|Pilot 1st Lt.
Edward D. Durand, O-417205 (MIA / KIA) Stevens Point, WI
MIA April 30, 1942
Built by Bell in Buffalo, New York. Delivered to the U.S. Army. Disassembled and shipped overseas to Australia and reassembled.
Assigned to the 5th Air Force, 8th Fighter Group, 35th Fighter Squadron. No known nose art or nickname.
On April 30, 1942 took off from Garbutt Airfield near Townsville via Cairns Airfield and Horn Island Airfield before arriving at 7-Mile Drome near Port Moresby. The flight was timed to arrive after noon, to avoid the possibility of being caught by an incoming Japanese air raid.
On April 30, 1942 one of eleven Airacobra that took off from 7-Mile Drome near Port Moresby at 1:00pm 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 in New Guinea. At 2:37pm, the AIracobras strafed Lae Airfield itting parked aircraft and seaplanes, then departed the target area. Near Salamaua, A6M2 Zeros of the Tainan Kōkūtai (Tainan Air Group) attacked the formation. Durand was last seen bailing out near Lababia Island. Durand was declared Missing In Action (MIA). This Airacobra was officially condemned by the on October 31, 1944.
Fate of the Pilot
The fate of Durand is unknown. Possibly, he was captured by the Japanese and executed. Or, he died of other causes after bailing out.
Edward Rogers adds:
"It was common knowledge at Port Moresby that Durand had been captured and executed by Japanese forces. I can find no accounts of these reports in any Australian or Japanese records. The allied pilots who were known to be captured in April and May 1942 in the Lae area were immediately sent to Rabaul for interrogation where all were eventually executed. It doesn't make sense for him to be captured and executed w/o being sent to Rabaul first but it's possible that occurred. So, what did happen to him? Possible causes of death: exposure/ hunger, injury, natives friendly to Japanese, Japanese forces, killed resisting capture. While I have most of the P-39's pilot's reports on this mission none of them discuss the fate of Durand. Lt. Durand, flying P-39 #7128 took part in the 8th FG's strafing attack on Japanese planes and installations at Lae and Salamaua on 30 April 1942. He was seen bailing out SE of Mubo. Lababia [island south of Salamaua] patrol reports remains of allied plane no. 7128 in sea near Lababia. Pilot not in wreckage and no trace in locality.? [I believe that this report was made by New Guinea Volunteer Rifles."
During the war, Australian forces, possibly the New Guinea Volunteer Rifles (NGVR) found the wreckage of this Airacobra, but no trace of the pilot.
Durand was officially declared dead December 5, 1945. He is memorialized on the tablets of the missing at Manila American Cemetery. On November 10, 1942, 17-Mile
Drome (Waigani) was officially renamed 'Durand Field' in his honor.
John C. Durand adds:
"The story of Lt. Durand is poignant. He married his college sweetheart just before his unit was shipped to Australia. After the war his widow, Dorothy married another airman that both Lt. Durand and she probably knew as both men were from Wisconsin and apparently attended flight school together. Dorothy lived out her life in California and had three children by her second husband, but I’ve been unable to contact them. Somewhere in my research I learned, although I can’t remember where now that Dorothy appears to have made a trip to New Guinea after the war to try to discover Lt. Durand’s gravesite. Durand was an only child, and his extended family was not large, there appear to be no surviving relatives who might have known Lt. Durand before his death. If we have a relationship, I have not yet discovered it, although I've tried. My line of Durands came from French Canada, and settled in the Midwest, and were Catholics. Another line of Durands came directly from France to the East Coast, and were Protestants. Although I don't know, I suspect that Lt. Durand came from the Protestant Durands."
PNG Museum Aircraft Status Card - P-39 Airacobra piloted by Durand
Attack and Conquer pages ?
Thanks to John C. Durand, Edward Rogers and Michael Claringbould for additional information.
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February 18, 2020