Union Pacific's B-17
The above link will take you to a photo of a B-17 lettered for "Spirit of the Union Pacific". The photo was taken on August 3, 1943. The names and job titles of the people in the photo make me believe the photo was taken at the Boeing plant in Seattle.
The men in the photo are, left to right: H. O. West, executive vice president, Boeing Aircraft Company; Walter Wilson, chairman Union Pacific War Bond Committee; F. W. Madden, representing Brotherhood Railway Clerks; John D. Bear, Brotherhood Maintenance of Way Employes; L. A. Collins, superintendent Oregon Division; D. W. Hood, Brotherhood Railway Trainmen and Arthur A. Murphy, assistant to president, Union Pacific.
In a follow-up news item in the September 1945 issue of Union Pacific's employee magazine, there was the following item:
"FATE OF U. P. BOMBER NOW REVEALED
"Omaha, Nebr.— With the war over, Union Pacific employes now can know the story of the B-17 bomber named in their honor—"The Spirit of Union Pacific."
"Back in 1943, the 65,000 employes of the railroad during May and June voluntarily increased their war bond purchases by an extra $379,000, in appreciation were given the privilege of christening a Flying Fortress.
"According to information recently released by the War Department "The Spirit of Union Pacific" was on her fifth mission when shot down October 10, 1943, in a raid on enemy installations at Munster, Germany.
"Most of the crew were taken prisoner, including the pilot, Capt. Robert B. Short of Los Angeles, a West Point graduate and former native of Norfolk, Neb. Others who parachuted to safety were Lt. Bud H. Hinckley of Rigby, Idaho, the co-pilot; Lt. Stolian, the bombardier; and Sgts. William M. Esseltine, Syracuse, N. Y.; Donald Armstrong, Binghamton, N. Y.; Frank Beckay, Cleveland, 0.; and Eugene A. Runser, Erie, Pa.
"The navigator, Lt. Hal K. Hughes of Dallas, Tex., and Sgts. Donald Lowrie, Hazelton, Pa., and Richard Grace, Glassport, Pa., were reported killed."
Here is a link to an image of the article. http://utahrails.net/images/up_b-17_follow-up.jpg
Based on this information, I've spent some time researching the airplane and the mission, but without much luck.
It appears that October 10, 1943 was one of the worst days for the loss of B-17 airplanes and crews, all during what has become known as "Black Week", which included the raid on the ball bearing factories at Schweinfurt.
I found a web site for the 100th Bomber Group that includes a listing of the 13 planes lost by that group over Munster on October 10, 1943. Of those 13 aircraft, two crews lost three men as killed in action. The planes were "Lena" aircraft 42-3433 LN-W, and "Slightly Dangerous" aircraft 42-30734 EP-G.
But these crew names don't match the news article. I found another reference that 8th Air Force put up 313 aircraft on that day for the raid on Munster.
I found a discussion group about the Munster raid, with one message stating that during "Black Week" at least 141 B-17s lost over the continent between October 8 thru 14, 1943. Twenty-seven lost on October 8; twenty-four lost on October 9; thirty lost on October 10; Sixty lost on October 14.
This means that of the 30 aircraft lost by the 8th Air Force on October 10, 1943, 13 aircraft came from the 100th BG alone in the raid over Munster.
John Bromley, curator at the Union Pacific museum in Council Bluffs, Iowa, wrote the following:
"As a side note about the bomber apparently this is not the plane originally intended to be the UP plane. The Army didn't want to wait on the plane for a ceremony so this a second plane that was lettered. In the haste to get it painted they omitted the word "employees." According to Army and Treasury Department instructions on naming bombers, they were supposed to be named for employees of organizations. They didn't want to delay delivery of this plane so it went out as shown. Reportedly it took off immediately after the photo session. This was recorded as the first named heavy bomber recognizing a railroad group."
If anyone can add to the above, I'd like to hear from you. Especially if you can help me find the aircraft number.
Don Strack http://utahrails.net/