B-17E Aircraft, Serial Number 41-2497

"Tojo’s Nightmare"

Aircraft wreck
North and Cape York

Horn Island Airfield, Horn Island 4875

On 24 March 1942, a United States Air Force B-17E, 'Tojo’s Nightmare', crashed in mangroves off the coast of Horn Island in North Queensland whilst on approach to Horn Island Airfield, resulting in two deaths.


Originally assigned to 19th Bombardment Group, 30th Bombardment Squadron, it was later designated for transport duties with the 317th Troop Carrier Group, 46th Troop Carrier Squadron.

During November 1942, 'Tojo’s Nightmare' carried one U.S. Army howitzer, a tractor, ammunition and an eight man crew to 7-Mile Drome near Port Moresby from Australia. After delivery, the cargo was divided between several C-47s and flown to the north coast of New Guinea for use at Buna, New Guinea.

Whilst transporting troops on furlough to Australia, the bomber was making its final approach to Horn Island Airfield when the nose began to rise unexpectedly. It stalled, did a quarter turn flat spin from 250′ and crashed in about 4 feet of water in nearby mangroves.

One of the first at the scene was US Army Captain John D. Ewing. The crew was rescued by Americans and Australian personnel who cut a hole into the top of the bomber to remove the passengers. Australians from 34 Australian Heavy Anti Aircraft Battery and the 157 Australian Light Anti Aircraft Battery helped rescue those on board. 17 of the 18 on board received injuries and spent the night in the hospital until another aircraft took them to Townsville the next day. Two died from injuries sustained in the crash.

Remains of the bomber can stil be found in the mangroves, and in 1997, Australian members of the anti-aircraft units involved in the rescue revisited the island and crash site to pay tribute to those killed.


Seekee, V. (2001)."Horn Island: In Their Steps 1939–1945", pp199–200. Torres Strait Heritage