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Perry J. "PJ" Dahl
P-38 Lightning Pilot and Ace

Background
Perry J. Dahl was born February 18, 1923 in Seattle, Washington State. Nicknamed "PJ". He attended three years of high school before enlisting in the military.

Wartime History
On September 16, 1940 he enlisted in the U. S. Army National Guard as a private with serial number 20940454. After basic training, he was assigned to the 41st Infantry Division. After the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, he applied for aviation cadet training and earned his wings and was commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant with serial number O-748923.

Afterwards, transitioned to the P-38 Lightning and was assigned to the 55th Fighter Group based at Tumwater, Washington State. Next, sent overseas to the South West Pacific Area (SWPA) as a replacement pilot.

PacificWrecks.comAssigned to the 5th Air Force (5th AF), 475th Fighter Group (475th FG) "Satan's Angels", 432nd Fighter Squadron (432nd FS) "Hades" as a P-38 Lightning pilot based at North Borio Airfield (Dobodura No. 15). Assigned P-38H "Skidoo" 42-66504 Nose 162 and began flying combat missions over New Guinea.

On November 9, 1943 took off on a mission to escort A-20 Havocs and B-25 Mitchells attacking Alexishafen Airfield and claimed his first aerial victory a "Zeke" [sic Ki-43 Oscar].

On December 22, 1943 took off on a mission over Wewak and claimed his second aerial victory a "Zeke" [sic, Ki-43 Oscar].

On January 23, 1944 took off on a mission over Wewak and claimed his third aerial victory.

On February 24, 1944 took off from Nadzab on a mission bound for Momote Airfield but encountered bad weather including low clouds and rain. Returning, Dahl made it to Cape Gloucester Airfield but while landing collided with a B-24 Liberator.

In early 1944 promoted to the rank of 1st Lieutenant and by April 1944, again promoted to the rank of Captain and became operations officer.

On April 3, 1944 took off on a mission over Hollandia and claimed his forth and fifth aerial victory claims, became an ace.

On June 8, 1944 took off on a mission and claimed his sixth aerial victory.

On November 10, 1944 took off from San Pablo Airfield on Leyte piloting P-38L 44-23957 on a scramble mission to intercept Japanese fighters over Ormoc Bay. The weather was ceiling and visibility unlimited (CAVU). At 9:10am flying at 10,000' the formation was intercepted by twelve Ki-61 Tonys flying eastward in close formation. The P-38s made a first pass from the right rear and Dahl claimed his seventh aerial victory. While turning for a second pass, this P-38 collided with P-38L 44-23935 piloted by 2nd Grady M. Laseter, Jr. over Ormoc Bay between Ponson Island and Apale Point on Leyte. Damaged, Dahl managed to ditched into Ormoc Bay and was observed to crash. Also damaged, P-38L 44-23935 was observed to crash and Laseter was reported as Missing In Action (MIA). Afterwards, Dahl was aided by Filipino Guerrillas who hid him until he returned to American lines after 31 days and by January 15, 1945 returned to duty.

On March 5, 1945 claimed his eighth aerial victory claim.

On March 28, 1945 claimed his ninth aerial victory claim, his last during World War II.

Assigned Aircraft
P-38H "Skidoo" 42-66504  scrapped or otherwise disappeared
P-38L 44-23957  ditched November 10, 1944

Aerial Victory Claims
Dahl was officially credited with nine aerial victories. His first was claimed on November 9, 1943 and his last on March 28, 1945.

Victory Date Location Aircraft Notes on claim
1 11/09/43 Alexishafen "Zeke" First aerial victory claim for a "Zeke" [sic, Ki-43 Oscar]
2 12/22/43 Wewak "Zeke" Second aerial victory claim for a "Zeke" [sic, Ki-43 Oscar]
3 01/23/44 Wewak   Third aerial victory claim.
4 04/03/44 Hollandia   Fourth aerial victory claim.
5 04/03/44 Hollandia   Fifth aerial victory claim, became an "ace".
6 06/08/44     Sixth aerial victory claim.
7 11/10/44 Ormoc Bay Ki-61 Tony Seventh aerial victory claim. Afterwards, aerial collision damaged and ditched.
8 03/05/45     Eighth aerial victory claim.
9 03/28/45     Ninth aerial victory claim.

Postwar
After the war, Dahl attended the University of Washington and Southern Colorado State University graduating with a Bachelor of Science degree. Afterwards, he worked at the Seattle Post Intelligencer until recalled to active duty with the U. S. Air Force (USAF) in February 1951 during the Korean War then remained in the USAF and worked as a test pilot, Air Force Depot; Editor Flying Safety Magazine. He attended Air Command and Staff College then became Commander, 734th Aircraft Warning and Control Squadron. Next, air staff at the Pentagon. He then served as Vice Commandant of Cadets, United States Air Force Academy. Followed by Deputy Chief of Staff, North American Air Defense Command and Commander, 56th Special Operations Wing. During the Vietnam War, he flew two combat tours in Southeast Asia. He was promoted to the rank of Colonel and retired from the Air Force on June 30, 1978.

Awards
For his military service in three wars, Dahl earned the Congressional Gold Medal, Silver Star, Legion of Merit, Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC) Air Medal, Bronze Star, Meritorious Service Medal with oak leaf cluster, Presidential Unit Citations with oak leaf cluster, Air Force Commendation Medal, Good Conduct Medal, Purple Heart, Vietnam Cross of Gallantry with palm plus numerous service ribbons.

Memorials
In 2006, P-38J Lightning 44-23314 at the Planes of Fame Museum is painted in the markings of this aircraft in tribute to Dahl.

References
NARA World War II Army Enlistment Records - Perry J. Dahl year of birth year listed as 1922
USAF Historical Study No. 85 USAF Credits For The Destruction of Enemy Aircraft, World War II Alphabetical: Dahl, Perry J. pages 49 (PDF page 54) Chronological List: 11/10/44 page 478 (PDF page 483)
Missing Air Crew Report 10596 (MACR 10596) created November 14, 1944 for P-38L 44-23957
Missing Air Crew Report 10612 (MACR 10612) created November 14, 1944 for P-38L 44-23935 mentions this loss
475th Fighter Group Historical Foundation - Col. Perry J. "PJ" Dahl

Thanks to Perry J. Dahl for additional information



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