Thomas B. McGuire, Jr. O-437031 (MIA / KIA / BR) Ridgewood, NJ
Crashed January 7, 1945
Built by Lockheed Aircraft Corporation (LAC) in Burbank. Constructors Number 422-5849. This
aircraft had a natural aluminum finish. Delivered to the U. S. Army Air Force (USAAF) as P-38L-1-LO Lightning serial number 44-24845. Disassembled and shipped overseas and reassembled.
Assigned to the 5th Air Force, 475th Fighter Group, 431st Fighter Squadron during October 1944. Tail Number 112 was painted in red on the outer sides of the tail with red upper and lower tips on each tail. Assigned to pilot Captain Fred Champlin who nicknamed it "Eileen-Ann" after his wife.
When lost, engines V-1710-113 and V-1710-111 serial numbers A-057604 and A-058935. Weapon serial numbers noted in MACR. 50 caliber machine guns manufactured by Buffalo Arms serial numbers 1304905, 1304776, 1304950, 1304500. 20mm cannon manufactured by International Harvester serial number 123888. This aircraft had accumulated 221 hours of flying during 42 combat missions when lost.
During the night of January 6, 1945 McGuire planned a fighter sweep to search for enemy aircraft to shoot down, in hopes of boosting his aerial victories to equal or exceed the forty victories credited to Major Richard I. Bong who had already rotated back to the United States. For reasons unknown,
McGuire did not fly his personal aircraft, P-38L "Pudgy
V" 42-66817 on his final mission.
On January 7, 1945 took off at dawn from Dulag Airfield on Leyte piloted by Major
Thomas B. McGuire, Jr. leading "Daddy Flight" on a fighter sweep westward over Mindoro in hopes of finding Japanese aircraft to shoot down and add to McGuire's aerial victory credits.
The formation included His wingman in the no. 2 position was P-38J 43-28836 Tail 128 piloted by Major Jack B. Rittmayer. The element leader in the no. 3 position was P-38L "Doots" 44-24876 Tail 122 piloted by Captain Edwin R. Weaver and his wing man in the no. 4 position was P-38J "Miss Gee Gee" 43-28525 Tail 130 piloted by 2nd Lt. Douglas S. Thropp, Jr.
Weather was overcast with stratus layers from 1,500' to 6,000'. As the formation flew over northwestern Negros at an altitude of roughly 2,000', they turned over Fabrica
but did not spot any Japanese planes on the ground or in the air. Next, they proceeded to Caroline Airfield where they spotted a single Ki-43
Oscar piloted by Warrant Officer
Before intercepting, McGuire told his flight to "hold your tanks" (not release their drop tanks) took retain fuel in anticipation of flying further to engage in more combat. With their drop tanks still attached, the P-38s were slower and less maneuverable. During the dogfight with the Oscar, McGuire crashed. When this aircraft failed to return, McGuire was officially declared Missing In Action (MIA).
Also lost was P-38J 43-28836 Tail 128 piloted by Major Jack B. Rittmayer.
Although none of the other pilots observed McGuire's crash, an explosion and fire was observed on the ground roughly one mile northeast of Pinansmaan. Filipinos on the ground witnessed this P-38 flying upside down before hitting trees then crashing east of a ravine and exploding.
Afterwards, the other three P-38s chased the Ki-43 Oscar piloted Sugimoto and Thropp managed to fire a burst at it that caused damage before it escaped into clouds. Damaged, Sugimoto force landed but was shot by Filipino guerillias when he did not surrender to them.
Next, a Ki-84 Frank piloted by Sgt Mizunori Fukuda arrived and observed a P-38 burning on the ground and made a head on attack against Rittmayer and shot him down but was fired on by Weaver and damaged. He managed to fire on Thropp but was again hit by Weaver and his engine began loosing power. After disengaging, Fukuda attempted to make a force landed at Carolina Airfield. While landing, his plane flipped over injuring him.
Precisely what caused McGuire to crash is unknown. Most published accounts claim McGuire turned too sharply while trying to get a deflection
burst into a Ki-43 Oscar and it was assumed he snap-rolled
to the left and hit the ground inverted from about 300'. The snap-roll theory for his crash is only an assumption as none of the pilots in the air witnessed him crash. Another theory is that he experienced a high speed stall at low altitude and crashed.
Missing Air Crew Report 11589 (MACR 11589) states the loss of McGuire was a "loss attributed to enemy aircraft". Ki-43 Oscar pilot W.O. Sugimoto and entered a turning battle with McGuire's P-38 and fired on his aircraft. Therefore, W.O. Sugimoto could be credited for shooting down or causing McGuire to crash according to USAAF victory claiming methodology.
Captain Edwin R. Weaver made a witness statement in Missing Air Crew Report 11589 (MACR 11589):
"I last saw Major McGuire's plane at an altitude of less than 1,000 feet in an inverted position with the nose down about 30 degrees. Because of the altitude of my ship I then lost sight of him. Seconds later I saw the fire and explosion of his crashed plane. A more precise estimation of the situation is difficult, due to the violence of the action."
Medal of Honor citation (G.O. No.: 24, 7 March 1946) related to McGuire's January 7, 1945 mission:
"On 7 January 1945, while leading a voluntary fighter sweep over Los Negros Island, he risked an extremely hazardous maneuver at low altitude in an attempt to save a fellow flyer from attack, crashed, and was reported missing in action. With gallant initiative, deep and unselfish concern for the safety of others, and heroic determination to destroy the enemy at all costs, Maj. McGuire set an inspiring example in keeping with the highest traditions of the military service."
Afterwards, no search was made for either McGuire or
Recovery of Remains
remains were severed during the crash and identified by Filipinos Agapito Flores and Carlos Dorin, who noted the ring he wore. They collected his remains into a wooden box, and took it to the Hacienda Progreso (plantation owner's house) and secretly buried it.
and secretly buried them nearby to prevent the Japanese
from locating them. His body was recovered by the US Army during 1948, and transported to the United States for final burial.
After the crash, most of the wreckage was scrapped or otherwise removed.
During 2000, David Mason rediscovered the crash site and documented it. Using a metal detector he was able to dig up about two dozen small pieces of the Lightning within 12" of the surface and were heavily corroded. The pieces consist of a flight control cable pulley, an unfired 20mm bullet, unexpended .50 caliber shells and projectiles, a firing pin and breech assembly for a .50 caliber M2 machine gun, numerous phillips head screws, flat head screws plus various nuts and bolts.
When he failed to return, McGuire was officially declared Missing In Action (MIA) and was officially declared dead the day of the mission.
On March 7, 1946 he earned the
Medal of Honor, posthumously for his actions between December 25, 1944–January 7, 1945.
In 1949, McGuire was buried at Arlington National Cemetery at section 11, grave 426 C H / SH.
During 1948, Fort Dix Army Air Force Base was renamed McGuire
Air Force Base (McGuire AFB) in honor of Thomas B. McGuire. Today known as Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst. Near the main gate is the Major Thomas B. McGuire, Jr. Memorial and displayed nearby is F-5G Lightning 44-53015 is painted in the markings of P-38L "Pudgy V" 42-66817 assigned to Thomas McGurire.
Artifacts recovered from McGuire's crash site by David Mason in 2000 were donated to Clark
Air Base Museum and put on public display. During 2007, David Mason erected a memorial and plaque at McGuire crash site on Negros.
USAF Serial Number Search Results - P-38L-1-LO Lightning 44-24845
"24845 (475th FG, 432st FS) shot down during fighter sweep over Negros Island Jan 7, 1945. MACR 11589"
Missing Air Crew Report 11589 (MACR 11589)
Air Force Journal "Death of a Great Flyer"
"Air Ace's Body Is Found" June 16, 1949 - Major T. B. McGuire of Ridgewood Killed in Philippine Fighting
WASHINGTON, The Air Force announced today that it had recovered the body of Major Thomas B. McGuire of Ridgewood, New Jersey, who had thirty-eight Japanese planes to his credit when he was shot down in the Philippines over four years ago.
His body was among the war dead arriving at San Francisco on an Army transport. Burial will be in Arlington National Cemetery.
He was listed as missing for four years after he disappeared during combat over Los Negros Island. He was last seen going to the aid of a fellow flier who was outnumbered by enemy planes. Early this year a graves registration team found his body, today’s announcement said. Nearby was the wreckage of a P-38 identified as the plane he had been flying.
New Jersey’s only Air Force Base, McGuire Field at Fort Dix, was named after Major McGuire.
The Air Force’s top-ranking ace was Major Richard Bong, who downed forty enemy planes. He died in a crash after the war had ended."
McGuire, Pacific Ace, Buried in Arlington
May 17, 1950
WASHINGTON – Major Thomas B. McGuire, Medal of Honor winner during the war in the Pacific, was reburied with military honors in Arlington National Cemetery today.
Seven BV-25 medium bombers flew over as the Fifth Air Force ace, a native of Ridgewood, New Jersey, was laid to rest in the presence of his family and members of the New Jersey Congressional delegation. General George C. Kenny, Major McGuire’s commander in the South Pacific, was chief honorary pall bearer.
The P-38 fighter pilot was killed after he had shot down thirty eight Japanese planes in action. He received the Medal of Honor for gallantry over Luzon, Philippine Islands, on Christmas Day, 1944. He was killed two weeks later in the same area attempting to aid a comrade under fire by Japanese planes.
The services today were attended by his father, Thomas B. McGuire of Ridgewood, and his widow, now Mrs. Marilyn Stankowski of San Antonio, Texas."
Last Great Ace biography of Thomas McGuire
McGuire's Last Mission by Caroll Anderson
Aerothentic "What Really Happened to McGuire?" by David Mason with introduction by Michael Claringbould
The Search For The Crash Site
of Major Thomas B. McGuire, Jr. by David Mason, 2000
McGuire Final Report: Investigation into the final combat mission of Major Thomas B. McGuire, Jr. by David J. Mason
FindAGrave - Thomas B. McGuire, Jr. (photos, grave photo)
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June 4, 2019