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

Click For Enlargement
Huey c1942
Pilot  2nd Lt. Wellman H. Huey, O-732254 (POW / MIA) Detroit, MI
Crashed  February 14, 1943 "Saint Valentines Day Massacre"
MACR  584

Aircraft History
Built by Lockheed Aircraft Corporation (LAC) in Burbank. Delivered to the U. S. Army Air Force (USAAF) as P-38G Lightning serial number unknown. Disassembled and shipped overseas 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.

Mission History
On February 14, 1943 at 10:00am took off from Fighter 2 (Kukum) on Guadalcanal piloted by 2nd Lt. Wellman H. Huey as one of ten P-38 Lightnings plus twelve F4U Corsairs from Marine Fighting Squadron 124 (VMF-124) on a mission to escort nine PB4Y-1 Liberators from VB-101 on a bombing against Japanese shipping off southern Bougainville in the Buin-Shortland area. 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."

During the air combat, Huey was shoot down and was not seen to crash or bail out by an of the American pilots or air crews. 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".

Fate of the Pilot
In fact, Huey successfully bailed out over Kahili Airfield (Buin) and was captured by the Japanese and became a Prisoner Of War (POW). Initially, he was tied to a palm tree near the Japanese headquarters building at the airfield.

At dusk, Zero pilots from 204 Kokutai went to inspect the American Prisoner Of War (POW) and rough him up. Meeting Huey, they were instead were struck by his friendliness and no one bothered him. Japanese Zero pilot Nakazawa noted in his diary that he was very impressed with the young American's spirit. He told them he was twenty-two years old and had attended the University of Michigan. Another Zero pilot, Ryoji Ohara also remembered meeting Huey.

It is unclear how long Huey was detained at Kahili Airfield (Buin) or what happened to him next. Huey did not survive Japanese captivity and was either executed or died of neglect. Possibly, he was transported to Rabaul. If so, he was executed or died before other surviving Allied POWs were detained.

During March 1943, Chinese laborer Lin Leow who survived Japanese captivity and gave a statement in October 1945 stating he saw a "white prisoner" who was "dressed khaki" roughly 15 minutes walk from Kahili Airfield. He observed this white prisoner being tortured boiling water poured over him and were "hitting him in the face" and "heard the prisoner screaming as if in paining [sic pain]". Possibly, this account may related to Huey or another American aviator who was taken prisoner to March 1943.

Postwar, the Japanese falsely reported Huey as "Willman Harward Hughie" as lost at sea on either the Kenyo Maru or Nippon Maru which were both sunk January 14, 1944 by U. S. submarines.

During the 1980s, Henry Sakaida researched the connection between Japanese pilot's memories and connected them with Wellman Huey and helped his brother to correspond with Ohara in 1989 to thank him for sharing his memories of his brother.

Henry Sakaida adds:
"Huey was shot down over a Japanese airfield and captured. They tied him up to a tree next to the HQ. Ohara and his comrades heard about the captured American when they landed, and they had plans to go over there and rough him up. When they met him, Ohara said he was a pleasant guy, intelligent and polite. So they conversed with him via an interpreter. He asked to be taken to Rabaul, and of course, he was. I don't think he was tortured while in custody at Bougainville. They simply kept him there until he could be forwarded to Rabaul, which was the main processing center for POWs in the area. I can't be certain of the date and circumstances, but Huey was most likely executed with others at Rabaul. The information about the meeting with Japanese pilots came from Mr. Ryoji Ohara via Jiro Yoshida (Zero Fighter Pilots Association)."

Memorials
Huey was officially declared dead on December 15, 1945. He earned the Air Medal and Purple Heart, posthumously. Huey is memorialized at Manila American Cemetery on the tablets of the missing. He also has a memorial marker at Memory Gardens Cemetery in Tawas City, MI at section 5, south addition.

Relatives
Dale Niesen (cousin):
"I have a report that leads me to believe that Lt. Huey survived his captivity at Rabaul and was being transferred to another location. It appears that he is among those listed as being lost at sea on either the Kenyo Maru or Nippon Maru which were sunk by American submarines on 14 January 1944. His name may be spelled “Willman Harward Hughie” on any list that may exist."
Welman H. Huey (uncle, namesake)

References
NARA World War II Army Enlistment Records - Wellman H Huey
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. Huey - missing."
Missing Air Crew Report 584 (MACR 584) created September 17, 1943 list take off as Henderson Field [sic]
Australian Army"Account by Lin Leow" describing Prisoner Of War (POW) tortured near Kahili in March 1943
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Wellman H. Huey
FindAGrave - 1Lt Wellman H Huey (tablets of the missing)
FindAGrave - 1LT Wellman Howard Huey (memorial marker)
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) 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."
Pacific Air Combats WWII (1993) by Henry Sakaida pages 40-43 "Someone Remembered"
A War to be Won "Lieutenant Wellman Huey was not forgotten" by Henry Sakaida July 25, 2016
Thanks to Dale Niesen and Henry Sakaida for additional information

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Last Updated
May 13, 2020

 

Tech Info
P-38

POW/MIA
POW / MIA
1 Missing
Prisoner
Executed
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