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Major Thomas B. McGuire - 38 Japanese kills


1st Lt. Thomas Buchanan McGuire, was sent to the Southwest Pacific Area as a replacement pilot with the 49th Fighter Group, 5th Air Force in March 1943. McGuire flew his first combat mission with the 49th Fighter Group on 22 April 1943.

He transferred to the 475th Fighter Group in June 1943. The 475th Fighter Group was created at Amberley Airfield west of Brisbane in May 1943. McGuire was assigned to the 431st Fighter Squadron of the 475th FG.

On 18 August 1943, McGuire was part of a group flying escorting for allied bombers whose target was the Japanese at Wewak, New Guinea. Near their target, the American fighter aircraft were attacked by Japanese fighters. McGuire shot down two A6M "Zekes” and one Ki-61 “Tony”. Near the same location, three days later, McGuire shot down two more “Zekes” and suddenly became a WWII ace. John Stanaway believes that the "Zekes" that McGuire claimed in August 1943 were actually "Oscars".

By the middle of October 1943 McGuire's score had risen to 11 confirmed victories. On 17 October 1943 Thomas B. McGuire was the pilot of a number of P-38 Lightnings that were scrambled to intercept some Japanese Zeros and bombers about 8 miles to the east and south of Buna in New Guinea that were headed for Oro Bay to attack US ships in the bay. Four or more Japanese aircraft were seen falling in flames.

1st Lieutenant Thomas B. McGuire was in one of two P-38 Lightnings shot down on 17 October 1943 about 8 miles to the east of Buna. A cannon shell burst into the radio in his cockpit, and a 7.7 shell hit his wrist and passed into the instrument panel. He also suffered shrapnel wounds in his right arm and hips. He then released his canopy escape hatch and attempted to bail out. However his parachute harness became stuck in the cockpit, and when he did free himself, he found that his ripcord was also severed. He had the presence of mind to use his injured hand to find the severed end of the rip cord and open his parachute only 1,000 feet over the water. McGuire landed in the sea about 25 miles from shore and remained in the water for about 30 minutes. He could not inflate his life raft due to shrapnel damage.

At 1045 hours McGuire was rescued by the crew of PT Boat PT-152 skippered by Captain Herbert Knight. PT-52 rendezvoused with SC-734 and picked up PhM2c D.R. Bowerman who looked after the injured McGuire. PT-152 then returned to Buna at speed and was initially taken onboard the PT Tender boat USS Hilo and placed in their comfortable sick bay. Later in the war McGuire frequently buzzed the USS Hilo when it returned to New Guinea waters.

McGuire was then admitted to the Tenth Evacuation Hospital in Port Moresby, New Guinea. His unit, the 431st Fighter Squadron, was unable to track down McGuire's whereabouts after they discovered that he had been rescued. His Squadron Commander, Major Franklin Nichols, delivered his Purple Heart to him a few days later, once he was located.

Thomas B. McGuire arrived as a patient in Brisbane around the time that the 42nd General Hospital was relocating from Stuartholme to their new hospital at Holland Park. The 42nd General Hospital's war book states that the hospital move occurred on 21 October 1943 so it is not clear whether McGuire may have spent a short while at the first hospital at Stuartholme in Brisbane. One source suggests that he spent three weeks in the 10th Evacuation Hospital in Port Moresby and three weeks on convalescent leave in Brisbane.

It is rumoured that Thomas B. McGuire had a romance with one of the nurses at the US 42nd General Hospital  at the Military Hospital at Holland Park in Brisbane, Queensland whilst he was a patient there for about three weeks. The nurse fell pregnant and had a son to Thomas B. McGuire in August 1944.  Thomas B. McGuire was released from hospital and he was greeted in the 431st Fighter Squadron's camp on 3 November 1943 just 16 days after he was shot down and severely injured. He went on to become the Commanding Officer of the 431st Fighter Squadron on 2 May 1944. He later was promoted to Group Operations Officer of the 475th Fighter Group on 28 December 1944.

On 7 January 1945, Major Thomas B. McGuire lead a group of four P-38 Lightnings over Japanese-held Fabrica airfield, on Negros Island. McGuire and his flight descended from thick cloud cover and attacked a Ki-43 “Oscar”. A  Ki-84 “Frank” then joined in the dog fight and McGuire, who had not yet dropped his auxiliary fuel tanks tried to make a turn at low altitude. His Lightning #44-24845 stalled and fell to the ground near Cadiz City, exploding on impact. His score was only second to the famous ace of aces, Richard Ira Bong.

Information from the wives of his fellow pilots and a former mechanic suggest that McGuire was not that well liked in the Squadron. They believed he was putting their lives at risk in his endeavour to beat ace Richard Ira Bong's record of Japanese kills. They believe he got too cocky. When they were attacked he would refuse to drop his belly fuel tanks, so that he did not have to turn back to his base. They believe he died due to his arrogance and wanting glory.


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This page first produced 18 September 2000

This page last updated 08 April 2020