Hawaiian Air Depot Boeing B-17E Flying Fortresses, Part II

EPSON MFP image
41-2417 was named “MONKEY BIZZ-NESS”, this is a rather poor photo of her nose art before the lettering was applied in March of 1943. On the night of 22-23 March this Fortress performed one of the more unusual missions of the war, dropping two 2,000lb bombs into the Matupi Volcano in an attempt to cause an eruption and destroy the Japanese base at Rabaul.  The effort did not meet with success.
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A well-known picture of 41-2426 on New Caledonia, refitted with a ventral ball turret. She survived the war and was returned to the US for scrapping.
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Experts have debated whether 41-2428 “OLE” “SH’ASTA” wore a Hawaiian Air Depot scheme or not. She was in the right place at the right time, but no solid evidence.  Sometimes I’m a bit slow, even with the answer staring me right in the face.  I’m sure you guys will be a little faster than I was.
From this picture alone there is nothing conclusive offered either way. The starboard side of the nose is in a single color and there is no way to be certain exactly what color it is.  She is being fueled and armed with 100 pound bombs, and men from the armament section are busy fusing the bombs or adding shackles.  “Pith helmet guy” is inserting a nose fuse, as is the man in the foreground.  Note the position of the truck off the port wing, the fuel truck, and the bomb trailer in the lower right corner of the picture.

 

 

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The ordinanceman in the foreground of the previous picture now has both fuses in his bomb and is carrying it by the shackle to be loaded into the bomb bay of “OLE” “SH’ASTA”. The fuel line is on the ground.
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Now photographer Ralph Morse has shifted to the port side of the nose. “Pith helmet guy” is still inserting nose fuses, just as he was in the first picture.  The fuel line is in the foreground, bomb trailer in the background.  Looking at the port side of the nose of “OLE” “SH’ASTA” we have a clue – the area under the data block has been masked off and is in the factory Olive Drab, but the rest of the nose has been repainted a much lighter shade.  The data block also includes the aircraft serial number, unfortunately obscured here.
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Morse has shifted position again. The ordinanceman in the foreground of the last picture is moving his bomb to  be loaded, and “pith helmet guy” is now adding shackles to the bombs.  Now another clue is visible – the cowl flaps are in the factory standard OD/NG camo showing a previous engine replacement, which contrasts with the repainted cowling and nacelle.  Fueling is complete and the hose is being loaded back onto the truck.

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Two additional shots which show the same group of ordinancemen at work but do not include the aircraft.
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Finally, a distant shot showing a B-17 in a HAD scheme. The name is visible but not legible, and is consistent with the lettering on the nose of “OLE” “SH’ASTA”.  The bomb truck is visible in front of the starboard wing, the fuel truck has moved off, and the truck shown off the port wing in the first photograph is still in place.  41-2428 wore a Hawaiian Air Depot scheme!
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An additional picture in closing for today, showing the uncrating of a replacement engine. Several interesting details, but the one most relevant to the previous discussion is the factory colors on the cowl flaps.  Modelers and illustrators of HAD scheme Flying Fortresses take note!

2 thoughts on “Hawaiian Air Depot Boeing B-17E Flying Fortresses, Part II

  1. Wow. Great post. Good detective work. Interesting additional question, why were they “bombing up” at New Caledonia? Were they flying a combat mission from there or were they just moving on to another base and transporting a bomb load while making the transit. If they were doing the latter, you wouldn’t expect the bombs to be fused.

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  2. They were at Espiritu Santo, New Hebrides which was their operational base. In many of the pictures there are bombs just laying around everywhere. I was surprised by that. Also some of the bomb bay long-range tanks.

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