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  B-17E "Queenie" Serial Number 41-2464  
USAAF
5th AF
Air Service Command

Former Assignments:
7th BG
9th BS

19th BG
28th BS

43rd BG
403rd BS

Click For Enlargement
43rd BG c1943

Click For Enlargement
43rd BG c1943

Pilot  Lt. Col Walter P. Piehl, O-230257 5th AF Headquarters (MIA / KIA) WI
Co-Pilot  Maj Alan C. Attebery, O-664493 5th AF Service Command Headquarters (MIA / KIA) MS
Engineer  SSgt Cortez A. Beal, 34190024 5th AF Service Command Headquarters (MIA / KIA) TN
Radio  SSgt Henry Y. Willis, 34058608 5th AF Service Command Headquarters (MIA / KIA) FL
Crew Chief  TSgt Edgar W. Elseman, 17004297 5th AF Service Command Headquarters (MIA / KIA) NB
Passenger  Major Robert H. Barnes, O-900048 5th AF Service Command Headquarters (MIA / KIA) AR
Passenger  Major Victor De F. Henriques, O-280216 5th AF Service Command Headquarters (MIA / KIA) CA
Passenger  Captain Russell G. Helmer, O-393337 58th Air Service Group Headquarters (MIA / KIA) PA
Passenger  Captain Fred J. Lewis, O-925168 5th AF Service Command Headquarters (MIA / KIA) CA
Passenger  Captain Paul V. McKnight, O-1576369 5th AF Service Command Headquarters (MIA / KIA) OH
Passenger  Captain Wendell Root, O-413266 58th Air Service Group Headquarters (MIA / KIA) NY
Passenger  1st Lt Winton D. Witmer, O-567120 58th Air Service Group Headquarters (MIA / KIA) Stockten, CA
Passenger  2nd Lt John C. Campbell, O-857274 58th Air Service Group Headquarters (MIA / KIA) PA
Passenger  2nd Lt. Roland J. Hickey, O-2036113 5th AF Service Command Headquarters (MIA / KIA) TN
Passenger  WO(jg) Dawson L. Hutchison, W2114954 5th AF Service Command Headquarters (MIA / KIA) MS
Passenger  SSgt August J. Bachor, 32225289 5th AF Service Command Headquarters (MIA / KIA) NY
Passenger  Sgt William R. Ray, 13107567 5th AF Service Command Headquarters (MIA / KIA) PA
Passenger  Cpl Noel L. Lowe, 34608243 5th AF Service Command Headquarters (MIA / KIA) NC
Passenger  PFC Clyde H. Hopkins Jr., 34732682 5th AF Service Command Headquarters (MIA / KIA) TN

MIA  July 8, 1944
MACR  6580

Aircraft History
Built by Boeing at Seattle. Delivered to the U. S. Army. Assigned to the 7th Bombardment Group, 9th Bombardment Squadron. No known nickname or nose art.

Wartime History
During January 1942, ferried overseas via the African air route. On January 21, 1942 took off piloted by Jack W. Bleasdale on a flight that arrived at Malang Airfield on Java. This B-17 participated in the Java Campaign.

On January 28, 1942 one of five B-17s that took off piloted by Bleasdale on a bombing mission against Singapore.

On February 3, 1942 one of nine B-17s that took off from Djogjakarta Airfield at 9:30am piloted by Bleasdale on a bombing mission against enemy shipping off Balikpapan. Flying in three plane elements at 30,000' the formation encountered bad weather and bombing results were unknown. Returning, the formation was intercepted by Japanese fighters. Aboard this B-17, Pfc Arthur T. Lowry had oxygen trouble and passed out and died. Another crew member who went to his aid also passed out. This bomber was unable to descend to a lower altitude without leaving the protection of the formation.

On February 28, 1942 one of three B-17s that took off from Madioen Airfield piloted by Evans with bombardier Sgt Reeves on a bombing mission against the Japanese eastern invasion force off Java. B-17E 41-2449 aborted the mission. The two remaining B-17s bombed from 28,000' and claimed one transport sunk and another damaged and returned to Madioen Airfield.

This B-17 was one of sixteen evacuated from Java to Darwin. Afterwards, assigned to the 5th Air Force, 19th Bombardment Group, 28th Bombardment Squadron.

On April 25, 1942 took off piloted by Sergeant as the lead B-17 flying a bombing mission against Rabaul.

By August 1942, the lower Bendix remote turret was inoperable and was removed and was replaced by a board with a fake gun barrel sticking out.

On August 6, 1942 during the evening took off from Horn Island Airfield on an aborted bombing mission against Lae then returned to land at 7-Mile Drome near Port Moresby.

On August 7, 1942 took off from 7-Mile Drome piloted by Lt. Snyder on a bombing mission against Vunakanau Airfield near Rabaul.

Next, assigned to 43rd Bombardment Group, 64th Bombardment Squadron. Nicknamed "Queenie" honor of pilot Lt Roger Kettleson’s wife. The nickname was painted by Lucky Stevens on the nose.

On July 13, 1943 one of four B-17s: this aircraft, B-17E 41-2408, B-17F 41-24355 and B-17F 41-24548 and one B-24 that took off on a bombing mission against Lae.

Later assigned to the 403rd Bombardment Squadron.

Later, this B-17 was assigned to the 5th Air Force Service Command (also known as 5th Air Service Command or 5ASC). When lost, engines R-1820-65 serial numbers 41-23395, 41-41642, 42-78659 and 42-77708. Weapon serial numbers unknown.

Mission History
Took off from Nadzab Airfield No. 1 at 6:41am on a flight bound for Mokmer Drome on Biak with a stopover planned at Tadji Airfield. The B-17 planned to fly a course of 302° magnetic north to the coast west of Tadji. After take off, the B-17 was never seen again and was presumed to have been lost before reaching Tadji Airfield. The entire crew was listed as Missing In Action (MIA).

Search
This B-17 never made the propsed stopover at Tadji Airfield, as no record of its stopover could be established. The cause of the dissapearance was unknown, but was reported that it might be lost due to "possible enemy antiaircraft fire or navigational circumstance". Since a 5th Air Force raid over Wewak and Dagua encountered enemy anti-aircraft fire, it was beileved this B-17 might have changed course and flown over the same area if it encountered bad weather.

On July 10, 1944 search and rescue was notfied of the missing aircraft and Catalinas operating out of Hollandia searched unsuccessfully along the coast from the Ramu River to Noemfoor Island for the next several days. Meanwhile, 5th Bomber Command rescue services unsuccesfully searched using B-24s and B-25s. Ground parties from the New Guinea Force (NGF) and Air-Sea Rescue in the Ramu River and Sepik River were notified to be on the lookout for the crew or aircraft, but nil sightings were made.

Memorials
The entire crew were officially declared dead on March 7, 1946. All are memorialized on the tablets of the missing at Manila American Cemetery. Lowe is listed on a "Lest We Forget" marker at Oakdale Cemetery, Hendersonville, NC.

Relatives
Leondus Hutchison (relative of Hutchison) adds:
"JB Hutchison, his farther (my granddad's brother) talked with a man in 1950s who was stationed with Daswon and he said that the B-17 used to ferry had a really bad history with its engines. And if they bailed out over the mountains or swamp then they was good as already dead. Doing research over the last two years, I have found archived documents pertaining to Japanese war crimes in New Guinea 1942-45. Just three months before 41-2464 went missing the Japanese captured a B-25 in the same area as noted MARC search area. All five U.S airmen were executed by the Japanese after being captured, a familiar but true account of many Army Air Force crews captured by the Japanese. What really happened to the crew and passengers of 41-2464? Engine failure? Japanese AA? Hit a mountain due to bad weather?"

Christine Juarez (grandaughter of Witmer)
"My grandfather, 1st Lt Winton D. Witmer, was with HQ 58th Air Service."

References
PNG Museum Aircraft Status Card - B-17E Flying Fortress 41-2464
Fortress Against The Sun pages 112, 117, 120, 140, 143, 226-227, 357, 385 states 43rd BG / 64th BS, 409 footnote 26, 414 footnote 38, 428 footnote 62
They Fought With What They Had page 304
Individual Deceased Personel File (IDPF) - Winton D. Witmer
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Walter P. Piehl
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Alan C. Attebery
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Cortez A. Beal
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Henry Y. Willis
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Edgar W. Elseman
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Robert H. Barnes
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Victor De F. Henriques
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Russell G. Helmer
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Fred J. Lewis
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Paul V. McKnight
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Wendell J. Root
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Winton D. Witmer
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - John C. Campbell
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Roland J. Hickey
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Dawson L. Hutchison
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - August J. Bachor
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - William R. Ray
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Noel L. Lowe
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Clyde H. Hopkins Jr.
FindAGrave - Maj Victor De F Henriques (memorial photo)
FindAGrave - WOJG Dawson L Hutchison, Jr (memorial photo)
FindAGrave - Cpl Noel L Lowe (memorial marker)
Thanks to Steve Birdsall for additional information

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Last Updated
August 27, 2014

 

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