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|Pilot Sgt Colin Bruce Grubb, 429983 (MIA / KIA, BR) Auckland, New Zealand
Crashed January 22, 1944
Built by Curtiss in Buffalo, New York. Constructor Number 29639. Assigned U. S. Army Air Force (USAAF) as P-40N-5-CU Warhawk serial number 42-105877. Disassembled and shipped overseas to New Zealand as part of defense aid.
Delivered to the Royal New Zealand Air Force (RNZAF) as Kittyhawk serial number NZ3186. Assigned to 15 Squadron. Coded 81 and G. No known nickname or nose art.
On January 22, 1944 took off from Torokina Airfield on Bougainville at 12:55pm piloted by Sgt Colin B. Grubb as one of twelve P-40s from 15 Squadron on an escort mission for USAAF B-25 Mitchells attacking Lakunai Airfield near Rabaul. This aircraft was flying in the second section, no. 4 position.
The escorting P-40s rendezvoused with the bombers and flew towards New Ireland. Also escorting were USAAF P-38 Lightnings and F6F Hellcats. The weather enroute to the target was good with 30 mile visibility with clouds over New Ireland and good weather over the target with clouds over the western end of the runway.
Over the target, the B-25 made their bomb run at 2:30pm while the P-40s stayed to the side and below providing bottom cover. During the run, B-25D 41-30658 took a direct hit from anti-aircraft fire and exploded.
After the bombers completed their run, the formation spotted six to eight A6M Zeros diving out of the sun to attack the rear of the bomber formation and intercepted at 2:40pm. During the combat, an F4U Corsair pilot observed an in-line engined aircraft believed to be a P-40 or Ki-61 crash in the sea opposite Mope and the pilot was seen to bail out, but this report proved unrelated to Grubb's loss. This P-40 was last seen at the start of the combat, none of the squadron recalled him leaving formation.
When this aircraft failed to return, it was officially listed as Missing In Action (MIA). In fact, this P-40 was shot down by Zeros and crashed near Bitagalip.
Recovery of Remains
On October 1, 1945 the
grave of the pilot was photographed by RNZAF Missing Persons Investigation Unit (MPIU) and later transported to New Caledonia for permanent burial.
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