Fatal Attack on The Reckless Mountain Boys

A lone B-17 with Zeros in hot pursuit…


As Capt. Byron L. Heichel and his crew were gearing up for their reconnaissance mission over Kavieng, a Japanese military complex on the island of New Ireland,  on May 7, 1943, they were given a photographer and ordered to fly a photo-reconnaissance mission over suspected construction sites there. Unlike a typical reconnaissance mission, a photo-reconnaissance flight required multiple deliberate passes to get enough photo material. Heichel’s approach path was unchanged, however, and as a result Japanese coastwatchers 100 miles away from Kavieng warned personnel at the base of the incoming B-17.

Soon after THE RECKLESS MOUNTAIN BOYS finished the photo runs, tail gunner Pvt. Frank L. Kurisko alerted the crew to 6 Zeros in pursuit of the B-17. Heichel quickly ascended and headed out to sea in hopes of losing the fighters, but the crew was engaged in combat. The Fortress sustained several hits, including fires in the #3 engine…

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