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Claimed discovery of General Ramey B-17 "Pluto"
by Michael Claringbould, Flightpath Magazine, 2007

Claims to have possibly discovered the B-17 in which Brigadier Howard Ramey was a passenger [B-17F "Pluto" 41-24384] are premature. Many of the fundamental facts about this loss, as recently published, are wrong. First, the bomber was not named 'The Pluto', but simply 'Pluto'. Other articles have said Ramey was due to take over the Fifth Air Force, also incorrect. Ramey was to be allocated Fifth Bomber Command, a large chunk of the Fifth Air Force which by then was well and truly assigned to General George Kenney.

We are told that the tyre and landing gear lie behind the engine, thus showing it is a B-17. This assumes the wreckage is Allied, not Japanese, several of which had rearward-folding undercarriages. There has been no confirmation that the wing had two engines. If it did not, the wreck could be a B-18, a C-47, a Beaufort or Beaufighter a B-25 or even a Martin bomber, all of which had "round" cowls, and of which there is no shortage in this area. If it has two engines it could be American, Dutch, or Australian.

Finally, we are told that if it is a B-17 then this is the only one lost in this area. This too is incorrect. Other contenders include "Miss Carriage" which went missing on 1 Dec 42 out of Port Moresby. It is possible it overshot Port Moresby on the return, and wound up anywhere over Australia (the discovery of a Liberator wreck in New Guinea in 1996 was more than 900 nautical miles from where it "should" have been lends weight to such a possibility). On 15 September 1942 B-17F 41-24427 also went missing out of Port Moresby. It was headed for Rabaul, but there were indications that it reversed course early on and kept heading south . . . the list goes on.

Now we come to the crunch, which is that Ramey's bomber departed Port Moresby on 26 March 1943 at 0915 hours, bound first for a reconnaissance of Merauke, before a scheduled landing on Horn Island. One radio transmission was received 20 minutes after departing Port Moresby, and that was that. The weather was reasonable in the Merauke area, so why divert ? Even if diversion was considered, a radio transmission would have followed. Then we have to think about the Imperial Japanese fighters which had the occassional habit of patrolling the Merauke area from Dutch East Indies bases.

So, what happened to Pluto? I dont know, but I doubt that the wreckage found to date qualifies. Until conclusive data appears, such an aircraft serial number, anything else is speculative.

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