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  B-17F-5-BO Flying Fortress Serial Number 41-24427  
USAAF
5th AF
19th BG
30th BS

PacificWrecks.com
USMA 1940

PacificWrecks.com
Kavon April 2023
Pilot  Captain Robert L. Williams, O-023070 (MIA / KIA) Pauline, SC
Co-Pilot  2nd Lt Robert R. Wilson O-430646 (MIA / KIA) NJ
Navigator  2nd Lt William A. Dietch, O-433137 (MIA / KIA) Chicago, IL
Bombardier  1st Lt Marion L. Wheeler, O-412742 (MIA / KIA) English River Township, IA
Radio  Sgt William D. Lewis, 6914241 (MIA / KIA) IL
Engineer  SSgt Marion C. Taylor, 19054589 (MIA / KIA) Billings, MT
Gunner  Sgt Thomas L. Cotner, 6274735 (MIA / KIA) WY
Gunner  Sgt Glenn C. Keclik, 6932077 (MIA / KIA) St. Charles, MO
Gunner  Sgt Ernest L. Pugh, 6947173 (MIA / KIA) Buena Vista City, VA
MIA  September 15, 1942
MACR  none

Aircraft History
Built by Boeing at Seattle. Purchased by funds F-1, order number W-535 AC-16 DA at a cost of $314,109.00. Constructors Number 3110. On June 30, 1942 delivered to the U.S. Army Air Force (USAAF) as B-17F-5-BO Flying Fortress serial number 41-24427. On July 1, 1942 flown to the Modification Center in Cheyenne, Wyoming. On August 2, 1942 flown to Sacramento Air Depot (SAD). On August 6, 1942 flown to Hamilton Field then flown via Hickam Field and across the Pacific to Australia arriving August 21, 1942.

Wartime History
Assigned to the 5th Air Force (5th AF), 19th Bombardment Group (19th BG), 30th Bombardment Squadron (30th BS). No known nickname or nose art.

On August 24, 1942 took off piloted by Captain Charles Hillhouse on a bombing mission.

On August 26, 1942 took off piloted by 1st Lt John S. Hancock with Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) navigator PO Allan J. Davenport, 409296 on a bombing mission aganinst a Japanese convoy off Milne Bay but aborted due to bad weather.

On September 6, 1942 took off piloted by 1st Lt John S. Hancock on a mission to bomb Japanese shipping but was given the wrong coordinates for the ships and experienced bad weather.

Mission History
On September 15, 1942 at 5:30pm took off from 7 Mile Drome near Port Moresby piloted by Captain Robert L. Williams as one of nine B-17s on a night bombing mission against Rabaul. After take off, no further contact was made with this bomber. On September 16, 1942 at 1:30am, when this B-17 failed to return, it was officially listed as Missing In Action (MIA).

Diary of Major John Rouse, September 15, 1942 via Steve Birdsall:
"Boys sure had a rough mission last night. Received word that Holsey [Lt. Raymond E. Holsey] made a forced landing [B-17E "Frank Buck" 41-2659] on Hood Point and Bob Williams [B-17F 41-24427] is missing. Sure hope he shows up for he is one of the best. It will be a big loss to the Squadron and bad blow to me if he is lost. Had a darn good crew with him. I have known him only since the 18th of last month [August 18, 1942] but he is one of the best and happiest men I have ever known. It won't be the same with him gone."

Demopolis Times "Memorial Day: Time to remember Read" May 30, 2005 interview Helen Partridge (widow of Robert L. Williams)
“Then, on a stormy night in September 1942, Williams went out on a mission and did not return. Nine planes went out that night, three failed to return,” Partridge said. “They found and rescued the crews of two of the planes, but Bob’s plane was never found.” Partridge said a young man by the name of John Carpenter, who later became Commanding Officer of the training school at Maxwell AFB, flew to Tuscaloosa where Partridge had been staying with her family to tell her the news. Robert Jr. was just over a year old, and had not seen his father since he was six months old... several years that had passed since Williams was listed as Missing In Action, Partridge said she found it hard to give up hope. “I kept hoping he was going to come back,” she said. “They didn't declare him dead until January 1946. Many of the others who were lost in the war were declared after a year or so, so I thought maybe they knew something they weren't telling me."

Wreckage
In fact, this B-17 crashed inland from Milim on the south coast of New Britain, inland from Wide Bay.

During early April 2023, a Malaysian logging company on New Britain clearing a logging road with a bulldozer discovered aircraft wreckage including an engine, aileron and other wreckage. When found, a bulldozer ran over a portion of the wreckage and moved the engine with propeller, causing the propeller to separate. Inside the engine cowling was a stencil with "A.C. 41-24427", confirming the serial number of the bomber. By late April 2023, the crash site was reported to the National Museum & Art Gallery (NMAG) and U.S. authorities but is awaiting further investigation.

On June 2023, the crash site was investigated by Pacific Wrecks / Justin Taylan that performed a site survey and located the serial number 41-24427 on three engine cowlings confirming the identity of the bomber.

Memorials
The entire crew was officially declared dead on January 7, 1946. All are memorialized at Manila American Cemetery on the tablets of the missing.

Williams earned the Silver Star and Purple Heart, posthumously. He also has a memorial marker, location unknown.

Wilson earned the Silver Star, Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC), Purple Heart, posthumously.

Dietch earned the Silver Star, Purple Heart, posthumously. He has a memorial marker at Arlington National Cemetery at section MJ site 84.

Wheeler earned the Silver Star, Purple Heart, posthumously. He also has a memorial marker at Sorden Cemetery in Webster, IA.

Lewis earned the Silver Star, Purple Heart, posthumously.

Taylor earned the Silver Star, Purple Heart, posthumously.

Cotner earned the Silver Star, Purple Heart, posthumously.

Keclik earned the Silver Star, Purple Heart with oak leaf cluster, posthumously. He also has a memorial marker at Fort Scott National Cemetery in Fort Scott, KS at section Ma site 36.

Pugh earned the Silver Star, Purple Heart, posthumously.

Relatives
Helen Partridge (née Wilson, widow of Williams passed away February 13, 2018)
Robert L. Williams, Jr. (son of Williams died August 3, 2010 at age 69)

Glenda Sue Keclik (daughter born January 29, 1942)
Alicia Bassett (granddaughter)

References
NARA World War II Army Enlistment Records - Robert R. Wilson
NARA World War II Army Enlistment Records - William A. Dietch

NARA World War II Army Enlistment Records - Marion C. Taylor
Individual Aircraft Record Card (IARC) - B-17F Flying Fortress 41-24427 via AFHRA microfim reel ACR-32
USAF Serial Number Search Results - B-17F-5-BO Flying Fortress 41-24427
"24427 (19th BG, 30th BS) lost on mission Sep 15, 1942. Crew KIA"
History 30th Bombardment Squadron
Diary of Cecil C. Knudson
WW2 Nominal Roll - Allan Jack Davenport, 409296
PNG Museum Aircraft Status Card - B-17E Flying Fortress 41-24427
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Robert L. Williams
DPAA Personnel File - Robert Lamar Williams
FindAGrave - 1Lt Robert Royden Wilson (tablets of the missing photo)
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Robert R. Wilson
DPAA Personnel File - Robert R. Wilson
FindAGrave - Robert L. Williams (photo, memorial marker photo, tablets of the missing photo)
FindAGrave - Robert L. Williams (National WWII Memorial)
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - William A. Dietch
DPAA Personnel File - William A. Dietch
FindAGrave - William A Dietch (memorial marker photo)
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Marion L. Wheeler
DPAA Personnel File - Marion L. Wheeler
FindAGrave - Lieut Marion Lonner Wheeler (photo, memorial marker photo)
FindAGrave - 1Lt Marion Lonner Wheeler (tablets of the missing photo)
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - William D. Lewis
DPAA Personnel File - William D. Lewis
FindAGrave - Sgt William D Lewis (tablets of the missing)
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Marion C. Taylor
DPAA Personnel File - Marion C. Taylor
FindAGrave - SSgt Marion C Taylor (tablets of the missing photo)
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Thomas L. Cotner
DPAA Personnel File - Thomas L. Cotner
FindAGrave - Sgt Thomas L Cotner (tablets of the missing)
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Glenn C. Keclik
DPAA Personnel File - Glenn C. Keclik
FindAGrave - Glenn Clifton Keclik (memorial marker photo, tablets of the missing photo)
FindAGrave - Sgt Glenn Clifton Keclik (tablets of the missing photo)
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Ernest L. Pugh
DPAA Personnel File - Ernest L. Pugh
FindAGrave - Sgt Ernest Louis Pugh (marriage certificate, tablets of the missing)
Demopolis Times "Memorial Day: Time to remember Read" May 30, 2005
"This Memorial Day, Helen Partridge of Demopolis will be honoring not one, but two veterans. The twice-widowed woman lost her first husband in World War II, and many years later married another veteran."
Obituary for Helen Wilson Partridge (née Wilson, widow of Williams)
"Helen was preceded in death by her five brothers: John, Frank, Meredith, Bill and twin Owen. She was also preceded in death by her loving husbands: Robert L. Williams of Spartanburg, SC., Steele Partridge of Demopolis, AL. and Dr. Clarence Partridge of Mobile, AL. and son Bob Williams and wife Janet of Monroeville, AL."
Pride of Seattle: The Story of the First 300 B-17Fs (1998) by Steve Birdsall page 8 (41-24427)
Fortress Against The Sun (2001) pages 259 (September 15, 1942), 391 (41-24427)
Flightpath Magazine "Flying With The Yanks: Part One" by Steve Birdsall pages 25-26 (Davenport)
Thanks to Glenda Sue Keclik, Alicia Bassett, Steve Birdsall and Edward Rogers for additional information

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Last Updated
April 23, 2024

 

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