On 14 March 1942, three B-17's of the 40th Reconnaissance Squadron of the 19th Bombardment Group, USAAF (later to become the 435th Squadron), left Townsville to rescue General Douglas MacArthur from the Philippines.

One B-17 was ditched off Mindanao. The other two B-17's arrived at Del Monte at approximately midnight on 16 March 1942. The runway was lit with two flares (one at each end) to help them to land. One was flown by 1st Lt. Frank Bostrom and the other by Captain Lewis. Later that night General Sharp arrived at the airfield with General MacArthur and his family and a large group of senior officers.


bostrom.jpg (23643 bytes)

Captain Frank Bostrom (on left), of the US Army Air Corps. Pilot of the B-17 Flying Fortress that brought General Douglas MacArthur out of the Philippines. Lieutenant Mark Muller (on right), US Army Signal Corps, Assistant Signal Officers, HQS. Base 3 Somerville House, April 1942

Photo: from the Muller Collection (supplied by Bill Bentson)


The senior pilot, 1st Lt. Frank P. Bostrom drunk eight cups of coffee to ready himself for the return flight to Australia. In the mean time, mechanics worked feverishly to repair his B-17's defective supercharger. Bostrom told MacArthur that his party must leave their luggage behind. Jean MacArthur boarded Bostrom's B-17 carrying only a silk scarf and a coat with a fur collar. MacArthur gave his wife's mattress to Lt. Bostrom.

Not long after midnight on 17 March 1942, St Patrick's Day, two B-17's taxi out onto Del Monte airfield, which was again lit by two flares. MacArthur sat in the radio operator's seat. MacArthur's chief of staff, General Richard Sutherland, was squeezed into the bomb bay. Bostrom's overloaded B-17 Flying Fortress staggered into the air from Del Monte airfield with one engine spluttering.

MacArthur's four year old son, Arthur, was initially excited about his first air flight, but after some turbulence he soon became air sick. Arthur's Chinese amah, Au Cheu also travelled with MacArthur to Australia.

Their five hour flight took them over the captured enemy islands of the Celebes, Timor, and the northern part of New Guinea. Somehow they managed to avoid enemy Zero fighters.

When they reach Darwin,  they found that it was under Japanese attack, so they diverted to Batchelor airfield, about 50 miles away. They eventually disembarked from the aircraft at Batchelor at about 9 a.m. They are all very weary after their last few days of adventure. MacArthur told Sutherland "It was close, but that's the way it is in war. You win or lose, live or die -- and the difference is just an eyelash."

MacArthur asked an American officer about the buildup of troops in Australia to reconquer the Philippines. The officer told him, "So far as I know, sir, there are very few troops here." MacArthur was shocked by this and he said to Sutherland "Surely he is wrong."

The weary group ate a breakfast of canned peaches and baked beans. The General demanded a motorcade to the nearest train station - Alice Springs, a thousand miles away.

Jean, his wife, was totally exhausted and her son Arthur was so exhausted that he was on intravenous feeding. The doctors recommended against such a long desert drive with inadequate shelter and food.

Once MacArthur and his party arrived at Batchelor, they transferred to two Australian National Airways DC3's, just prior to an unexpected Japanese air raid warning. This lead to a rather bumpy and dramatic departure from Batchelor.  Again MacArthur was not happy and demanded to know the pilot's name from Sid Chamberlain. The pilot was Captain R. Carmichael, the Commanding Officer of the 435th Squadron. The exhausted party landed at Alice Springs some hours later.


"Wynnum B Graham" <wbg@bigpond.com>, who lives in Cairns, passed on the following information to me:-

On 5 April 1942, General Brett issued General Order No 37, wherein "By direction of the President" DFCs were awarded to five crews who took part in "an aerial flight against the enemy".  One of these crews was as follows:-

1st Lt Bostrom and seven crew. On 17 Mar 42 [sic] flew from Batchelor Field, to Philippines, returning to Australia with Gen MacArthur and his personal and official families.

Subject:   MacArthur Rescue
Date:          Tue, 18 Apr 2000 11:13:37 -0700
From:          panope@interisland.net (Bostrom, Pete)

My father, Frank P Bostrom, was the pilot of one of the B-17's on the MacArthur rescue. You have covered the operation in an outstanding manner. A couple of anecdotes you may not be aware of:

1)  Mattress- My dad always said the mattress was an ordinary tick mattress, that MacArthur slept on during the flight. He (my father) kept the mattress on the aircraft after the flight and he and his crew used it for rest for about six months until he left to return to the states.

2)  My dad had prematurely gray hair at the temples (he was 34 years old at the time of the mission), but the remainder of his hair was quite dark, almost black. During the time at Del Monte field, and on the aircraft, he did not wear his hat, so anyone who saw him would have noticed the dark mop. At Batchelor, he wore his hat and so only his temples were visible (the gray part). This probably accounted for Jean MacArthur's comment that the flight was so harrowing the pilot's hair turned white overnight.

It is with great pleasure that I found your site, and keep up the good work. You may or may not be aware of the WWII mailing list, which discusses WWII in general. Your knowledge and input would certainly be welcome. Please advise.

Unfortunately, my Dad passed on six years ago at the age of 86. He had a wonderful life and career in aviation flying airplanes from Jennies and P-1's to B-52's.

Frank P (Pete) Bostrom, Jr


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that rescued MacArthur and his party?

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This page first produced 20 April 2000

This page last updated 21 February 2020