Lanna-ww2

Northwest Thailand during World War II

Details of Aircraft Losses by Date

 

Text Notes
 

25 Mar 1944: USAAF 2Lt Anthony H Greco, was assigned to the 459th Fighter Squadron of the 80th Fighter Group, homebased in Chittagong in east India at that time. During an "intercept" mission to Shwebo, Burma, Greco's P‑38 crashed in Chiang Dao District of Chiang Mai Province. It is not clear if he was killed in the crash, or had already died as a result of wounds / injuries received in an earlier dogfight.[1]

P-38

A Missing Air Crew Report (MACR) 2968[2] recorded Greco's disappearance by a fellow pilot:

I last saw Lt Greco about 40 miles west of Anisakan at about 1045 hours, March 25, 1944, after we had made contact with the enemy and were heading back to base.

He was flying on my wing when we were jumped from above by two Zeros. He turned a different direction in a diving evasive action with a Zero following. One Zero followed me and therefore I was unable to observe what happened. I did not see Lt Greco again after we broke away.[3]

Anisakan airstrip (N21°57.32 E96°24.35) is located about 30 km east of Mandalay. The "40 miles [75 km] west of Anisakan" actually put Greco's point of disappearance about 25 km west of Mandalay, a far better known landmark in Burma. Per Shores (see below), if Greco's flight did not find enemy aircraft at the destination designated as their (initial) target, Shwebo, they were to move on to Anisakan in search of the enemy. Hence the reference to Anisakan rather than Mandalay.[3a]

Greco flight path

Greco's P-38 crash site (N19°39.55 E98°39.86) in Chiang Dao was about 350 km southeast of Anisakan. How he ended up so distant from Anisakan is unclear. Possibilities center on the dogfight near Anisakan. One extreme: he might have been killed or incapacitated while his P-38 somehow continued airworthy to fly aimlessly without control. Another extreme, the aircraft controls might have been disabled and he became an unwilling hostage in the plane, having to ride it down to ground.

In any case, Greco's remains were apparently cared for and, after the war, returned to the US to be buried in the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific in Honolulu. Records indicate that his body had been recovered in Chiang Dao. And the details were subsequently forgotten.

In 2004, local news described the discovery of a crash site of a P-38 in Wiang Haeng District of Chiang Mai Province.[4] Wreckage was being collected by local Thais for possible use in a historical exhibit:[5]

Pieces of wreckage
Fragments of a P-38 oxygen tank found in 2004

A Royal Thai Air Force (RTAF) investigation followed by two Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command (JPAC) investigations from Honolulu in 2005 and 2006 proved inconclusive: the individual aircraft could not be identified and no remains were found. The pieces of wreckage collected for examination were turned over to a Wiang Haeng school[6]

A number on a piece of wreckage recorded during the RTAF / JPAC investigations had been tied to Greco's P-38,[7] but was discounted simply because the crash site was 350 km from where the plane had last been seen and Greco's remains had been recovered years before. In 2020, JPAC's successor organization, the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA) found a record confirming that Greco's remains had been recovered from Chiang Dao town. [8]

It transpired that evolving Thai admin boundaries had confused latter-day investigators: when Chiang Dao District had been recorded as a crash site in 1944, Chiang Dao included Wiang Haeng, an obscure subdistrict, and Chiang Dao was recorded as the crash site. By 2004, Wiang Haeng had become a district of its own, its earlier subordinate relationship to Chiang Dao had been forgotten, and Greco's 1944 crash site had been unknowingly rediscovered in Wiang Haeng District. The two crash sites were one and the same.[9] Wreckage collected during the investigations was turned over to local schools for a future museum; but most of it seems to have been subsequently lost.

Afterword: Various newspaper articles described Greco as missing in action and then being (posthumously) awarded the Flying Cross.[10]

As noted above, Greco was buried in the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific in Honolulu.

References:

• Shores, 2005:[11]

The 459th Squadron pilots were ordered to fly to Shwebo and Onbaik in the hope of catching the raiders as they landed. If there was nothing at these bases, they were to go to Anisakan. Here they found the sky full of fighters. . . . As Boggs and Greco headed back north, they suddenly received a warning to break. Turning, Boggs saw a fighter on Greco's tail and a second pursuing him. He managed to outrun the latter, but Greco failed to return . . .

• Umemoto, 2002:[12]

Entry for Greco (Umemoto, v 2, p 499)
Item
Japanese
English translation
Date
昭和19年03月25日
  25 Mar 1944
Unit
459FS
  459th Fighter Squadron
Casualty
P-38
  P-38
Pilot
アンソニー•グレコ中尉
  Lt Anthony Greco
Location
メイミヨウ飛行場
  Maymyo
Shooter
204 •—式戦II型
  204th Sentai: Ki-43
Details
戦死
  Killed in action

  Umemoto comment:[13]

 

 
Revision List
Rev
Date
Description
0
2021 Sep 14
First published on Internet

 

 

 

 

1.^ Photo: GOV CIV guarda: P-38.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2.^ MACR provided by Dan Jackson.

 

 

 

3.^ Statement in MACR made by 1Lt Hampton Boggs.

 

 

 

3a.^ Extract from Google Maps; annotated with Microsoft Publisher

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

4.^ Autsadaporn Kamthai, "60-year-old US P-38 plane discovered near Thai-Burmese border", Chiangmai Mail, III: 36 (04 - 10 Sep 2004).

5.^ [my ref: \02370 Wiang Haeng\KINTZ\Site visit results (Greco)\Photos 20180725\20180725_145849.jpg]

Function of tank provided per Dan Jackson email of 10:19 31 Jul 2018.

6.^ Sakpinit Promthep email of 0116 26 Mar 2019.

Years later, 25 Jul 2018, Bob Edgar and author found Keen Neekon who led us to the crash site. Several interviews beginning on 05 Aug 2018 were conducted by Wiyada Kantarod. A new DPAA team visited the site on 10 Dec 2018. Details remained elusive (organizationally, DPAA, the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency succeeded JPAC, the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command in 2015).

7.^ Sakpinit Promthep email of 0116 26 Mar 2019.

8.^ Dan Jackson email of 0246 04 Feb 2020.

In military jargon, the information was apparently contained in an AGRS (American Graves Registration Service Group) report kept in Greco's IDPF (Individual Deceased Personnel File) maintained by the DPAA.

9.^ Wikipedia: Wiang Haeng history.

10.^ San Francisco Examiner, 07 May 1944, p 14
Sallnas Californian, 17 Jan 1945,
p 12
The Californian, 20 Jan 1945, p 2

 

 

11.^ Shores, Christopher, Bloody Shambles, Vol Three (London: Grub Street, 2005), p 190

 

 

 

12.^ 梅本弘 [Umemoto, Hiroshi], ビルマ航空戦・上 [Air War in Burma, Vol 2] (Tokyo: Dai Nippon, 2002)], pp 499.

 

 

 

 

13.^ Umemoto, ibid, pp 160-162: text covering actions on 25 Mar 1944 (to be reviewed).