|Pilot 2nd Lt. John H. Bodge, O-681595 (MIA / KIA) Suffolk County, MA
MIA March 12, 1944
Built by Bell in Buffalo, New York. Delivered to the U.S. Army Air Force (USAAF) as P-39Q-15-BE Airacobra serial number 44-2451. Disassembled and shipped overseas to the South Pacific and reassembled.
Assigned to the 13th Air Force, 347th Fighter Group, 67th Fighter Squadron. No known nose art or nickname. When lost, engine V-1710-85 serial number A-035119.
On March 12, 1944 at 11:45 took off from Green Island Airfield (Nissan) piloted by 2nd Lt. John H. Bodge armed with a single bomb on a dive bombing mission against Rabaul. Passing the Duke of York Islands, the formation climbed to 15,000' to approach Rabaul from north to south. This Airacobra was last seen beginning its dive at 12:30, clouds caused the other aircraft to loose sight of this aircraft. When this aircraft failed to return it was officially listed as Missing In Action (MIA).
MACR 3499 report by Captain Edwin T. Bailey, March 13, 1944:
"My flight consisted of myself, Lts. Bodge, Shavak and LeDoux. We took off from Green Island at 11:45 hrs, March 12, 1944. We were over the Duke of York Islands at 12:25 hrs. We began weaving and dodging, letting down slowly to 15,000 feet to begin our dive on the target, Rabaul. We made our approach from north to south, releasing our bombs at 6,000', making a sharp left turn over that target.
The last time I saw Lt. Bodge was at the beginning of his dive over Rabaul at 12:30 hrs. The clouds at 8,000' caused my flight to lose sight of him after he began his dive. I led my flight out to the rally point five miles east of Cape Gazelle (behind Rabaul), and joined Major Collins, our section leader. I reported Lt. Bodge missing as we circled the rally point. We then called Major Twichell, leader of the second section, to be on the lookout for Lt. Bodge. We then proceeded back to Green Island, landing at 13.30 hrs.
Later that afternoon, a search mission was flown to search for this plane, but no trace was found.
MACR report by Captain Edwin T. Bailey, March 13, 1944:
"I took off as soon as we could get serviced at 14:45 hrs and led a flight of 12 aircraft back to Rabaul on a search mission for Lt. Bodge. We searched the Rabaul area for 50 minutes at 500 feet, including the entire St. Georges Channel area and the coastline from Loweo Point to Raluana Point to Cape Gazelle. We found no trace of a downed aircraft and returned to Green Island, landing there at 16.45 hrs."
Bodge was officially declared dead on January 19, 1946. He is memorialized on the tablets of the missing at Manila American Cemetery.
During October 1986 divers from the Rabaul Dive Club including Malcolm Archbold discovered an Airacobra lying upright and flat on the sea floor in Simpson Harbor in approximately 35' of water. The main features of the aircraft remaining are the three propeller blades, the spinner and bottom third of the cockpit area, 'roll-cage' bar behind the pilot's seat, the structural framework of both wings and the complete engine.
During January 1988, a team from the CILHI inspected the aircraft. Reportedly, this site was slated for additional investigation by a JPAC team during January 2008, but was not visited or investigated.
Andrew Bodge (second cousin of Bodge:
"My name is Andrew Bodge. My father's cousin, 2nd Lt. John H. Bodge, a P-39 pilot, went missing during a bombing mission on Rabaul on March 12, 1944. (Details here.) I was only vaguely aware of this until a genealogist working for JPAC contacted me about a year ago. Since then, I have discovered this site, learned about new activity on the case, provided a DNA sample, corresponded with the gentleman who discovered the wreck, and recently attended a DPAA Family Member Update event in Portland, Maine . I believe the DPAA plans to conduct further investigation of the wreck in 2016, and I am looking forward to further developments."
USAF Serial Number Search Results P-39Q-15-BE Airacobra 44-2451
Missing Air Crew Report 3499 (MACR 3499)
67th Fighter Squadron March 1944 page 1: "(1) 12 March: Lt. John H. Bodge missing in action over Rabaul city."
page 3 "b. 12 March: Lt Bodge missing in action over Rabaul City. Cause unknown."
PNG Museum Aircraft Status Card - P-39Q Airacobra 44-2451
Rabaul Dive Club Newsletter May 1988
FindingLtJohnHBodge.com website by Malcolm Archbold devoted to this aircraft
Thanks to Malcolm Archbold for additional information
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February 18, 2020