Valentine’s Day Over Rabaul
"Got back this morning about 7.30 after a hectic, rough mission. Starting off, I got in prop wash at 100 ft. and luckily missed a hill. Arrived at the target 30 min. before bombing time, so decided to make a run over the town and throw out some small frag bombs & incendiary sticks. Made the run, and was just pulling out when they got me in the searchlights. A few seconds after that, an ACK ACK shell hit us, and went through the No. 3 engine supercharger, and up thru the nacelle. It got the oil lines and all control levers to the No. 3 engine. I feathered the engine, and waited my turn to bomb our area. We finally bombed, dropping 18 x 100 lb. wire wrapped daisy cutters, and 3 x 300 lb. Demo. Besides all the little stuff. We made our run and dropped the bombs thru the target area starting several small fires. When we started home, there were numerous fires - some of them visible over 60 miles away. On the way home No.2 supercharger went out, leaving about ½ the normal power, so we returned. Luckily on 2½ engines. My plane will be out for approx. 2 weeks so I'm going to try & get another".
- Harry Staley’s Diary, February 14, 1943
Every crew member on “Black Jack” that night was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for their actions. They went on to complete their missions, mostly in B-17F "Pluto" 41-24384. They never flew in B-17F "Black Jack" 41-24521 again.
THE STALEY CREW
Pilot: Captain Harry A. Staley, O-428427
Co-Pilot: Lt Everett C. Sunderman, O-725550
Navigator: Lt Joseph C. Wilfert, O-434007
Bombardier: MSgt Carl Christiansen, 6557693
Flight Engineer: TSgt George E. Dirr, Jr., 6668584
Radio Operator: SSgt Edward P. Welcome, 6913555
Ball Turret: Pfc Oliver M. Csontos, 12032005
Waist Gunner: SSgt George D. Browning, 15064018
Waist Gunner: Pfc William H. Donahue, 2020520
Tail Gunner: SSgt Gilbert R. Tredway, 15060318