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Archive Report: US Forces
1941 - 1945

Compiled from official National Archive and Service sources, contemporary press reports, personal logbooks, diaries and correspondence, reference books, other sources, and interviews.

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24.07.1943 13th Reconnaissance Squadron/7th PRG, P-38 Lightning F5A-3, 42-12781, Cpt. O’Bannon

Operation: Authorised flight for comparing the performance of Lightning, Mosquito and Spitfire aircraft.

Date: 24th July 1943 Time: 12.45 hours

Unit: 13th Reconnaissance Squadron/7th PRG

Type: Lockheed P-38 Lightning F5A-3 

Serial: 42-12781

Location: Home Farm, Hatton, Warwickshire

Pilot: Captain Thomas Bringhurst O'Bannon 0659169 USAAF Killed

REASON FOR LOSS: 

Extract from Accident Investigation Branch Report No. W.1605/TMB:

The flight was authorised for the purpose of comparing the performance of Lightning, Mosquito (Sq/Ldr. M.D.S. Hood) and Spitfire aircraft (F/O. A. Glover). It was arranged beforehand that the three aircraft should rendezvous over Benson at 25,000 feet. and would receive orders from the leader on the Mosquito by way of VHF Channel C.

Captain O'Bannon took off in the Lightning at 11.29 hours and made contact with the other two aircraft as arranged. He had difficulty in locating his companion and No.1 in the Mosquito could hear O'Bannon calling before they met but was unable to make out what was said owing to severe interference.

Communications between the Spitfire and Mosquito was loud and clear and it appeared that while O'Bannon's transmission was faulty, he was able to carry out orders given by R/T. 

After some difficulty in lining up the Lightning a speed test was run at 25,000 feet. After ten minutes of this the three aircraft turned to starboard and climbed sharply to 30,000 feet. when course was set for base. 

The Lightning was now some distance ahead of the other two and as he did not appear to receive a message from No.1 calling him back, the Spitfire went on and caught him up. 

When near to base, No.1 ordered a turn to port on to 317 degrees and he got into line by cutting across the turn, O'Bannon who was still very slightly ahead, turned too far and finally straightened out on a course of 350 degrees but as the VHF was so bad No.1 did not attempt to correct him. Just as No.1 was about to order maximum cruising at 30,000 feet he noticed that O'Bannon had dropped a thousand feet, forged ahead and was flying on a course of 330 degrees. 

When called on the VHF the Lightning returned to 30,000 feet and a course of 340 degrees. 

Maximum cruising for ten minutes was now ordered but O'Bannon appeared to have anticipated the signal as he was already drawing away. By the time the Mosquito had reached maximum speed O'Bannon was 500 yards away, thus making it impossible for No.1 to judge their respective speeds. 

The Mosquito pilot then ordered a turn to port on course 160 degrees, O'Bannon was now at about 29,500 feet and he began to turn towards 160 degrees but also lost height slowly and was watched by his companions diving at about 45 degrees until he entered the haze below at 14,000 feet.

No eye witnesses reports of the break up have been secured, but several people on the ground observed the later stages of the descent after the wings and tail assembly had carried away. From the trail of wreckage it is estimated that structural failure occurred at a height of less than 6,000 feet.

Burial Details: 

Captain Thomas Bringhurst O'Bannon. Initially buried in Brookwood Cemetery. Plot F-2-17, now in Pennsylvania, USA - at request of relatives.

Acknowledgments: Sources used by us in compiling Archive Reports include: Bill Chorley - 'Bomber Command Losses Vols. 1-9, plus ongoing revisions', Dr. Theo E.W. Boiten and Mr. Roderick J. Mackenzie - 'Nightfighter War Diaries Vols. 1 and 2', Martin Middlebrook and Chris Everitt - 'Bomber Command War Diaries', Commonwealth War Graves Commission, Tom Kracker - Kracker Luftwaffe Archives and Fred Paradie - Paradie Archive (both on this site), Robert Gretzyngier, Wojtek Matusiak, Waldemar Wójcik and Józef Zieliński - 'Ku Czci Połeglyçh Lotnikow 1939-1945', Anna Krzystek, Tadeusz Krzystek - 'Polskie Siły Powietrzne w Wielkiej Brytanii', Norman L.R. Franks 'Fighter Command Losses', Aircrew Remembered Databases and our own archives. We are grateful for the support and encouragement of UK Imperial War Museum, Australian War Memorial, Australian National Archives, UK National Archives and Fold3 and countless dedicated friends and researchers across the world.
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Last Modified: 20 December 2014, 00:10