MISSLEADING had its hydraulics shot out by antiaircraft fire during a combat mission to Taihoku, Formosa on May 31, 1945. Without flaps, the 19th Squadron co-pilot, 2/Lt. Robert A. Morgan, made an emergency landing at Laoag Strip, Luzon, after the pilot, 2/Lt. Charles E. Critchfield, was badly wounded by flak. Parachutes were deployed out both side windows to slow down the brakeless plane. However, the nose gear folded and the plane crushed its nose when it smashed to the runway. Four aboard were injured.
After an air battle with Zeros over the Bismarck Sea on March 2nd, B-17F #41-24455, OLD BALDY, was safely landed at Seven Mile by 1/Lt. James C. Dieffenderfer despite having only minimal control of the plane’s vertical movement in what was thought to be an impossible feat. Note that the fabric on the stabilizers has been completely shredded, leaving only the small trim tabs on the inside of the stabilizers to control them. Dieffenderfer coaxed the B-17 over the Owen Stanley Mountains and down to Seven Mile Drome using only the trim tabs. Here, ground crew members remove the damaged stabilizers so they can be replaced.
This photo will be found in our upcoming book, Ken’s Men Against the Empire, Volume I. Pre-order your copy now!
Starting on January 23, 1945, the 312th Bomb Group supported the advancing American infantry by targeting Japanese troops in their path. On the 23rd, all four squadrons joined B-25s from the 345th Bomb Group to strike the towns of San Jose and San Nicholas in Luzon’s Palawan Province. Here, an A-20G from the 389th Squadron leaves San Nicholas after dropping its bombs.
This photo can be found in Rampage of the Roarin’ 20’s.
Flying along the China coast on April 6, 1945, the 500th Bomb Squadron of the 345th Bomb Group came across a target that was originally misidentified as a Japanese merchant vessel. Upon closer inspection, they realized it was the destroyer Amatsukaze. Here, 1/Lt. George R. Schmidt’s camera caught 2/Lt. Samuel W. Bennett’s B-25 pulling away from its attack on the Amatsukaze.
Find out more about this exciting story in Warpath Across the Pacific.
These B-17 and B-24 profiles, drawn by aviation artist Jack Fellows, appear in our new book Ken’s Men Against the Empire, Volume I. There are 24 profiles in all, most of which are B-17s. Each aircraft profile has a detailed history of the plane itself as well as its crews in Appendix V. Pre-order your copy today.
Without a bomber to its name, the 43rd Bomb Group (heavy) was rushed aboard the Queen Mary in February 1942 because there was room for one more unit. Months after arriving in Australia, the under-equipped 43rd absorbed the 19th Bomb Group’s war-weary B-17s and crews, who had been fighting since December 7, 1941. In spite of this start, the men went on to fly some of the most important and dramatic missions in U.S. aviation history, including one that resulted in a double Medal of Honor and eight Distinguished Service Crosses for a single crew. Their innovative technique of using B-17s to skip-bomb enemy ships from masthead height changed the way Pacific A-20 and B-25 pilots attacked targets for the rest of the war.
From the author of Warpath Across the Pacific comes the story of the last B‑17 Army combat group in the Pacific Theater that will delight modelers, aviation enthusiasts and casual readers alike. The narrative is supplemented by hundreds of photographs, five comprehensive appendices, three spectacular color paintings and 24 detailed color profiles by aviation artist Jack Fellows, one of which sheds light on a markings mystery that has stumped historians for decades.
Some of the stories you will find inside this book:
This painting depicts B-17E #41-2666, nicknamed LUCY, piloted by Capt. Jay Zeamer, Jr. of the 65th Bomb Squadron, 43rd Bomb Group on June 16th, 1943 flying a crucial photomapping mission for the invasion of Bougainville Island in the Solomons later that year. LUCY, alone, without fighter cover, was surrounded and attacked over the objective by eight Japanese Zero fighters from 251 Kokutai. The pilot refused to abort and held the plane on the required straight and level course until his assignment was finished.
During the air battle that followed, half of his crew was seriously wounded. The bombardier, 2/Lt. Joseph R. Sarnoski, fought back heroically throughout the engagement until he died of his injuries, earning him the Medal of Honor. Zeamer, although grievously injured himself, was also awarded the Medal of Honor for piloting the B-17 until the mission was complete, then assisting other crewmen on the long flight back to base in the severely damaged bomber, ensuring the safe return of the precious photos. The rest of the crew received the Distinguished Service Cross, the second highest award for valor, making them the most highly decorated American aircrew in history. Zeamer eventually recovered from his near-fatal injures. This artwork is published on the cover of our book Ken’s Men Against the Empire Volume I, which will be published on March 22, 2016. Order your copy now!
Before the Japanese set foot on Wakde Island in April 1942, it may have been inhabited by a small native population. Over the next year, much of the foliage on the island was cut down to make space for a runway that was 5400 feet long and 390 feet wide. The Japanese leveled more of the island to build 100 pillboxes, bunkers and other defenses. On May 15, 1944, the fight over Wakde began. All but four Japanese soldiers stationed there fought to the death. Wakde was further expanded by the Allies, almost completely clearing the island of vegetation in the process. Today, the island is uninhabited. The photo on the left, taken from Rampage of the Roarin’ 20’s, shows Wakde Island after its development as an Allied base. More than 70 years after the military left the island, Wakde still bears the scars of World War II in the Google Earth image at right.
For more then and now images, head over to our blog.
Men from the 43rd Bomb Group crowd around LIL’ FOX, a new 823rd Squadron B-25G, which housed a 75mm cannon. Overall, the cannon proved to be very unpopular among the aircrews of the 38th Bomb Group. This photo was taken in July 1943.
This photo will be published in Saga of the Sun Setters Volume I.