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  P-38G Lightning Serial Number ?  
USAAF
13th AF
347th FG
339th FS

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USAAF 1942
Pilot  2nd Lt. Joseph Finkenstein, O-730433 (MIA / KIA) Los Angeles, CA
MIA  February 14, 1943 "Saint Valentines Day Massacre"
MACR  585

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

Wartime History
Assigned to the 13th Air Force (13th AF), 347th Fighter Group (347th FG), 339th Fighter Squadron (339th FS). No known nickname or nose art. When lost, engine and weapon serial numbers not listed in Missing Air Crew Report 585 (MACR 585).

Mission History
On February 14, 1943 at 10:00am took off from Fighter 2 (Kukum) on Guadalcanal piloted by 2nd Lt. Joseph Finkenstein as one of ten P-38G Lightnings flying high cover escorting nine PB4Y-1 Liberators bombing Japanese shipping off southern Bougainville in the Buin-Shortland area. Also escorting were twelve F4U Corsairs from VMF-124 flying close cover. The weather was clear with scattered clouds.

After the bomb run, the formation was intercepted by Japanese Zeros and floatplane fighters and engaged in air combat with the U. S. formation.

Justin Taylan adds:
"I researched this mission at the Tokyo Defense archives. A total of 42 Japanese aircraft intercepted including 18 Zeros from 252 Kōkūtai, 13 Zeros from 204 Kōkūtai and 11 A6M2-N Rufes from 802 Kōkūtai."

This P-38 failed to return and possibly a mid-air collision with P-38G piloted by White in the vicinity of Shortland. When this aircraft failed to return it was officially listed as Missing In Action (MIA). Due to the severe American losses, this mission became known as the "Saint Valentines Day Massacre".

Memorials
Finkenstein was officially declared dead on December 15, 1945. He is memorialized on the tablets of the missing at Manila American Cemetery. Finkenstein earned the Air Medal. Posthumously, he earned the Purple Heart and was promoted to 1st Lieutenant.

References
347th Fighter Group Advanced Echelon APO 709 "Preliminary Intelligence Summary of Operations of Army Fighter Planes at Cactus - December 1, 1942 to February 17, 1943" February 21, 1943 (Page 3) "Date: 2/14 Type: P-38 How Lost: Lost in combat near Bougainville Pilot: Lt. Finkenstein - missing."
Missing Air Crew Report 585 (MACR 585) created September 17, 1943
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Joseph Finkenstein
FindAGrave - 1LT Joseph Finkenstein (tablets of the missing photo)
Guadalcanal and the Origins of the 13th Air Force page 182, 240 [PDF] via Wayback Machine May 20, 2006
(Page 182) "Next day [February 14, 1943] the Liberators tried again. Nine more went up to Buin, accompanied this time by 10 P-38's and 12 of the Marine's new F4U's. Again the Jap sent up 45 fighters to intercept, and again the cost was heavy. One B-24 [PB4Y-1] was shot down in a head-on attack, another crash landed off New Georgia; two of the Corsairs went down, while the 339th Fighter Squadron, on one of its blackest days, lost 4 of its P-38's. Bombers and escorts had shot down [claimed] 12 Zeros and the B-24s sank a large cargo vessel 2 miles off Kahili, but the price was too high. [Footnote 17] It was immediately apparent that operations of this type could not long be sustained. Consequently on 14 February daylight attacks on the Buin area were discontinued until more adequate fighter cover could be provided. [Footnote 18]"
(Page 240) "Footnote 17. Ibid. War Diary, MAW-2, 14 Feb. 1943; History of the 339th Fighter Squadron (TE). One of the P-38 pilots, Lt. John R. Mulvey, was rescued the following day.
Footnote 18. War Diary, MAW-2, 14 Feb. 1943; incl. (War Diary MAG-12), "Record of Events, Fighter Command, Guadalcanal, February 1, 1943 to July 25, 1943," in USMC Hist. Div. files."
History of Marine Corps Aviation in World War II (1952) by Robert Sherrod page 135
"On 14 February [1943], their third day in the combat area, the F4U pilots learned that Japanese flyers had not lost their skill or aggressiveness. About 50 well-alerted Zeros were waiting from the raid on Kahili Field in southern Bougainville. The Japanese shot down two F4U's, two Navy PB4Y's, two P-40's and the entire top cover of four P-38's, with a loss to themselves of only three Zeros, [sic only one was lost], one of which collided with a F4U. This 'Saint Valentine's Day massacre' was a painful blow to the Guadalcanal-based flyers of all services."
13th Fighter Command In World War II (2004) by William Wolf page 118
"Despite the losses of the previous day, on the 14th [February 1943] nine PB4Ys escorted by ten P-38s of the 339FS flying high cover, and 12 F4Us of VMF-124 flying close cover, again attacked the shipping off Shortlands-Buin. The bombers got several hits on a cargo ship and several near misses on two others. s they turned home 30 Zero s from Kahili supported by 15 float planes came up and attacked the Americans. A PB4Y was hit in the cockpit and crashed into the sea off Shortland. Another bomber was hit by AA fire and struggled as far as 12 miles off New Georgia before it had to ditch. The top cover P-38s were divided in two three-plane sections and four-plane flight when the Zeros attacked. Capt. James Geyer, leading the four-plane flight, shot down [claimed] two Zeros and a probable, and 1Lt. William Griffith of his flight splashed another and claimed a probable. Geyer's flight lost two P-38s, and two more P-38s were lost from the three plane sections. Geyer's flight lost two P-38s, and two more P-38s were lost from the three plane sections. Four 339FS pilots were lost: Joseph Frinkenstein [Finkenstein]; Wellman Huey; John Mulvey; and Donald White. Mulvey ditched and was rescued near Russell Island the next day. A post-war Japanese book described that Huey had bailed out of his P-38 and landed on a Japanese airfield and was severely beaten, probably to death. The Marine Corsairs claimed three Zeros and a Pete [sic] and lost two of their own, one to a mid-air collision with a Zero. The PB4Y gunners claimed nine Zeros - a very questionable number, as the Japanese records for the day show only three Zeros lost. The totals for the day were a cargo ship sunk, five (or three) Zeros (plus the nine claimed by the PB4Y gunners!), and a Pet on the Japanese side. The Americans lost two two PB4Ys, four P-38s, and two F4Us, and the mission was referred to as the 'St. Valentine's Day Massacre.' Losses of this magnitude could not be sustained for small-scale daylight attacks, and all daylight missions on the Buin area were discontinued until improved fighter escort could be provided. Daylight raids on major Japanese bases were discontinued and night attacks resumed. That day six 12FS pilots were given a respite from combat when they rotated to Fiji for R&R."
Thanks to Paul A. Roales and Edward Rogers for additional research and analysis

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Last Updated
June 29, 2019

 

Technical Info
P-38

MIA
MIA
1 Missing
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