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|Pilot Flight Lieutenant Francis George Keefe, 417066 (POW died January 30, 1945, BR)
Crashed January 15, 1945
Built by Vought. Constructors number 6025. Delivered to the U. S. Navy (USN) as F4U-1D Corsair bureau number 57202. As part of lend-lease, shipped aboard USS Grand Mesa departing the United Sates on July 24 1944 bound for the South Pacific as part of defense aid.
Assigned to the Royal New Zealand Air Force (RNZAF) as F4U Corsair serial number NZ5413. On August 11, 1944 assembled by Unit 60 on Espiritu Santo. Assigned to 23 Squadron on October 9, 1944. Next, assigned to 20 Squadron October 26, 1944. Finally, assigned to 14 Squadron by January 1945. No known nickname or nose art.
On January 15, 1945 took off from Green Island Airfield (Nissan) piloted by Flight Lieutenant Francis G. Keefe as one of thirty-six Corsairs from 14 Squadron, 16 Squadron and 24 Squadron on a mission against Rabaul. Over the target, hit by anti-aircraft fire and bailed out over Simpson Harbor. After landing in the water, Keefe managed to deployed his life raft.
Fate of the Pilot
In an attempt to rescue the downed pilot, U. S. Navy (USN) PBY-5A Catalina piloted by Leland E. Dobberstein from VP-44 attempted to land unsuccessfully. Afterwards, Keefe was captured by the Japanese and became a Prisoner Of War (POW) and died fifteen days later.
Keefe was officially declared dead on January 30, 1945. After his remains were recovered, Keefe was permanently buried at at the Bourail New Zealand War Cemetery (Bourail War Cemetery) at grave 8. 14.
Navy Serial Number Search Results - F4U-1D Corsair 57092
"57202 (MSN 6025) to New Zealand as NZ5413"
ADF Serials NZ Serials - F4U Corsair NZ5413
CWGC - Francis George Keefe
FindAGrave - Francis George Keefe
The Siege of Rabaul by Henry Sakaida Chapter 17 A Black Day for the Kiwis pages 69-72
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October 13, 2020
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