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  B-17F-5-BO "Blitz Buggy / The Old Man" Serial Number 41-24403  
USAAF
5th AF
43rd BG
64rd BS

Former Unit Assignments
19th BG
30th BS

Click For Enlargement
Late 42 or Jan 43

Click For Enlargement
Click For Enlargement
Click For Enlargement
Click For Enlargement
circa 1943

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

Wartime History
Assigned to the 5th Air Force, 19th Bombardment Group, 30th Bombardment Squadron. Nicknamed "Blitz Buggy". This bomber operated from Mareeba Airfield.

During late 1942, transferred to the 43rd Bombardment Group, 63rd Bombardment Squadron. Operated from 7-Mile Drome near Port Moresby.

On October 5, 1942 one of six B-17 30th Bombardment Squadron piloted by Major Rouse took off from Mareeba Airfield and refueled at 7-Mile Drome near Port Moresby then took off again on a bombing mission against Vunakanau Airfield near Rabaul. Over the target at 24,000' at dawn, the weather was clear but a cloud was over the target, requiring the formation to go around for another bomb run. Because of the delay, the formation was attacked by approximately 25 Zeros making head on attacks. This B-17 was hit in the nose, knocking out the no. 2 engine and wounding the navigator PO Allan Davenport in the leg. Damaged, this bomber fell back in the formation.

During January 1943, this B-17's nose art was over painted and the bomber was renamed "The Old Man" in Old English font with the nose art of Uncle Sam giving the thumbs up and wearing a top hat. Serviced by crew chief Ernie Vandal, A. C. C. John Duck, Mike Espinosa, William "Bill" McMurray.

On March 8, 1943 took off on a solo reconnaissance mission on over the Solomon Sea and Gasmata.

The crew included: pilot Melvin "Dutch" Ehlers (WIA), co-pilot  Joseph Cochran (WIA), Navigator  Warren "Doc" Bryant (WIA), Bombardier  Thomas Lloyd "Breezy" Boren (WIA), engineer  Madison, radio operator Boly, ball turret gunner  Andrade, gunner  Gerriola, photographer  MSgt Leonard Francis Williams of Brooklyn, New York and tail gunner  Sgt David Eckholt.

When this B-17 overflew Gasmata Airfield, thirteen Zeros intercepted the bomber. When spotted, the bombardier Boren jettisoned their bombs and the bomb bay long range fuel tank. The bomber was attacked by the Zeros for forty-five minutes before the B-17 was able to reach the clouds and escape.

During the combat, an A6M Zero put a burst of gunfire into the nose, wounding Boren in the left arm severely. He used a belt of ammunition as a tourniquet, and kept shooting. The pilot was shot so bad he was unconscious for the flight home. Co-pilot Cochran was also wounded. The navigator was badly wounded plus two other crew members sustained minor wounds. Five Zeros were claimed as shot down.

Robert Rocker recalls his interviews with Boren:
"The top turret gunner landed the B-17 at Dobodura Airfield had washed out of flight school with the help of one of the wounded pilots. A photographer was assigned to the flight to take photos on the mission and when Lloyd Boren got shot and was bleeding and he asked the photographer to help him get his belt off for a tourniquet the guy froze in fear because of all off the blood. So Boren had to keep firing his gun and tend to his wound by himself. He told me that when they got into the clouds and everything calmed down. When they got to Dobodura a 7th FS pilot Dick Vodra took the wounded out of the B-17 and he remembered Bob he said when they opened the chin hatch there was so many badly wounded in that aircraft that 'blood ran out of the aircraft'. Every one of the wounded went to hospitals in Australia and lived. Years later, Lloyd Boren got artist Jack Fellows to do a painting "The Old Man at Gasmata".

Repaired, this B--17 later became the personal transport of General Whitehead (C. O. 5th Fighter Command). The nose art remained, but bomb markings were painted over, with only the last four digits of the serial number '403' on the tail.

In 1948, this B-17 was scrapped at Clark Field.

Relatives
Don Williams (son of Leonard Francis Williams)
"I have found that all the crew members have now passed away - Breezy was the last in February 2008. I have located the daughter of the pilot, the daughter and sister of [Boren] "Breezy" and the daughter of the tail gunner. I am closing in on finding some relatives of Cochran. I do hope to find some living relatives of the rest of the crew."

References
War In Pacific Skies, page 81
Pride of Seattle page 7-8, 10
"The Old Man at Gasmata" by Jack Fellows
Down Under includes a photo of the crew of "The Old Man"
Flightpath August-October 2012 "Rabaul October" by Steve Birdsall page 55
"Menace from Moresby" has a photo of the crew after the mission (minus the all the wounded Officers)
Thanks to Steve Birdsall and Robert Rocker for additional information

Contribute Information
Are you a relative or associated with any person mentioned?
Do you have photos or additional information to add?

Last Updated
January 9, 2018

 

Tech Info
B-17

Photos
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