La Ciotat's P-38 Lightning, Rhône's delta, France
Pilot : second lieutenant James G. Riley Jr.
 
Mission
Date
January 27, 1944
Base
Foggia, Italy
 
Target
Bombers escort
Zone of crash
Sea (-110ft), La Ciotat's bay, Rhône's delta, France
Plane
Type
P-38G-15-LO
Serial
43-2543
Squadron
15th AF, 14th FG
Crew
1
Pilot
S/Lt
 
Killed
Ten years of underwater work made by Aéro-Re.L.I.C on La Ciotat's P-38 site were necessary to do the identification : the twin-engine was piloted by second lieutenant James G Riley Jr, who die in his machine january 27, 1944.

The enquire made on this plane, is close to a second P-38 wreck discovered quite intact by Marcel Camilleri, of Lecques, and which lay on its back, less than 3 marine miles east of La Ciotat(Pilot : s/lt Harry H. Greenup ).

January 27, 1944, the 14th Fighter Group of 15th USAAF, equipped with P-38 Lightning, escort B-17 bombers coming to destroy the airfield of Salon-de-Provence.

We are in during d-day of Anzio's beaches , and the allies don't progress advance, because there is a lot of German air raids, coming from the bases located in the Rhône's delta.

The bombardment of Salon-de-Provence's aifield will be proceed under a terrible Flak, while German fighters are still working : they are 3 times in number than the allied escort!

One B-17 will be shot down (crash in the area of Lançon-de-Provence), while 2 P-38 will not return... of which that of La Ciotat.

January 15, 1994, we made our first diving of recognition on the site. J.P. Joncheray gave us the terrestrial reference marks : "up to us to work now to identify this wreck".

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It will be necessary to wait the year 2000 to identify the plane thank to the reception of document founded by J. K Mattison, in the USA.

We learned that it was the plane of James G Riley, P-38 type G, serial 43-2543, who disappeared in flames at sea in La Ciotat's bay, shot down by the combined shootings of German Flak and fighters.

In october 2002, we were located by... a charming american retired lady named Jean Martin-Riley! It was the widow of James who had echo, by the 14th FG veterans association with were in contact, that : "French divers" discovered her husband's P-38 always reported missing in action!.

Nothing much was necessary, Mrs Riley make as soon as possible a long trip over Atlantic to came visiting us in may 2003.

So was going to be deposited, on the surface of the sea at the vertical of James G Riley Jr.'s P-38 wreck, a splendid sheaf of flowers which was going in finality bringing an interior peace to his widow who had waited this moment for... 59 years.

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