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Dizon Dec 10, 1941
|Pilot Captain Colin P. Kelly, Jr. (KIA , BR) Madison, FL
Co-Pilot 2nd Lt. Donald Robbins (survived)
Navigator 2nd Lt. Joe M. Bean (survived)
Bombardier Cpl Meyer Levin, 6975479 (survived) Brooklyn, NY
Engineer SSgt William J. Delehanty (KIA, BR) NY
Radio / Bathtub Gunner Pfc Robert E. Altman (survived)
Assistant Radio / Gunner Willard Money (survived)
Gunner Pvt Robert Altman (WIA)
Waist Gunner SSgt James Halkyard (survived)
Force Landed December 10, 1941
Built by Boeing at Seattle. Delivered to the U. S. Army Air Force (USAAF) as B-17C Flying Fortress serial number 40-2045. Ferried overseas across the Pacific to the Philippines.
Assigned to the 5th Air Force, 7th Bombardment Group (7th BG), 14th Bombardment Squadron (14th BS). No known nickname or nose art.
On December 10, 1941 took off from San Marcelino Airfield piloted by Captain Colin P. Kelly, Jr. as one of six B-17s bound for Clark Field to stage for a mission. Only three landed at 7:30am this bomber plus B-17D 40-3091 piloted by Lt. Schaetzel and B-17D 40-3086 piloted by Montgomery. The other three did not land fearing a Japanese air raid.
On the ground, this B-17 was only partially armed with three 600 pound bombs before taking off again at at 9:30am in haste fearing another Japanese air raid and was one of four B-17s on a mission to bomb Japanese ships off Aparri and Vigan on northern Luzon. During the night, this convoy had been spotted and earlier that morning was bombed during the first American bombing mission of the Pacific War.
Over Aparri, B-17D 40-3091 piloted by Lt. Schaetzel spotted enemy transports and released his bombs from 25,000' before being jumped by Zeros and diving down to 7,000'. Arriving over Aparri next, this B-17 arrived over the ships and pilot Kelly saw no targets and proceeded south towards Vigan where Kelly spotted heavy cruiser Ashigara (falsely claimed to be Battleship Haruna). Bombardier Cpl Meyer Levin salvoed all three bombs from 22,000' and claimed one hit and observed a seaplane taking off from warship. In fact, no damage was sustained to Ashigara or any vessel and no battleship was part of the invasion force.
Before landing at Clark Field, this B-17 was intercepted by A6M2 Zeros from the Tainan Kōkūtai including Saburo Sakai. During the first firing pass, the Zeros hit the nose section with gunfire that damaged the pilot's instrument panel and killed SSgt Delehanty instantly when the top of his head was blown off. Afterwards, the same Zeros made repeated firing passes and started a fire in the bomb bay that engulfed the rear of the bomber.
Heavily damaged, Kelly ordered the rest of the crew to bail out while the two pilots held the bomber level. Several of the crew were strafed by the Zeros as they descended but all landed unhurt with the exception of Bean who was hit by a bullet in the ankle from the strafing.
Meanwhile, the B-17's two right engines were inoperative when an explosion blew co-pilot Robbins out of the observation dome, but he was able to open his parachute and landed safely. As the stricken bomber descended, it exploded again and impacted the ground roughly six miles east of Clark Field near Mount Arayat. Pilot Kelly was killed in the final explosion or on impact. The rest of the surviving crew landed in the vicinity of Clark Field and quickly returned to duty.
Recovery of Remains
After the crash, Kelly's body was found outside the bomber, ejected during the crash or explosion. Delehanty's remains were found inside the aircraft. Both were recovered and postwar transported to the United States for permanent burial.
The nose section of the B-17 was burned out. Afterwards, Filipino youth Daniel Dizon visited the crash site and made an ink drawing of the bomber and took a photograph of the wreckage. He also recovered a junction box from the radio compartment.
Kelly was officially declared dead December 10, 1941. For this mission, Kelly was posthumously nominated for a Medal of Honor, but instead earned the Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC). Afterwards, he was regarded as America's first war hero and the legend of his exploits grew, including the claim that after ordering his crew to bail out, he dove the stricken bomber into an enemy ship (this is not true).
Postwar, he was permanently buried at Madison Oak Ridge Cemetery in Madison, Florida. His grave includes the epitaph: "To Honor Colin Kelly First American Hero of World War II 1915 1941 Greater Love Hath No Man Than This, That A Man Lay Down His Life For His Friends." Across from the courthouse in Madison, Florida is "The Four Freedoms Monument" dedicated to the memory of World War II hero, Captain Colin P. Kelley, Jr. dedicated on June 14, 1944 and sponsored by the Madison County Memorial Post No. 88 of the American Legion.
At Clark Air Force Base, there is a memorial plaque and bust of Kelly. A painting "Captain Colin Kelly" was displayed inside the Kelly Theater, named in his honor until the 1992 eruption of Mount Pinatubo, this painting was transported to the USAF Museum. A white marble monument with three angles and brass plaque dedicated to Colin Kelly is located at Madison, Florida.
Delehanty was permanently buried at Long Island National Cemetery, plot H, grave 9431.
Levin was hailed as the first Jewish-American war hero and "Meyer Levin Day" was celebrated in Brooklyn, NY with a commemorative plaque given to his parents by local politicians. Afterwards, he was evacuated to Australia and continued to fly combat missions as a bombardier assigned to the 43rd Bombardment Group (43rd BG) in New Guinea until he went Missing In Action (MIA) on January 7, 1941 aboard B-17F 41-24383 that ditched into the Gulf of Papua. In Australia, he had an Australian wife and fathered a son. Levin earned the Distinguished Flying Cross (DSC), Silver Star with two Oak Leaf Clusters and Purple Heart posthumously. He is memorialized on the tablets of the missing at Manila American Cemetery.
Colin P. "Corky" Kelly, III (son of Collin P. Kelly)
Attended and graduated from West Point, became an Episcopal priest and served as Assistant Chaplain at the Point. After retiring from the Military, he became pastor of an Episcopal church in New Mexico during which time he was honored by invitation from the 1996 104th U.S. Congress to give the opening prayer.
Eugene Eisenberg adds:
"In 1942, I met Kelly's wife and son Corky. I became very close to the Kelly family and also Corky. I also spent time with Bob Altman, Joe Bean, Willard Money and James Halkyard who is still alive today in Washington State. I have also have the original drawing by Dizon who made the original drawing and took a photograph of the wreckage in December 1941. I also have several pictures of the original crew taken on Midway Airfield September 5, 1941.
USAF Serial Number Search Results - B-17C Flying Fortress 40-2045
"2045 (30th BS, 19th BG) shot down by Japanese fighters Dec 10, 1941 Luzon, Philippines. First USAAF B-17 lost in actual combat. Capt Colin P. Kelly killed."
Fortress Against The Sun (2001) pages 65-68, 71, 142, 242, 314, 372, 382, 397, 401, 450, 457
December 8, 1941 (2003) pages 137, 237, 408, 435, 517, 537, 543, 554
Leyte Calling (1945) pages 14-15:
"I helped load the bombs into his [Kelly's] Fortress and scribbled my name on three of them. I don't think anybody else signed the bombs because everyone else was busier than I was. Anyway, I don't know yet why i signed the bombs. I just wanted something to do, I guess."
Air Force Magazine "Valor: Colin Kelly" by John L. Frisbee June 1994, Vol. 77, No. 6
Other sources state this B-17 was assigned to the 30th Bomb Squadron
"Legend of Colin Kelly" painting by Robert Taylor
"Captain Colin Kelly" painting was displayed at the Kelly Theater at Clark Air Force Base, after the 1992 eruption of Mount Pinatubo, this painting was transported to USAF Museum
Ken’s Men Against The Empire Volume I (2015) pages 109-110 (Levin/Kelly), 313 (Levin), 395 (index Kelly), 396 (index Levin)
FindAGrave - Collin Purdie Kelly, Jr. (photo, Madison, Florida monument photo)
FindAGrave - Sgt William J Delehanty (grave photo)
FindAGrave - Sgt William J Delehanty (grave photo)
Thanks to Tony Feredo and Eugene Eisenberg for additional information
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