|Pilot F/O Mark Ernest Sheldon, 402256 (KIA, BR) Haberfield, NSW
Crashed August 11, 1942
Built by Curtiss in Buffalo, New York. Constructors Number 18758. Assigned U. S. Army Air Force (USAAF) as P-40E Warhawk serial number 41-36237. Assigned Royal Air Force (RAF) serial number ET883. On June 8, 1942 returned to the U. S. Army for lend-lease to be sent to Australia. Disassembled and shipped overseas to Australia and reassembled.
During early July 1942, delivered to the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) as Kittyhawk A29-123. On July 7, 1942 assigned to 1 Air Depot (1 AD). On July 14, 1942 issued to 75 Squadron and delivered the next day. Assigned fuselage code "U". No known nickname or nose art. This P-40 operated from Gurney Airfield (No. 1 Strip) near Milne
On August 11, 1942 took off from Gurney Airfield (No. 1 Strip) piloted by
F/O Mark Ernest Sheldon as one of twenty-two P-40s from 75 Squadron and 76 Squadron intercepting intercepting Japanese aircraft attacking Milne Bay. During the air combat, this P-40 was shot down by Zeros and crashed into the mountains north of Milne Bay. Pilot Sheldon died in the air or on impact. On September 14, 1942 officially written off when approved for conversion to components. Also lost was P-40E Kittyhawk A29-100 (MIA), P-40E Kittykawk A29-93 (KIA) and P-40E Kittyhawk A29-84 (KIA).
This P-40 crashed into the mountains inland from Kapureka to the north of Milne Bay. After the crash, Sheldon's body was recovered by local people and buried at Ahioma village. On August 22, 1942 a group from 75 Squadron including Doctor Bill Deane-Butcher and pilot Bruce Brown walked from Ahioma village to the crash site. They reported that his plane had not burnt but was broken into many pieces and full of holes form 20mm cannon shells and 7.7mm machine gun bullets.
Recovery of Remains
After the crash, Sheldon was buried near the crash site by local people. On August 22, 1942 a group from 75 Squadron including Doctor Bill Deane-Butcher and pilot Bruce Brown were transported from Gurney Field aboard a RAAF crash launch to Ahioma village where they were met by local people to identify and recover Sheldon's body which was transported to Port Moresby for burial. The group also visited the P-40 crash site then walked back to Gurney Field.
Sheldon was officially declared dead the day of the mission. After the recovery of remains, Sheldon was permanently buried at Bomana War Cemetery at grave A3, D, 17.
USAF Serial Number Search Results - P-40E-1 Warhawk 41-36237
"36237 (MSN 18758) was to have gone to RAF as ET883 but to RAAF as A29-123 Jul 1942."
National Archives of Australia [NAA] 1949, Aircraft Status cards - Kittyhawk A29-100 to A29-199
ADF Serials - Kittyhawk A29-123
- Mark Ernest Sheldon
All in a Day's Work: Some Experiences of 45 RAAF Pilots 1939-1945 by Bruce Brown, Chapter 6
"[August 11, 1942] On that day we lost two pilots from 75 Squadron being Sheldon and Shelely and two pilots from 76 Squadron being Inkster and McLeod.
On August 22, a party, including myself, our Squadron Doctor Bill Deane-Butcher, were sent by RAAF Crash Launch to Ahioma village to confirm the body buried by natives was that of Mark Sheldon. We were greeted by many natives, whose, Chief immediately allocated a party to guide us to the crashed aircraft on top of the mountain. Our climb to the wreck was a source of great entertainment to our hosts."
Thanks to Daniel Leahy and Edward Rogers for additional research.
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May 5, 2018