CRASH OF A B-17 FLYING FORTRESS
INTO THE SEA OFF HORN ISLAND, QLD
ON 13 JULY 1942
B-17E Flying Fortress
USAAF B-17E Flying Fortress, #41-2655, of the 30th Bomb Squadron, 19th Bombardment Group, ditched into the sea near Horn Island at about 2.30am on 13 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.
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.
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.
I'd like to thank Paul McMillan, Ross McNeill, Ken Elder and Justin Taylan for their assistance with this web page.
of the Fifth"
by Michael Claringbould
"Diary of WWII - North
Complied by Peter Nielsen
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© Peter Dunn 2007
This page first produced 7 February 1999
This page last updated 30 March 2013