B-17E Bomber “Swamp Ghost” returns home to U.S. 68 years after take-off


Recovered from a remote New Guinea crash site, the Holy Grail of military aviation is unveiled.

On Friday, June 11, more than 68 years after a B-17E Flying Fortress crash-landed in a New Guinea swamp, the surviving relatives of The Swamp Ghost were joined by salvage team members and aviation historians to welcome home the fallen aircraft and honor the heroes of World War II.

On Feb. 23, 1942, a B-17E Flying Fortress crashed in one of the most remote locations on Earth after participating in the first long-range U.S. bombing mission of World War II following Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor. The nine-member crew survived the mission, but damage from enemy gunfire and loss of fuel caused the pilot to crash-land the plane in a primitive swamp on the north coast of Papua New Guinea. After a harrowing six-week escape to safety, the crew returned to combat.

For the next 64 years, the bomber nicknamed Swamp Ghost slept beneath water and tall grass until it was salvaged in 2006 through a treacherous recovery effort. One of only four B-17E models ever recovered, Swamp Ghost will be restored, possibly to flying condition, for display at an aviation history museum in honor of America’s veterans. It is widely known as the Holy Grail of military aviation.

The Long Beach “welcoming committee” included surviving family members of the original Swamp Ghost crew and specially-selected individuals that were instrumental in the aircraft recovery efforts:

  • John Tallichet, Specialty Restaurants Corp. president and CEO, whose late father David Tallichet initiated recovery efforts in the mid-1980s and was a collector of World War II aircraft,
  • Alfred Hagen, Aero Archaeology founder and Swamp Ghost salvage team leader, who has helped locate seven missing aircraft and returned more than a dozen MIA airmen to the U.S.,
  • Linda Oliver, a Calif. resident and widow of aircraft bombardier Col. Richard Oliver, whose last wish was to see his warbird come home, and other surviving relatives of Swamp Ghost air crew.

(Swamp Ghost recovery and salvage photos courtesy of Aero Archeology)

The B-17E Swamp Ghost returned to Long Beach, landing in the Reef restaurant parking lot, 880 Harbor Scenic Drive. The landing spot was close the Queen Mary, a ship that also has historic connections to World War II. The Swamp Ghost welcome event included:

  • P-51 Mustang and P-40 Warhawk formation flyover above the Long Beach Harbor
  • Presentation of Colors by U.S. Air Force Honor Guard
  • Unveiling of the remarkably intact B-17E front fuselage recovered from the New Guinea swamp
  • Poster-size images of wreckage and recovery efforts

For additional information about the B-17E Flying Fortress or the Swamp Ghost salvage and restoration efforts, visit the Aero Archaeology website.

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