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|Pilot F/Sgt James William Brighton Lennard, 437793 (KIA, BR) Naracoorte, SA
Crashed December 13, 1944
Built by Curtis in Buffalo, New York. Ordered under contract W535-AC34423, Project Number 41444. Constructors Number 33044. Delivered to the U. S. Army Air Force (USAAF) as P-40N-30-CU Warhawk serial number 44-7304. Disassembled and shipped overseas to Australia.
During July 1944 delivered to the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) as Kittyhawk serial number A29-1334. On July 17, 1944 re-serialized as Kittyhawk serial number A29-919. On July 21, 1944 reassembled by 2 Air Depot (2 AD) at Richmond. On August 29, 1944 assigned to 15 ARD as part of the aircraft pool. On November 10, 1944 assigned to 11 Repair Salvage Unit (11 RSU). On November 17, 1944 assigned to No. 80 Squadron with fuselage code BU. No known nickname. When lost, engine V-1710-99 serial number A048921. Armed with six .50 caliber machine guns makers and serial numbers unknown.
On December 13, 1944 took off from Kamiri Airfield on Noemfoor Island piloted by F/Sgt James W. B. Lennard on a strafing mission against Halmahera. Over the target, hit by anti-aircraft fire and damaged. At 9:05am crash landed on the beach or in shallow water roughly 4 miles northwest of Bocht Van Galela village to the north of the Tiabo River bordering Galela Bay at roughly Lat 10.57 N Long 127.50 East. When this aircraft failed to return, it was declared Missing In Action (MIA).
After the crash, other Kittyhawks in the formation spotted the pilot leave the aircraft and appeared to be badly injured and called for a rescue.
First, an Air-Sea Rescue U. S. Navy (USN) PBY Catalina VP-71 arrived at the scene of the crash and dropped a life raft that landed within 20 yards of the pilot and landed on the sea. Ashore, a 3" gun emplaced on a small hill near Galela opened fire and prevented it from performing the rescue and caused it to abort a take off attempt. Overhead, escorting fighters attempted to silence the gun position. This allowed the Catalina to make a successful take off on the second attempt.
Next, two USAAF Air-Sea Rescue boats P399 under command of 1st Lt Earl A. McCandlish and P406, of the 5230th Composite Rescue Group (5230th CRG) reached the area but were also subjected to Japanese fire but managed to reach within 70 yards of the crashed plane and observed the pilot alive but in a frail condition.
On the third rescue attempt, two crew from P399 jumped into the sea: M/Sgt George L. Jepson and Cpl William C. Chaney who both swam ashore but were both subjected to enemy fire and got within 20 yards of the aircraft.
At 1:25pm a request for covering fire was made and two PT Boats from Morotai arrived in the area PT-162 under the command of Lt Miller and PT-365 that laid down 81mm mortar fire including white phosphorous and high explosive shells to cover the swimmers and the two rescue boats to escape. By 2:30pm, the pilot was determined to be dead and his body was unable to be recovered as the tide was rising and due to enemy fire. Afterwards, the aircraft was destroyed by gunfire from the PT-Boats. As they withdrew they were fired on by the same enemy 3" gun and shrapnel wounded six crew members board PT-365. By 4:35pm all rescue boats had left the area and further rescue attempts were abandoned.
Recovery of Remains
Afterwards, the body of the pilot washed ashore and was buried by the Japanese. Postwar, an Australian team was taken to the grave site by local people. When exhumed, they determined the remains were buried, dug up and cremated then reburied.
Postwar, wreckage from this Kittyhawk remained with traces of the serial number and squadron code "BU" visible when investigated by the Australians authorities when investigating the pilot's grave.
Lennard was officially declared dead the day of the mission. After his remains were recovered postwar, he was permanently buried at Ambon War Cemetery at grave 2. B. 15.
Note, some sources incorrectly list the first rescue attempt by an incorrectly listed as U. S. Army Air Force OA-10 Catalina [sic, USN PBY Catalina]
USAF Serial Number Search Results - P-40N-25-CU Warhawk 44-7304
"7304 (MSN 33044) to RAAF as A29-919. Delivered Jul 1944. Served with 80 Sqn. Shot down 13Dec44 at Galela Bay, Halmaheras"
AWM - Flight Sergeant James William Brighton Lennard
AWM P10029.019 "Outdoor group portrait of 80 Squadron RAAF pilots, grouped in front of a Curtiss P40 Kittyhawk"
NARA Motor Torpedo Boat Squadron Eighteen "PT's 365 and 162 - Report of action on afternoon of 13 December 1944" 16 December 1944 pasges 1-4
CWGC - James William Brighton Lennard
ADF Serials - A29-919
Thanks to Edward Rogers for research and analysis
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