3 Remarkably Intact B-17 Bomber Wrecks Discovered in Papua New Guinea

crashed-b-17-flying-fortress-wrecks-papua-new-guinea

Military¬†aircraft wrecks, especially those lingering from World War Two, are fascinating historical reminders of times of conflict and sacrifice. But few exist today, having been destroyed on impact, salvaged for scrap or looted by souvenir hunters. Those that do are often unrecognisable save for the odd rusting engine or twisted remnants of armour plating. In rare instances, however, a combination of successful crash landings and isolated locations has ensured the survival of some wartime aircraft. The three Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress bombers featured here were rediscovered in the swamps, mountains and ocean floor of Papua New Guinea decades after they were lost in action. While one, known as the “Swamp Ghost“, has since been salvaged, all remain remarkable historical monuments to those that flew them.

The Gray Ghost

b-17-flying-fortress-papua-new-guinea-gray-ghost (Image: Alf Gillman, reproduced with permission)

Arguably one of the most impressive World War Two aircraft wrecks still in existence, this B-17 Flying Fortress was bound for the UK under the terms of a lend-lease agreement. But Pacific Theatre duties saw it diverted to Papua New Guinea and hastily repainted in US colours. In 1943, piloted by 1st Lt. Raymond S. Dau. from Virginia, the bomber left Port Moresby to attack a Japanese convoy off Lae.

b-17-gray-ghost-papua-new-guinea (Image: Alf Gillman, reproduced with permission)

The B-17 was crippled by anti-aircraft fire leaving Dau with no choice but to put the aircraft down. The Flying Fortress crash landed near Black Cat Pass in Papua New Guinea, breaking its back amidships but otherwise remaining reasonably intact. The crew survived the crash but radio operator Robert Albright later died from his wounds. Later nicknamed the “Gray Ghost”, the B-17, with paint fading to reveal its original British markings, has become a popular tourist attraction.

 

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