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  P-39D-BE Airacobra Serial Number 41-6982  
USAAF
5th AF
8th FG
36th FS

PacificWrecks.com
Anderson July 3, 1942
Pilot  1st Lt. Paul G. Brown, O-417000 (survived) Oak Park, IL
Force Landed  April 30, 1942
MACR  none

Aircraft History
Built by Bell in Buffalo, New York. Delivered to the U.S. Army Air Force (USAAF) as P-39D-BE Airacobra serial number 41-6982. Disassembled and shipped overseas to Australia and reassembled.

Wartime History
Assigned to the 5th Air Force (5th AF), 8th Pursuit Group (8th PG), 36th Pursuit Squadron (36th PS) "The Flying Fiends". No nickname or nose art.

This Airacobra was flown from Garbutt Airfield near Townsville via Cairns Airfield and Horn Island Airfield before arriving at 7-Mile Drome near Port Moresby on April 30, 1942. The arrival was timed to arrive after noon to avoid any Japanese air raids that were frequent in the morning hours.

Mission History
On April 30, 1942 at 1:00pm took off from 7-Mile Drome near Port Moresby piloted by 1st Lt. Paul G. Brown as one of eleven Airacobra led by Lt. Col Boyd D. "Buzz" Wagner on a strafing mission against Lae Airfield. This was the 8th Fighter Group's first combat mission. At 2:37pm, the Airacobras strafed Lae Airfield hitting parked aircraft and seaplanes then departed.

Meanwhile, A6M2 Zeros from the Tainan Kōkūtai (Tainan Air Group) scrambled and intercepted the Airacobra formation near Salamaua. During the combat, this Airacobra sustained damaged but managed to reach the south coast of New Guinea before force landing on the beach near Hood Point. During the landing, the P-39 sustained a bent propeller, broken oil coolers, bent flaps and cowling damage but otherwise was intact.

Fate of the pilot
In early May 1942, Brown was taken to Abau Island where he met Japanese Prisoner Of War (POW) PO3c Yoshimitsu Maeda pilot A6M2 Zero 1575 who force landed April 28, 1942 in the same area. Both men and the wreckage of his Zero were transported aboard the MV Matoma to Port Moresby. During early May 1942, Brown returned to duty with his squadron.

Wreckage
In early October, 1942 a U.S. Army salvage team boarded a small ship that left Port Moresby bound for Hood Point to repair this Airacobra. Near their destination, the ship floundered causing salvage tools and fuel to be dumped overboard as the vessel nearly capsized. Later, some of the salvage equipment and parts were located with the help of native divers from Hula.

After locating the Airacobra, an improvised hoist was constructed from the trunks of coconut palms and used to lift the wreck, since their A-frame was lost at sea. About 100 natives were used to tow the Airacobra to a clearing and an improvised runway was marked on the beach.

On October 15, 1942 this aircraft was flown back to Port Moresby without operative flaps or landing gear. Any wartime service afterwards is unknown. Likely, it was scrapped or otherwise disappeared. Officially, this aircraft was condemned on October 31, 1944.

Memorials
On September 25, 1942 Brown went Missing In Action (MIA) piloting P-39D Airacobra 41-38339 on a flight between Townsville and Mareeba. Initially declared dead on September 27, 1942 incorrectly. Afterwards, his status was changed to Missing In Action (MIA) on September 25, 1943. He is memorialized at Manila American Cemetery on the tablets of the missing. He earned the Silver Star, Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC) and Air Medal with Oak Leaf Cluster. He did not earn the Purple Heart, posthumously as the flight was not over a combat area.

References
AWM 012768 photograph of Lt. Paul Brown
USAF Serial Number Search Results - P-39D-BE Airacobra 41-6982
PNG Museum Aircraft Status Card - P-39 Airacobra piloted by Brown
Attack & Conquer page 36, 46
Forty of the Fifth Profile #2 pages 7 - 12 (Salvage of Bevlock's P-39 41-7186 is incorrect, actually P-39D 41-6982 piloted by Brown)
Thanks to Edward Rogers for additional research and analysis

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Last Updated
September 21, 2021

 

Tech Info
P-39
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