|Pilot 1st Lt. David S. "Pinky" Hunter, O-420600 8th FG, 80th FS (POW, executed August 31, 1942, MIA / BNR) Proctor, VT
Crashed July 22, 1942
Built by Bell in Buffalo, New York. Assigned Royal Air Force (RAF) serial number unknown and painted in a three-color camouflage scheme. Instead, delivered to the U. S. Army. Disassembled and shipped overseas to Australia and reassembled.
Assigned to the 5th Air Force, 35th Fighter Group, 40th Fighter Squadron. No known nose art or nickname. Hunter was a member of the 8th Fighter Group, 80th Fighter Squadron who was on loan to the 40th Fighter Squadron.
On July 22, 1942 took off from Port Moresby on a strafing mission against Japanese forces landed at Buna. Over the target, this Airacobra was hit by heavy anti-aircraft fire and Hunter was seen to remove one of the cockpit doors and bail out over the sea off Gona. His door his door blew off his aircraft and almost hit the Airacobra piloted by Danny Roberts. When this aircraft failed to return it was officially declared Missing In Action (MIA). This Airacobra and pilot were the first combat loss for the 40th Fighter Squadron.
Fate of the Pilot
In fact, Hunter swam ashore near the barges he was strafing and was captured by the Japanese and became a Prisoner Of War (POW) and was interrogated.
By early August 1942 transported to Rabaul where he was noted as hospitalized with "burns or light wounds... and was getting well". Detained by the Keibitai 81st Naval Garrison Unit. On or around August 31, 1942 he was executed by by the Japanese, likely by WO Kunihei Fujisaki.
Recovery of Remains
Postwar a mass grave was investigated and exhumed by a RAAF Searcher Team led by S/L Keith Rundle during May - June 1947 and June-July 1950. The bodies of 30 Allied aviators were recovered, including 15 Australians were recovered. Hunter's remains were found on Matupi Island. He remains listed as Missing In Action (MIA). Postwar, a Japanese Prisoner Of War (POW) had Hunter's class ring that was turned over to the Allies.
Hunter was officially declared dead on August 31, 1942. He is memorialized on the tablets of the missing at Manila American Cemetery. He earned the Air Medal and Purple Heart, posthumously. Hunter also has a memorial marker at South Street Cemetery in Proctor, VT.
Missing Air Crew Report 16490 (MACR 16490)
was created retroactively postwar
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - David S. Hunter
1Lt David Stansfield Hunter (tablets of the missing photo)
FindAGrave - 1LT David Stansfield Hunter (memorial marker photo)
David S. Hunter Casualty File
Joe Baugher "Airacobra I for RAF, P-400"
Letter from American Embassy Canberra Australia to Department of External Affairs No. 82
May 23, 1950
Australian Army "Memorandum for Department of External Affairs – O-420600 Lt David S. Hunter: U. S. A. Airman: Deceased" July 19, 1950, Page 1-2
PNG Museum Aircraft Status Card - P-39 Airacobra piloted by Hunter
Attack and Conquer pages 29, 77, 311
Mentions that Hunter's rings were found on a dead Japanese soldier on the Kokoda Trail. Likely, these were taken from Hunter while he was detained at Gona before being transported to Rabaul.
Eagles of the Southern Sky page 207
Target Rabaul pages 365, 389 (index)
Thanks to Edward Rogers for research and analysis
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June 29, 2019