Posted earlier in this blog was mention of 35PRS pilot 1st Lt. Franklin H. McKinney, who went missing in action on a reconnaissance mission over Southeast Asia on November 5, 1944.

A report indicating his aircraft had been found, along with human remains, was posted in Mr. Steve Darke’s Thai Aviation History website, as mentioned below.  In addition to this information, an expanded analysis on the loss of Franklin McKinney can be viewed in Mr. Hak Hakanson’s “Japan in Northwest Thailand during World War II” webpage, at:

http://www.lanna-ww2.com/pages/z02370-Other_locatns/Lampang-z0001-00c/Lampang_Airport-z0001-00c/z0001-00c_page_06.html

“FRANKLIN H MCKINNEY
05 November 1944
[60]

The missing crew report (MCR) for Franklin H McKinney provides no information about where he disappeared, other than his intended destinations. He was traveling alone on a photo recon mission which was to go from Yunnanyi in China, to Uttaradit and Chiang Mai in Thailand, then Wai Lai Kam Bridge in Burma, and finally back to Yunnanyi. McKinney just simply never returned from his flight:

[60a]
McKinney MCR page 1 part

The MCR includes hand drawn maps with locations where aircraft in circumstances differing from McKinney were apparently reported down in China. The maps extend as far north as Hankow (N30°37 E114°18, now Wuhan) and as far south as Kuei-Lin (N25°17 E110°17, now Guilin); but no location is associated with McKinney. The only solid information at that time was his intended flight path:

McKinney MCR p2 part [60b]

Report from Royal Thai Air Force Museum, as cited by Forgotten Squadron Research:

On Nov 5, 1944 at about 1340 hours during a rain storm, there was a plane with 2 engines and 2 tails flying through the storm. Apparently, the plane was hit by lightning strike. People on ground heard an explosion and saw a burning plane went down and crashed. The location was at a wooden area in Ban Mae Gua, Sobprab Sub-District, Lampang Province.[61] Subsequent investigation revealed the plane as a P-38, “NUMBER 811,” with white star in dark blue circle marking. A skull was also found in the wreck.[62]

Presented similarly in Thai Aviation’s Thai Air Accidents, but with mention of McKinney and the additional detail, “43-28615 was designated by 35th PRS as #811”:[63]

McKinney Thai Air report-a

McKinney Thai Air report-b

TRANSCRIPT of above:

Detail of loss of 355 Squadron liberator unknown

Quote from RTAF report: “On Nov 5, 1944 at about 1340 hours during a rain storm, there was a plane with 2 engines and 2 tails flying through the storm. Apparently, the plane was hit by lightning strike. People on ground heard an explosion and saw a burning plane went down and crashed. The location was at a wooden area in Ban Mae Gua, Sobprab Sub-district, Lampang province. Subsequent investigation revealed the plane as a P-38, “NUMBER 811,” with white star in dark blue circle marking. A skull was also found in the wreck”. Believed to be Frank McKinney’s F-5.
43-28615 was designated by 35th PRS as #811

McKinney’s name also appears in these listings:

McKinney listing[65]

McKinney listed MIA[66]

asdf[67]

However, another listing for this event is misdated:

asdf[69]

The USAAF Chronology shows no activity around Lampang on this date.

The general location of the apparent crash site, “Ban Mae Gua” (with circle in yellow below) is consistent with McKinney’s flight plan (traced in red below):

McKinney's intended flight path [70]

McKinney’s intended flight was about 2,000 km.[70α] The MCR indicates his total flight time was to have been seven hours (1015-1715). For that time and distance, average speed would have been about 285 kph (153 knots)[70β].

Regarding speed and range of the P-38:

Per the MCR, McKinney’s P-38 had a type-model-series no, F5E-2-LO, and an engine serial number V 17-10-89-91, an Allison engine. From this information, this aircraft would therefore have been a field-modified P-38L. Cruising speed and range of this model were speced at 466 kph (252kts) and 724 km (392 nm).[70γ] The range was far below McKinney’s actual 2,000 km (1,265 nm) flight path.

Per Wikipedia:

Lindbergh was instrumental in extending the range of the P-38 through improved throttle settings, or engine-leaning techniques, notably by reducing engine speed to 1,600 rpm, setting the carburetors for auto-lean and flying at 185 knots (342 km/h) indicated airspeed which reduced fuel consumption to 70 gal/h, about 2.6 nmpg.[70a]

Per The Aviation History Online Museum:

An internal fuel capacity of 410 gallons could be increased to 1,010 gallons with two external drop tanks.[70a1]

With the 2.6 nmpg figure resulting from Lindbergh’s “engine-leaning techniques”, the internal 410 gallon fuel capacity represented a potential range of 1,070 nm or close to 2000 km, which would provide no safety margin for McKinney’s 05 Nov 1944 assignment. The 1,010 gallon capacity, if fully utilized, represents a potential range of 2,626 mi or 4,850 km, more than twice the range required for his mission.[70a2] With the external tanks, but not using Lindbergh’s range enhancement procedure, McKinney would have had a range of 2050 km (1,100 nm)[70a3] — again inadequate for McKinney’s planned flight.

With drop tanks installed, maximum cruising speed was reduced to 250 knots (460 km/h);[70b] which would have been irrelevant in view of McKinney’s need to observe fuel conservation.

If the RTAF report is correct, McKinney went down about 975 km into that 2,000 km flight. Applying the fraction 975/2000 to the seven hour flight duration produces 3.4 hours, for a clock time of 1339 hrs, which practically speaking matches the RTAF reported crash time of 1340 hrs.”

Note:  Supporting footnotes and documents, links can be found on the original source website, at:

http://www.lanna-ww2.com/pages/z02370-Other_locatns/Lampang-z0001-00c/Lampang_Airport-z0001-00c/z0001-00c_page_06.html

35PRS Blog Staff Assessment:  This gathering of pertinent information and analysis by Mr. Hak Hakanson presents useful information on the Franklin McKinney MIA mystery.  It is the most detailed description of the subject available on the internet, and likely anywhere else.  The most significant “takeaway” items would be that the general flight route McKinney was to fly would have taken him to the area near the crash site indicated in the undated RTAF report, and that this RTAF report reflects detailed information on the aircraft found at that location.  Also of interest was identification of a specific aircraft type and serial number, plus squadron number, indicating the 35PRS was equipped with the F-5E-2-LO variant of the Photo Lightning, if not other versions.

     As for concerns Mr. Hakanson expressed about some sources he used in the above analysis, a couple of thoughts.  The document showing McKinney’s date of loss as 03/11/1946 can be discounted as an arbitrary date upon which WWII MIA’s were declared dead by the government for administrative purposes, and not the actual date of his loss, which is confirmed by multiple sources as being on November 5, 1944.  Also, the note that the mission or loss was not noted in the USAAF Chronology for November 5, 1944, should not be weighed heavily.  The chronology only carries major events, and many aircraft losses are not reflected in this general summary of USAAF operations and activities during that globe-spanning conflict.  The loss of a solitary recon aircraft or lack of USAAF activity in the vicinity of Lampang on 5 Nov 1944 is not a surprising omission.

Way Ahead:  Several efforts by different people are underway to continue efforts to confirm this RTAF reporting related to Franklin McKinney.  Kudos go to several helpful people who have helped this blog staff pursue the matter, including 35PRS pilot Col. Sterling “Yogi” Barrow, USAF (Ret), Mr. Steve Darke and Ms. Supaporn Chuangchid.

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