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|Pilot 2nd Lt. Paul J. Magre, O-428515 (MIA / KIA) Crystal City, MS
Crashed June 16, 1942
Built by Bell in Buffalo, NY. Delivered to the U.S. Army Air Force (USAAF) as P-39 Airacobra, model and serial number unknown. Likely, this aircraft was a P-39F-1-BE Airacobra serial number 41-???? (last four digits unknown). Disassembled and shipped overseas to Australia and reassembled.
Assigned to the 5th Air Force (5th AF), 8th Fighter Group (8th FG), 36th Fighter Squadron (36th FS). Later, assigned to the 35th Fighter Group (35th FG), 40th Fighter Squadron (40th FS). No known nickname or nose art.
On June 16, 1942 took off in the afternoon from Port Moresby piloted by 2nd Lt. Paul J. Magre on a mission to escort American bombers over Lae. Over the target, intercepted by A6M2 Zeros from the Tainan Kōkūtai (Tainan Air Group). When this Airacobra failed to return, it was officially listed as Missing In Action (MIA).
In fact, this P-39 was shot down and crashed into Hercules Bay between Bau village and Bau Island. Pilot Magre was either killed on impact or might have attempted to bail out at low level.
Recovery of Remains
After the crash, his body was recovered on beach near Bau village and buried with a cross marked "unknown American aviator". His grave was witnessed by the crew of B-26 "Dixie" 40-1496 and Sgt Ranta while walking northward along the coast. Later, his remains were exhumed by the U. S. Army and reburied at Finschafen Cemetery. Postwar, his remains were transported to Manila American Cemetery but never identified as Magre and he remains Missing In Action (MIA).
Magre was officially declared dead on June 18, 1942. He earned the Purple Heart, posthumously. He is memorialized at Manila American Cemetery on the tablets of the missing.
Edward Rogers adds:
[June 16, 1942] "I had seen P-39F 41-7222 being used for Magre's aircraft, in the file "Missing Airacobras" at the National Archives, Australia website. On the other hand I have an intelligence report by Lt. Kyple (19 June 1942) saying P-39F 41-7222 was Hutcheson's plane. The strongest piece of evidence is the 40th Fighter Squadron operations log which has all take-offs and landings as well as the tail number of every pilots plane for every mission."
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Paul J. Magre
FindAGrave - 2Lt Paul James Magre
40th Fighter / Flight Test Squadron Associate "WWII Honor Roll" [via Wayback Machine July 23, 2008]
Eagles of the Southern Sky (2000) pages 93-94
Thanks to Edward Rogers for research and analysis
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