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Built by Boeing at Seattle. On August 5, 1942 Delivered to the U. S. Army Air Force (USAAF) as B-17F-25-BO Flying Fortress serial number 41-24554.Ferried overseas via Hickam Field then across the Pacific to Australia.
Assigned to the 5th Air Force (5th AF), 43rd Bombardment Group (43rd BG) "Ken's Men", 403rd Bombardment Squadron (403rd BS) and operated from 7-Mile Drome near Port Moresby.
Later, transferred to the 63rd Bombardment Squadron (63th BS). The ground crew included: Crew Chief Ernest "Ernie" J. Vandal, Assistant Crew Chief John Duck and ground crew: William McMurray, Michael Espinosa.
Nicknamed "The Mustang" with the nickname "Mustang" and nose art of a white mustang horse painted by artist Sgt Ernie Vandal. On the right side of the nose the mustang nose art was later partially over painted with a kneeling cowgirl woman figure wearing a pistol belt and hat. A secondary piece of artwork was added behind the right waist window of a female brunette figure with her hands behind her wearing a black bra, panties and high heels with "Lady Luck" to the sides of each leg.
Steve Birdsall adds:
"As far as I know, the horse on the right side of The Mustang was not over painted with the girl, she's part of the original design - horse and cowgirl. "Lady Luck" was just a secondary piece of art painted on the fuselage. This is Ernie Vandal's most spectacular art and, while 41-24554 didn't fly anything like the number of missions (and Purple Hearts) painted on her nose in New Caledonia, she was around for a long time."
On March 26, 1943 attempted to take off at 1:30am from 7-Mile Drome near Port Moresby piloted by Murphy on a night bombing mission against enemy shipping in Wewak Harbor, but did not take off due to engine trouble.
On April 9, 1943 took off piloted by 1st Lt. William B. Trigg on a reconnaissance mission over New Britain. Over Open Bay, he observed enemy fighters following him and dove into a rain storm to evade them. Aboard, photographer Sgt Ridenour was injured during the dive cutting his right hand and fracturing his right arm.
On August 17, 1943 this B-17 piloted by Lt. Glyer took off from 7-Mile Drome near Port Moresby on a mission to bomb Boram Airfield near Wewak individually at night at 6,500' altitude with 6/10 cloud cover with cumulus. Over the target, the formation met intense anti-aircraft fire and searchlights. At the end of its bomb run, this B-17 was held in searchlights and Intercepted by a Japanese twin engine night fighter (Ki-45 Nick of 13th Sentai, 3 Chutai), but the attacker missed.
On September 5, 1943, this B-17, took off from 7-Mile Drome with General Richard Sutherland aboard to observe the U. S. Army 503rd Parachute Infantry Regiment (503rd PIR) paratrooper drop on Nadzab. The flight was dubbed dubbed by General Kenney the "Brass Hat's Flight". Also in the flight was B-17F "Talisman" 41-24537 carrying General MacArthur, plus B-17F "Cap'n & The Kids" 41-24353 with General Kenney aboard.
During the Allied paratrooper drop on Nadzab, on September 5, 1943, this bomber was one of the B-17s used to fly U.S. Army Generals over the area to observe the landing, the 'Brass Hat's flight". Aboard this B-17 flew General Richard Sutherland.
In late 1943, this B-17 was at the 13th Air Depot (13th AD) in New Caledonia. On the left side of the nose was a large scoreboard with six rows of bomb markings with twenty bomb markings in the first six rows and nine in the last row indicating 129 bombing missions flown plus silhouettes of seventeen aircraft claimed by gunners plus nine silhouettes of ships claimed as sunk to the left of the bombs. Below the navigator's window and USAAF serial number stencil was seven hearts inside a white squares indicated Purple Hearts earned by crew members wounded aboard this bomber. Below was the nickname "Mustang" outlined in white and the nose art of a the head of a white mustang horse.
Steve Birdsall adds:
"The elaborate nose markings she carried at that time were probably painted on the aircraft not long before her return to the United States. They are remarkably similar to decorations applied to other ex-43rd Bomb Group B-17s B-17s including B-17E "Loose Goose" 41-2609, and B-17E 41-2649, which were photographed at 13th Air Depot on New Caledonia late in 1943."
Afterwards, flown back across the Pacific via Hickam Field to the United States returning by December 2, 1943.This B-17 was used as a training aircraft based at Walker Field in Kansas. During June 1945 flown to Albuquerque, New Mexico for salvage. Ultimate fate unknown likely scrapped.
USAF Serial Number Search Results - B-17F-25-BO Flying Fortress 41-24554
Diary of the 63rd Bomb Squadron, 43rd Bomb Group
"26 March 1943 – Departed Jackson at 0130. Target: shipping Wewak Harbor. Bomb load; 4 ships with 8 X 500# inst demo, 3 with 4X 100# inst demo.
554 Murphy didn't take off on account of engine trouble. Nothing was sighted by the remaining crews.
358, Denault, 537 O'Brien, 574 Derr dropped their bombs on harbor installations.
455 Diffenderfer, 543 Staley, 417 Trigg dropped theirs on the town and runway.
543 Staley landed at Dobodura on the way back because of lack of gas. Search party consisting of Lt Murphy and Capt Thompson's crew were organized and were about to take off when 543 landed. Squadron on readiness at 1500."
Pride of Seattle (1998) pages 13, 14
MacArthur's Eagles (2005) pages 39–40
Fortress Against The Sun (2001) pages 100, 289, 392, 379
Ken's Men Against The Empire Volume 1 (2015) pages 164 (April 9, 1943 mission)
Ken's Men 43rd Bomb Group official website
Thanks to Steve Birdsall for additional information
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