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Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress, Frederick A. Johnsen. A well researched and illustrated history of the B-17, with a very strong section on its combat record, an interesting chapter on the efforts made to improve the aircraft (including a number of suggestions that didn't enter production) and a good selection of colour pictures of the aircraft. [see more]
The B-17 Yankee Lady is owned by the Yankee Air Force, doing business as the Yankee Air Museum (YAM), and was flown for flight experience rides and airshow appearances.
|Type||Boeing B-17G–110–VE Flying Fortress|
|Manufacturer||Vega Aircraft Corporation|
|Owners and operators||Yankee Air Force|
|Preserved at||Yankee Lady is owned by the Yankee Air Force, doing business as the Yankee Air Museum (YAM).|
8 April 1945In one of the most dramatic photographic images of World War II, “Wee Willie,” Boeing B-17G-15-BO Flying Fortress 42-31333, is going down after it was hit by antiaircraft artillery over Stendal, Saxony-Anhalt, Germany, 8 April 1945. (American Air Museum in Britain, Roger Freeman Collection.)
8 April 1945: Wee Willie, a Flying Fortress heavy bomber, left its base at Air Force Station 121 (RAF Bassingbourne, Cambridgeshire, England), on its 129th combat mission over western Europe. The aircraft commander was 1st Lieutenant Robert E. Fuller, U.S. Army Air Forces.
Wee Willie was a B-17G-15-BO, serial number 42-31333, built by the Boeing Airplane Company’s Plant 2, Seattle, Washington. It was delivered to the United States Army Air Forces at Cheyenne, Wyoming on 22 October 1943, and arrived at Bassingbourne 20 December 1943. It was assigned to the 322nd Bombardment Squadron (Heavy), 91st Bombardment Group (Heavy), 1st Air Division, 8th Air Force. The identification letters LG W were painted on both sides of its fuselage, and a white triangle with a black letter A on the top of its right wing and both sides of its vertical fin.
Boeing B-17G-15-BO Flying Fortress 42-31333, LG W, Wee Willie, December 1944. (U.S. Air Force)
On 8 April 1945, the 322nd Bombardment Squadron was part of an attack against the locomotive repair facilities at the railroad marshaling yards in Stendal, Saxony-Anhalt Germany. The squadron was bombing through clouds using H2S ground search radar to identify the target area. Antiaircraft gunfire (flak) was moderate, causing major damage to four B-17s and minor damage to thirteen others. Two bombers from the 91st Bomb Group were lost, including Wee Willie.
The Missing Air Crew Report, MACR 13881, included a statement from a witness:
We were flying over the target at 20,500 feet [6,248 meters] altitude when I observed aircraft B-17G, 42-31333 to receive a direct flak hit approximately between the bomb bay and #2 engine. The aircraft immediately started into a vertical dive. The fuselage was on fire and when it had dropped approximately 5,000 feet [1,524 meters] the left wing fell off. It continued down and when the fuselage was about 3,000 feet [914.4 meters] from the ground it exploded and then exploded again when it hit the ground. I saw no crew member leave the aircraft or parachutes open.
This photographic image precedes the one above. The Boeing B-17G-15-BO Flying Fortress 42-31333, Wee Willie, is engulfed in flame. The left wing has separated and is crossing over the fuselage. (American Air Museum in Britain)
The pilot, Lieutenant Fuller, did escape from the doomed bomber. He was captured and spent the remainder of the war as a Prisoner of War. The other eight crew members, however were killed.
1st Lieutenant Robert E. Fuller, O-774609, California. Aircraft Commander/Pilot—Prisoner of War
2nd Lieutenant Woodrow A. Lien, O-778858, Montana. Co-pilot—Killed in Action
Technical Sergeant Francis J. McCarthy, 14148856, Tennessee. Navigator—Killed in Action
Staff Sergeant Richard D. Proudfit, 14166848, Mississippi. Togglier—Killed in Action
Staff Sergeant Wylie McNatt, Jr., 38365470, Texas. Flight Engineer/Top Turret Gunner—Killed in Action
Staff Sergeant William H. Cassiday, 32346219, New York. Ball Turret Gunner—Killed in Action
Staff Sergeant Ralph J. Leffelman, 19112019, Washington. Radio Operator/Top Gunner—Killed in Action
Staff Sergeant James D. Houtchens, 37483248, Nebraska. Waist Gunner—Killed in Action
Sergeant Le Moyne Miller, 33920597, Pennsylvania. Tail Gunner—Killed in Action
In the third photograph of the sequence, Wee Willie has exploded and fragments of the wings and fuselage streak downward in flame. (American Air Museum in Britain, Roger Freeman Collection)
Wee Willie was the oldest B-17G still in service with the 91st Bomb Group, and the next to last B-17 lost to enemy action by the group before cessation of hostilities. The War in Europe came to an end with the unconditional surrender of Germany just 30 days later, 7 May 1945.
Boeing B-17G-15-BO Flying Fortress, LG W, “Wee Willie,” and its flight crew at Air Force Station 121, RAF Bassingbourne, 12 February 1944. The bomber is still nearly new, having flown 6 combat missions, 31 January 1943–3 February 1944, when it was damaged by anti-aircraft artllery over Wilhelmsahaven, Germany. “Wee Willie” was out of action until 20 February 1944. Standing, left to right: 1st Lt. John A. Moeller, co-pilot 2nd Lt. Harry Lerner, navigator S/Sgt Robert Kelley, waist gunner S/Sgt Martin, ball turret gunner Lt. Joe Gagliano, bombardier 1st Lt. Paul D. Jessop, pilot. Kneeling, left to right: S/Sgt MacElroy, waist gunner S/Sgt Shoupe, radio operator S/Sgt Southworth, engineer/top turret gunner and S/Sgt Joe Zastinich, tail gunner. Waist gunner S/Sgt Henry F. Osowski was wounded on the Wilhelmshaven mission and is not in this photograph. (American Air Museum in Britain) During the 129 missions “Wee Willie” flew in its 1 year, 3 months, 20 days at war, many airmen served as its crew members. The men in this photograph are not identified, and the date it was taken is not known. A battle-scarred veteran, “Wee Willie” now has markings showing 106 missions completed. These men are representative all the aircrews who fought and died in the skies over Europe. The officer kneeling in the front row, right, has been identified as 2nd Lieutenant Jess Ziccarello, the navigator for this crew. Lieutenant Colonel Ziccarello passed away 2 October 2019 at the age of 96 years. Thanks to his son, Rick Ziccarello, for the identification. (American Air Museum in Britain)
On July 28, 1935, a four-engine plane took off from Boeing Field in south Seattle on its first flight. Rolling out of the Boeing hangar, it was simply known as the Model 299. Seattle Times reporter Richard Smith dubbed the new plane, with its many machine-gun mounts, the &ldquoFlying Fortress,&rdquo a name that Boeing quickly adopted and trademarked. The U.S. Army Air Corps designated the plane as the B-17.
In response to the Army&rsquos request for a large, multiengine bomber, the prototype, financed entirely by Boeing, went from design board to flight test in less than 12 months.
The B-17 was a low-wing monoplane that combined aerodynamic features of the XB-15 giant bomber, still in the design stage, and the Model 247 transport. The B-17 was the first Boeing military aircraft with a flight deck instead of an open cockpit and was armed with bombs and five .30-caliber machine guns mounted in clear &ldquoblisters.&rdquo
The first B-17s saw combat in 1941, when the British Royal Air Force took delivery of several B-17s for high-altitude missions. As World War II intensified, the bombers needed additional armament and armor.
The B-17E, the first mass-produced model of the Flying Fortress, carried nine machine guns and a 4,000-pound bomb load. It was several tons heavier than the prototypes and bristled with armament. It was the first Boeing airplane with the distinctive &mdash and enormous &mdash tail for improved control and stability during high-altitude bombing. Each version was more heavily armed.
In the Pacific, the planes earned a deadly reputation with the Japanese, who dubbed them &ldquofour-engine fighters.&rdquo The Fortresses were also legendary for their ability to stay in the air after taking brutal poundings.
Seventy-five years after the B-17&rsquos first flight, an 88 year-old veteran sent The Boeing Company a letter. After explaining how he returned to England after a bombing raid over Germany with 179 flak holes and only two out of the four engines, he wrote: &ldquoI&rsquom glad to be alive. Thank you for making such a good airplane.&rdquo
Gen. Carl Spaatz, the American air commander in Europe, said, &ldquoWithout the B-17 we may have lost the war.&rdquo
Boeing Plant 2 built a total of 6,981 B-17s in various models, and another 5,745 were built under a nationwide collaborative effort by Douglas and Lockheed (Vega). Only a few B-17s survive today, featured at museums and air shows most were scrapped at the end of the war.
The Crewmembers of The Belle
The crew of the Belle consisted of both steady members, and temporary members. In addition to the missions above, the crew would also fly 5 other missions in other aircraft, due to aircraft availability. those missions were as follows: February 4th, 1943 over Emden, Germany in B-17 41-24515 “Jersey Bounce” February 26th, 1943 over Wilhelmshaven, Germany in B-17 41-24515 April 5th, 1943 over Antwerp, Belgium in B-17 41-24480, “Bad Penny” & May 4th, 1943 over Antwerp, Belgium, in B-17 41-24527, “The Great Speckled Bird”.
Flying the Belle, was Captain Robert K Morgan. Born in 1918, Morgan not only flew the Belle for 25 successful missions, but he went on to continue to fight. Following a promotion to Lt Colonel, he would continue to fly B-29 Superfortresses over Japan in the Pacific theatre of the war, completing 26 missions, including the first B-29 mission over Japan. Morgan passed away in 2004.
Captain James A. Verinis was the Co-pilot for the Belle. Born in 1916, Verinis initially started out training to fly fighters, but ultimately would have difficulties and bad luck, driving him to fly B-17 bombers. After his time with the Belle, Verinis would continue to fly B-17s, becoming command pilot for a plane of his own, “The Connecticut Yankee”. Jim was also the crewmember who purchased the crew’s mascot, A Scottish-Terrier named “Stuka”. Verinis passed away in 2003
Captain Charles B. Leighton served as Navigator to the Belle. Born in 1919, Leighton would later go on to serve as a teacher and school counselor, utilizing his degree in Chemistry. Among his accomplishments, Leighton would save the Belle and additional B-17’s after identifying false German radio beacons that were designed to lure unwary B-17s into a trap. Leighton passed away in 1991.
Captain Vincent B. Evans served in the crucial role of Bombardier. Born in 1920, Evans was an incredibly skilled bombardier, and would often be the reason the Belle was chosen to be lead aircraft in formation. Evans would continue to serve, electing to serve another tour of duty along with Morgan in B-29’s. Following the war, he would go on to do many things in Holwood, and even drive race cars. Evans passed away in 1980.
Tech Sergeant Robert Hanson served as Radio Operator. Born in 1920, He was famously photographed kissing the tarmac following the 25th mission. Known for his luck, Hanson carried a lucky rabbits foot with him on every flight. In one instance, when the tail was shot off, the resulting dive nearly sent him out of the aircraft, however, he survived. At another point Hanson sneezed into his logbook, only to have bullets fly through where his head had just been. He kept the bullet ridden log book until his death in 2005.
Staff Sergeant Cecil Scott served as Ball Turret Gunner. “From down there I could see everything”. Born in 1916, Scott fired at a many German fighters and achieved one “Damaged” credit, despite the high likelihood of having shot down multiple aircraft, the criteria for a “kill” requires a witness to the event. Following the war, Scott spent 30 years with the Ford Motor Company, Scott passed away in 1979
Sergeant John P. Quinlan served as tailgunner for the Belle. Born in 1919, JP scored 2 German fighter kills from the rear of Memphis Belle, and would later score even more kills from the tail of a B-29, downing 3 Japanese Zeroes before his B-29 went down. He landed in occupied territory and was captured by the Japanese, only to escape and make his way to Chinese territory. He carried his lucky horseshoe for all 25 missions. Quinlan passed away in 2000.
Tech Sergeant Clarence “Bill” Winchell, served as Left Waist Gunner. Born in 1916, Winchell kept a diary of his time with the Belle, it was this diary that formed much of the account of the Belle. Winchell notably had an astigmatism in one eye, earning him the nickname of the “one eyed gunner”. He managed to pass the eye exams, only by having a copy of the eye chart swiped, for his memorization. Winchell passed away in 1994.
Staff Sergeant Emerson Scott Miller served as the Belles Right Waist Gunner for most of the Belle’s lifespan. Born in 1919, Miller would ultimately fly 15 missions on the Belle, however he did not partake in the War Bonds tour because he had not yet completed the 25 missions necessary to go home himself. He is often referred to as “The Lost Crewman”, because following the war he disappeared from the public eye. Miller passed away in 1995.
Staff Sergeant Casimer “Tony” Nastal also served as the right waist gunner for the Belle, replacing Miller, but only serving one mission. Born in 1923, Nastal was the Belle’s youngest crew member, at only 19 years old. By the time he had been assigned to join the crew, he had already flown 24 missions on other bombers. Following a brief tour with the Belle, Nastal returned to the war to fly another 24 missions. Nastal passed away in 2002.
Staff Sergeant Leviticus “Levy” Dillon served as the Belle’s first flight engineer & top turret gunner. Born in 1919, Dillon would serve on Belle for her 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and 5th missions. On his 3rd mission, he was shot in the leg, and was subsequently bandaged by Fred Astaire’s sister. He never reported the injury. Ultimately a disciplinary issue he claims he did not partake in, but kept quiet as to who did, involving an an officer resulted in him being demoted and transferred to the 306th Bombardment Group following the 5th mission. He would quickly regain his rank. Dillon passed away in 1998.
Tech Sergeant Eugene Adkins served as the Belle’s second flight engineer & top turret Gunner. Born in 1919, Adkins ultimately served on the Belle for 6 missions, taking the place of Levy Dillon following his transfer to another squadron. Adkins would ultimately be replaced on the crew due to frostbite. Following the war, he returned to ultimately become an officer and a pilot of strategic jet bombers such as the B-50, B-36 and B-52, retiring as a Major. Adkins passed away in 1995.
Staff Sergeant Harold P. Loch served as Belle’s 3rd flight engineer and top gunner. Born in 1919, Loch initially served in the 324th Bomb Squadron, and would replace Adkins as flight engineer and top gunner in Feb of 1943. Loch would remain with the Belle for the remainder of her combat flights, and her subsequent War Bond tour. He would not return to the war, and would later continue into the construction business, initially as a contractor, later in real estate. Loch passed away in 2004.
Master Sergeant Joseph Giambrone, Memphis Belle’s Crew Chief. Born in 1918, Joseph would keep the Belle flying for 6 months during her arduous combat time. He even set records by changing a B-17 engine in 4 hours. He painted the bombs after each mission, and he replaced and rebuilt many of her parts to keep her flying. After Belle left for home, Giambrone went on to serve as crew chief for another embattled B-17, Yankee Doodle. Giambrone passed in 1992.
Boeing B-17G Flying Fortress
The B-17 was primarily used by the USAAF in the daylight strategic bombing campaigns of World War II. The Evergreen B-17 has an interesting post WWII history.
- Wing Span 103 feet, 9 inches
- Length 74 feet, 9 inches
- Height 19 feet, 1 inch
- Empty Weight 36,135 pounds
- Max Weight 72,000 pounds
- Power Plants 4x 1,200 hp Wright R-1820-97 Engines
- Armament Armament
- Crew 10
- Max Speed 250 mph
- Service Ceiling 35,000 feet
- Range 2,400 miles
In 2015, the Evergreen Aviation and Space Museum in Oregon sold their B-17G Flying Fortress to help the Museum during a restructuring and reorganization. The Collings Foundation acquired this aircraft through the generous support of donors. At that time, a crew of mechanics and pilots were sent to the Museum to prepare the aircraft for a ferry flight from Oregon to Florida. After several weeks of preparation, the Evergreen B-17 made a flawless flight across the country to American Aero Services in New Smryna Beach, Florida. A thorough restoration has been underway to restore the aircraft back to its original WWII B-17G model configuration.
The new B-17G will replace “Nine O Nine” that was lost in an accident. While similar to the beloved “Nine O Nine” in form and function, this B-17 (“639”) has a fascinating (and clandestine) history.
When the war ended, many new B-17Gs were being flown directly to long term storage, sold, or even scrapped. The postwar military found varied uses for B-17Gs. For example, our B-17 “Nine 0 Nine” had been re-designated as a TB-17H or “Training Bomber” before becoming an SB-17G sea rescue aircraft with a Higgins lifeboat attached to the underside. Later, it became an A-bomb target and finally a civilian owned fire bomber. The B-17G from Evergreen Museum has a story that is even more complicated. While the US Air Force was getting into pressurized bombers and jet aircraft, large numbers of flying B-17s were doing dangerous atomic research work or else being expended as targets called QB-17Gs. Their durability and utility also allowed other Air Force units to operate the B-17s in special roles. These missions included surveillance and agent insertion, as well as clandestine “eaves dropping” patrols near and over hostile territory. During the 1950’s and 1960’s penetration of the Iron Curtain was an important goal for the CIA. Flush with money and political power, the CIA found the B-17 a stalwart platform for difficult missions into Soviet airspace.
The CIA found another use for the B-17s in China. In 1951, a company called Western Enterprises Inc. of Taiwan was created to advance U.S. interests. Using crews sourced from Civil Air Transport (CAT) of Taiwan, five B-17s entered service and began training for missions over mainland China. Between 1954 and 1959, CIA Operations flew these few B-17s extensively over the Chinese mainland. Because they were not supposed to be there, CIA operatives “sanitized” the planes, preventing them from being identified as US military aircraft. Serial numbers and data plates were removed, and their USAF military records were ended with an LI code or (loss to organization outside the USAF). These B-17’s were painted flat black and identified by three digit serial numbers. They had racks installed in which a serial number could be switched by sliding in a new number plate. Our new B-17 is the sole survivor of these five special mission aircraft that fought in the Cold War. It is a veteran of an unknown number of dangerous missions over mainland China hiding from Mig 17s a survivor of secret Cold War aerial combat! The five CAT B-17Gs were numbered “739”, “357”, “815” and “835” and “639”(Evergreen’s B-17). During these dangerous missions three were shot down by the PLAAF or PLA (People’s Liberation Army Air Force).
• “739” lost over Fujian May 26, 1954 by AAA, crew of four killed.
• “357”shot down over Jiangxi on June 23, 1956 by a PLA Mig 17, eleven killed.
• “815” shot down over Guandong May 29, 1959 by a Mig 17PF, fourteen killed.
The fourth surviving B-17 CAT “835” was given to Air America in August 1960. The fifth B-17 known as “639” was later identified as 44-85531 and ended up at Clark Field, Luzon in the Philippines. It is believed this veteran of secret Chinese over-flights was retired between 1958 and 1960.
After 15 years outside the continental US, the B-17 “639” was brought back to California. While in Burbank she was modified to carry the Fulton Skyhook (picture bottom), a system designed to recover agents and material from places that could not be reached by helicopter or STOL aircraft. Seen in action during the 1965 movie “Thunderball,” a B-17 with a similar Skyhook snatches James Bond and Domino Vitali from a raft in the closing scene (see picture on left). This modification came just three years after a real intelligence caper that truly was movie worthy: the execution of “Operation Coldfeet” during 1962. Two agents parachuted down to an unattended floating Soviet Drift Station NP8 in the Arctic Ocean. After removing research equipment, they returned to the B-17 via a Fulton pickup with secret information from the clandestine floating Soviet station.
In 1962 the plane was registered to Intermountain Aviation, another CIA front company. This B-17 was used sparingly until 1969. During that year she was converted to an air tanker, then used as a firefighter until 1985. Trying to distance itself from the company’s CIA roots, Evergreen repainted and eventually re-registered N809Z as N207EV.
Restored as a B-17G with a full set of turrets, N207EV was flown for a few years before moving to the Evergreen Museum in Oregon for display. Now transferred to the Collings Foundation, this B-17 will undergo a detailed inspection and restoration to flight-worthy status. This unique B-17 will be a fantastic addition to the National Wings of Freedom Tour, and further the outreach of the Collings Foundation.
22 Gut Wrenching Images Of Bombers That Didn’t Make It Home
Douglas A-20J-10-DO (S/N 43-10129) of the 409th or 416th Bomb Group after being hit by flak over Germany. It burst into flames and crashed a mile west of the target. Two chutes were seen to come out of the plane. Its crew was 1st Lt Robert E. Stockwell, pilot, 2d Lt Albert Jedinak, bombardier-navigator, S/Sgt Hollis A. Foster and S/Sgt Egon W. Rust, gunners. Lt Stockwell had been with the Group almost from the beginning of its existence.
The strategic bombing campaign during WWII cost the lives of roughly 160,000 Allied airmen and 33,700 planes in the European theater alone.
When looking at the RAF, of 7,374 Lancasters built during WWII, 3,349 would be lost in action and the crew had only a one-in-five chance of escaping. For the B-17 crews that number was slightly better, the B-17 had more emergency exits and they had a 3 in 5 chance to make it out.
Not even one in four US airmen completed the 25 missions over Germany needed to be sent home. That number was eventually raised twice, first to 30 and then to 35 missions.
Regardless of how you feel about the methods used and the goals set, the bravery of the pilots is amazing, getting into their airplanes for a mission knowing the odds.
Wherever possible we have added information to the images about the crews fate. Please note that the reason there are so few RAF pictures in the series is that they flew night missions.
B-17 Flying Fortress 486th BG Merseburg Lutzkendorf November 1944
B-24H Liberator 42-94812 “Little Warrior” of the 493rd BG, 861st BS hit by flak over Quakenbrück Germany – June 29, 1944. One crewman managed to bail out safely but was killed by civilians on the ground.
A U.S. Army Air Forces Martin B-26G-11-MA Marauder (s/n 43-34565) from the 497th Bombardment Squadron, 344th Bombardment Group, 9th Air Force, enveloped in flames and hurtling earthward after enemy flak scored a direct hit on the left engine while aircraft was attacking front line enemy communications center at Erkelenz, Germany.
B-17 Flying Fortress Bomber in Flames
The U.S. Army Air Force Consolidated B-24L-10-FO Liberator, s/n 44-49710, named “STEVENOVICH II”, of the 779th Bombardment Squadron, 464th Bombardment Group, shot down by Flak during an attack on ground troops near Lugo, Emilia Romagna, Italy, on 10 April 1945.
Boeing B-17G Wee-Willie 42-31333 LG-W, 323th squadron of 91st bombing group, over Kranenburg, Germany, after port wing blown off by flak. Only the pilot, Lieutenant Robert E. Fuller, and one crewmember survived.
A B-24M of the 448th Bombardment Group, serial number 44-50838, downed by a Messerschmitt Me 262 jet fighter.
With one wing gone, a B-29 falls in flames after a direct hit by enemy flak over Japan.
B-17G Fortress “Mizpah” took a direct AAA hit in the nose on mission to Budapest, 14 Jul 1944. 2 were killed instantly but the pilot held her level long enough for crew to get out & become POW’s. The aircraft crashed near Dunavecse, Hungary
B-24 Liberator in flames not far from Vienna. The crew did not survive.
B-17 Bomber Going Down 490th Bomb Group – Monheim Germany
B-17G Fortress ‘Miss Donna Mae II’ drifted under another bomber on a bomb run over Berlin, 19 May 1944. A 1,000 lb bomb from above tore off the left stabilizer and sent the plane into an uncontrollable spin. All 11 were killed
Aerial Photo B-24 Liberator Shot Down Over Germany 1944
Crew bails out of damaged B-17F Fortress “Patches” at 22,500 feet over Wiener Neustadt, Austria, 10 May 1944. 8 of the crew became POWs and the other 2 were killed. Note 2 right engines feathered
B-24 Bomber Flak Damage, it would not make it home
The crash sequence of a U.S. Army Air Force Douglas A-20G-25 Havoc (s/n 43-9432) during an attack on Kokas, Papua New Guinea, on 22 July 1944. Twelve A-20s from the 387th Bombardment Squadron, 312th Bombardment Group attacked the Japanese barge depot and seaplane station at Kokas. 43-9432 (tail code “V”) was part of the last flight over the target.
This section was led by Captain Jack W. Klein (taking the photos), followed by 2nd Lt. Melvin H. Kapson (the other aircraft visible) and 1st Lt. James L. Knarr. Approaching from the inland side, they dropped 115 kg bombs which can be seen exploding in the background. Knarr’s aircraft was hit by antiaircraft fire and crashed into the bay, exploding when it the sea. He and his gunner, SSgt Charles G. Reichley, were killed.
Allied B-17 of the 836th Squadron 10 April 1945. Cannon shells from a German Me262 ripped into it’s tail, perforating the vertical stabilizer & inboard right wing panel. Fire in No 3 engine, flames swept back to the tail. Peeled off shortly afterwards and dropped behind. Crew bailed out at RP, 7 miles West of Elbe River. Later right wing came off.
A direct hit by FLAK on a RAF Lancaster bomber in 1945
Handley Page Halifax B Mark III, LW127 ‘HL-F’, of No. 429 Squadron RCAF, in flight over Mondeville, France, after losing its entire starboard tailplane to bombs dropped by another Halifax above it. LW127 was one of 942 aircraft of Bomber Command despatched to bomb German-held positions, in support of the Second Army attack in the Normandy battle area (Operation GOODWOOD), on the morning of 18 July 1944. The crew managed to abandon the aircraft before it crashed in the target area.
B-24H Liberator bomber of 783rd Bomb Squadron, 465th Bomb Group, US 15th Air Force exploding in mid air after being hit by anti-aircraft fire over Germany, 1944
B-24J Liberator of the 854th Bomb Squadron after being hit by light-flak during low-level supply drop for the 82nd and 101st Airborne near Eindhoven, Holland and driven into the ground, Sep 18 1944.
After World War II, B-17s were used for other military purposes including photo-mapping, atmospheric nuclear weapon testing drone control, fighting forest fires, and other civilian purposes.
There are 2 seats in the nose section: The bombardier seat at the front of the compartment and the navigator seat immediately behind. Passengers are requested to swap seats during the flight so that each passenger may experience either takeoff or the landing in the bombardier’s seat. Passengers in the bombardier/navigator compartment are restricted to that compartment during the flight. Flight time is approximately 20 minutes in the air.
There are 3 seats in the radio room and 3 seats in the waist compartment. In flight, passengers are allowed to move around in these two compartments and enjoy the view through the waist gunners position. Passengers in the radio room/waist compartments are restricted to those two compartments during the flight.
Flight Time is approximately 20 minutes in the air.
Number of Passengers: 8
Price: $425 for Radio Room/Gunner seats (6 total) $850 for Bombardier seats (2 total) – highly coveted in the nose of the airplane enclosed in see-through plexiglass.
Accessibility: Please see disclaimer and boarding video below.
Ear Protection: Earplugs (provided or bring your own)
Flight Intensity: Low (typically less than a commercial airliner)
The B-17 Bomber “Sentimental Journey”
Type: Heavy/Strategic Bomber
Manufacturer: Boeing (later on Vega and Douglas)
Maiden Flight: 28 July 1935
Introduced: April 1938
Theater of War: World War II
Number Produced: 12,731
Status: Retired in 1968
Our B-17G “Sentimental Journey” was built in November, 1944 at the Douglas plant in California
Wingspan: 103 ft 9 in
Length: 74 ft 4 in
Height: 19 ft 3 in
Empty Weight: 36,134 lbs
Max Takeoff Weight: 65,500 lbs
Power Plant: (4) Wright R-1820-97 Cyclone Turbo-Supercharged Radials
Horsepower: 1,200 hp. each
Maximum Speed: 263 knots (302 mph)
Service Ceiling: 36,400 ft
Rate of Climb: 900 ft/min
Range: 3,259 nm (3,750 mi)
Armament: Guns: (13) 0.50 in (12.7 mm) M2 Browning Machine Guns
Payload: Up to 8,000 lbs ordnance (short range missions of less than 400 mi) and up to 4,500 lbs ordnance (long range missions of up to 800 mi)
World War II Database
ww2dbase The Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress bombers were first seen on 28 Jul 1935 as E. Gifford Emery and Edward Curtis Wells' Boeing Model 299, flown by test pilot Les Tower. It was designed as a response to the United States Army Air Corps' 1934 demand for a multi-engined bomber, but Boeing had over-done it: the four-engined bomber was so expensive that the US Army instead went with the two-engined Douglas B-18 Bolo design. The evaluation, though tainted with a fatal accident, impressed some top brass regardless. Through a legal loophole, the USAAC ordered 13 B-17 bombers for testing on 17 Jan 1936. Between that time and the opening of the Pacific War in 1941, fewer than 200 B-17 bombers entered service with the USAAC. Some of the early production bombers went to the British Royal Air Force which began the European War without heavy bombers. In early 1940, 20 B-17 bombers were transferred to the RAF, which redesignated them as Fortress I bombers. Their first operation was against the German Kriegsmarine's port facilities at Wilhelmshaven, Germany on 8 Jul 1941, and their performance left much to be desired as bombs missed their targets and machine guns froze at the high altitude. While these early B-17 bombers were being relegated to reconnaissance and patrol roles, the experiences shared by the British crews helped Boeing tweak the design of later models mainly, the British crews expressed the need for these bombers to carry larger bomb loads and better aiming equipment.
ww2dbase The United States entered the war in Dec 1941, and from the start she began building up air forces in Europe. The first 18 B-17E bombers arrived to equip the US 8th Air Force units in mid-1942, and flew their first mission against French rail yards on 17 Aug 1942. With the newly devised Norden Bombsight, this mission was much more successful than the British experience earlier in the European War.
ww2dbase The American direct involvement in war increased production of B-17 bombers dramatically in fact, they are often considered the first mass-produced modern aircraft. Before the advent of long-range fighter escorts, B-17 bombers flew in box formations so that their machine guns could provide overlapping fields of fire to protect each other, though at a sacrifice of rigidity of flight paths, which led to increased dangers from ground-based anti-aircraft guns. These bombers, after many rounds of improvements, were now known for their durability. Many stories were told where major sections of the bombers, such as the tail fin, nearly destroyed but the crews still made their ways home safely.
ww2dbase A typical crew of a B-17 Flying Fortress bomber consisted of 10 men. The commanding officer was the piot, and the executive officer was the co-pilot these two officers received equal training, and their difference in status was largely only due to the luck of the draw. The bombardier was also an officer, manning the chin turret during flight but taking control of the entire bomber during the actual bomb run, even flying the aircraft at that time, via the connection between his Norden bomb sight and the auto-pilot system. The navigator, another officer, kept the aircraft path during the flight and manned the cheek guns when attacked. The flight engineer, a non-commissioned officer, was trained in the basic mechanics of the entire aircraft, and manned the top turret when attacked. The radio operation, a non-commissioned officer, handled communications and served as the first aid giver when necessary. Finally, the four remaining crew member, all non-commissioned officers, manned the ball turret, left waist gun, right waist gun, and the tail gun although these bombers were durable, to call them "fortresses" was a exaggeration, thus the gunners served an important role in the defense of these actually vulnerable bombers.
ww2dbase During WW2, 26 B-17 bomber groups served in Britain and 6 groups served in Italy. Beginning in 1943, they began a carpet bombing campaign against German industrial targets. Initially an alarming number of B-17 bombers were lost, but as the war went on, the depleting capabilities of German air defense made the bombing campaigns more effective. Many accused the Western Allies of conducting terror bombing during WW2, and many of the alleged terror bombing missions were conducted with B-17 bombers. On 15 Feb 1945, as part of the aerial operation against the German city of Dresden, 311 B-17 bombers dropped 771 tons of bombs, contributing to the killing of 25,000 people committed by both American and British bombers.
ww2dbase Some B-17 bombers crash-landed or were forced down on German soil, and about 40 of them were put into service by the German Luftwaffe. They were designated Do 200 and were used in reconnaissance operations. A few of them kept their Allied markings and were sent to infiltrate Allied B-17 formations to report their position and altitude initially successful, Allied airmen soon developed methods to challenge unidentified aircraft that tried to join their formations.
ww2dbase Several B-17 bombers were also taken by the Soviets who flew them in combat missions despite having little experience with them. Soviet opinion toward the B-17 design was generally favorable. Some remained in Soviet service until 1948.
ww2dbase Five bomber groups of the US 5th Air Force operated B-17 bombers in the Pacific Theater, with a peak of 168 bombers in Sep 1942. After some time of ineffective high altitude bombing, some of the B-17 bombers adopted "skip bombing", a technique usually practiced by medium bombers rather than heavy bombers. When skip bombing, the aircraft flew at very low altitudes over water as the bombs were released, they struck the water at a shallow angle and bounced into the sides of targeted ships. The technique of skip bombing scored several sinkings.
ww2dbase When WW2 ended, a total of 12,700 B-17 bombers were built. Peak US Army Air Forces inventory, in Aug 1944, was 4,574 worldwide. Besides Boeing, Douglas and Lockheed (via subsidiary Vega) also contributed to that total. After the war General Carl Spaatz commented that "[w]ithout the B-17, we might have lost the war."
ww2dbase After the war, some B-17 bombers made their way to Israel via the black market, some were acquired by collectors in form of museums, while most of them were melted down for scrap. The most famous of the surviving B-17 bomber at the time of this writing is arguably the 25-mission veteran of European Theater "Memphis Belle", which is now at National Museum of the United States Air Force near Dayton, Ohio, United States for restoration and display in the near future.
ww2dbase Source: Wikipedia.
Last Major Revision: Apr 2007
B-17 Flying Fortress Timeline
|28 Jul 1935||The company-funded Boeing Model 299 prototype aircraft (later B-17 Flying Fortress), piloted by Leslie R. Tower, made its maiden flight from Boeing Field, Seattle, United States.|
|7 May 1941||The first of the B-17 Flying Fortress bombers in Britain arrived at RAF Watton.|
|8 Jul 1941||British B-17 bombers were deployed on a combat mission for the first time as three of them were ordered to attack Wilhelmshaven, Germany.|
|30 Sep 1941||The RAF withdrew B-17 bombers from service.|
|1 Jul 1942||B-17E Flying Fortress bomber "Jarring Jenny" landed at Prestwick, Scotland, United Kingdom having flown the 3,000 miles from Maine, United States via Greenland and Iceland. It was the first of hundreds of sister aircraft to be flown to Great Britain to form the US Eighth Air Force.|
|14 Aug 1942||The B-17E Flying Fortress aircraft "Chief Seattle from the Pacific North West" was launched from Port Moresby, Australian Papua for a reconnaissance mission over Rabaul, New Britain, but the aircraft became missing shortly after launch and was never found. This aircraft was paid for by donations from civilians of the state of Washington in northwestern United States.|
|13 May 1943||B-17 bomber "Hell's Angels" of US 303rd Bomb Group became the first aircraft to complete 25 combat missions.|
|19 May 1943||US B-17F bomber 'Memphis Belle' became the second aircraft to complete 25 combat missions after attacking Kiel, Germany.|
|20 Apr 1944||No. 214 Squadron RAF (of No. 100 group based at RAF Oulton at Aylsham, England, United Kingdom), established in Nov 1943, flew the first operational sortie with their Fortress Mk. III (SD) aircraft. These were extensively modified B-17G aircraft fitted out with electronic countermeasures and radar jamming devices. This Squadron would fly more than 1,000 sorties up to May 1945 losing just eight aircraft on operations.|
|2 Jun 1944||US suttle-bombing between Italy and the USSR (Operation Frantic) began. Under command of Lieutenant General Ira C Eaker, 130 B-17s, escorted by 70 P-51s, bombed the railway marshalling yard at Debreczen (Debrecen), Hungary and landed in the Soviet Union the B-17s at Poltava and Myrhorod, the P-51s at Pyriatyn. 1 B-17 was lost over the target.|
|6 Jun 1944||Operation Frantic shuttle bombing continued as 104 B-17s and 42 P-51s (having flown to the USSR from Italy on 2 Jun) attacked the airfield at Galați, Romania and returned to Soviet shuttle bases 8 German fighters were shot down and 2 P-51s were lost.|
|11 Jun 1944||126 B-17s and 60 P-51s departed Russian shuttle bases for Italy to complete the first Operation Frantic operation. On the way, 121 B-17s bombed the Focşani, Romania airfield.|
|21 Jun 1944||145 B-17s began an Operation Frantic shuttle bombing mission between the United Kingdom and bases in Ukraine. 72 P-38s, 38 P-47s and 57 P-51s escorted the bombers to the target, the synthetic oil plant at Ruhland, Germany. 123 B-17s bombed the primary target while the rest bombed secondary targets. The fighter escort returned to England while fighters based at Pyriatyn, Ukraine relieved them. 1 B-17 was lost to unknown causes and 144 B-17s landed in the USSR, 73 at Poltava and the rest at Myrhorod. During the night, the 73 B-17s at Poltava were attacked for 2 hours by an estimated 75 German bombers led by aircraft dropping flares. 47 B-17s were destroyed and most of the rest were severely damaged. Heavy damage was also suffered by the stores of fuel, ammunition, and ordinance.|
|22 Jun 1944||Because of the attack on Operation Frantic B-17s at Poltava, Ukraine the night before, the B-17s at Myrhorod and P-51s at Pyriatyn were moved farther east to be returned before departing to bases in Italy once the weather permitted. The move was fortunate as German bombers struck both Pyriatyn and Myrhorod during the night.|
|25 Jun 1944||At daybreak, B-17s and P-51s were flown from dispersal bases to Poltava and Myrhorod and loaded and fueled with intentions of bombing the oil refinery at Drohobycz (Drohobych), Poland before proceeding to bases in Italy as part of Operation Frantic’s shuttle-bombing plan. Bad weather canceled the mission until the following day. The aircraft returned to dispersal bases for the night as precaution against air attacks.|
|26 Jun 1944||72 B-17s departed Poltava and Myrhorod, Ukraine, rendezvoused with 55 P-51s from Pyriatyn, bombed the oil refinery and railway marshalling yard at Drohobycz (Drohobych), Poland (1 returned to the USSR because of mechanical trouble), and then proceeded to Italy as part of Operation Frantic’s shuttle-bombing plan.|
|3 Jul 1944||55 B-17s in Italy on the return leg of an Operation Frantic shuttle mission join Fifteenth Air Force bombers in bombing railway marshalling yards at Arad, Romania. 38 P-51s also on the shuttle run flew escort on the mission. All Operation Frantic aircraft returned to bases in Italy.|
|5 Jul 1944||70 B-17s on an Operation Frantic shuttle mission (UK-USSR-Italy-UK) flew from bases in Italy and attacked the railway marshalling yard at Beziers, France (along with Fifteenth Air Force B-24s) while on the last leg from Italy to the United Kingdom. 42 P-51s returned to England with the B-17s (of the 11 P-51s remaining in Italy, 10 returned to England the following day and the last several days later).|
|6 Aug 1944||In an Operation Frantic mission, 75 B-17s from England bombed aircraft factories at Gdynia and Rahmel, Poland and flew on to bases in Ukraine. 23 B-17s were damaged. Escort was provided by 154 P-51s. 4 P-51s were lost and 1 was damaged beyond repair. Further, 60 fighters from the previous day’s strike took off from Operation Frantic bases in Ukraine, attacked Craiova railway marshalling yard and other railway targets in the Bucharest-Ploesti, Romania area, and landed at bases in Italy.|
|7 Aug 1944||In accordance with a Soviet request, 55 B-17s and 29 P-51s of the USAAF involved in Operation Frantic flew from bases in Ukraine and attacked an oil refinery at Trzebinia, Poland without loss and returned to Operation Frantic bases in the USSR.|
|8 Aug 1944||Operation Frantic shuttle missions continued as 78 B-17s with 55 P-51s as escort left bases in Ukraine and bombed airfields in Romania 38 bombed Buzău and 35 bombed Ziliştea. No German fighters were encountered and the force flew on to Italy.|
|12 Aug 1944||The Operation Frantic shuttle-bombing mission UK-USSR-Italy-UK is completed. 72 B-17s took off from bases in Italy and bombed the Toulouse-Francazal Airfield, France before flying on to England. 62 P-51s (part of the shuttle-mission force) and 43 from the UK provide escort no aircraft are lost.|
|11 Sep 1944||75 B-17s of Operation Frantic shuttle missions left England as part of a larger raid to oil refineries at Chemnitz along with 64 P-51s that continued on and landed in Ukraine.|
|13 Sep 1944||73 B-17s, escorted by 63 P-51s, continuing the Operation Frantic UK-USSR-Italy-UK shuttle-bombing mission, took off from Ukraine bases, bombed a steel and armament works at Diósgyőr, Hungary and proceeded to Fifteenth Air Force bases in Italy.|
|15 Sep 1944||As part of Operation Frantic, 110 B-17s were dispatched from England to drop supplies to Warsaw resistance fighters and then proceed to bases in the USSR but a weather front was encountered over the North Sea and the bombers were recalled. Escort is provided by 149 P-51s and 2 P-51s collided in a cloud and were lost.|
|17 Sep 1944||An Operation Frantic UK-USSR-Italy-UK shuttle mission was completed as 72 B-17s and 59 P-51s fly without bombs from Italy to England.|
|22 Sep 1944||The last Operation Frantic mission ended as 84 B-17s and 51 P-51s return to England from Italy.|
|Machinery||4 Wright R-1820-97 'Cyclone' turbosupercharged radial engines rated at 1,200 hp each|
|Armament||13xBrowning M-2 12.7mm machine guns, 8,000kg of bombs (usually 3,600kg for short range missions or 2,000kg for long range missions)|
|Wing Area||131.92 m²|
|Weight, Empty||16,391 kg|
|Weight, Loaded||24,495 kg|
|Weight, Maximum||29,710 kg|
|Speed, Maximum||462 km/h|
|Speed, Cruising||293 km/h|
|Rate of Climb||4.60 m/s|
|Service Ceiling||10,850 m|
|Range, Normal||3,219 km|
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33 Beautiful Images of B-17 Flying Fortress In Flight
If you love to see a B-17 Flying Fortress fly then you will surely love to see B-17 bombers of the Mighty Eight flying in formation. We searched the internet and made a compilation of most beautiful formation pictures we could find!
Color photograph of World War 2 in high definition. Three American strategic Boeing B-17E “Flying Fortress” heavy four-engine bombers in flight over the sea. [Via]
Amazing formation shot, 17 B-17s can be seen flying in close proximity [Via]
B-17 Formation 381st bomb group 533rd bomb squadron [Via]
398th Bomb Group 601st Bomb Squadron Boeing B-17G-105-BO Flying Fortress Bomber 43-39227 code 3O-S [Via]
A B-17F of the 99th Bomb Group, with the nearly frameless clear-view bombardier’s nose. [Via]
Combat boxes of 3rd Bomb Division B-17s [Via]
8 April 1945: As the war draws to a close, B-17s from the 398th BG seen heading to Neumunster, Germany.[Via]
B-17G of the 384th Bomb Group on the bomb run [Via]
B-17 of the 381st Bomb Group 535th Bomb Squadron Bomb Run Photo November 26, 1944 Hamburg [Via]
High over Germany, a flight of B-17s from the 398th BG on a bombing run to Neumunster on 8 April 1945 [Via]
Fighters weave over a formation of B-17s during a raid. [Via]
92nd BG B-17Fs at high altitude. [Via]
B-17F formation over Schweinfurt, Germany, 17 August 1943 [Via]
Boeing B-17F radar bombing through clouds: Bremen, Germany, on 13 November 1943. [Via]
Formation flying through dense flak over Merseburg, Germany [Via]
BQ-17 Flying Fortress Drones over New Mexico, April 1946. [Via]
Boeing B-17G-20-BO Flying Fortress 42-31581 „Ole Miss” 305th Bomb Group [Via]
Aerial View Boeing B-17G-30-BO Flying Fortress Bomber 42 31801 of 92nd Bomb Group [Via]
Four B-17 of the 91st Bomb Group 401st BS Kassel Mission. „Jezebel” 42-38144 and „Anxious Angel” 43-38035 [Via]
B-17 Bombers Of 452nd Bomb Group Enroute To Swinemunde 1945 [Via]
452nd Bomb Group B-17 over Berlin on March 22 1944 [Via]
B-17 of 303rd Bomb Group Over England [Via]
452nd Bomb Group B-17 Bombers Heading To Swinemunde 1945 [Via]
Boeing B-17G-15-BO Flying Fortress 42-31367 „Chow Hound” code LG-R of 91st Bomb Group 322nd Bomb Squadron over Berlin on March 8, 1944 [Via]
Rear Aerial View of Trio of B-17 Bombers Heading To Target [Via]
B-17 Flying Fortress Heavy Flak Fire 490th Bomb Group 8th Air Force [Via]
Aerial view of a 15th Air Force B-17 group bombing Vienna in April 1944 [Via]
8th AF B-17 Flying Fortress over Alps to Munich Railyards [Via]
B-17 Flying Fortress 8th AF in Flak Filled Sky During Berlin Raid [Via]
B-17 Flying Fortress Formation 388th and 452nd Bomb Groups 8th Air Force 42-39903 „Marjorie Ann” [Via]