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  B-17E "Old Maid" Serial Number 41-2409  
USAAF
11th BG
431st BS

Aircraft History
Built by Boeing at Seattle. On Jan 12, 1941 delivered to the to the U. S. Army Air Force (USAAF) as B-17E Flying Fortress serial number 41-2408 and flown to Fort Douglas Airfield. Next, flown to Sacramento Air Depot (SAD) and then to Hickam Field on Oahu.

Wartime History
On December 28, 1941 assigned to the 11th Bombardment Group, 431st Bombardment Squadron. Nicknamed "Old Maid".

On May 31, 1942 took off form took off from Hickam Field piloted by Col Walter C. Sweeney, Jr. with an extra bomb bay fuel tank as one of ten B-17s on a flight to Midway Airfield on Eastern Island arriving in the late afternoon in anticipation of the Battle of Midway.

Battle of Midway
On June 3, 1942 took off from Midway Airfield on Eastern Island at 4:30am piloted by Col Sweeney as a precaution against a possible Japanese air raid and returned by 8:25am and were refueled. Informed the Japanese fleet had been spotted, Col Sweeney wanted to take off immediately but was told to wait until the exact location and composition of the force was known.

At 12:30pm took off again piloted by Col Sweeney armed with four 600 pound bombs and a bomb bay fuel tank on a mission to attack the Japanese fleet. This B-17 was leading the the formation of nine bombers flying in three elements. The first element included Col. Sweeney, Captain Gregory and Lt. Willard G. Woodbury. At 4:23pm the formation spotted the Japanese fleet roughly 570 miles west of Midway Atoll. During the bomb run, the first element flew in from the east with the sun behind them at an altitude of 8,000'. Nearing the fleet they were spotted and the warships began making evasive maneuvers. During the bomb run, intense anti-aircraft fire commenced as this B-17 bombed a cruiser but was unable to view the results due to the intense fire. Returning, the formation encountered severe weather roughly 400 miles west of Midway Atoll and the formation broke up with all bombers flying back individually and landed safely at Midway Airfield after a roughly eight hour mission.

On June 4, 1942 took off from Midway Airfield on Eastern Island at 4:05am piloted by Col Sweeney armed with bombs and a bomb bay fuel tank on a patrol mission to bomb the Japanese fleet. This B-17 was leading the the formation of fifteen bombers divided into five elements of three bombers. The first element included Col. Sweeney, Captain Gregory and Lt. Willard G. Woodbury. Flying westward towards a group of transports, the formation was instructed by radio to change course to attack the carrier force spotted by a PBY Catalina at 5:45am roughly 145 miles northwest of Midway Atoll. Encountering thick clouds between 1,000' to 18,000', Sweeney ordered the formation to climb to 18,000' above the weather with one B-17 aborting the mission. Arriving over the area where the carriers were spotted by 7:32am, the B-17s circled for nearly forty minutes before the carriers were spotted by B-17E "Yankee Doodle" 41-2463 in the third element and notified Col Sweeney by radio as the elements attacked individually. During the bomb run, the first element was targeted by anti-aircraft fire and a fragment exploded the co-pilot's cockpit window as A6M2 Zeros were spotted but did not press any attacks as they released all their bombs around the stern of Kaga and claimed one bomb hit that caused heavy smoke and landed safely at Midway Airfield.

By June 10, 1942 this B-17 departed Midway Airfield and flown back to Hickam Field.

Later in 1942, flown to the South Pacific and operated from Bomber 1 on Espiritu Santo flying combat missions over the Solomon Islands.

On October 25, 1942 took off piloted by 1st Lt. Mario Sesso (26th BS) on a patrol mission and during the morning spotted a portion of a Japanese task force northeast of Sewart Island (Sikaiana) and shadowed the force radioing their position. Intercepted by six A6M2 Zeros, this B-17 tried to evade them by flying in and out of clouds. Gunfire from one Zero hit the nose killing bombardier TSgt Eldon M. Elliott (26th BS) who was on his first mission and firing the nose gun at the same Zero and claimed to cause it to explode at the same instant he was fatally hit. This B-17's gunner claimed two others damaged before returning to Espiritu Santo. The Japanese force spotted would engage in the Battle of Santa Cruz Islands ((Battle of the South Pacific).

Mission History
On November 25, 1942 took off piloted by Lt. William B. Kyes and crash while landing at Henderson Field on Guadalcanal. This B-17 was officially written off on September 20, 1943. Ultimate fate unknown likely scrapped or otherwise disappeared.

Memorials
Elliott was Killed in Action (KIA) October 25, 1942. Postwar, his remains were transported to the United States and buried at Fairmount Cemetery in Denver, CO.

Sweeney achieved the rank of General from the U. S. Air Force (USAF) before retiring on August 1, 1965, with 35 years of service in the USAF and USAAF and was a rated command pilot. He earned the Distinguished Service Cross (DFC), Distinguished Service Medal (DSM), Silver Star, Legion of Merit with oak leaf cluster, and the Air Medal. On December 22, 1965 he passed away of cancer at Homestead Air Force Base (Homestead AFB) and is buried at Arlington National Cemetery at section 30, site 203-1.

References
USAF Serial Number Search Results - B-17E Flying Fortress 41-2409
"2409 ("Ole Maid") delivered to Salt Lake SAD Jan 12, 1941; transferred to 11BG Hickam, HI Dec 28, 1942; crash landed at Guadalcanal Nov 25, 1942. WO Sep 20, 1943"
The Lincoln Star "Yanks, Back From Midway Battle Term Japanese Fleet A Pilot's Dream" by Frank Neill June 11, 1942
"The Flying Fortress were led into combat in three separate attacks by Col. Walter C. Sweeney, Jr., of San Francisco. His forces returned to their base with only a single casualty - one gunner in the tail of a bomber caught and injured his little finger in a door of the plane.
Col. Sweeney's story of the Flying Fortress assault follows:
‘We came out down from the sun on June 3rd at the Jap invaders. Twenty ships steamed along in two column without plane protection. They deployed when they spotted us, going into violent maneuvers.
‘The conversation coming in on the inter-phones is not printable. Our boys couldn’t restrain their joy and excitement.
‘The Japs sent up a terrific barrage of anti-aircraft fire. My bombardier yelled, ‘My God, those anti-aircraft shells are big and pretty through the bomb sight.’
We let them have many loads in pattern bombing. We got a couple of transports and at least five others, including a cruiser and two battleships.
The following day [June 4, 1942] was the best. We took off at dawn after Navy PBY’s relocated the Japs. We were about 100 miles at sea flying at a high altitude.”
Each Plane Picks Out A Target
‘We spotted them 34 minutes later drawn up in battle line. A task force had joined the invasion force, Cruisers, battleships and destroyers circled the carriers. All hid under clouds and visibility was poor. They looked pretty but formidable.
‘We came in over the clouds from out of the sun. Each of our planes picked a target and let go. Anti-aircraft fire came up around us, exploding in little black puffs. It smelled like firecrackers. Jap Zeros took off towards us. We saw several hits.
‘Fires broke out and black smoke poured from three ships. Then our Navy and Marine dive bombers roared toward the Japs.
‘It was a picnic. Many planes were zooming and soaring in dog fighting. It was the damnedest show you ever saw.”
Fortress Against The Sun pages 180 (May 31, 1942 flight to Midway), 181-183 (June 3, 1942), 184-189 (June 4, 1942), 266 (October 26, 1942), 384, 431 (footnote 56)
FindAGrave - Eldon Marshall Elliott (photo, grave photo)
FindAGrave - Walter Campbell Sweeney, Jr. (photo, obituary, grave photo)

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Last Updated
October 20, 2018

 

Tech Information
B-17
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