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  F4U-1A Corsair Bureau Number 55908  

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Brian Bennett 1983

Pilot  1st Lt. Allan S. Harrison, III, O-21213 (MIA / KIA) Houston, TX
Crashed  February 11, 1944

Pilot History
Allan S. Harrison III was the only child of Cora M. and Allan S. Harrison II, who was a Proctor & Gamble salesman, and grew up on Lidstone Street in Houston, Texas. He attended Stephen F. Austin High School and attended ROTC then attended the University of Houston. During the Pacific War joined the United States Marine Corps Reserve (USMCR) and entered flight school in Corpus Christi, Texas. Afterwards, assigned to the Pacific.

On January 9, 1944 he claimed a Zero probable. On January 23, 1944 he claimed two Zeros and Hamp. Finally on February 4, 1944 he claimed one Zeke. In total, 4 aerial victories and a probable. Before he was lost, he flew a total of ten combat missions in the South Pacific.

Aircraft History
Built by Vought. Assigned to the U. S. Navy (USN) as F4U-1A Corsair bureau number 55908. Disassembled and shipped overseas and reassembled.

Wartime History
Assigned to the United States Marine Corps (USMC), Marine Air Wing 2 (MAW-2), Marine Air Group 12 (MAG 12) to Marine Fighting Squadron 212 "Hell Hounds / The Musketeers" (VMF-212). No known nickname, nose art or squadron number (including the number 3).

Mission History
On February 11, 1944 took off at 9:50am from Piva South Airfield (Piva Yoke) on Bougainville piloted by 1st Lt. Allan S. Harrison, III as one of twenty-six Corsairs led by Major Elwood on a mission to escort SBD Dauntless dive bombers against Tobera Airfield with a secondary target of Vunapope south of Rabaul.

By 9:50am, the Corsairs rendezvoused with the SBDs but three Corsairs aborted the mission due to mechanical problems. The formation approached the target area from 13,000' arriving over Kabanga Bay with half cloud cover over the primary target, the formation made a right turn to the secondary target of a supply area at Vunapope. The SBDs conducted their dive bombing runs and caused two large fires on the docks.

Returning, to west of Tobera Airfield. the formation was intercepted by 15-20 A6M Zeros that dove from above making angled passes from all directions. The escorting Corsairs engaged in dog fights with the enemy aircraft. This Corsair was last seen at 10:55am over Bitagalip with a Zero on its tail. When this aircraft failed to return it was declared Missing In Action (MIA).

Harrison was officially declared dead on January 17, 1946. He earned the Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC), Air Medal with gold star and Purple Heart, posthumously. Harrison is memorialized at Manila American Cemetery on the tablets of the missing.

In fact, this Corsair crashed near Warangoi. During the crash, the aircraft was badly broken up and scattered by the impact.

During 1983, visited by Brian Bennett who located the aircraft bureau number and partial squadron number "3" on the wheel spat and bureau number 55908 on the oil cooler. Afterwards, Bennett reported the crash site to the. Central Identification Laboratory Hawaii (CILHI). The piece of wreckage with the identifying numbers was recovered and later donated to the collection of the Kokopo Museum. By the 2000s, the crash site was partially scrapped.

Brian Bennett adds:
"I found this site back about 1983 and had advised CILHI. The part serial number was not 'stolen'. I showed them the wheel spat with the partial aircraft number 3 on it at the Kokopo Museum several years ago [2006], they even took photos."

Recovery of Remains
Between 1984–2006, this crash site was visited by U. S. teams on at least two occasions.

In July 1984, a team from CILHI visited the crash site and performed a recovery, coded 07CIL84.

During May 2008, a team from Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command (JPAC) lead by U. S. Army Major George Eyster visited the crash site.

Harrison was officially declared dead on January 17, 1946. He earned the Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC), Air Medal and Purple Heart, posthumously.

Harrison is memorialized on the tablets of the missing at Manila American Cemetery. He has a memorial marker at Forest Park Cemetery in Houston, TX.

Navy Serial Number Search Results - F4U-1A Corsair 55908
USN Overseas Aircraft Loss List February 1944 - F4U-1A Corsair 55908

NARA "VMF-212 War Diary February 1944" pages 6-7
(Page 6) "11 [February 1944] At 0900 Major Elwood, Dill, Free, Coles Poske; Captain Carlton, 1st Lt. Gill led their divisions off to escort SBDs striking at Tobera Airdrome."
(Page 7) "11 (con't) The primary target being closed [due to clouds] the bombers Vunapope supply area... First Lieutenant Allan S. Harrison, USMCR, was last seen at 1055 at 20,000 feet over Bitagalip with a Zeke on his tail. He did not return from this action and must be considered missing in action... Loss: Lt. Harrison, missing in action"
NARA "VMF-212 Aircraft Action Report - February 11, 1944 Report No. 16" pages 23-25
(Page 24) VMF 212 1st Lt. A. S. Harrison, USMCR / Cause: Enemy A/C action / Status: Missing In Action
Recommended Recovery Sites (PNG-1986) via Brian Bennett
"6. F4U/55908 A. This F4U is a Navy [sic USMC] aircraft which was located in the Gazelle Peninsula of East New Britain by Brian Bennett in 1985 [sic 1983]. It has not been visited by CILHI personnel. B. The crew member is still listed as MIA. Location: Approx (Rabaul, New Britain). Missing Crew Member: 1/ Records FILED at CILHI".
A Bond of Brothers by Kevin Baron and Bryan Bender May 26, 2008
"The plane's wreckage was largely scavenged by locals for scrap metal, including the piece of the plane stamped with Harrison's tail number - 55908. It had been photographed on the site by a local forest surveyor [Brian Bennett] in 1986, but has since been stolen.
"Interviews with villagers suggest that Harrison's remains were carried off from the crash site. Some villagers say Harrison was buried in what is now a potato patch down a 30-degree incline from the place where his plane hit the ground. Two machine guns were excavated, with serial numbers linking them to this aircraft. During their search, bone matter was found and recovered at the site after extensive searching. On May 14, [2008] the suspected remains of Lieutenant Allan S. Harrison III and Captain Marion R. McCown [pilot F4U Corsair 02402] were placed in a specially designed transfer cases and carried into a small chapel at the headquarters of the Papua New Guinea Defense Force, in the island nation's capital city of Port Moresby."
You Are Not Forgotten (2013) by Bryan Bender mentions this loss
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Allan S. Harrison III
FindAGrave - 1LT Allan Sublett Harrison, III (photo, memorial marker)
Thanks to Brian Bennett and Bruce Hoy for additional information

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Last Updated
February 11, 2019


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