Historical Article: Pacific Tramps

historical-article-pacific-trampsThe story of the B-17s that arrived over Hawaii during the Japanese attack has been told many times, but what happened to them?

By Steve Birdsall @ Aviation History Magazine

On December 7, 1941, 12 unarmed B-17s on their way to reinforce the Philippines arrived over Oahu to find Pearl Harbor and Hickam Field under attack.

Six, led by Major Truman Landon, were from the 19th Bomb Group’s 38th Reconnaissance Squadron. Two of them, Landon’s 41-2413 and 41-2408 piloted by Lieutenant Karl Barthelmess, were brand-new B-17Es. The other four were obsolescent B-17Cs that would never see combat again. Following were six B-17Es from the 88th Reconnaissance Squadron, 7th Bomb Group, led by Captain Richard Carmichael in 41-2429.

Carmichael decided to fly northeast, “just off the ground,” and try Bellows Field. At Bellows he encountered more chaos, and at Kaneohe and Wheeler too. With little choice left he turned into the wind, lowered the landing gear and flaps and, in a near stall, dragged the Flying Fortress onto the runway of the short auxiliary strip at Haleiwa. Lieutenant Harold Chaffin had landed there five minutes earlier in 41-2430. Lieutenants Robert Thacker in 41-2432, Harry Brandon in 41-2433 and David Rawls in 41-2434 braved Japanese and friendly fire to land at Hickam. Lieutenant Robert Ramsey, Brandon’s copilot, recalled “getting shooted at, muchly, by both countries.” Lieutenant Frank Bostrom in 41-2416 landed on a golf course at Kahuku. One B-17C was destroyed on landing and another dam­­­­­­aged beyond repair, but all eight B-17Es and two B-17Cs were safely down by the time the Navy issued orders to “cease firing on B-17s at­­tempt­­­­ing to land at Hickam.”

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