|Pilot 1st Lt. John Dave "Big John" Landers (survived) Rexroat, OK
Crashed December 26, 1942
Built by Curtiss in Buffalo, New York. Delivered to the U.S. Army. Disassembled and shipped overseas to Australia and reassembled.
Assigned to the 5th Air Force, 49th Fighter Group (49th FG), 9th Fighter Squadron (9th FS) "The Flying Knights" as one of the original aircraft assigned to the squadron. Assigned to Captain Ben S. Irvin "Bitchin' Ben", Commanding Officer (C. O.) 9th Fighter Squadron (9th FS). Assigned squadron number 75 on the left and right sides of the nose and tail painted in white. Nicknamed "The Rebel" in white block letters on the nose. On the left side of the cockpit below the canopy was "Pilot Capt. Irving" and "Crew Chief [name unknown]" painted in white block letters. The fuselage had a large eagle motif forward of the U.S. star marking.
During July to August 1942, this P-40 operated from Livingstone Airfield (34 Mile) near Darwin.
On December 26, 1942 one of twelve P-40s that took off from Port Moresby. Landers was leading "White Flight" on a patrol mission over Dobodura at 14,000'. Just as the formation arrived, Dobodura air controller urgently called for fighter cover because "Zekes" [sic Ki-43-I Oscars from the 11th Hiko Sentai] were approaching Dobodura Airfield were several RAAF Hudsons had just landed.
Landers ordered "White Flight" to release their drop tanks and to dive down and intercepted six Ki-43-I Oscars but one caught him from astern almost immediately hitting him with an accurate burst of 7.7mm machine gun fire causing him to break left and downward for the safety of lower altitude south of Dobodura. Suddenly, another Ki-43 Oscar hit him from the tail again. Damaged, Landers stepped out of the cockpit onto the right wing and bailed out at approximately 1,000' landing in dense jungle.
Fate of the Pilot
After three days of trying to find a path, Landers began following a stream that lead him to a small native village. A tribal elder gave him food and shelter, and next day, organized a party to escort him along the Kokoda Trail to Pongani Airfield. On December 31, 1942 flown aboard an A-24 Dive Bomber back to Port Moresby and returned to duty.
After his Pacific service, Landers was assigned to the 8th Air Force, 357th Fighter Group and 78th Fighter Group in England. During the middle of 1944, he became the 38th Fighter Squadron Commanding Officer (C. O.) and attained the rank of Colonel by the end of the war. In total, he claimed 16 victories: 7 in the Pacific and 9 in Europe. Postwar, he was in the construction management and moved to Granbury, Texas in 1979.
On September 12, 1989 Landers passed away at the age of 69 after complications from surgery. He was buried at were held on Friday, September 15, 1989 at Greenwood Memorial Park and Mausoleum in Fort Worth, TX.
This P-40 remains in the jungle undisturbed at approximately Lat 9.05S Long 148.34 E.
American Aces in Great Fighters Battles of World War II "Chase Over New Guinea” includes John D. Lander's account of his shoot down on December 26, 1942 plus his escape and evasion. The account incorrectly states this P-40 was nicknamed "Big Doll".
PNG Museum Aircraft Status Card - P-40 Kittyhawk piloted by Landers
Hudson Versus The First New Guinea Oscars by Michael Claringbould
Hood County Texas Genealogical Society Biography of Colonel John Dave Landers by by Virginia Hale
AWM Kittyhawks, Darwin (F01778) playback time: 0:11-0:20 pilot and fuselage pegasus and 2:38-3:15 engine start and taxi for take off, 6:00-6:07 aerial view of line abreast formation, this aircraft passing camera, 6:10-6:14 closeup view of this aircraft passing camera
49th Fighter Group Aces of the Pacific page 12 (photo), 70 (artwork)
Ki-43 'Oscar' Aces of World War 2 (2009) pages 73
Thanks to Edward Rogers for additional information
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March 17, 2021