steveb, Just read the article about the wanderings of the South Pacific B-17s of the 394th Squadron, and thoroughly enjoyed it, great photos too. They were certainly great travellers, too, really got about, but I guess that is what the B-17 (and B-24s!) were designed and intended for. Thanks for providing the link.
Thank you, I really enjoyed working on that particular story. Gene Roddenberry’s family were a bit wary at first, but I think they were happy enough with the outcome (I never heard either way). One thing that surprised me is that nobody seems to remember the date of that flight into the weather front that nearly claimed their lives.
That's a really interesting photo for a number of reasons. The red-and-white rudder stripes are gone, yet the red centres in the cocardes remain. It must have been taken sometime between 21 January and the first week or so of April 1942.
Those early B-17Es arrived in Hawaii without radio call numbers on the tails. Those were added later, in a variety of styles, and this B-17E "should" have one, but more than a few B-17Es ended up with replacement vertical tail sections, so that could be a factor.
Is there anyone familiar with Fiji topography who can confirm whether it's Nadi or Nausori? It "should" be Nadi, for reasons raised by davidd.
I'm pretty sure that plane is 41-2429 or 41-2433. All those B-17Es with the Hawaiian Air Force camouflage scheme were unique, so you need photos of both sides of the plane to be 100% sure, and I don't have clear and complete photos of the port sides of those two.
If we knew the date that the photo was taken it would really help.
Could be just taxiing in (note, no flaps appear to be down, which I imagine was normal on landing), or it might even just be sitting there, as props do not appear to be moving (then again the lower blades look quite blurry). I favour taxiing. And it would have to be at Nandi - no high hills near Nausori.
Looks very much like Nadi , the mountain in the background is next to the Lautoka road. I think the caption had 1942 ? showing .
Previous longish discussion on the Nadi/Nausori conundrum and 'that B-17 photo (here)..
Thanks! I'm embarrassed to admit that I had not seen Dave's January 22 post, wrongly assuming that anything new and relevant to the B-17s would show up here.
As noted above, I'm reasonably confident that the unidentified B-17 photo - at Nadi - is 41-2429. It was there with three other B-17Es (41-2409, 41-2426, 41-2432) in January 1942 . . . arrived from Canton on the 26th, returned to Canton on the 27th and then on to Hawaii via Palmyra.
It came through Fiji again in February, enroute to Australia - arrived Nadi 13th or 14th, flew a search mission on the 15th, then flew on to New Caledonia on the 17th. I can find no record of it ever going to Fiji again, although that certainly can't be ruled out.
The Eric Maple Lewis photo was definitely taken prior to April 24, 1942.
Post by Dave Homewood on Aug 15, 2022 21:34:51 GMT 12
Here is an article from The Press newspaper dated 3rd of August 1974.
Mystery surrounds 1942 plane crash
Wartime. A clear, cloudless sky just after midnight. A United States Air Force “Flying Fortress” aircraft took off from an almost deserted airfield, everything in order. Minutes later it crashed, killing the crew and the sole passenger, a French naval officer. But, officially at least, the aircraft was never at the field. Officially, the Free French officer was not aboard.
Today, 32 years later, the reasons for the crash of the bomb-laden aircraft are still unknown, the reason for its presence at the field still unannounced. This could almost be the scenario for a B-grade film; but it happened. And it happened in New Zealand. The date was June 9, 1942, and the airfield was Whenaupai, near Auckland. The remains of those on board the aircraft were buried in the Waikumete Cemetery, but have since been removed and reinterred in an American war cemetery.
The information here has come from the journal of the Aviation Historical Society of New Zealand, whose members have doggedly pursued the “mystery of the Flying Fortress” since 1968. The crash itself was no secret — it occurred on the main road to Whenuapai. One of the bombs on board exploded, gouging a crater 20ft across. A 1½-ton wheel assembly was thrown a paddock and a half from the impact site, and little else was left that was recognisable.
Sightseers and souvenir hunters from Auckland thronged to the site and removed many of the smaller pieces.
But six Courts of Inquiry — five American and one of the Royal New Zealand Air Force — and a Coroner’s inquest did little to lift the veil of secrecy which public curiosity would have more diligently probed at any other time but a time of war.
According to the main witness at the hearings, Flight Sergeant K. Thompson, the aircraft took off perfectly with all engines working well. Suddenly, it descended and crashed, although the flare from the exhausts suggested that the engines were still working perfectly. Complications at the inquiries stemmed from the lone aircraft being a craft of war; as such it could not be declared as ever having arrived. The presence of the French officer, apparently “thumbing a lift,” made things even more difficult.
According to Mr Thompson, who was appointed liaison officer at the base when the aircraft arrived, the Fortress was on a solitary mission, having flown to New Zealand from Hawaii by way of New Caledonia, where the French officer was picked up.
All he was told was that the aircraft had a load of bombs and, if possible, was to “find and reduce some enemy which was lurking in the Tasman Sea.”
Little more of consequence is known. The R.N.Z.A.F. safely exploded the three remaining bombs where they had been thrown by the impact; and Mr Thompson was interviewed by a United States Army colonel for a report to the Pentagon. Another solitary U.S.A.F. Flying Fortress was photographed at Woodbourne, near Blenheim, in the same month that the crash occurred.
My gut feeling is that this photo probably not taken in wartime NZ, but maybe Fiji? This impression based pretty much solely on what I can see in photo, with what is almost certainly an American (USAAF) officer (left) wearing one of those lightweight tropical helmets, plus what appears to be 3 civilians (could the older man in white be from a merchant ship? Does not look military) and a small boy. The narrow prop-blades are clearly not of the later "paddle-blade" type, although no doubt they are HS Hydromatics. So sorry, that is the best I can do!
Thanks for those insights. The original source is unknown. The name "Hamlin" was mentioned, but I'm not sure if that was referring to the owner of the photo or one of the people in it.
The ‘Hamlin’ referenced against the photo is Vincent Trout Hamlin (May 10, 1900 – June 14, 1993), who preferred the name V. T. Hamlin, and was an American comic strip cartoonist. He created the popular, long-run comic strip Alley-Oop which is the character painted on the nose of the B-17 in the photo. I suspect the middle gent in the photo is V.T. Hamlin as he resembles photos of Hamlin on this website (Link Here). The description on the website also refers to Alley-Oop as being part of the 92nd Bomb Group (The 92nd Bomb Group adopted Alley Oop as their mascot, and Hamlin assisted them, painting Oop on their pilot's jackets and the noses of their B-17s. They became known as the "Oop Group," and participated in the bombing of Nazi targets in Germany and Austria) (Link Here).
Yes, good info and a great help. The four squadrons of the 92nd Bomb Group did use Alley Oop, but they had B-17Fs and in their insignia Alley Oop was always mounted on some ancient creature - pterodactyl, dinosaur, sabre-toothed tiger. This being a B-17E I thought it just might be the 11th Bomb Group plane but now more likely an earlier model B-17 the 92nd trained on.