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  B-17E Flying Fortress Serial Number 41-2460  
5th AF
19th BG
30th BS

Click For Enlargement
Click For Enlargement
July 30, 1942

Aircraft History
Built by Boeing at Seattle. Delivered to the U. S. Army Air Force (USAAF) as B-17E Flying Fortress serial number 41-2460. Assigned to the 5th Air Force (5th AF), 19th Bombardment Group (19th BG), 30th Bombardment Squadron (30th BS). No known nose art or nickname. Ferried overseas by pilot C. H. Millhouse departing MacDill Field flying via the "African Route" to the Netherlands East Indies (NEI) to Java.

Wartime History
On January 25, 1942 at 7:00am took off from Singosari Airfield on Java pilot by 1st Lt. Gooch on a mission to bomb the Japanese convoy off Balikpapan on southeast Borneo. The formation included six B-17s from the 19th BG plus two from the 7th BG. After bombing the landing force. After bombing the landing force, the formation was intercepted by Japanese fighters. During the interception, this B-17 was attacked from the rear and hit by machine gun bullets and cannon shells in the tail section before the tail gunner claimed the attacker as shot down. Although none of the crew were wounded, the battery was shot out, trim tabs control cables were severed and cockpit instruments failed. Also, the wings and fuselage were holed and the damaged bomber lost altitude and landed at the nearest Allied airfield located at Bandjermasin Airfield (Oelin) on southeast Borneo. With the help of Dutch personnel, emergency repairs were made after landing.

On January 26, 1942 during the morning took off despite the damage and was carefully flown back to Malang Airfield on Java. Afterwards, additional repairs might have been attempted but the bomber was written off or not flyable for combat mission. In March 1942 as the Allied situation in Java deteriorated, TSgt Harry Hayes decided to repair this bomber at Bandoeng West Airfield (Andir) rebuilding two engines and making other repairs. Once completed, he convinced two pilots American pilot Gerald L. Cherymisin and Dutch officer Lt. Sibolt J. Kok to fly the repaired bomber to Australia despite the fact neither had flown a B-17 before and the pair agreed.

On March 4, 1942 during the night took off from Bandoeng West Airfield (Andir) piloted by Gerald L. Cherymisin with Sibolt J. Kok and engineer TSgt Harry Hayes on a final evacuation flight with 18 passengers aboard including Cherymisin's Dutch wife bound for to Australia, the last B-17 to evacuate Java. During the three hour flight, only three engines were operative but managed to land safely at Port Hedland in Western Australia.

Afterwards, operated from Mareeba Airifeld and finally Horn Island Airfield in Queensland.

Mission History
On July 30, 1942 during the predawn darkness, this B-17 was being taxied by pilot 1st Edward J. Bechtold as one of six B-17s ready for take off from Horn Island Airfield for a bombing mission against Lae. On the ground, this B-17 collided with B-17E "Tojo's Physic" 41-2640, tearing off the nose section, which was unoccupied for take off and there were only minor injuries to the crews aboard each bomber.

Damaged, this B-17 sustained damage to the left side of the nose and left wing. At Horn Island Airfield, emergency repairs were made allowing the bomber to be flown back to Mareeba Airfield.

Steve Birdsall adds:
"Harlan O. Bjerke from Azusa, California told me: 'I remember seeing a B-17E which had collided with another aircraft on the ground, pushing its left wing back, breaking the front spar outboard of the Number One engine. This was on Horn, I believe. A cleatrack was used to pull the wing back into line, then the spar was spliced with a large piece of wood. The leading edge was rebuilt with wood formers and wire stringers. Mattress covers were used for covering the wing and for patches on the damaged nose. Then two pilots from Headquarters Squadron of the 19th Group flew it back to Mareeba, Australia.'"

Despite the temporary repairs, this B-17 was written off at Mareeba Airfield and stripped for usable parts then abandoned. Ultimate fate unknown, likely scrapped or otherwise disappeared.

Other sources state this B-17 was damaged landing July 27, 1942 at Horn Island returning from a Buna Mission.
On Wings We Conquer author John Mitchell identifies the pilot at the time of the July 30, 1942 accident on Horn Island as Lt Edward J. Bechtold. His research also found that the 93rd Squadron's Lt William A. Lorence and "a mechanics crew" flew in from Mareeba, originally planning only to salvage parts of 41-2460, but "after inspecting the damage" Lorence decided "he could repair the plane and fly to Mareeba". Mitchell continues, "One of the mechanics agreed to fly as co-pilot and the flight to Mareeba was successful". According to legend the flight earned the pilot the nickname "Crazy Lorence".
The B-17 Flying Fortress "Famous Aircraft Series"
Fortress Against The Sun (2001) pages 120 (January 25, 1942 Balikpapan mission), 159 (March 2-4, 1942 Java evacuation), 235 (damaged Horn Island, 385 (SN list), 409 (footnote 1, footnote 4)
Thanks to Steve Birdsall for additional information

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Last Updated
February 12, 2020


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