|Pilot 2nd Lt. Owen R. Fish, O-429389 (MIA / KIA) CT
Crashed April 27, 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.
Assigned to the 5th Air Force, 49th Fighter Group, 8th Fighter Squadron "The Blacksheep". No known nickname or nose art.
On April 27, 1942 took off from Adelaide River Airfield at noon piloted by 2nd Lt. Owen R. Fish on a scramble mission to intercept Japanese aircraft including G4M1 Bettys escorted by A6M2 Zeros attacking Darwin. Fish was part of "White Flight" flying as wingman to flight leader 2nd Lt. Charles C. Johnson.
The P-40s attacked a formation of Japanese bombers escorted by A6M2 Zeros beyond Middle Point, outnumbered seven to one. Together, Johnson and Fish dove down into the enemy formation and were fired on by Zeros. Fish called over the radio telling Johnson to look out for a Zero that opened fire and hit his wing and elevator and was likely hit in the same attack.
Owen's P-40 was likely hit during the first pass and was seen on fire and diving downward, leveling off briefly then slow rolled over before crashing into the western side of Darwin Harbor roughly south southeast of Swires Bluff. Also lost was P-40E Warhawk piloted by Strauss (KIA).
Immediately after the crash, an launch went to the crash site and located wreckage, fragments of a body and an identification card for Lt. Fish. A floating oxygen bottle was found by the Australian Army 3.7" anti-aircraft battery at Fanny Bay bordering Darwin Harbor that was deemed to be from this aircraft based on a serial number on the bottle. Reportedly, Strauss' body was found across Darwin Harbor in the Swires Bluff and buried at Strauss.
Recovery of Remains
After the crash, fragments of a body identified as Fish were recovered and buried in Australia. Postwar, his remains were exhumed and transported to the United States for permanent burial.
Fish was officially declared dead the day of the mission. He earned the Silver Star and Purple Heart, posthumously. Fish is memorialized at Manila American Cemetery on the tablets of the missing.
USAF Serial Number Search Results - P-40E Warhawk 41-5329 incorrectly states: ground-looped while landing at Bankstown, NSW Feb 27, 1942. May have gone to RAAF as A29-1 to 25.
Service Personnel Not Recovered Following WWII for the United States Army Air Force - Fish, Owen R. / Location: New Guinea [sic, Australia]
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Owen R. Fish
2LT Owen R Fish (tablets of the missing photo)
Protect & Avenge pages 13, 16 (photo), 47-49, 50 (map), 355 (index)
Darwin’s Defenders (forthcoming) by Bob Alford
Thanks to Bob Alford for additional information
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June 29, 2019