The Gray Ghost: B-17 Flying Fortress Wreck, Papua New Guinea

b 17 wreck new guinea  The Gray Ghost: B-17 Flying Fortress Wreck, Papua New Guinea(Image: Alf Gillman, reproduced with permission)
This remarkably intact Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress was one of 32 aircraft built for the Royal Air Force on a lend-lease agreement in 1942. But prior to delivery, the aircraft were reassigned to the 5th Air Force in a bid to cope with the demands of the Pacific theatre.   Hastily repainted in U.S. markings, this aircraft, later dubbed the Gray Ghost, made a spectacular crash landing near Black Cat Pass in Papua New Guinea in 1943.

b 17 port moresby  The Gray Ghost: B-17 Flying Fortress Wreck, Papua New Guinea(Image: U.S. Air Force, public domain)

The B-17’s final ill-fated mission saw it depart 7-Mile Drome (now Jackson International Airport) at Port Moresby to bomb a Japanese convoy off Lae. But anti-aircraft fire crippled the Flying Fortress, forcing pilot 1st Lt. Raymond S. Dau. of Arlington, VA to crash land the stricken plane on the grassy hillside. The crew were returned to Port Moresby, but radio operator Robert Albright, aged 19, sadly died from his wounds.

(Image: U.S. Air Force, public domain)

The Gray Ghost, which was issued the RAF serial number FL461 and flew 12 missions prior to crash landing, remains one of the most intact and accessible aircraft wrecks in Papua New Guinea. The B-17E’s weathered paintwork has since revealed the original RAF markings, giving rise to the urban legend that it was a British aircraft on a secret mission.  More information about the Gray Ghost can be found at Pacific Wrecks.

5 thoughts on “The Gray Ghost: B-17 Flying Fortress Wreck, Papua New Guinea”

    1. Crikey, don’t know how that one missed the edit! Thanks for bringing to our attention Stephen – much appreciated and nice to know someone reads our articles!

    2. Crikey, don’t know how that one missed the edit! Thanks for bringing to our attention Stephen – much appreciated and nice to know someone reads our articles!

  1. I’ve been a huge fan of the B-17 my entire life and the top photo is a testament to how remarkable the old girls were. Looking at that wreckage I find it incredible that anyone walked away from that crash. Thanks for the story!

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