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  B-17E "Jap Happy" Serial Number 41-2520  
13th AF
5th BG
23rd BS
5th BG c1943

Aircraft History
Built by Boeing at Seattle. Delivered to the U. S. Army Air Force (USAAF) as B-17E Flying Fortress serial number 41-2520. Ferried overseas via Hawaii to the South Pacific.

Wartime History
Assigned to the 13th Air Force, 5th Bombardment Group, 23rd Bombardment Squadron. Nicknamed "Jap Happy" after the July 26-27, 1943 mission when the B-17 was damaged. Below the pilot's window was the nose art of a skull wearing a flight cap with goggles, the skeletal right hand open to the nose and the left hand holding a bomb.

On July 26, 1943 took off from Carney Field on Guadalcanal piloted by 23rd Bombardment Squadron C. O. Major Berton H. Burns with co-pilot Captain Roy Ballah, leading a night bombing mission over Kahili Airfield (Buin) on southern Bougainville. The weather was clear with a quarter moon visible. Over the target, this B-17 was damaged by a J1N1 Irving night fighter but managed to land safely.

Captain Roy Ballah statement via Missing Air Crew Report 182 (MACR 182) page 11
"I was co-pilot in airplane #2520 with our squadron commander, Major Berton H. Burns as pilot leading a formation of B-17s over Kahili Airdrome... I saw our right wingman, Lt. Stubblefield in airplane #9128 [B-17E 41-9128] go down in flames. One or more enemy night fighters, unseen, attacked the formation and was last seen to be in flames going down. Our own plane was also attacked and the assistant radio operator and tail gunner were wounded. Our aerial engineer saw one night fighter and fired at him. However, we returned to base safely and [our] airplane had many holes in it."

Justin Taylan adds:
"I researched the Japanese side of this mission in Japan at the Tokyo Defense Archives. According to Japanese records, a single J1N1 Irving night fighter was airborne and claimed two B-24 [actually B-17s] shot down at 03:45 JST [5:45 local time]. Likely both B-17E 41-9128 (shot down) and B-17E 41-2520 (damaged) represent these victory claims."

Steve Birdsall adds:
"According to former 5th Group B-17 pilot Burrell Hudgins, Tex Burns named 41-2520 "Jap-Happy" after the July 27, 1943 mission when Lt. Karl Stubblefield was shot down. The story goes that the enemy fighters who shot down Stubblefield also shot out the complete serial number of the Burns plane by aiming at his blue formation lights. Some of the Burns crew were wounded and Burns named the plane “Jap-Happy” the next day."

Ultimate fate unknown, likely scrapped or otherwise disappeared.

USAF Serial Number Search Results - B-17E Flying Fortress 41-2520
Missing Air Crew Report 182 (MACR 182) page 11
Kodochosho, 251 Kōkūtai, July 19, 1943
A History of IJN's Night-Fighters page 78
"At 0030 in July 27, a Gekko (CPO Hayashi with WO Ichikawa left Balalle. At 0319, the crew sighted smokes coming from Buin. 20 minutes after this, search lights caught B-24(s) flying from the direction of Guadalcanal, at the altitude of 4000 meters. When Japanese searchlights were not able to catch up with the bombers anymore, lights on wings were lit. The Gekko sneaked under the (#1) bomber and bursted at the root of a wing. The Liberator went down enveloped by a big flare. Now the interceptor went under another B-24 (#2) which commenced firing at the invisible Irving. The Gekko concentrated its bursts to the wing root of the second bomber and its wing was blown off from its fuselage. It fell down and exploded when it crashed on the ground."
Thanks to Steve Birdsall and Minoru Kamada for additional information

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Last Updated
September 20, 2018


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