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  A-20G-20-DO Havoc Serial Number 42-86723  
5th AF
312th BG

386th BS

Pilot  2nd Lt. James M. Horton (survived)
Gunner  SSgt Alphonse S. Rylko (survived)

Ditched  April 12, 1944
MACR  none

Aircraft History
Built at Douglas. Assigned to the U. S. Army Air Force (USAAF) as A-20G-20-DO Havoc serial number 42-86723. Shipped overseas to the South West Pacific Area (SWPA).

Wartime History
On February 19, 1944 assigned to the 5th Air Force, 312th Bombardment Group, 386th Bombardment Squadron. No known nose art or nickname. Tail letter unknown. This aircraft operated from Gusap Airfield in New Guinea.

Mission History
On April 12, 1944 took off from Gusap Airfield on a strike mission against Tami Airfield near Hollandia. Returning from the mission, this A-20 spotted three Japanese luggers off Vanimo and made an attack, sinking one and damaging the others but misjudged his altitude and struck a tree damaging the left engine.

Horton flew over the sea to the north of Vanimo with escorting P-38s behind him before his damaged engine lost power and sprayed oil. He believed he could reach Gusap Airfield on one engine, but the right engine began to deliver limited power.

Unable to climb to higher altitude to pass over the mountains back to base, he instead elected to ditch into the sea but offered his gunner the chance to bail out, but he declined in favor of ditching together to aid each other. This A-20 successfully ditched between 12-15' swells at a speed of roughly 110 mph and remained afloat for roughly 90 seconds before sinking. Both crew survived the ditching. Horton sustained a cut to his hand from broken perspex and was hit on the head by his life raft. Rylko injured his left shoulder.

Fates of the Crew
After ditching, Rylko jumped clear of the aircraft and aided Horton into their life raft, which had a hole in it and were unable to patch it, instead using chewing gum. The raft was in rough seas with swells. At dusk, the pair saw a Catalina in the distance, but were were not spotted.

On April 13, 1944 during the morning, the pair saw another Catalina escorted by six P-38 Lightnings. Although they released their marker dye and signal mirrors, they were not spotted. Overnight, heavy rains and seas broke the sea anchor and required them to constantly bail water.

On April 14, 1944 the pair saw A-20, B-25s and P-38s flying westward and later a Catalina escorted by P-47s. Again, they failed to attract their attention likely due to bad visibility. In vain, Horton fired seven rounds from his pistol without results. Later, they were spotted by B-25s from the 345th Bombardment Group that radioed a Catalina to rescue them.

On April 15, 1944 the first rescue aircraft, a U. S. Army Air Force (USAAF) OA-10 Catalina piloted by Matson landed nearby into 12-15' swells, landing tail first and hitting hard and exploded and sank. The pair paddled to the wreckage but only found charred wreckage and floating life vests, the entire crew was killed in the crash.

Later that same day, a U. S. Navy (USN) PBY-5 Catalina 08283 piloted by Lt(jg) Garrett from VP-34 arrived roughly 30 minutes later. After successfully landing, Horton and Rylko were rescued having drifted roughly 80 miles from where they had ditched. Before taking off, the Catalina jettisoned as much extra weight as possible in order to get airborne in the rough seas. After getting airborne, this Catalina flew to landing at Langemak Bay off Finschafen. Afterwards, both crew later returned to duty.

USAF Serial Number Search Results - A-20G-20-DO Havoc 42-86723
NARA VP-34 War Diary April 1945 page 2 of 5
"15 April [1944] Lieut. (jg) Garrett, plane #66 (08283) stood by at Seleo Island for FAF strike at Tadji.
Escape and Evasion Report of 2nd Lt. James M. Horton, 386th Squadron April 18, 1944 via Edward Rogers
Rampage of the Roarin' 20's pages 95-96, 354, 407 (index: Horton), 412 (index: Rylko)
Thanks to Edward Rogers for additional research and analysis.

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Last Updated
February 14, 2020


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