Lt. Marion C. Lutes, O-665424 (MIA / KIA) Durant, Bryan County, OK
Marion Carter Lutes, was born in 1915 in Durant, Bryan County, Oklahoma. He was the only child of Frederick Homer 'Fred' Lutes and Ruby Love 'Laura' Carter Lutes. He was known by his middle name "Carter". Lutes graduated the University of Oklahoma and was a member of the Sigma Alpha Epsilon (SAE) fraternity. He was single when he enlisted in the U. S. Army on January 22, 1942 in Oklahoma City, OK as an air corps cadet serial number 18096121. After graduating flight school, he was sent overseas as a A-20 Havoc pilot assigned to the 5th Air Force, 312th
Bombardment Group, 387th Bombardment Squadron.
Built by Republic at the Indiana Division of Republic Aviation in
Evansville, IN. Constructor Number 438. Delivered to the U. S. Army Air Force (USAAF) as P-47D-4-RA Thunderbolt serial number 42-22687. Disassembled and shipped overseas to the Pacific and reassembled.
Assigned to the 5th Air Force, 49th Fighter Group, 9th Fighter Squadron as a replacement aircraft at Dobodura. Assigned to pilot 1st Lt. James
W. Harris III with crew chief TSgt W. E. White and assistant Cpl Screws and operated from Gusap Airfield.
This P-47 had a white '71' painted on the nose cowling and tail. The cockpit had the pilot's name "J. W. Harris" and four Japanese victory flags (for Harris' prior victories flying in a P-38). Lower on the cockpit was 'Crew
Chief T/Sgt W. E. White' and 'Asst Cpl Screws'. The aircraft had a white vertical stripe outlined in red behind the cockpit,
and red-lined US Star on the fuselage, and 'star and bar' US markings on the wing. Crew chief White painted a girl on the side of the cockpit, with red hair with a blue bow, wearing a red and white bikini, but the aircraft bore no nickname.
49th Fighter Group, 9th Fighter converted back to P-38 Lightnings in early 1944, this aircraft was transferred to the 58th Service Group 386th Service Squadron Far East Air Force - Combat Replacement Training Center (FEAF - CRTC) based at Nadzab Airfield and used for training flights.
29, 1944 took off from Nadzab No. 3 Airfield (Fighter Strip) at 2:15pm piloted by Lutes to
test fly this P-47 and test fire the guns over Faita.
After takeoff, no contact was made after take off. When he failed to return, Lutes was officially declared Missing In Action (MIA).
In fact, this P-47 crashed largely intact in the Finisterre
Mountains. It is unknown if Lutes bailed out, survived the
or died near
the aircraft. Most likely, he attempted to crash land with the plane and either died at or near the crash site or in the vicinity from injuries. Lutes remains listed as Missing In Action (MIA).
During 1979, this P-47 was first located at roughly 8,200' elevation near the Nando village and Tauta by a group of student trekkers as part of "Operation
Drake". When they discovered the P-47, the cockpit canopy was in the closed position, and no human remains were seen at the crash site.
During 1990, a US Army CILHI surveyed. Later, during 1999, two other teams also surveyed the site. None of them found any remains or personal effects. But, this wreck site was never the subject of a dedicated
search, and this wreck is listed as an open MIA cases.
Rachel Phillips, JPAC adds:
"In 1990, a CILHI team surveyed the site. They did not find remains or personal effects. In 1999, there were two CILHI teams that visited the site associated with this case. Neither team found remains or personal effects."
In early October 2004 Alfred
Hagen / Aero Archaeology funded the salvage of this aircraft
by Robert Greinert using a MI-8 helicopter. During the salvage, the wreck was not able to be lifted, so the engine was cut off. During the flight back to Lae, the right landing gear leg lowered. Afterwards, the wreckage was containered at Lae and exported to Sydney.
During and after the salvage became controversial to the PNG Museum and JPAC, who considered the site an open MIA case and because the pilot is still listed as Missing In Action (MIA).
Hagen stated via email on October 21, 2004:
"JPAC & the [U. S.] ambassador
[to Papua New Guinea] were the victims of misinformation and bullshit in
an attempt to sabotage our operation. They were told that the site was
MIA (technically correct) and that the pilots remains could still be in
or around the wreckage (grossly incorrect). The pilot opened an escape
hatch in the canopy from inside and climber out. He ate his emergency rations
30 feet from the plane [No photographic evidence
of these relics have been submitted to Pacific Wrecks or any other website or source.] he vanished
into the jungle, never to be seen again. He was probably injured. The instrument
panel is completely intact and frozen in time. He hit a tree on approach
at 105mph, sheared off the tail and pancaked to earth. He couldn't open
his canopy because it was jambed by the left wing which broke off and flipped
over the fuselage. [After the salvage] Robert Greinert has met with JPAC
and they are fine with what we did. They frankly admit that they were victims
of BS. An earlier CILHI team inspected the site. The American Ambassador
was also misinformed. He was straightened out by Australians who knew better.
The rest of the US government couldn't give two f---s [expletive removed]."
Hagen stated via email on October 21, 2004:
"Kindly allow to clarify that I went to PNG to assist my associate Rob
Greinert recover the P-38 and the P-47. They are his projects, not mine.
I am happy to assist him in any way possible because his help in resolving
the Swamp Ghost salvage has been indispensable. I did help fund the
project and I am working with Rob but the plane is his project, not mine.
That is why it went to Sydney and not to the USA."
Since 2004, this wreck has been stored at Historic Aircraft Restoration Society (HARS) at Albion Park Airfield (Illawarra) and is under restoration.
Robert Greinert stated in an email to Pacific Wrecks during 2004:
"Parts will be copied from the wreck,
and it will later be donated to a museum."
As of July 2010, the fuselage was de-skinned and the skin panel with with nose art and serial number displayed on it.
By April 2012, this aircraft was no longer on display at Historic Aircraft Restoration Society (HARS) at Albion Park Airfield (Illawarra). Since then, the whereabouts of this P-47 are unknown, possibly in storage in Australia.
As of 2018, there is no evidence this P-47 was ever "donated to a museum" nor has it ever been on display to the public, aside from a limited basis to select tours when stored at HARS circa 2004.
Marion Lutes was officially declared dead on February 7, 1946 but remains officially listed as Missing In Action (MIA). He is memorialized at Manila American Cemetery on the tablets of the missing. He also has a memorial marker at Highland Cemetery in Durant, OK at section 3, lot 0121.
Are you a relative of Marion C. Lutes? Contact us
USAF Serial Number Search Results - P-47D-4-RA 42-22687
"22687 (58th FG) MIA Apr 29, 1944 near Tauta Village during test flight. MACR 5808. Wreck discovered in 1979 at 8000 feet in the Finisterre Range near villages of Nando and Tauta. Cockpit was closed and no remains were found. Aircraft salvaged by helicopter Oct 2004 and shipped to Australia."
Missing Air Crew Report 5808 (MACR 5808)
NARA World War II Army Enlistment Records Marion C. Lutes
DPAA Service Personnel Not Recovered Following WWII for the ARMY AIR FORCE - Lutes, Marion C.
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Marion C. Lutes
FindAGrave - 1Lt Marion C Lutes (tablets of the missing)
FindAGrave - Marion Carter Lutes (memorial marker photo)
PNG Museum Aircraft Status Card - P-47D Thunderbolt 42-22687
The Roarin' 20s page 65
Rampage of the Roarin' 20's pages 94, 348
Aero Archaeology - P-47 Salvage (video)
Classic Wings Magazine "A Bolt From the Blue" issue
no 48, page 8
Boston Globe "Remains are lost in race for relics: Brisk trade in WWII planes thwarts efforts to recover missing fliers" by
Kevin Baron and Bryan Bender May 25, 2009
The Sydney Morning Herald "Once were warbirds: a battle to recover the fallen: The Pentagon is on a collision course with WWII fans in PNG" by Kevin Baron and Bryan Bender June 5, 2009
Classic Wings Issue 78 "Return to Thunder Alley" pages 22-25 Vol 17, No 5 2010
Thanks to Rachel Phillips, Richard Leahy, and Robert Greinert for additional information
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Do you have photos or additional information to add?
June 29, 2019