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  B-17C Flying Fortress Serial Number 40-2045  
USAAF
5th AF
7th BG
14th BS

Click For Enlargement
Dizon Dec 10, 1941

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
MACR  none

Aircraft History
Built by Boeing at Seattle. Delivered to the U. S. Army. Ferried overseas to the Philippines.

Wartime History
Assigned to the 5th Air Force, 7th Bombardment Group, 14th Bombardment Squadron. No known nickname or nose art.

Mission History
On December 10, 1941 one of six B-17s that took off from San Marcelino Airfield and landed at Clark Field at 7:30am. Only three landed: this B-17 plus B-17D 40-3091 piloted by Lt. Schaetzel and B-17D 40-3086 piloted by Montgomery. The other three did not land fearing a Japanese air raid. In haste, this B-17 was only partially armed with three 600 lbs bombs before departing.

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.

Wreckage
The nose section of the crashed B-17 was burned out. A Filipino boy, Daniel Dizon visited the crash site and made an ink drawing of the bomber and took a photograph of the wreckage. He also recovered a junction box from the radio compartment.

Fates of the Crew
The unhurt crew members returned to duty. and were assigned to other groups. Bombardier Meyer Levin was assigned to the 43rd Bombardment Group, 64th Bombardment Squadron. On January 7, 1943 he went Missing In Action (MIA) on January 7, 1943 as a crew member aboard B-17F 41-24383.

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.

Memorials
Postwar, Kelly's remains were permanently buried at Madison Oak Ridge Cemetery in Madison, Florida. Delehanty was permanently buried at Long Island National Cemetery, plot H, grave 9431.

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.

Relatives
Colin P. "Corky" Kelly, III (son of Collin P. Kelly)
Attended and graduated from West Point, became an Episcopal priest and served as Assistant Chaplain at the Point. After retiring from the Military, he became pastor of an Episcopal church in New Mexico during which time he was honored by invitation from the 1996 104th U.S. Congress to give the opening prayer.

Eugene Eisenberg adds:
"In 1942, I met Kelly's wife and son Corky. I became very close to the Kelly family and also Corky. I also spent time with Bob Altman, Joe Bean, Willard Money and James Halkyard who is still alive today in Washington State. I have also have the original drawing by Dizon who made the original drawing and took a photograph of the wreckage in December 1941. I also have several pictures of the original crew taken on Midway Airfield September 5, 1941.

References
Fortress Against The Sun pages 65-68, 71, 142, 242, 314, 372, 382, 397, 401, 450, 457
December 8, 1941 page 137, 237, 408, 435, 517, 537, 543, 554
Leyte Calling page 14-15:
"I helped load the bombs into his [Kelly's] Fortress and scribbled my name on three of them. I don't think anybody else signed the bombs because everyone else was busier than I was. Anyway, I don't know yet why i signed the bombs. I just wanted something to do, I guess."
Air Force Magazine "Valor: Colin Kelly" by John L. Frisbee June 1994, Vol. 77, No. 6
Other sources state this B-17 was assigned to the 30th Bomb Squadron
FindAGrave - Collin Purdie Kelly, Jr. (Madison, Florida monument photo)
FindAGrave - Sgt William J Delehanty (grave photo)
"Legend of Colin Kelly" painting by Robert Taylor
"Captain Colin Kelly" painting was displayed at the Kelly Theater at Clark Air Force Base, after the 1992 eruption of Mount Pinatubo, this painting was transported to USAF Museum
Thanks to Tony Feredo and Eugene Eisenberg for additional information

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Last Updated
January 5, 2018

 

Tech Info
B-17
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