More than 70 years after his plane went missing during World War II, an Army Air Forces pilot is being returned home. Lt. Edward F. Barker, 21 years old, was flying back from a training mission in Papua New Guinea on September 30, 1944. He was reported missing when he did not return and later was presumed dead.
Photo of the tail numbers of Lt. Barker’s P47 at the crash site in New Guinea [Via thevalleyside.com]
Lt. Barker entered the service on January 6, 1943 and received his wings at Craig Field, Selma, Alabama. He was assigned a P47 Thunderbolt from Headquarters Squadron, 8th Air Service Group. The P47 was also known as “the Jug.” On September 30, 1944 took off from Nadzab Airfield at 9:30am, along with another P-47 on a high altitude training mission in the local area. This aircraft was last sighted by fellow pilot, 2nd Lt Ellis C. Baker about 20 miles from Finschafen. Lt Baker's aircraft developed turbo trouble and an oil leak, forcing him to break from the formation. He could not contact Lt. Barker on the radio, who was continuing on a heading of 340 degrees. Weather was clear with unlimited visibility locally with high broken overcast beneath the missing plane when last seen, as pacificwrecks.com, reports.
Army Air Forces 2nd Lt. Edward F. Barker [Via wktv.com]
Mark Shoemaker, Lt. Barker’s nephew explained, that the P47 had good radios but also bad exhaust and iffy oxygen. The P47 was not a good climber. “But would drop like a streamlined brick.” Pilots used that attribute as a tactic against the nimbler Japanese Zeros. Lt. Barker’s plane crashed on a mountain in New Guinea, as thevalleyside.com, reports.
Lt. Barker's nephew says the remains were originally found in 1962 and photographed but never recovered. In 2012, search teams and an excavation crew recovered the remains. In January of 2015, they were identified as those of Barker, as wktv.com, reports.
P47 “the Jug” similar to Lt. Barker’s plane [Via thevalleyside.com]
The Department of Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA) announced on July 23 that a U.S. serviceman, missing from World War II, has been identified and is being returned to his family for burial with full military honors.
Army Air Forces 2nd Lt. Edward F. Barker, 21, of Herkimer, N.Y., will be buried Aug. 1, in his hometown. On Sept. 30, 1944, Barker was the pilot of an P-47D Thunderbolt that failed to return from a training mission in Papua New Guinea. The aircraft was last seen flying north-northwest of Finschhafen, and all search efforts failed to locate Barker and the aircraft. Barker was reported as missing when he failed to return after the mission. A military review board later amended his status to presumed dead.
In 1962, a U.S. military team discovered P-47D aircraft wreckage in the mountains of the Huan Peninsula in Morobe Province. The aircraft was correlated to Barker; however, the team found no evidence of the pilot.
From Jan. 22-25, 2002, a Department of Defense (DoD) team located the crash site, but no remains of the pilot were discovered during the survey of the site.
In late 2012, another DoD team began excavating the site. The team recovered human remains, aircraft wreckage, military gear and personal effects.
To identify Barker’s remains, scientists from DPAA and the Armed Forces DNA Identification Laboratory (AFDIL) used circumstantial evidence and forensic identification tools including mitochondrial DNA, which matched his niece and nephew.
His name is permanently inscribed on the Tablets of the Missing at the Manila American Cemetery and Memorial.