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  P-400 Airacobra Serial Number ?  
USAAF
5th AF
35th FG
41st FS

Pilot  1st Lt. David E. Latane, O-426399 (survived) Richmond, VA
Crashed  February 9, 1943
MACR  none

Aircraft History
Built by Bell in Buffalo, New York. Assigned Royal Air Force (RAF) serial number unknown and painted in a three-color camouflage scheme. Instead, delivered to the U. S. Army. Disassembled and shipped overseas to Australia and reassembled.

Wartime History
Assigned to the 5th Air Force, 35th Fighter Group, 41st Fighter Squadron. No known nose art or nickname. Possibly, this aircraft was P-400 Nose 94 assigned to Latane.

Mission History
On February 9, 1943 took off from 30 Mile Drome near Port Moresby on a patrol over Oro Bay. Twenty-five minutes into the flight at roughly 2,000', his aircraft caught fire 20 miles north of the airfield and Latane bailed out.

Fate of the Pilot
It took Latane six days to walk back to base. He returned to duty around February 15, 1943.

Flight Log David E. Latane - February 9, 1943
"Plane caught on fire 20 miles north of 30 Mile Drome. Took me 6 days to walk back, after bailing out in the thickest swamp I have ever seen."

Erick Kyro, pilot 41st FS adds:
"On another occasion, Latane had had to bail out. He landed in a big swamp and floated in his Mae West for three days before he reached dry ground. I remember him telling us that he had a picture of his wife in his wallet and would take it out frequently, look at it and wonder if he would ever see her again. After he got out of the water he searched for food. He caught a small iguana, cut its head off and drank the blood. I don't remember how he was rescued."

Relatives
John Haynes (grandson of Latane)

References
Joe Baugher "Airacobra I for RAF, P-400"
Flight Log David E. Latane - February 9, 1943
Unit History of the 41st Fighter Squadron –  Casualties: 24 July 1942 to 24 March 1944
"Captain David E. Latane, O-426399: Captain Latane bailed out of plane at 2,000 feet, 12 miles Northwest of 30 mile drome. Just before Pilot bailed out, plane was observed smoking. Pilot's chute seemed to open and believed to be in vicinity of crash. Captain Latane return[ed] to base on 14 February 1943."
Staff Sgt. Gilbert Lynn Cameron World War II Journal, 41st FS
"9 February 1943
Lost another ship today—the pilot (Latane) bailed out to safety. Leaves us 19 ships now.
10 February 1943
Leut. Latane has not been found yet. He bailed out over swamps and may never be found.
14 February 1943
Word comes that Leut. Latane, lost in jungle, has been found.
15 February 1943
Navy dive bombers picked up Latane out of swamps & flew him back here. He drew attention by waving his tattered shirt — had eaten lizards & a bird — no sleep in 6 days — was wandering around in circles — on a raft he had built of bamboo & sticks — couldn't find a way out of the swamp — was bruised & scratched all over his body and had lost 25 lbs. We cheered him as he got out of the little rescue ship. Boy! Was he a happy fellow."
Thanks to Edward Rogers for additional information, research and analysis

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Last Updated
February 4, 2018

 

Technical Info
P-400
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