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|Pilot Lt. Carlos E. "Dan" Dannacher (survived)
Force Landed July 14, 1943
Built by Bell in Buffalo, New York. Delivered to the U.S. Army Air Force (USAAF) as P-39 Airacobra model and serial number unknown. Disassembled and shipped overseas to Australia and reassembled.
Assigned to the 5th Air Force (5th AF), 35th Fighter Group (35th FG), 40th Fighter Squadron (40th FS). Squadron Number 4 was painted in white on the armament access panel on the nose. No known nose art or nickname.
On July 14, 1943 took off from Berry Drome (12 Mile) near Port Moresby, on a patrol mission over Wau. Due to engine problems, it landed at Wau Airfield due to engine problems.
Carlos E. "Dan" Dannacher adds:
"I may be the only guy who put a P-39 down on the Wau strip and lived to tell about it. We were not escorting C-47s that day, some one else was already up there. We arrived at Wau and 20,000 feet about the same time, leveled off and about ready to drop tanks, when my bird rocked with a huge backfire in the engine compartment. Manifold Pressure fell way off and the rpm was around 1200-1500.
The weather was fairly clear over Wau and I could see C-47s in the pattern. I fell out of formation alone wondering what to do. I got rid of the belly tank and bent around toward the Wau Drome. When I tried to add throttle all I got was more backfires, so I left it in idle. I could tell that a circuit or two above the Wau area was about all I could get and if I didn't like the looks of it I could bail out and try for a friendly area.
Then the C-47s worried me, they were busy on the strip and I didn't want to get in their pattern. Finally, I spotted a large grassy spot to the east of the strip which meant that I would be headed toward the C-47s at 90 degrees to their strip.
I decided to put the bird down wheels up and devoted my time to arrange a complete circuit of the area so that I could have a final approach headed uphill toward the offloading C-47s. I called in the clear to warn them of my problem.
With a little maneuvering, slipping around and adding some backfires now and then, I managed to hit it just right and hit the ideal spot in some shallow kunai grass. When I contacted the ground my body moved up against the straps and my hand squeezed the grip and each gun fired one round. I had forgotten to de-arm the gun switch and I guess the gun sight wasn't one of my worries.
Anyway, it was a beautiful landing. I jumped out onto the ground and looked around, there was no fire, no fuel leaking, and no sparks flying around. In a few minutes a jeep from the offloading area came to pick me up. I was back to the squadron and flew again that afternoon. The P-39 was resting in the grass about a 1,500' from the C-47 strip and I realized that my gunfire only hit into the uphill slope not anywhere near the C-47s.
That evening in the mess hall my C. O., Mike Moore, chewed on me for not bailing out. I explained to him my reasons for not doing it was because I didn't know the state of things around that strip, and the trees and bush looked most unfriendly. Besides, the engine was at least idling and I wasn't gliding like a rock."
Until the early 1990s, the wreckage of to Airacobra remained at Wau Airfield in a ditch nearby. Likely, one of these planes was this aircraft. Both wrecks were scrapped sometime afterwards.
Carlos E. "Dan" Dannacher adds:
"I know that a crew chief went to Wau to look at the airplane and verify the cause of the backfiring."
Thanks to Carlos E. "Dan" Dannacher for additional information
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