|Pilot 1st Lt. Austin K. Neely, O-743484 (MIA / KIA) Texarkana, TX
MIA April 16, 1944 "Black Sunday" at 3:15pm
Austin K. Neely was born in Texarkana, TX and attended Texas High School. Prewar, he was employed at International Harvester Company in Texarkana. He enlisted in the U. S. Army Air Force as an aviation cadet for nine weeks at Marana Basic Flying School in Tuscon, AZ as part of class 43-D. After flight training, he was sent overseas and assigned to the 475th Fighter Group, 433rd Fighter Squadron as a P-38 Lightning pilot. On December 11, 1943 Neely was involved with an aerial collision with P-38H "Regina Coeli" 42-66856, but made a safe landing at Dobodura despite a damaged wing and propeller. Afterwards, he was treated for shock.
Built by Lockheed Aircraft Corporation (LAC) in Burbank, California. Constructors Number 3219. Delivered to the U. S. Army. Disassembled and shipped overseas and reassembled.
Assigned to the 5th Air Force, 475th Fighter Group, 433rd Fighter Squadron. No known nickname or nose art. When lost, engines V-1710-91 and V-1710-89 serial numbers A-039895 and A-038386. Weapons 20mm cannon serial number 124481 and 50 caliber machine gun serial numbers 613589, 612023, 66506 and 610883.
On April 16, 1944 took off from Nadzab No. 3 Airfield piloted by 1st Lt. Austin K. Neely a mission to escort A-20 Havocs over Hollandia. Returning the formation encountered a severe weather front. This P-38 was last seen approximately five miles west of Bogadjim at an altitude of roughly 10,000-11,000'. This aircraft failed to return and was listed as Missing In Action (MIA). This mission was dubbed "Black Sunday" due to the number of aircraft lost.
During 2008, a team from JPAC found a .50 caliber machine gun with one digit off from those listed in the Missing Air Crew Report 4502 (MACR 4502).
On April 17, 1944 two P-38s from the 433rd Fighter Squadron
piloted by McAfee and Eieman searched the area between Bogadjim to the head of the Markham Valley, the western slopes of the Finisterre Range between Nadzab, Dumpu and the coastline from Bogadjim to Uligan Harbor then returned to base over the valley from Erima Harbor to Amaimon to Obulu flying at minimum altitude. No P-38 wreckage or parachutes were observed, but two force landed A-20 Havocs were observed, one near Uligan Harbor [possibly one of two B-25 wreckage] the other 25 miles northwest of Bogadjim. Since there were no sightings, radio contact were made during this search and subsequent searches.
Neely was officially declared dead on February 7, 1946. He is memorialized on the tablets of the missing at Manila American Cemetery. Also, Neely has a memorial marker at Rose Hill Cemetery in Texarkana TX at Block-A, Section 4, Lot 58-W.
Marana Basic Flying School, Tuscon, Ariz. - Aviation Cadet Austin K. Neely
Missing Air Crew Report 4502 (MACR 4502)
PNG Museum Aircraft Status Card - P-38J Lightning 42-104385
Black Sunday page 99
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Austin K. Neely
FindAGrave - 1Lt Austin Kline Neely (memorial photo)
Thanks to Betty Mc for additional information
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June 4, 2019