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  F-6D Mustang Serial Number 44-14621  
USAAF
5th AF
8th Service Group
301st Airdrome Squadron
FEAF - CRTC

Pilot  Captain Francis J. Lent, O-740474 (MIA / KIA) Melrose, MN
Crashed  December 1, 1944 at 2:44pm
MACR  11901

Pilot History
Lent joined the USAAF and completed his primary flight training at Thunderbird Field, AZ. He was commissioned at Luke Field, AZ, graduating on March 10, 1943 as part of Class 43-C. Next, he was sent to Glendale, CA to transition into fighter aircraft with the 329th Fighter Group before being sent overseas. Assigned to the 475th Fighter Group, 431st Fighter Squadron "Satan's Angels" in New Guinea and began flying as a wingman for Thomas B. McGuire.

Lent was officially credited with 12 aerial victories (his wartime record states 11 victories and 1 probable). His first victory was on August 18, 1943 claiming a "Hamp" (sic, Ki-43 Oscar) shot down over Wewak. On October 15, 1943 he intercepted enemy dive bombers and fighters attacking Oro Bay and claimed three: two Zekes and a Val dive bomber. Next, on October 24, 1943 he claimed a "Tony" over Rabaul then on November 2, 1943 claimed a Zero and a Zero probable over Rabaul. On December 16, 1943 claimed a Betty. Finally, on March 31, 1944 he claimed two Zekes shot down 30 miles south of Hollandia.

On July 17, 1944, Lent was promoted to the rank of Captain and was scheduled to returning to his hometown of Melrose, Minnesota for leave and to marry his fiance', Miss Delores Herges. Lent earned the Distinguished Flying Cross, Silver Star with Oak Leaf Cluster and Air Medal with 6 Oak Leaf Clusters.

Aircraft History
Built by North American in Inglewood, California as a P-51D-10-NA Mustang. Converted to F-6D photographic reconnaissance version. Delivered to the U. S. Army. Disassembled and shipped overseas to the South-West Pacific Area (SWPA) and reassembled.

Wartime History
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) at Nadzab Airfield. No known nose art or nickname. When lost, engine serial number V-1650-7 serial number V-324436. Weapon serial numbers noted in Missing Air Crew Report 11901 (MACR 11901).

Mission History
On December 1, 1944 took off from Nadzab Airfield No. 1 at 2:15pm piloted by Captain Francis J. Lent on a local flight eastward over Lae. At 2:44pm this aircraft was observed crashing into the Huon Gulf.

TSgt Albert Lamper, on duty at Ripple Tower at Lae Airfield observed this aircraft to the southwest, with wheels down and did not appear to be in distress. Next, observed to make a short left approach for a northwest from roughly 1,000' to land against air traffic, while a C-47 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 this aircraft apparently stalled and crash into Huon Gulf roughly 200 yards off the end of the runway at Lae Airfield, quickly sinking in a few seconds. It is believed that the aircraft suffered engine failure, and after ditching radiator filled with water, causing it to quickly sink. Lamper immediately reported the crash.

Search
Following the crash, the 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 searched the area including the Markham Valley, without result and returned due to darkness. At the time, they were unaware Lent's aircraft had crashed into the sea off Lae.

Memorials
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 in Melrose, MN. At Saint Marys Cemetery, a memorial marker for Lent was placed at section C, row 5.

On May 21, 1946 his brother received a letter of condolence and mentioned an ongoing search for his remains.

Lent was officially declared dead the day of the mission, as a non-battle casualty He is memorialized on the tablets of the missing at Manila American Cemetery. Lent has a memorial marker at Saint Marys Cemetery in Melrose, MN at section C, row 5.

Relatives
Mortimer C. Lent (brother)

References
Missing Air Crew Report 11901 (MACR 11901)
PNG Museum Aircraft Status Card - F-6D (P-51D) Mustang 44-14621
Other source incorrectly list the location of the loss as happening at Leyte
USAF Aeriel Victory Credits Lent, Francis J.
FindAGrave - Capt Francis Joseph "Fran" Lent (memorial marker)

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Last Updated
February 4, 2018

 

Tech Info
F-6D

MIA
MIA

1 Missing

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