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  P-400 Airacobra Serial Number ?  
USAAF
5th AF
35th FG
40th FS

Pilot  1st Lt. David S. "Pinky" Hunter, O-420600 (POW executed August 31, 1942, MIA / BNR) Proctor, VT
Crashed  July 22, 1942
MACR  16490

Aircraft History
Built by Bell in Buffalo, New York. Assigned Royal Air Force (RAF) serial number unknown (two letters and three digits) and painted in a three-color camouflage scheme. Instead, delivered to the U. S. Army Air Force (USAAF) and retained the RAF serial number and camouflage scheme. 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). No known nose art or nickname.

Mission History
On July 22, 1942 took off from Port Moresby piloted by 1st Lt. David S. "Pinky" Hunter (assigned to the 8th Fighter Group, 80th Fighter Squadron who was on loan to the 40th Fighter Squadron) 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 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 of the 40th Fighter Squadron (40th FS).

Fate of the Pilot
In fact, Hunter swam ashore near the barges he was strafing at Gona and was captured by the Japanese and became a Prisoner Of War (POW) and was immediately interrogated.

By early August 1942 transported to Rabaul where he was reportedly hospitalized with "burns or light wounds... and was getting well". Afterwards, detained by the Keibitai (Naval Special Police) 81st Naval Garrison Unit at Keibitai Headquarters at Rabaul. On or around August 31, 1942 Hunter was transported to Matupi Island and executed, 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.

Memorials
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.

References
Joe Baugher "Airacobra I for RAF, P-400"
Missing Air Crew Report 16490 (MACR 16490) was created retroactively postwar
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - David S. Hunter
FindAGrave - 1Lt David Stansfield Hunter (tablets of the missing photo)
FindAGrave - 1LT David Stansfield Hunter (memorial marker photo)
David S. Hunter Casualty File
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, pages 1-2
PNG Museum Aircraft Status Card - P-39 Airacobra piloted by Hunter
Attack and Conquer (1995) 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 (2012) page 207
Target Rabaul (2013) pages 365, 389 (index)
Thanks to Edward Rogers for research and analysis

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Last Updated
September 12, 2020

 

Tech Info
P-400

MIA
POW / MIA
1 Prisoner
Missing
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