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Thread: B-17 41-2460 flown to Australia from Java - by whom?

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    Default B-17 41-2460 flown to Australia from Java - by whom?

    Hi guys

    I have contradicting accounts of this 'abandoned' B-17 being repaired at Andir (Java) and flown to Australia, sometime between 4-7 March 1942.

    I have seen a press report that 41-2460 had been repaired under the supervision of T/Sgt Harry Hayes, who then flew it to Australia (although he had no pilot training), while civilian pilot Gerald Cherymisin acted as co-pilot (but didn't actually take over the controls). I have seen another account that suggests that Cherymisin flew it to Australia, while a third account says that Dutch pilot Lt Sibolt Kok was aboard as co-pilot!

    Apparently Hayes received a Purple Heart (?) for his efforts.

    Can one of our experts provide clarification?

    Cheers
    Brian

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    Hi Brian,

    There are quite a few reports on this flight in the press.

    I noted there were a few sites which state that Gerald Cherymisin was a "Dutch civilian". Well, not unless Los Angeles County is in the Netherlands.

    15 April 1942 report in the Minneapolis Star has photos of each man as well as "They took with them three Dutch officials and eight women and children"

    This site says Cherymisin's wife was one of the passengers.

    A report in the Racine (Wisconsin) Journal Times from 13 April 1942 says "Neither Cherymisin or Hayes had ever taken a Fortress off the ground before but both had plenty of flying experience"

    And this little tidbit from the Richland Beacon News (Rayville, Louisiana) from 25 April 1942 says "both were seasoned fliers with Louisiana's Colonel Claire Chennault, the father of the American Volunteer Group in China"

    Regards,

    Dave
    Last edited by alieneyes; 7th December 2019 at 22:41.

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    Hi Dave

    Many, many thanks once again. The following is my reconstruction of events as related to "Yank" newspaper reporter Sgt J. Denton Scott, whose subsequent article appeared in the July 15 1942 issue, hence straight from the horse's mouth, one might say (note: edited by me):


    From Andir, an abandoned B-17E, which had been patched up, managed to get airborne. The driving force behind the effort to make the aircraft flyable was T/Sgt Harry Hayes, who had been in charge of repair and inspection at Andir. With the departure of the US bombers to Australia, he and his Dutch labour force had initially worked feverishly to repair an abandoned B-18, but this was then destroyed in an air raid.
    A party of American civilians had gathered at the airfield, one of whom was Gerald Cherymisin and his Dutch-born wife. The former miltary fighter pilot was currently a contract pilot who had been engaged by the Dutch to fly Lodestars from Andir. They had all hoping to get away on the B-18. Dismayed but not beaten, Hayes then turned his attention to the three wrecked B-17s. Having surveyed their condition he decided that, with help, one could be made flyable. Enlisting the help of some 60 Dutch airmen, two the aircraft were stripped of all useful parts and transferred them to the other machine, Hayes later related the story to Sgt J. Denton Scott, a staff writer for the US Army newspaper, Yank:

    "Within 72 hours the motors of the Flying Fortress were working. There was still plenty to do, though. The wings of the plane were in tatters. The tail was shot away. There weren't any wing flaps at all. In four days the big plane was repaired. It looked like a jig-saw puzzle imperfectly put together, but it looked as though it might fly. Everything in the interior had been stripped, parachutes, seats, everything. "We need the space," Hayes said. "Eighteen people take up a lot of room." He called the group before him. "I want you to know," he said. "that you are putting your lives in my hands. I have never flown a plane before. I don't know how long this plane will stay together. I can't even promise you that she'll get off the ground, or that 1 can get her off. If the Japs attack us while we're in the air we won't have a chance. If anyone thinks he or she will be safer here, he is quite free to stay."

    No one wanted to stay. Quietly, tensely, the passengers filed into the plane. Hayes started the motors, and one by one they coughed and burst into life. As they warmed Hayes studied the unfamiliar controls.

    "Unheard above the roar of the Fortress's four motors, seven Zeros dropped from the sky. Machine-gun bullets slapped the side of the plane and cut through the thin metal. The passengers huddled against the floor. Hayes' hand moved toward the throttle. Cherymisin stopped him. "For God's sake, Hayes." he said. "Don't take off now. They'll shoot us down like an October duck." Hayes waited. For ten minutes death hovered over the plane as the Zeros spat bullets at it. And then the Zeros, satisfied that they had done their job, disappeared toward the horizon. Hayes and Cherymisin surveyed the damage. It was negligible, and no one had been killed. But a bullet might have done something to the plane that wouldn't show up until it tried to take-off. No time to think of that now, though. The chance had to be taken. Hayes' hand moved forward on the throttle and the aircraft moved down the runway, gathering speed. It wobbled slightly as it moved, but it held together. Faster and faster. The aircraft lifted of the ground, came down and bounced. Once more Hayes hands pulled the controls back. This time the aircraft lifted, her engines wheezing,
    Minutes passed, and they were over the Sea of Timor. The sea was a black, foreboding face beneath them, and the sky was a darkness from which Zeros might swoop at any moment. The motors coughed unsteadily. Cherymisin, in the co-pilot's seat, his eyes on the horizon, offered navigation advice from time to time. His wife acted as observer. Without maps, without instruments, and at the controls a man who had never flown a plane before, the aircraft moved over the sea toward Australia. Hours passed, before north coast of Australia hove into view. But things weren't finished yet. The toughest job of all - setting the plane down - remained to be done."

    Unaware of where an aerodrome might be, they selected a beach on which to belly-land. The B-17 hit the beach hard, staggered, bounced and leveled off. Twenty people stepped out unhurt."


    Your further comments appreciated, Dave.

    Cheers
    Brian
    Last edited by brian; 8th December 2019 at 11:46.

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