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  P-38F-5-LO Lightning Serial Number 42-12652 Nose 33 (White 33)
USAAF
5th AF
8th FG
36th FS

Former Assignments
35th FG
39th FS

475th FG
431st FS
433rd FS

Click For Enlargement
Click For Enlargement
8th PRS Dec 31, 1942

Click For Enlargement
R. Leahy Nov 28, 1999

Aircraft History
Built by Lockheed Aircraft Corporation (LAC) in Burbank. Constructors Number 222-7086. Initially built as P-38E-2-LO then on June 17, 1942 designated P-38F-2-LO. On August 12, 1942 delivered to the U. S. Army Air Force (USAAF) as P-38F-5-LO Lightning serial number 42-12652. 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). Assigned to pilot 2nd Lt. Kenneth Sparks. Tail Number 33 in white (White 33). Each engine had a shark mouth motif painted on the lower cowling. No known nickname or nose art.

On December 31, 1942 took off from 14 Mile Drome (Schwimmer) near Port Moresby piloted by 2nd Lt. Kenneth Sparks as one of twelve P-38s led by Thomas J. Lynch on a mission to escort A-20 Havocs, B-25 Mitchells and B-26 Marauders on a bombing mission against Lae Airfield near Lae. Over the target, the P-38s engaged eight Zeros (actually Ki-43 Oscars from the 11th Sentai). During the combat, Sparks fired at a Zero (actually a Ki-43 Oscar) and witnessed it crash. During the combat, Ki-43 Oscar pilot Hasegawa collided with this P-38, damaging the right aileron and wingtip. Returning, to 14 Mile Drome Sparks made a direct landing approach and nearly collided with P-38F piloted by 1st. Carl G. Planck who was also damaged and landing in the opposite direction. To avoid a head on collision, Planck swerved off the runway. jammed on his breaks and narrowly missing the control tower. The P-38s claimed a total of ten enemy "Zeros" shot down. In fact, only Ki-43 piloted by Shishimoto was shot down and bailed out and his fighter crashed into the sea.

Next, assigned to the 475th Fighter Group (475th FG) "Satan's Angels", 431st Fighter Squadron (431st FS) "Hades" and later the 433rd Fighter Squadron (433rd FS). Afterwards, assigned to the 8th Fighter Group, 36th Fighter Squadron from the fighter pool at Port Moresby in February or March 1943. During early 1944, this aircraft suffered a nose wheel collapse at Finschafen Airfield and was written off. On June 6, 1944 officially stricken.

Wreckage
After being written off, this aircraft was stripped for usable parts and abandoned. At the end of the war, it was buried in a pit at Finschafen Airfield. Until 1999, this aircraft remained buried at Finschafen Airfield.

Recovery
During late 1999, this aircraft was dug up by '75 Squadron' (no association with the Royal Australian Air Force squadron) an Australian salvage group. The wreckage included the gondola and center wing section, plus both engine nacelles. The tail booms were missing. On November 28, 1999 the wreckage was placed into a shipping container at Lae with other aircraft salvaged, including P-38J "Jandina III" 42-103988 plus P-47D 42-75284, P-47D 42-22521 and P-47D 42-8074. The shipping containers were then exported to Melbourne.

Later, during 2002, this and other wreckage was transported by road on city streets during Melbourne morning rush hour traffic and identified as the wreckage P-38 Lightnings and P-47 Thunderbolts by many drivers.

Afterwards, this P-38 was again placed into a container and shipped overseas to Westpac Restorations at Rialto Airport in California. During 2003-2004, this wreckage was stored at their facility. At the time, details on this aircraft were unknown due to non-disclosure agreement with the owner/client Paul Allen / Flying Heritage Collection.

During 2006, the aircraft removed were cited as an illegal recovery in the PNG Government Public Accounts Committee Report (PAC Report).

Today, this aircraft is under restoration at Westpac Restorations in Colorado Springs. During May 2009, the twin tail booms under restoration. Both engines were tested on October 26, 2015. Restored in the markings of the 39th Fighter Squadron "White 33". Restored for Jim Slattery.

On October 29, 2016 the restored P-38 made its first flight over Colorado Springs. Watching from another aircraft was Frank Royal, 101 year old veteran from the 39th Fighter Squadron and flew this Lightning. Restored, this Lightning is displayed at the National Museum of World War II Aviation.

References
USAF Serial Number Search Results - P-38E-2-LO Lightning 42-12652
"12652 (MSN 222-7086) SOC Jun 6, 1944. Restoration project from PNG salvage; restoration well under way by Westpack Restorations at Colorado Springs, CO in 2013."
Warbirds International "Westpac Defining The Future of Warbird Restoration" by Michael O'Leary May 2010, pages 24-29, 40-43 refers to this aircraft as "White 33"
Flightpath Magazine, Volume 4 Number 2, article by Bruce Hoy on December 31, 1942 mission this aircraft participated.
"Initial Japanese Army Air Operations" by Richard Dunn
YouTube "Fox31: WW2 P38 pilot reunited with his plane" October 8, 2015
YouTube "WestPac Restorations Inc: WT 33 1st Engine Runs" October 28, 2015
YouTube "tj laven: White 33 First Flight" October 18, 2016
YouTube "Local News24 101 year old World War II veteran takes remarkable flight" October 29, 2016
Thanks to William Klaers, Alan Wojciak, Frank Royal and Richard Dunn for additional information

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Last Updated
September 12, 2020

 

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