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  B-17E "R.F.D. Tojo" Serial Number 41-2627  
USAAF
5th AF
6th PRG
8th PRS

Former Assignments
19th BG
43rd BG

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8th PRS c1943

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USAAF Dec 26, 1943

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Les McMahon 1959

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John Loughman 1969
Pilot  Colonel David W. Hutchison (survived) Mineral Point, WI
Co-Pilot
  1st Lt William H. Fairbank Jr., O-453251 (survived) Glendale, CA
Crew 
 TSgt Nicholas C. Laboda, 12033182 (survived) WA
Crew
  Cpl Philip J. Lynch, 16013446 8th PRS (KIA, BR) Bay City, MI
Crew 
 TSgt George E. Manley, 31048318 (survived) New Haven, CT
Crew
  Pfc Robert C. McGee, 34141064 (KIA, BR) Hamilton County, TN
Crew
  SSgt Thomas A Lane, 39381881 (survived)
Crew
  Pvt Ernest E. Young Jr., 14053129 (survived) McDowell County, NC
Crew
  Cpl Hector E. Rodgers, 19070579 (survived) Yellowstone County, MT
Crew
  Pvt Alex Black, 33115534 (survived) Allegheny County, PA
Cameramen
  Captain Ellis W. Carter, O-192659 5th CCU (WIA, survived)
Cameramen  SSgt Joseph E. Hartman, 5th CCU (WIA, survived) Birmingham, AL
Correspondent  Pendil A. Rayner, Brisbane Telegraph (injured, died December 27, 1943) Brisbane, QLD
Correspondent  Ian Morrison, London Times (injured, survived)
Correspondent  W. Hayden Lennard, Australian Broadcasting Commission (injured, survived)
Correspondent  Brydon Taves, United Press (injured, died December 27, 1943) New York, NY
Crashed  December 26, 1943 at 5:53am
MACR  none

Aircraft History
Built by Boeing at Seattle. Constructors Number 2438. Delivered to the U. S. Army Air Force (USAAF) as B-17E Flying Fortress serial number 41-2627. Ferried overseas via Hickam Field across the Pacific to Australia.

Wartime History
Assigned to the 19th Bombardment Group (19th BG). Later assigned to 43rd Bombardment Group (43rd BG). No known nickname or nose art.

On January 5, 1943 one of six B-17s from the 64th Bombardment Squadron that took off from 7 Mile Drome near Port Moresby armed with 500 pound bombs on a bombing mission against Rabaul. Over the target around noon at roughly 8,500' the bombers approached from the southeast between Kokopo and Rapopo and bombed enemy shipping. B-24s claimed hits on two ships and B-17s claimed hits on nine including a destroyer. In fact, only the Keifuku Maru sustained two near misses that caused her to sink. Bomb fragments did cause fires aboard other ships and inflicted 20 casualties. Bomb fragments did cause fires aboard other ships and inflicted 20 casualties. Lost returning from the mission was B-17F "San Antonio Rose" 41-24458 (MIA, two POW).

Later in 1943, assigned to the 6th Photographic Reconnaissance Group (6th PRG), 8th Photographic Reconnaissance Squadron (8th PRS). Nicknamed "R.F.D. Tojo". This B-17 was used for long range photographic missions. Also used as the squadron transport aircraft for supplies and personnel.

While in service with the 8th PRS, the left side of the nose was painted with the nose art of a billiards 8 ball on the left side of the nose. In the squadron, this B-17 was known as "8 Ball" or "The Eight-Ball" but no nickname was painted on the nose. "Eight Ballers" was the nickname of the 8th PRS.

Mission History
On December 26, 1943 at 5:50am took off from 14 Mile Drome (Schwimmer) near Port Moresby on a flight to observe the amphibious landing activities at Cape Gloucester on West New Britain. That morning the weather had a zero ceiling with a thick ground fog.

Before take off, reporter Pendil A. Rayner attended the briefing and wrote an account of the planned mission that ended with "lead to follow...", then handed the copy to a fellow reporter.

Aboard were two cameramen from the 5th Combat Camera Unit (5th CCU) Carter and Hartman. Also, four correspondents: Pendil A. Rayner from the Brisbane Telegraph, W. Hayden Lennard from the Australian Broadcasting Commission (ABC), Brydon Taves who was the Australian manager of United Press (UP) and Ian Morrison from the London Times.

Shortly after take off at roughly 5:53am, this bomber crashed off the northwest end of the runway near the Laloki River. On impact, two were killed Lynch and McGee. Rayner and Taves were severely injured and both died the next day.

Recovery of Remains
After the crash, the bodies of Lynch and McGee wee recovered and buried at Bomana War Cemetery. Postwar, their remains were transported to Hawaii and the United States for permanent burial. Also, Taves and Rayner who died the next day were also buried at Bomana War Cemetery.

Fates of the Crew
Everyone aboard sustained burns and injuries and earned the Purple Heart. Afterwards, Captain Ellis W. Carter and SSgt Joseph E. Hartman were hospitalized and both were later sent to the United States to convalesce.

Wreckage
After the crash, the wreckage of this B-17 was stripped for usable parts then abandoned. Until the early 1970s the wreckage of this B-17 including the entire tail section and engines remained in situ where it crashed. Sometime afterwards, the tail wreckage was scrapped or otherwise removed. Possibly, some wreckage from this B-17 may remain at the site or is partially buried.

Dog Tag Discovery
During 2005, Thomas Rei discovered the dog tag of Philip J. Lynch in a dump area at 14 Mile Drome. This dog tag is displayed at his Schwimmer War Museum.

Memorials
Lynch and McGee died in the crash on December 26, 1943.

Lynch was buried at National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific (Punchbowl) at plot B, grave 494.

McGee was buried at Forest Hills Cemetery in Chattanooga, TN.

Taves and Rayner died of their injuries on December 27, 1943.

Taves was buried at National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific (Punchbowl) at plot P, grave 1049.

Rayner was buried at Bomana War Cemetery at B2, D, 19.

Laboda passed away on March 9, 1981 at age 58. He is buried at Park Hill Cemetery Vancouver, WA.

Hutchison retired from the U. S. Air Force (USAF) with the rank of Major General. He passed away September 24, 1982 at age 74. He is buried at Memorial Park Cemetery in Oklahoma City, OK.

Hartman remained in the U. S. Air Force (USAF) and served in the Korean War and Vietnam. He passed away on January 6, 1999 at aged 77. He is buried at Ocean Springs, Jackson County, MS.

References
Note, some sources state this B-17 was bound for Australia with personnel departing for rest and recuperation (R&R). Other reports state it was a mission over the landing activities at Cape Gloucester on West New Britain.
NARA World War II Army Enlistment Records - Nicholas C. Laboda
NARA World War II Army Enlistment Records - Philip J. Lynch
NARA World War II Army Enlistment Records - George E. Manley
NARA World War II Army Enlistment Records - Robert C. McGee
NARA World War II Army Enlistment Records - Ernest E. Young Jr.
NARA World War II Army Enlistment Records - Hector E. Rodgers
NARA World War II Army Enlistment Records - Alex Black
NARA World War II Army Enlistment Records - Joseph E. Hartman

USAF Serial Number Search Results - B-17E Flying Fortress 41-2627
The Mercury "Plane Crash: Two Reporters Killed" by Frank Dexter December 29, 1943 page 2
"TUESDAY— Two war correspondents accredited to GHQ died as a result of injuries, and two were injured slightly when a combat aircraft crashed in New Guinea on Sunday. Those who died, were Pendil A. Rayner (34). of Brisbane, and Brydon Taves (29). Australian manager of American United Press. Two members of the crew were killed."
The Brooklyn Daily Eagle "U. S. War Correspondent, 3 Others, Die in Plane Crash" December 28, 1943, Page 2
Air Force Historical Research Agency (AFHRA) "5th Combat Camera Unit (5th CCU) History page 11
"On 26 December, 1943, Capt. Carter and S/Sgt Hartman took off in the B-17 “8 Ball”, a photo ship of the 8th Photo Squadron to over the landing activities at Gloucester. The plane failed on take off, crashed at the end of the strip, and burned. Four men were killed and all survivors sustained burns and injuries. Capt. Carter and S/Sgt Hartman were hospitalized and sent home for convalescence, both receiving Purple Heart, S/Sgt Hartman for the second time."
The Argus "2 More War Reporters Killed: Air Crash on Way To New Britain" by Frank Dexter December 29, 1943
The Argus "Correspondents In Air Crash: 2 Killed, 2 Injured" December 29, 1943
PNG Museum Aircraft Status Card - B-17E Flying Fortress 41-2627
USAF Biographies - Major General David William Hutchison
FindAGrave - Gen David William Hutchison, Sr (photo, obituary grave photo)
FindAGrave - Nicholas C. Laboda (grave)
FindAGrave - Philip J Lynch (grave photo)
FindAGrave - Robert C McGee (grave photo)
FindAGrave - Joseph E. Hartman (grave photo)
FindAGrave - Brydon Taves (grave photo)
FindAGrave - Reporter Pendil Arthur Rayner (news)
CWGC - Pendil Arthur Rayner
The Eight Ballers - Eyes of the Fifth Air Force (1999) by Stanaway and Rocker pages 39 (lower photo, right side), 40 (upper left photo RDF Tojo right side, Eight Ball left side), 67 (photos of tail after crash), 99 (photo port side), 174 (two photos right side), 175 (two photos right ride)
Ken's Men Against The Empire Volume 1 (2015) pages 343 (photo starboard side)
54 War Correspondents K.I.A. WWII A Gripping Account of War Journalism 1940-1945 by Doral Chenoweth Chaper V - Australia's Accredited Dead via Wayback Machine April 24, 2018
Thanks to Edward Rogers, John Stanaway and Robert Rocker for additional information

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Last Updated
October 25, 2019

 

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