|Pilot 2nd Lt. Allan L. Weckel, O-726526 (rescued)
Ditched May 5, 1943
Built by Lockheed Aircraft Corporation (LAC) in Burbank, California. Converted
from a P-38G model into a F-5A
photographic reconnaissance version. Delivered to the U. S. Army Air Force (USAAF) as F-5A Lightning serial number unknown. Disassembled and shipped overseas to the South Pacific and reassembled.
Assigned to the 13th Air Force (13th AF), 4th Photo Reconnaissance Group (4th PRG), 17th Photo Reconnaissance Squadron (17th PRS). No known nose art or nickname. When lost, engines V-1710-55, Serial Number 42-32330 and 42-28536. No guns were installed, only camera equipment.
On May 5, 1943 took off from Fighter 2 (Kukum) on Guadalcanal piloted by 2nd Lt. Allan L. Weckel on a visual and photographic reconnaissance mission. After take off, this aircraft was never heard from again or seen again and initially reported as Missing In Action (MIA). In fact, Weckel experienced engine problems and successfully ditched into the sea roughly three miles off the southeast coast of Santa Isabel.
Fate of the Pilot
Unhurt, he swam towards shore and the next morning reached shore and fell asleep. Awoken by a native, he was escorted to his village and cared for the people for a week and took him to a coastwatcher.
On May 13, 1943 Weckel was rescued by a U. S. Navy PBY Catalina and flown to Halavo Seaplane Base and transported Guadalcanal and returned to his squadron. Afterwards, he was interviewed by a United Press (UP) reporter about his experiences.
Weckel retired from the U. S. Air Force (USAF) as a Lt. Colonel. He passed away on March 4, 1991 and was buried at Santa Fe National Cemetery at plot 6A, 0, 254.
NARA World War II Army Enlistment Records - Allan L. Weckel
Historical Data, 17th Photo Rcn Squadron, 1 July 1943
"2d Lt. Allan L. Weckel, O-726526, AC, forced down at sea off South Eastern Coast of Santa Isabel Island, Solomon Islands. Recovered by natives and taken to a representative of the Royal Australian Naval Intelligence. Forced down May 5, 1943. Returned to Squadron May 12, 1943."
The Pantagraph "Lt Weckel Saved From Tropic Island After Believed Lost" June 4, 1943, page 11
"Lt Allan L. Weckel, former student at Illinois Wesleyan university and member of Phi Mu Alpha fraternity has returned to duty with his P-38 photographic reconnaissance until after being reported missing in action on May 12. His parents, Mr. and Mrs. W. H. Weckel of Moline were notified later that he was "safe" in the southwest Pacific area. Lt. Weckel told the story of his adventures to a United Press reporter at Guadalcanal.
Swam Among Sharks - He was forced to swim for 18 hours in shark infested waters when his plane crashed oft Santa Isabel island in the Solomons. He showed few traces of his experience save for cuts received when he walked barefoot through jungle trails. His plane went down May 5 when it developed engine trouble. Weckel made a forced landing at noon and began swimming. I was wearing a suit and flight overalls, flying boots, revolver and a parachute with a rubber boat attached," said Weckel. "I kept trying to remove the boat so I could climb into it. Finally both the parachute and the boat sank, and I shed all my clothing except a life jacket.
Protected by Natives - Although land was but three miles away, tides and winds carried him eight miles further up the coast of Santa Isabel. He reached land the next morning and promptly went to sleep. Nearly two hours later a native awakened him and after convincing the flyer of his friendly intentions escorted him through the jungle two miles away. They treated me like a king," the lieutenant said. "I couldn't have had any better living anywhere -- or, anyway, I was plenty glad to be alive. He was on the island a week before a United States navy plane picked him up and returned him to Guadalcanal. Lt. Weckel received his master's degree in music at IWU in June, 1941. He entered service in November, 1941."
FindAGrave - Allan L Weckel
Thanks to Edward Rogers for research and analysis.
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July 6, 2019