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  P-47D Thunderbolt Serial Number ?  
5th AF
348th FG
341st FS

Pilot  2nd Lt. Leonard G. Leighton, O-665582 (MIA / KIA)
MIA  August 16, 1943
MACR  none

Aircraft History
Built by Republic. Delivered to the U. S. Army. Disassembled and shipped overseas to Australia and reassembled.

Wartime History
Assigned to the 5th Air Force, 348th Fighter Group, 341st Fighter Squadron. No known nose art or nickname.

Mission History
On August 16, 1943 took off from Port Moresby piloted by Leighton, one of thirty-two P-47 Thunderbolts from the 348th Fighter Group's 340th Fighter Squadron and 341st Fighter Squadron on a mission to escort twenty-four C-47 Dakotas transporting aviation fuel and supplies to Tsili-Tsili Airfield.

Also providing escort were twelve P-38 Lightnings from the 475th Fighter Group, 431st Fighter Squadron which had only recently begun operations in New Guinea. The 5th Air Force was providing a much stronger fighter escort for the C-47s following the loss of two transports to Japanese Army fighters the previous day at Tsili Tsili

All of the twenty-four C-47s landed safely at Tsili Tsili Airfield. While unloading was underway a Japanese aircraft consisting of 33 Ki-43 Oscars and 3 Ki-51 Sonias from Wewak arrived over the area and attempted to attack the transport at Tsili Tsili Airfield.

The escorting fighters, including this P-47 enraged in dogfights against "Zeros" [Ki-43 Oscars] and numerous claims were made on both sides. Lost during the air combat was this P-47. Damaged in the combat was P-38 piloted by Blythe that made a landing at Tsili Tsili Airfield.

The Japanese report losing two pilots. The Japanese attack was thwarted and no transports were lost. This marked the first the combat use of the P-47 Thunderbolt in the New Guinea theater.

American pilots claimed a total of 15 planes. The 340th Fighter Squadron claimed one. The 341st Fighter Squadron claimed two and the 431st Fighter Squadron claimed twelve.

Everette Frazier writes in "Saga Of Tsili Tsili, Vol. II":
"I was watching the fight from the top of a small hill, marking down the location of any down planes on my map and photographs. A P-47 pilot got the first kill, but almost at the same time he was shot down..." Presumably this was Lt. Leighton, the only Allied loss during this mission.

Recovery of Remains
Later, the body of Lt. Leighton is recovered by an (Australian?) Army patrol and buried beside his aircraft. Later, his remains were recovered and postwar were transported to the United States for permanent burial.

Leighton was officially declared dead the day of the mission. The precise burial location of his burial is unknown, likely he is buried in a private cemetery in the United States, not a national cemetery or overseas cemetery.

341st Fighter Squadron microfilm frame 2005
PNG Museum Aircraft Status Card - P-47 Thunderbolt pilot Leighton
Saga Of Tsili Tsili, Vol. II by Everette Frazier, page 113
Thanks to Edward Rogers for additional information

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Last Updated
June 29, 2019


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