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|Pilot 1st Lt. Glen E. Hart, O-736195 (survived) Verdon, NB
Crashed January 17, 1944 at 1:30pm
Built by Lockheed Aircraft Corporation (LAC) in Burbank. Constructors Number 1442. Delivered to the U. S. Army Air Force (USAAF) as P-38H-5-LO Lightning serial number 42-66897. Disassembled and shipped overseas and reassembled.
Assigned to the 13th Air Force, 347th Fighter Group, 339th Fighter Squadron. No known nickname or nose art.
On January 17, 1944 took off from Stirling Airfield piloted by 1st Lt. Glen E. Hart on a mission to escort bombers over Rabaul. Last seen over New Ireland at 1:30pm. When this aircraft failed to return it was officially declared Missing In Action (MIA). Also lost were P-38J pilot Munson (MIA), P-38J 42-67179 (MIA), P-38J 42-67611 (MIA), P-38H 42-66680 (MIA), P-38H 42-67785 (MIA), P-38J 42-67171 (MIA).
Fate of the Pilot
In fact, Hart bailed out a few miles south of Ambitle Island in the Feni Islands off New Ireland and landed unhurt. Landing in the sea, he was able to deploy his life raft and drifted as sea for six days before his raft was spotted off Cape Saint George by a Royal New Zealand Air Force (RNZAF) pilot and reported.
On January 24, 1944 the same RNZAF pilot led a U. S. Navy (USN) PBY Catalina #17 piloted by Lt(jg) O. H. Patterson from VP-14 to rescue the pilot. Since the original sighting, Hart drifted eighteen miles to the southeast roughly 30 miles south of Cape Saint George and landed.
After the PBY Catalina took off, several Japanese planes pursuing a U. S. formation departing southward after a strike went after this Catalina, but broke off when the Catalina headed southward. At 2:15pm, the PBY landed roughly 15 miles west of Torokina to rescue pilot Major R. G. Owens pilot F4U Corsair 02285 that ditched the same day. Afterwards, took off again and flown to Blanche Harbor landing at 3:00pm. Both rescued pilots were transferred to a seaplane tender for medical care.
After being rescued, Hart was interviewed by the press and asked what his reaction was to the sight of the PBY coming alongside him and stated: "The PBY was my only hope. When it arrived, I just broke down and cried."
Hart earned the Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC) and Air Medal with six Oak Leaf Cluster. Postwar he joined the U. S. Air Force (USAF) and retired with the rank of Major. He passed away in 2007 and buried at Foothills Gardens of Memory in Longmont, CO.
USAF Serial Number Search Results - P-38H-5-LO Lightning 42-66897
"66897 (347th FG) lost Jan 17, 1944. MACR 1772"
Bureau of Naval Personnel Information Bulletin, NAVPERS, July 1944
Missing Air Crew Report 1772 (MACR 1772)
Austin American Statesman “Twin Engined Angels Save 38 Lost Airmen in 35 Days” by Sgt Gordon D. Marston (Marine Corps Correspondent) February 21, 1944
"Typical of the men who praise the Navy’s pilot recovery program... 1st Lt. Glen E. Hart, U. S. Army, 27, Verdon, Neb. A tip from a New Zealand pilot, returning from Rabaul, led to discovery of Hart, who had been adrift off New Ireland for one week. Hart, a P-38 pilot, clung to one hope of rescue, that by a PBY. Too weak to paddle, he drifted for days, then saw on the seventh day the Catalina kids coming for him.
Asked what his reaction was to the sight of the PBY coming alongside him, he said, “the PBY was my only hope. When it arrived, I just broke down and cried.” Even as the Army pilot recounted his story to this correspondent, tears welled up and words stuck in his throat."
Lincoln Journal Star "Verdon army pilot missing in action" January 28, 1944
"Second Lt. Glenn E. Hart, 24, Army Air Force fight pilot of Verdon, Neb., has been missing in action in the South Pacific since Jan. 17. Hart, who has been in the southwest Pacific area more than a year, was credited in news dispatches with shooting down at least one Jap Zero, and was awarded recently the bronze oak leaf cluster to the air medal. Hart was born at Verdon and was graduated by the high school there. He is the son of Henry Hart, Long Beach, formally of Verdon, and Mrs. Ray Leland, Kansas City."
Lincoln Journal Star "Mother cries at good news" February 10, 1944
"Mrs. Ray Leland of Kansas City said Wednesday she shed a ‘great many more tears over the message telling me my son was safe than over the one which him missing.’"
The Dayton Herald "Pilot seven days on raft; drinks blood of seagull" March 4, 1944
The Maryville Daily Forum "He drank seagull blood to survive" April 20, 1944
FindAGrave - Maj Glen E. Hart (grave photo)
Thanks to Jim Sawruk and Edward Rogers for additional information
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