|Pilot Wing Commander Trevor Owen Freeman, NZ1026 (MIA / KIA) Dunedin, Otago, New Zealand
MIA December 17, 1943
Freeman most senior RNZAF pilot lost in the South Pacific and He is
an MIA to this day. Freeman served with the RAF in England flying
Gauntlets, Spitfires and Wellingtons, was awarded DSC and bar, and flew
a total of 58 sorties in Europe. Returning to New Zealand in February
1943, he was appointed director of air operations. He was credited with
damaging a Zeke on October 11, 1943 and commanding officer of the New
Zealand fighter wing at Ondonga.
Built by Curtiss in Buffalo, New York. Constructors Number 28611. Assigned U. S. Army serial number 42-104849. Disassembled and shipped overseas.
Assigned to the Royal New Zealand Air Force (RNZAF) as Kittyhawk serial number NZ3153. Reassembled by No.1 Aircraft Depot at Hobsonville Airfield and BOC on July 27, 1943. Tail code "F".
On December 17, 1943
took off from Ondonga Airfield at
5:30am on a fighter sweep over Rabaul. This P-40 was one of twenty-four P-40s from RNZAF 16 Squadron and 14 Squadron. They were joined by twenty-two U. S. Navy F6F Hellcats and thirty-one U. S. Marine Corps F4U Corsairs, totaling seventy-seven fighters. This mission was the RNZAF's first major air operation.
The formation first staged to Torokina Airfield to refuel, then took off again and split up into two groups. The New Zealand pilots were
led by Freeman and Arkwright en route to Rabaul. Inbound to the target, two P-40s aborted the mission due to to mechanical problems, leaving seventy-five fighters that reached the target.
Over the target, Freeman was
credited with shooting down one Zero, before disappearing over southern
New Ireland pursued by as many as four enemy Zeros. Reportedly, he crashed near Hunter Point, but no trace of him or his aircraft was ever found.
A total of three P-40s were
lost, and two pilots went Missing In Action. This aircraft, plus P-40N NZ3175. Nine enemy aircraft were
claimed as shot down: five by RNZAF and four by the USN. Officially, this P-40 was written off books on January 31, 1944.
Freeman was officially declared dead the day of the mission. He is memorialized on the Bourail Memorial at Burail War Cemetery on panel 3.
Trevor Owen Freeman
ADF Serials Kittyhawk NZ3153
Air to Air tells an account of the December 17, 1943 mission
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May 22, 2017