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3rd Air Commando Group
|Pilot 2nd Lt Leon A. Bollinger, 2062967 (MIA / KIA) Ogle County, IL
Crashed February 27, 1945
Built by North American at Inglewood. Constructors Number 122-31064. Delivered to the U. S. Army Air Force (USAAF) as P-51D-20-NA Mustang serial number 44-63338. Disassembled and shipped overseas to the South West Pacific Area (SWPA) and reassembled.
Assigned to the 5th Air Force (5th AF), 3rd Air Commando Group (3rd ACG), Headquarters Squadron (HQ Sqn). No known nose art or nickname.
On February 27, 1945 took off from Biak Island piloted by 2nd Lt Leon A. Bollinger as one of seven Mustangs on a flight bound for Pitu Airfield on Morotai to ferry new aircraft to the 3rd Air Commando Group. During the flight roughly 30-40 miles short of their destination the formation encountered very bad weather and the formation broke up.
Bollinger and Alexander were last seen entering clouds and were never seen again. When this aircraft failed to arrive it was officially declared Missing In Action (MIA). Also lost was P-51D pilot Alexander (MIA).
The remainder of the formation reached Morotai or returned to Biak. Leavitt turned back and landed safely at Biak. McKissack and Royal made it through the bad weather and landed at Morotai. Elliot and Harrison were delayed taking off from Biak and reached Morotai without incident.
A search mission was sent out from Morotai to look for Bollinger and Alexander but no sign of them was found.
David Forrester adds:
"Alexander is more of a mystery. He was not a member of the 3rd Air Commandos and (based on mission reports) it appears the other pilots didn’t even know his name. On the American Battle Monuments Commission site he only listed as a member of the Army Air Corps - no Group or Squadron given. His mother was informed that he went missing on 1st Mar 1945 on a ferry flight to Leyte Island. Where did he come from and why was he on this mission?
The Air Clearance for the flight had Alexander listed in aircraft “293” and Bollinger in “338”. The RAAF Searcher records have Alexander’s aircraft number as 44-25293 (a canceled P-82B), however 44-23293 was a P-51D-20-NA Mustang (no further info). It is possible that this was the aircraft of 2nd Lt Earnest R. Alexander. As these were replacement aircraft being ferried to the 3rd ACG, is it reasonable to assume that they would be from the same batch? That is, P-51D-20-NA 44-23338 was the aircraft of 2nd Lt Leon A. Bollinger?"
Fate of the Pilot
In fact, Bollinger bailed out near Obi Island to the south of Halmahera. Alexander and Bollinger were detained by Ismael Radjaloear, Imam of Laiwoei and leader of Japanese Heihe who sold both pilots to the Japanese.
On March 11, 1945 both were turned over to the Japanese and became Prisoners Of War (POW). Both men attempted to escape. On March 26, 1945 both were killed by a Japanese Army 20 man patrol.
During the middle of May 1945, an Australian Army 'J' Mission, Far Eastern Liaison Office (FELO) inserted an intelligence gathering party on Obi Island that learned two American pilots, Alexander and Bollinger were captured by locals and turned over to the Japanese.
Their bodies were not buried but at the end of the Pacific War the Japanese built a "burial ground" for them at Seri village (it is not clear if any remains were buried there or not. His remains were never recovered and he remains listed as Missing In Action.
Fate of the Pilot
In fact, this Mustang crashed in the Obi Island to the south of Halmahera. Alexander survived the crash. On March 11, 1945 he and 2nd Lt. L. H. Bollinger were captured by the Japanese and became Prisoners Of War (POW). Both men attempted to escape. On March 26, 1945 both were killed by a Japanese Army 20 man patrol.
Their bodies were not buried but at the end of the Pacific War the Japanese built a "burial ground" for them at Seri village (it is not clear if any remains were buried there or not. His remains were never recovered and he remains listed as Missing In Action (MIA).
Alexander was officially declared dead on March 26, 1945. He earned the Purple Heart, posthumously. Alexander is memorialized at Manila American Cemetery on the tablets of the missing.
NARA - World War II Army Enlistment Records - Leon A. Bollinger
USAF Serial Number Search Results - P-51D-20-NA Mustang 44-63338
"63338 (HQ, 3rd Air Commando group, 5th AF) lost from unknown cause 30 mi N of Morotai Island in Maluku Islands, Indonesia due to bad weather Feb 26, 1945. MACR 15904. Pilot MIA"
Missing Air Crew Report 15904 (MACR 15904) details the loss of both Leon A. Bollinger and Earnest R. Alexander
NAA [Celebes, Halmahera, Ceram -] 'J' Mission [FELO (Far Eastern Liaison Office) file] (NAA: A3269, B1/A) page 9
Page 9: "Ismael Radjaloear - Imam of LAIWOEI and leader of Japanese Heihe and spies in OBI. This man sold two American airmen - Alexander and Ballinger - who had bailed out over OBI, to the Japanese."
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Leon A. Bollinger
FindAGrave - 2Lt Leon A Bollinger (tablets of the missing)
Pacific Wrecks Forum - Missing Air men OBI Island 0675811 Alexander
Thanks to David Forrester for additional information
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