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8th Service Group
301st Airdrome Squadron
FEAF - CRTC
USAAF August 1943
|Pilot Captain Francis J. Lent, O-740474 (MIA / KIA) Melrose, MN
Crashed December 1, 1944 at 2:44pm
Built by North American in Inglewood, California. Constructors Number 109-28254. Delivered to the U. S. Army Air Force (USAAF) as P-51D-10-NA Mustang serial number 44-14621. Converted to F-6D photographic reconnaissance version. Disassembled and shipped overseas to the South West Pacific Area (SWPA) and reassembled.
Assigned to the 5th Air Force, 8th Service Group, 301st Service Squadron (Airdrome Squadron) part of the Far East Air Force - Combat Replacement Training Center (FEAF - CRTC) based at Nadzab Airfield No. 4. No known nose art or nickname. When lost, engine serial number V-1650-7 serial number V-324436. Weapon serial numbers are listed in Missing Air Crew Report 11901 (MACR 11901).
On December 1, 1944 at at 2:15pm took off from Nadzab Airfield No. 1 piloted by Captain Francis J. Lent on a local flight over Lae. At 2:44pm this aircraft was observed to crash into the Huon Gulf. When this aircraft failled to return it was officially listed as Missing In Action (MIA).
At Lae Airfield in the control tower "Ripple Tower", TSgt Albert Lamper on duty observed this aircraft to the southwest, with wheels down and did not appear to be in distress. Next, this aircraft was observed to make a short left approach for a northwest from roughly 1,000' to land against air traffic, while a C-47 was coming in from the southwest for a landing. No radio contact was established and this aircraft was given a red light on final approach.
Afterwards, Lamper observed the aircraft apparently stalled and crash into Huon Gulf roughly 200 yards off the end of the runway at Lae Airfield, quickly sinking a few seconds later. It is believed that the aircraft suffered engine failure, and after ditching the radiator filled with water, causing it to quickly sink. Lamper immediately reported the crash.
Afterwards, a crash boat from Lae searched the area but found no trace of the pilot or plane. When Lent failed to return, two aircraft piloted by 1st Lt. John W. Zappia and 1st Lt. Milton J. Nagel took off from Nadzab Airfield and searched the Markham Valley, without result and returned due to darkness. At the time, they were unaware Lent's aircraft had been observed to into the Huon Gulf off Lae.
Lent earned the Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC), Silver Star with Oak Leaf Cluster and Air Medal with six Oak Leaf Clusters. As a non-battle casualty he did not earn the Purple Heart, posthumously.
Lent was officially declared dead the day of the mission. On March 30, 1945, his brother was notified by the U.S. Army of his death. On July 7, 1945 the family held a funeral mass at St. Boniface Catholic Church. On May 21, 1946 his brother received a letter of condolence and mentioned an ongoing search for his remains.
Lent is memorialized at Manila American Cemetery on the tablets of the missing. He also has a memorial marker at Saint Marys Cemetery in Melrose, MN at section C, row 5.
Mortimer C. Lent (brother)
Note, other source incorrectly list the location of the loss as Leyte.
NARA World War II Army Enlistment Records - Francis J. Lent
USAF Serial Number Search Results - P-51D-10-NA Mustang 44-14621
"14621 (F-6D, 301st Service Squadron, 8th Service Group, 5th AF) crashed off Lae in Huon Gulf Morobe Papua New Guinea due to engine failure Dec 1, 1944. MACR 11901. Pilot killed."
Missing Air Crew Report 11901 (MACR 11901) created December 3, 1944
PNG Museum Aircraft Status Card - F-6D (P-51D) Mustang 44-14621
USAF Historical Study No. 85 USAF Credits For The Destruction of Enemy Aircraft, World War II Alphabetical: Lent, Francis J. page 114 (PDF page 121)
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Francis J. Lent
FindAGrave - Capt Francis J Lent (tablets of the missing)
FindAGrave - Capt Francis Joseph "Fran" Lent (memorial marker)
Melrose Area Historical Society - Air Ace Francis Lent
Dec 1, 1944
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