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  B-17D "The Gazelle" Serial Number 40-3079  
5th AF
19th BG

Former Assignments
7th BG
14th BS

Pilot  Captain Duane H. Skiles (WIA in left eye, survived)
Co-Pilot  2nd Lt Robert L. Perry (WIA, survived)
Navigator  2nd Lt. Alfred H. Heyman (survived)
Crew  Sgt Collen W. Long, 35000944 (KIA, BR)
Crew  Pfc Harold S. Depeel (WIA, survived)
Crew  Pvt Kenneth L. House (WIA, survived)
Crashed  March 14, 1942
MACR  none

Aircraft History
Built by Boeing at Seattle. Constructors Number 2107. Delivered to the U. S. Army Air Force (USAAF) as B-17D Flying Fortress serial number 40-3079. Assigned to the 7th Bombardment Group (7th BG), 14th Bombardment Squadron (14th BS). Ferried via Hickam Field then across the Pacific to the Philippines.

Wartime History
On December 8, 1941 at the start of the Pacific War, this B-17 was at Del Monte Airfield on Mindanao.

On December 9, 1941 attempted to take off from Del Monte Airfield piloted by Lt. Welden H. Smith on a flight bound for Clark Field to stage for a bombing mission, but developed a hydraulic leak and was repaired, flying separately afterwards. Later that day, these bomber were transfered to San Marcelino Airfield.

On December 10, 1941 took off San Marcelino Airfield at 6:00am piloted by Donald M. Keiser armed with 200 pound demolition bombs as one of six B-17s on a mission to bomb Japanese shipping off Vigan. Afterwards, the formation returned to Clark Field at 7:30am with three of the bombers able to land while the other three remained airborne, fearing a Japanese air raid might catch them all on the ground.

On December 19, 1941 at 10:00pm took off Del Monte Airfield piloted by Lt. Welden H. Smith evacuating the last remaining personnel to Batchelor Field at Darwin.

On December 25, 1941 at 4:30am while attempted to take off from Del Monte Airfield piloted by Lt. Welden H. Smith armed with seven 300 pound bombs on a spontaneous mission to attack Davao. During take off, this bomber blew one of the main tires and the crew attempted to repair the B-17 to participate in the mission. One of the crew was sent to the end of the runway and instructed to fire three shots if a Japanese air raid was inbound. Only one jack was available for the repair, to so the crew dug a hole under the flat tire to replace it. Meanwhile, the crew member at the end of the runway heard approaching aircraft and fired one shot, then his pistol jammed. Hearing the warning, the crew took cover while a lone Zero made a strafing run on B-17, hitting the bomb bay fuel tank. Afterwards, the crew repaired the damage and pushed the bomber out of the hole dug so it could take off at 10:30am and proceeded alone to the target. Over Davao Gulf, this B-17 bombed four ships then outran enemy fighters and landed at Batchelor Field at Darwin.

On January 1, 1942 this B-17 was flown to Java and participated in the Java campaign.

On January 8, 1942 one of nine B-17s led by Major Combs that were flown to Kendari II Airfield to stage for a mission and were refueled and armed. On January 9, 1942 after midnight took off piloted by Lt. Welden H. Smith on a bombing mission against Japanese ships in Davao Gulf. Inbound to the target, the formation experienced a violent storm and this B-17 experienced engine problems and aborted the mission.

On January 23, 1942 flown by Smith to Laverton Field for overhaul at Laverton Repair Yard.

By March 1, 1942 evacuated from Java to Australia. Assigned to the 19th Bombardment Group (19th BG) and nicknamed "The Gazelle".

Mission History
On March 14, 1942 took off piloted by 1st Lt. Duane H. Skiles and while attempting to land at Daly Waters Airfield, both the no. 1 and no. 2 engines on the left wing failed causing this bomber to crash. Aboard, Sgt Collen W. Long was killed in the crash. Pilot Skiles was injured with his left eye scratched. Four other members were injured and put into the hospital in Sydney for four days to recover. The bomber was completely destroyed in the crash.

Darrell Landau adds:
“Skile’s Navigator Al Heyman at the 19th BG Reunion in Atlanta 2000, told me that Skiles scratched his eye impairing his vision such that he never served as a pilot after that."

Recovery of Remains
After the crash, Long was buried at small cemetery opposite the old telegraph station. Later, he was exhumed and buried on August 20, 1942 at Adelaide River Cemetery. Postwar, he was again exhumed and transported to the United States for permanent burial.

Long was officially declared dead the day of the crash. Postwar his remains were transported to the United States. and was permanently buried at Greenlawn Cemetery in Frankfort, OH.

The wreckage remains in situ at the crash site.

Bob Alford adds July 10, 2009:
"The wreckage of this B-17 is still at Daly Waters in a pit north of the airfield. One of the main U/C legs is in Daly Waters at a house opposite the famous pub."

Diary of the 19th Bombardment Group
5th Bomber Command Journal - March 14, 1942
"Capt Skiles in B-17D No 3079 cracked up on landing at Daly Waters this afternoon.  The airplane was completely destroyed and several crew members and passengers injured.  Sgt Collen W. Long, 35000944 died of injuries.  The following were less seriously injured.
Capt. Skiles  Pilot
2nd Lt Robert L. Perry  Co-Pilot
Pfc Harold S. Depeel
Pvt Kenneth L. House"
Retrospective Diary of 2nd Lt. Alfred H. Heyman – Navigator - 19th BG [formerly with 9th Sq / 7th BG in Java]  Heyman had earlier flown with Skiles from Florida to Java along the Africa route
"On March 12 I went out with Skiles on a job where we carrying Major Nichols [Maj. Roscoe T. Nichols] & Col Hoyt [Col. Ross G. Hoyt] up to Batchelor.  Col. Hoyt we left at Daly Waters.  Going back there the second time two motors on the same side cut out and wouldn’t feather.  Lt. Perry called down to me to come out of the nose.  I came out immediately and 10 sec later we crashed [mentioned in Mangan & Birnn diaries].  When the plane stopped there was no longer a nose on it.  Two motors were on fire and soon spread to the rest of the ship.
Sgt Long was killed and Skiles lost an eye [cornea of left eye scratched] as a result of the crack up.  Perry and I both spent 4 days in the hospital in Sydney.”
USAF Serial Number Search Results - B-17D Flying Fortress 40-3079
"3079 (19th BG) crashlanded and wrecked Daly Waters Northern Territory, Australia Mar 14, 1942. One crew member killed."
FindAGrave - Sgt Collen W. Long (grave photo)
Fortress Against The Sun (2001) pages 63, 65, 80, 83-84, 96, 143, 156, 383, 404 (footnote 73), 406 (footnote 44), 409 (footnote 20), 416 (footnote 21)
December 8, 1941 MacArthur's Pearl Harbor (2003) page 442
Thanks to Edward Rogers for research and analysis

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Last Updated
December 18, 2020


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