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Eugene Salternik
L-5 Sentinel Pilot, 25th Liaison Squadron
Interview by Justin Taylan

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Eugene Salternik holding the Silver Star he earned

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Salternik's L-5 wreckage upside down
in 2004

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Natives with L-5 at New Guinea airfield

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Aerial view of Dirniumor River battlefield

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Plaque presented to Salternik by Colin Harvey

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Damage from Japanese
air raid on Wakde Airfield

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Smoke rising from
buildings in Manila

In memory, Eugene Salternik passed away October 9, 2005
Salternik was buried at Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery, San Diego on October 24th with military honors.

Stinson L-5 Sentinel Pilot
I was assigned to the 25th Liaison Squadron flying the Stinson L-5 Sentinel Liaison plane. Our aircraft arrived at Port Moresby in crates. I assembled L-5 42-98066 myself at Port Moresby and flew it over the Owen Stanley mountains up to our base at Gusap Airfield.

Rescue of Nelson Flack
The 25th Liaison Squadron had just arrived at Gusap Airfield, when we got the call that a P-40 pilot [1st Lt. Nelson D. Flack, Jr.] was down, and to go find him and rescue him.  This rescue of Nelson Flack was my first mission of the war.  My L-5 flipped over on landing, and I wasn't able to find Flack until later, he had left the crash site and was wandering around. 

My friend James Nichols [flying L-5 "Termite" 42-98085] also crashed trying to assist the rescue. Finally, an Australian commando [Lt. Hector Henstridge] parachuted down and we walked back to friendly lines.  It took us several weeks to go through the jungle and get back to safety They later gave me the Silver Star for this mission.  Since you asked, I will find the medal and show it to you if you like. I heard that Flack was forced down again, I was very sad to hear about that.

After I spotted Flack's P-40 I went in for a landing in a nearby kunai grass field.  The grass was much higher than it appeared from the air, and in the landing, the plane flipped upside down, breaking the propeller. 

Salternik recalled:
"I was unhurt and I dutifully removed the battery, so that it would not drain and loose its charge. I was sad to have to abandon the plane, I remember, aside from the broken propeller, I could have easily repaired it and flown it again. Later they told me one of our planes strafed my L-5, but I guess that wasn't the case.  I was sure surprised to see the photos John Douglas took of my L-5, its still there!"

Flying In New Guinea
Since our L-5s could land many places that larger planes could not, we were briefed on many smaller strips around New Guinea, like Mt. Hagen Airfield, Goroka Airfield, Wabag Airfield and other smaller strip.  Often, the local people would come out to see us.  Rarely had they seen aircraft or outsiders.

Driniumor River
I flew an officer over the Driniumor River battlefield and landed nearby so he could survey the area. I snapped a photo of the area from my L-5, you could see stacks of bodies from the air, it was a massacre. Our troops were on one side of the river, and the Japanese on the other.  When they tried to cross they were mowed down by our defenses.  Even  from the air you could see all the carnage.

Rescue of Australian Colin Harvey
This P-40N Kittyhawk A29-410 bailed out behind Hollandia in some very rough terrain I took responsibility of keeping him resupplied and directing him from the air towards a river for him to paddle down.  Each day I dropped him notes, and later lead the RAAF Walrus up to the area to pick him up. Harvey was from Perth. We visited with him in Australia and he visited me here in the USA. He gave me this plaque with his flying wings, and a pouch in the back has some of the notes I dropped to him.  He was very grateful for the work I had done and we became good friends. I was sad to hear that he passed away.

Japanese Air Raid on Wakde
Overnight on June 6, 1944, a Japanese air raid destroyed six planes and damaged 80 on the ground at Wakde Airfield. As soon as it was clear, I took off and flew over the strip to survey the damage.  They really got us good that time.  I was good at taking photos with my camera while i flew.

Battle of Manila
The damage to the city was a horrible thing, all those buildings burning. I had the chance to fly a U. S. Army General over the city of Manila on many occasions.  There were battles and fires all over the city.  One time, we flew over Grace Park and I landed there.  We got out, parked the plane and he went to do his inspection.  We heard a 'whoop' sound and some mortars hit nearby.  I ran back to the plane, fearing that they would have destroyed it but luckily it was not hit. We took off and got out of there quickly! This mortar crew must have been watching us when we landed, luckily their round missed.  Another time, while we were flying over the city, a machine gunner started firing at us, I veered away, out over the Bay.  The General didn't say anything about that but was happy about my decision. 

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