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Rod Pearce c1970s
|Pilot 2nd Lt. Richard L. Starkey, O-812166 (MIA / KIA) Norfolk County, MA
Ditched August 13, 1944
Built by Bell in Buffalo, New York. Delivered to the U. S. Army Air Force (USAAF) as P-39Q-5-BE Airacobra serial number 42-19933. Disassembled and shipped overseas to the South West Pacific Area (SWPA) and reassembled.
Assigned 5th Air Force, 71st Tactical Reconnaissance Group, 110th Reconnaissance Squadron. No known nose art or nickname.
On August 13, 1944 took off from Tadji Airfield piloted by 2nd Lt. Richard L. Starkey on a mission against Wewak. Over the target, hit by anti-aircraft fire and was observed gliding down from an altitude of 1,500' over Boram Point, before making a perfect ditching into the sea roughly a half mile off Mission Point. Pilot Starkey did not exit the aircraft, which sank in about 20 seconds. When this aircraft failed to return, it was officially listed as Missing In Action (MIA).
Afterwards no search or rescue attempt was made because the area was considered too dangerous.
Starkey was officially declared dead the day of the mission. He earned the Air Medal and Purple Heart, posthumously. Starkey is memorialized at Manila American Cemetery on the tablets of the missing.
During the 1970s, this Airacobra was discovered by David Pennefather, and dived by Rod Pearce. The aircraft is roughly a half mile off Mission Point upright on a sandy bottom at a depth of 30' / 9.1m. The cockpit and tail section were intact.
NARA World War II Army Enlistment Records - Richard L. Starkey
USAF Serial Number Search Results - P-39Q-5-BE Airacobra 42-19933
NARA World War II Prisoners of War Data File does not list Starkey as an official Prisoner Of War (POW
PNG Museum Aircraft Status Card - P-39Q Airacobra 42-19933
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Richard L. Starkey
FindAGrave - 2Lt Richard L Starkey (tablets of the missing)
Echoes over the Pacific (2005) by Ed Simmons and Norm Smith page 207
"Again on 13 August at 1045 hours both Hollandia and Tadji radars reported a distress IFF signal 30 miles north east of Hollandia. Both reported the trace disappearing at the same time. At 1200 hours 110 Reconnaissance Squadron reported that a P39 was shot down by enemy ack-ack half a mile from Mission Point between Boram and Wewak. It was considered too dangerous to attempt a pilot rescue by either PT boat or Catalina."
Thanks to David Pennefather and Rod Pearce for additional information
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30' / 9.1m
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