|Pilot Captain Cotesworth B. Head, Jr. O-727452 (MIA / KIA) CA
Ditched January 18, 1944
Built by Lockheed Aircraft Corporation (LAC) in Burbank. Constructors Number 1666. Delivered to the U. S. Army Air Force (USAAF) as P-38J-5-LO Lightning serial number 42-67155. 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.
On January 18, 1944 took off from Stirling Airfield piloted by Captain Cotesworth B. Head, Jr. on a mission to escort bombers over Rabaul. At 1:00pm, this aircraft was reported to be near the Warangoi River: The combat report states: "last seen making water landing 10 miles east of mouth of Warangoi River.” When this aircraft failed to return it was officially listed as Missing In Action (MIA).
Henry Sakaida adds:
"[Head] probably swam ashore. Two days later, 2/Lt Dwight M. Kelly probably parachuted and was seen by Head, who went looking for him. I surmise that on 20 January, the two P-38 pilots found each other. Then, they saw a dogfight and a parachute (Ishida). Thinking that he may be an American, they went to look for him also, and found Ishida instead.
Ishida was stunned to come face-to-face with two Americans! One of them had a pistol in his hand. Ishida smiled and approached them, as if he was going to shake hands. The Americans, knowing that he was unarmed, let their guards down, smiled, and closed. Suddenly, Ishida kicked the gun out of the American’s hand. He hit him between the eyes with his fist and a vicious hand-to-hand struggle ensued.
The details are unclear, but the Zero pilot strangled one opponent with a leather belt. Ishida was a 2nd Degree Judo Black belt. He probably killed both of them. He fled in the direction where he heard engine sounds and was rescued by an Army patrol. Undoubtedly, the patrol went looking for the two Americans, but according to my research, their names do not show up as prisoners."
Head was officially declared dead on January 16, 1946. He is memorialized on the tablets of the missing at Manila American Cemetery. He earned the Distinguished Flying Cross with 2 Oak Leaf Clusters, Air Medal with 9 Oak Leaf Clusters, Purple Heart (posthumously).
Head was the squadron leader and an ace.
USAF Serial Number Search Results - P-38J-5-LO Lightning 42-67155
"67155 (18th FG) lost Jan 18, 1944. MACR 1780"
Missing Air Crew Report 1780 (MACR 1780)
Jungle Encounter by Henry Sakaida
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October 31, 2019