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11th AF c1945
Philip Nell 1996
|Pilot 2nd Lt. Robert L. Nesmith (rescued) Chicago, IL
Force Landed January 1, 1945
Built by Lockheed Aircraft Corporation (LAC) in Burbank. Constructor Number 222-7834. Delivered to the U. S. Army Air Force (USAAF) as P-38G-10-LO Lightning serial number 42-13400.
Assigned to the 11th Air Force (11th AF), 343rd Fighter Group (343rd FG), 54th Fighter Squadron. No known nickname or nose art. Nose Number 95.
On January 1, 1945 took off from Alexai Point Airfield piloted by 2nd Lt. Robert L. Nesmith on a training mission as the element leader in a four-ship formation. Flying at low level across Attu Island, Nesmith got too close to the ground. He over corrected when he attempted to gain altitude, and causing his aircraft to "mush" into the snow. Still airborne, the starboard engine was torn off by the collision, and the left propeller was torn off. The Lightning glided over a rise and made a smooth landing, skidding to a stop near the edge of Temneck Bay.
Fate of the Pilot
Unhurt, Nesmith ran from the aircraft, afraid it might explode. Afterwards, he walked to the coast and a waited for rescue by a crash boat and was later returned to duty.
Until June 1999, this aircraft remained in situ. The wing tips, props and guns were removed, and the engines are both lying a short distance from the plane. It appears that something was removed from both booms just aft of the superchargers. The cockpit has been stripped of instruments and bullets had been fired through the vertical stabilizers. for target practice.
In 1979, Ted Spencer of the Alaska Aviation Heritage Museum nominated this P-38 to the National Register of Historic Places.
During 1988, the "American Veterans Memorial Museum" of Denver, CO reportedly registered the wreck with the FAA, but was never restored to flying condition.
During June 1999 the P-38 was recovered and transported to Elmendorf AFB and registered as N55929. A team of volunteers "Project Lightning Save" began restoration work during December 1999.
During August 2000, the static restoration was installed on a pedestal at McCloud Memorial Park at Elmendorf AFB.
NARA World War II Army Enlistment Records - Robert L. Nesmith
USAF Serial Number Search Results - P-38G-10-LO Lightning 42-13400
"13400 (MSN 222-7834) crashed Attu Island Jan 1, 1945 on training mission. Registered to American Veterans Memorial Museum1Sep 11, 1984. Canx Jun 12, 2013. Not recovered by AVMM and remained at crash site Recovered Jun 1999, registered as N55929 but NTU. Restored"
January 1945 USAAF Stateside Accident Reports - P-38G 42-13400
Airmen Magazine "A Fitting Tribute" by Jim Fisher photos by Terry Blevins August 2000
Attu's Landmark P-38
Thanks to Ted Spencer for additional information
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