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|Pilot 2nd Lt. Eugene D. Woods, O-496092 (MIA / KIA) Ashford, AL
Crashed December 15, 1942
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 to the South Pacific and reassembled.
Assigned to the 13th Air Force (13th AF), 347th Fighter Group (347th FG), 339th Fighter Squadron (339th FS). No known nickname or nose art.
On December 15, 1942 took off from Fighter 2 (Kukum) on Guadalcanal 2nd Lt. Eugene D. Woods as one of five P-38s led by Captain William C. Sharpsteen on an escort mission for nine SBD Dauntless dive bombers on a mission against the Lambeti-Munda area of New Georgia.
During the return flight, 2nd Lt. Woods radioed that he was having engine trouble and was instructed to return to Guadalcanal. Several minutes later he reported a fuel leak and that he was going down. This aircraft ditched into the sea roughly 14 miles northwest of the Russell Islands and his plane sank immediately leaving only an oil slick.
Fates of the Pilot
Afterwards, Woods was observed wearing his life vest and was circled by friendly aircraft all afternoon. By the next morning he could not be located. When he failed to return he was officially declared Missing In Action (MIA).
Major Dale D. Brannon via 347th Fighter Detachment Cactus 16 December 1942:
"At 1100, December 15, 1942, Capt. Wm C. Sharpsteen led a flight of five P-38's on an escort mission for nine SBD's to the Lambeti-Munda area on New Georgia. On return flight 2nd Lt. Eugene D. Woods radioed the flight leader he was having engine trouble. Capt. Sharpsteen told him to head back for Cactus. A few minutes later 1st Lt. L.P. Charles received a call from Lt. Woods that his gas tank was leaking badly and that he was going down in the water. Lt. Woods evidently made a belly landing in the water and got out of the plane all right clad only in [a] life vest. The plane sank immediately leaving an oil slick. He went in the water at a point about fourteen miles northwest of the Russell Islands. More P-38's covered Lt. Woods all afternoon and from his waving and swimming, he seemed to be all right."
Woods was officially declared dead the day of the mission. He earned Air Medal and Purple Heart, posthumously. Woods is memorialized at Manila American Cemetery on the tablets of the missing. He also has a memorial marker at Mount Rose Cemetery in Moundsville, WV.
NARA World War II Army Enlistment Records - Eugene D. Woods
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 1) "12/15 – P-38 – Force landing in water near Russell Islands – Lt. Woods - missing"
347th Fighter Detachment Cactus Letter by Major Dale D. Brannon 16 December 1942"
339th Fighter Squadron - Historical Data, con'd page 5
(Page 5) "Woods, Eugene D. – 2nd Lt. – O-496092 – Missing since December 15, 1942"
The Dothan Eagle "Air Medal Presented To Wife of Missing Houston County Flyer" February 25, 1944 page 1
"A Houston County War hero, Lt. Eugen D. Woods of Ashford, was the subject of a parade at Napier Field yesterday, when his wife was presented the Air Medal awarded him by the President. Mrs. Woods, the former Gladilou Daughtry of Dothan, formally reviewed troops at the field and was presented the Air Medal by Colonel James L. Daniel, Jr. commanding officer. A fighter pilot, Lt. Woods has been missing in action since December 15, 1942 and was cited for participating in some ten combat sorties over enemy territory. He was constantly exposed to enemy airplanes and anti-aircraft fire. Lt. Woods is the son of John Dean Woods of Houston, Texas, formerly of Ashford, and is a graduate of the Ashford High School. He enlisted in the Army Air Forces November, 1939 and was an airplane mechanic at Maxwell Field, Alabama when he was accepted for flying training. He received his pilot wings as a staff sergeant pilot at Kelly Field, Texas in March, 1942 and went overseas the following September."
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Eugene D. Woods
FindAGrave - 2Lt Eugene D Woods (tablets of the missing photo)
Thanks to Edward Rogers for research and analysis
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