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  B-17F-20-BO Flying Fortress Serial Number 41-24531  
USAAF
13th AF
11th BG
26th BS

Pilot  Major Allan J. Sewart, O-022430 C. O. 26th BS (MIA / KIA) TX
Co-Pilot  1st Lt. Jack Lee, O-433864 (KIA)
Navigator  Lt. Nelson Levi (WIA)
Observer  
Colonel "Blondie" Saunders, C.O. 11th BG (WIA. survived)
Ditched  November 18, 1942
MACR  16407

Aircraft History
Built by Boeing at Seattle. Assigned to the 13th Air Force, 11th Bombardment Group, 26th Bombardment Squadron. No known nose art or nickname.

Mission History
On November 18, 1942 one of five B-17s that took off from Henderson Field on Guadalcanal leading a bombing mission against shipping at Tonolei Harbor off southern Bougainville.

Over the target, the formation was intercepted by fifteen Japanese fighters (40 fighters and floatplanes).

Richard Dunn adds:
"The formation also included a total of 11 B-17s, 4 B-26s (69th BS) and 8 P-38s. One flight of B-17s had bombs hang up and made a second run over Buin. One 582 pilot KIA (per Hata/Izawa) was KIA."

Twice, this B-17 was attacked by fighters making head-on firing passes, concentrating on the bomber's nose. The attacks killed the pilot Sewart and mortally wounded the co-pilot Lee. Colonel Saunders, who was aboard as a passenger took the controls immediately.

Damaged during the attacks, the no. 2 engine was feathered and no. 1 engine was running away and smoking. The no. 2 fuel tank was on fire. The crippled bomber was escorted by the other B-17s away from the target, and was loosing altitude but able to fly on only two engines. The bomber managed to ditch off Baga Island (Mbava) near Vella Lavella and the crew successfully deployed their life rafts. Pilot Sewart was already dead and went down with the bomber as it sank.

Fates of the Crew
By the time their rafts reached shore, Lee had died and was buried on the beach at Baga Island (Mbava). Meeting friendly natives in a canoe, the crew was unable to communicate with them and they departed. When they returned three hours later, they brought coastwatcher Jack Keenan. After dark, they were moved in canoes to Paramata village on Vella Lavella and were served a meal and rested in Silas Lezatuni's house. During the night, fellow coastwatcher Henry Josselyn came down to the village to relieve Keenan.

Meanwhile, Methodist nurse Merle Farland was notified of the wounded crew at 3:30am the next day. She departed immediately across the island and reached Paramata village. When she arrived, she arrived to diagnosed the wounded crew members, just as the rescuing PBY was heard. Without time to render medical treatment, the crew prepared to be rescued.

Rescue
The crew were rescued by a U. S. Navy (USN) PBY Catalina piloted by Lt. Charles Willis from VP-11, escorted by three F4F Wildcats. Later, Willis became an advisor to the President Eisenhower administration on aviation matters.

Memorials
Sewart and Lee were officially declared dead the day of the mission. Sewart is memorialized on the tablets of the missing at Manila American Cemetery. Lee is not listed on ABMC.

References
Missing Air Crew Report 16407 (MACR 16407) was created retroactively and incorrectly notes serial number as 41-21531 nor does it contain the complete crew list.
Lonley Vigil page 112-115
Thanks to Richard Dunn and Jim Sawruk for additional information.

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Last Updated
February 4, 2018

 

Tech Info
B-17
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