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USAAF Feb 23, 1942
|Pilot 1st Lt William H. Watson, O-416941 (MIA / KIA) IL
Co-Pilot 1st Lt John F. Putman, O-413546 (MIA / KIA) CA
Navigator 1st Lt James O. Etter, O-434209 (MIA / KIA) OK
Bombardier SSgt Robert A. Abadie, 6296091 (MIA / KIA) TX
Engineer T/Sgt Eugene M. Clemens, 6564203 (MIA / KIA) SD
Crew Sgt Leo T. Ranta, 6578753 (survived) Marysville, CA
Crew Sgt Robert V. Copley, 6999315 (MIA / KIA) PA
Gunner Cpl Philip A. Deal, 6915668 (MIA / KIA) IN
Gunner Sgt William H. Parker, 6581531 (MIA / KIA) WA
Crashed August 2, 1942 at 9:30am
Built by Boeing at Seattle. On December 1, 1941 delivered to the U. S. Army Air Force (USAAF) as B-17E 41-2435 and flown by Harry Spieth from Boeing Field. Assigned to the 19th Bombardment Group, 28th Bombardment Squadron. No known nose art or nickname.
During January 1942, this bomber operated from Hickam Field and flew patrol missions over Pacific Ocean. On January 16, 1942 the bomber claimed to locate, bomb and sink a Japanese submarine. Next, this B-17 flown from Hickam Field acorss the Pacific to Australia. Possibly participted in the February 22-23, 1942 bombing mission over Rabaul, the first American bombing mission in the South Pacific.
On March 12, 1942 this B-17 took off from Horn Island Airfield piloted by Horgan and Fields on a mission against Salamaua. Afterwards landed at 7-Mile Drome and overnighted there.
On March 13, 1942 took off 7-Mile Drome near Port Moresby on a mission against Rabaul piloted by Major William Lewis, Jr. and co-pilot 1st Lt Jack L Carlson with a crew consisted of five men from the 435th Bomb Squadron and six from another unknown unit. The other three aircraft returned direct to Townsville due to engine trouble. Over the target, this B-17 successfully attacked Lakunai Airfield claiming several aircraft on the ground destroyed. Returning, this B-17 encountered A6M2 Zeros returning from a strafing attack on 7-Mile Drome. Top turret gunner M/Sgt Carl G. Johansson claimed an A6M2 Zero [none were lost] fifteen miles north of Port Moresby, then landed safely landed at 7-Mile Drome.
On April 18, 1942, made an emergency landing adjacent to RAAF Sandgate Airfield at 5:45pm . The B-17 landed on reclaimed land to the north north between the base and the start of the Hornibrook Highway.
On July 27, 1942 one of nine B-17s that participated in a bombing mission against Buna
On August 2, 1942 took off from 7 Mile Drome near Port Moresby piloted by Watson as part of a flight of B-17s searching for a convoy near Buna. On this mission, this B-17 was assigned to the 30th Bomb Squadron, but flown by an air crew from the 28th Bombardment Squadron for this mission.
At 9:15am, intercepted by A6M2 Zeros and shot down. This B-17 crashed into the sea off Cape Ward Hunt on the other side of Mitre Rock, roughly two to three miles out to sea at approximately at 9:30am. At least five of the crew managed to bail out including Ranta and Abadie.
Fates of the Crew
After meeting native people who were friendly he was taken to Anglican missionary Romney Gill at Duvira then to Gill's hideout known as "X1". Later, he was joined by the crew of B-26 "Dixie" 40-1496. Together the group walked to Garaina Airfield to await rescue. On September 3, 1942 they were flown out aboard a Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) Hudson back to Port Moresby.
Three of the crew have memorial markers in their hometown cemeteries:
Sole survivor Ranta died on March 9, 1974. He is buried at Sutter Cemetery in Sutter, CA at plot G-162-1.
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