(All images by Fred Hagen of Aero Archaeology, reproduced with permission)
When Captain Frederick ‘Fred’ Eaton, Jr crash landed B-17 Flying Fortress 41-2446 in the swampland of Papua New Guinea in 1942, he and his crew could never have imagined that, 70 years later, their aircraft would be on display at the Planes of Fame Museum in Chino, California.
Badly damaged in an attack by enemy fighters while flying over Rabaul township in East New Britain, the Boeing B-17E, nicknamed ‘Swamp Ghost‘ in reference to its resting place in the Agaiambo swamp of Oro Province, lay undiscovered until 1972.
The Flying Fortress had remained remarkably intact due to its isolated and tough-to-reach location. Salvage plans were drawn up in 2006 and the Swamp Ghost was moved to Lae wharf to await permission for its return to the United States.
On June 11, 2010 the aircraft was revealed to an excited public in Long Beach, California. The plane was reportedly set to move to the Pima Air & Space Museum in Tucson for restoration, but as of March 2011 remains on loan to Chino’s Planes of Fame Museum.
The Swamp Ghost was one of several B-17 aircraft to be discovered largely intact in the marshes and jungles of Papua New Guinea. Other impressive Flying Fortress wrecks still in evidence include the ‘Gray Ghost‘ and the sunken ‘Black Jack‘ (see thumbnails below).