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  P-38F-5-LO Lightning Serial Number 42-12650  
5th AF
35th FG
39th FS

Pilot  Lt. George E. Morgan (survived)
Force Landed  July 16, 1943

Aircraft History
Built by Lockheed Aircraft Corporation (LAC) in Burbank, California. Delivered to the U. S. Army. Disassembled and shipped overseas and reassembled.

Wartime History
Assigned to the 5th Air Force, 35th Fighter Group, 39th Fighter Squadron on September 17, 1942. No known nickname or nose art.

Mission History
On July 16, 1943 one of three P-38s took off from 14 Mile Drome (Schwimmer) near Port Moresby at 1:55pm piloted by 2nd Lt. James F. Steele on a mission to escort a single F-4 Lightning from the 8th Photographic Reconnaissance Squadron (8th PRS) on a reconnaissance mission over Madang. The escorting Lightnings were led by Lt. Denton with Lt. Andrews and Lt. Steele.

Arriving over the target, Morgan aborted the mission due to engine trouble. When he failed to return, he was initially believed to be Missing In Action (MIA). In fact, he force landed near Akoma village at the mouth of the Purari River near the southern coast roughly 40 miles from Kerema. Other sources state Morgan force landed at Urika Island off the southern coast of New Guinea.

On the return flight, the formation encountered bad weather with extremely low visibility. Lost was P-38 piloted Steele (MIA).

Fate of the Pilot
When Morgan failed to return from the mission, he was initially declared Missing In Action.

In fact, he landed unhurt and Morgan was found by local people and brought to missionaries from Samoa and stayed with them for several days, including attending their church on Sunday July 18, 1943. He was transported to to Terapo Airfield to await rescue.

On July 19, 1943 he was rescued by a DH.82 Tiger Moth piloted by F/Sgt Flannery from No. 1 Rescue and Communication Unit (1 RCU) flown back to Port Moresby and returned to duty.

Afterwards, Morgan wrote his mother and Mary about his experiences on this mission both letters are published in Relentless Pursuit pages 160-162.

"July 21, 1943 - Dear Mom, Had an interesting day at work today [July 21, 1943]. I took part in a darn good fight. Although I shot at plenty of them, I didn't shoot any down myself, but I saw others that did. Went to church last Sunday [July 18, 1943] under very unusual circumstances. I was staying with some missionaries. A middle-aged couple from Samoa had charge of the place. At church, I was the only white person. There were about a hundred natives. The woman had only grass skirts on, and the men had cloth skirts. The missionary couple from Samoa wore regular clothes. I was their 'guest'. for about 3 days, and they really treated me wonderfully. Love, George"

"July 22, 1943 - Dear Mary, Those 3 days I was a 'guest' of a couple of missionaries weren't bad at all, but I don't want to go through it again. Yesterday [July 22, 1943], I was in a nice fight, but I wasn't lucky enough to get one. Although we got off to a bad start, we did OK before it was over. Tell Perry he should have been here, I know he would have enjoyed it.

Mary Martin (Morgan's daughter)

39th Fighter Squadron Diary - July 16-19, 1943
RAAF No. 1 Rescue and Communications Squadron Operations Record Book July 18 - July 19, 1943
"18-7: To Terapo - Lt. Morgan (USA) 100 lbs freight backloading 100 lbs freight
19-7: To Terapo - Lt. Morgan (USA) 100 lbs freight"
PNG Museum Aircraft Status Card - P-38H Lightning piloted by Morgan
Relentless Pursuit pages 160-162
Thanks to Edward Rogers for research and analysis

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Last Updated
June 29, 2019


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