The WWII Ghost Bomber That Mysteriously Landed Itself
In World War II it wasn’t rare to have air conflicts every now and then. In fact, it saw some of the biggest air conflicts in war history. During that time, a lot of pilots claimed to have seen Foo Fighters or UFOs, which is still debated today. However, the B-17 “Ghost Bomber” incident was a unique event everyone will remember.
When the mysterious bomber landed itself, the investigators had no idea what happened. What they found out was definitely something no one would ever expect. Is it really possible that it occurred? Can you believe something like this really happened?
1. An Unscheduled Plane Cutting The Sky
An allied base in Cortonburg, Belgium was a witness of an unexplainable event back in November 23, 1944. That day, three Allied anti-aircraft gun positions had to be cleared by an American B-17G bomber. But, it looked like the bomber was going to crash into them.
Because of the way the bomber flew and since it didn’t have its landing gear down, the soldiers on the ground thought the airplane must have been damaged, or someone of the crew were wounded. The 35,000 pound bomber was coming in fast from the sky on top of them.
2. Violent Landing
When the bomber barely cleared the gun position, it hit the ground with an extreme force. One of the wings were smashed into the ground and pieces of the plane were flying through the air.
Finally, the uncontrolled bomber stopped one hundred feet from the gun position. Witnesses were shocked because of what they saw, but they could never foresee what they were about to discover. When the bomber landed the engines were still running, and no crew emerged from the crashed plane.
3. No Crew
Time passed since the crash but still no one emerged from the plane. Another fifteen minutes passed without a sign of life and soldiers on the ground had no idea what to think. Nothing could explain what was going on.
Everything around the plane was suspicious, and after all, it was war and sneaky tactics have been employed daily by both of the sides. So, noone was ready to approach the plane and investigate the inside of the bomber while it continued spinning its propellers.
4. Investigating The Bomber
After the soldiers realized there is still no one coming of the bomber, they knew they had to start investigating. Major Crisp was the one that decided to search the interior and exterior of the aircraft.
He was very careful when he entered the fuselage as he was expecting to find dead bodies of the air crew. But what he saw inside was something that shocked everyone.
5. No Soul On Board
The Major Crisp looked everywhere and he saw clear evidence of recent occupation of the plane. There were half-eaten chocolate bars, but there was no trace of a living or dead person in the plane.
But the strangest thing he saw were twelve parachute packs that weren’t used at all. They were packed as if they were waiting for soilders to use them in times of emergency. This was very strange due to the fact that not a single soldier was found aboard the aircraft.
6. “The Phantom Fortress”
Now, Major Crisp wanted to explore the cockpit in order to find some clues that would reveal what happened to the crew. However nothing suspicious was found.
It still wasn’t explainable how the plane managed to fly and land itself. Major Crisp wasn’t an airman, so it took him some time in order to turn off the engines on the airplane. Nothing was clear about the bomber and the story of the mysterious aircraft nicknamed “The Phantom Fortress” soon began to circulate among allied forces.
7. The Investigation
Major Crisp reported the incident to his superiors, and a team was sent to investigate the case of the B-17G. The commanders feared the worst for the crew as they didn’t have a clue of what happened to them.
Investigators finally found out the planes serial number and identified the bomber as part of the 91st Bomber Group. This group operated out of East Anglia, England. So, now at least they knew where did the plane take off from.
8. Crew Located
The investigators were sure that the crew was on board at some point because of the litter that remained inside. Also, the cover to the Sperry bombsite was removed, which is a sign that a bombardier was on a bombing run.
Despite finding the parachutes unused, all men from the crew were found alive and well at an airbase in Belgium. Although they were all happy to hear the news about the crew, the story of the bomber seemed more and more mysterious. How did the plane end up there and what did the crew had to say about the event?
9. The Pilot of B-17G
The mission of the B-17G was to bomb the oil refinery in a city of Merseburg in the eastern Germany. The pilot of the famous bomber was an experienced airman – Lt. Harold R. DeBolt. The aircraft was flying normally to Germany, but when the bombing run started the problems arose.
Somehow the bomber couldn’t keep the altitude with the rest of the group, and as the bomber was lower than others it was a easy target to Germans. In fact, a German anti-aircraft fire opened up and hit the flying bomber with two hits. Strangely, the bombs weren’t set off by the direct hit and the bomber continued to fly.
10. Turning Around
However, the direct hit damaged their engine, making the crew lose one of the four engines that were keeping the aircraft in the air. The crew was in trouble as they were now flying low, alone and in an enemy territory.
Having the broken engine in mind, along the terrible weather and a lost bomber group, Lt. LeBolt decided to turn around and head towards the base in East Anglia, England.
11. A Second Engine
Even if Lt. DeBolt put as much power in the engines as he could, the bomber was still losing altitude. He tried not to panic and ordered his crew to drop all unnecessary, heavy equipment. Although the crew did just what he said, the plane continued to fall. Everyone was hoping they would make it to their airbase, but then suddenly the second engine stopped working.
That’s when the DeBolt decided that the best thing to do was to point the plane towards Brussels, near the headquarters of the 8th Air Force. He ordered the crew to take the parachutes and jump off the plane. Lt. DeBolt set the autopilot and jumped the last.
12. Plane Flying Alone
Although in WWII it wasn’t unheard that a plane flew by itself, it was still quite improbable to hear that a B-17G managed to fly on its own on only two functioning engines.
The crew watched the plane fly away into the clouds and lost sight of it. What they told the investigators was that they ditched the bomber near Brussels, Belgium, but that wasn’t enough to completely understand what happened. There were many discrepancies in the story.
13. The Biggest Question
Everything was unclear about this story: crew alive and well, parachutes unpacked, plane that flew miles by itself on half-engines, and many other discrepancies in the final report. No matter how hard they tried to understand what happened, the investigators could not explain one thing.
If everything happened just as the Lt. DeBolt said, how is it possible that an aircraft on broken engines made it to land almost precisely where it had to? It could have easily finished in the middle of the English channel. However, this discrepancy and the one of the unpacked parachutes still remained unsolved to this day.