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  L-5 "Termite" Serial Number 42-98085  
5th AF
71st TRG
25th Liaison Squadron

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Eugene Salternik 1944

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John Douglas 2004
Pilot  SSgt James D. Nichols, 209119887 (survived)
Crashed  February 21, 1944
MACR  none

Aircraft History
Built by Stinson. Delivered to the U. S. Army as L-5 Sentinel serial number 42-98085. Shipped overseas to New Guinea.

Wartime History
Assigned to the 5th Air Force, 71st Tactical Reconnaissance Group, 25th Liaison Squadron. Nicknamed "Termite" with the squadron's motif, the silhouette of a kangaroo with the words "Guinea Short Lines". Assigned to pilot Zaven G. Sadoian. This aircraft performed liaison missions over New Guinea.

Eugene Salternik adds:
"The plane nicknamed "Termite" was the plane Zaven Sadoian usually flew.  Nichols plane was being serviced that day, so he used Sadoian's plane instead."

Mission History
On February 21, 1944 took off from Gusap Airfield piloted by SSgt James D. Nichols and attempted to land at the landing ground cleared near the crash site of P-40N Warhawk 42-104986 piloted by 1st Lt. Nelson D. Flack, Jr. and L-5 Sentinel 42-98066 piloted by MSgt Eugene Salternik with the help of Lt Hector Henstridge.

After landing, this aircraft's landing gear went "spread eagle" damaging the airframe beyond repair and leaving a third person stranded at the site. Next, L-5 piloted Sgt Thomas Stallone successfully landed at the clearing, but was unable to take off carrying any additional passengers and departed alone. After the loss of so many rescue aircraft, the 71st Tactical Reconnaissance Group decided no more planes could be risked in the "Flack Incident".

On the ground, the group of four lead by Henstridge began walking 35 miles in dense jungle to rendezvous with an Australian patrol.  After departing, other L-5's were unable to locate the group and all were declared Missing In Action (MIA) and the search was abandoned. On March 3, 1944 after ten days in the jungle, the group ran out of food, forcing them to scrounge nuts and fish from the jungle and streams. All contracted malaria and lost 20-35 pounds each during the trek.

On March 10, 1944 they encountered an Australian Army patrol, who were pursuing Japanese troops who were also searching for them. Taken to a shelter to recover, on March 12, 1944 they were evacuated from Faita Airfield aboard a RAAF Walrus back to Gusap Airfield.

Afterwards, the Henstridge was awarded the U.S. Army Distinguished Service Cross, and the two L-5 pilots, Salternik and Nichols were awarded the Silver Star for their parts in saving P-40 pilot Nelson Flack. Flack got a Purple Heart for his injuries, and an Air Medal for the confirmed kill over a Tony that mission.

The remains of this aircraft remains in situ at the crash site.

NARA World War II Army Enlistment Records - Zaven G. Sadoian
USAF Serial Number Search Results - L-5 Sentinel 42-98085
"98085 (25 LS, 71 TRG) crashed near Siniap, New Guinea during rescue mission and w/o Feb 21, 1944."
PNG Museum Aircraft Status Card - L-5 Stinson Sentinel 42-98085
Protect and Avenge pages 234-235
Air Force Magazine "Valor: Jungle Rescue" John L. Frisbee Vol. 75, No. 5 May 1992
The Nelson Flack Incident by John Douglas
49th Fighter Wing "Capt. Nelson Flack: The rediscovery of a Black Sheep" [PDF]
Ghost Wings Magazine "Skeletons in the Grass - An Epic WWII Rescue" Issue 12 by John Douglas and Justin Taylan
Thanks to Eugene Salternik and John Douglas for additional information

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Last Updated
July 1, 2019


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