Pacific Wrecks
Pacific Wrecks    
  Missing In Action (MIA) Prisoners Of War (POW) Unexploded Ordnance (UXO)  
Chronology Locations Aircraft Ships Submit Info How You Can Help Donate
 
  B-17E "Frank Buck" Serial Number 41-2659  
USAAF
5th AF
19th BG
30th BS

Click For Enlargement
19th BG 1942

Click For Enlargement

Click For Enlargement
Click For Enlargement

Click For Enlargement
George Strock Sept 1942

Click For Enlargement
19th BG Sept 1942

Click For Enlargement
Click For Enlargement
AWM July 27, 1943

Aircraft History
Built by Boeing at Seattle. Constructor Number 2470. Delivered to the U. S. Army Air Force (USAAF) as B-17E Flying Fortress serial number 41-2659. Ferried overseas via Hickam Field then across the Pacific to Australia.

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.

Wartime History
Assigned to the 19th Bombardment Group, 30th Bombardment Squadron. Assigned to pilot Lt. Raymond E. Holsey. This B-17 was nicknamed "Frank Buck" in white in cursive with a single quotation mark around the name. Above the "Frank Buck" was five Japanese rising sun flags over the "k B" in the nickname indicating enemy aircraft claimed by gunners.

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)
Co-Pilot  Lt Glenn E. Ream
Navigator  Lt John A. Crockett
Bombardier  Lt James P. Springfield
Engineer  Sgt J. B. Young
Radio  Cpl Lynn M. Himmel
Gunner  Sgt John W. Rosenberger
Gunner  Cpl Thomas D. Edgar
Gunner  Cpl John L. Honold

On July 27, 1942 one of nine B-17s that took off on a bombing mission against Buna.

Mission History
On September 15, 1942 took off piloted by Lt. Raymond E. Holsey on a night bombing mission against Rabaul and experienced bad weather. Returning, this B-17 was short on fuel and landed on the beach near Hood Point. The crew included:

Pilot  Lt. Ramond E. "Ray" Holsey
Co-Pilot
 ["Ryan" in 70,000 to One]
Navigator  Lt John A. Crockett [aka "Davy Crocket" in 70,000 to One]
Bombardier  Sgt Gordon R. Manuel
Radio  Sgt John W. Rosenberger
Engineer  Sgt J. B. Young
Crew  Jack A. Ryan
Tail Gunner  Sgt Vernon O. "Skeets" Elder

Gordon R. Manuel recalls in 70,000 to One:
"This had been a night mission and the weather was really foul. It was so bad that somehow our instruments went haywire and now, when we should have been just about coming home, we were God knows how many miles from nowhere with nothing under us but two miles of sky and a few more miles of water. I went back to the radio compartment with the boys. We put on our Mae Wests and just sweated it out. Rosenberger, our radio operator, just sat there, tapping out messages, asking the base to tell us where we were. The gas was getting very low, and Holsey had the engines leaning way down to use as little gas as possible.

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.

On July 27, 1943 scrapped at Mareeba Airfield by the 2nd Australian Corps Special Salvage Unit along with B-17E 41-9012.

Memorials
Lynn Mark Himmel passed away on April 7, 1975. He is buried at Saint Joseph Cemetery in Thibodaux, LA.
Holsey passed away on December 26, 1986. He is buried at Altus Cemetery in Altus, OK.
Elder passed away on March 24, 1973. He is buried at Fort Logan National Cemetery at Section Q Site 4927.

Relatives
Erik Himmel (son of Lynn M. Himmel)
Ken Bledsoe (son of Vernon O. Elder)

References
IMDb Frank Buck - Filmography
IMDb Bring 'Em Back Alive (1932)
LIFE Magazine "Adventure In New Guinea" January 4, 1943 pages 27-28, 30
Photographs of B-17 at Hood Point by George Strock (Getty Images: 53374003 - 53374027)
70,000 to One mentions the Frank Buck incident on pages 24-26
FindAGrave - Raymond A. Holsey (photo, grave photo)
FindAGrave - Lynn Mark Himmel (photo, grave photo)
FindAGrave - Vernon O Elder
Fortress Against The Sun page 259, 388, 428
Echoes From an Eagle page 30
Thanks to Steve Birdsall, Edward Rogers, Ken Bledsoe and Donna Esposito for additional research and analysis.

Contribute Information
Are you a relative or associated with any person mentioned?
Do you have photos or additional information to add?

Last Updated
January 11, 2018

 

Tech Info
B-17

Photos
Photo Archie

  Discussion Forum Daily Updates Reviews Museums Interviews & Oral Histories  
 
Pacific Wrecks Inc. All rights reserved.
Donate Now Facebook Twitter YouTube Google Plus Instagram