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  P-38H-1-LO Lightning Serial Number 42-66562  
USAAF
5th AF
8th Service Group
301st Airdrome Squadron

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USAAF c1943
Pilot  Captain William C. Gronemeyer, O-888807 475th FG, 431st FS (MIA / KIA) Brown County, WI
Passenger  1st Lt. Charles W. Springer, O-681729 347th FG, 67th FS (MIA / KIA) Olmsted County, MN
Crashed  December 31, 1944
MACR  11680

Aircraft History
Built by Lockheed Aircraft Corporation (LAC) in Burbank. Constructors Number 1073. Delivered to the U. S. Army Air Force (USAAF) as P-38H-1-LO Lightning serial number 42-66562. Disassembled and shipped overseas to the South West Pacific Area (SWPA) and reassembled.

Wartime History
Assigned to the 5th Air Force (5th AF), 8th Service Group (8th SrG), 301st Airdrome Squadron part of the Far East Air Force - Combat Replacement and Training Center (FEAF-CRTC). No known nickname or nose art. When lost, engines V-1710-89, V-1710-91 serial number 42-93062 and 42-92801. This aircraft had no armament installed.

Mission History
On December 31, 1944 at 1:15pm took off from Nadzab Airfield No. 1 piloted by Captain William C. Gronemeyer with passenger 1st Lt. Charles W. Springer on a cross country flight bound for Port Moresby. The flight was led by Captain Glenn Perryman with three P-47D Thunderbolts plus this P-38 Lightning.

The weather was 4/10 to 6/10 cumulus and stratocumulus clouds with 12 miles of visibility. At about 1:30pm, the formation leader climbed to 17,000' to avoid weather in the Tsili Tsili area. At 1:35pm, left the formation and headed for a small valley and was still climbing. This aircraft was called to rejoin the formation, but no reply was received. Last seen at approximately 1:45pm climbing on a heading of 220° roughly 17 miles south-southwest of Tsili Tsili over the Banir River. It was believed this P-38 was not carrying any oxygen for the pilot or passenger. When this aircraft failed to return it was officially listed as Missing In Action (MIA).

Wreckage
On November 2, 1980 this aircraft was located by Richard Leahy and David Pennefather.

Richard Leahy adds:
"This MIA site is actually the first that I can claim responsibility for locating. Both the pilot and his piggy back passenger were recovered. Located ten miles south west of Marilinan. He was on his way from Nadzab to Moresby. He had a passenger as well. This aircraft was being flown by Capt. William Gronemeyer, an experienced pilot who was on his way out on R&R at the time. I have often wondered what happened to him. The flight from Nadzab to Moresby is not a difficult one at all, especially in a high powered ship like a P-38. WWII pilots have told me that the gyro instruments they had in those days were notoriously unreliable. He also said that pilots were expected to remain visual, that they received an absolute minimum of instrument training. I have a set of photographs of this site taken by CILHI at the time they made the recovery staging out of Engati."

Recovery of Remains
During early November 1980 a team from US Army CILHI visited the crash site and recovered a small number of bones. Afterwards, these remains were transported to Hawaii and were identified as the remains of both individuals.

Richard Leahy adds:
"I have a set of photographs of this site taken by CILHI at the time they made the recovery staging out of Engati."

Memorials
Both crew were officially declared dead the day of the mission. As the mission was deemed non-combat, neither earned the Purple Heart, posthumously. After the recovery of remains, Gronemeyer and Springer were buried at Fort Snelling National Cemetery in a group burial at section A-14 site 2806.

Springer also has a memorial marker at Oakwood Cemetery in Rochester, MN.

Relatives
Mark Gronemeyer (nephew of William Gronemeyer):
"He rose to the rank of Captain and received 7 Air Medals. His plane crashed trying to cross New Guinea on New Years Eve 12-31-44 to attend festivities. The plane was found with the Assistance of Richard Leahy on November 2, 1981. Gronemeyer and Springer are buried at Fort Snelling, MN. I sent extensive information for Possum, Clover & Hades History of the 475th FG in WWII and historian for the P-38 Museum."

References
NARA World War II Army Enlistment Records - William C. Gronemeyer
NARA World War II Army Enlistment Records - Charles W. Springer
USAF Historical Study No. 85 USAF Credits For The Destruction of Enemy Aircraft, World War II Alphabetical: Gronemeyer, William C. page 77 (PDF page 84)
USAF Serial Number Search Results - P-38H-1-LO Lightning 42-66562
Missing Air Crew Report 11680 (MACR 11680) created January 5, 1945
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - William C. Gronemeyer "remains recovered"
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Charles W. Springer "remains were recovered and identified"
FindAGrave - Capt William C Gronemeyer (tablets of the missing)
FindAGrave - CPT William C Gronemeyer (Fort Snelling group burial photo)
FindAGrave - 1Lt Charles W Springer (tablets of the missing photo)
FindAGrave - 1Lt Charles W Springer (tablets of the missing photo)
FindAGrave - LT Charles W Springer, Jr (memorial marker photo)
FindAGrave - Charles W. Springer (Fort Snelling group burial photo)
PNG Museum Aircraft Status Card - P-38H Lightning 42-66562
Bruce Hoy Diary 11 November, 1980: "Tuesday, drove out to the airport at 8.00am and met the CIL‑HI team arriving from Lae. I gave them the appropriate export certificates covering the remains collected from P-38H 42-66562, A-20G 43-21416 and C-47 42-24215."
Thanks to Mark Gronemeyer, Richard Leahy, David Pennefather and Bruce Hoy for additional information

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Last Updated
December 27, 2019

 

Tech Info
P-38

Map
Map
Dec 31, 1944

MIAMIA
2 Missing
Resolved
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