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  B-17E "Frank Buck" Serial Number 41-2659  
USAAF
5th AF
19th BG
30th BS

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19th BG 1942

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George Strock Sept 1942

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19th BG Sept 1942

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AWM July 27, 1943

Aircraft History
Built by Boeing at Seattle. Constructor Number 2470. At the factory, painted with olive drab upper surfaces and gray lower surfaces plus "U. S. Army" in black in block letters on lower side of the wings and circular U. S. star markings. On the tail in yellow stencil was "12659" the abbreviation for serial number 41-2659. Delivered to the U. S. Army Air Force (USAAF) as B-17E Flying Fortress serial number 41-2659. Ferried overseas via Hickam Field then across the Pacific to Australia.

Wartime History
Assigned to the 5th Air Force (5th AF), 19th Bombardment Group (19th BG), 30th Bombardment Squadron (30th BS). This B-17 operated from Mareeba Airfield in Queensland in Australia and 7 Mile Drome near Port Moresby in New Guinea. Assigned to pilot Lt. Raymond E. Holsey. Nicknamed "Frank Buck" painted in white in a cursive outline with a single quotation mark around the name. The nickname was in reference to Frank Howard Buck, an American personality who was a hunter, animal collector, author and actor in Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus and Hollywood movies including Bring 'Em Back Alive (1932) radio programs and comics. Above the "k B" in the nickname was a scoreboard with five Japanese rising sun flags indicating enemy aircraft claimed by gunners on combat missions.

The regular flight crew included:

Pilot  Lt. Raymond E. "Ray" Holsey (Altos, OK)
Co-Pilot  Lt Glenn E. Ream (PA)
Navigator  Lt John A. "Davy" Crockett
Bombardier  Lt James P. Springfield
Engineer  Sgt J. B. Young
Radio  Cpl Lynn M. Himmel (Opelousas, LA)
Gunner  Sgt John W. Rosenberger (Lexington, MO)
Gunner  Cpl Thomas D. Edgar (Detroit, MI)
Gunner  Cpl John L. Honold, 13031711 (Philadelphia, PA)

On July 27, 1942 one of nine B-17s that took off on a bombing mission against Buna.

Mission History
On September 15, 1942 took off piloted by Lt. Raymond E. Holsey on a night bombing mission against Rabaul and experienced bad weather. Returning, this B-17 was short on fuel and landed on the beach near Hood Point. The crew included:

Pilot  Lt. Ramond E. "Ray" Holsey
Co-Pilot
 ["Ryan" in 70,000 to One]
Navigator  Lt John A. "Davy" Crockett [aka "Davy Crockett" in 70,000 to One]
Bombardier  Sgt Gordon R. Manuel
Radio  Sgt John W. “Rosey” Rosenberger
Engineer  Sgt J. B. Young
Crew  Captain Jack A. Ryan (IL)
Tail Gunner  Sgt Vernon O. "Skeets" Elder (CO)

Gordon R. Manuel recalls in 70,000 to One:
"This had been a night mission and the weather was really foul. It was so bad that somehow our instruments went haywire and now, when we should have been just about coming home, we were God knows how many miles from nowhere with nothing under us but two miles of sky and a few more miles of water. I went back to the radio compartment with the boys. We put on our Mae Wests and just sweated it out. Rosenberger, our radio operator, just sat there, tapping out messages, asking the base to tell us where we were. The gas was getting very low, and Holsey had the engines leaning way down to use as little gas as possible.

We hit so softly that we didn't even bounce. Holsey had landed us on a beach at Hood Point - a lovely beach. The plane skimmed along and then it settled into the sand as our speed reduced. The heavy ship gave a little lurch to the left and we stopped. The next day a boat came with some steel netting. [marston matting] Friendly natives helped us lay it on the beach, and then Holsey and Ryan, our co-pilot took her off. They just prayed her off and the right wing tip touched the water, but she got off all right. We went back to Moresby by boat laughing it all off. But we hadn't laughed during the hour we were sweating it out."

Assisted by friendly natives, the crew waited for help to arrive. Aircraft dropped supplies to the crew including one drop by a B-25 Mitchell from the 3rd Bombardment Group and another by a B-17 Flying Fortress from the 19th Bombardment Group. A small boat arrived to deliver fuel and Marston Mat / Pierced Steel Plank (PSP) to create a runway on the beach.

To document the incident, LIFE Magazine photographer George Strock visited Hood Point and photographed the B-17 and the crew interacting with locals. These photographs were published in LIFE Magazine January 4, 1943 issue. Former plantation owner assigned to the Australian Imperial Force (AIF) Leslie Johnston also visited the bomber and helped the crew trade with locals to purchase food from them.

Approximately a week later, an improvised runway was completed and a take off was attempted. Using the beach with pieces of Marston Mat laid down to form a runway with only the pilot and co-pilot aboard to minimize weight, this B-17 took off successfully and landed safely at 7 Mile Drome near Port Moresby. Afterwards, the remainder of the crew were transported aboard a boat back to Port Moresby and returned to duty.

Afterwards, this B-17 might have been assigned to a service squadron or V Bomber Command pool until retired from flying missions and was written off at Mareeba Airfield.

On July 27, 1943 scrapped at Mareeba Airfield by the 2nd Australian Corps Special Salvage Unit along with B-17E 41-9012. The salvage was overseen by Commanding Officer (C. O.) Captain David Hamilton, NX113693 with Lt. Kenneth R. Tozer, WX8713.

Memorials
Honold went Missing In Action (MIA) as gunner aboard B-17E 41-9011 crashed inland from Put Put on New Britain.

Ryan was Killed In Action (KIA) on June 14, 1943 as co-pilot aboard B-17E "The Jersey Skeeter" 41-2664 that crashed on take off from 7 Mile Drome near Port Moresby. Postwar, he was buried at National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific (Punchbowl) at plot C, grave 275.

Rosenberger died on December 3, 1944. He is buried at Memorial Gardens in Laurel, MS.

Manuel passed away August 16, 1950. He is buried at Arlington National Cemetery at section 8 grave 6423 RH.

Himmel passed away on April 7, 1975 at age 55. He is buried at Saint Joseph Cemetery in Thibodaux, LA.

Holsey passed away on December 26, 1986 at age 68. He is buried at Altus Cemetery in Altus, OK.

Elder passed away on March 24, 1973 at age 55. He is buried at Fort Logan National Cemetery at Section Q Site 4927.

Edgar passed away on December 17, 1999 at age 80. He was cremated and ashes scattered on Cheyenne Wyoming Golf Course in Cheyenne, WY.

Relatives
Erik Himmel (son of Lynn M. Himmel)

Ken Bledsoe (son of Vernon O. Elder)

References
NARA World War II Army Enlistment Records -
NARA World War II Army Enlistment Records - John L. Honold
USAF Serial Number Search Results - B-17E Fortress 41-2659
"2659 (19th BS, 195h BG, *Frank Buck*) scrapped at Mareeba Queensland Jul 27, 1943."
IMDb Frank Buck - Filmography
IMDb Bring 'Em Back Alive (1932)
LIFE Magazine "Adventure In New Guinea" January 4, 1943 pages 27-28, 30
Photographs of B-17 at Hood Point by George Strock (Getty Images: 53374003 - 53374027)
70,000 to One mentions the Frank Buck incident on pages 24-26
Fortress Against The Sun (2001) by Gene Eric Salecker pages 259, 388, 428
Echoes From an Eagle (2016) by Ken Elder Bledsoe page 30
WW2 Nominal Roll - David Hamilton, NX113693 (N65525, N99767)
WW2 Nominal Roll - Kenneth Richard Tozer, WX8713
FindAGrave - Raymond A. Holsey (photos, grave photo)
FindAGrave - Glen Edward Ream (photos, grave photo)
FindAGrave - Dr John Albert “Davy” Crockett (photo, grave photo)
FindAGrave - Lynn Mark Himmel (photo, grave photo)
FindAGrave - John W. “Rosey” Rosenberger (photos, grave photo)
FindAGrave - Thomas Dudley Edgar (photos)
FindAGrave - CPL John L Honold (photo, group burial photo)
FindAGrave - CPT Jack A Ryan (photo, news, grave photo)
FindAGrave - Capt Gordon Richard Manuel (photo, grave photo)
FindAGrave - Vernon O Elder (photo, grave photo)
Thanks to Steve Birdsall, Edward Rogers and Ken Bledsoe for additional research and analysis

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Last Updated
June 9, 2020

 

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