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Rodney Pearce
Discovery of B-17F 'Black Jack'

Click For EnlargementB-17F "Black Jack" 41-24521 ditched at Cape Vogel is perhaps what I am best remembered for and people often ask me how I came to find it. My friend Dave Pennefather happened to mentioned to me that the local inhabitants had told him of a plane adjacent to their village. On a trip to that area I called into that particular village and asked about the aircraft that was supposed to be there.

To my surprise the locals said that the plane was at another village next door so started making a few inquires and found that an aircraft had gone down in the area. (in fact it was a Australian Beaufort A9-02 yet to be found).

I arranged a Christmas dive trip for Dave Pennefather and Bruce Johnson to go and see to if it was possible to find this plane. On arriving Cape Vogel, we were told that the plane was at Boga Boga and not at the other village next door. Anyway, the inhabitants of Boga Boga showed us the exact place where the plane went down so we prepared to dive on the site.

To cut a long story short the three of us dived and spread out to cover as much area as possible and I swam into the tailplane of a B-17. It was not until we had the ID plate and contacted Richard Leahy back in Lae who contacted a friend who gave us the details of the aircraft. We were told that we had discovered the 5th Air Force 's most famous bomber, "Black Jack" mostly flown by Ken MacCullur. Steve Birdsall brought the former pilot, Ralph DeLoach to New Guinea and made a documentary Black Jack's Last Mission.

The locals still insisted that there was another plane out side their village "next door" and in fact, there is. Both these planes are related to one another, and that is, after bombing a Japanese destroyer off Cape Ward Hunt, "Black Jack" was out of ammo and bombs but the destroyer was badly damaged and still afloat, so MacCullar called his base and asked for another strike on the destroyer.

A Beaufort arrived from Port Moresby and as she entered her bomb run the DD blew up and sunk. MacCullar was credited with the sinking and the Beaufort flew off back to Pom. On the return trip due to cloud build over the mountains and running low on fuel Beaufort A9-2 ditched at Cape Vogel at the village next to Boga Boga. Hence the confusion with the two aircraft.

Beaufort A9-2 will be my next big project along with a must and that is F/L William Newton VC's aircraft a DB-7 Boston A28-3.

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