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  P-38F Lightning Serial Number 42-????? Squadron Number 36
5th AF
35th FG
39th FS

USAAF, 5th AF c1943
Pilot  2nd Lt. Kenneth "Ken" Sparks (survived)
Damaged  December 27, 1942
MACR  none

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

Wartime History
Assigned to the 5th Air Force, 35th Fighter Group, 39th Fighter Squadron. Squadron Number 36 on on the nose and tail. Painted with shark mouth on each engine cowl. No known nickname or nose art.

Mission History
On December 27, 1942 took off from 14 Mile Drome (Schwimmer) near Port Moresby piloted 2nd Lt. Kenneth Sparks as one of four P-38s scrambled in a four-plane flight including 2nd Lt. Richard I. Bong and Captain Tommy Lynch and P-38F 42-12653 piloted by 2nd Lt. John Mangas. In addition, the formation included two four-plane flights of P-38s from the 39th Fighter Squadron.

Over Dobodura they intercepted 35 enemy planes, the first P-38 Lightning aerial combat in the South West Pacific Area (SWPA).  Seven enemy planes were claimed, with Mangas credited with one.  joined the melee claiming another six victories. For his gallantry during the mission, Mangas earned the Silver Star. Afterwards, this aerial battle was reported in the American press.

During the combat, this P-38s was damaged suffering jammed guns and a damaged hydraulic system. While landing at Dobodura No. 4, without hydraulics, the nose landing gear collapsed causing the aircraft to nose over and become damaged.

By February 1943 this P-38 was repaired by Sgt Donald D. Miller from the 45th Base Group, 450th Service Squadron (Provisional) at Dobodura. While under repair, the damaged P-38 was photographed with nose damage and the left propeller removed.

Service Squadron during February 1943. It is unclear if this P-38 returned to flying duty or was used for spare parts. Ultimate fate unknown, likely scrapped or otherwise disappeared.

39th Fighter Squadron combat report December 27, 1942 pilot 2nd Lt. Kenneth Sparks
Donald D. Miller Diary January 24, 1943 "I've been working on a P-40 and P-38 [this aircraft] but I think I'll be working on the B-17 now."
Thanks to Edward Rogers for research and analysis.

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Last Updated
June 29, 2019


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