Mission No. “Aborted” – August 3, 1944

Ol' Gappy/Topper.   Ol' Gappy/Topper (#24-0003) is credited with flying the most missions of all B-17's: 157.  Most B-17's flew 60-80 missions, if they were not shot down or so heavily damaged that they could not be re-used.  Like most Flying Fortresses, Ol' Gappy ended its days at Kingman, AZ and was scrapped.

Ol’ Gappy/Topper

Ol’ Gappy/Topper (#24-0003) is credited with flying the most missions of all B-17’s: 157. Most B-17’s flew 60-80 missions, if they were not shot down or so heavily damaged that they could not be re-used. Like most Flying Fortresses, Ol’ Gappy ended its days at Kingman, AZ and was scrapped.

Target: None listed
Bomb Load: 20-250# G.P.
Gas Load: 1700 gallons
Briefing: 1300
Plane: H4003 (No Name) [see photo]
Position: None listed
T.O.: 1459 Land: 1835 Time: 3 hours, 36 minutes
Left Base: 1640 @ 19000′
Bombs Away: n/a
Distance: 500 SM (estimated)

Remarks: #2 engine blew two cylinder heads immediately after leaving field and was feathered. Unable to climb on three engines and were told to turn back. The target was flying bomb sites. Would have been very easy mission. Very disappointed.

[Note: This was the 379th Bomb Group’s 179th mission.]


21 responses to “Mission No. “Aborted” – August 3, 1944

  1. John Harlin

    July 1, 2012 at 3:48 pm

    A friend of mine, Orr Hill, who died several years ago was gunner on a B-17 named Topper. Its emblem was a top hat and cane and named for the movie character “Topper”. I was only nine years old when the war ended and my friend Orr was a next door neighbor. He often wore his flight jacket that bore the name Topper and the emblem. It also had 36 bombs painted on the back representing the number of bombing missions he was on.

    I would like to have a photo of the plane if one exists.

    • b17navigator

      July 2, 2012 at 1:05 am

      Hi John! There’s a photo of Ol’ Gappy/Topper on the 379th website here: You could also poke around their website for more information or even ask them for any information related to your friend, Orr Hill. I did a quick Google search on Ol’Gappy/Topper and had quite a few hits. There is also a Facebook group for the 379th Bomber Group. Search for USAAF 379 bg in Facebook. Often there are photos posted there. Richard Lewis has created a site that is collecting photographs of the nose art of the 379th’s aircraft. You can peruse that site here: Good luck on your search! I know there are photos out there!

    • b17navigator

      July 3, 2012 at 2:35 am

      Doh! Silly me! You could also pull the image off of this site or I can send this to you if you share your email. Thanks!

  2. Denny Miller

    May 29, 2013 at 2:10 am

    My dad, St.Sgt. Joe E. Miller flew 35 missions over German-held territory as ball turret gunner in ‘Topper.’ We buried him with honors last week. Denzil R. Miller

    • b17navigator

      July 4, 2013 at 1:48 am

      Denny, thank you for sharing. I am sorry for your loss.

  3. Pat Lilley McNett

    December 26, 2013 at 7:48 pm

    Ol Gappy/Topper was my fathers plane also. His name was Thomas E. Lilley. He flew a mission on August 4,1944 just the day after the aborted 3rd mission described here.. He was the radio operator. He flew 26 of his 31 missions on that plane. He kept a diary describing his missions also. Unfortunately I never knew of this diary until after he passed in 1985. Thank you for putting this information on the internet as too much of it gets lost with time.

    • b17navigator

      January 4, 2014 at 7:26 pm

      Thank you for visiting the website Pat! I’m sorry to hear about your father’s passing but happy to hear you have his diary! Hopefully you can glean some more information about his War experience from that, from websites like this and from other resources. If you haven’t found them already, you might consider becoming a member of the 379th Bomber Group Association: They do a lot to keep the history of this group alive and they have a nice library of items from the National Archives as well as veteran’s memorabilia. Ever year the association has a reunion where you can come and peruse their archives, meet veterans and their families, and participate in excursions to famous sights in whichever city they hold the reunion. The 2014 reunion will be in Memphis, TN. Hope to see you there!

      • Fred Thoman

        July 18, 2018 at 5:47 pm

        Apologies for butting in, but slowly but surely I am attempting to gather information about my father “FRED THOMAN”. He passed in 1957 while my Mother was 6 months pregnant with me.

        From the few photos I’ve found in his OD Green duffle (he is depicted surrounded by ground crew and flight crew) and his detailed notes on maintenance procedures of “Topper/Ol Gappy/ a.k.a Invisible Man” at Kimbolton Air Base, England. The few shots I have; reinforced by those matching them found on the internet, you can see the progression of “Mission bomb stencils” along the fuselage growing as well as his rank to M/Sgt (I assume crew chief at some point).

        I have a small box of his patches, insignias, ribbons as well as shrapnel chunks.
        His (government provided) burial headstone depicts having received a “purple heart” although I have not been able to ascertain how it was received.

        Years ago I attempted to find the plane, but sadly discovered that it evidently was unceremoniously bulldozed into the sand at Kingman in 1945.

        Hard to believe that a ship having its record 157 missions would simply be destroyed, with no surviving evidence.

        My dream was to travel to any surviving portion of the aircraft and perhaps touch the very surfaces that my Dad had once touched and maintained.

        I cannot help but imagine what images or artifacts “might” exist; yet to be discovered.

        Thank you for keeping such history alive!

        Sincerely, Frederick J. Thoman Jr.

      • Katherine Horton

        November 23, 2019 at 3:22 pm

        My name is Katherine Horton my father was Paul E Horton he was the pilot of Topper for 36 missions. He put the 130 mission on her as he always referred to Topper. I never heard Invisible Man referred to her. I have many pictures of the crew the maintenance and bomb loading crew. Also pictures of the missions flown and the bombings.. I am not sure if your dad is in any of them I would be happy to to share them with you. .my email is I would email them to you or make copy. Dad’s co pilot was named Gunderson

      • b17navigator

        November 25, 2019 at 11:34 am

        Hello Katherine!

        Thank you for the information! I would love to have copies of whatever you have so I can read through them! My email address is If the files are too large, let me know and I can create a Dropbox or Google Drive location for you to copy them into. Thank you for reaching out! I appreciate it! …. -m.

      • Dale Faro

        November 25, 2019 at 11:28 am

        Hi Fred. My cousin, Ellis Faro, flew on Topper/Old Gappy as Lead Navigator for the 379th BG. I think he was in the 524th Squadron. Like most veterans, he never shared info re: missions, but I know he was greatly effected by his experiences. The 8th Air Force museum in Pooler, Georgia had a lot of information and great displays.

    • larry munther

      November 28, 2014 at 6:37 pm

      Hi,I’m trying to get in touch with Pat Lilley McNett. Ifound a picture of Ol GAPPY with crew and would need help identifying. If you have her email , I’d love to contact her or she can contact me. Thanks so much, Larry Munther 973-214-3407

      • b17navigator

        November 3, 2015 at 8:23 pm

        Hi Larry! I’m sorry I do not have Pat Lilley McNett’s email. I’m also sorry that I am only now seeing your comment! I hope your quest has been successful in the past 12 months since you posted this…missy.

      • Liz mundell

        November 11, 2015 at 7:47 pm

        Hi I am pats niece I don’t have her email add handy but if you send it to me I will have her and my father look at the pic my email is thank you!!!!

  4. Tom Moreau

    December 28, 2013 at 10:43 pm

    My dad, Thomas P. (Phil) Moreau was also navigator in the 379th during this same time, and it looks as if he flew in many of the same missions as your dad. He died in the late 1990’s and is forever missed. I am so grateful for his service and that of all those who served with him.

    • b17navigator

      January 4, 2014 at 7:29 pm


      Thank you for visiting the website! I am sorry to hear about the loss of your dad. It sounds like you have some information about his service, which is great. So many do not have any information at all, with many finding out only after their loved one has passed. Are you aware of the 379th Bomber Group Association? You can find information here: They do a good job of keeping the memory of the group alive for future generations with a good library of National Archive photos and veteran’s memorabilia. Every year they have a reunion and it’s a nice opportunity to peruse the library, meet veterans and their families and participate in activities specific to the host city. The 2014 reunion will be in Memphis, TN. Hope to see you there!

  5. Dale E. Faro

    May 23, 2014 at 11:25 am

    My cousin, Ellis P. Faro, was the navigator on Topper/Ol Gappy for 12 of his 32 missions with the 379th BG 524th BS. He never shared any details of his experiences, like many WWII vets. Only some of the funny things that happened.

    • b17navigator

      June 1, 2014 at 6:19 pm

      Hi Dale! Thank you for sharing! I hope you were able to get a feel for his experience during the War through this website. Cheers!…missy.

  6. Katherine Horton

    December 10, 2015 at 5:54 pm

    My Dad flew 25 missions on “Topper” as the pilot. His name was Paul E Horton. He bombed Dredin his co pilot was Gunderson. he was shot out next to dad and survived. Dad never talked about his time in the war nor did he have the desire to fly again. I have his log book.

    • b17navigator

      February 24, 2017 at 9:20 pm

      Hi Katherine! You should share your dad’s log book! It’s amazing how many people find these pieces of history and enjoy reading them.

  7. Pat Lilley McNett

    January 23, 2017 at 9:49 am

    Larry, I hope you were able to find what you needed. I still struggle to find many pics of his plane. There is a color painting of the plane out there somewhere which I am trying to relocate! Glad my niece saw this and contacted you. My email is if you still need to chat.


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