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8th Service Group
301st Airdrome Squadron
FEAF - CRTC
|Pilot Captain Francis J. Lent, O-740474 (MIA / KIA) Melrose, MN
Crashed December 1, 1944 at 2:44pm
Built by North American in Inglewood, California. Delivered to the U. S. Army Air Force (USAAF) as P-51D-10-NA Mustang serial number 44-14621. Converted to F-6D photographic reconnaissance version. Disassembled and shipped overseas to the South-West Pacific Area (SWPA) and reassembled.
Assigned to the 5th Air Force, 8th Service Group, 301st Service Squadron (Airdrome Squadron) part of the Far East Air Force - Combat Replacement Training Center (FEAF - CRTC) based at Nadzab Airfield No. 4. No known nose art or nickname. When lost, engine serial number V-1650-7 serial number V-324436. Weapon serial numbers noted in Missing Air Crew Report 11901 (MACR 11901).
On December 1, 1944 took off from Nadzab Airfield No. 1 at 2:15pm piloted by Captain Francis J. Lent on a local flight eastward over Lae. At 2:44pm this aircraft was observed crashing into the Huon Gulf.
TSgt Albert Lamper on duty at Ripple Tower at Lae Airfield observed this aircraft to the southwest, with wheels down that did not appear to be in distress. Next, observed to make a short left approach for a northwest from roughly 1,000' to land against air traffic, while a C-47 coming in from the southwest for a landing. No radio contact was established and this aircraft was given a red light on final approach.
Afterwards, Lamper observed the aircraft apparently stalled and crash into Huon Gulf roughly 200 yards off the end of the runway at Lae Airfield, quickly sinking a few seconds later. It is believed that the aircraft suffered engine failure, and after ditching the radiator filled with water, causing it to quickly sink. Lamper immediately reported the crash. When this aircraft failled to return it was officially listed as Missing In Action (MIA).
Afterwards, a crash boat from Lae searched the area but found no trace of the pilot or plane. When Lent failed to return, two aircraft piloted by 1st Lt. John W. Zappia and 1st Lt. Milton J. Nagel took off from Nadzab Airfield and searched the Markham Valley, without result and returned due to darkness. At the time, they were unaware Lent's aircraft had been observed to into the Huon Gulf off Lae.
On March 30, 1945, his brother was notified by the U.S. Army of his death. On July 7, 1945 the family held a funeral mass at St. Boniface Catholic Church in Melrose, MN. At Saint Marys Cemetery, a memorial marker for Lent was placed at section C, row 5.
On May 21, 1946 his brother received a letter of condolence and mentioned an ongoing search for his remains.
Lent was officially declared dead the day of the mission, as a non-battle casualty He is memorialized on the tablets of the missing at Manila American Cemetery. Lent has a memorial marker at Saint Marys Cemetery in Melrose, MN at section C, row 5.
Mortimer C. Lent (brother)
Missing Air Crew Report 11901 (MACR 11901) created December 3, 1944
PNG Museum Aircraft Status Card - F-6D (P-51D) Mustang 44-14621
Other source incorrectly list the location of the loss as happening at Leyte
USAF Aeriel Victory Credits Lent, Francis J.
FindAGrave - Capt Francis Joseph "Fran" Lent (memorial marker)
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