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  B-17E "Clown House" Serial Number 41-9235  
USAAF
5th AF
19th BG
30th BS

Former Assignments
93rd BS

Pilot   Major Allen Lindberg, O-383726 (survived) New York, NY
Co-Pilot  1st Lt. Joshua A. Barnes (survived)
Bombardier  2nd Lt. Joseph D. Howard (survived)
Navigator  1st Lt. Jack A. Ryan (survived)
Tail Gunner  Sgt Hilario L. Hernandez, 38026066 (survived) Beeville, TX
Ditched  October 29, 1942 at 7:00am
MACR  none

Aircraft History
Built by Boeing at Seattle. Constructors Number 2707. On May 26, 1942 delivered to the U.S. Army Air Force (USAAF) as B-17E Flying Fortress serial number 41-9235. At the factory, painted with U.S. Army markings with Royal Air Force (RAF) roundels and numbers. Between May 1942 to June 1942, one of thirty-two B-17E Flying Fortresses delivered to Cheyenne, Wyoming for the Royal Air Force (RAF) as part of the lend-lease agreement.

During the first week of August 1942, four from this batch B-17E 41-9196, B-17E 41-9234, B-17E 41-9244 and this bomber were instead retained by the U.S. Army Air Force (USAAF) and the RAF markings were again over painted with U.S. markings. Ferried from Hamilton Field via Hickam Field then across the Pacific before arriving in Australia.

Wartime History
Assigned to the 5th Air Force (5th AF), 19th Bombardment Group (19th BG), 93rd Bombardment Squadron (93rd BS). No known nickname or nose art. Later, assigned to the 30th Bombardment Squadron (30th BS).

Mission History
On October 28, 1942 at 8:00pm took off form Mareeba Airfield piloted by Major Allen Lindberg with a bomb bay fuel tank plus four 500 pound bombs on a bombing mission against Tonolei Harbor on southern Bougainville then intended to land at 7 Mile Drome near Port Moresby.

On October 29, 1942 at 1:00am failed to find the target and salvoed the bomb load and turned towards Port Moresby but became lost because the navigator's watch was broken and he was unable to perform celestial navigation. Flying westward but lost, the radio operator had little success communicating with Port Moresby or Mareeba but finally established communication with Townsville. At 7:00am low on fuel, ditched on the Great Barrier Reef roughly 20 miles off the Cape York Peninsula near Cooktown.

Diary of 2nd Lt. Joseph D. Howard, November 1, 1942:
"...Knowing that our gas supply could not take us in we told that we were going down at sea, hoping that they would be able to find us. At 7 A.M. Major Lindberg made a remarkably good sea landing we climbed out of the radio hatch and got our rubber boats into the water along with some water emergency kit, etc. Although the Major had tried to set the ship in shallow water over a reef it went off the reef and sunk in about 2 minutes. There we were, 9 men in two small rubber boats with no idea where we were."

Fates of the Crew
After the ditching, the crew survived the ditching unhurt and managed to deploy their two life rafts and floated at sea with the two life rafts tied together. The crew attempted to row towards an island in the distance but by evening were pushed further away due to winds and waves. After dark, the survivors stopped rowing and fired flares. Overnight, the waves were roughly 8' high with strong wind. Meanwhile, at 5:00pm B-17s from the squadron began searching for the downed bomber and crew along the coast of Australia. Due to confusion with call letters, a PBY Catalina reported the crew were safe, incorrectly.

On October 30, 1942 around midnight, the crew saw a light to the north and began rowing in that direction. By 3:00am the life rafts reached a coral reef and waited until sunrise. At dawn, the survivors waded onto a small island nearby and spotted two sail boats and made contact with Australian Aboriginals who informed them they were on Pelican Island and agreed to take them in their sailboats and gave them tea, bread with jelly and fish to eat.

Afterwards, the crew were transported to Iron Range Airfield where they were fed and able to rest. On October 31, 1942 in the morning, flown to Mareeba Airfield and rejoined the squadron.

Diary of 2nd Lt. Joseph D. Howard, November 1, 1942:
"We came back to Mareeba on Haloween [sic Halloween] very fitting as we were thought to be dead."

Lindberg later became Commanding Officer (C.O.) of the 43rd Bombardment Group (43rd BG), 64th Bombardment Squadron (64th BS). On January 5, 1943 pilot B-17F "San Antonio Rose" 41-24458 Missing In Action (MIA) over New Britain. Lindberg earned the Silver Star and Purple Heart, posthumously. He is memorialized at Manila American Cemetery on the tablets of the missing. He also has a memorial marker at Headstone in Fairview Cemetery in Westfield, NJ.

Hernandez passed away February 24, 1959 at age 41. He is buried at Beeville Memorial Park in Beeville, TX. He earned the Silver Star on November 9, 1942 and previously served in the Philippines and Java.

Relatives
Saintsmo (nephew of Hernandez)

References
Note, other sources list the bombing mission as targeting the Buin-Faisi anchorage.
NARA World War II Army Enlistment Records - Jack A. Ryan
NARA World War II Army Enlistment Records - Hilario L. Hernandez
USAF Serial Number Search Results - B-17E Flying Fortress 41-9235
"9235 (19th BG) ditched off Cooktown Sep 29, 1942"
Diary of Joseph D Howard November 1, 1942 (describing events October 27 ,1942–October 31, 1942)
Fortress Against the Sun (2001) pages 276 (October 28-29, 1942 mission), 277 (October 29, 1942 ditching), 436 (footnote 40)
(Page 277) "'We crashed early in the morning' Lindberg recalled. 'We just had time to shove off on two rubber rafts without a crumb of food or a drop of water.' Lindberg continued, 'You've no idea what hell is like until you're crowded in a rubber bubble without food or water and left to drift beneath the broiling sun. Adrift for two days, the men were eventually found by a group of Australian Aborigines and returned to the mainland."
Flightpath Magazine B-17 At Black Cat Pass by Steve Birdsall
Oz@War - 29 October 1942 Crash of A B-17 Flying Fortress in the sea near Cooktown
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Allen Lindberg
FindAGrave - Maj Allen Lindberg (tablets of the missing)
FindAGrave - Allen Lindberg (memorial marker photo)
FindAGrave - Hilario Longoria “Larry” Hernandez (news, grave photo)
Thanks to Bruce Hoy, Edward Rogers and Richard Rudd for additional information

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Last Updated
November 7, 2021

 

Tech Information
B-17
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