CRASH OF A B-17 FLYING FORTRESS
INTO THE SEA OFF HORN ISLAND, QLD
ON 14 JULY 1942

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B-17E Flying Fortress

 

USAAF B-17E Flying Fortress, #41-2655, of the 30th Bomb Squadron, 19th Bombardment Group, ditched into the sea about 1 mile from Horn Island at about 2.30am on 14 July 1942 immediately after taking off from Horn Island in heavy rain on a bombing mission to Lae, in New Guinea. The pilot was Major Paul M. Lindsey (# 0-406701). Horn Island airfield was poorly lit. Vernon O. "Skeets" Elder, the tail gunner survived this crash. One of his best friends, Houston A. Rice, was killed in this crash. Another two crew members were killed as a result of this crash. Crew members for this flight were as follows:-

Major Paul M. Lindsey (# 0-406701)
Vernon O. "Skeets" Elder
Sgt. Edward Ralph Dietz (13013607)
three unknown crew members

KILLED
Sgt. Houston A. Rice
2nd Lt. Edward Robert Budz, navigator;
S/Sgt. James E. Houchins, bombardier

The three men killed above were initially buried on Thursday Island and were then reburied at the US Cemetery in Townsville on 12 April 1943 and then exhumed again and reburied in the US Cemetery in Ipswich in July 1945. They were exhumed again after the war and moved back to the USA for final burial based on their family's wishes.

One of the passengers on board during this crash was Sgt. Edward Ralph Dietz (13013607), Bottom Turret Gunner of another B-17 #41-2633. "Ralph" Dietz was hitching a ride back to Australia on this B-17. "Ralph" managed to escape through the hole in the fuselage of #41-2655. An Australian crash boat came out to rescue Dietz and Elder about an hour later. Ralph Dietz stated that two crew members went down with the aircraft. One of the bodies was recovered by the crash boat.

Ralph Dietz revisited Horn Island in August 1997. Vanessa Seekee, author of "Horn Island - In Their Steps 1939-45" arranged for Ralph to revisit the crashed B-17 which still lies in the shallow waters off Horn Island.

The remains of this B-17 still remain on the shore on Horn Island today, with only its propeller blades above water at high tide. At low tide, the rest of the wreck is visible.

A second B-17 crashed at around the same time on 14 July 1942.

B-17 Flying Fortress #41-2655 had been delivered to Lowry Field on 5 March 1942. It was assigned to the 19th Bomb Group in Hawaii on 1 April 1942.

Vernon O. Elder, Paul Lindsey and Houston A. Rice were all from Colorado and were very good friends. Major Paul M. Lindsey was killed about a month later in another crash on 16 August 1942 when they were testing flares in a B-17 off Cairns in north Queensland.

NOTE:- I had originally shown this accident as occurring on 13 July 1942, but have changed it to 14 July 1942 based on the date of deaths shown in the Ipswich Cemetery spreadsheet.

 

The NARA Photo is incorrectly titled:- "An American Cemetery at Townsville, Australia where twenty-six men
 of the 2nd Service Squadron are being buried. They were killed in an airplane take-off. April 1943."

 

Peter Murray in Townsville contacted me in November 2013 and commented that there is some doubt about the accuracy of the caption on this above photograph. After some collaborative research with Peter Murray, it is now confirmed that the above caption under the burial photograph is incorrect in stating that all men were members of the 2nd Service Squadron. Rice, Budz and Houchins were three of the 26 men who were buried in Townsville on 12 April 1943. There were also men from two other crashes and two men from the 91st Engineers also buried that same day. See below for details of the 26 men buried on 12 April 1943:-

 

Crash of B-17E Flying Fortress, #41-2655, near Horn Island on 14 July 1942 (This crash)

Budz, Edward B. 0-426508 USA -
Houchins, James E. 6994369 USA -
Rice, Houston A. 6290594? USA -

 

91st Engineers accidents

Vertison, Willie 34046295 USA killed by tree falling on him on 15 Aug 42)
Lee, Gilbert E. 34061958 USA killed by stray bullet on Horn Island on 21 Oct 42

 

Crash of B-25C Mitchell #41-12904, 8 miles north east of Townsville on 8 April 1943

Carlow, D.T. 20957230 USA -
Atkinson, Courtney B. 0-662973 USA -
Neyley, Paul L. 0662973 USA -
Haggerty, John J. Jnr. 11020201 USA 2nd Service Squadron, 4th Air Depot Group

 

Crash of B-17E Flying Fortress #41-2421, at Horn Island on 16 July 1942

Humphreys, Rufus B. 20467589 USA -
Wood, Vernon D. 7031437 USA -
Wood, William C. 6914948 USA -
Penick Lucius C. 0-413487 USA -
Schofield, Walter F. 6581360 USA -
Moore, Atwell E. 20487595 USA -
Silva Louis T. R45343? USA -
Kaup, Adrian F. 17011549 USA -
Harvey Frank A. 6580257 USA -
Bond, Marvin C. 6912315 USA -
McPherson Clarence E. 0-22396 -
Weisner, Walter W. 6754182 USA -
Moore, Albert W. 34102085 USA -
Hanson, Newell H. 11015176 USA -
Mills, Phillip R. 34102201 USA -
Welch, Frederick B. 15059629 USA -
Hart, Albert M. 0-346934 USA -

 

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

I'd like to thank Peter Murray, Michael Musumeci, Eric Evans, Ken Bledsoe, Paul  McMillan, Ross McNeill, Ken Elder and Justin Taylan for their assistance with this web page.

 

REFERENCE BOOKS

" Forty of the Fifth"
by Michael Claringbould

"Diary of WWII - North Queensland"
Complied by Peter Nielsen

Manson Park Burials Register - City of Ipswich

Find A Grave web site - B-17E #41-2421

 

Can anyone help me with more information on this crash?

 

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This page first produced 7 February 1999

This page last updated 03 December 2013