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  B-17C "Skipper" Serial Number 40-2049 Tail Number 49
38th RS

Former Assignments
7th BG
9th BS

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USAAF Dec 7, 1941

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USAAF December 1941

Aircraft History
Built by Boeing at Seattle as a model 299H. Constructors Number 2050. Delivered to the the U.S. Army Air Corps (USAAC) as B-17C Flying Fortress serial number 40-2049 and flown to Fort Douglas Airfield.

On February 24, 1941 assigned to the 7th Bombardment Group (7th BG), 9th Bombardment Squadron (9th BS) at Selfridge Field. On June 20, 1941 became part of the U.S. Army Air Force (USAAF). By late November 1941, assigned to the 38th Reconnaissance Squadron (38th RS) at Albuquerque Field, New Mexico. Nicknamed "Skipper" in honor of SSgt Angelini's six week old Scotch terrier mix puppy. The tail had "49", the last two digits of the serial number.

Mission History
On December 6, 1941 took off from Hamilton Field piloted by 1st Lt. Robert H. Richards on a ferry flight bound for Hickam Field on Oahu. The bomber had .50 caliber machine guns installed but no ammunition. Aboard was "Crew No. 7" including pilot 1st Lt Robert H. Richards, co-pilot 2nd Lt Leonard S. Humiston, Aviation Cadet William F. B. Morris, Aviation Cadet George E. Gammans, SSgt Joseph S. Angelini, SSgt Erwin B. Casebolt, SSgt Melvin D. Zajic, SSgt Lawrence B. Velarde, and Pvt Vernon D. Tomlinson.

On December 7, 1941 in the morning incoming Japanese aircraft detected on radar were dismissed as the expected flight of B-17s and arrived during the Japanese surprise attack on Pearl Harbor and Oahu.

This bomber was attacked by A6M2 Zeros from Akagi, including A6M2 Zero piloted by PO1c Juichiro Hanyu who mistook the B-17 as a transport aircraft and opened fire scoring hits and wounded two of the crew, one severely. Damaged, pilot Richards force landed at Bellows Field the nearest runway and was the last B-17 from the ferry flight to land on Oahu.

On the ground, the wounded crew was rushed for medical attention. Doctors stated that the most wounded who would have bled to death if the bomber had not landed immediately. Afterwards, this B-17 was used for spare parts and the rest of the bomber was scrapped.

Fates of the Crew
On September 8, 1942 pilot Robert H. Richards and navigator William F. B. Morris were crew members aboard B-17E "Stingaree" 41-9071 that was shot down by a H6K2 Mavis flying boat and crashed on Rendova Island in the Solomon Islands.

Note, other sources state this B-17 was AN524 crashed at Hendricks January 3, 1943 and scrapped this is incorrect
NARA World War II Army Enlistment Records - William F. B. Morris
NARA World War II Army Enlistment Records - Joseph S. Angelini
NARA World War II Army Enlistment Records - Erwin B. Casebolt
NARA World War II Army Enlistment Records - Lawrence B. Velarde
USAF Serial Number Search Results - B-17C Flying Fortress 40-2049
"2049 delivered 38 RS/19th BG Salt Lake City. Transferred to 9th BS, 7th BG Selfridge Field Feb 24, 1941. (38th RS, 11th BG) damaged by Japanese fighters during approach to Bellows Field, Pearl Harbor Dec 7, 1941. Not repaired, and used as spares source."
7 December 1941 - The Air Force Story - Appendix D - B-17s Arriving During the Attack pages 158-159 (B-17C 40-2049, Richards)
"Status as of 1845, 8 Dec 1941: B-17C 40-2049, 1st Lt Robert H. Richards, Bellows Field, Repairable (Later used for spare parts and not repaired)"
"Crew No. 7: 1st Lt Robert H. Richards, 2d Lt Leonard S. Humiston, Avn Cdt William F. B. Morris, Avn Cdt George E. Gammans, SSgt Joseph S. Angelini, SSgt Erwin B. Casebolt, SSgt Melvin D. Zajic, SSgt Lawrence B. Velarde, and Pvt Vernon D. Tomlinson."
Aviation History "Harano's Zero" by David Aiken January 2009
Fortress Against The Sun (2001) pages 12, 18, 100, 382 (Appendix B: 40-2049)
FindAGrave - Robert H Richards (group burial photo)
FindAGrave - 1LT William F.B. Morris (photos, group burial photo)

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Last Updated
March 29, 2024


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