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Richard Culton
P-39 Airacobra Pilot, 41st Fighter Squadron

Enlisting in the Army
Click For EnlargementI enlisted in the Army at Fort Sam Houston, San Antonia, Texas; was enlisted for three days when orders came through to report to Primary Flying School at Visalia, California. During my third week the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. After completion of primary I was transferred to Lamore Air Corps Basic flight training (I was in the first Class that was trained there) and upon completion was transferred to Luke Field, Phoenix, Arizona (graduated in Class 42-D).

Then I was transferred to Myrtle Beach for gunnery training (in P-40F) days then transferred to Morris Field, Charlotte, NC. While there I plowed potatoes with a P-40 because it had been sabotaged by having acid applied to the carburetor heat control and my flight plan had me too far from the landing strip when the heat control came on full hot.

41st Fighter Squadron
Click For EnlargementHQ Army Air Base, Morris Field, Charlotte NC, 20 Aug 1942, Special Orders #229 Par 1 ordered to Hamilton Field. I was put on board a B-24 to Hickam Field, hence to Christmas Island, New Caledonia, then Brisbane, transferred planes then to Townsville, stayed three day by a PBY aircraft then landed in the bay at Port Moresby then by 2 ½ ton GMC truck to 7 Mile Drome. This was the 5th Air Force, 35th Fighter Group, 41st Fighter Squadron, using yellow nose P-39 Airacobra as our aircraft. All my training had been in aircraft which had tail wheel. Crew chief explained that P-39 took off at 110 instead of 78 and it stalled at 97 instead of 62 and I should fly it all the way in, not stall it in.

April 12 1943 Mission Over Port Moresby
The April 12, 1943 interception was my 70th combat mission. As I remember we only had 15 aircraft take off that day, including 3 P-38, 7 P-39, 2 B-25 and 1 B-26 to attack the Japanese aircraft. I never did find out how many they had, also I never found out of any other of our aircraft than those I have listed. I was shot down in P-39D 41-38351. When I got into the hospital much of what happened got very blurry. I spent 1,004 days in 18 different hospitals before finally being returned to general military duty on flying status.

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