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  P-400 Airacobra Serial Number BW117 Nose 43
5th AF
35th FG
40th FS

AWM c1942

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Philip K. Shriver c1942
Pilot  2nd Lt. Edward J. Gignac, O-430806 (survived) MA
Force Landed  July 11, 1942
MACR  none

Aircraft History
Built by Bell in Buffalo, New York. Assigned Royal Air Force (RAF) serial number BW117 and painted in a three-color camouflage scheme. Instead, delivered to the U.S. Army Air Force (USAAF) as P-400 Airacobra BW117. Disassembled and shipped overseas to Australia and reassembled.

Wartime History
Assigned to the 5th Air Force (5th AF), 35th Fighter Group (35th FG), 40th Fighter Squadron (40th FS). Nose number 43. No known nose art or nickname.

Mission History
On July 11, 1942 took off from 7-Mile Drome near Port Moresby piloted by 2nd Lt. Edward J Gignac on a scramble mission to intercept Japanese bombers. Climbing to 15,000' this Airacobra experienced an engine failure and crashed landed near 30 Mile Drome (Rogers).

A wartime photo shows wreckage including the bent propeller, upside down center section and tail wreckage in a clearing near 30 Mile (Rogers Drome). Likely, parts of the wreck were salvaged during the war. Until at least the 1970s, wreckage with serial number BW 117 visible remained in the vicinity of 30 Mile (Rogers Drome). Fate unknown, likely scrapped.

Afterwards Gignac did not fly combat for the rest of the month and was later sent to the United States and assigned to the 352nd Fighter Group (352nd FG), Headquarters Squadron and promoted to the rank of Major. On June 7, 1944, Gignac was killed in action piloting P-51B Mustang 42-106661. The aircraft was hit by flak in the wing, causing it to explode (MACR 5556).

He is buried in France at Epinal American Cemetery at plot A, row 33, Grave 28. During his service he earned the Silver Star, Distinguished Flying Cross with Oak Leaf Cluster and Purple Heart (posthumously).

The Aircraft Wrecks in the South Pacific Area, Pacific Aviation Society notes wreck of BW117
Joe Baugher "Airacobra I for RAF, P-400"
PNG Museum Aircraft Status Card - P-39 (P-400) Airacobra BW 117
Australian War Memorial Collection Database - P03338.001
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Edward J. Gignac
FindAGrave - Maj Edward Joseph Gignac (photos, grave photo)
Together We Served - Maj Edward J Gignac
Thanks to Edward Rogers and Daniel Leahy for additional information

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Last Updated
July 3, 2021


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