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|Pilot 1st Lt John P. Cox, O-794209 (POW, executed March 3/4, 1944, BR)
Crashed December 25, 1943 at approximately 12:10pm
Built by Lockheed Aircraft Corporation (LAC) in Burbank. Delivered to the U. S. Army Air Force (USAAF) as P-38H-5-LO Lightning Serial Number 42-66892. Disassembled and shipped overseas to the South Pacific (SOPAC) and reassembled.
Assigned to the 13th Air Force (13th AF), 18th Fighter Group (18th FG), 44th Fighter Squadron "Vampire Squadron" (44th FS). No known nickname or nose art. When lost, engines V-1710-89 serial numbers left 42-94096 and right 42-30128. Armed with four .50 caliber machine guns and a single 20mm cannon, serial numbers not listed in Missing Air Crew Report 1493 (MACR 1493).
On December 25, 1943 took off from Munda Airfield on New Georgia piloted by 1st Lt John P. Cox on a mission to escort B-24 Liberators on a bombing mission over Rabaul. Weather was clear with ceiling and visibility unlimited (CAVU). 1Lt Cox was flying in formation with Captain Smith and Lt Green.
Over the target, Cox dived after a A6M Zero and was last seen about 10,000' at which point Lt Green pulled up to rejoin the formation. Cox was last seen off Duke of York Island at approximately 12:10pm. No one observed if he crashed.
When he failed to return from the mission he was listed as Missing In Action (MIA). Also lost was P-38J 42-67773 piloted by F/O Rex A. Byers (MIA).
Fate of the Pilot
Cox was captured by the Japanese and became a Prisoner Of War (POW) and was detained at Rabaul POW Camp and during early March 1944 transported to the Tunnel Hill POW Camp. On March 4, 1944 and March 5 1944 both were executed during the Talili Bay Massacre (Tunnel Hill Massacre) and their bodies buried.
Towards the end of the Pacific War, to cover up the executions and war crimes, the Japanese claimed that approximately forty Allied prisoners were killed by Allied bombing during an air raid while at Talili Bay after being evacuated from Tunnel Hill and their bodies were cremated and their bodies were cremated and the ashes placed into a single box.
Recovery of Remains
Postwar, the cremated ashes the Japanese claimed were those killed at Talili Bay were turned over to the Allies and divided proportionally based on the number of victims (23 Americans and 5 Australians) with 3/4 of the ashes to the Americans and 1/4 of the ashes to the Australians. The American ashes were transported aboard USAT Albert M. Boe to the United States.
Cox was officially declared dead on December 25, 1943. After his remains were recovered, he was buried on March 21, 1950 at Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery in a group burial at section 78, graves 930-934.
USAF Serial Number Search Results - P-38H-5-LO Lightning 42-66892
"66892 (18th FG, 44th FS) shot down by Japanese fighter during raid on Rabaul, New Guinea Dec 25, 1943. MACR 1493. Pilot KIA"
Missing Air Crew Report 1493 (MACR 1493) created January 5, 1944
FindAGrave - John P Cox (group burial photo) date of death listed as March 5, 1944
The Siege of Rabaul (1996) by Henry Sakaida pages 19 (footnote 12 - Tunnel Hill Massacre), 93 (Rabaul's Military Prisoners - Cox)
Dec 25, 1943
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