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No. 75 Squadron
|Pilot F/O Wilbur Lawrence Wackett, 588 (survived) Bellevue Hill, NSW
Crashed March 22, 1942
Built by Curtiss in Buffalo, New York. Delivered to the U. S. Army Air Force (USAAF) as P-40E Warhawk serial number unknown. Disassembled and shipped overseas to Australia and reassembled.
During March 1942 delivered to the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) as P-40E Kittyhawk serial number A29-6 to 1 Air Depot (1 AD). On March 8, 1942 assigned to No. 75 Squadron with fuselage code "F". No known nickname or nose art.
On March 22, 1942 took off from 7 Mile Drome near Port Moresby piloted by F/O Wilbur L. Wackett as one of nine Kittyhawks led by S/L John F. Jackson on a mission against Lae. Six Kittyhawks including this aircraft were to strafe Lae Airfield while the other three flew top cover.
Over the target, intercepted by A6M2 Zeros from the 4th Kokutai (4th Air Group). While dog fighting with enemy aircraft, Wackett's gun sight failed while making a beam attack and only one of his machine guns fired. As he broke off his attack and dove for clouds, his P-40 took hits to the engine. Flying at 1,000' over the Huon Gulf, his engine seized halfway between Lae and Salamaua and Wackett successfully bailed out and landed in the sea and swam ashore. His P-40 impacted the sea and quickly sank. Also lost was P-40E Kittyhawk A29-16 (MIA).
Fate of the Pilot
Ashore, Wackett found two Police Boys from Rabaul who escorted him for four days before reaching Bulwa village. The villagers debated turning him over to the Japanese, but he was protected by his escorts. Departing, he walked to Bulolo, Wau, Waterbaum then via the Bulldog Track to Bulldog, then down the Lakakamu River to the southern coast to Yule Island. Finally, he was transported by boat to Port Moresby arriving on April 12, 1942. Afterwards, he returned to duty. In December 1943, Wackett was promoted to the rank of Squadron Leader and was assigned to No. 31 Squadron.
Later, Wackett went Missing In Action (MIA) piloting Beaufighter A19-208 on September 24, 1944. He was officially declared dead the day of the mission. He is memorialized at Adelaide River War Cemetery on the Northern Territory Memorial on panel 6.
RAAF Service Record Wilbur Lawrence Wackett (NAA: A9300 Wacket W L)
WW2 Nominal Roll - Wilbur Lawrence Wackett
Pacific Victory Roll - Wilbur Lawrence Wackett (photo)
ADF Serials - Kittyhawk A29-6
Flightpath Magazine "Yamazaki" by Michael Claringbould, 2010
The Battle for Wau (2008) by Phil Bradley page 17
Virtual War Memorial Australia, Wackett, Wilbur Lawrence (photos)
CWGC - Wilbur Lawrence Wackett
Thanks to Daniel Leahy for additional information
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April 10, 2021
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