|Pilot 1st Lt George O. Burgess, O-665520 (rescued) Flint, MI
Crashed October 22, 1943 at 12:30
Built by Republic at Farmingdale, NY. Delivered to the U. S. Army Air Force as P-47D-2-RE Thunderbolt serial number 42-8121. Disassembled ans shipped overseas to Australia and reassembled.
Assigned to the 5th Air Force, 348th Fighter Group, 342nd Fighter Squadron. Nicknamed "Sunshine". When lost, engine P&W R2800-21 serial number 42-123218. The eight .50 caliber machine gun serial numbers are not noted in Missing Air Crew Report 14287 (MACR 14287).
After the loss of this aircraft, at least two other Thunderbolts were nicknamed "Sunshine" including: P-47D "Sunshine II" serial number unknown, ultimate fate unknown and P-47D "Sunshine III" 42-22532 ultimate fate unknown.
On October 22, 1943 took off from Tsili-Tsili Airfield at 8:40am on a mission to escort B-25s over Wewak, arriving at 10:15am at 20,000'. Weather was scattered clouds and overcast at 10,000'. Last seen by Captain flight leader William D. Dunham, as their flight engaged Ki-61 Tonys at 17,00' off southwest coast of Kairiru Island at 10:20am. Burgess left the target but became lost in bad weather. When he ran short of fuel, he bailed out over the mouth of the Fly River.
After the mission, planes of the 342nd FS searched the Ramu Valley, Markham Valley, Yule Island and Fly River area for four successive days. A PBY Catalina also searched unsuccessfully.
Fate of the Pilot
In fact, Burgess landed unhurt and was immediately picked up by friendly natives. Over the next two days he was guided to an Australian Army patrol that took him to the ANGAU station at Kikori. On October 27, 1943, a PBY Catalina landed to transport him back to Port Moresby. Afterwards, he returned to his squadron without any hospitalization required.
Peter D. Mercy (nephew of Burgess)
"As the family story goes after George bailed out over the Fly River he was approached by a group of natives while hanging from a tree in his parachute all he could think of to say was ugga-bugga Luckly the natives were friendly and chanted Ugga-Bugga for days as they transported him in the dug out canoe. Uncle George's son was named Kearby Burgess in honor of Neel Kearby medal of honor and my Uncle's squadron commander. My cousin Kearby was severely wounded as a Marine in Vietnam."
Missing Air Crew Report 14287 (MACR 14287)
PNG Museum Aircraft Status Card - P-47 Thunderbolt 42-8121
Thanks to Peter D. Mercy for additional information.
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January 5, 2018