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Pilot Lt. Everett H. Van Patten (survived) Dallas, TX
Force Landed August 3, 1943
Built by Bell in Buffalo, New York. Assigned Royal Air Force (RAF) Airacobra I serial number AP335 and painted in a three-color camouflage scheme. Instead, delivered to the U. S. Army Air Force (USAAF) as P-400 Airacobra AP335. Disassembled and shipped overseas to Australia and reassembled.
Assigned to the 5th Air Force, 8th Fighter Group, 36 Fighter Squadron "The Flying Fiends". No known nose art or nickname.
On August 3, 1943 took off from Port Moresby piloted by Lt. Everett Van Patten on a mission to escort C-47 Dakotas bound for Tsili-Tsili Airfield. Over the target, intercepted by Japanese Ki-43 Oscars. This Airacobra's coolant system was hit by a bullet and disabled. Returning from the mission, Van Patten made a wheels up emergency landing at Bulldog Airfield.
Fate of the Pilot
Afterwards, Van Patten was transported back to Port Moresby and returned to duty. Afterwards, promoted to the rank of Captain and became the Commanding Officer (C. O.) of the 36th Fighter Squadron between October 14, 1944 until November 15, 1944.
Until 1984, this Airacobra remained in situ at Bulldog Airfield.
Ray Fairfield over flew the area in 1968:
"I remember the strip as just north of the village of Bulldog. I was told about some intact airplanes at Bulldog that survey crew had visited, and taken a few parts off. These planes had reportedly crashed before the strip was built. When I over flew the area in 1968 or 1969 I could not see anything. Finally, after carefully looking I could just make out the former runway - if the jungle was 80' tall, the trees on the former runway were about 40', they grew that fast. I could not see any wrecks. Later, Jack Taft went in there by boat and walked to the Airacobras. He later told me a story about when he walked there, the locals told him to stop. He wondered why, and they said he was at the aircraft. It was so overgrown, he had not seen it."
Purchased by the US Military Aircraft Museum, through the efforts of Jack Taft, himself a veteran of the 345th Bombardment Group. Taft donated the funds for recovery of P-400 AP335 and P-400 AP347, from Bulldog Airfield to acquire the export permit. Both were recovered November 30, 1984 by RAAF Chinook helicopter, and brought to Jackson Airport.
During 1985, this aircraft was shipped to the United States.
During 1985 to 2009 this Airacobra been under restoration by Jack Taft at his home in Michigan. He first restored the tail section. On August 15, 1993, the 50th Anniversary of the force landing at Bulldog Airfield, former pilot Everett Van Patten of P-400 AP335 and Tom Huff, former pilot of P-400 AP-347 were reunited with this aircraft.
Jack Taft passed away March 16, 2009. His Airacobra was sold to the Fighter Factory in Suffolk, Virginia and is in storage there as of August 2010.
Postwar, Van Patten continued in the U. S. Air Force (USAF) and served in the Korean War as an operations officer. Afterwards, he worked as an aerospace engineer for North American and Rockwell until retirement. He passed away on February 12, 2006 in retirement in El Reno, OK.
Some sources incorrectly spell the name of the pilot "Van Patton", also it is unclear if the date of force landing was August 2, 1943 or August 3, 1943.
36th Fighter Squadron History February 1942 - December 1943 (AFHRA IRISNUM: 00056238) does not mention the loss of Van Patten during August 1943
Weekly Status Report (Form 34) November 1942 - December 1943 (AFHRA IRISNUM: 00056268)
Victoria Advocate "Aloe Review: Combat Vets" December 10, 1944
"Captain Everett H. Van Patten of Dallas served for 23 months as a fighter pilot with the 5th Air Force in the Southwest Pacific. He flew P-38s and P-47s [and P-400s] and wears the Distinguished Flying Cross, the Air Medal and the Southwest Pacific theater ribbon with two battle stars."
Joe Baugher "Airacobra I for RAF, P-400 - P-400 Airacobra AP335
"AP335 to USAAF. crashed landed Aug 2, 1943 [sic] at Lakekamu River, PNG"
PNG Museum Aircraft Status Card - P-400 Airacobra AP 335
Airacobra Advantage, by Rick Mitchell
Attack and Conquer page 263
Salisbury Post "Everett Havern Van Patten Obituary" February 13, 2006
"He served in the U.S. Army Air Corp and the U.S. Air Force as a fighter pilot. Mr. Van Patten served in New Guinea in the Asian Theater. While serving in Korea he was an operations officer."
Thanks to Ray Fairfield, Charles Darby, Richard Leahy and Edward Rogers for additional information
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