Boeing B-17F Flying Fortress

Boeing B-17F Flying Fortress


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Boeing B-17F Flying Fortress

The B-17F was the first version of the Flying Fortress to be built in really large numbers. A total of 3,405 aircraft were built. Production was subcontracted to Douglas, who built 605 aircraft, and Vega, who built 500, with Boeing producing the remaining 2,300. The most obvious visual change was the replacement of the framed nose with a rather pointed frameless Plexiglas nose. The B-17F was also given paddle-blade propellers to improve high altitude performance. Internally there were around 400 minor improvements. The aircraft also carried an additional 1,100 gallons of fuel in “Tokyo tanks” installed in the wings. The use of Wright Cyclone R-1820-97 engines meant that despite the extra weight, the B-17F was the fastest version of the aircraft, with a top speed of 325mph. The B-17F was the standard production version of the aircraft for most of 1942 and the first half of 1943.

Early B-17Fs carried the same arrangement of guns as the B-17E. A single 0.30in gun was carried in the nose. A total of eleven 0.50in guns were carried, two cheek guns, two waist guns, two in the ball turret, two in the tail, two in the upper turret and one in the radio compartment. Later aircraft replaced the 0.30in nose gun with a mounting that could carry one or two 0.50in guns, for a potential total of 13 guns. The cheek guns were initially carried in flat windows, but this did not allow them to fire forwards, and so bulged cheek gun positions were added, at first at modification centres, and then as standard from Boeing production block 55 onwards. Finally, the Bendix chin turret normally associated with the B-17G was added to the last 86 Douglas built aircraft, starting with block-75, giving the aircraft a total of 15 guns.

The B-17F could carry up to eight 1,000lb bombs or twenty four 100lb bombs. Part of the increase in bomb load was due to the addition of bomb racks capable of carrying one 1,000lb bomb under each wing, between the inner engine nacelle and the fuselage. These were added from Boeing production block 30 and Vega and Douglas blocks 20. The normal bomb load remained 4,000lb

The vast majority of B-17Fs served with the Eighth Air Force in Britain or in North Africa. Nineteen were delivered to the RAF from August 1942, where they served as the Fortress II with Coastal Command.

Specification
Engine: Wright Cyclone R-1820-97
Horsepower: 1,380hp (war emergency setting)
Span: 103ft 9 3/8in
Length: 74ft 8.9in
Design Weight: 40,437lb (early), 48,726lb (late)
Maximum Weight: 56,500lb (early), 65,500lb (late)
Max Speed: 325mph
Cruising Speed: 160mph
Ceiling: 37,500 feet
Range: 2,800 miles (early), 3,800 miles (late)
Armament: Eleven 0.50in machine guns plus one 0.30in gun.
Bomb load: 8,000lb


Boeing B-17 "Flying Fortress"

The Boeing B-17 "Flying Fortress" is the most famous aircraft of the World War Two. Everyone knows her name, although this bombers surpass any other U.S. aircraft in number of units built and missions flown yet. That may have something to do with its - "Flying Fortress" - which gives the aircraft an aura of invincibility. B-17 was truly a fortress, but of course by no means invincible.

An attack on a Flying Fortress was a big risk for any fighter pilot. Unlike other types of bombers in the B-17 gradually all the blind spot had been eliminated with machine guns for the defense. Depending on the variant, the B-17 was armed with ten to thirteen 12.7 mm machine guns - any attacker expected a deadly hail of bullets. The Flying Fortress was also able to carry up to 5800 kg bombs. She was extremely popular with her ​​crews because of their durability, quiet attitude, despite their size, great maneuverability and, not the least, because they could still remain in the air with the very severe damage like no other aircraft. In total, nearly 13,000 B-17 of all variants were built.


9 June 1943

Boeing B-17F-10-BO Flying Fortress 41-24485, Memphis Belle, flies home from England, 9 June 1943. (U.S. Air Force)

9 June 1943: After completing 25 combat missions over Western Europe from its base at Air Force Station 121 (RAF Bassingbourne, Cambridgeshire, England), Memphis Belle, a U.S. Army Air Forces Boeing B-17F-10-BO Flying Fortress, serial number 41-24485, assigned to the 91st Bombardment Group (Heavy), 324th Bomb Squadron (Heavy), was flown home by Captain Robert K. Morgan and Captain James A. Verinis.

The crew of the Memphis Belle after their 25th mission: (left to right) Technical Sergeant Harold Loch, Top Turret Gunner/Engineer Staff Sergeant Cecil Scott, Ball Turret Gunner Technical Sergeant Robert Hanson, Radio Operator Captain James Verinis, Co-pilot Captain Robert Morgan, Aircraft Commander/Pilot Captain Charles Leighton, Navigator Staff Sergeant John Quinlan, Tail Gunner Staff Sergeant Casimer Nastal, Waist Gunner Captain Vincent Evans, Bombardier Staff Sergeant Clarence Winchell Waist Gunner. (U.S. Air Force photograph)

The daylight bombing campaign of Nazi-occupied Europe was very dangerous with high losses in both airmen and aircraft. For a bomber crew, 25 combat missions was a complete tour, and they were sent on to other assignments. Memphis Belle was only the second B-17 to survive 25 missions, so it was withdrawn from combat and sent back to the United States for a publicity tour.

Boeing B-17F-10-BO Flying Fortress 41-22485, Memphis Belle, in flight over England, 1943. (U.S. Air Force) Miss Margaret Polk, 1943.

The B-17’s name was a reference to Captain Morgan’s girlfriend, Miss Margaret Polk, who lived in Memphis, Tennessee. The artwork painted on the airplane’s nose was a “Petty Girl” based on the work of pin-up artist George Petty of Esquire magazine. (Morgan named his next airplane—a B-29 Superfortress—Dauntless Dotty after his wife, Dorothy Morgan. With it, he led the first B-29 bombing mission against Tokyo, Japan, in 1944. It was also decorated with a Petty Girl.)

Memphis Belle and her crew were the subject of a 45-minute documentary, “Memphis Belle: A Story of a Flying Fortress,” directed by William Wyler and released in April 1944. It was filmed in combat aboard Memphis Belle and several other B-17s. The United States Library of Congress named it for preservation as a culturally significant film.

After returning to the United States, Memphis Belle was sent on a War Bonds tour. In this photograph, it is parked at Patterson Field, Dayton, Ohio. (U.S. Air Force)

Following the War Bonds tour, Memphis Belle was assigned to MacDill Field, Tampa, Florida, where it was used for combat crew training.

Boeing B-17F Flying Fortress 41-224485, “Memphis Belle,” arrives at the NACA Aircraft Engine Research Laboratory at Lewis Field, Cleveland, Ohio, 7 July 1943. (NASA)

After the war, Memphis Belle was sent to a “boneyard” at Altus, Oklahoma, to be scrapped along with hundreds of other wartime B-17s. A newspaper reporter learned of this and told Memphis’ mayor, Walter Chandler. Chandler purchased it for its scrap value and arranged for it to be put on display in the city of Memphis. For decades it suffered from time, weather and neglect. The Air Force finally took the bomber back and placed it in the permanent collection of the National Museum of the United States Air Force at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, where it has been undergoing a total restoration for the last several years.

“On July 17, 1946, at 2:55 p.m., the Memphis Belle rolled to a stop in front of the Administration Building at Municipal Airport and ended its final flight. The plane had been stored in Altus, Okla. Mayor Walter Chandler (fifth left in white suit) and some 200 people greeted the Belle and the final flight’s crew (from left) Stuart Griffin, radioman Lt. James Gowdy, navigator Capt. Hamp Morrison, co-pilot Capt. Robert Little, pilot Sgt. Percy Roberts Jr., engineer Capt Robert Taylor, co-navigator and Tech Sgt. Charles Crowe, engineer. (Editor’s Note: This crew was the crew that flew the plane from Altus, Okla. not the wartime flight crew)” (The Commercial Appeal)

The Boeing B-17F Flying Fortress was a four-engine heavy bomber operated by a flight crew of ten. It was 74 feet, 8.90 inches (22.781 meters) long with a wingspan of 103 feet, 9.38 inches (31.633 meters) and an overall height of 19 feet, 1.00 inch (5.187 meters). The wings have 3½° angle of incidence and 4½° dihedral. The leading edge is swept aft 8¾°. The total wing area is 1,426 square feet (132.48 square meters). The horizontal stabilizer has a span of 43 feet (13.106 meters) with 0° incidence and dihedral. Its total area, including elevators, is 331.1 square feet (12.18 square meters).

The B-17F had an approximate empty weight of 36,135 pounds (16,391 kilograms), 40,437 pounds (18,342 kilograms) basic, and the maximum takeoff weight was 65,000 pounds (29,484 kilograms).

The forward fuselage of Memphis Belle dismantled for restoration at the National Museum of the United States Air Force, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Dayton Ohio. The “Petty Girl” on the right side of the airplane is in red. (U.S. Air Force)

The B-17F was powered by four air-cooled, supercharged, 1,823.129-cubic-inch-displacement (29.876 liters) Wright Cyclone G666A (R-1820-65)¹ nine-cylinder radial engines with a compression ratio of 6.70:1. The engines were equipped with remote General Electric turbochargers capable of 24,000 r.p.m. The R-1820-65 was rated at 1,000 horsepower at 2,300 r.p.m. at Sea Level, and 1,200 horsepower at 2,500 r.p.m. for takeoff. The engine could produce 1,380 horsepower at War Emergency Power. 100-octane aviation gasoline was required. The Cyclones turned three-bladed, constant-speed, Hamilton-Standard Hydromatic propellers with a diameter of 11 feet, 7 inches (3.835 meters) though a 0.5625:1 gear reduction. The R-1820-65 engine is 3 feet, 11.59 inches (1.209 meters) long and 4 feet, 7.12 inches (1.400 meters) in diameter. It weighs 1,315 pounds (596 kilograms).

The B-17F had a cruising speed of 200 miles per hour (322 kilometers per hour). The maximum speed was 299 miles per hour (481 kilometers per hour) at 25,000 feet (7,620 meters), though with War Emergency Power, the bomber could reach 325 miles per hour (523 kilometers per hour) at 25,000 feet for short periods. The service ceiling was 37,500 feet (11,430 meters).

Boeing B-17F-10-BO Flying Fortress 41-24485, the Memphis Belle, under restoration at the National Museum of the United States Air Force, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Dayton, Ohio. (U.S. Air Force)

With a normal fuel load of 1,725 gallons (6,530 liters) the B-17F had a maximum range of 3,070 miles (4,941 kilometers). Two “Tokyo tanks” could be installed in the bomb bay, increasing capacity by 820 gallons (3,104 liters). Carrying a 6,000 pound (2,722 kilogram) bomb load, the range was 1,300 miles (2,092 kilometers).

The Memphis Belle was armed with 13 Browning AN-M2 .50-caliber machine guns for defense against enemy fighters. Power turrets mounting two guns each were located at the dorsal and ventral positions. Four machine guns were mounted in the nose, 1 in the radio compartment, 2 in the waist and 2 in the tail.

Restoration of the B-17 Flying Fortress Memphis Belle progresses. (Air Force Times)

The maximum bomb load of the B-17F was 20,800 pounds (9434.7 kilograms) over very short ranges. Normally, 4,000–6,000 pounds (1,815–2,722 kilograms) of high explosive bombs were carried. The internal bomb bay could be loaded with a maximum of eight 1,600 pound (725.75 kilogram) bombs. Two external bomb racks mounted under the wings between the fuselage and the inboard engines could carry one 4,000 pound (1,814.4 kilogram) bomb, each, though this option was rarely used.

The B-17 Flying Fortress was in production from 1936 to 1945. 12,731 B-17s were built by Boeing, Douglas Aircraft Company and Lockheed-Vega. (The manufacturer codes -BO, -DL and -VE follows the Block Number in each airplane’s type designation.) 3,405 of the total were B-17Fs, with 2,000 built by Boeing, 605 by Douglas and 500 by Lockheed-Vega.

Only three B-17F Flying Fortresses, including Memphis Belle, remain in existence. The completely restored bomber went on public display at the National Museum of the United States Air Force, 17 May 2018.

Boeing B-17F-10-BO Flying Fortress 41-24485, “Memphis Belle,” photographed 14 March 2018 at the National Museum of the United States Air Force, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio. (U.S. Air Force)

Memphis Belle ® is a Registered Trademark of the United States Air Force.

¹ Later production B-17F and B-17G bombers were equipped with Wright Cyclone C9GC (R-1820-97) engines.


Medal of Honor, 2nd Lieutenant Walter Edward Truemper and Sergeant Archibald Mathies, United States Army Air Forces

Second Lieutenant Walter Edward Truemper, Air Corps, United States Army. (American Air Museum in Britain, Roger Freeman Collection FRE 4732)

MEDAL OF HONOR

TRUEMPER, WALTER E. (Air Mission)

Rank and organization: Second Lieutenant, U.S. Army Air Corps. 510th Bomber Squadron, 351st Bomber Group.

Place and date: Over Europe, 20 February 1944.

Entered service at: Aurora, Ill. Born: 31 October 1918, Aurora, Ill.

G.O. No.: 52, 22 June 1944.

Second Lieutenant Walter Edward Truemper, United States Army Air Forces

Citation: For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at risk of life above and beyond the call of duty in action against the enemy in connection with a bombing mission over enemy-occupied Europe on 20 February 1944. The aircraft on which 2d Lt. Truemper was serving as navigator was attacked by a squadron of enemy fighters with the result that the copilot was killed outright, the pilot wounded and rendered unconscious, the radio operator wounded and the plane severely damaged Nevertheless, 2d Lt. Truemper and other members of the crew managed to right the plane and fly it back to their home station, where they contacted the control tower and reported the situation. 2d Lt. Truemper and the engineer volunteered to attempt to land the plane. Other members of the crew were ordered to jump, leaving 2d Lt. Truemper and the engineer aboard. After observing the distressed aircraft from another plane, 2d Lt. Truemper’s commanding officer decided the damaged plane could not be landed by the inexperienced crew and ordered them to abandon it and parachute to safety. Demonstrating unsurpassed courage and heroism, 2d Lt. Truemper and the engineer replied that the pilot was still alive but could not be moved and that they would not desert him. They were then told to attempt a landing. After 2 unsuccessful efforts their plane crashed into an open field in a third attempt to land. 2d Lt. Truemper, the engineer, and the wounded pilot were killed.

MEDAL OF HONOR

MATHIES, ARCHIBALD (Air Mission)

Rank and organization: Sergeant, U .S. Army Air Corps, 510th Bomber Squadron, 351st Bomber Group.

Place and date: Over Europe, 20 February 1944.

Entered service at: Pittsburgh, Pa. Born: 3 June 1918, Scotland.

G.O. No.: 52, 22 June 1944.

Staff Sergeant Archibald Mathies, United States Army Air Forces

Citation: For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at risk of life above and beyond the call of duty in action against the enemy in connection with a bombing mission over enemy-occupied Europe on 20 February 1944. The aircraft on which Sgt. Mathies was serving as engineer and ball turret gunner was attacked by a squadron of enemy fighters with the result that the copilot was killed outright, the pilot wounded and rendered unconscious, the radio operator wounded and the plane severely damaged. Nevertheless, Sgt. Mathies and other members of the crew managed to right the plane and fly it back to their home station, where they contacted the control tower and reported the situation. Sgt. Mathies and the navigator volunteered to attempt to land the plane. Other members of the crew were ordered to jump, leaving Sgt. Mathies and the navigator aboard. After observing the distressed aircraft from another plane, Sgt. Mathies’ commanding officer decided the damaged plane could not be landed by the inexperienced crew and ordered them to abandon it and parachute to safety. Demonstrating unsurpassed courage and heroism, Sgt. Mathies and the navigator replied that the pilot was still alive but could not be moved and they would not desert him. They were then told to attempt a landing. After two unsuccessful efforts, the plane crashed into an open field in a third attempt to land. Sgt. Mathies, the navigator, and the wounded pilot were killed.

The combat flight crew of the Boeing B-17G-30-BO Flying Fortress, 42-31763, “Ten Horsepower.” Front row, left to right: 1/LT Clarence R. Nelson, aircraft commander Flight Officer Ronald Bartley, co-pilot 2/LT Walter E. Truemper, navigator 2/LT Joseph Martin, bombardier. Back row, left to right: SSGT Archibald Mathies, flight engineer and top turret gunner SGT Joseph Rex, radio operator/gunner SGT Carl Moore, waist gunner SGT Russell Robinson, ball turret gunner SGT Thomas Sowell, waist gunner SGT Magnus Hagbo, tail gunner. (American Air Museum in Britain UPL 34945) “Ten Horsepower,” B-17G 42-31763 (top), escorted by “My Princess,” B-17F 42-30499), 24 February 1944. (American Air Museum in Britain, Roger Freeman Collection FRE 004724) Boeing B-17F-105-BO 43-30499, RQ-Q, My Princess. (American Air Museum in Britain, Roger Freeman Collection FRE 010730) Walter E. Truemper, 1938. (The Speculum)

Walter Edward Truemper was born 31 October 1918 at Aurora, Illinois. He was the eighth of ten children of Henry Edward Truemper, a cigar maker, and Friedericke Engel Truemper, both immigrants from Hesse, Germany.

Walter attended East Aurora High School. He was on the Honor Roll for four consecutive years. He was also a member of the Deutsche Verein (the German Club) and the Debate Team. He graduated in 1938. Truemper then attended Northwestern University at Evanston, Illinois.

Truemper enlisted in the Air Corps, United States Army, at Chicago, Illinois, 23 June 1942. He was described as being 5 feet, 9 inches (1.75 meters) tall and weighed 143 pounds (64.9 kilograms). Selected as an aviation cadet, he attended a navigator training course and aerial gunnery training at Harlingen Army Air Field, Texas. On completion, Truemper was commissioned as a second lieutenant, Army of the United States (A.U.S.). 26 August 1943. He was then assigned to the 796th Bombardment Squadron, 496th Bombardment Group at Alexandria, Louisiana, for combat crew training.

Lieutenant Truemper deployed to England in December 1943, and joined the 510th Bombardment Squadron (Heavy), 351st Bombardment Group (Heavy), based at RAF Polebrook (USAAF Station110) in Northamptonshire, England.

The Medal of Honor was presented to Lieutenant Truemper’s mother by Brigadier General R. E. O’Neill at the Truemper family’s home, 4 July 1944.

Second Lieutenant Walter Edward Truemper’s remains were returned to the United States and interred at St. Paul’s Lutheran cemetery, Aurora, Illinois.

Valor at Polebrook, by David Poole, depicts the B-17G Flying Fortress, Ten Horsepower, flown by 2/LT Walter E. Truemper and SSGT Mathies, being escorted by Major Elzia Ladoux, commanding officer 509th Bombardment Squadron, aboard My Princess. Major Ladoux tried to assist the crew to land their bomber at RAF Polebrook. Private Archibald Mathies, circa 1941.

Archibald Collins Hamilton was born 3 June 1918 in Stonehouse, Lanarkshire, Scotland. He was the second of two sons of William Young Muir Hamilton and Mary Scott Collins Hamilton. Mr. Hamilton died in 1919. Mrs. Hamilton married William James Mathies in 1921. The new family emigrated to the United States, sailing from Glasgow aboard R.M.S. Cameronia 6 October 1921, and arriving at the port of New York, 16 October 1921.

Archie Mathies ¹ attended Monongahela High School, graduating in 1937.

By 1940, Archie was using his step-father’s name. He worked for the Pittsburgh Coal Company at Finleyville, Pennsylvania. Archibald Mathies enlisted in the United States army at Pittsburgh, 30 December 1940. He was blond with gray eyes. He was 5 feet, 4 inches (1.63 meters) tall and weighed 150 pounds (68 kilograms).

Staff Sergeant Archibald Hamilton Mathies’ remains were returned to the United States and interred at the Finleyville Cemetery.

A gunner fires the two Browning .50 caliber machine guns of his ball turret.

¹ When he arrived at the Port of New York, Sergeant Mathies, along with his brother, was identified by the surname Hamilton. It is not known if his name was ever legally changed to Mathies.


23 June 1944

MEDAL OF HONOR

KINGSLEY, DAVID R. (Air Mission)

Rank and organization: Second Lieutenant, U.S. Army Air Corps, 97th Bombardment Group, 15th Air Force.

Place and date: Ploesti Raid, Rumania, 23 June 1944.

Entered service at: Portland, Oregon. Birth: Oregon.

G.O. No.: 26, 9 April 1945.

For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action at the risk of life above and beyond the call of duty, 23 June 1944 near Ploesti, Rumania, while flying as bombardier of a B17 type aircraft.

On the bomb run 2d Lt. Kingsley’s aircraft was severely damaged by intense flak and forced to drop out of formation but the pilot proceeded over the target and 2d Lt. Kingsley successfully dropped his bombs, causing severe damage to vital installations. The damaged aircraft, forced to lose altitude and to lag behind the formation, was aggressively attacked by 3 ME-109 aircraft, causing more damage to the aircraft and severely wounding the tail gunner in the upper arm. The radio operator and engineer notified 2d Lt. Kingsley that the tail gunner had been wounded and that assistance was needed to check the bleeding. 2d Lt. Kingsley made his way back to the radio room, skillfully applied first aid to the wound, and succeeded in checking the bleeding. The tail gunner’s parachute harness and heavy clothes were removed and he was covered with blankets, making him as comfortable as possible. Eight ME-109 aircraft again aggressively attacked 2d Lt. Kingsley’s aircraft and the ball turret gunner was wounded by 20mm. shell fragments. He went forward to the radio room to have 2d Lt. Kingsley administer first aid. A few minutes later when the pilot gave the order to prepare to bail out, 2d Lt. Kingsley immediately began to assist the wounded gunners in putting on their parachute harness. In the confusion the tail gunner’s harness, believed to have been damaged, could not be located in the bundle of blankets and flying clothes which had been removed from the wounded men. With utter disregard for his own means of escape, 2d Lt. Kingsley unhesitatingly removed his parachute harness and adjusted it to the wounded tail gunner. Due to the extensive damage caused by the accurate and concentrated 20mm. fire by the enemy aircraft the pilot gave the order to bail out, as it appeared that the aircraft would disintegrate at any moment. 2d Lt. Kingsley aided the wounded men in bailing out and when last seen by the crewmembers he was standing on the bomb bay catwalk. The aircraft continued to fly on automatic pilot for a short distance, then crashed and burned. His body was later found in the wreckage. 2d Lt. Kingsley by his gallant heroic action was directly responsible for saving the life of the wounded gunner.

David Richard Kingsley was born 27 June 1918 at Portland, Oregon. He was the second of nine children of David Ross Kingsley, a machinist, and Angelina Marie Rutto Kingsley. He attended St. Michael’s School in Portland.

With both of their parents dead and their oldest brother in the Navy, Dave Kingsley cared for his younger siblings. He worked as a firefighter, and was engaged to Miss Harriet Zalabak.

Aviation Cadet David R. Kingsley, U.S. Army Air Corps, circa 1942.

Kingsley enlisted in the United States Army Air Forces at Portland Army Air Base, 14 April 1942. He had brown hair, blue eyes, was 5 feet, 10 inches (1.78 meters) tall and weighed 165 pounds (75 kilograms). Kingsley was trained as a bombardier and commissioned a second lieutenant in July 1943.

The gunner saved by Kingsley later said, “David then took me in his arms and struggled to the bomb bay, where he told me to keep my hand on the rip cord and said to pull it when I was clear of the ship. . . Then he told me to bail out. I watched the ground go by for a few seconds and then I jumped. I looked at Dave the look he had on his face was firm and solemn. He must have known what was coming because there was no fear in his eyes at all. That was the last time I saw. . . Dave standing in the bomb bay.”

Kingsley’s bomber, a Vega-built B-17F-35-VE, 42-5951, crashed near the village of Suhozem, in central Bulgaria. In addition of Kingsley, seven people on the ground were killed.

Major General Ralph P. Cousins presented Lieutenant Kingley’s Medal of Honor to his older brother, Pharmacist’s Mate First Class Thomas Kingsley, U.S. Navy, in a ceremony held at St. Michael the Archangel Church, Portland, Oregon, 4 May 1945.

Following the war, Lieutenant Kingley’s remains were exhumed and returned to the United States. They were then buried at the Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, Virginia.

Kingsley Air National Guard Base, Klamath Falls, Oregon, is named in his honor.


B-17 41-24577 / Hell’s Angels Details

First B-17 to complete 25 missions in the UK. Earlier than the Memphis Belle. Complete 48 mission without an abort or any crewman injured. Than returned to the US and scraped in 1945.

By United States Army Air Forces [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons


12 June 1918

12 June 1918: 2nd Lieutenant James Harold Doolittle, Aviation Section, Signal Officers’ Reserve Corps, was granted Aero Club of America pilot certificate No. 1702 on behalf of the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale.

The license was signed by Alan Ramsay Hawley, President, and William Hawley, Secretary.

Blue, leather-bound book containing James H. Doolittle’s Aero Club of America Aviator’s Certificate. (NASM)


Notable B-17s [ edit | edit source ]

  • All American — B-17F tail# 124406 𖐙] survived having her tail almost cut off in a collision over Tunisia, but made it back to base in Algeria — there are false stories about that claim it made it back to Britain. It flew again, but was later scrapped. 𖐚]𖐛]
  • Aluminum Overcast — flying example.
  • Chief Seattle — sponsored by the city of Seattle, it disappeared (MIA) on 14 Aug 1942 𖐜] flying a recon mission for the 19th BG, 435th BS 𖐝] and the crew declared dead on 7 Dec 1945.
  • Hell's Kitchen — B-17F 41-24392 one of only three early B-17F's in 414th BS to complete more than 100 combat missions. 𖐞]
  • I'll Be Around — B-17G in the 390th Bomb Group Museum at the Pima Air and Space Museum adjacent to Davis-Monthan AFB near Tucson, AZ.
  • Liberty Belle — former engine testbed restored as flying example, destroyed in a forced landing on 13 June 2011, outside of Chicago, Illinois no fatalities.
  • Mary Ann — a B-17D that was part of an unarmed flight which left San Francisco on 6 December 1941 en route to Hickam Field in Hawaii, arriving during the attack on Pearl Harbor. The plane and its crew were immediately forced into action on Wake Island and in the Philippines during the outbreak of World War II. It became famous when its exploits were featured in Air Force, one of the first of the patriotic war films released in 1943. 𖐟]
  • Memphis Belle — one of the first B-17s to complete a tour of duty of 25 missions in the 8th Air Force, now being restored for display at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force at Wright-Patterson AFB in Dayton, Ohio.
  • Miss Every Morning Fix'n — B 17C. Previously named 'Pamela'. Stationed in Mackay, Queensland, Australia during World War II. On 14 June 1943, crashed shortly after takeoff from Mackay while ferrying U.S. forces personnel back to Port Moresby. 40 of the 41 people on board were killed. It remains the worst air disaster in Australian history. The sole survivor, Foye Roberts, married an Australian and returned to the States. He died in Wichita Falls on 4 February 2004.
  • Murder Inc. — A B-17 bombardier wearing the name of the B-17 "Murder Inc." on his jacket was used for propaganda in German newspapers. 𖐠]
  • My Gal Sal
  • Nine-O-Nine — flying example, Collings Foundation of Stow, Massachusetts.

The 909 arriving at Marana Regional Airport. 23 April 2010

  • Old 666 — the B-17 flown by the most highly decorated crew in the Pacific Theater
  • Piccadilly Lilly II — 200th from last B-17G to be built, used in the movie Twelve O'Clock High. As of 2015 [update] , currently being restored to Flight status, at the Planes of Fame museum.
  • (The) Pink Lady
  • Rosie's Riveters — B-17F bearing serial 42-30758 from the 100th Bomb Group and commanded by highly decorated USAAF officer Robert Rosenthal, it was the lone surviving 100th BG B-17 of the 10 October 1943 raid against Münster to return to the unit's base at Thorpe Abbots.
  • Sally B — The last flying example in Europe.
  • Sentimental Journey — flying example, Commemorative Air Force at Airbase Arizona, Mesa Arizona.
  • Shoo Shoo Baby
  • Sir Baboon McGoon featured in June 1944 issue of Popular Science magazine and 1945 issue of Flying magazine. Articles talk about mobile recovery crews following Oct 1943 belly landing at Tannington, England. Article omitted return to service in Feb 1944 and seven additional missions. Final crew called it "a real crate" and successfully ditched into North Sea on 29 Mar 1944, a few months before the first article appeared in print.
  • Swamp Ghost B-17E Serial Number 41-2446, a rare surviving "E" model recovered from a Papua New Guinea swamp, now at Pacific Aviation Museum Pearl Harbor.
  • The Swoose — Also nicknamed Ole Betsy while in service, The Swoose is the only remaining intact B-17D, built in 1940, and the oldest surviving Flying Fortress it is in the collection of the Smithsonian ' s Air and Space Museum and is being restored for final display at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force at Wright-Patterson AFB in Dayton, Ohio, simultaneously with B-17F "Memphis Belle." The Swoose was flown by Frank Kurtz, father of actress Swoosie Kurtz, who named his daughter after the bomber.
  • Texas Raiders — flying example. Last U.S. Navy PB-1W flying, Commemorative Air Force Gulf Coast Wing in Houston, Texas.
  • Thunderbird
  • Yankee Lady — flying example, Yankee Air Force.
  • Ye Olde Pub — the B-17 that Franz Stigler did not shoot down, as memorialized in the painting "A Higher Call" by John D. Shaw. 𖐡]
  • 5 Grand — 5,000th B-17 made, emblazoned with Boeing employee signatures, served with the 333rd Bomb Squadron, 96th Bomb Group in Europe. Damaged and repaired after gear-up landing, transferred to 388th Bomb Group. Returned from duty following V-E Day, flown for war bonds tour, then stored at Kingman, Arizona. Following an unsuccessful bid for museum preservation, the aircraft was scrapped. 𖐢]
  • The So What? I and II — flown by "3 engine Zip" (I was shot down over Germany and II was decommissioned).

Seven people aboard a vintage World War II plane were killed Wednesday when it crashed shortly after takeoff, erupting into flames at Bradley International Airport, just outside of Hartford, Connecticut, authorities said.

State Police Commissioner James Rovella told reporters at an evening news conference that the families of all but three of the victims had been contacted.

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The flight took off at 9:45 a.m. before reporting five minutes later that it was having difficulties, authorities said.

"We observed that the aircraft was not gaining altitude," Connecticut Airport Authority Executive Director Kevin Dillon said.

The plane tried to return to the airport when it crashed at 9:54 a.m., officials said.

There were 13 people on board the Boeing B-17, two pilots, one attendant, and 10 passengers. Another person on the ground was injured when the plane slid off the runway and slammed into a building used to house the airport's deicing equipment, officials said.

Witness Brian Hamer, who lives in Norton, Massachusetts, was less than a mile away from the airport when he spotted the B-17, “which you don’t normally see,” flying low overhead.

Hamer saw smoke coming from the back of the craft and heard one engine sputter.

“Then we heard all the rumbling and the thunder, and all the smoke comes up and we kind of figured it wasn’t good,” Hamer said.

Another witness, Antonio Arreguin, was parked at a construction site 250 yards from the crash site when he heard an explosion — and felt the heat from the ensuing fire.

“In front of me, I see this big ball of orange fire, and I knew something happened,” Arreguin said. “The ball of fire was very big.”

Hartford Hospital received six patients from the crash, three were initially listed in critical condition, two in moderate condition and one with just minor injuries, doctors there said.

One of the injured, who survived, is a member of the Connecticut Air National Guard, a representative for the service told NBC New York.

The Federal Aviation Administration said the craft, a Boeing B-17, went down at the end of runway 6 and slid off.

Bradley, the second largest airport in New England, was closed and the FAA put in a ground stop for all arriving flights. One runway of the airport reopened shortly after 1:30 p.m.

Several flights headed for Bradley were diverted to the T.F. Green International Airport outside Providence, Rhode Island, officials said.

The airport — in Windsor Locks, about 15 miles north of Hartford is hosting a show of vintage World War II craft this week.

Many planes in the "Wings of Freedom" show are owned by the Collings Foundation. Bradley Airport confirmed the B-17 that went down Wednesday is owned by that nonprofit organization from Stow, Massachusetts.

"Our thoughts and prayers are with those who were on that flight and we will be forever grateful to the heroic efforts of the first responders at Bradley," the foundation said in a statement.

"The Collings Foundation flight team is fully cooperating with officials to determine the cause of the crash of the B-17 Flying Fortress and will comment further when details become known."

The B-17 was once dubbed the “Flying Fortress” and played a key role for Allied forces in Europe.

The crashed B-17 had been one of 18 still registered to fly in the United States, according to Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont.

"The tragedy that happened here may be a source of lessons for others that are still flying these B-17s," Lamont said, adding that investigators have to look "at this plane and the potential causes very carefully."

David K. Li is a breaking news reporter for NBC News.

Jay Blackman is an NBC News producer covering such areas a transportation, space, medical and consumer issues.

Janelle Griffith is a national reporter for NBC News focusing on issues of race and policing.


Flying Fort Gets a Facelift

Boeing B-17F 42-3374 returns to duty at the south gate of Nebraska’s Offutt Air Force Base. Its namesake participated in the first shuttle mission targeting Regensburg.

The Midwestern gate guard stands in for a storied six-mission bomber.

The Boeing B-17F that serves as a gate guard at Offutt Air Force Base never saw combat during World War II, and narrowly missed out on a glamorous Hollywood career as well. The Flying Fortress recently gained new luster, however, thanks to a borrowed name and a sorely needed facelift befitting a former queen of the skies.

Delivered to the Army Air Forces on May 26, 1943, from the Douglas Aircraft Company’s plant at Long Beach, Calif., B-17F serial no. 42-3374 was first assigned to the 373rd Sub Depot at Dyersburg, Tenn. On September 8, 1944, the bomber was placed in “Class 26,” which meant it was on nonflying status and available for technical school training.

When WWII ended, the Flying Fortress went to the Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios at Culver City, Calif., where it was supposed to have played a starring role in a war film tentatively titled Footprints in the Sky. Alas, the motion picture was never made, and for years 42-3374 was relegated to obscurity in a storage area on MGM’s back lot.

During the 1960s the studio brass decided to give away the B-17 along with all the other warbirds they had on hand to make way for a corporate hotel. When Edward Maloney from the Planes of Fame Air Museum learned of MGM’s giveaway offer, he had the Fort disassembled and trucked to Chino, Calif., where the bomber was put on display outdoors with its landing gear raised, so the fuselage rested on the sandy soil.

In 1981 Maloney traded the Flying Fortress to the Beale Air Force Base Museum, near Marysville, in northern California, where it was again displayed outdoors, but this time with its gear extended for the first time in many years. Meanwhile officials at the National Air and Space Museum learned that the aircraft, an “F” model, had been fitted with an “E” model nose, glazing over the bombardier’s compartment. A trade was worked out, and the correct glazing was installed on 42-3374.

In 1989 General John T. Chain Jr., then commander in chief of Strategic Air Command, headquartered at Offutt, ordered the B-17 brought to SAC’s home base at Bellevue, Neb. The aging warbird would have a new mission, serving as a gate guard.

When Strategic Air Command was officially disbanded on June 1, 1992, it became part of Air Combat Command. Number 42-3374 joined a second Flying Fortress displayed at the base, part of Offutt’s outdoor Strategic Aerospace Museum.

In 1998 all the aircraft from the Bellevue museum’s collection were transferred to the new Strategic Air and Space Museum’s $33 million facility at Ashland, Neb. According to Walter Chapman, a civilian aircraft structural repairman from the 55th Maintenance Squadron at Offutt, no. 42-3374 arrived on 14 pallets in the hold of a Lockheed C-5A Galaxy. He recalled that the WWII bomber was in poor condition at that point, the result of being exhibited outdoors for nearly four decades. Chapman, who served as the unofficial project leader for the restoration effort, initially estimated it would take more than two years to bring the aircraft back to first-class condition.


Folding back the aluminum skin revealed significant corrosion inside the tail section. (55th Maintenance Section)

That proposed two-year schedule was shortened when General Chain indicated he wanted the B-17 ready for display within nine months. Chapman recalled, “Our plan then changed to make the aircraft look good on the outside…in the time we were given.”

Since 1989 the bomber has been inspected annually, with some preventative maintenance carried out each year. Most of the problems have been the result of exposure to harsh Midwestern weather, as well as birds nesting inside the plane. “The damage is not due to neglect,” said Bob Dean, a maintenance squadron fabrication section chief, who explained that when water gets inside, it corrodes the metal. “Over time the aluminum deteriorates back to its original state, and if the aircraft is not maintained, it basically rots,” he said.

The nearly year-long renovation initiated in 2008 is the most extensive overhaul the aging bomber has seen in the 18 years it’s been in Nebraska. In November and December 2008, each of the almost 300-pound horizontal stabilizers was removed from the aft fuselage and brought inside, where they were 100 percent rebuilt. According to Chapman and Gary Littlefield, another maintenance technician, those sections required almost all new interior ribs, and the outer surfaces had to be reskinned. Originally covered with fabric, the elevators are now clad with aluminum. After several months’ work, the newly rebuilt sections were reinstalled on the B-17’s tail.

Next came removing and repairing sections of the wings outboard of the engines— each piece weighing in at more than 750 pounds. When the old aluminum skin was peeled off, it revealed that most of the stringers and ribs were heavily corroded and would have to be replaced. “They built them pretty stout, so they could take a lot of damage,” Chapman pointed out, referring to the outer wing panels. But he also noted that the original metal had never been painted or coated with a preservative, and as a result the aluminum had corroded quickly. “When we opened up some sections, we found just powder,” he recalled.

While the wing panels were being rebuilt, another crew began inspecting and repairing corroded portions of the fuselage. The entire aircraft then had to be sanded in preparation for a coat of environmentally friendly olive drab paint on the topside and neutral gray on the underside.

Offutt’s B-17F can claim a dual identity of sorts. The name now painted on its nose is Homesick Angel. The Flying Fortress that originally bore that name was a B-17G-75-VE, serial no. 42-30230, which at one point was known as Happy Warrior—one of 10 bombers attached to the Eighth Air Force’s 388th Bomb Group, 562nd Bomb Squadron, in 1944. According to Roger Freeman’s book B-17: Fortress at War, it served as a staff aircraft, used by crews when the Forts they usually flew had been pulled out of service due to battle damage or mechanical problems.

On August 17, 1944, 2nd Lt. Henry Rogers and his crew were assigned to the Eighth Air Force’s first shuttle mission, targeting the Messerschmitt factory at Regensburg, Germany. After the attack, plans called for the formation to fly on to North Africa, so the crews could refuel and rest before returning to England. But the week before, during an August 12 sortie, Rogers’ regularly assigned aircraft, Wailuiku Maui, had been forced to return to base due to engine trouble. Rogers and his crew were given 42-30230, Homesick Angel, for the August 17 mission.

While flying over the Mediterranean after bombing Regensburg, Rogers, his co-pilot, navigator and engineer determined that they were running low on fuel. They decided to leave the formation and fly a more direct route to reach Bone, Tunisia. As a result, Home sick Angel arrived at the Tunisian airfield before the rest of the bombers. They were met by a contingent of high-ranking officers who were expecting to see the mission leader, Brig. Gen. Curtis LeMay, step out of the plane. The officials seemed some what startled to see Lieutenant Rogers crawl out of the bomber’s hatch to greet them instead.


The original "Homesick Angel" after its sixth and final mission on August 24, 1943. (National Archives)

On August 24, Rogers was with a formation that bombed a German airfield at Bordeaux, France. While crossing the English Channel, Angel’s crew again saw that their plane was dangerously low on fuel. Just as it entered the landing pattern at their home base, all four engines stopped running. Rogers safely guided the bomber down to a belly landing, during which none of the crew was injured. One account stated that when emergency personnel arrived at the crash scene, all the crewmen were calmly feasting on watermelons they had brought with them from North Africa. But the plane was declared a total loss and had to be written off after only six missions.

Offutt’s own Homesick Angel has admittedly led a less active life than its namesake. Since restoration was completed in June 2009, however, the Flying Fortress has proudly guarded Offutt’s south gate, representing one of WWII’s most iconic aircraft.

Originally published in the November 2009 issue of Aviation History. To subscribe, click here.


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