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  P-39 Airacobra Serial Number ?  
5th AF
18th FG
70th FS

Pilot  1st Lt. Lawrence R. McKulla (survived) WA
Crashed  January 26, 1943
MACR  none

Aircraft History
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 the South Pacific and reassembled.

Wartime History
Assigned to the 5th Air Force, 18th Fighter Group, 70th Fighter Squadron. No known nickname or nose art.

Mission History
On January 26, 1943 took off from Henderson Field on Guadalcanal piloted by 1st Lt. Lawrence R. McKulla along with P-39 piloted by Fiedler on a mission to escort B-17 Flying Fortresses bombing Ballale Airfileld. Returning, the Airacobras were dispatched to search Choiseul for a person in a raft that was spotted two days earlier by a Royal New Zealand Air Force (RNZAF) Hudson from No. 3 Squadron.

Patrolling off Choiseul at roughly Lat 7°  30' S, Long 157° 40' E, the Airacobras spotted a Japanese flying boat, H6K Mavis pilot Kira and made a single firing pass from below that damaging the hull and wounded several aboard and killed the tail gunner.

Six escorting A6M Zeros from 252 Kokutai failed to noticed their low approach and but after their pass dove down to intercept the Airacobras. During the dogfight, Fiedler claimed one "Zero Mark 2" (A6M3 Hamp) shot down south off Wagina Island to the east of Choiseul Island and managed to escape. McCulla was shot down by one of the Zeros but managed to successfully bailed out and landed safely in the sea.

Fate of the Pilot
McCulla swam to nearby Rengi Island and was later spotted and dropped supplies by a Royal New Zealand Air Force (RNZAF) Hudson. Alone for sixteen days and behind enemy lines, he survived without being detected. On February 10, 1943 after sixteen days, he was rescued by USS Grouper (SS-214).

Postwar, McKulla joined the United States Air Force (USAF) and served in the Korean War and retired with the rank of Colonel. He passed away on August 16, 1968 and is buried at Mountain View Cemetery in Auburn, WA at plot 4th slope.

Are you a relative of McKulla? Contact Us.

Action Report 1st Lt. Lawrence R. McKulla
Escape & Evasion Report 1st Lt. Lawrence R. McKulla
Saturday Evening Post "Lt. Lawrence R. McKulla and his battle with Japanese Zeros" July 3, 1943
FindAGrave - Lawrence McKulla (grave photo)
Dramatic Rescue off Choisel by Justin Taylan
FindAGrave - Lawrence McKulla (grave photo)
Thanks to Edward Rogers for additional information

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Last Updated
May 23, 2020


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