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  B-17E "Topper" Serial Number 41-2481  
USAAF
5th AF
43rd BG
63rd BS

Former Assignments
19th BG

Click For Enlargement
USAAF August 27, 1943

Aircraft History
Built by Boeing at Seattle. Delivered to the U. S. Army Air Force (USAAF) as B-17E Flying Fortress Serial Number 41-2481. Ferried from Boeing Field to Langley Field by pilot 1st Lt. James O. Cobb and a flight engineer.

Wartime History
Afterwards, flown to MacDill Field and readied for a flight overseas. Assigned to the 5th Air Force, 19th Bombardment Group.

On January 11, 1942 took off from MacDill Field at 3:00am piloted by 1st Lt. James O. Cobb, co-pilot 2nd Lt Paul W. Eckley, Jr., navigator 2nd Lt Johnnie Riola, bombardier Sgt L. W. Hay, engineer Cpl E. W. Harbaugh, assistant engineer Pvt B. F. Narel, radio operator Pfc J.E. Dambacher, assistant radio operator Pvt C.B. Morris and medic Pfc L.H. Hillman. The B-17 overflew Miami before landing at Piarco Airport on Trinadad after a 13 hours and 45 minute flight.

Ferried oversea via the "African Route" to Java. During the ferry flight, nicknamed "Topper" with nose art painted by 2nd Lt. Paul W. Eckley, Jr. showing a top hat and a tomahawk inside a circle. On February 13, 1942 arrived at Bandoeng Airfield in western Java.

On October 9, 1942 took off from 7-Mile Drome near Port Moresby piloted by Major Jack Dougherty with co-pilot Major Bennie Shriever as one of three B-17s on a flare mission over Rabaul. Over the target, one engine failed forcing this bomber to salvo their bombs and returned to base.

During November 1942 assigned to the 43rd Bombardment Group, 63rd Bombardment Squadron. As one of the older B-17E Flying Fortresses, it became known as "Old Topper".

Mission History
On August 27, 1943, during take off from 7-Mile Drome near Port Moresby armed with two 1,000 lb bombs and three 500 lb bombs, this B-17 suffered a structural failure and crashed. The crew were uninjured in the crash. Afterwards, stripped for salvageable parts by the 481st Service Squadron. Officially written off on October 30, 1943.

References
USAF Serial Number Search Results - B-17E 41-2481
"2481 delivered Sacramento Dec 26, 1941. Assigned to 19th BG, 30th BS Java Feb 14, 1942. Transferred to 7th BG, then to 43rd BG, 63rd BS, then to 481 Service Squadron. (43rd BG, 63rd BS, *Old Topper*) crashed on takeoff at Jackson Field, Port Moresby Aug 28, 1943. W/o Oct 30, 1943"
Lt. Clarence E. O'Connor Flight Log Excerpts via Brian O'Connor August 27, 1943 "Tire blew out with 95mph. Ground looped. Washed out the ship. Load 2 x 1,000 lbs and 3 x 500 lb bombs"
43rd Bomb Group, 63rd Bomb Squadron History, frame 272
PNG Museum Aircraft Status Card - B-17E Flying Fortress 41-2481
Fortress Against The Sun pages 133, 377 (date of accident listed as August 8, 1943 with 65th BS) 386, 414
Flightpath August-October 2012 "Rabaul October" by Steve Birdsall page 56
Thanks to Steve Birdsall and Brian O'Connor for additional information

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Last Updated
January 31, 2018

 

Tech Information
B-17
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