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   Lightning Serial Number ? Tail Number 17
5th AF

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Click For Enlargement

Walt Deas 2001

Aircraft History
Built by Lockheed Aircraft Corporation (LAC) in Burbank, California. Delivered to the U. S. Army. Disassembled and shipped overseas to Australia and reassembled.

Wartime History
Assigned to the 5th Air Force. This aircraft was either an F-5 Lightning assigned to the 6th Photographic Reconnaissance Group or possibly a P-38H Lightning from the 475th Fighter Group.

Mission History
This Lightning crashed into the sea off Siar Island, to the north of Madang.

According to locals, the Japanese dragged the wreckage ashore during the war, if so this aircraft crashed sometime prior to late April 1944.

The wreckage consists of a portion of the center fuselage. During the 1980s, the numbers "17" were visible, possibly traces of the tail number. Possibly P-38H 42-66904.

Bruce Hoy adds:
"I visit this site in the mid 1980s. The wreckage had blue paint, indicating it could have been a F5 [photo reconnaissance version of the] Lightning."

Keith Hopper adds:
"I have spoken to many long term PNG expatriates who have seen the wreckage during the 60's and 70's. They all say that it was a lot more intact in the early years. And yes I have heard the blue color scheme mentioned before. Simon Tawa the big man on Siar told me that it force landed in the water and was pulled ashore onto Siar Island by the Japanese. I think finding a 1950's or 60's photo would help us to solve this mystery. I am aware of many missing recon F-4's & F-5's in PNG, but none specifically mention Madang as the area of loss. The '17' on the tail would indicate 475th FG, if the third digit were missing/obscured (i.e. 17?). However, if we run with the F-5 theory, then the 8th PRS put the last two digits of the AAF Serial number on their aircraft, so we would be looking for an F-5 with 17 at the end of the serial number."

Brian Bennett adds:
"The 2001 photo doesn't really show that much in detail but what appears to be a fuel bladder can be seen. this is likely another case where the pilot may well be buried close by or be in the gondola in the water near by."

The Bomber Reef by Walt Deas includes footage of this wreck
Thanks to Bruce Hoy, Keith Hopper and Brian Bennett for additional information

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Last Updated
October 23, 2019


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