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  P-39Q-5-BE Airacobra Serial Number 42-20353  
5th AF
71st TRG
82nd TRS

Pilot  2nd Lt. James O. Rice, O-702841 (MIA / KIA) KY
MIA  September 2, 1944 at 4:30pm
MACR  8640

Aircraft History
Built by Bell in Buffalo, New York. Delivered to the U.S. Army. Disassembled and shipped overseas and reassembled.

Wartime History
Assigned 5th Air Force, 71st Tactical Reconnaissance Group, 82nd Tactical Reconnaissance Squadron. No known nose art or nickname.

Mission History
On September 2, 1944 one of three P-39s led by P-40 piloted by 1st Lt William A. Shomo that took off from Boroke Drome on Biak Island on an armed reconnaissance mission over Etna Bay to Cape Awoers to strafe targets of opportunity on the southern coast of New Guinea, at the maximum safe range for P-39s.

Weather was heavy cumulus clouds at 6,000'. Due to the clouds, the mission was aborted and the four aircraft attempted to return to base in close formation to maintain visual contact and fly the shortest route to Biak. Shomo's P-40 suffered an engine failure when his drop tank was empty and lost contact with the three P-39s. Trying them over the radio, but only heard a buzzing sound in reply. Low on fuel, Shomo returned to base alone. Lost were this aircraft and P-39Q 44-3569 piloted by Bailey and P-39Q 42-20357 piloted by Ronning.

The next day, a 3.5 hour search mission was flown by four 82nd TRS AIracobras without results. Also, five B-25s searched for five hours unsuccessfully.

Officially declared dead April 15, 1946. Memorialized on the tablets of the missing at Manila American Cemetery. Rice earned the Purple Heart (posthumously).

Note, some sources incorrectly list the loss location as New Georgia or 71st FS
Thanks to Edward Rogers for research and analysis

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Last Updated
December 1, 2018


Tech Info

Sep 2, 1944

1 Missing

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