|Pilot 2nd Lt Robert G. Tucker, O-431180 (MIA / KIA) Reedley, CA
MIA December 16, 1942
Built by Bell in Buffalo, New York. Delivered to the U.S. Army. Disassembled and shipped overseas to Australia and reassembled.
Assigned to the 35th Fighter Group, 41st Fighter Squadron. No known nickname or nose art. When assigned, this Airacobra was a brand new P-39K-1 model aircraft.
On December 16, 1942 took off from 7-Mile Drome near Port Moresby on a patrol mission over Buna, Gona and Cape Ward Hunt. Returning, the formation entered a solid overcast of bad weather. This Airacobra was last seen at 15,000' near Wairopi Bridge near Kokoda before entering bad weather. It is believed this P-39 crashed in the Kokoda Gap area.
A total of four Airacobras had not returned to Port Moresby by the end of the mission. One pilot had diverted to Dobodura Airfield after running low on fuel. Another had landed at Popondetta Airfield also out of fuel. The other two fighters and their pilots were considered Missing In Action (MIA) at the end of the day, this aircraft and P-39K 42-4346 (pilot later rescued). These two Airacobras were brand new P-39K-1 models.
Tucker was officially declared dead on December 15, 1945. He is memorialized on the tablets of the missing at Manila American Cemetery.
Tucker earned the Air Medal for previous missions flown in New Guinea
41st Fighter Squadron Diary
"16 December 1942 - On return our aircraft ran into a solid overcast. Four of the planes did not return from the mission... Lts. Tucker & Alexander D. Currie "were last sighted flying at 17,000 to 18,000 feet at approximately 0930 [in the vicinity of "the Gap"]. One of these [probably Currie] was reported to have bailed out, but the whereabouts of either one is not known. Searching parties have been sent out."
28 December 1942 - [Discusses the experiences of Lt. Currie after his return] "The whereabouts of Lt. Robert C. Tucker, a member of the same flight is unknown. When last observed by Lt. Currie, Lt. Tucker was flying ahead at the same altitude and direction straight into the instrument weather. Lt. Tucker was alone."
Joe Baugher "Bell P-39K Airacobra"
American Battle Monuments Commission (AMBC) -
Robert G. Tucker
Service Personnel Not Recovered Following WWII - Tucker, Robert G.
FindAGrave - 1Lt Robert G Tucker
Thanks to Edward Rogers for additional research and analysis
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February 18, 2020