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43rd BG c1942
Richard Leahy c1980
Phil Bradley 1996
Justin Taylan 2003
Scott Nicholls 2004
Phil Bradley 2005
Phil Bradley 2008
Lt Raymond S. Dau, O-424250 (survived) Arlington, VA
Co-Pilot 2nd Lt Donald W. Hoggan, O-661930 (survived) Puente, CA
Bombardier 2nd Lt Albert V. 'Bud' Cole, O-724135 (survived)
Navigator 2nd Lt Peter Hudec, O-728213 (survived) New York, NY
Radio Sgt Robert Albright (WIA / KIA Jan 14, 1943) (survived) Fresno, CA
Engineer SSgt Lloyd T. Dumond, 17014140 (survived) Dewitt, AR
Gunner Sgt Francis E. Caldwell, 36172510 (survived) Goss Pointe, MI
Gunner Sgt Henry J. Blasco, 31043494 (survived) New Britain, CT
Tail Gunner Sgt. Henry Bowen, 19094672 (WIA / KIA)
Force Landed January 8, 1943
On May 30, 1942 one of thirty-two B-17 Flying Fortresses allocated to the Royal Air Force (RAF) Coastal Command as part of US-UK lend-lease. Flown to the United Air Lines Cheyenne Modification Center in Cheyenne, Wyoming.
Over nine weeks, modified to a Fortress IIA with an astrodome and ASV Mark II aerial arrays for anti-submarine patrols. Painted in the RAF Coastal Command color scheme with extra dark sea gray (temperate sea) upper surfaces and sky lower surfaces. The U. S. markings applied at the factory were over painted with RAF roundels on the fuselage and wings plus RAF serial number FL461 painted in black on the rear fuselage. The U. S. Army serial number "19234" was retained on the tail for the delivery flight to England.
Sometime in early July 1942, four lend-lease B-17s were returned to the U. S. Army including B-17E 41-9196, B-17E 41-9235, B-17E 41-9244 and B-17E 41-9234. Still at Cheyenne Modification Center, all four B-17s were returned to U. S. Army specifications with the astrodome and ASV Mark II aerial arrays removed. This B-17 retained the RAF paint scheme with U. S. markings reapplied over the RAF roundels.
Assigned to the 5th Air Force, 19th Bombardment Group, 28th Bombardment Squadron at Mareeba Airfield. No known nose art or nickname.
On August 25, 1942 took off from Mareeba Airfield piloted by Captain John Chiles with co-pilot Lt. Jim Dieffenderfer on a mission over Milne Bay led by Major Felix Hardison. After taking off two hours late, the B-17s spotting an Australian three ship convoy but due to low ceiling and approaching darkness they failed to spot any enemy vessels before flying to 7 Mile Drome then back to Mareeba Airfield.
On August 26, 1942 one of eight B-17s that took off from Mareeba Airfield at 4:45am piloted by Captain John Chiles with co-pilot Lt. Jim Dieffenderfer on a bombing mission against a Japanese convoy off Milne Bay. The magneto on engine no. 1 was dead and during take off blew a spark plug on engine no. 2 but proceeded on the mission anyway.
Weather inbound to the target was horrible with a ceiling of only 2,000' or less. Over the target between 6:30am to 7:45am, the formation bombed from roughly 1,500' and experienced accurate anti-aircraft fire from the ships. A shell exploded above this B-17's nose wounding both crew members inside. Bombardier Sgt. Earl W. Snyder was hit in the head by shrapnel. Although mortally wounded, he managed to drop their four 500lbs bombs before expiring. Navigator 1st Lt. David Hirsch's left leg was nearly severed by shrapnel. Engineer Sgt Wathen Cody left the top turret to investigate and found Snyder dead and applied a tourniquet to Hirsch's leg and dragged him to the flight deck and returned safely. During the attack, B-17F 41-24354 received a direct hit from anti-aircraft fire and crashed near the convoy.
On October 23, 1942 took off from Mareeba Airfield at 04:30 piloted by 1st Lt. Schmid with co-pilot 1st Lt. Simmons, navigator 2nd Lt. Peeples, bombardier 1st Lt. Nossum. Arrived at 7-Mile Drome at 08:00 then departed at 09:30 to search for enemy shipping armed in the area spanning 157° to 153° and 10°50' south and 11° 40' south. The bomber was armed with four 500lbs demolition bombs. Weather was good and no sightings were made flying at 200' to 1,000'. Encountered bad weather then returned to base at 17:40.
On October 24, 1942 flew the same mission departing 7-Mile Drome at 08:40 with the same crew on a search mission to the same area then returned at 17:25. On October 25, 1942 repeated the same mission departing 7-Mile Drome at 08:10 with the same crew on a search mission to 157° - 153° and 9° 20' - 10° 10' south then returned at 5:25pm.
Next, assigned to the 5th Air Force, 43rd Bombardment Group, 65th Bombardment Squadron. No known nose art or nickname. On August 25, 1942 assigned to 1st Lt. James Dieffenderfer at at 7 Mile Drome near Port Moresby.
On August 25 1942 this B-17 took off from 7 Mile Drome piloted by 1st Lt. James Dieffenderfer with bombardier Sgt. Earl W. Snyder on an unsucessful search for an incoming Japanese convoy and returned in the evening, then took off again on another search but the convoy was spotted by another aircraft.
On August 26, 1942 one of eight B-17s that took off from 7 Mile Drome piloted by Captian John Chiles (93rd Bomb Group) with co-pilot 1st Lt. James Dieffenderfer on a misson to bomb the Japanese convoy off Milne Bay. Although the convoy had already unloaded, the B-17s attacked from 2,500' below an overcast. Over the convoy, the formation was targeted by anti-aircraft fire and hit B-17F 41-24354 causing it to crash.
In total, this B-17 flew twelve bombing missions in New Guinea before force landing.
The pilots could neither climb nor turn. Dau recalled, "We were headed up a small valley and couldn't get over the mountains. I knew it was just a matter of time, so I began looking for a soft place to set her down. We glided in on the side of a mountain at about 110 miles an hour, and as luck would have it, there were no trees - nothing but nice soft grass - so we slid along into a crash landing". The B-17 force landed on a hillside near Kaisinik below Black Cat Pass to the east of Wau. During the crash landing, the fuselage broke rear of the radio compartment.
Postwar, many nicknames developed for this wreck including: "Gray Ghost", "B-17 at Black Cat Pass" or "Wau B-17" Today, the wreck is one of the most impressive and easily accessible aircraft wrecks in Papua New Guinea.
Jon Albright (nephew of Robert Albright)
Sal Como (great nephew of Henry Blasco)
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