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A Christmas Story

Contact Jack Bullington

27 December 1947

I was assigned duty of Co-pilot of B-17 3790 for a mission to BW-8, Thule, Eureka Sound, return to Thule, Resolute Bay, and return to BW-1. An attempt was to be made to pick up a body at Resolute Bay and take it to Goose Bay. If the weather was bad a Eureka Sound and Resolute Bay, para-drops were to be made.

I left BW-1 at approximately 1000, 22 Dec 47 and proceeded on an uneventful flight to BW-8. We refueled, loaded and unloaded cargo, ate dinner and departed for Thule. This leg was also uneventful. We refueled, ate supper and departed for Eureka Sound. As the weather was good there, we landed, picked up our cargo and left some, and returned to Thule. A cloud cover was encountered at Thule but a successful landing was accomplished. Again, we refueled, ate breakfast, loaded on the body of the Danish doctor and departed for Resolute Bay. This flight was also uneventful. Weather personnel at this station refueled our ship completely, the body of the Canadian was loaded aboard plus other cargo, and we departed directly for Goose Bay. The reason we decided to go to direct was due to the uncertainty of the weather in this locality during this time of year.

As Lt. Karney and I took turns at flying the plane, no straight account can be given by me or hour-by-hour events. No particular notice was taken of anything being wrong until we were supposedly over Goose Bay., as indicated by the Radio Compass, but we were unable to pick them up on VHF. We circled for a short while and then called Goose Bay on liaison for a QDM to the station. While awaiting the signal to transmit, Lt. Karney attempted a range problem, using command receiver, but as we were, or seemed to be, in the skip-distance of the signal, no good came of it. We then received a QDM from Goose Bay of 244. We immediately picked up this heading. (From the time we were supposedly over Goose Bay until shortly before landing, I was on VHF attempting to contact Goose Bay on Channels C and D for a DF, in accordance with their instructions. I also attempted to contact them on Channels A and B several times but no answer was ever received.) Some concern was voiced by Lt. Mann as to whether the heading that we had received was Magnetic or True. Goose Bay was contacted and we were told that it was Magnetic. Approximately one half hour after the first QDM was received, a new one was given as 238. We assumed this new heading. Soon after this we encountered low clouds which obscured the ground so we decided to skirt this area, as our gas was running low. If we had maintained the heading of 238 it would have been very difficult to make a safe landing.

At approximately 0945, we lost engine #1, due to lack of gas. Engine #4 went out soon after and we started down. Our landing area had been picked previously, the crew and passengers alerted, flaps were lowered, and we came in tail low, with engines #2 and #3 operating perfectly. Engines #1 and #4 were feathered.

The power settings used on the leg from Resolute Bay to point of landing were 28 inches and 2000rpm until about half an hour from our ETA. At this time, we put them at 30 inches and 2000rpm. Immediately after becoming uncertain of our position, the settings were changed to 25 inches and 1700rpm. At all times the fuel mixtures were set auto-lean, except in the climbs.

1st Lt. USAF