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|Pilot Captain Thomas W. Hornsby (survived)
Ditched May 27, 1942
Built by Bell in Buffalo, New York. Contract AC15675. Constructors Number 15B-47. Delivered to the U. S. Army Air Force (USAAF) as P-39F-1-BE Airacobra serial number 41-7162. Disassembled and shipped overseas on January 31, 1942 across the Pacific to Australia and reassembled by April 15, 1942.
Assigned to the 5th Air Force (5th AF), 8th Fighter Group (8th FG) "Cyclone's Flying Circus", 36th Fighter Squadron (36th FS) "The Flying Fiends". No known nickname or nose art.
On May 27, 1942 during the morning took off from Port Moresby piloted by Captain Thomas W. Hornsby as one of ten Airacobras from the 36th Fighter Squadron to intercept an incoming air raid by fifteen A6M2 Zeros from the Tainan Kōkūtai (Tainan Air Group) in two flights of nine and six aircraft on a fighter sweep over Port Moresby.
Only fourteen Airacobras were in position to intercept the Zeros. During the air combat, Hornsby was likely accidentally shot down by his friend and fellow pilot, Captain Wyatt Exum, who observed an Airacobra at long range enter his line of site. Mistaking the aircraft for an enemy Zero, he opened fired until he realized it was an Airacobra. Damaged, Hornsby ditched into the sea or force landed at Rigo. This aircraft was officially condemned on October 31, 1944.
Fate of the Pilot
Hornsby survived the ditching, reached shore and later returned to duty.
Hornsby remained in the U. S. Air Force (USAF) and retired with the rank of Colonel. He passed away December 27, 1966 at the age of 50. He is buried at Florence National Cemetery at section A, site 255-A.
Individual Aircraft Record Card (IARC) - P-39F 41-7162
The Fight for New Guinea page 85-87
Attack and Conquer page 56, 263 (incorrectly states this P-39 force landed on the beach)
Eagles of the Southern Sky page 170
FindAGrave - Thomas William Hornsby (grave photo)
Thanks to Gordon Birkett and Edward Rogers for additional research and analysis
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