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|Pilot 1st Lt Wilburn S. Henderson, O-665558 (MIA / KIA) Butler County, MO
MIA December 27, 1943
Built by Republic at Farmingdale, NY. Delivered to the U. S. Army Air Force (USAAF) as P-47D-2-RE Thunderbolt serial number 42-8099. Disassembled and shipped overseas to Australia and reassembled.
Assigned to the 5th Air Force, 348th Fighter Group, 341st Fighter Squadron "Black Jack". No known nose art or nickname. When lost engine: R-2800-21 serial number: 42-125134. Armed with eight .50 caliber machine guns serial numbers High Standard 588509, High Standard 588173, Colt 297109, Colt 296832, High Standard 588331, Colt 297058, High Standard 588354 and High Standard 588140.
At 9:00am flying at 7,000' the formation arrived over Arawe and encountered roughly forty Japanese fighters above and below them. The Japanese force included 15 D3A2 Vals from the 552 Kōkūtai and 582 Kōkūtai escorted by 38 A6M Zeros on a mission against Cape Gloucester but due to bad weather diverted to Arawe.
Intercepting the Japanese force, the P-47 pilots claimed the Japanese pilots encountered were the most skilled and aggressive ever encountered and claimed sixteen shot down. Below, U. S. Navy (USN) PT Boats PT-190 and PT-191 were making high speed evasive turns to evade the enemy fighters.
This P-47 was last seen in air combat with enemy fighters roughly a half mile out to sea off Arawe. Afterwards, a parachute was observed, considered to be that of an Allied airman who was dressed in flying coveralls such that Lt. Henderson was wearing but was not seen to land in the sea. Also lost was P-47D 42-22702 (rescued).
Statement of Capt. Arthur L. Weeks, 341st Fighter Squadron via MACR 2603 page 8
Dec 27, 1943
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