Carl Gustav Planck, Jr. was born July 12, 1918 in Charleston, South Carolina. As a child he was captivated by the idea of space travel from reading the "Buck Rogers" comic strip. He and two of his friends later pooled all of their money to purchase an airplane ride with a barnstormer at a local fair. After completing junior college, he joined the Civil Air Patrol (CAP) and was given free flying lessons and he soon obtained his private pilot license.
He graduated from Clemson University in 1940 and was commissioned as a U. S. Army 2nd Lieutenant in the infantry. He was then assigned to the Charleston Navy Yard as an engineer and also served as a flight instructor with the CAP. He was admitted as an aviation cadet in the U. S. Army Air Corps and attended flight school at Hicks Field, Texas. During his training the Japanese attacked Oahu on December 7, 1941.
Planck was sent to Goodfellow Field, TX for additional training and then Foster Field, TX for advanced flight school. Afterwards he obtained his dream assignment when he was assigned to Paine Field in Washington where he was given the chance to fly the new Lockheed P-38 Lightning fighter.
He was then flown overseas as a passenger aboard a B-24 Liberator from the west coast via Hickam Field to Australia. Four P-38 pilots were crammed into the nose: Carl G. Planck, Norman D. "Sneezy" Hyland, Walter Markey and a Iowa farm boy, Richard Ira "Dick" Bong, who would eventually become the highest scoring U.S. ace of WWII. Upon arrival Planck and Bong were assigned to the newly formed P-38 fighter unit, the 17th Provisional Fighter Squadron. By November they were transferred to the 9th Fighter Squadron, “The Flying Knights”, a P-40 Warhawk unit who were famous from their defense of the Australian city of Darwin from March – August 1942.
The 9th Squadron of the 49th Fighter Group was one of two units in the 5th Air Force selected to convert to the P-38 Lightning. Planck and Bong were among a group of new pilots in the South-west Pacific theater with experience flying the twin engine Lockheed fighter. They began helping American fighter pilots convert from the P-40 Warhawk and P-39 Airacobra to the P-38 Lightning.
By November 1942 Planck and Bong were moved up to Port Moresby and began flying the P-38 from 14 Mile Drome (Schwimmer) near Port Moresby. They were temporarily attached to the 39th Fighter Squadron in order to gain combat experience while helping the “Cobra in the Clouds” pilots with mastering the complex fighter.
On December 27, 1942 Planck, Bong with ten 39th Squadron pilots took off from 14 Mile Drome (Schwimmer) on an intercept over the Buna area. Also flying that day were P-40 Warhawk pilots from the 7th and 9th Fighter Squadrons. The P-38 and P-40 pilots engaged in a dog fight with Japanese aircraft including D3A Vals and A6M Zeros from the 582 Kokutai and Ki-43 Oscars from the 11th Sentai. This mission was the first major P-38 Lightning combat in New Guinea. In his combat report Planck wrote: "I pulled up to 50 yds behind Zeke, fired 2 short bursts, and a long burst from directly behind him. I saw an explosion on the bottom of the fuselage. Zeke went into a vertical dive from 1,000 feet. He crashed just south of Watutu Pt." Planck was not officially credited with this victory as it was not witnessed by a second American pilot.
On December 31, 1942 took off from 14 Mile Drome as one of twelve P-38s led by Captain Thomas Lynch of the 39th Fighter Squadron on a mission to escort A-20 Havocs, B-25 Mitchells and B-26 Marauders on a bombing mission against Lae Airfield near Lae. Over the target, the P-38s engaged Ki-43 Oscars from the 11th Sentai. During the dog fight, Planck engaged a Japanese pilot but he found that he had lost too much altitude and withdrew to avoid the more maneuverable enemy fighter. He flew low over the beach when suddenly his canopy flew off with the resulting turbulence causing his plane to climb. Returning to 14 Mile Drome Planck made a direct landing approach and after he touched down he observed P-38F Lightning 42-12652 piloted by Lt. Kenneth Sparks landing with a damaged outer wing in the opposite direction. To avoid a head on collision, Planck swerved off the runway. jammed on his breaks and narrowly missing the control tower. The P-38s claimed ten enemy fighters shot down. Planck wrote in his combat report: "I claim no victories, however, I observed one aircraft crash in the water about 1 mile east of end of Lae Airdrome in the position in which Lt. [John H.] Lane claims his 'victory' to have crashed." Despite the optimistic claims of the P-38 pilots only one Japanese fighter was shot down and its pilot, 1st Lt. Hironojo Shishimoto, survived after force landing in the ocean. This may have been the Oscar Planck observed. The Ki-43 Oscar piloted by Capt. Tomoari Hasegawa which collided with Sparks’ P-38 was flown back towards Rabaul but Hasegawa had to land his damaged plane at Gasmata Airfield.
On January 7, 1943 Planck and Bong took off from 14 Mile Drome (Schwimmer) with six other P-38s on a combat air patrol (CAP) over Lae led by Captain Thomas Lynch. They engaged Japanese fighters defending the unloading of a convoy from Rabaul.
On March 11, 1943 took off from Horanda Drome (Dobodura 4) as part of "Green Flight" of the 9th Fighter Squadron led by Lt. Fowler with Planck as his wingman with Hanning and Overson. After climbing to 26,000', they were vectored to intercept twenty-four G4M1 Betty bombers escorted by Zeros at 15,000' east of Oro Bay. After releasing their drop tanks the P-38s attacked from the right flank. Fowler attacked a Zero and broke right while Planck broke left and fired on a Zero from nose to tail at point blank range and claimed it as an aerial victory, his first confirmed kill. Afterwards, Planck was chased by Zeros and was forced to speed away and observed the P-38 piloted by Hanning going down in the distance.
On April 14, 1943 took off from Horanda Drome (Dobodura 4) as part of "Green Flight" led by Richard Bong on a mission to intercept an incoming Japanese air raid sighted over Goodenough Island. After take off his element, 2nd Milliff and 2nd Lt. Nutter both experience engine trouble and aborted the mission. Planck's P-38 had its own problems with a non-functioning generator causing a loss of power. Nevertheless, he formed up on Bong's wing and climbed to 25,000' to serve as high cover. Unable to find the enemy, the P-38s proceeded to Milne Bay and intercepted a formation of G4M1 Betty bombers and attacked from the rear. Throttling up, Planck's starboard supercharger emitted smoke and flames and his plane dropped to the right. Plank was forced to abort his attack but managed to safely return to base.
On November 2, 1943 took off piloting P-38G Lightning 43-2387 from Horanda Airfield (Dobodura No. 4) at 11:00am leading the second element of Green Flight with wingman Lt. Wood. At the rendezvous point over the Gona Wreck [Ayatosan Maru], the flight leader Captain Jordan experienced engine trouble and aborted from the mission. His wingman, Lt. Lewelling joined Green Flight.
The P-38s rendezvoused with thirteen B-25 Mitchells and escorted them an escort for them to Rabaul. Weather was good with a layer of cumulus clouds base at 2,000'. The formation flew up the St. Georges Channel at 100' to try to avoid Japanese radar, then climbed to 5,000' over the Duke of York Island Group before arriving over Rabaul. The P-38s made a circle to let the B-25 catchup to them.
Over the target between Simpson Harbor and Vunakanau Airfield, the P-38s released their drop tanks and began weaving through heavy anti-aircraft fire before being intercepted by Zeros. Planck went into a shallow climb into a cloud. His wingman emerged, but Planck was never seen again. His last position was two miles southeast of Vunakanau Airfield.
Separated, Planck attacked an A6M Zero, firing three bursts, causing it to catch fire. After turning, another Zero made a head on pass against him while Planck opened fire and observed hits on the attacking plane which stopped firing. He assumed the pilot was dead, and kept firing, intending to explode the plane, but pulled up too late to avoid a collision.
The Zero struck the P-38's left engine knocking out the oil coolers and damaging the left boom, and left vertical stabilizer. Fighting to keep the plane under control, Planck dove to avoid other Zeros then ditched between Induna Island and Talili Point, splitting his forehead on the bullet proof glass during the landing. When Planck failed to return from the mission, he was declared Missing In Action (MIA).
Escape and Evasion
While swimming towards shore, Planck observed Zeros strafing another downed plane near Put Put. Reaching land, he spotted two local girls and asked them to bring him food and water and cared for him in their village.
On November 9, he was joined by Edward Czarnecki pilot of P-38H 42-66849 who bailed out on October 29, 1943. Both were led to an Australian coastwatcher party led by Major Roberts arriving on November 17, 1944 There, they met two more Americans aviators: Gordon Manuel and Owen Giertsen.
Gordon Manuel writes in 70,000 to One:
"Carl Planck was twenty-six, a little guy who was partially bald. He had been escorting bombers over Rabaul. By a weird coincidence, he landed at the exact spot I did nearly seven months ago. Natives found him, convinced him they were friendly, and took him to Watwat village. Then my boys came along with Czarnecki and they headed for the Australian camp. Carl's foot was in pretty bad shape."
During early February 1944, the group moved to Open Bay to await rescue by submarine. On
February 5, 1944 the USS Gato (SS-212) surfaced in Open Bay and rescued the group of aviators from behind enemy lines. Afterwards, all were transported transported to Finschafen and wrote their escape an evasion reports. Each survivor met General Kenney who offered each man a 30 day R&R or a transfer to a stateside base of their choice. Planck requested to be assigned to Wright-Patterson Field in Dayton, OH in hopes of becoming a test pilot. Kenney told him "Oh! That's easy. I used to be base commander at Wright Pat".
Before departing New Guinea, Plank requested to rejoin the 9th Fighter Squadron, then based at Gusap Airfield. He was unable to tell them all the details of his escape and evasion on New Britain under strict orders of secrecy. During an emotional ceremony, he removed his name from the squadron's memorial cup at the pilot's bar and painted out his name on the honor roll on their scoreboard. Planck was the only Missing In Action (MIA) 49th Fighter Group pilot to ever return safely. Planck's crew chief asked if anything was wrong with his P-38 on the November 2, 1943 mission and was relieved to learn nothing mechanically caused him to crash.
Wright Paterson Field
Afterward, Planck returned to the United States and was assigned to the Fighter Branch of Procurement, but wanted to be in the Power Plant Division, in hopes of becoming involved with rocketry. Later, he was assigned to a project put HVAR (High Velocity Aircraft Rocket) under the wings of aircraft and liaison with aircraft manufacturers. At the end of World War II, Planck was offered a commission in the U. S. Air Force (USAF) but declined and instead opted to remain in the reserves.
After being discharged, Planck married and had two daughters. His first postwar job was working as an engineer with Frigidaire in Dayton, OH. During the Korean War, he returned to active duty in procurement and later was assigned to the USAF Boeing X-20 Dyna-Soar program, a Titan missal launched aircraft being tested at Cape Canaveral, Florida. Planck worked on the cryogenic servicing system, until the program was canceled.
Next, he applied for a job at National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and was hired based on his experience with the at the Kennedy Space Center and worked on both the Gemini and Apollo programs. Although he was never able to go into space himself, he helped others to get there. After the Apollo program, he opted for early retirement at age 55.
Planck is active with the Presbyterian Church and lives in retirement in Florida. One of his daughters joined the military and he has several grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
NARA World War II Army Enlistment Records - Carl G. Planck, Jr.
Pilot Roster, 9th Fighter Squadron 1942-1943 via Edward Rogers
Combat (Fighter) Report - Carl G. Planck - December 27, 1942
Combat (Fighter) Report - Carl G. Planck - December 31, 1942
Planck was officially credited with a single aerial victory on March 11, 1943
USAF Aerial Victory Credits List - Carl G. Planck - March 11, 1943
NAA "9th Fighter Squadron, 49th Fighter Group, Army Air Forces - Individual narrative combat report - 14 April 1943 - 1st Lieutenant Carl G. Planck Jr. (NAA: A9695, 1216)
The Daily Republican "Marengo" November 18, 1943 "Mr. and Mrs. H. V. Patrick have been advised that their nephew First Lieut. Carl G. Planck, Jr. is missing in action somewhere in the southwest Pacific since November 2. The young officer, whose parents reside in Charleston, S.C. was in the air corps and have been awarded several medals and citations."
The Index-Journal "Five From This State Reported Missing In Action"
December 13, 1943
E&E Report No. 38 Carl G. Planck pages 1–7
E&E Report No. 35 Edward J. Czarnecki pages 7–8
PNG Museum Aircraft Status Card - P-38G Lightning 43-2387
Special Missions Bismarck Archipelago, New Guinea, & Solomon Islands
"05-Feb-44, USS Gato (SS-212), War Patrol No. 8, LCDR R. J. Foley - On February 2, 1944, Gato got underway from Milne Bay, New Guinea, for a special mission to evacuate personnel from a location near Matanakunai, on New Britain. On February 3, she rendezvoused with two PT boats off Dreger Harbor, south of Finschhafen, New Guinea. The two PT boats escorted her to the northern limits of Vitiaz Strait, where they parted ways. On February 5, she reconnoitered Open Bay to locate the point designated for the evacuation. At 1100 hours, she spotted the proper security signal ashore and that night she surfaced close to shore in a trimmed down condition. At 2100 hours, she launched two of her rubber boats to ferry the evacuees from shore. In short order, eight men were embarked and Gato headed seaward. The evacuees were: Wing Commander W. Townsend, Commanding Officer, 22nd Squadron, RAAF (shot down at Palmalmal, November 3, 1943); Major A. W. Roberts, AIF (ANGAU), a coast watcher attached to AIB; Captain Fred Hargesheimer, USAAF (bailed out of his P-38 near Ubili, June 5, 1943); Lieutenant Edward J. Czarnecki, USAAF (bailed out of his P-38 near Wide Bay, October 23, 1943); Lieutenant Carl G. Planck, USAAF (crash landed in water off Talili Plantation, November 2, 1943); Flying Officer D. McClymont, RAAF (shot down over Palmalmal, November 3, 1943); Lieutenant O. N. Clertsen [sic, Giertsen], USAAF (crash landed a P-38 eight miles off Wide Bay, November 3, 1943); and Master Sergeant G. R. Manuel, USAAF, Bombardier of a Flying Fortress and its only survivor (bailed out six miles off Put Put Harbor, May 21, 1943). The airmen had been rescued and protected by coast watchers and friendly natives. Gato disembarked the evacuees at Dreger Harbor on February 7, 1944."
70,000 to One mentions when Planck is found, pages 126-127
Hostages To Freedom pages 235-237
"Initial Japanese Army Air Operations" by Richard Dunn
Protect and Avenge pages 100 (photos), 101, 104, 110, 125-126, 138-139, 233 (photo)
Target: Rabaul pages 190, 243, 248
My Life - A Holy Spirit Led Life - An Interview with Carl Planck, Jr., July 2015
Pacific Wrecks Interview with Carl G. Planck, Jr. May 21, 2016
Thanks to Carl G. Planck, Jr., Richard Dunn and Edward Rogers for additional information