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  P-38L-1 Lightning Serial Number 44-?????  
5th AF
8th FG
36th FS

Pilot  2nd Lt. Donald Henderson (KIA, BR) KS
Crashed  July 13, 1945
MACR  none

Aircraft History
Built by Lockheed Aircraft Corporation (LAC) in Burbank. Constructors Number 422-???? (four digits unknown). At the factory, completed with an unpainted aluminum finish. Delivered to the U. S. Army Air Force (USAAF) as P-38L-1-LO Lightning serial number 44-????? (five digits unknown). Disassembled and shipped overseas to the South West Pacific Area (SWPA) and reassembled.

Wartime History
Assigned to the 5th Air Force (5th AF), 8th Fighter Group (8th FG), 36th Fighter Squadron (36th FS). No known nose art or nickname.

Mission History
On July 13, 1945 took off from Murtha Airfield on Mindoro piloted by 2nd Lt. Donald Henderson as one of four P-38s on an orientation flight for two new pilots: P-38L 44-26538 piloted by 1st Lt. Richard P. Stier and this aircraft piloted by 2nd Lt. Donald Henderson, flying in the number 2 position. As part of the orientation, the two experienced pilots showed the new pilots the various airfields in the southwest corner of Mindoro.

During the flight, both new pilots were tested by the flight leader in an exercise called "rat racing" a series of maneuvers that one might use in aerial dog fights. As part of this " exercise, the flight leader performed an split-S dive through clouds but both Lt. Henderson and Lt. Stier never pulled out of their dives. The reason is unknown. Possibly, both pilot experienced vertigo, wing compressibility problems or might have collided in the clouds. When this aircraft failed to return, it was officially listed as Missing In Action (MIA). Also lost was P-38L 44-26538 pilot 1st Lt. Richard P. Stier (KIA).

Recovery of Remains
During late 1945, Lt. Henderson's body was found by Filipinos and turned over to the U. S. Army. After his remains were identified, they were transported to the United States for permanent burial.

Henderson was officially declared dead the day of the mission. He is buried at Golden Gate National Cemetery at section B site 732.

Mary Beth Kustra (daughter of Stier) visited the crash site during 2001:
"We immediately learned about a P-38 crash which appeared to be that of Lt. Henderson, i.e., this pilot's remains of this plane were eventually turned over to US military authorities in late 1945. Our FVP friends found a witness (Philippe "Pepe" Castillio) who, as a young boy, had played in the wreckage at this site in the late 1940's. This man's elder brother and a neighbor boy had been killed when a "bomb" (20mm shell) they retrieved from this crash site exploded. This eye witness provided us with a tubular frame part of a plane he had recovered many years ago from this wreckage site. According to his testimony, his uncle had seen this plane explode when it crashed into a swamp near the uncle's home at the end of the war."

NARA World War II Army Enlistment Records - Donald L. Henderson
Richard P. Stier - Missing P-38L Lightning crash site on Mindoro
FindAGrave - Donald D Henderson (grave photo)

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Last Updated
February 18, 2020


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