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  P-38H-5-LO Lightning Serial Number 42-66869  
5th AF
475th FG
432nd FS

Click For Enlargement
Andrew Wright 1994

Click For Enlargement
Pilot  Lt. Alex N. Ilnicki (survived)
Ditched  November 27, 1943
MACR  none

Aircraft History
Built by Lockheed Aircraft Corporation (LAC) in Burbank. Constructors Number 1380. Delivered to the U. S. Army Air Force (USAAF) as P-38H-5-LO Lightning serial number 42-66869. Disassembled and shipped overseas and reassembled.

Wartime History
Assigned to the 5th Air Force (5th AF), 475th Fighter Group (475th FG) "Satan's Angles", 432nd Fighter Squadron (432nd FS) "Clover". No known nickname, nose art or squadron number.

Mission History
On November 27, 1943 took off from Dobodura Airfield piloted by Lt. Alex N. Ilnicki as one of seven P-38s that on a patrol mission over Salamaua and Finshafen. During the mission, this aircraft experienced problems and aborted the mission. Returning, Illnicki set a course back to Dobodura, but made a navigational mistake, only realizing when he passed Misima Island then turned back in an attempt to reach Milne Bay but ran out of fuel and ditched into the sea roughly 150 yards off the north coast of Basilaki Island.

Fate of the Pilot
Ilnicki survived the ditching unhurt and deployed his life raft and paddled ashore. Later, he was rescued and returned to duty.

On December 1, 1981 this aircraft was located by SCUBA diver Bob Halstead. The aircraft was located at 258° from North Point and about 150 yards offshore. During another dive during April to May 1982, Bob Halstead confirmed the serial number by locating the radio dataplate affixed to the instrument panel.

This P-38 remains in situ and intact on the sandy bottom at a depth of 90' / 27m. Both propellers are missing, likely torn off during the landing. The cockpit canopy is missing from when Ilnicki exited the aircraft. Both engines are missing the upper cowling. The tip of the nose is slightly damaged, likely when the aircraft impacted the bottom.

Ilnicki returned home from the Pacific War. in 1945 joined the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD). On August 30, 1966 he took off piloting Bell 47G, registered as N1162W with observer Lawrence “Larry” D. Amberg aboard and died in a helicopter collision with Airwatch helicopter N1157W.

He was buried at Holy Cross Cemetery in Culver City, CA. In 1971, Ilnicki and Amberg were both honored, along with the dozens of other LAPD officers whom died in the line of duty, on the Los Angeles Police Memorial – a black granite fountain located in front of Parker Center – the agency’s headquarters. They are also enshrined on the California Peace Officers’ Memorial, a book located outside the Governor’s office in the state’s Capitol building in Sacramento, as well as National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial at Judiciary Square in Washington, DC.

Note, pilot's name is listed as "Illnicki" (double L) in U. S. Army records but listed as Ilnicki (single L) in postwar newspaper articles.
NARA World War II Army Enlistment Records - Alex N. Illnicki [sic Ilnicki]
USAF Serial Number Search Results - P-38H-5-LO Lightning 42-66869
"66869 (475th FG, 432nd FS) ditched off Basilaki Island, New Guinea Nov 29 [sic], 1943."
November 1943 USAAF Overseas Accident Reports - P-38H 42-66869
Winged Ghosts of the Pacific documentary has underwater footage of this wreck.
The Los Angeles Times "Schumacher Among 5 Killed as Helicopters Collide In Air" August 31, 1966 pages 1-3, 26
"Ilnicki, 45 of 9702 Crenshaw Blv, Inglewood, joined the police force in 1945. He was a fighter pilot during World War II. He began piloting the police craft in November of last year. He leaves his wife, Mary and three children."
FindAGrave - Alex N Ilnicki (grave photo)
Check-Six "Your Eye in the Sky... The Final Flight of "Captain Max" Schumacher Near Dodger Stadium, Los Angeles, California August 30, 1966"
Possum, Clover & Hades does not mention this loss
475th Fighter Group does not mention this loss
Lightning Strikes does not mention this loss
Thanks to Andrew Wight, Robert Halstead and Edward Rogers for additional information

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Last Updated
December 1, 2019


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