Northwest Thailand during World War II

Details of Aircraft Losses by Date


Text Notes

McKinney portrait05 Nov 1944: USAAF 1Lt Franklin H McKinney was part of Flight "G", 35th Photo Reconnaissance Squadron (PRS), 14th Air Force, homebased at Yunnanyi (Beitun Airfield), Yunnan, China.[0]







He flew an F5E, a P-38 stripped of armament to minimize weight and make room for high altitude aerial photography equipment: [a]


On this date, McKinney's mission was to photograph Uttaradit and Chiang Mai in Thailand, then Wai Lai Kam Bridge in Burma, and return to Yunnanyi. The planned trip covered around 1,800 km with a total flight time of about five hours.[b]

McKinney route

A reconstruction of McKinney's flight has him taking off at 10:15 am, proceeding to his first destination, Uttaradit. From there, he flew on towards Chiang Mai, his second objective that day. About 85 km WNW of Uttaradit, he encountered a thunderstorm. Lightning struck his plane, igniting its fuel and bringing the plane down in Mae Gua (Kua) Subdistrict of Lampang Province. McKinney was killed.

FongLiving in Mae Kua at that time, as she does now in her late 90s, a young Mrs Fong Inma (ฟอง อินมา),[1] daughter-in-law of the Moo 4 headman, Kum Inma (คำ อินมา), recalls a tremendous explosion at the time that caused cattle to break their tethers. Her father-in-law rushed to the site, well-marked by a column of smoke, but it was obvious that there were no survivors. Subsequently, he oversaw transport of the plane's wreckage to their house by oxcart where it was stored underneath. Mrs Fong described blackened metal (ie, fire damaged), and very large metal items, suggesting that the engines were included in the collected wreckage. She recalls that the plane had American markings. The pilot's body had apparently been dismembered in the crash and the remains were buried at the site.

Flight Lt Chalermgiat Wattananggoon came from a unit of the Royal Thai Air Force (RTAF) at Lampang Airfield, inspected the wreckage, removed surviving documents, and indicated that the RTAF had otherwise no interest in the remainder of the wreckage. He filed this report:[2]

RTAF msg

The circled text translates in essence:

Around 1340 hours on 05 Nov 1944, a plane with two engines and two tails was flying through a storm. Apparently the plane was hit by lightning. People on the ground heard an explosion and saw a burning plane go down and crash. The location was in a wooded area in Ban Mae Kua, Sop Prab Sub-District, Lampang Province. Subsequent investigation revealed the plane to be a
P-38, with "NUMBER 811" painted on a piece of wreckage. It was also marked with a white star in a dark blue circle. A skull was found in the wreckage.[2a]

The wreckage continued in storage under the house for about a month before the sheriff of Sop Prap came and collected it with a truck. Presumably the wreckage eventually found its way into a Japanese scrap metal drive.[3]

At the time, McKinney's parent USAAF organization located at Yunnanyi was powerless to investigate his disappearance. He simply never returned from his flight. Dan Jackson writes of "recce" (reconnaissance) aircraft:

Unsurprisingly, the cause of loss remains unknown for eight of the sixteen F-5s reported missing in the China Theater --- compared to fewer than 9 percent of aircraft overall.[4]

The model's defences lay instead in speed and altitude:

Capable of flying up to forty-four thousand feet at over four hundred miles per hour, it could fly higher and faster than most anything in the JAAF.[5]

McKinney's unit generated a Missing Air Crew Report (MACR):[6]

McKinney MACR1

Its page 2 named his destinations:

McKinney MACR2

and its page 9 included a summary:

McKinney MACR9

USAAF Chronologies show no activity around Lampang on the date of McKinney's loss, 05 November 1944.[7]

In May 2011, Chalermgiat's 1944 investigative report was located in the RTAF Archives.[8]

In 2014, with the clarification that the "Mae Gua" in the RTAF report of 20 Nov 1944 is currently transliterated as "Mae Kua",[9] plus history about how the administrative units, villages and subdistrict carrying that name, have evolved over time, trips were made to the area, but were unsuccessful in getting substantive information about an air crash.[10] Since the time of the crash, the site had quickly changed from undeveloped second growth forest to now long-time cultivated rice paddies. After four years, Jul 2018, the crash site was approximately located by villagers.[11]

harvested paddies

In her recollections, Mrs Fong told of a landmark tree close to the crash site, which had been long ago cut down. It took some time for the paddy owner to recall where that tree had been, and, in his boyhood, exactly where he had found fair-sized pieces of aluminum while his father was tilling the paddies.[12]

With additional input from Dan Jackson and Sakpinit Promthep, the information was passed to a representative of Detachment 1 of the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA) in the US Embassy in Bangkok. The agency is tasked with providing "the fullest possible accounting of missing personnel from past conflicts".[14] That representative[15] with staff visited the site on 07 Nov 2019, interviewed Ms Fong and Mr Bancha that an aircraft had crashed there, and recommended to the DPAA office in Honolulu that further investigation appeared warranted.

Within the US Department of Defense, the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA) is tasked with providing "the fullest possible accounting of missing personnel from past conflicts"[13] and that includes the return of remains of those personnel to US soil. Because of the amount of information assembled regarding McKinney's possible crash site, in April 2021, a DPAA team from Honolulu Office visited to try to verify that information and to determine if a concerted effort to recover possible remains could be justified.

The team walked the site looking for visible clues. Finding none, they then swept the area with metal detectors. Numerous "hits" with the detectors were flagged, then probed to find the objects triggering the detectors. The results are visible in the photo below as the numerous white markers (flags). At one concentration of flags, the team anthropologist excavated a one meter square plot to approximately half a meter depth. Spoil from the hole was sieved for objects. In the photo, the group of figures on the right is in the hole, while the group to the left is sieving spoil from the hole.[14]

Flagged field

The effort turned up numerous small metal pieces which the team anthropologist said was a common characteristic of crash sites from which wreckage had been salvaged and then picked over. The team was confident that its findings were positive and, on that basis, was to produce a report on them for DPAA Honolulu. [Note that nothing found at the site as yet can identify the type of aircraft that crashed at Mae Kua, much less the specific aircraft. Nor have any human remains been found.]

Useful References: In addition to an RTAF report and USAAF Missing Air Crew Report in text above, see also:

Jackson, Daniel, Fallen Tigers (Lexington KY, University Press of Kentucky, 2021), pp 176-177.

Thai PBS video, Missing Air Tiger: The Truth Is Not Dead, which aired 13 Oct 2021. The documentary is in Thai language; an outline in English is available here.






Revision List
2021 Oct 17
First published on Internet
2021 Nov 25
Numerous changes, corrections



References are provided in this column for the convenience of the reader. Please advise author of any errors.

These pages were composed to be viewed best with Google Chrome.

0.^ Yunnanyi airstrips.

Location per Jackson, Dan, Fallen Tigers (Lexington KY: University Press of Kentucky, 2021), p 176.


a.^ Photo: Lockheed P-38 Lightning (F-5B) en vol (in flight).

The F-5 series, variants of the P-38, is described in:

Jackson, Daniel, Famine, Sword, and Fire (Atglen PA: Schiffer, 2015), p 182; and

P‑38 Photo Reconnaissance, P-38 National Association and Museum.








b.^ Map: Extract from Google Earth; annotations by author with Microsoft Publisher.
















1.^ Interview by Wiyada Kantarod and author with Ms Fong at her home in Mae Kua on 05 Jul 2018.

Photo: extract from 20180705_160353 of 05 Jul 2018.

We were introduced to her by her grand nephew, Seewai Bpunyai (ศรีไว ปันใย):

--- photo part: 20180705_160353

An employee of the subdistrict office, Seewai was instrumental in finding sources and locating the crash site.

Followup interviews with same on 08 Dec 2018 plus Daniel Jackson, Frans Betgem, Jack Eisner; on 07 Nov 2019 plus Daniel Jackson and DPAA Detachment 1 team; and on 25 Apr 2021 with same plus Detachment 1 DPAA (Bangkok) and Sub-Regional Team One, DPAA (Honolulu).

2.^ Text from Royal Thai Air Force (RTAF) report dated 20 Nov 1944. Discovered by Sakpinit Promthep at the RTAF Museum at Don Muang. in May 2012 (Dan Jackson emails of 01:56 12 Oct 12 and 14:39 25 Oct 12).

The officer originating the report, Flight Lt Chalermgiat, (alternate spelling: Chalermkiat Vatthanangkun) piloted one of five Ki-27s confronting Allied aircraft the following week over Lampang and was seriously wounded. He recovered and continued in the RTAF to become its head in 1957.










2a.^ This text (here polished) appears in Steve Darke's Thai Air Accidents
(28 Mar 2021 update), p 3.

3.^ As described in ชีวิตของมาซาโอะ เชโตะ ผู้ถูกพ่อและญี่ปุ่นทอตทิ้ง เล่ม 1, แปลจาก : Seto Masao no Jinsel (ชีวิตของมาซาโอะ เชโตะ), แปลโดย : บ้ณทิต ประดิษฐานุวงษ์ [Seto, Masao, Life of Masao Seto, Book 1,
p 160 [my ref: 03400 Boggett/Seto xlatn].

4.^ Jackson, Dan, ibid,
p 100.

5.^ Jackson, Dan, Famine, Sword, and Fire: The Liberation of Southwest China in World War II (Atglen, PA: Schiffer, 2015), p 182.

6.^ Mike Stow at per his email of 07:02 21 Nov 2012.

























































7.^ The Official Chronology of the US Army Airforce in World War II: 1944.

Lt Col Terry Popravak, USAF (retired), of 142FW/HO (and maintaining the website, The 35th Photo Reconnaissance Squadron, clarified that the official USAAF chronology does not list individual aerial photo missions, nor are records reliable in listing unit relocations such as that of his 35PRS (per his email of 1340 09 Feb 2014).

8.^ Discovered by Sakpinit Promthep, as noted above.

9.^ See Google Maps, N17°57.14 E99°21.37.

10.^ 12 and 14 May 2014 with Jiraporn Jacqmin and author. [Ref: \02370_Mae Kua on site rvw.docx]

11.^ Interview with Ms Fong in Mae Kua on 05 Jul 2018, as noted above.

12.^ The landowner, Bancha Oodjai (บัญชา อุดใจ):

photo part: IMG_ 20191027 _145834.jpg by author

Initial contact arranged by Seewai Bpunyai (ศรีไว ปันใย). Interview by Wiyada Kantarod and author with Bancha on site in Mae Kua on 03 Nov 2019. Followup interview with same plus Daniel Jackson and DPAA Detachment 1 team, 07 Nov 2019.

Bancha proved to be enthusiastic and cooperative in furthering DPAA efforts; he also pointed out where he believes McKinney's remains are buried.

13.^ Principal Deputy Director, DPAA.

14.^ Extract of photo IMG_20210425_134413
by author.