|Pilot 2nd Lt. Fred H. Baird, O-415110 (MIA / KIA) St. Clair County, MI
MIA July 2, 1943
Built by Lockheed Aircraft Corporation (LAC) in Burbank, California. Constructors Number 222-7420. Converted from a model P-38G-10-LO Lightning into a
photographic reconnaissance version. Delivered to the U. S. Army Air Force (USAAF) as F-5A-10-LO Lightning serial number 42-12983. Disassembled and shipped overseas to the South Pacific and reassembled.
Assigned to the 13th Air Force (13th AF), 4th Photo Reconnaissance Group (4th PRG), 17th Photo Reconnaissance Squadron (17th PRS). No known nickname or nose art. When lost, engines V-1710-55 serial number 43-32248 and V-1710-51 serial number unknown. Aboard were aerial cameras K-17 24" (spit view vertical) and K-17 6" (tri-met).
On July 2, 1943 took off from Fighter 2 on Guadalcanal at 2:45pm piloted by 2nd Lt. Baird on a solo photographic and visual search over Kahili Airfield on southern Bougainville. This aircraft was last seen on take off. When this aircraft failed to return it was officially listed as Missing In Action (MIA). His loss was described as "No information what so ever."
That weather was deemed unfavorable with scattered showers with thunderstorms. Over the Choiseul route, there were high broken clouds at 18,000' and low broken clouds at 2,000' down to 500; with moderate showers. Scattered moderate showers were reported in the area from Vangunu Island to the Russell Islands to San Jorge, becoming frequent and moderate after 6:00pm. The rest of the route to target had scattered moderate showers and thunderstorms over Shortlands after 4:00pm. Visibility was 10 miles, lowering to 1 mile in moderate showers to zero visibility inside the storms.
When this aircraft was late returning, search lights were turned on at Fighter 2 in an attempt to guide the plane if lost. Radio messages to the aircraft were not returned. Radar stations on Guadalcanal were notified to look for this aircraft, without success. Afterwards, no information about this aircraft or pilot was reported by coastwatchers or natives.
Baird was officially declared dead on December 18, 1945. He earned the Air Medal and Purple Heart, posthumously. He is memorialized on the tablets of the missing at Manila American Cemetery.
On September 7, 1943 the 17th Photo Reconnaissance Squadron (17th PRS) held a memorial service on Guadalcanal to honor the members of the squadron MIA/KIA to that date including 1st Lt. Harold W. Erwin, 1st Lt. John A. Mancini (MIA F-5A 42-12967), 2nd Lt. Ardell A. Nord (MIA F-5A 42-12678), 2nd Lt. Charles Roberts, Jr. (MIA pilot F-5A 42-12680) 2nd Lt. Fred H. Baird (MIA F-5A 42-12983), 2nd Lt. Roy L. Peterson (MIA F-5A 42-12977) and Pvt Edward P. Gray.
USAF Serial Number Search Results - F-5A 42-12983
"12983 (17th PRS, 4th PRG) lost Jul 2, 1943, Solomon Islands. MACR 44"
Missing Air Crew Report 44 (MACR 44)
17th Photo Reconnaissance Squadron (17th PRS) Guadalcanal Memorial Service September 7, 1943
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Fred H. Baird
FindAGrave - 2Lt Fred H Baird (tablets of the missing photo)
Thanks to Edward Rogers for additional research
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July 6, 2019