CHARLES AUGUSTUS LINDBERGH
HELPS THE 5TH AIR FORCE
DURING WW2

hline.gif (2424 bytes)

 

Lindbergh left North Island, San Diego on 24 April 1944 headed for the South Pacific as a civilian technical representative of the makers of the Corsair Marine/Navy fighter, which initially allowed him to observe combat, but not to become involved and fire his guns.

Nobody in the White House, not even the Secretary of the Navy, Frank Knox, knew of Lindbergh's trip to the South Pacific area. He obtained some Navy uniforms from Brook Brothers, minus Navy insignia. He then participated in a number of "photo shoots" which portrayed Lindbergh leaving San Diego for the "War Zone".

However Lindbergh ended up flying 35 combat missions in the Pacific, including some against Japanese targets on New Ireland and New Britain. The missions involved strafing runs and the dive bombing of Japanese troops at the bases of Rabaul and Kavieng. On 29 May 1944, he dropped a 500 lbs high explosive bomb on Kavieng, hitting a strip of buildings along the beach. Most of his missions were with the 475th Fighter Group, the "all-P38" group that was formed at Amberley Field in mid-1943. McGuire was the second ranking American fighter ace of all time with 38 confirmed kills.

After spending some time flying with Navy and Marine pilots, he then decided to move to the South West Pacific Area (SWPA) to observe P-38's in real combat action. He contacted his friend General Ennis Whitehead who invited him to Hollandia.

 

lb01.jpg (63425 bytes)

Charles Lindbergh (2nd from left) on Emirau Island May 1944
William E. Belis is the person at the far left.
Can anyone identify the other persons in the above photograph?

 

Apparently Lindbergh had hitched a lift into New Guinea, arriving at Finschhafen on 15 June 1944. On 26 June 1944, he interrupted a game of checkers to introduce himself to Charles MacDonald, the Commanding Officer of the 475th Fighter Group ( "Satan's Angels"). Lindbergh met with General Whitehead at Nadzab on about 1 July 1944.

MacDonald allowed Lindbergh to go on his first mission the following day to Jefman Island and Samate, regular targets for the 475th Fighter Group. There were 4 aircraft, lead by MacDonald himself. Lindbergh's company in the other two aircraft were Fighter Aces, Thomas McGuire and Meryl Smith. Lindbergh strafed an enemy barge in Kaiboes Bay during that mission, whilst weaving his way through the ack-ack barrage.

After several more bombing missions, the 475th's crew chief noticed that Lindbergh's P-38 usually returned with much more fuel left than any other aircraft. MacDonald introduced Lindbergh to the rest of the group and asked him to explain why he would always return with more fuel left than the rest of the group.

Lindbergh explained that by raising manifold pressure and lowering engine revolutions, the P-38 would use much less fuel, thus allowing a great combat radius for the same fuel load. Over the next few weeks the 3 squadrons of the 475th Fighter Group found they could extend their 6 to 8 hours missions out to 10 hours, allowing them to strike deeper into Japanese territory. In this time Lindbergh flew 25 missions for 90 hours of combat flying. This was more missions than would have been expected from a regular combat pilot. He dive-bombed enemy positions, sank Japanese barges, patrolled allied landing forces on Noemfoor Island and was shot at by nearly every Japanese anti-aircraft gun in western New Guinea.

 


Photo:- Teddy W. Hanks

Photo:- Teddy W. Hanks

Photo:- Teddy W. Hanks

Photo:- Teddy W. Hanks

The above two photos were sent to me by Teddy W. Hanks who was a member of the 433rd Squadron, 475th Fighter Group at that time. He had earlier been a member of the 40th Pursuit Squadron of the 35th Fighter Group. The photos were taken on Bial Island probably in July 1944. They had just returned from a combat mission to an unrecorded enemy area. The P-38 obviously was assigned to the 431st Fighter Squadron because the propeller spinner is a solid colour -- apparently red. The spinners in Teddy's squadron,  were blue and only the back half were painted. Could very well have been McGuire's plane, # 131, since he was assigned to the 431st at that time.

 

The first time Lindbergh flew with the 433rd Squadron he was assigned #196. The crew chief (head mechanic) on #196 was Denzil Massengale, a very quiet, reserved farm boy who was one of the tens of thousands of young men who entered the military service following the Japanese sneak attack on Pearl Harbor. He was one of the four thousand unassigned recruits who were hastily sent to Australia aboard the British Liner Queen Mary in early 1942. The 40th Pursuit Squadron had arrived with only 76 enlisted men. We were finally brought up to authorized strength (218) after reaching Antil Plains. Massengale was one of the "QM" boys who joined us at Antil Plains. The only prior experience he had received that was considered related to aircraft maintenance was maintaining the family tractor back home in Missouri. But he was very dependable, learned quickly and became exceptionally competent. Denzil died many years ago.

Lindbergh's assistant on #196 was Emil Krevokuch, a Chicago boy who also went over on the Queen Mary. Emil was initially assigned to the 41st squadron but was reassigned to the 433rd Squadron when that organization was formed in mid 1943 at Amberley Field. Unlike Denzil, Emil was, a gregarious individual. Many years ago Teddy W. Hanks learned that the second time Lindbergh came to fly with the 433rd, he asked if #196 was available. It was and he flew it again. Thereafter, when the famed flyer was scheduled to fly with the 433rd, if #196 was available it was given to him. According to Emil, Lindbergh once told Denzil that he (Lindbergh) did not understand how an airplane could fly so often and so long without something going wrong with it. That was an enormous compliment from a highly qualified flyer who very carefully checked an aircraft before and during flight.

Soon after General George C. Kenny arrived to command the allied air forces under General Douglas MacArthur, he asked Washington for two things: 

The Result:- The Fifth Air Force was born and enough P-38s to equip one squadron (28 aircraft), a fighter squadron, was authorised. The 39th and 40th Fighter Squadrons had just returned to Australia from a nine week's tour of duty at Port Moresby. It was decided that one of the two squadrons would get the P-38s. Since both squadrons had about the same record of accomplishment, a coin was tossed to determine the winner. The 39th won the toss. As soon as their planes were received and the pilots were checked out, the 39th returned to New Guinea. As Teddy W. Hanks recalls, they got official credit for 74 enemy planes destroyed in aerial combat before losing a pilot.

Richard Ira "Dick" Bong had flown P-38s in the States before his reassignment to the 9th Fighter Squadron, 49th Fighter Group. The 49th was still flying the P-40 upon his arrival, so he was placed on DS (Detached Service) to the 39th. His first five or so kills were obtained with the 39th. After the 9th squadron was re-equipped with P-38s, Bong returned to his assigned unit and continued to knock down Nip planes.

When Lindbergh arrived surreptitiously in New Guinea after spending time with a Marine Corps squadron in the Solomon Islands, he was permitted to fly Bong's P-38 to Hollandia, Dutch New Guinea, to obtain combat experience with the 475th Fighter Group. Teddy W. Hanks was a flight chief of ten aircraft at that time -- the latter days of June. They had positioned about 18 planes on a parking strip at the west end of the landing strip since their squadron was assigned "alert duty." During mid-morning Teddy noticed an alien P-38 pull into their area, park alongside his planes and the pilot throttle back preparatory to shutting down the engines. Teddy quickly drove his jeep to the front of the newcomer, jumped out so that he could easily see him and the six stripes on his sleeves, and began moving his head in the universal "NO" fashion. The pilot leaned forward in the cockpit, looked to his left at the row of P-38s, looked back at Teddy, raised his left hand with the index finger pointing down and made an up and down motion. Teddy realised he was asking for permission to park, but Teddy was not going to allow it. Teddy continued the "NO" motion while indicating with a raised arm for him to taxi out of the area. He advanced the throttles and moved forward. As the aircraft turned to the right, Teddy noticed a large number of Jap flags painted on the left side of the center section immediately ahead of the cockpit.

An hour or so later, word quickly spread throughout their flight line that Charles A. Lindbergh had just landed in Bong's airplane. To say Teddy was expecting to be called upon the carpet for being so rude to a pilot -- especially a world renown personality -- would be an understatement. But, the man apparently was much too big to allow a minor incident become a major distraction. To Teddy's knowledge, he never mentioned the incident to anyone. 

Teddy W. Hanks had another encounter with Lindbergh which he related to me as follows:- 

One morning I had driven my jeep near our operations shack to pick up a fresh bottle of oxygen prior to checking with each crew chief to learn if his plane needed servicing. I had just loaded the bottle into the jeep when another jeep drove up and the driver asked if the pilots had arrived. The first thing I noticed when looking at the driver was his partially bald forehead highlighted by the bright moonlight. I replied, "Not yet, Pappy," thinking he was our operations clerk, Technical Sergeant McGinnis. I quickly walked the few steps over to greet him by slapping him on the back. My hand was already raised when I suddenly realized it was Lindbergh. "I'm sorry, Colonel, I thought you were someone else," was my apology. "That's quite alright," was his response.

Emil Krevokuch, the assistant crew chief on #196, the plane that Lindbergh usually flew when he was with the 433rd, related another story on Lindbergh to Teddy W. Hanks. Lindbergh was making his customary pre-flight check of #196. One of those checks was to remove the fuel cell covers to ascertain that the tank was actually full. He obviously did not rely solely on the cockpit gauges. He could not flip up the four-inch- long cap handle that enabled twisting the cap for removal from the tank. He asked Emil for a screwdriver to enable him to pry the handle from its down-and-locked position. Emil, who was standing on the ground aft of the wing, mounted the access ladder far enough to hand the tool to Lindbergh then resumed his position on the ground. After prying the handle from its secured position, Lindbergh called to Emil and tossed the tool down to him. The relatively large screwdriver went through Emil's outstretched hand and struck him in the mouth knocking a gold cap off a tooth. While Emil was picking up the cap, Lindbergh hastily removed himself from the wing to check on Emil's condition. Emil said he had a heck of a time convincing Lindbergh he was not hurt, that he had retrieved the cap and someday would have it reinstalled. Lindbergh was extremely apologetic and said it was the most stupid thing he had ever done.

In 1969, the 475th Fighter Group held a reunion at Colorado Springs, Colorado. Lindbergh attended, as did Emil Krevokuch. Emil approached the famous flier from the side while he was conversing with a few others. "Hello, Colonel," Emil said. Lindbergh turned to greet the newcomer and replied, "Emil, you old son-of-a-gun; how's the tooth?" That meeting took place 25 years after the incident, but Lindbergh recognized Emil and certainly remembered an incident that surely must have bothered him ever since.

On 4 July 1944, General George C. Kenney, the Commander of the 5th Air Force, heard from a War Correspondent that Colonel Charles Lindbergh was in New Guinea. Apparently no one in General Headquarters was aware of Lindbergh's presence in New Guinea. Kenney asked General Whitehead in New Guinea to get a message to Lindbergh to say that he would like to see him in his Brisbane office.

Lindbergh arrived in Brisbane the following day and met with Kenney. He told Kenney he was in New Guinea to investigate new ideas for fighter aircraft design. He was particularly interested in the P-38 Lockheed Lightning. Lindbergh had an association with an aircraft company and he had obtained permission from the US Navy Department to visit the South Pacific Area (but not the South West Pacific area).

As he did not have "legal permission" to be in the SWPA theatre of war, Kenney decided he should legitimise Lindbergh's presence in the SWPA by introducing him to General Douglas MacArthur. His appointment with MacArthur was at 5:15pm on Wednesday 12 July 1944. When MacArthur asked Lindbergh if there was anything he could do for him, Kenney butted in and indicated that he had an important job for Lindbergh. He advised that he wanted Lindbergh to get more operational radius from his P-38 Lightnings. If he could fly a little monoplane all the way from New York to Paris and have gas left over, he should be able to help his P-38 pilots in the 5th Air Force. MacArthur agreed that Lindbergh should help.

Once back in Kenney's office, Lindbergh indicated that he could increase the operational radius of the P-38s by almost 50%. Their current radius of operation was 400 miles. Lindbergh was hoping to increase this to 600 miles. Kenney told Lindbergh that he did not want him to be involved in any combat missions. It would not be good news if he were to be shot down or captured by the Japs.

He went to New Guinea and spent most of his time with Colonel Charles H. MacDonald's 475th Fighter Group at Biak. Lindbergh flew mainly with the 433rd Fighter Squadron (Possum Squadron) of the 475th Fighter Group.

Within 6 weeks the 600 miles radius was achieved, with 800 miles as a new possible target to achieve.

On 28 July 1944, near Ceram, Lindbergh shot down a Ki-51 Sonia of the 73rd Independent Flying Chutai flown by Captain Saburo Shimada. Lindbergh was nearly shot down himself on 1 August 1944 near Palaus.

Lindbergh returned to USA in mid August 1944.

lb02.jpg (38764 bytes)

Charles Lindbergh in the cockpit of a
"J" model P-38 Lockheed Lightning at Hollandia in July 1944

 

The 1974, the 475th Fighter Group reunion was held in Dayton, Ohio. Lindbergh had been invited and intended to attend. A few weeks before the reunion, he learned he had terminal cancer and immediately returned to his home in Hawaii. Teddy W. Hanks had been looking forward to once again meeting him so that he could apologize for treating him so rudely at Hollandia in 1944. But it was not to be. Lindbergh died later at age 72 and was apparently buried without fanfare in a plain wooden coffin on his property on the island of Maui.

Teddy W. Hanks had the pleasure to be associated with some very courageous men during that long-ago war, but he considered Lindbergh to head the list. Teddy went on to tell me about Lindbergh's tour with the 475th:-

Perhaps there is something about the story you did not know or perhaps have forgotten. In my candid opinion, Lindbergh contributed more to the Group, indeed the entire 5th Air Force, than did any other individual because he enabled our planes to reach targets -- and return -- that were considered too distant to reach prior to his demonstrating cruise control (stretching more miles out of the same amount of fuel). I happen to be the first 475th member to greet Lindbergh upon his arrival at Hollandia, Dutch New Guinea. (see story above)

He voluntarily flew combat missions knowing full well that should he be shot down and captured he would not be classified as a military prisoner of war but rather as a criminal. You will notice in the one photo that he was carrying a .45 calibre pistol on his left hip. More importantly, he flew combat missions in an aircraft equipped with a 20 mm cannon and four .50 calibre machine guns and was credited with shooting down a Japanese Sonia on 28 July over the island of Ceram, Dutch East Indies. One can only surmise how the enemy may have reacted if they had captured an American civilian who was bearing arms against them.

Lindbergh's one victory was nothing compared to his demonstrating how to extend the operating range of the P-38 -- and all other 5th Air Force aircraft as well. His method of reducing engine speed (revolutions per minute) and advancing the throttle to obtain a higher engine manifold pressure in order to maintain a desired air speed proved beyond doubt that greater distances were possible. The extended range enabled fighter aircraft to provide escort to heavy bombers previously considered impossible. We were indeed fortunate to have a man of such knowledge and daring choose to visit us. . .

 . . Ted

 


 

Al Coburn, P-38 Lightning pilot
475th Fighter Group, 433rd Fighter Squadron

A Wingman for Charles Lindbergh

 

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

I'd like to thank Teddy W. Hanks for his assistance with this web page.

I'd also like to thank Gary Belis, son of the late William E. Belis, for his assistance with this web page.

 

REFERENCE BOOKS

"The Forgotten Fifth"
by Michael Claringbould

"Lindbergh"
by A. Scott Berg

 

Can anyone help me with more information?

 

I need your help

Copyright

 Peter Dunn 2015

Disclaimer

Please e-mail me
any information or photographs


"Australia @ War"
8GB USB Memory Stick

 

This page first produced 10 September 2000

This page last updated 04 February 2016