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Thomas J. Lynch
39th Fighter Squadron, 35th Fighter Group, 5th Fighter Command
Ace Pilot credited with 20 Victories
Background
Thomas J. Lynch was born December 9, 1916 in Catasauqua, PA. Nicknamed "Tommy". During 1940, he enlisted in the U.S. Army Air Corps (USAAC) as an aviation cadet and completed flight training and earned his wings then was commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant with serial number O-388066.

Wartime History
During 1942 as a 1st Lieutenant sent overseas to the South West Pacific Area (SWPA). Assigned to 5th Air Force (5th AF), 35th Fighter Group (35th FG), 39th Fighter Squadron (39th FS) flying the P-39 Airacobra and P-400 Airacobra defending the Port Moresby area.

Click For EnlargementOn May 20, 1942 took off piloting an Airacobra over Port Moresby and claimed his first two aerial victories over Waigani. On May 26, 1942 took off piloting an Airacobra from Port Moresby and over Mount Lawes claimed his third aerial victory. On June 16, 1942 took off piloting P-39 Airacobra and was bounced by a pair of A6M2 Zeros from the Tainan Kōkūtai (Tainan Air Group). Although he managed to escape, another four Zero intercepted damaging his plane. Unable to return to base, he bailed out and broke his arm, but returned to duty.

Afterwards, the 39th FS converted to P-38 Lightnings.

On December 27, 1942 took off piloting P-38G 42-12715 as one of four P-38 joined by two other four plane flights for a total of twelve P-38s scrambling to intercept incoming Japanese aircraft. Over Buna they intercepted 35 enemy planes in what was the first aerial combat by the P-38 Lightning in the South West Pacific Area (SWPA).  During the dog fight, Lynch claimed two aerial victories against Ki-43 Oscars his fourth and fifth aerial victories and became an ace.

On December 31, 1942 took off piloting P-38G 42-12715 leading a formation of twelve P-38s escorting escort A-20 Havocs, B-25 Mitchells and B-26 Marauders on a bombing mission against Lae Airfield. Lynch made several passes at Oscars and Zeros, shooting one down that crashed into the Huon Gulf.  He was credited with two more victories. Afterwards, he was promoted to Captain.

On January 7, 1943 took off piloting P-38G 42-12715 on a mission over Lae and claimed his fourth aerial victory over a Ki-43 Oscar and another damaged.

On March 3, 1943 took off piloting a P-38 Lightning during the Battle of the Bismarck Sea and claimed a Ki-43 Oscar over the Huon Gulf.

On May 8, 1943 he claimed another aerial victory, his tenth aerial victory claim. On June 10, 1943 he claimed another aerial victory. Promoted to Major, Lynch became the Commanding Officer (C. O. ) of the 35th Fighter Group (35th FG).

On August 20, 1943 he claimed another two victories over Wewak. On August 21, 1943 he claimed another victory over Dagua Airfield.

On September 4, 1943 claimed a Ki-48 Lily or dive bomber over the Huon Gulf. On September 16, 1943 he claimed another victory over Hansa Bay. On February 10, 1944 he claimed another victory over Tadji.

Promoted to Lt. Col he served with Headquarters, 5th Fighter Command (V FC). On March 3, 1944 credited with two victories over Tadji Airfield. On March 5, 1944 over Dagua Airfield he claimed an aerial victory, his twentieth aerial victory claim.

Missing In Action
On March 8, 1944 took off piloting P-38J 42-103987 on a fighter sweep over with P-38 piloted by Captain Richard I. Bong over Aitape. After strafing six Japanese barges in Aitape Harbor, his P-38 was damaged by anti-aircraft fire at low altitude. Bailing out low to the ground, his chute barely rippled open, and fellow pilot Richard I. Bong witnessed him hit the jungle and his P-38 crash. Declared missing in action, his remains were never found and he remains Missing In Action (MIA).

Aerial victory claims
Thomas J. Lynch was officially credited with destroying 20 enemy aircraft in aerial combat plus 3 probables and 2 damaged, all while flying P-38 Lightnings.

Victory Date Location Aircraft Notes on claim
1 05/20/42 Waigani A6M Zero First aerial victory claim.
2 05/20/42 Waigani A6M Zero Second aerial victory claim.
3 05/26/42 Mount Lawes A6M Zero Third aerial victory claim.
4 12/27/42 Buna Ki-43 Oscar Fourth aerial victory claim.
5 12/27/42 Buna Ki-43 Oscar Fifth aerial victory claim became an "ace".
6 12/31/42 Lae A6M Zero Sixth aerial victory claim.
7 12/31/42 Huon Gulf A6M Zero Seventh aerial victory claim.
8 01/07/43 Huon Gulf Ki-43 Oscar Eighth aerial victory claim.
9 03/03/43 Huon Gulf Ki-43 Oscar Ninth aerial victory claim.
10 05/08/43 Saidor A6M3 Zero Tenth aerial victory claim became a "double ace".
11 06/10/43 Bena Bena Twin Engine Bomber Eleventh aerial victory claim.
12 08/20/43 Wewak Twin Engine Bomber Twelfth aerial victory claim.
13 08/20/43 Wewak Twin Engine Bomber Thirteenth aerial victory claim.
14 08/21/43 Dagua Airfield Ki-43 Oscar Fourteenth aerial victory claim.
15 09/04/43 Huon Gulf Dive Bomber Fifteenth aerial victory claim became a "triple ace".
16 09/16/43 Hansa Bay Ki-46 Dinah Sixteenth aerial victory claim.
17 02/10/44 Tadji Ki-48 Lily Seventeenth aerial victory claim.
18 03/03/44 Tadji Airfield Unidentified Fighter Eighteenth aerial victory claim.
19 03/03/44 Tadji Airfield Ki-61 Tony Nineteenth aerial victory claim.
20 03/05/44 Dagua Airfield Ki-43 Oscar Twentieth aerial victory claim became a "quadruple ace".

Assigned Aircraft
In the South West Pacific Area (SWPA) Lynch was assigned and known to fly several P-39 Airacobras and P-38 Lightnings between 1942 until he went Missing In Action (MIA) on March 8, 1944.

P-39D 41-6733  Lynch photographed in the cockpit, likely flown during May 1942
P-39 Airacobra  piloted by Lynch bailed out June 16, 1942 off Port Moresby.
P-38G 42-12715  piloted by Lynch between December 27, 1942 to January 7, 1943 on missions he claimed aerial victories.
P-38H 42-66532  assigned in late 1943 MIA piloted by 1st Lt. Lee C. Haigler on November 13, 1943.
P-38J 42-103987  piloted by Lynch MIA March 8, 1944 over Aitape.

Awards

Lynch earned the Distinguished Service Cross (DFC), Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC) with 5 Oak Leaf Clusters, Silver Star, Air Medal with 9 Oak Leaf Clusters and Purple Heart with Oak Leaf Cluster, posthumously. After his death, when Richard I. Bong made a 15-state publicity tour, including a visit to Lynch's family in Catasauqua, PA to pay his respects.

Memorials
Lynch was officially declared dead the day of the mission. He is memorialized at Manila American Cemetery on the tablets of the missing. He also has a memorial marker at Calvary Cemetery in North Catasauqua, PA.

References
"Lt. Col Thomas J. Lynch Killed in air duel in S. Pacific, Bride informed; Catasauqua stunned by death of ace"
"Major Richard I. Bong Flies P-38 to see Mrs. William J. Lynch, mother of late Catasauqua flier-ace"
USAF Historical Study No. 85 USAF Credits For The Destruction of Enemy Aircraft, World War II Alphabetical: Lynch, Thomas J. page 119 (PDF page 126)
Hoy, Bruce. "Tropical Lightning Survivor", Flightpath Magazine, Volume 4 No. 2
Stars & Bars (1995) pages 33-34 (35th FG, 39th FS), 415-416 (Lynch)
AcePilots.com - Thomas Lynch, C.O. 39th FS
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Thomas J. Lynch
FindAGrave - LTC Thomas J Lynch (photos, tablets of the missing)
FindAGrave - Thomas J Lynch (photo, memorial marker photo)

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