|Pilot 1st Lt. John S. Lolos, O-665834 Springfield, MA (survived)
Ditched October 10, 1943 at 11:15am
Built by Republic at Farmingdale, NY. Delivered to the U. S. Army. Disassembled and shipped overseas to Australia and reassembled.
Assigned to the 5th Air Force, 348th Fighter Group, 341st Fighter Squadron "Black Jack". Nose Number 36, and assigned to John Lolos. Nicknamed "Hi Topper" for hi top clouds, with a top hat and the name on both sides of the engine cowl.
On October 10, 1943 took off from 17-Mile Drome (Durand) near Port Moresby to escort transports to Nadzab. Returning from the mission, Lolos asked permission to leave the formation and test his guns by firing at rocks in Redscar Bay. Traces ricocheted from the rocks into the belly tank and caused this aircraft to catch fire.
Accident No. 44-10-1-503 for John S. Lolos:
"While firing on what was evidently a regular range tracer ricocheted into belly tank and caught plane on fire. Belied plane in and pilot swam for several days until he reached shore."
John Lolos writes in certificate, October 15, 1943:
"I was about fifty feet over the water when I noticed that my whole underside was on fire with flames sweeping back to the tail. The next thing i remember I was nosed straight down into the water and the cockpit was filling up with water. My nose, left eye and upper lip were paining and my nose was bleeding."
Fate of the Pilot
After ditching roughly three miles from shore, Lolos found a raft, and observed aircraft in the area, but none saw him. That night, a storm created rough seas and drifted overnight, and the next day swam for shore, and observed sharks and overnight finally made landfall.
The next morning, Lolos attempted to walk long the shore and found native people who assisted him, until a car with four Australians arrived and took him to Hisu Plantation, where he rested at the plantation house in bed. The following day, he was picked up by PBY Catalina and transported to Port Moresby. Afterwards, he was admitted to a hospital in Australia for ten days and was awarded the Purple Heart for his injuries and two weeks leave in Australia.
Back home, his parents received a letter saying he was Missing In Action (MIA), followed by a telegram stating he had been found a few hours after the letter was delivered. Afterwards, he returned to the squadron and continued flying combat missions.
Joanne Zimakas (daughter)
Account of Ditching of P-47D "Hi Topper" 42-8081 by John Lolos October 15, 1943
USAAF Accident No. 44-10-1-503
"Beat Off Sharks Bare-Handed" December 11, 1944
PNG Museum Aircraft Status Card - P-47 Thunderbolt - 10 October 1943
Thanks to John S. Lolos and Joanne Zimakas for additional information
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February 4, 2018