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US Navy Task Force
USAAF June 1942
Aust Army October 1972
Charles Darby 1974
J. Mierzejewski 1976
Bill Thompson 1980
Bruce Hoy 1986
John Douglas 1996
Justin Taylan 2003
The Swamp Ghost DVD
Richard Leahy 2006
Frederick "Fred" C. Eaton, Jr., 0395142 (survived)
Co-Pilot Captain Henry "Hotfoot" M. " Harlow, 0398714 (survived)
Navigator 1st Lt. George B. Munroe, Jr., 0412187 (survived)
Bombardier Sgt Richard E. Oliver, 6578837 (survived)
Engineer TSgt Clarence A. LeMieux, 6558901 (survived)
Radio/Gunner Sgt Howard A. Sorensen, 6581180 (survived)
Waist Gunner Sgt William E. Schwartz, 6913702 (survived)
Waist Gunner TSgt Russell Crawford, 6851455 (survived)
Tail Gunner SSgt John V. Hall, 671016 (survived)
Force Landed February 23, 1942
Built by Boeing at Seattle. Constructors number 2257. On December 6, 1941 delivered by the U. S. Army Air Force (USAAF) and flown to Fort Douglas Airfield by Lt. John Haig. Next, flown to Sacramento Air Depot for armament installation. Assigned to the 7th Bombardment Group, 22nd Bombardment Squadron. Assigned to pilot Frederick 'Fred' Eaton, it was flown from California to Hawaii on December 17, 1942 and landed at Hickam Field, then flown to Wheeler Field. Attached to the U. S . Navy (USN), this B-17 flew search missions around Hawaii. The original bombardier, Sgt. J. J. Trelia had become sick and Richard Oliver joined the crew instead.
On February 11, 1942 departed Hawaii on a ferry flight across the Pacific bound for Australia as part of "A flight" led by Major Richard H. Carmichael. The flight departed Hickam Field and first flew to Christmas Airfield. The next day, they flew eight hours to Canton Airfield, then landed at Nadi Airfield on Fiji and were delayed one day while the loyalties of the Vichy French in New Caledonia were ascertained. Once considered safe, they transited through Plaine Des Gaiacs Airfield, then onward to Australia.
On February 20, 1942 this B-17 arrived at Garbutt Field at Townsville. The next day was flown flown inland to Cloncurry Airfield to disperse it away from the threat of any Japanese aircraft. On February 22, 1942 flown back to Garbutt Field and assigned to the 19th Bombardment Group (19th BG) and was scheduled to participate in the U. S. Army Air Force (USAAF) first bombing mission in the South Pacific planned for later that evening.
The mission plan was for nine B-17 Flying Fortresses (all that were available in Australia) would depart Garbutt Field at night on February 22, 1942 fly overnight. On February 23, 1942 at dawn the B-17s would arrive over Simpson Harbor off Rabaul and bomb Japanese shipping. Returning, the B-17s would land at 7-Mile Drome near Port Moresby to refuel then return to Garbutt Field. Originally, the raid was to be in conjunction with an attack by U. S. Navy (USN) carrier aircraft from USS Lexington (CV-2) but Task Force 11 (TF-11) was spotted and attacked and decided to abort their raid. Regardless, the U. S. Army decided to proceed with nine B-17s that were the only bombers available in northern Australia. The mission was beyond the range of fighters for escort.
Rushing to prepare and without sufficient ground crew support, the air crew were required to load their own bombs and prepare the bomber themselves. Before take off, while taxing at Garbutt Field in the darkness, B-17E 41-2434 accidentally collided with B-17E 41-2416 damaging both bombers. Also, B-17E piloted by DuBose could not start the no. 3 engine and aborted the mission.
After the battle, this B-17 reached the north coast of New Guinea, before running short on fuel. Spotting an open field, Eaton successfully force landed wheels up. From the air, he thought it was dry ground, but actually it was a swamp covered with kunai grass. As the bomber touched down, it turned slightly, pointing the nose of the bomber to the southeast at a heading of 183 degrees.
Fate of the Crew
Lost, the crew pushed ahead for days and at one point suffering from heat exhaustion and fatigue they considered splitting up, but decided to stay together. Finally, they spotted a native and were taken to his village where they were fed and spent the night.
After the crash, Australian Resident Magistrate, Alan Champion at Buna had been told a B-17 went down in his area and was told to search for the crew. Departed from Gona in a mission launch, he searched the area near Oro Bay and the Musa River. Unable to find them, he called into a village and found the crew in their care. The crew of nine were too numerous for his boat and required him to borrow a canoe from the village, to tow everyone back to Buna.
At Buna, the crew waited for two weeks until MV Matoma arrived and transported them from Oro Bay bound for Port Moresby. During their journey, the vessel called into Samari Island and Abau Island before arriving at Fairfax Harbor at Port Moresby on April 1, 1942. In total, it was thirty-six days since their crash landing. Afterwards, the crew was send to Australia and recovered in the hospital, then returned to flying duty.
During 1972, the bomber was rediscovered during an RAAF helicopter exercise. The B-17 was found to be in remarkable condition and fully intact. Aboard all the interior equipment was prewar U. S. Army Air Corps issue. Even the belted .50 caliber ammunition was manufactured in 1933, 1935 and some during 1938. Airframe corrosion was negligible and no damage aside from bent propellers from the crash landing, and some broken perspex glass.
On October 22, 1974 Charles Darby visited the bomber by helicopter. Photographs from his visit were the first publish in his book Pacific Aircraft Wrecks. His photos show the radios, compass and flight yokes still in place.
After rediscovery, visitors to the wreck removed the instruments, guns and ammunition. The machine guns were removed by Australians during the 1972 visit. One 50 cal machine gun was later donated to the PNG Museum where it was displayed until 2006.
"Swamp Ghost" nickname and International Icon
Salvage Proposal: Travis Air Force Base
Salvage Proposal: Tallichet / Hagen
In 2003, Robert Greinert advised the PNG Museum's Board of Trustees that the wreck was falling apart and needed to be salvaged. Hagen did not have input or involvement with the reports production, but did fund the visit to the aircraft by Greinert and others on November 21, 2003. The 1999 export permit had expired, but this permit had an automatic renewal clause in the contract.
Impounded at Lae
PNG Government Investigation by Public Accounts Committee (PAC)
Despite declaring the salvage and sale illegal, the salvagers continue to exert pressure on the PNG government and museum to allow them to export the wreck. During April 2008, the presented virtually the same proposal as originally offered, roughly $100,000 USD, but added the intention to donate a 'display facility' to the museum.
According to PNG newspaper article on September 10, 2008, a vote by the National Executive Council (NEC) has apparently reversed their decision, and accepted the offer for 300,000 Kina (roughly $115,000 USD) plus "display facility, recreation playground and barbecue area". The precise details of this deal, or copies of letters or executive orders have never been published to the public.
Unveiling and Display
On December 8, 2010, the fuselage went on display outdoors ringed by a fence at Planes of Fame Museum at Chino Airport. On April 2, 2011 salvager Alfred Hagen gave a lecture "Recovering Lost Aircraft - B-17E Swamp Ghost" at the museum. During this period, the rear fuselage, tail and wings were stored outdoors at AeroTrader also located at Chino Airport.
During January 2013, the fuselage was removed from public display and moved to AeroTrader, where the bomber was readied for shipment to Hawaii. According to Flightpath Magazine July 2012, the B-17 was bound for the Pacific Aviation Museum (Ford Island Museum). When asked on February 25, 2013, executive director Ken DeHoff stated "no comment" when asked if Swamp Ghost was bound for the museum and declined to answer any questions.
Since 2013, B-17E 41-2446 was displayed at the Pacific Aviation Museum outdoors adjacent to Hanger 79. The bomber is displayed behind a perimeter fence with signs at the front of the aircraft. During 2015, the aircraft was moved inside Hanger 79.
S 9 12 29
E 148 39 78
The Swamp Ghost DVD
Learn the Truth
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