovered. In the late 1980's
in the area.
John Douglas visited the site in 1997:
"The engine and both wings were there: one wing was OK, the other shattered,
and the intact tail. Could see sections of the cockpit had
been removed, the pilot's name, etc. The cockpit section was completely
Around 2000, the wing and tail section of this aircraft was recovered by Robert
Greinert / HARS. The wing section was cut at the wing root with a saw. According to the landowner, the salvager paid 2,000 Kina to him. Afterwards, the wreckage was shipped to Sydney and until approximately 2002, stored at HARS at Sydney Airfield (Mascot).
During 2002, the fuselage section was donated to the PIMA
Aviation Museum and shipped to the United States. Placed into storage, not on public display.
Props was officially declared dead on April 27, 1943. After the recovery of remains in 1946, he was permanently buried at the American Legion Cemetery (Mitchell) in Mitchell, South Dakota.
49th FG History, Frame 477
Aircraft Wrecks page 44 (middle, right)
PNG Museum Aircraft Status Card - P-40 Kittyhawk 42-45981 pilot Props
Protect and Avenge page 141 (date of loss listed as April 28, 1943 and mentions investigation of crash)
FindAGrave - Christ A Props (grave photo)
Thanks to John Douglas, Keith Hopper and PIMA
Aviation Museum for additional information
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June 29, 2019