41-9234: A Very Unusual B-17

Discussion about wrecks and losses as well as historic sites in the Pacific.

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Steve Birdsall
2nd Lieutenant
Posts: 35
Joined: Wed Jan 21, 2009 1:31 am

41-9234: A Very Unusual B-17

Post by Steve Birdsall » Tue Jul 07, 2009 1:59 pm

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Everybody knows about 41-9234, the shattered B-17E still lying on a hillside at the head of Black Cat Pass near Wau, New Guinea. For years this aircraft was a "mystery" because it appeared to have Royal Air Force markings - roundels on her wings and fuselage, the British serial number FL461, and a camouflage scheme used by the Royal Air Force. Originally allocated to Britain, 41-9234 was one of four B-17Es taken back by the United States and assigned to the 5th Air Force in Australia.

Yet despite her distinguished career with the 19th and 43rd Bomb Groups, nobody was ever able to find any wartime photos of her. Air crew members had recalled a "blue B-17", and particularly associated it with a costly and heartbreaking mission against Japanese shipping at Milne Bay on August 26, 1942. On that day 41-9234 was flown by Captain John Chiles and enemy fire killed his bombardier, Sergeant Earl Snyder, and seriously wounded navigator Lt David Hirsch.

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Then this photo turned up in the collection of Paul Cool, son of 19th Bomb Group pilot Captain Paul Cool. There's no indication of when it was taken, but it is at Mareeba, Australia, and the crowd of onlookers indicates that something significant has happened. There are also several tell-tale holes through the nose. The aircraft is painted in what appears to be the Royal Air Force's "Temperate Sea" camouflage scheme.

Evidence I collected with the help of Robert Stitt and Tim Vincent suggests that this aircraft is 41-9234, and I strongly suspect that the photo was taken on August 26, 1942 . . . if anyone can add anything, or identify any of the people in the photo, it would certainly help complete an extraordinary story.

This Flying Fortress is very special. Where else in the world can you still see such a monument to skill and courage . . . a crippled B-17 coaxed into the side of a hill more than sixty-six years ago?

* Cross-posted at http://www.aerovintage.com

West-Front
1st Lieutenant
Posts: 69
Joined: Wed Jan 02, 2008 3:28 am
Location: Australia

Re: 41-9234: A Very Unusual B-17

Post by West-Front » Fri Jul 10, 2009 3:31 am

Thanks for posting Steve, a sobering reminder of the sacrifice of that generation

Also PM sent to you.

Cam

Steve Birdsall
2nd Lieutenant
Posts: 35
Joined: Wed Jan 21, 2009 1:31 am

Re: 41-9234: A Very Unusual B-17

Post by Steve Birdsall » Sat Jul 11, 2009 12:25 am

This is a detail from a much higher resolution scan of the old photograph, with some added contrast and enhancement. It confirms the B-17E in the both photographs is definitely 41-9234.

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Note that the stencil shows AIR CORPS SERIAL NO. A.D. 41-9234. Can anybody explain the significance of the letters "A.D." preceding the serial number?

Steve Birdsall
2nd Lieutenant
Posts: 35
Joined: Wed Jan 21, 2009 1:31 am

Re: 41-9234: A Very Unusual B-17

Post by Steve Birdsall » Sat Jul 11, 2009 2:05 am

Could it be that what appears to be "A.D." is actually "A.C." and a redundant indication of "Air Corps"?

Steve Birdsall
2nd Lieutenant
Posts: 35
Joined: Wed Jan 21, 2009 1:31 am

Re: 41-9234: A Very Unusual B-17

Post by Steve Birdsall » Mon Jul 13, 2009 2:00 am

I'm adding this to clarify my last post. Here are a couple of examples that show the apparently redundant use of the letters “A.C.” following “AIR CORPS SERIAL NO.” on B-17Es in the Pacific. First the 19th Bomb Group’s Tojo’s Nightmare.

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A slightly different version on the 5th Bomb Group’s 41-2520 ”Jap-Happy”, (originally an 11th Bomb Group aircraft).

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Finally a more logical variation on the theme on 41-2462 Billy, General Walter Krueger’s personal transport, originally the 19th’s Tojo’s Jinx.

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