HARLAN, JAY REGINALD, Second Lieutenant, # 0-750583, USAAF
On 27 November 1943, a P-38H-5 Lightning fighter, # 42-66992, of the 80th Fighter Group, 459th Fighter Squadron, departed RAMU, a fighter base in India for 10th Air Force, flown by 2ndLt Jay R. Harlan, on a combat escort mission to protect bombers to and from Rangoon, Burma. The fighter was last seen by Captain John E. Fouts Jr., 0-406733, 1stLt Geoffrey E. Neal, 0-666427, and 2ndLt James G. Harris, 0-748378.
A statement on the last sighting of the P-38s flown by 2ndLt Jay R. Harlan (42-66990) and Captain Armin J. Ortmeyer (42-66992 - see separate page), was submitted by 1stLt Neal: Flying a P-51 escorting B-24s over Rangoon at about 1300 hours. As the B-24s hit Rangoon from an altitude of 18,000 feet, I saw four P-38s over the center flight of B-24s and about 2,000 feet above them. I noticed six enemy Zekes above and up sun of the P-38s and diving down upon them. I saw the P-38s start a turn into the attack but was not able to watch them any further.
A statement made by Capt. Fouts reads: At 1300 hours, I was leading a two-ship element, four-ship flight, escorting a flight of B-24s at an altitude of 20,000 feet over Rangoon. Capt. Ortmeyer had Lt. Harlan as wing man, formed the 2nd element echelon to the right. 2ndLt Harris was my wing man. I saw five enemy Zeros at 12 o’clock, 3,000 feet below us. We started down to make a pass and, as we did, the Zeros turned away. While diving, I looked behind and saw six other Zeros following us. I gave orders to drop auxiliary tanks and give the “gun.” We pulled up in a chandelle trying to get on the tail of the zeros. The last I saw of Capt. Ortmeyer and Lt. Harlan was when we started our dive on the five Zeros. Lt. Harris stayed with me and returned to Ramu.
Jay R. Harlan was born 4 November 1920 to John Jay “JJ” Harlan (1897-1977) and Mary Paralee (Coffman) Harlan (1900-1994). Siblings include two sisters and a brother. The 1940 census for Lamb County, Texas, shows John J. Harlan (1897-1977), Mary (Coffman) Harlan (1900-1994), Jay Reginald Harlan (1920-1943), Frances Geraldine Harlan (1923-1952) and Dr. Ronald Coffman Harlan, (1934-2006). At the time, his father was a farmer (born in Alabama) and had eleven siblings.He was awarded a Distinguished Flying Cross and Purple Heart. The family placed a memorial marker in Littlefield Cemetery, Littlefield, Lamb County, Texas.