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80th FS c1943
Mark Palmer 2003
|Pilot 2nd Lt. Earl W. Smith, O-732388 (MIA / KIA) Oakland, CA
Crashed August 20, 1943
Built by Lockheed Aircraft Corporation (LAC) in Burbank. Constructors Number 322-3310. Delivered to the U. S. Army Air Force (USAAF) as P-38G-13-LO Lightning serial number 43-2201. Disassembled and shipped overseas to Australia and reassembled.
Assigned to the 5th Air Force (5th AF), 8th Fighter Group (8th FG), 80th Fighter Squadron (80th FS) "Headhunters". No known nose art or nickname.
On August 20, 1943 took off from 3 Mile Drome (Kila) near Port Moresby piloted by 2nd Lt. Earl W. Smith on a mission against Wewak. After a successful mission, Smith decided to perform aerobatics over a ship inside Fairfax Harbor. He slow rolled and hooked a wing in the water and crashed 300 yards off Paga Point. Officially, this aircraft was written off three days later on August 23, 1943.
The wreck is broken up, in an area with moderate visibility. In 2002, Mark Palmer first dived the site and located the cockpit's radio call sign, '3-2201' confirming the aircraft's identity.
Mark Palmer adds:
"The location of this aircraft was shown to me by a local fisherman. It is one of his fishing spots and he was shown the location by his uncle who was a carrier during the war. The plane seems to have hit the water pretty hard and is broken up. The position lies beneath the anti aircraft guns on Paga Hill and Napa Napa."
Recovery of Remains
During March 2019, a team from Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA) dove the crash site and recovered remains. On March 23, 2020 the Department of Defense (DoD) announced that Earl W. Smith was accounted for using dental, anthropological, material and circumstantial evidence. Additionally, scientists from the Armed Forces Medical Examiner System used mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) analysis.
Smith was officially declared dead on the day of the mission. He earned the Air Medal. Smith is memorialized at Manila American Cemetery on the tablets of the missing. After Smith was identified, a rosette was added next to his name. On August 20, 2021 Smith will be buried at a location yet to be determined.
Emily Johnson (great niece of Earl W. Smith) November 14, 2014:
"My family recently received information from the US Government that a relative of ours Earl W. Smith's aircraft remains were recently found and needed information from us including DNA samples. This is the brother of my grandmother."
Robert W. Hughes (nephew of Earl W. Smith)
"Here’s a little more info on Earl (my Uncle Buddy). His hometown was Oakland, CA. He went to the College of the Pacific (now University of the Pacific – UOP) where he was on the tennis team. He was married to our Aunt Margret. They had no children. He and my mother (his sister, Donna) were the only children of Earl and Nellie Smith (our grandparents). We (my sisters, Bonnie Fitch and Betsy Koegler) are his sole living relatives along with our children (Emily, among others). He enlisted right after Pearl Harbor. He was of slight stature (something like 5’6’’ 126 lbs.). This one picture is the one that my grandparents displayed on their old TV set. As a little guy (four years old) I used to stare at it constantly when I visited my grandparents. “That’s your Uncle Buddy,” they would say, but not much more – they were still hurting."
NARA World War II Army Enlistment Records - Earl W. Smith
Individual Aircraft Record Card (IARC) - P-38G Lightning 43-2201
USAF Serial Number Search Results - P-38G-13-LO Lightning 43-2201
"2201 (8th FG, 80th FS) crashed into sea off Paga Point, New Guinea Aug 20,1943. Pilot killed."
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Earl W. Smith
FindAGrave - 2Lt Earl W Smith (tablets of the missing)
PNG Museum Aircraft Status Card - P-38G Lightning piloted by Earl W. Smith
Ruff Stuff (2006) by Norbert C. Ruff pages 125-126
"When we came back from the mission and landed all except Earl (Smith). He decided to put on a little airs how over a transport in Port Moresby Harbor next to our strip on 3-Mile. He hooked a wing in the water and that's where he ended up. The squadron records could have called it a test hop."
DPAA News Release "Pilot Accounted For From World War II (Smith, E.)" Release No: 20-026 March 24, 2020, updated October 20, 2020
"The Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA) announced today that U.S. Army Air Forces 2nd Lt. Earl W. Smith, 22, killed during World War II, was accounted for March 23, 2020... Smith will be buried Aug. 20, 2021, at a location yet to be determined."
DPAA Personnel Profile - 2D Lt EARL W. Smith Jr
Thanks to Mark Palmer, Emily Johnson and Robert W. Hughes for additional information
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85' / 26m
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