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  B-17E "Yankee Doodle" Serial Number 41-2463  
USAAF
13th AF
5th BG

Former Assignments
13th AF
5th BG
394th BS

11th BG
431st BS

Click For Enlargement
5th BG c1943

Click For Enlargement
307th BG August 2, 1943

Aircraft History
Built by Boeing at Seattle. Delivered to the U. S. Army Air Force (USAAF) as B-17E Flying Fortress serial number 41-2463. Ferried to Hickam Field. Assigned to the 11th Bombardment Group, 431st Bomb Squadron as a replacement aircraft on October 20, 1942. Nicknamed "Yankee Doodle".

Wartime History
During late May 1942 flown from Hickam Field to Midway Airfield in anticipation of the Battle of Midway to search for Japanese Naval forces.

On May 31, 1942 took off form took off from Hickam Field piloted by Captain Paul Payne with an extra bomb bay fuel tank as one of ten B-17s on a flight to Midway Airfield on Eastern Island arriving in the late afternoon in anticipation of the Battle of Midway.

Battle of Midway
On June 3, 1942 took off from Midway Airfield on Eastern Island at 4:30am piloted by Captain Payne as a precaution against a possible Japanese air raid and returned by 8:25am and were refueled. Informed the Japanese fleet had been spotted, Col Sweeney wanted to take off immediately but was told to wait until the exact location and composition of the force was known.

At 12:30pm took off again piloted by Captain Payne armed with four 600 pound bombs and a bomb bay fuel tank on a mission to attack the Japanese fleet. The formation of nine bombers was led by B-17E "Old Maid" 41-2409 flying in three elements. This bomber was part of the second element led by B-17E 41-2404 piloted by Captain Tokarz, Captain Payne and B-17E piloted by Captain Sullivan. At 4:23pm the formation spotted the Japanese fleet roughly 570 miles west of Midway Atoll. During the bomb run, the second element flew in from the east with the sun behind them at an altitude of 10,000'. Nearing the fleet they were spotted and the warships began making evasive maneuvers. During the bomb run, intense anti-aircraft fire commenced as this B-17 had two bombs hang up and circled for a second run over Argentina Maru and were targeted by accurate gunfire before releasing their other two bombs. Returning, the formation encountered severe weather roughly 400 miles west of Midway Atoll and the formation broke up with all bombers flying back individually and landed safely at Midway Airfield after a roughly eight hour mission.

On June 4, 1942 took off from Midway Airfield on Eastern Island at 4:05am piloted by Captain Payne armed with bombs and a bomb bay fuel tank on a patrol mission to bomb the Japanese fleet. The formation of fifteen bombers divided into five elements of three bombers. This bomber was part of the third element led by B-17E 41-2404 piloted by Captain Tokarz, Captain Payne and B-17E piloted by Captain Sullivan. Flying westward towards a group of transports, the formation was instructed by radio to change course to attack the carrier force spotted by a PBY Catalina at 5:45am roughly 145 miles northwest of Midway Atoll. Encountering thick clouds between 1,000' to 18,000', Sweeney ordered the formation to climb to 18,000' above the weather with one B-17 aborting the mission. Arriving over the area where the carriers were spotted by 7:32am, the B-17s circled for nearly forty minutes before the carriers were spotted by this bomber and notified Tokarz who led the second element to attack individually. During the bombing run, this element experienced intense anti-aircraft fire. Captain Tokarz was hit in the no. 4 engine, and ordered the element to circle around for another bomb run while he attempting to restart his no. 4 engine then observed Kaga and all three bombed claiming three hits on the flight deck and four near misses. Returning, intercepted by A6M2 Zeros and Cpl Donald C. Bargdill (431st BS) claimed one as shot down then returned to land at Midway Airfield.

During the afternoon took off again from Midway Airfield piloted by Captain Payne with observer Col Walter C. Sweeney, Jr. aboard as one of four B-17s on a mission against a Japanese convoy reported southwest of Midway. During the flight, the formation received a message to attack an aircraft carrier 180 miles off Midway Atoll. Arriving over the Japanese fleet, they located Hiryu burning and searched the area for another reported undamaged carrier, but were unable to find it.

By June 10, 1942 this B-17 departed Midway Airfield flying back to Hickam Field. Afterwards, flown across the Pacific to the South Pacific.

During early January 1943 one of a dozen B-17s that operated briefly from 7-Mile Drome near Port Moresby then returned to Guadalcanal.

In the middle of 1943, assigned to the 5th Bomb Group "Bomber Barons", 394th Bomb Squadron.

On July 11, 1943 took off piloted by Lt. Eugene "Gene" Roddenberry armed with dropping fragmentation cluster bombs on a successful night bombing mission to "harass" targets around Kahili on southern Bougainville.

Mission History
On August 2, 1943, during an attempted take off piloted by Lt. Eugene "Gene" Roddenberry this B-17 attempted to take off from Guadalcanal (other sources state Espiritu Santo). Suffered an aborted take off (or mechanical failure) and crashed at the end of the runway. Aboard, two of the crew in the nose were killed in the crash: bombardier Sgt John P. Krueger and navigator Lt. Talbert H. Wollam. After the crash, a photograph was taken of the tail wreckage with the serial number '12483" visible.

Fellow B-17 pilot Leon Rockwell wrote in his diary on August 2, 1943:
"Approx 6:00 AM while at the Canal heard an explosion and ran from my tent to end of the Bomber Strip to see B-17 burning. It was piloted by Lt Gene Roddenberry... said he couldn't get takeoff air speed thus aborted the takeoff ran off the end of the runway into coconut palm tree stumps - Wiped out the undercarriage & nose of B-17 - Everyone got out except Sgt Krueger Bombardier and Lt. Wollam Navigator. Wollam was a good friend of mine. He had a wife and family in the States, had orders to go home but volunteered to replace Roddenberry's navigator who for some reason couldn't make the mission."

Officially, this B-17 was condemned on August 13, 1943.

Memorials
The two crew members killed in the August 2, 1943 crash were transported to the United States for permanent burial postwar. Krueger is buried at Mount Calvary Cemetery in Wheeling, WV. Wollam is buried at Somerville Cemetery in Somerville, OH at section BB lot 4.

Pilot Gene Roddenberry was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC) and Air Medal for his wartime service. He became famous as the creator of the Star Trek series and passed away on October 24, 1991. A quarter ounce of the ashes were launched into orbit around the Earth in April 2007. More ashes were launched into deep space during 2009.

References
USAF Serial Number Search Results - B-17E Fortress 41-2463

"2463 (19th BG, "Yankee Doodle" then to 5th BG, 394th BS) crashed on takeoff due to mechanical failure at Espiritu Santo, New Hebrides Aug 2, 1943. 2 killed. Pilot was Gene Roddenberry, creator of Star Trek"
Individual Aircraft Record Card (IARC) - B-17E 41-2463
Fortress Against The Sun pages 180 (May 31, 1942 flight to Midway), 181-183 (June 3, 1942), 184-189 (June 4, 1942), 192, 367, 385
FindAGrave - Gene Roddenberry (photo)
FindAGrave - John Paul Krueger
FindAGrave - Talbert H. Wollam (photo, grave photo)
"1st Lt. Talbert H. Woolam was killed on an attempted take off of a B-17 Bomber in the New Herbrides Islands [sic] in the South Pacific during World War II on Aug. 2, 1943. He was a member of the 39th Heavy Bombardment Squadron. He entered the service in Apr. 1941 & trained at Oklahoma City & Lowery Field, Denver, Colorado. He was a graduate of LaJolla High School, LaJolla, CA. He attended one year in the Army & Navy Academy at San Diego. He graduated from Wheaton College, Wheaton, IL in 1939 following which he was employed at Armco & resided in West Elkton.
He was the son of Rev. Edgar & Clara Talbert Wollam. He leaves a wife Doris Schubert Wollam & son Gary Lee whom he had never seen. His sister Betty Bryant also survives. A memorial service was held Sept. 5, 1943 in the West Elkton Friends Church.
The remains of 1st. Lt. Talbert Wollam arrived in San Francisco on Feb. 21, 1948 aboard the U.S. Army Transport Cardinal O'Connell. Services were held in Eaton with his father Rev. Edgar Wollam officiating. Burial was in Somerville Cemetery on Mar. 15, 1948."
Thanks to Steve Birdsall, Pat Ranfranz and Daniel Leahy for additional information.

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Last Updated
October 23, 2019

 

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