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  P-39D-15-BE Airacobra Serial Number 41-6802  
5th AF
8th FG
35th FS
USAAF 1941
McMahon 1942
Pilot  2nd Lt. Robert M. Wilde, O-427075 (KIA / BR) Iowa
Crashed  May 12, 1942
MACR  none

Aircraft History
Built by Bell in Buffalo, New York. Constructors Number 15-141. Delivered to the U.S. Army Air Force (USAAF) as P-39D-BE Airacobra serial number 41-6802. Disassembled and shipped overseas to Australia and reassembled.

Wartime History
Assigned to the 5th Air Force (5th AF), 8th Pursuit Group (8th PG), 35th Pursuit Squadron (35th PS). During early May 1943, redesignated the 8th Fighter Group (8th FG), 35th Fighter Squadron (35th FS). No known nose art or nickname.

Mission History
On May 12, 1942 took off from 12 Mile Drome (Bomana) near Port Moresby piloted by 2nd Lt. Robert M. Wilde on a local patrol. Returning, A6M2 Zeros of the Tainan Kōkūtai (Tainan Air Group) were strafing the airfield. Although low on fuel, Wilde bravely attempted to intercept the Zeros, but was shot down. Possibly, Wilde was injured in the air combat and was attempting for force land but died in the crash.

During July 1942, the wreckage of this Airacobra was found by the U.S. Army and identified. The wreckage was described as "riddled with bullet holes".

Reportedly, during 1972, the wreckage from this Airacobra was recovered from "mountain view" and taken to the The Air Museum of Papua New Guinea, likely recovered by Bill Chapman.

Recovery of Remains
During July 1942 when his aircraft was located, Wilde's remains were recovered and were buried at Port Moresby at plot D grave LL2. His date of death was incorrectly listed as July 21, 1942, likely the day he was buried or remains recovered. Postwar, his remains were exhumed and transported to Hawaii for permenant burial.

Wilde was officially declared dead the day of the mission. He earned the Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC), posthumously and Purple Heart, posthumously. He is buried at Hawaii Memorial Cemetery (Punchbowl), at plot B row 0 grave 1113. Wilde also has a memorial marker at Graceland Park Cemetery in Sioux City, Iowa.

NARA World War II Army Enlistment Records - Robert M. Wilde
USAF Serial Number Search Results - P-39D-BE Airacobra 41-6802
"6802 (MSN 15-141) shot down by Japanese in Papua New Guinea May 12, 1942. To William G. Chapman Air Museum of PNG 1970-72. To Kodoka Track War Museum, Port Moresby, PNG in 1972. Loaned to Museum of Transportation and Technology, Auckland 1975-79. Reportedly owned by N. M. Armstrong of Auckland, New Zealand."
PNG Museum Aircraft Status Card - P-39 Airacobra piloted by Wilde
Warbird Resource Group (WRG) - P-39 Airacobra/41-6802
News article "Flier Wilde Dies in Action" June 1, 1942 - 2LT Robert Michael Wilde (photo)
Distinguished Service Cross Citation Synopsis: Second Lieutenant (Air Corps) Robert M. Wilde (ASN: 0-427075), United States Army Air Forces, was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross (Posthumously) for extraordinary heroism in connection with military operations against an armed enemy while serving as Pilot of a P-39 Fighter Airplane in the 35th Pursuit Squadron, 8th Pursuit Group, FAR EAST Air Force, in aerial combat against enemy forces on 12 May 1942, in the Southwest Pacific Theater of Operations. On that date, in aerial combat, Second Lieutenant Wilde shot down TWO enemy aircraft. Second Lieutenant Wilde's unquestionable valor in aerial combat is in keeping with the highest traditions of the military service and reflects great credit upon himself, the Far East Air Force, and the United States Army Air Forces
FindAGrave - Lieut Robert Michael Wilde (grave photo)
FindAGrave - Robert Michael Wilde (memorial photo)
Thanks to Edward Rogers for additional information

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Last Updated
May 11, 2021


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