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  P-38 Lightning Serial Number ?  
5th AF
35th FG
39th FS

Pilot  2nd Lt. James F. Steele, O-792172 (MIA / KIA) NC
MIA  July 16, 1943
MACR  none

Aircraft History
Built by Lockheed Aircraft Corporation (LAC) in Burbank, California. Constructors Number 222-7815. 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. No known nickname or nose art.

Mission History
On July 16, 1943 one of three P-38s that took off from 14 Mile Drome (Schwimmer) near Port Moresby at 1:55pm piloted by 2nd Lt. James F. Steele on a mission to escort a single F-4 Lightning from the 8th Photographic Reconnaissance Squadron (8th PRS) on a reconnaissance mission over Madang. The escorting Lightnings were led by Lt. Denton with Lt. Andrews and Lt. Steele.

Arriving over the target, P-38F 42-12650 piloted by Lt. George E. Morgan aborted the mission due to engine trouble and force landed but was later rescued.

On the return flight, the formation encountered bad weather with extremely low visibility. P-38 piloted by Andrews landed at 30 Mile Drome (Rogers) while the other two piloted by Lt. Denton and Lt. Steele proceeded to Port Moresby flying at 6,000' altitude.

Lt. Steele was last seen entering extremely bad weather at 6,000'. Radio tracked him over the mountains until 6:30pm when nothing further was received. It was presumed to have crashed out of fuel in the mountains near Port Moresby. When his aircraft failed to return, Steele was officially declared Missing In Action (MIA). Lt. Denton landed safely at Port Moresby.

Steele was officially declared dead the day of the mission. He is memorialized on the tablets of the missing at Manila American Cemetery. Steele also has a memorial marker at Chestnut Hill Cemetery in Salisbury, NC.

39th Fighter Squadron Diary - July 16-18, 1943
PNG Museum Aircraft Status Card - P-38H Lightning piloted by Steele
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - James F. Steele
FindAGrave - 2LT James F Steele (tablets of the missing)
FindAGrave - Lieut James F. Steele (memorial marker photo)
CIL List page 11

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Last Updated
February 18, 2020


Tech Info

1 Missing
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