|Pilot 1st Lt. James E. Lynch, Jr., O-665426 (rescued)
Ditched December 27, 1943
Built by Republic at the Indiana Division of Republic Aviation in
Evansville, IN. Delivered to the U. S. Army Air Force (USAAF) as P-47D-4-RA Thunderbolt serial number 42-22702. Disassembled and shipped overseas to the South-West Pacific and reassembled.
Assigned to the 5th Air Force, 348th Fighter Group, 341st Fighter Squadron. No known nose art or nickname.
On December 27, 1943 took off from Finschhafen Airfield piloted by 1st Lt. James E. Lynch as one of sixteen P-47s from the 341st Fighter Squadron on a patrol mission over Cape Gloucester and Arawe. The weather was clear along the southern coast of West New Britain.
At 9:00am the P-47 formation was over Arawe at an altitude of 7,000' when they encountered roughly forty Japanese aircraft above and below them. The Japanese formation included 15 D3A2 Vals from the (6 x 552 Kōkūtai with 9 x 582 Kōkūtai) escorted by 38 A6M Zeros. Below, U. S. Navy (USN) PT Boats PT-190 and PT-191 were making high speed evasive turns to evade the enemy fighters.
Intercepting the Japanese formation, the P-47 pilots reported the Japanese were the most skilled and aggressive ever encountered and claimed sixteen shot down. While flying at low altitude, Lynch was intercepted by a Zero and hit in the cockpit by 7.7mm rounds that wounded him but he was able to successfully ditch off Arawe and escaped before the plane submerged. Also lost was P-47D 42-8099 (MIA).
Fate of the Pilot
Injured, Lynch was unable to fully inflate his life vest and barely able to keep his head above the surface but managed to released his dye marker and was spotted by the crew of PT 190.
Lynch was rescued by PT-190 and transported to Dreger Harbor and taken to the hospital at Finschhafen for medical treatment.
Lynch passed away on June 17, 1987. He is buried at Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery at plot 1V 0 1616.
USAF Serial Number Search Results - P-47D-2-RE Thunderbolt 42-22702
NARA Task Group 70.1 War Diary - December 27, 1943
"At 1630 PTs 190 and 191 departed for patrol Arawe. Patrol uneventful. While underway for base PTs attacked by 40 Japanese "VALS" and "ZEKES". Evasive action taken by PTs. Boats destroyed four of the attacking planes. This caused the planes to remain at higher altitude. Many near bomb misses. P-47 fighter cover arrived and drove attacking planes off. A rescue of a P-47 pilot was effected by the PTs. Arrived base 1200. Sea calm. Visibility good.
"Shot of the 191 boat, left and the 190 boat, right, at the Morobe River Base this is about October of 1943 just before going up to Dreger Harbor at Finschhafen these two boats were in an epic gun battle with Japanese aircraft on the morning of December 27th 1943 after a night of barge hunting on the South Coast of New Britain the running battle lasted for 45 minutes until Army Air Force aircraft showed up and drove off the remaining Japanese aircraft. During the air battle one P-47 was shot down and the 190 boat Captained by Ed Farley picked up the pilot and returned him to Finschhafen for medical care, the 191 boat limped back to base damaged with four wounded men including Captain Rumsey Ewing, the 191 boat was the most successful PT in the South and Southwest Pacific having destroyed 18 Japanese barges."
Kearby's Thunderbolts: The 348th Fighter Group in World War II pages 75-77
Tuluvu's Air War Chapter IX: Landings in Western New Britain
FindAGrave - James E Lynch, Jr (grave photo)
Thanks to Edward Rogers and Richard Dunn for research and analysis.
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December 27, 2018