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Built by Bell in Buffalo, New York. Delivered to the U.S. Army Air Force (USAAF) as P-39Q-5-BE Airacobra serial number 42-19995. One of 148 P-39Q-5-BE Airacobras modified into a P-39Q-6-BE modified for photographic reconnaissance with K-24 and K-25 cameras in the rear fuselage. Disassembled and shipped overseas to the South West Pacific Area (SWPA) and reassembled.
Assigned to the 5th Air Force (5th AF), 8th Fighter Group (8th FG), 36th Fighter Squadron (36th FS). No known nose art or nickname. Later, assigned to the 71st Tactical Reconnaissance Group (71st TRG), 82nd Tactical Reconnaissance Squadron (82nd TRS). Assigned to Lt. William A. Shomo with crew chief Ralph Winkle from Milwaukee, WI and Mike Janigian from Fresno, California.
Nicknamed "Snooks 2nd" and painted in yellow on the right side on the nose. This aircraft was one of six that bore this nickname. Also, "Betty Lou 3rd" on the right side of the fuselage above the exhaust stacks and "Fresno, California" below, both painted in yellow, painted by the crew chief on the side of the fuselage, for his hometown and names of his brother's wives.
Shomo flew this Airacobra in combat over New Guinea. This aircraft was once was hit twice by a .25 caliber rifle bullet fired from the ground. During December 1944, this P-39 was abandoned at Tadji Airfield.
Until 1974, this aircraft remained in situ at Tadji Airfield located between Lemieng village and Vokau village.
In 1974, this aircraft was salvaged by Charles Darby as part of a recovery operation funded by David Tallichet / Yesterday's Air Force (MARC). Afterwards, exported to the United States.
Charles Darby adds:
"I don't know much about what happened to the ex-PNG P-39s after they were delivered to Dave Tallichet. This is partly because Dave's people made no effort to identify which fuselage halves and wing sets they were nailing together to make complete airframes, and partly because no records were kept of which airframes went where. I do know that 42-19995 was one of the Tadji aircraft, and I do know that he sent a number of P-39 and P-40 airframes to MAPS for 'restoration', but so far as I can see they have played-around with them for many years with little being achieved and several airframes being on-sold. '995 is probably one of these airframes, so my guess is that it really is now in Buffalo."
In Airacobra was partially restored by Yesterday's Air Force (MARC) at Chino Airport then placed into storage. During 1980 Anthony LoRusso, then chairman of Buffalo and Erie County Naval and Serviceman's Park contacted David Tallichet and ask him to donate an Airacobra to their memorial. During December 1980, transported cross country by Walt Runnels of Holton Livestock Express from California to New York. While in transit, the company was offered $110,000 USD for the Airacobra.
On December 29, 1980 this Airacobra arrived at Buffalo and Erie County Naval and Serviceman's Park. On January 2, 1981 reassembled, painted and placed on display on the museum floor using volunteer labor including Truman Partridge, Dick Smith, Bob Dromerhauser, Joe Kuty, Boy Hayes, John Branning and Dick Reading, among others. On March 27 1981 officially unveiled to the public. On March 25, 1981 William A. Shomo visited the museum to see his former aircraft.
During the middle 2000, the P-39 was disassembled and re-restored. The aircraft returned to the museum on March 29, 2007 and was hung from the ceiling of the new exhibit building.
Steve Janigian (son of Michael Janigian, crew chief)
"My Dad, Mike Janigian was the Crew Chief from Fresno, California, originally from Providence, Rhode Island. He named the plane the Betty Lou, after the wives of his two older brothers, Jerry & Betty Janigian, and Bud & Lou Janigian. My Dad passed away in 1978, 8 years before the restored "Betty Lou / Snooks 2nd" was placed on display in Buffalo. My family has traveled to see the plane, and I live about three hours away."
USAF Serial Number Search Results - P-39Q-5-BE Airacobra 42-19995
"converted to P-39Q-6-BE 42-19995 flown by Lt. William A. Shomo, Medal of Honor winner. (8th FG, 36th FS) Abandoned at Tadji Dec 1944. Recovered by David Tallichet's team from Yesterdays Air Force in 1974 and stored at Yesterday's Air Force until 1980. Loaned to Air Heritage Inc, Beaver Falls, Pennslylvania 1990-1998. Restoration started, but later abandoned. Loaned to MAPS Aircraft Museum, Akron-Canton, Ohio 1997-2001. Donated to Buffalo and Erie County Naval and Serviceman's Park."
Pacific Aircraft Wrecks page 58 (lower), 60
PNG Museum Aircraft Status Card - P-39Q Airacobra 42-19995
"P-39 Plucked from Jungle 'Lands' in Naval Park" by Betty J. Ott
"Bell Plane to be dedicated at Park - Pilot and Airacobra to Reunite" March 26, 1981|
Buffalo and Erie County Naval and Serviceman's Park - P-39
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