B17 Bomber

B17E 'Bessy The Jap Basher'. On the 24th September 1942 this aircraft, along with three others, conducted a bombing raid in the Shortland Islands, the far western end of the Solomon Islands chain.  The bombers met strong opposition from Japanese Zeros.  Two of the bombers are believed lost at that location and  'Bessy" heavily damaged. Still managing to drop her bomb load and damaging a Japanese vessel, 'Bessy' turned and headed back to Henderson Airfield (Honiara). 

She continued to come under attack and was last seen descending smoking into the sea around Vilu, west of Henderson.  It is believed that at least the pilot and a gunner survived the crash, after which their fate is unclear other than remains were discovered in 1944 so they might have been captured by Japanese forces.  In January 1944 the US Navy Seabees salvaged the rear fuselage and tail section (what happened to that is not reported), so this site today includes the main wing and cockpit area. The dive is shallow at 14 to 18 metres deep and only 70 metres from shore and usually done as the second dive of the day after returning from the I1 submarine at Vasale. Though shallow it remains a colourful site and much can still be seen of the damage inflicted on 'Bessy'.

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