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|Pilot 2nd Lt. Eugene M. S. Ronning, O-817104 (MIA / KIA) UT
MIA September 2, 1944 at 4:30pm
Built by Bell in Buffalo, New York. Delivered to the U. S. Army Air Force (USAAF) as P-39Q-5-BE Airacobra serial number 42-20357. Disassembled and shipped overseas to the South West Pacific Area (SWPA) and reassembled.
Assigned 5th Air Force (5th AF), 71st Tactical Reconnaissance Group (71st TRG), 82nd Tactical Reconnaissance Squadron (82nd TRS). No known nose art or nickname.
On September 2, 1944 took off from Boroke Drome on Biak Island piloted by 2nd Lt. Eugene M. S. Ronning as one of three P-39s led by P-40 piloted by 1st Lt William A. Shomo 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. When this aircraft failed to return it was officially listed as Missing In Action (MIA). Also lost was P-39Q 44-3569 piloted by Bailey (MIA) and P-39Q 42-20353 piloted by Rice (MIA).
The next day, a 3.5 hour search mission was flown by four P-39 Airacobras from the 82nd Tactical Reconnaissance Squadron Airacobras without results. Also, five B-25 Mitchells searched for five hours unsuccessfully.
Ronning was officially declared dead April 15, 1946. He earned the Air Medal and Purple Heart, posthumously. Ronning is memorialized at Manila American Cemetery on the tablets of the missing. He also has a memorial marker at Aultorest Memorial Park in Ogden, UT.
Note, some sources incorrectly list the loss location for all three Airacobras as New Georgia [sic, New Guinea] and lists them as assigned to the 71st Fighter Squadron [sic, 82nd Tactical Reconnaissance Squadron], both of which are in error for all three losses.
USAF Serial Number Search Results - P-39Q-5-BE Airacobra 42-20357
"20357 - 20357 (71st FG) lost Sep 2, 1944, New Guinea. MACR 8634"
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Eugene M. S. Ronning
FindAGrave - 2Lt Eugene M S Ronning (tablets of the missing)
FindAGrave - Eugene M S Ronning (memorial marker photo)
Thanks to Edward Rogers for research and analysis
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Sept 2, 1944
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