|Pilot 2nd Lt. Edward J Gignac, O-430806 (survived) MA
Force Landed July 11, 1942
Built by Bell in Buffalo, New York. Assigned Royal Air Force (RAF) serial number BW117 and painted in a three-color camouflage scheme. Instead, delivered to the U. S. Army. Disassembled and shipped overseas to Australia and reassembled.
Assigned to the 5th Air Force, 35th Fighter Group, 40th Fighter Squadron. Nose number 43. No known nose art or nickname.
Took off 7-Mile Drome near Port Moresby during a scramble against Japanese bombers. Climbing to 15,000', he experienced engine failure and crashed landed near 30 Mile Drome (Rogers). Afterwards Gignac did not fly combat for the rest of the month and was later sent back to the United States.
Afterwards Gignac did not fly combat for the rest of July 1942. He returned to the United States and was later assigned to the
352nd Fighter Group, Headquarters Squadron and promoted to the rank of Major. On June 7, 1944, Gignac was killed in action piloting P-51B Mustang 42-106661. The aircraft was hit by flak in the wing, causing it to explode (see MACR # 5556). He is buried in France at Epinal American Cemetery at plot A, row 33, Grave 28. During his service he earned the Silver Star, Distinguished Flying Cross with Oak Leaf Cluster and Purple Heart (posthumously).
A wartime photo shows wreckage including the bent propeller, upside down center section and tail wreckage in a clearing near 30 Mile (Rogers Drome). Likely, parts of the wreck were salvaged during the war. Until at least the 1970s, wreckage with serial number BW 117 visible remained in the vicinity of 30 Mile (Rogers Drome). Fate unknown, likely scrapped.
The Aircraft Wrecks in the South Pacific Area, Pacific Aviation Society notes wreck of BW117
Joe Baugher "Airacobra I for RAF, P-400"
PNG Museum Aircraft Status Card - P-39 (P-400) Airacobra BW 117
Australian War Memorial Collection Database - Item P03338.001
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - E J Gignac
Together We Served - Maj Edward J Gignac
Thanks to Edward Rogers and Daniel Leahy for additional information
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January 5, 2018