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|Pilot Captain Colin Purdie Kelly, Jr. (KIA , BR) Madison, FL
Co-Pilot 2nd Lt. Donald Robbins (survived)
Navigator 2nd Lt. Joe M. Bean (survived)
Bombardier Cpl Meyer Levin, 6975479 (survived) NY
Engineer SSgt William J. Delehanty (KIA, BR) NY
Radio / Bathtub Gunner Pfc Robert E. Altman (survived)
Assistant Radio / Gunner Willard Money (survived)
Gunner Pvt Robert Altman (WIA)
Waist Gunner SSgt James Halkyard (survived)
Force Landed December 10, 1941
One of four B-17s that took off from Clark Field at 9:30am to bomb Japanese ships off Aparri and Vigan. The convoy had been spotted during the night and bombed during the first American bombing mission of the Pacific War earlier that morning. Over the target, B-17D 40-3091 piloted by Lt. Schaetzel spotted enemy transports and dropped his bombs from 25,000' before being jumped by Zeros and diving down to 7,000'.
Arriving over Aparri next, Kelly found nothing and proceeded towards Vigan. Spotting heavy cruiser Ashigara (falsely claimed to be Battleship Haruna) and bombardier Levin salvoed all three bombs from 22,000', claiming one hit and observed a seaplane taking off from the deck. In fact, no battleship was part of the invasion force and no damage was suffered aboard Ashigara.
Prior to landing back at Clark Field, the B-17 was intercepted by A6M2 Zeros of the Tainan Kōkūtai including pilot Saburo Sakai. During their first firing pass, the nose section was hit, damaged the pilot's instrument panel and blew off the top of SSgt Delehanty's head, killing him instantly. The Zeros made repeated firing passes and started a in the bomb bay the engulfed the rear of the bomber in flames.
Heavily damaged, Kelly ordered the crew to bail out. As they opened their parachutes, several were strafed by the Zeros until they reached the ground, holing their parachutes. Bean was hit in the ankle by a bullet.
Meanwhile, the B-17's two right engines were inoperative when an explosion ejected co-pilot Robbins out the observation dome, but he was able to open his parachute and landed safely. All the surviving crew landed in the vicinity of their base and quickly returned to duty.
As the stricken bomber descended, it exploded again and impacted the ground roughly six miles east of Clark Field near Mount Arayat. Afterwards, Kelly's body was found outside the bomber, ejected during the crash or explosion. Delehanty's remains were found inside the aircraft. Both bodies were recovered and buried.
Fates of the Crew
For this mission, Kelly was posthumously nominated for a Medal of Honor, but instead earned the Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC). Following Kelly's loss, he was regarded as America's first war hero and the legend of his exploits grew, including the claim that after ordering his crew to bail out, he dove the stricken bomber into an enemy ship.
At Clark Air Force Base, there is a memorial plaque and bust of Kelly. A painting "Captain Colin Kelly" was displayed inside the Kelly Theater, named in his honor until the 1992 eruption of Mount Pinatubo, this painting was transported to the USAF Museum.
A white marble monument with three angles and brass plaque dedicated to Colin Kelly is located at Madison, Florida.
Eugene Eisenberg adds:
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