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  B-17F-10-BO "My Lovin' Dove" Serial Number 41-24450  
13th AF
5th BG
72nd BS

Click For Enlargement
February 28, 1943

Pilot  Captain Thomas Classen (survived)
Crew  Lt. Balfour Gibson (survived)
Crew  Lt. Robert Dorwart
Crew  Lt. Ernest Ruiz (survived)
Crew  Sgt Jim Hunt (survived)
Crew  Sgt. Don Martin (survived)
Crew  Cpl Ted Edwards (survived)
Crew  Cpl William Nichols (survived)
Crew  Sgt Bob Turnbull
Ditched  February 9, 1943

Aircraft History
Built by Boeing at Seattle. On July 6, 1942 delivered to the U. S. Army Air Force (USAAF) as B-17F-10-BO Flying Fortress serial number 41-24450. Initially, used as a transport for General Milard F. Harmon in the South Pacific Theater Of Operations (SOPAC). Next, assigned to the 5th Bombardment Group, 72nd Bombardment Squadron. Nicknamed "My Lovin' Dove".

Mission History
On February 9, 1943 took off from Henderson Field on Guadalcanal on a reconnaissance mission over Nauru. Over the target, intercepted by eight A6M Zeros and attacked for ten minutes, until some of the B-17's guns jammed. The guns still operative claimed two Zeros and probables for two more. The Zeros circled the crippled bomber, raking it with machine gun fire for an hour and a half, wounding all nine of her crew. When the Zeros ran low on fuel, they departed.

The B-17 had its no. 1 engine frozen from damage. Then, a second engine went out. Then a third, causing it to ditch over 450 miles from the nearest island. The B-17 hit a wave, nosed into another and sank within sixty seconds. The crew found themselves in the water, clinging to an inflated life boat and pumping another and managed to tie the two boats together and drifted away from the oil slick from the sunken bomber.

The crew spent sixteen days in a life raft, until making landfall on an island off Buka. Spotted by friendly natives, the crew was divided among several villages. There, they met U. S. Navy radio operator, RM3c Delmar D. Wiley who was the sole survivor of TBF Avenger 00418 lost on August 24, 1942 during the Battle of the Eastern Solomons (Second Battle of the Solomon Sea). He too had drifted in a raft for 15 days before landing at these same islands.

In an attempt to move closer to the Allied lines, the group attempted to buy a canoe from locals, but it failed to be seaworthy with only four aboard. Later, they hired another native and his canoe to sailed down the coast for four days and met another group of natives, who had been sent by a pair of coastwatchers to find them. Escorted over a jungle trail to the coastwatchers mountain observation post, they met the coastwatchers and arranged their rescue by radio.

More than fifty days after their ditching, a U. S. Navy PBY Catalina piloted by Robert B. Hays from VP-44, escorted by two PB4Y-1 Liberators from VB-101. The group in an outrigger was spotted by Hays, and he landed to rescue them, and then planned the rescue of the remaining men.

Fortress Against The Sun pages 337, 338, 339, 391, 434
Pride of Seattle page 9
Fate of the Crew of B-17F "My Lovin' Dove" 41-24450
Wiley's Island by Delmar D. Wiley tells his story about escape and survival
A wartime ACME photo depicts the crew after their rescue:
"Back from the land of the missing, the crew of the "Lovin' Dove" pose with Lt. Gen. Millard F. Harmon at their South Pacific base. Front row, left to right: Sgt. Jim Hunt, Sgt. Don Martin, Corp. Ted Edwards, Corp. William Nichols, Sgt. Bob Turnbull. Back row, left to right: Lt. Balfour Gibson, Lt. Robert Dorwart, General Harmon, Lt. Ernest Ruiz, Capt. Thomas Classen."
Thank to Jim Sawruk for additional information

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Last Updated
April 24, 2018


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