The Mysterious WWII Ghost Bomber That Landed Itself
World War II fundamentally changed the landscape of the planet forever. Entire generations were lost to warm, famine, and disease. Great heroes rose from the ashes in order to fundamentally save the world in one of the most important conflicts of all time. While these points have all been broadly emphasized by history, there are also mysterious events that occurred, as well. WWII was a war fought on the ground, in the seas, and in the sky. It is to the sky that we turn our attention. Today, we are talking about the B-17 Ghost Bomber that landed itself, baffling humanity for all time.
An Unscheduled Visit
It was November 23rd, 1944 in Cortonburg, Belgium. At an allied airbase, soldiers were stunned when an unscheduled aircraft cut through their airwaves. The craft was an American B-17G, a bomber. The plane was focusing in on a trio of anti-aircraft guns and for all obvious intents and purpose, it appeared that the plane was going to crash.
Landing Gear Appear
Despite the B-17 barreling down on their position, soldiers were astute enough to observe that the plane had extended its landing gear. It was clear that the plane was no longer a direct threat. Instead, soldiers began to worry that the plane had been damaged by enemy fire and that it was going to need to make a rocky, emergency landing.
Descending To The Ground
The Ghost Bomber would just barely clear the mounted anti-aircraft guns, sparing the lives of the soldiers manning them. The 35,000lb bomber would instead hit the ground, landing gear first. The massive machine would begin to bounce and flail around, not unlike a boulder being rolled down a hill.
Trouble On The Runway
The propeller of the plane violently detached from the vehicle as it started to slow down. The landing had been a violent one, but it appeared that the craft had made it largely intact. What could have caused this plane to come barrelling through their airstrip without any prior scheduling? Who were the pilots that dared to even attempt such a thing?
Anticipation Begins To Grow
Not knowing who could be inside of the craft, the Allied forces on base were reluctant to approach the vehicle. After all, World War II was a dirty war. Neither side was averse to trying to trick the opposition. Was this a spy? Was this a trap? Was the airplane rigged to blow up? The soldiers on base merely stood and watched. Seconds turned to minutes and before long nearly half an hour had passed without movement.
Major Crisp Checks In
The most bizarre thing of all was the fact that the plane’s engine was still running. Major John V. Crisp, a British soldier, knew that he had to investigate. The engines on the plane were still spinning their respective propellers but there was no movement inside. Crisp cautiously began to circle the plane, looking for a way in.
An Empty Vessel
Crisp wasn’t a pilot and so he wasn’t sure how to get on board. However, Crisp and his crew eventually figured it out. What was inside shocked them! There was nobody on board. No living beings at all. Just a couple of half-eaten chocolate bars. Crisp stated in his report that there was ‘evidence of fairly recent occupation’. All 12 parachute packs were still aboard the craft.
The Phantom Fortress
The entire aerial fortress was empty. There were a few scribbled notes onboard, but nothing discernable. Certainly, there were no hints as to why this craft had landed on its own while completely empty. This obviously alarmed military personnel and soon word of the craft was shooting up the ranks.
Plane With No Name
An investigation soon commenced on the craft and people would be even more confused. The plane had no name. It took finding the serial number to identify the craft as a member of the 91st Bomber Group. This plane was supposed to be in East Anglia, England!
Finding The Crew
Soon investigators found out that the plane had taken off from East Anglia with a crew. But where were they? Inside the plane, there was evidence that there had been activity. The Sperry Bombsite had been removed which meant that the plane had recently dropped bombs.
Safe Back Home
Eventually, investigators would end up finding the crew. All ten of the plane’s crew members were safe and sound at an airbase located in Belgium. How did they get there? Why had their plane left without them? How did the craft land at an airbase all by itself? There were simply too many questions to be ignored.
Bombing An Oil Refinery
The mission of the B-17G had been to bomb an oil refinery in Germany. The British used American bombers located in England and Italy in order to bomb during the day. American bombers would fly in daylight in order to coordinate more precise drops. This is where things get even more curious. Crisp’s investigation of the aircraft unveiled a navigator’s log. On the log, there were two scribbled words: ‘Bad Flak’.
Taking Serious Damage
After investigating the crew, some facts began to come to light. Lt Harold R. DeBolt was the primary pilot of the plane and he was an experienced one, too. According to DeBolt, the plane had made it to Germany for its scheduled bombing run. Unfortunately, the plane took heavy damage from anti-aircraft guns.
Quickly Losing Engines
Despite the terrible weather, the plane still took heavy damage. Two engines quit working and it was then that Lt. DeBolt ordered his crew to throw all loose equipment out of the plane. The entire crew held up hope that the plane would make it back to base.
It quickly became apparent that the B-17G would never make it back over the English Channel. The plane was rapidly losing altitude and DeBolt knew that his team had to abandon the plane. He ordered his men to grab their parachutes. It was time to leave. The crew would jump out of the plane near Brussels, where they later would be found.
Miles Of Ghost Flight
The crew quickly lost sight of the plane and their expectation was that it would quickly fail and crash. After all, with no pilot and two failed engines, what else could happen? Instead, the plane flew by itself for miles on end, using only half of an engine.
More And More Questions
Despite everything working against the plane, the B-17G would make it to an airfield, where it would safely land. What confounds us more is the fact that the plane still had all of its parachutes onboard. The report was a mess and military officials still had no idea how it all happened. To make matters more interesting, all of the plane’s engines were reportedly working when it landed.
No Reported Damage
DeBolt and his team had abandoned their plane due to taking heavy damage from enemy fire. However, when Major Crisp recovered the vehicle, there were no signs of damage!
Mystery Of The Parachutes
Researchers of the mysterious ghost plane keep coming back to the parachutes. Why were they all onboard? Why was DeBolt’s story so vastly different than that of Major Crisp? Why was a badly damaged aircraft with no parachutes on board found in perfect condition, with all of its parachutes still there?
A Mystery For All Time
Despite how much press the Ghost Plane got, the mystery was never solved. In fact, there were plenty of stories about mysterious aircraft during WWII. Some credit these aerial mysterious to aliens, others blame secret government technology. The truth is, we’ll never know.