The Swamp Ghost

Aero Vintage Review - Swamp Ghost DVD
by Scott Thompson, November 2008 [ Read review on Aerovintage ]

Swamp Ghost: B-17E 41-2446 was timely in 2005 when it was released; it is poignant now in 2008. The primary feature on the DVD tells, in documentary style, the story of this unique airplane and freezes its status in 2005. The following year, in May 2006, the airplane was disassembled and hauled out of the remote swamp in Papua New Guinea, where it had laid since February 23, 1942. Looking at the context now, is the story going to end better or worse for the airplane now that it's out of the swamp but disassembled, in storage, and entangled in a minor international dispute with its fate undetermined?

In spite of what happened in the succeeding years, the story as told in the DVD is an amazing one and one worth viewing by any B-17 de-vo-teee. Directed and produced by the guy behind Pacific Ghosts, Justin Taylan, it is a professional effort that should be, or maybe has been, on the likes of the Discovery Channel. The DVD tells the story of the B-17 and its crew from December 1941 to 2005. Featured are the three surviving crewmembers out of the original crew of nine: bombardier Richard Oliver, navigator George Munroe, and engineer/top turret gunner Clarence LeMieux. They are interviewed about their first bombing mission of the war...on February 23,1942, from Townsville, Australia, to the harbor at Rabaul, and back. Their crash landing near the north coast of New Guinea was the first part of a six week odyssey to get back to their base through swamp and jungle. (Interesting to note the airplane was an early B-17E with the Sperry remote lower turret--not the Sperry ball turret--but no remote lower gunner was part of the crew...indicative of what the crews and the local air commanders thought of the turret.) Also told is Taylan's own experiences in trying to locate and examine the derelict and abandoned bomber in the early 2000s (date not given). This airplane was "rediscovered" by the RAAF in 1972, and was becoming a bit of a tourist attraction until it was removed. The DVD has much "in situ" video of Taylan and two other adventurers examining the airplane in the swamp...only eight miles but a two day soggy and treacherous journey away from the nearest settlement, unless you have a helicopter.

Also included on the DVD are special features, two of which are nose to tail examinations of the bomber from the outside and the inside...fascinating stuff and invaluable now since the airplane is no longer there. Another feature documents a 1974 visit to the airplane with photos to compare its condition three decades later.

This DVD is highly recommended for anyone with even a passing interest in B-17s, even more so as this airplane still survives and is bound for somewhere...but who knows where? The DVD can be obtained at the also excellent Pacific Ghosts website. Check it out for some of the other great information about this lesser-known part of B-17 heritage. What makes the internet the invaluble resource it is are websites like Pacific Ghosts...stuff you won't find anywhere else in or out of print.

          B-17E 41-2446 art by Jack Fellows via IHRP

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