|Pilot 1st Lt. William W. Morton, O-439666 (MIA / KIA) VA
Crashed March 16, 1943
Built by Lockheed Aircraft Corporation (LAC) in Burbank, California. Constructors Number 5358. Converted
from a E model into a F-4
photographic reconnaissance version. Delivered to the U. S. Army. Disassembled and shipped overseas to Australia and reassembled.
Assigned to the 5th Air Force (5th AF), 6th Photographic Reconnaissance Group (PRG), 8th Photographic Reconnaissance Squadron (PRS). No known nose art or nickname.
On March 16, 1943 took off from 14 Mile Drome (Schwimmer) near Port Moresby piloted by 1st Lt. William W. Morton on a photo reconnaissance mission over the Ramu Valley and Markham Valley. Morten radioed Port Moresby that he was "over the ranges". This was taken to mean that he was south of the Owen Stanley Mountain Range. Afterwards, no further broadcasts were heard. When Morton failed to return from the mission, he was officially listed as Missing In Action (MIA).
During the early 1990s, this P-38 was discovered by SCUBA divers upside down at a depth of 10 meters on a sandy bottom to the northwest of Fishermans Island (Daugo Island). When found, no remains were observed at the crash site. The plane's identity was confirmed when the instrument panel with the radio call sign and a piece of wreckage with the stamped serial number 41-2140 and constructors number 5358 were located and photographed. The wreckage includes one of the propellers separated and the wing center section with the main landing gear tire. On the wing is the counter weight.
Morton was officially declared dead on March 17, 1944. He is memorialized on the tablets of the missing at Manila American Cemetery.
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) -
William W. Morton
PNG Museum Aircraft Status Card - P-38 Lightning 41-2140
Wrecks & Reefs pages 156 - 159
The Eight Ballers: Eyes of the Fifth Air Force pages 160
Thanks to Keith Hopper for additional information
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February 18, 2020