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  P-47D-11-RE "The Golden Gopher" Serial Number 42-75239  
5th AF
58th FG
69th FS

Pilot  Captain Harry L. McMullen, O-427454 (rescued) Uniontown, PA
Crashed  May 18, 1944
MACR  none

Aircraft History
Built by Republic at Farmingdale, New York. Delivered to the U. S. Army Air Force (USAAF) as P-47D-11-RE Thunderbolt serial number 42-75239. Disassembled and shipped overseas to Australia and reassembled.

Wartime History
Assigned to the 5th Air Force, 58th Fighter Group, 69th Fighter Squadron. Nicknamed "The Golden Gopher".

Mission History
On May 18, 1944 took off from Saidor Airfield piloted by Captain Harry L. McMullen leading a strafing mission against Wewak. Over the target, hit by anti-aircraft fire that set this aircraft on fire. Climbing, McMullen bailed out at roughly 250' and his parachute only made one swing before he hit the ground. Fellow pilots in his squadron saw him land successful and take cover in the jungle, and noted his position as near Sani village, roughly 12 miles from the mouth of the Ramu River.

Fate of the Pilot
The next day, an L-5 piloted by a member of the 69th Fighter Squadron located McMullen who had laid out his parachute to indicate his position at the edge of a clearing. Next, an L-5 from the 25th Liaison Squadron dropped an M-1 carbine, ammunition, machete, food, medical supplies, blankets and even letters from his girlfriend at home. Over the next eleven days, McMullen worked to clear a small landing ground so he could be rescued.

On May 30, 1944 L-5 piloted by Lt. Guy Johnson from the 25th Liaison Squadron landed in a kunai grass covered clearing, but was unable to take off. Together, Johnson and McMullen worked for two days to clear the grass into a larger runway that was dubbed McMullen Strip in honor of Captain Harry L. McMullen. On May 31, 1944 the L-5 attempted to take off twice but was unable to get airborne until the third try and returned to base.

McMullen passed away on February 11, 1949. He is buried at LaFayette Memorial Park in Brier Hill, PA.

USAF Serial Number Search Results - P-47D-11-RE Thunderbolt 42-75239 incorrectly states 9th AF assignment.
USAAF Status Card P-47D 42-75239
PNG Museum Aircraft Status Card - P-47D Thunderbolt 42-75239
69th Fighter Squadron May 1944 includes data on the rescue of McMullen (AFHRA IRISNUM: 00057124)
Pittsburgh Post Gazette "Uniontown Flier Saved After 13 Days in Jungle" June 29, 1944
The P-47 Thunderbolt (1984) by Len Morgan, page 10
FindAGrave - Harry Leo McMullen, Jr (obituary, grave photo)
The Morning Herald "McMullen Rites Will Be Tuesday Popular Local War Vet is Called" Feb 14, 1949
"He was a Thunderbolt pilot with the 59th Fighter Squadron, 58th Fighter Group, and served one and one-years overseas. At one time he was in hiding from the Japanese for 13 days when his plane was shot down in the New Guinea jungles."
Thanks to Edward Rogers for research and analysis

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Last Updated
June 29, 2019


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