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  F-4-1-LO Lightning Serial Number 41-2014  
5th AF
6th PRG
8th PRS
8th PRS c1943
Pilot  1st Lt. LeGrand J. Kneeskern, 12030546 (survived) Kirkville, NY
Crashed  July 31, 1943
MACR  none

Pilot History
LeGrand J. Kneeskern was born on March 3, 1919. He graduated as an architect. On October 31, 1941 enlisted in the U. S. Army Air Force (USAAF) as an aviation cadet with serial number 12030546.

Aircraft History
Built by Lockheed Aircraft Corporation (LAC) in Burbank. Delivered to the U. S. Army Air Force (USAAF) as as P-38E Lightning serial number 41-2014 and converted into a F-4-1-LO Lightning serial number 41-2014 photographic reconnaissance version. Disassembled and shipped overseas to Australia and reassembled.

Wartime History
Assigned to the 5th Air Force, 6th Photographic Reconnaissance Group (PRG), 8th Photographic Reconnaissance Squadron (PRS). No known nose art or nickname.

Mission History
On July 31, 1943 took off from 14 Mile Drome (Schwimmer) piloted by 1st Lt. LeGrand J. Kneeskern on a reconnaissance mission over the Markham Valley. Over the target area, Kneeskern bailed out northwest of Nadzab. When this aircraft failed to return it was officially listed as Missing In Action (MIA). This aircraft was officially condemned on November 30, 1943.

Fate of the Pilot
When Kneeskern pulled his ripcord, his back was injured by the jolt and he lost one of his boots. Kneeskern landed in a tree and remained there for a day and a half, then moved to a nearby stream, and followed it downstream for five days.

On August 10, 1943 found native people who gave him food and shelter, then took him to Australian forces and was transported to plantations until he returned to base, and found that he had been promoted to the rank of Captain while he was missing.

Kneeskern passed away on August 5, 1970 at age 51. He is buried at Collamer Cemetery in DeWitt. NY.

NARA World War II Army Enlistment Records - Le Grand J. Kneeskern
The Milwaukee Journal "Hurt in Parachute Fall; Then Solider has Jungle as Foe" August 28, 1943
Buffalo Courier Express "Conquers Jungle" August 29, 1943
"Legrand Kneeskern of Kirkville, east of Syracuse, was missing seventeen days in central New Guinea jungle after bailing out of his plane but is reported to have reached his base safely."
The Eight Ballers: Eyes of the Fifth Air Force pages 50 (photo), 57 (photo), 78, 80
FindAGrave - LeGrand J Kneeskern (photo, grave photo) "World War II Honor Roll: Town of Manlius..." by Kathy Crowell
Thanks to Edward Rogers and Robert Rocker for additional information

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Last Updated
September 7, 2019


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