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  B-17F-1-BO "Panama Hattie / Well Goddam" Serial Number 41-24381  
USAAF
5th AF
Bomber Command

Former Assignments
54th TCW

43rd BG
63rd BS

Click For Enlargement
43rd BG c1943

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USAAF c1943

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Frank Crisitello c1944-45

Aircraft History
Built by Boeing at Seattle. Delivered to the U. S. Army on June 19, 1942. Assigned to pilot 1st Lt. Folmer J. Sogaard and departed California on July 28, 1942 on a ferry flight via Hickham Field across the Pacific to Australia, arriving August 6, 1942.

Wartime History
Assigned to the 5th Air Force, 43rd Bombardment Group, 63rd Bombardment Squadron on August 12, 1942 as one of the first Flying Fortresses assigned. Nicknamed "Panama Hattie" with the nose art of a woman in a cocktail dress painted by Sgt Ernie Vandal. This B-17 operated from 7-Mile Drome near Port Moresby.

On January 1, 1943 one of six B-17s that took off from 7-Mile Drome near Port Moresby piloted by Lt. Rucks on a early morning attack against Lakunai Airfield near Rabaul at 4:20am. Inbound to the target, one B-17 aborted the mission. Over the target, this bomber had an unsuccessful bombing run and the bombs were salvoed over Simpson Harbor instead.

On January 8, 1943 one of seven B-17s that took off from 7-Mile Drome near Port Moresby piloted by Captain William M. Thompson, Jr. on a bombing mission against a Japanese convoy in the Huon Gulf off Lae. Over the target, anti-aircraft guns opened fire and fighters intercepted.

On January 9, 1943 took off from 7-Mile Drome near Port Moresby piloted by Captain William M. Thompson, Jr. on a bombing mission against a Japanese convoy in the Huon Gulf departing Lae. Over the target at 10:05, the B-17s bombed the convoy but failed to score any hits. Japanese fighters made a frontal attack against this B-17 and dropped aerial bombs from above.

On March 3, 1943 took off from 7-Mile Drome near Port Moresby at 8:00am piloted by Captain William M. Thompson, Jr. on a bombing mission against a Japanese convoy during the Battle of the Bismarck Sea.

On March 19, 1943 took off from 7-Mile Drome near Port Moresby piloted by Lt James Murphy with navigator Lt Nathan J. Hirsh and crew on an armed reconnaissance mission.

On May 10, 1943 took off from 7-Mile Drome near Port Moresby piloted by Lt. James C. Dieffenderfer on a patrol over New Britain and to report Japanese aircraft strength at Cape Glouchester Airfield. Observing no aircraft, this B-17 instead bombed camouflaged launches near Talasea and were trailed by a single Zero that never attacked.

On October 18, 1943 took off from 7-Mile Drome near Port Moresby at 8:30am on a routine reconnaissance mission. This was likely the last combat mission flown by this bomber.

During November 1943, transfered to the 54th Troop Carrier Wing (TCW). This B-17 was modified to remove the top turret and used as a transport. Nicknamed "Well Goddam" with the nose art of a baby's face inside a circle.

Afterwards, stripped to a bare metal finish and converted into a VIP transport with blue leather added to the radio compartment at the 4th Air Depot at Garbutt Field near Townsville. On December 8, 1943 officially transfered to the 5th Air Force Bomber Command replacement pool for use as a a personal transport by General Paul Wurtsmith C.O. 5th Fighter Command). Assigned to pilot Rocky and radio operator Ken Abell plus crew chiefs Slim Durham and Griffin.

While flying as a transport, this B-17 suffered no major accidents or mishaps aside from one mission (date unknown) when it lost a left wing tip which was replaced with a salvaged one. Another time, after landing at Garbutt Field, the B-17 lost the left wheel and tire, but suffered no major damage or injuries to the crew.

During 1944-1945, this B-17 flew as a transport in Australia, New Guinea and the Philippines. At the end of the war, the regular flight crew left the transport on Okinawa.

Ken Abell (former radio operator) adds:
"I would really like to know the history of this great bird, especially after truce was signed and the crew left her on Okinawa. We heard a rumor when we were in the port of embarkation at Manila that some horrific weather had damaged her on Okinawa."

During July 1948, this B-17 was at Clark Field. Ultimate fate unknown, likely scrapped or otherwise disappeared afterwards.

References
Pride of Seattle page 7, 9
Ken’s Men Against The Empire pages 55, 68, 100-101, 110, 112, 185, 305, 314, 324, 337-338, 324, 400 (index), 406 (index)
Thanks to Steve Birdsall and Ken Abell for additional information

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Last Updated
January 9, 2018

 

Tech Info
B-17
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