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  P-38 Lightning Serial Number ?  
USAAF
5th AF
8th FG
80th FS
"Headhunters"

Pilot  2nd Lt. Robert E. Feehan, O-743435 (MIA / KIA) Trenton, NJ
Crashed  August 21, 1943
MACR  none

Pilot History
Robert E. Feehan was born in Trenton, NJ. He completed two years of college and was single before enlisting in the U. S. Army on January 27, 1941 with serial number 20245133 and was initially in the field artillery. He joined the Air Corps and part of flight class 43-D (April 1943).

Aircraft History
Built by Lockheed Aircraft Corporation (LAC) in Burbank. Delivered to the U. S. Army Air Force (USAAF) as P-38 Lightning model and serial number unknown. Likely, this aircraft was either a P-38G or P-38H. Disassembled and shipped overseas to Australia and reassembled.

Wartime History
Assigned to the 5th Air Force (5th AF), 8th Fighter Group (8th FG), 80th Fighter Squadron (80th FS) "Headhunters". No known nickname or nose art.

Mission History
On August 21, 1943 around 10:00am took off from 3-Mile Drome near Port Moresby piloted by 2nd Lt. Robert E. Feehan as one of sixteen P-38s providing close escort for B-25 Mitchells on a strike mission against Dagua and But near Wewak.

This aircraft was part of a four plane element led by Norbert "Norb" Ruff. Inbound, Ruff experienced an oil failure and aborted the mission and turned his flight over to 1st Lt John Guttel and returned to base alone. During the flight, there was an overcast over the mountains and scattered clouds over the Wewak area.

Roughly fifteen miles south of Dagua, the formation was intercepted by approximately 20-40 Ki-43 Oscars and a dog fight began with U. S. aircraft claiming eleven enemy fighters shot down. During the air combat, one P-38 smoking badly was seen in the vicinity of Dagua and was last seen going through the clouds at 1,000' and was never seen again.

When this aircraft failed to return, it was officially listed as Missing In Action (MIA). Also lost was P-38 pilot 1st Lt John Guttel (MIA) and P-38 pilot 1st Lt. Elwood C. Krisher (MIA).

Fates of the Pilot
The fate of Feehan is unknown and he remains listed as Missing In Action (MIA). Possibly, he was captured by the Japanese and became a Prisoner Of War (POW) but was never officially reported and died in captivity or was executed.

During May 1945 when the Australian Army captured the Wewak area, they discovered a Japanese cemetery on Mission Point with five graves with the names #1 Tierney, #2 Feehan, #3 Power, #4 Name Illegible and #5 Sheroden. All had a date of death listed as "Nov 1942" but this date was deemed to be in error. After being exhumed, the remains recovered were turned over to American Graves Registration Service (AGRS) at the American Cemetery at Finschafen.

The U. S. Army determined the remains in grave #1 listed as "Tierney" to be 2nd Lt. Robert E. Feehan. Grave #3 listed as "Power" was determined to be S/Sgt Mont O. Bower. The remains in grave #5 listed as "Sheroden" were determined to be 2nd Lt. John D. Elliott. All three were crew members aboard B-24D "Miss Carriage" 41-24207 crashed August 20, 1943.

After the recovery of remains in grave #2 Feehan were buried as as unknown X-12 (X-File X-12) at Finschhafen #4 Cemetery (USAF Cemetery #4) at grave 5. Afterwards, the disposition of these remains is unknown and Feehan remains listed as Missing In Action (MIA).

Memorials
Feehan was declared dead the day of the mission. He is memorialized at Manila American Cemetery on the tablets of the missing.

Relatives
Michael Feehan (nephew of Robert E. Feehan)
"My Uncle Robert E. Feehan, 2nd Lt., served with the 80th Fighter Squadron as a P-38 pilot in the summer of 1943. He was killed on August 21, 1943 and is listed as missing in action or buried at sea. Looking for someone who knew him or has any information as to what happened to him. I am attaching a recently added paragraph from 2011 noting that the body of Robert E Feehan may have been exhumed from the Japanese cemetery at Mission Point and moved another cemetery at Finschafen from which all bodies were moved after the war. The American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) still list him as MIA and memorialized at the tablets of the Missing in Manila. Do you have any other information regarding where the body might have been moved? If his body was actually found and moved to another site my family would be very anxious to locate information in that regard."

References
NARA World War II Army Enlistment Records - Robert E. Feehan
No Missing Air Crew Report (MACR) was created for this loss
NARA World War II Prisoners of War Data File does not list Robert E. Feehan as an official POW of the Japanese
AGRS Hq First Aust Army (AIF) "Grave: US Service Personnel" May 3, 1946
"1. Comd 6 Aust Div advises that the graves of 5 American serviceman have been located at map reference WEWAK WEST 346054 (Netherlands East Indies Grid I-inch to I Mile).
2. The particulars on the crosses erected identify the deceased as follows; -
T/S Edward M. Tierney, US Air Force
Lt. Robert Feehan, "
T/S Mont Power, "
Particulars on cross illegible
3. The area appears to have an extensive burial ground and portions of clothing of clothing of US patter which have been found indicate the possibility that bodies of other US personnel are buried in the vicinity.
4. Investigations are proceeding and any further information will be forwarded in our course."
X-File 293-UNK X-33 Finschhafen #4 page 25, 27, 29 originally identified as Feehan, but determined to be Edward M. Tierney
293 File Unknown (X-File) X-14 Finschhafen No. 4) page 14
"1. The following identifications have been established from information available to this office and by comparison of dental charts of remains interred in U. S. Armed Forces Cemetery Finschhafen #4, New Guinea
X-12 FEEHAN, Robert E. 2nd Lt., O-743435, Air Corps
Plot - -, Row - -, Grave 5
KIA - 21 August 1943
Emergency Address: Mrs. Mary K. Feehan (Mother) 122 Burton Avenue, Trenton, New Jersey
Religious Preference: Catholic"
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Robert E. Feehan
FindAGrave - 2Lt Robert E Feehan (tablets of the missing photo)
Ruff Stuff (2006) by Tina Susedik with Norbert C. Ruff page 128
"[Feehan] was part of one of the most costly missions flown by the 80th on August 21, 1943; one that still affects Norb today. None of the other pilots who returned from this mission knew what had happened to them."
Legacy of the 90th Bombardment Group page 74 (reference to 1945 grave)
Japanese Army Air Force Fighter Units And Their Aces appendix
PNG Museum Aircraft Status Card - P-38 Lightning piloted by Feehan
80th Fighter Group Headhunters - World War II Memoir by Paul Murphey
"Twelve of us were picked to be the first of 43-D to go overseas. Edwin L. DeGraffenreid, Richard E. Dotson, Robert E. Feehan, Stanley Johnson, Paul C. Murphey, John C. McClean, Jennngs L. Myers, Louis Schriber, James R. Farris, Robert W. Wood, William F. Williams and Murtha J. McCarthey [sic McCarthy]... All this early action came at Bogadjim, Madang, and Lae. We lost our second man (Feeham) at the same place two weeks later. Losing these two men so quick sure focused your attention on what you were doing."
MacArthur's Eagles: The U.S. Air War Over New Guinea, 1943-1944 (2005) pages 84, 343
(Page 84) "The 80th lost 2nd Lts. Robert E. Feehan, John Guttel, and Elwood G. Krisher."

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Last Updated
February 18, 2020

 

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