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  P-38J-15-LO Lightning Serial Number 42-103987  
5th AF
35th FG
39th FS

Pilot  Lt. Col. Thomas J. Lynch, O-338066 C.O. (MIA / KIA) Hazleton, PA
Crashed  March 8, 1944
MACR  none

Aircraft History
Built by Lockheed Aircraft Corporation (LAC) in Burbank. Constructors Number 2821. Delivered to the U. S. Army Air Force (USAAF) as P-38J-15-LO Lightning serial number 42-103987. Disassembled and shipped overseas and reassembled.

Wartime History
Assigned to the 5th Air Force (5th AF), 35th Fighter Group (35th FG), 39th Fighter Squadron (39th FS). No known nose art of nickname.

Mission History
On March 8, 1944 took off from Nadzab Airfield piloted by Lt. Col. Thomas J. Lynch on a fighter sweep over Aitape Harbor with P-38 pilot Richard I. Bong. Over the target, the pair spotted six Japanese barges and both aircraft made strafing runs, setting at least one of them on fire.

As the two pilots came around for a second pass, anti-aircraft fire opened up from below, and caught Lynch's P-38 in the right engine, and caused it to burst into flames. Bong's P-38 was also damaged in one engine and holed.

On the ground at Aitape, the anti-aircraft fire was from the Japanese Navy 90th Garrison Unit under the command of Warrant Officer Hideo Ezawa with two 7.7mm machine guns and three 13mm machine guns fired on the P-38s. They claimed Lynch's P-38 was hit and "the entire nose section [was] blown off and starboard engine on fire."

After being hit, Bong radioed him to bail out. Lynch climbed to 25,000' but was unable to bail out until too close to the ground. His parachute barely open before he impacted. From above, Bong witnessed him hit the jungle and his aircraft crash one mile south-southwest of Aitape into a mangrove swamp. When Lynch failed to return from the mission, he was officially declared Missing In Action (MIA).

Lynch was officially declared dead the day of the mission. He is memorialized at Manila American Cemetery on the tablets of the missing. He also has a memorial marker at Calvary Cemetery in North Catasauqua, PA.

USAF Serial Number Search Results - P-38J-15-LO Lightning 42-103987
"Lt. Col Thomas J. Lynch Killed in air duel in S. Pacific, Bride informed; Catasauqua stunned by death of ace"
"Major Richard I. Bong Flies P-38 to see Mrs. William J. Lynch, mother of late Catasauqua flier-ace"
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Thomas J. Lynch
FindAGrave - LTC Thomas J Lynch (photos, tablets of the missing)
FindAGrave - Thomas J Lynch (photo, memorial marker photo)
PNG Museum Aircraft Status Card - P-38J Lightning 42-103987
Hoy, Bruce. "Tropical Lightning Survivor", Flightpath Magazine, Volume 4 No. 2
Stars & Bars (1995) pages 33-34 (35th FG, 39th FS), 415-416 (Lynch)
MacArthur's Eagles (2005) pages 130-131, 291
"On 9 March 1944, the great Tommy Lynch died. He and Dick Bong had been successful in the Tadji area, so they set off to sweep the location again. The 78 Sentai sent two Tonys to intercept but did not make contact. The P-38's strafed three luggers offshore and sank Yashima Maru, with the captain and one other man killed and three wounded. The P-38s turned for another pass at twenty feet height.
Unknown to Bong and Lynch, a forty-five-man detachment pf the Japanese navy’s 90 Garrison Unit, commanded by Warrant Officer Hideo Ezawa, was onshore, equipped with two light 7.7 mm and three heavy 13 mm machine guns, with 7,000 rounds of ammunition. Some of the unit personnel had only just arrived in New Guinea from Formosa, arrived at Palau on 20 February, and went on to Tadji. They fired at Lynch and Bong, and Bong later reported that on Lynch’s P-38, “the entire nose section [was] blown off and starboard engine on fire.” Lynch pulled up to twenty-five hundred feet to bail out, but did not get out until the P-38 was down to one hundred feet; the fighter exploded, and simultaneously, Lynch’s parachute streamed but did not have time to open. Leading Seaman Amano was credited with the victory, but the Japanese merely claimed a P-38, never knowing they had shot down one of the greatest fighter leaders in the SWPA. Tommy Lynch joined the long list of superior pilots brought down by ground fire.
The Japanese navy gunners shot well and almost downed two leading aces, because Bong had to feather one engine to return to base, and his crew chief at Nadzab found eighty-seven bullet holes in the P-38. The loss of Lynch was the only time the ground crew saw Dick Bong show any signs of nervousness. Bong did say that Lynch’s death was the hardest blow he suffered in the war.” - Thomas Lynch, C.O. 39th FS

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Last Updated
February 18, 2020


Tech Info

1 Missing
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