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  P-38F-5-LO Lightning Serial Number 42-12649  
5th AF
35th FG
39th FS

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Bob Halstead 2004
Pilot  2nd Lt. Richard T. Cella (survived)
Ditched  November 4, 1942
MACR  none

Aircraft History
Built by Lockheed Aircraft Corporation (LAC) in Burbank. Constructors Number 222-7083. Delivered to the U.S. Army Air Force (USAAF) as P-38F-5-LO Lightning serial number 42-12649. Disassembled and shipped overseas and reassembled.

Wartime History
On September 17, 1942 assigned to the 5th Air Force (5th AF), 35th Fighter Group (35th FG), 39th Fighter Squadron (39th FS). No known nickname or nose art.

Mission History
On November 4, 1942 took off from 14 Mile Drone near Port Moresby piloted by 2nd Lt. Richard T. Cella (engineering officer of the 39th FS) as one of eleven P-38 Lightnings on ferry flight to Milne Bay then eastward to Henderson Field on Guadalcanal. After arriving at Milne Bay, they were recalled and told to return to Port Moresby. During the return flight, this P-38 ditched off the north coast of New Guinea. Before ditching, the left engine was feathered.

Fate of the Pilot
Chello was unhurt in the landing and later rescued and returned to duty.

During September 2004, this P-38 was discovered by Bob Halstead and identified by the cockpit instrument panel radio call sign. The left engine was feathered before the ditching.

Bob Halstead adds:
"Located on a reef slope between 12 and 17 meters deep. The propellers are feathered and pilot made perfect water landing. No damage to aircraft. Beautiful site as wreck has heavy coral and colourful sponge growth. I have brass radio call tag and it reads 2-12649 very clear."

USAF Serial Number Search Results - P-38F-5-LO Lightning 42-12649
"12649 suffered engine failure on delivery flight and ditched near Cape Vogel, PNG Nov 4, 1942. Pilot rescued."
NARA Death Files, 1936 - 2007 - Richard T. Cella born September 16, 1916 died April 16, 1998
Thanks to Bob Halstead for discovery notes and Keith Hopper for additional historical information

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Last Updated
November 4, 2021


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