Black Jack’s story really began in July 1942 when 41-24521 rolled off the Boeing assembly line in Seattle. She was one of a series of 300 early B-17Fs, and only three of them exist today: the Memphis Belle, now undergoing restoration at the Air Force Museum in Dayton, Ohio, Meltin' Pot, in the cold gray depths of Lough Foyle, Northern Ireland and Black Jack, lying deep in the warm waters off Papua New Guinea. They are all historical treasures, reminders of a time we will never see again.
In 1987 I had the privilege of going back to remote New Guinea with Ralph De Loach, the pilot who had ditched Black Jack all those years ago. We took a film crew with us and cameraman Russell Galloway created a magnificent pictorial record on 16mm film of the old B-17 in the water and Ralph De Loach's reunion with his rescuers.
That film was completed and shown on television 20 years ago but now, thanks to Justin Taylan of Pacific Ghosts, I have the privilege of introducing it to you, digitally re-mastered and enhanced for DVD.
In addition to the film, we’re honored to be able to include Justin Taylan’s interview with George Prezioso, the radio operator and probably last surviving Black Jack crew member. Justin took him to visit the Collings Foundation B-17G Nine-O-Nine in September 2008 and you’ll share his obvious delight as he climbs aboard a B-17 again.
It's been a long time, but it's good to know that Black Jack is still around. I hope you enjoy sharing the experience of Black Jack's Last Mission. Feel free to contact me, and enjoy the new DVD.
Author, Flying Buccaneers: The Illustrated Story of Kenney’s Fifth Air Force
(Doubleday, New York, 1975)