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This B-17 was painted with standard colors and markings including olive drab upper surfaces and gray lower surfaces with U. S. Army in black in block letters on lower side of the wings and circular U. S. star marking. On the tail was stenciled the partial U. S. Army serial number "12659" in yellow.
The nickname "Frank Buck" was in reference to Frank Howard Buck, an American personality who was a hunter, animal collector, author and an actor in Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus and Hollywood movies including Bring 'Em Back Alive (1932), radio programs and comics.
While operating in northern Australia and New Guinea, the regular flight crew included:
Pilot Lt. Raymond E. Holsey (Altos, OK)
On July 27, 1942 one of nine B-17s that took off on a bombing mission against Buna.
Pilot Lt. Ramond E. "Ray" Holsey
Gordon R. Manuel recalls in 70,000 to One:
We hit so softly that we didn't even bounce. Holsey had landed us on a beach at Hood Point - a lovely beach. The plane skimmed along and then it settled into the sand as our speed reduced. The heavy ship gave a little lurch to the left and we stopped. The next day a boat came with some steel netting. [marston matting] Friendly natives helped us lay it on the beach, and then Holsey and Ryan, our co-pilot took her off. They just prayed her off and the right wing tip touched the water, but she got off all right. We went back to Moresby by boat laughing it all off. But we hadn't laughed during the hour we were sweating it out."
Assisted by friendly natives, the crew waited for help to arrive. Aircraft dropped supplies to the crew including one drop by a B-25 Mitchell from the 3rd Bombardment Group and another by a B-17 Flying Fortress from the 19th Bombardment Group. A small boat arrived to deliver fuel and marston mat (PSP) to create a runway on the beach.
LIFE Magazine photographer George Strock visited the site and photographed the bomber and the crew interacting with locals. These photographs were published in LIFE Magazine January 4, 1943 issue. Former plantation owner assigned to the Australian Imperial Force (AIF) Leslie Johnston also visited the bomber and helped them to trade with locals to purchase food.
Approximately a week later the runway was completed and a take off was attempted. Using the beach with marston mat as a runway with only the pilot and co-pilot aboard to minimize weight, B-17 "Frank Buck" took off successfully and landed safely at 7 Mile Drome near Port Moresby. The rest of the crew was transported by boat to Port Moresby. Both the bomber and the crew returned to duty.
Later, the B-17 was transferred to the 43rd Bombardment Group and continued to fly combat missions.
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