Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress in the Pacific

Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress in the Pacific

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Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress in the Pacific

The B-17 Flying Fortress first saw combat in American colours in the Pacific, on the first day of the Japanese onslaught, when nearly 30 aircraft were destroyed on the ground. Despite this inauspicious start to the war, the B-17 went on to perform important duties in the Pacific in the first two years of the war.

The B-17D was the first version of the aircraft seen to be fully combat ready, and three quarters of the aircraft produced were sent to the Pacific. The first twenty one aircraft were sent to Hickman Field, Hawaii, leaving Hamilton Field, California, on 21 May 1941. This was the first time a large group of bombers had flown so far over the ocean, but the aircraft arrived intact, within five minutes of their estimated arrival time. They were allocated to the 5th Bombardment Group. In September nine aircraft were transferred to the 19th Bombardment Group on the Philippines, where they were joined by another 26 aircraft in November 1941. Finally, on 6 December 1941 six B-17Ds of the 7th Bombardment Group took off from the United States on the first stage of their journey to the Philippines. Their next stop would be at Pearl Harbor.

Five bombardment groups used the B-17 in the Pacific. Of those two (5th and 11th) began the war with the Hawaiian Air Force., which soon became the 7th Air Force. They were then transferred to the 13th Air Force and took part in the campaign in the South Pacific, fighting in the Solomon Islands. The 7th and 19th Bombardment Groups were either in the Philippines or on their way in December 1941. They took part in the Allied retreat through the south west Pacific, ending up in Australia, where they were joined by the 43rd Bombardment Group. The 19th and 43rd groups remained in the south west Pacific with the 5th Air Force, while the 5th Bombardment Group was sent to India to join the 10th Air Force in May 1942.

On 7/8 December 1941 the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor and the Philippines. The majority of the twelve B-17s on Hawaii were destroyed on the first day of the war. On the Philippines eighteen B-17s were destroyed. Only the 14th Bombardment Squadron escaped the destruction, having been sent to Del Monte field just before the attack. By the end of the first day of the war in the Pacific only seventeen B-17s were left in service.

5th Air Force

The small number of B-17s remaining on the Philippines began a series of desperate sorties against the invading Japanese on 10 December. This first mission saw Captain Colin Kelly win a posthumous Distinguished Service Cross for an attack that at the time was believed to have sunk a Japanese battleship (although actually achieved near misses against the Japanese cruiser Ashigara. After a week of costly operations, the surviving aircraft of the 19th Bombardment Group were withdrawn to Batchelor Field, Australia. From there they conducted a shuttle mission, attacking Japanese targets and then flying on to Del Monte airfield, before returning to Australia on 24 December.

By the end of December the surviving aircraft of the 19th BG moved back north to Java. On 14 January they were joined there by the 7th BG. Both units would remain on Java until March 1942, taking part in the brave but ultimately futile attempts to defend the Philippines and the Dutch East Indies. The B-17s were never present in large enough numbers to make any real difference to the course of the campaign. The 7th BG was then transferred to India, while the 19th BG returned to Australia. There they were joined by the 43rd Bombardment Group. The two units took part in the campaign on Papua New Guinea, before the 19th BG was moved back to America at the end of 1942. The 43rd BG kept its B-17s into 1943 when they were replaced by B-24s.

7th and 13th Air Force

The first few months of 1942 had been quiet for the two 7th Air Force B-17 groups based on Hawaii, but at the end of May sixteen B-17s from the 5th and 11th Bombardment Groups were sent to Midway. Nine B-17s from Midway fired the first shots of the battle of Midway, attacking five large Japanese ships 570 miles from Midway. The B-17 crews claimed five direct hits, but research after the war suggests that they only scored one near miss. During the battle the B-17s based on Midway flew 55 sorties in 16 separate attacks, but probably without actually scoring any direct hits on Japanese hits. Combat experience during the Second World War proved that the level bomber was not a very good anti-shipping weapon. It was far too easy for the enemy ship to take evasive action. Defenders of the B-17 as an anti-shipping weapon point out that there were never enough B-17s involved in these naval battles. Official doctrine suggested that 20 B-17s would be needed to guarantee that 7% of bombs would hit their targets. In this case at least those opponents of the B-17 who would have preferred to have had a larger number of smaller aircraft were right – the dive bomber and the torpedo bomber were much more effective anti-shipping weapons. A more valid defence of the B-17 was that it forced the Japanese carriers into evasive manoeuvres that greatly reduced their efficiency, increasing the amount of time it took to launch or recover aircraft.

Both the 5th and 11th Bombardment Groups joined the 13th Air Force during 1942 and took part in the American campaign in the south west Pacific, fighting during the campaigns in the Solomon Islands (including the battle for Guadalcanal) and the return to the Philippines. By the middle of 1943 both units had replaced their B-17s with B-24 Liberators.

10th Air Force

In May 1942 the 7th Bombardment Group was transferred from the 5th Air Force to form part of the 10th Air Force in India. It continued to operate its B-17s for most of the rest of the year, operating against the Japanese in Burma.

Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress in the Pacific - History

Former Assignments
43rd BG
64th BS

Aircraft History
Built by Boeing at Seattle. This B-17 was paid for by citizens of Seattle during a war bond campaign sponsored by a local newspaper to raise $280,535 to pay for a single B-17 Flying Fortress. Nicknamed "Chief Seattle from the Pacific Northwest" in yellow lettering with black shadow. Also known as simply "Chief Seattle", in honor of American Indian "Chief Seattle" after whom Seattle was named.

On March 5, 1942 at a ceremony at Boeing Field delivered to the U.S. Army on behalf of Major General F. L. Martin in a ceremony attended by Seattle mayor Earl Millikin P. G. Johnson, Mrs. Edward C. Teats and others. Afterwards, ferried overseas via Hickam Field then across the Pacific Ocean to Australia.

Wartime History
Assigned to the 5th Air Force (5th AF), 19th Bombardment Group (19th BG), 435th Bombardment Squadron (435th BS) "Kangaroo Squadron". At Charleville Airfield took off piloted by Lt. Morris Friedman and his crew from the 93rd Bombardment Squadron (93rd BS) on a ferry flight across the Pacific bound for Fenton Airfield near Darwin. Unable to locate the airfield, they landed instead at Daly Waters Airfield and the next day arrived at Fenton Airfield.

On August 5, 1942 assigned to the 43rd Bombardment Group (43rd BG), 64th Bombardment Squadron (64th BS) as their first B-17, but on August 6, 1942 transferred back to the 19th Bombardment Group (19th BG), 435th Bombardment Squadron (435th BS). On August 8, 1942 in the afternoon took off from Fenton Airfield on a flight to Garbutt Field near Townsville to stage for a bombing mission the next day.

On August 9, 1942 took off from 7 Mile Drome near Port Moresby piloted by Lt. Morris Friedman on a reconnaissance mission over Rabaul and Kavieng. The mission lasted 8 hours and 40 minutes.

On August 11, 1942 took off from 7 Mile Drome piloted by Lt. Morris Friedman on a reconnaissance mission over Rabaul and Kavieng. After an hour and a half, aborted the mission due to a problem with the no. 2 engine and returned after three hours. When it landed, United Press (UP) correspondent Frank Hewlett, interviewed the crew and a photographed the crew and bomber while the ground crew worked on the issues related to the no. 2 engine. Two days later, the repairs were completed.

A second crew from the 435th Squadron was assigned to fly the next mission. The new crew was experienced in the ways of war in the Pacific. Many were veterans of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. Some had been on the ground dodging bombs and bullets, and some had been in the air over the island in unarmed B-17s trying to save. When lost, engine and weapon serial numbers unknown.

Mission History
On August 14, 1942 at 6:02am took off from 7-Mile Drome near Port Moresby piloted by 1st Lt. Wilson L. Cook on a solo reconnaissance mission.

The flight plan was to follow the southern coast of New Guinea and at 6:17am over Round Point near Rigo turn to the northeast climbing to roughly 11,000' to cross the Owen Stanley Mountains. Then, the B-17 would fly over Buna at 8,000', then to proceed to Gasmata and Rabaul on New Britain. Finally, fly over Kavieng on New Ireland. Returning, this B-17 would search the Solomon Sea for any enemy shipping then return to Port Moresby.

After take off, nothing ever heard from this bomber and it was presumed lost sometime between 10:00am to 7:00pm near Gasmata. When this B-17 failed to return, entire crew was officially declared Missing In Action (MIA).

In fact, this B-17 was intercepted and claimed by A6M3 Model 32 Zeros from the Tainan Kokutai. That morning, the nine Zero took off from Lae Airfield on a flight bound for Buna to escort a convoy. The formation included: 1st shotai: Lt(jg) Joji Yamashita, FPO2c Ichirobei Yamazaki and FPO3c Hiroshi Okano. 2nd shotai: Lt(jg) Takeyoshi Ono, FPO1c Sadao Yamashita, FPO3c Masami Arai. 3rd shotai: WO Sahei Yamashita, FPO2c Enji Kakimoto, F1c Kihachi Ninomiya.

According to Japanese records, the Zeros intercepted a single B-17 at 7:35am over the Solomon Sea south of New Britain. The bomber's defensive fire severely damaged A6M3 Zero piloted by Lt(jg) Takeyoshi Ono. At 7:40, the three Zeros of the 1st shotai claimed the B-17 as shot down. Afterwards, the 2nd shotai escorted Lt(jg) Takeyoshi Ono's damaged Zero and all three land Buna Airfield.

As B-17E "Chief Seattle 41-2656 was the only B-17 lost that date and planned to fly over the same area at the same time, the Zero claim corresponds this bomber. Likely, this B-17 crashed into the open sea and it is unlikely any wreckage will ever be found.

The entire crew was officially declared dead on December 7, 1945. All are memorialized at Manila American Cemetery on the tablets of the missing. McMichael has a memorial marker at Fort McPherson National Cemetery in Maxwell, NE.

Australian Andrews was officially declared dead the day of the mission. He is memorialized at Bomana War Cemetery on the Port Moresby Memorial, panel 9.

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A historic flight on the Boeing B-17 'Ye Olde Pub'

The Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress: To modern eyes, the hodgepodge floor and open rivets are daunting, but it was the modern technology of the 1930s and '40s.

A six to seven inch wooden plank and two lines of rope across the bomb bay are the only protection from the bomb doors, which could open to thousands of feet of empty air below.

At liftoff, the body shuddered. It began with a soft murmur of the engine, then rumbled to life with no warning, rattling the exposed rivets loudly against the aircraft frame. The cacophony of the propellers could be felt from the cockpit.

The plane trembled and roared. A tilt up, wind from the open roof flew through the body of the plane and we were airborne.


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“The aircraft roars so immensely. It’s not like jet engines, it’s different. The skin is thin on the aircraft and you can hear it, you can smell the exhaust, it’s just so amazing,” said Michael Stirber, an air force veteran and first time “Ye Olde Pub” crew member. “To get a chance to fly in a B-17 is a once in a lifetime opportunity.”

When fear of flying overpowered a reporter, pilot Tony Anger told us to put ourselves in the shoes of someone a little younger, who lived long ago and who knew they might never come back from this mission.

“Imagine you’re 17 years old,” Anger said, “and you’re being shipped off to war. And you’re probably not coming back.”

On March 9, the Daily Wildcat was invited to a media flight by the Liberty Foundation on the 1945 Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress “Ye Olde Pub” to gather press for an upcoming public flight event.

Due to increased tour costs “given recent events,” as stated on the Liberty Foundation website, the annual national tour of “Ye Olde Pub” is being cut short. Its last flight of the year will take place on March 15 at the Tucson International Airport.

When you think of World War II planes, you’re likely thinking of the big bombers flying over England and Germany in war movies or lined up in photographs of Pearl Harbor, pre-disaster. The B-17 is exactly that.

“This was modern technology back in the day,” said Tony Anger, a veteran, B-17 pilot and president of Grounded No More Veteran Flight Lift. “Back then, flying was beginning to become safe. The most dangerous thing in this airplane is trying to land in a crosswind.”

According to Liberty Foundation Tour Coordinator Sean O’Brien, out of 12,731 models built between 1935 and 1945, this aircraft is one of eight in the world to still function.“Ye Olde Pub” was built at the end of the B-17’s heyday in 1945 and was built as a “commemoration” to a previous plane of the same name.

“This aircraft did not see any wartime use it was built too late in the war to see combat and never even left the U.S.,” O’Brien said. “But the aircraft it is representing today has an incredible story behind it.”

According to O’Brien, the original “Ye Olde Pub” was built in 1935. On Dec. 20, 1943, a bombing mission to Germany piloted by 21-year-old Charlie Brown resulted in a dead and damaged crew, a heavy bomber with the nose chopped off and no hope.

David Lyon, a retired pilot and nine-year member of the Liberty Foundation, said “Ye Olde Pub” was “hit by flack, so the number three engine was not working. The horizontal stabilizer was shot off. The whole top of the fuse lodge was riddled and left from flack, waist-gunners were killed, the radio room operator was badly injured.”

German pilot Franz Stigler was tasked with shooting them down, but Stigler saw no chivalry in shooting down a plane already on its deathbed, according to Lyon. Instead he escorted the American pilots over wartime Germany to an unsteady landing in England.

“Luftewaffe pilots were not Nazis,” Lyon said. “They were true Germans, they were not part of the Nazi party. They had that code of conduct, you know the old warrior code that you gotta make it a fair fight.”

The encounter was top secret for years, according to the book that details the story, “A Higher Call” by Adam Makos. According to Lyon, Brown and Stigler became “fast friends” when they met again 40 years after that mission. The two died within months of each other in 2008.

Lyon talked about how “Ye Olde Pub,” even though it never saw combat, it stayed in the military up until 1959 and was used for research for aerodynamics and electronics at the Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio.

“That generator was special just to power the radar, most of the B-17s did have that,” Lyon said. “So, this airplane spent a lot of time and research developing those radar systems for bombing, which was of course used later in Korea and the Vietnam wars.”

With so few B-17’s left running, the Liberty Foundation began offering public flights on “Ye Olde Pub” in 2005. According to O’Brien, it began as a “passion” of Liberty Foundation founder Don Brooks, whose father was a World War II B-17 pilot.

The Liberty Foundation wants to give current veterans the chance to ride planes “their grandfathers might have flown in,” Stirber said.

But on the rare occasion a World War II veteran steps onto a B-17, something phenomenal happens.

Lyon described veterans throwing aside their walkers to deftly maneuver the jittery aircraft. They know what to hold onto, where to step, where to duck, where to go — like riding a bicycle.

“You get him back out on the ground, and he goes right back to the walker,” Lyon said. “But when he’s in the airplane he’s a kid again. How does that happen?”

Even more, some of these veterans revealed war stories on that plane even their families never knew.

The thought exercise Anger gave the Daily Wildcat while in the plane was to get us to experience what it might have been like for World War II soldiers.

“The average crew member was 17 years old,” Anger said. “Just kids who wanted to save their country and fight for freedom. Most of them I don’t think had any idea what they were getting into. … Just about every single kid that got on this plane knew he probably wasn’t coming back. He was going to die for his country.”

At first, World War II veterans would come out in “troves” to fly the B-17, Lyon said, but their numbers are dwindling. It's difficult to get even one these days because they are around the age of 90. They are still alive and they want to come out, but they are just physically unable to.

According to the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs, less than 500,000 World War II veterans are still alive of the more than 16 million American soldiers to serve in the war. Nearly 372 World War II veterans die every day.

Like the still-living B-17, the veterans are becoming a rarity. Some day, there will be a last World War II veteran to fly “Ye Olde Pub,” and it will be in the coming years. Soon, they will not be able to tell their stories.

The goal of these media flights is to "keep the memories alive," according to O’Brien.

He said: “That’s one of the things we’re trying to do, is keep these World War II pieces of history alive and keep these stories going for generations.”

The Liberty Foundation is offering public flight tours on “Ye Olde Pub” this coming weekend, on March 14 and 15 at Atlantic Aviation at the Tucson International Airport. Rides are $475 per passenger. Visit the Liberty Foundation website for more information, or contact Sean O’Brien at [email protected] or phone number (678) 589-7433 to book your flight.

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Boeing B 17 Flying Fortress

  • Author : Graeme Douglas
  • Publisher : Zenith Press
  • Release Date : 2011-03-15
  • Genre: History
  • Pages : 160
  • ISBN 10 : 0760340773

This manual offers a unique perspective on what it takes to restore and operate a B-17 Flying Fortress, as well as a wonderful insight into the engineering and construction of this remarkable airplane. The B-17 is one of the most famous airplanes ever built. Although Boeing’s B-17 prototype first flew on July 28, 1935, only a relative handful of B-17s were in the Army Air Corps inventory when America’s war started on December 7, 1941. But production quickly accelerated, peaking at 16 airplanes a day in April 1944, before ending in May 1945 with a total of 12,726 aircraft delivered. The B-17 served in every World War II combat zone but is best known for daylight strategic bombing of German industrial targets. B-17s from the Eighth Air Force participated in countless missions from bases in England. These missions often lasted for more than eight hours and struck at targets deep within enemy territory. Because of their long-range capability, formations of Flying Fortresses often flew into battle without fighter escort, relying on their own defensive capabilities. G model Fortresses carrying thirteen .50-cal. machine guns and tight formation flying made famous by the motion picture 12 O’Clock High ensured successful missions.


On August 8, 1931, the US Army Air Corps issued a request for a heavy bomber to replace the Martin B-10 as its primary long-range strike aircraft. It was to have a maximum range of 2,000 miles, a top speed of at least 200 mph and capable of carrying a "useful bomb load." The four designs submitted by Boeing, Douglas and Martin were impressive indeed.

Conception [ edit | edit source ]

In 1932, the Army Air Corps proposed a competition for a $600 million, 200-unit contract for conceptual designs from the aviation giants of the day: Boeing, Martin and Douglas. At first, it seemed Boeing was in the lead with their YB-17 four-engine long-range heavy bomber, of which 65 had been ordered. Toward the end, however, Army Chief of Staff Malin Craig cancelled the order in favor of Douglas' B-18 Bolo twin-engine medium bomber, ordering 133 of them.

But the USAAC had been impressed by the performance of Boeing's design. Using a legal loophole, on January 17, 1936, the Air Corps ordered 13 YB-17s (formerly Y1B-17) for further evaluation. Boeing had incorporated several upgrades into the revised design, including more powerful Wright R-1820-97 Cyclone radial engines in place of the original Pratt & Whitney water-cooled motors. Twelve of the aircraft were delivered to the 2nd Bombardment Group in 1937 for operational development and flight tests, while the thirteenth was delivered to the Material Division at Wright Field, Ohio, for disassembly and study.

In 1938, the Army Air Corps approved the design, redesignated B-17B, for production and placed the effort under the authority of Boeing's lead engineers E. Gifford Emery and Edward Curtis Wells.

Development [ edit | edit source ]

After approving it for production, the Army Air Corps ordered the first fifty aircraft to the 2nd and 15th Bombardment Groups to begin building squadrons. The effort still had its share of critics, who believed that the money and time being spent on the aircraft would be of better use elsewhere, such as finding a way to haul America out from the depths of the economic depression that had struck in October, 1929. Opposition waned as awareness of war in other parts of the world increased.

After the unprovoked surprise attack by Japan on the Pacific Fleet at anchor in Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, all opposition vanished as the United States mobilized for war in a raging thirst for vengeance and the B-17 Flying Fortress was ordered into full production. Components were manufactured all over the country, but the aircraft were assembled at the Boeing factory in Seattle, Washington.

The crux of the aircraft's design was its defensive armament. It was conceived as a self-preserving strategic strike aircraft, capable of defending itself with up to ten .50-caliber machine guns covering nearly all angles of approach. It was firmly believed that these onboard defenses would be capable of warding off marauding fighters and that an escort would not be needed.

Deployment [ edit | edit source ]

As early as March of 1942, dozens of the aircraft were being delivered to European theater each month. The majority of the aircraft were based in England, but many were sent to the Middle East, Southeast Asia and the South Pacific. Hundreds flew thousands of missions over France, the Low Countries and Germany, battering the Nazi defenses before and after the historic landings at Normandy.

Death Match: The Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress Bomber vs. the Consolidated B-24 Liberator (Which Was Better?)

In the final analysis, there is no real way to determine if either the B-24 or the B-17 was truly superior. But, the record of the two types indicates that, of the two, the Liberator design was more versatile and considerably more advanced than that of the Flying Fortress.

One of the most frequently discussed arguments to come out of World War II is which was the “better” bomber, the Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress or the Consolidated B-24 Liberator. The argument began in bars and service clubs, where crew members from the two types met while off duty during the war, and has continued ever since.

This is particularly true of veterans who flew in England where B-17s predominated within the Eighth Air Force, and where large numbers of war correspondents reported on the air war over Germany as it was being fought by the crews of the Flying Fortresses in the summer of 1943. It was among the Eighth Air Force B-17 and B-24 crews that the arguments were strongest, and it is among those veterans that they have continued, as a general public consensus has developed that the B-17 was the best bomber ever built.

Hard Analysis?

Since the war, the argument that the B-17 was the better bomber of the two has often been perpetuated by aviation authors and historians whose personal knowledge of airplanes and aviation in general consists only of what they have read or been told. Few writers have ever used statistics or aircraft performance to prove their point, but have relied primarily on what they have learned from advocates who are on one side or the other of the argument. Many B-17 aficionados rely on emotion to attempt to strengthen their position. They point to photographs of B-17s that returned to base with large holes put there by flak or fighters. Former B-17 crew members who survived a combat tour stress that because the Old Fort brought them home, it has to be the best. Similarly, B-24 vets say the same thing about their airplane. Children and grandchildren of B-17 veterans point to comments made by former Stars & Stripes reporter and modern TV personality Andy Rooney, to the effect that if he had to go into combat, he would have preferred to be in a B-17. Rooney has never really said why he believes this. He flew a couple of missions in B-17s and another in a B-26, but never flew a mission in a B-24, though he did spend some time with the 44th Bomb Group. The combat records of both aircraft do exist, and they indicate that the views put forth by B-17 advocates may indeed fall well within the category of wishful thinking.

Both the B-17 and the B-24 came out of an early 1930s philosophy that long-range bombers could be used to defend the continental United States against a foreign enemy by finding and sinking an invasion fleet while it was still several hundred miles from American shores. This was the argument put forth by those who supported Brig. Gen. Billy Mitchell and was a widely held view among the officers of the Army Air Corps, though future events would later prove it to have been unfounded.

The original intent of the Army Air Corps was to develop a land-based, long-range heavy bomber that would have relegated the B-17 to the category of a medium bomber. Senior Air Corps strategists wanted a long-range bomber with a 5,000-mile range, a concept that led to the design and development of the B-15 and then to the even more ambitious B-19. However, both types were underpowered and the Army realized that the power plants then available were not adequate to power the type of airplane they really wanted.

Project A: the “Multi-Engine” Bomber

As a compromise, the Army elected to put forth a proposal for a less ambitious project and set forth the design requirements that eventually led to both the B-17 and B-24, as well as the more powerful Boeing B-29 Superfortress. The ultimate goal was finally achieved with the advent of the long-range B-36, though that airplane did not enter service until several years after the war.

The proposal—known as Project A—specified only that the airplane would be a “multi-engine” bomber. With the exception of Boeing, all of the competing manufacturers assumed the Army was looking for a twin-engine airplane and designed their entries accordingly. Boeing, however, elected to increase power with two additional engines and thus came up with a design that would increase both range and payload beyond those then possible with two engines. The Boeing prototype first flew in 1935, and deliveries were begun in early 1937. The performance of the new B-17 allowed a combat radius of no more than a thousand miles, however, and the Army began considering other alternatives to extend the striking range of its heavy-bomber fleet. A proposed 1,500-mile combat radius would lead to the development of the B-29 and the B-32 which followed, but it also caused the Army to take a closer look at a new design put forth by Ruben Fleet’s company, Consolidated Aircraft.

In January 1939, prompted by President Franklin D. Roosevelt, U.S. Army Air Corps Commander General Henry “Hap” Arnold published a requirement for a four-engine bomber with a 3,000-mile range, a top airspeed in excess of 300 miles per hour, and a service ceiling of 35,000 feet. Drawing upon experience from other designs and their own background with long-range flying boats, Consolidated had a prototype of a 1937 design flying by the end of the year. Recognizing the possibilities afforded by the new design, the Army contracted for seven YB-24 prototypes for test purposes and 36 B-24As for operational use before the first airplane even flew.

Changing the Role of the B24A

By the time the new airplane entered production, war had broken out in Europe and the United States had begun supplying airplanes and other military hardware to the British and French. France was lacking in long-range bombing capabilities, and the United States agreed to provide a number of the new bombers, which had been given the nickname “Liberator,” allegedly by Winston Churchill.

The fall of France led to the cancellation of deliveries of all airplanes destined for France, and the Liberators, which had been designated as LB-30s, were diverted for British use. Because of their longer range, General George Brett recommended, in the fall of 1941, that several B-24s be redirected to British forces in North Africa from those scheduled to go to England. As the war intensified, the U.S. Army elected to change the role of the B-24A, and most were converted to long-range transports while a few were equipped with cameras for reconnaissance. The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor caught one of the converted Liberators on the ground at Hickam Field on December 7, 1941.

Prior to America’s entry into the war, both the Flying Fortress and the new Liberator were tested in combat by the Royal Air Force. In the spring of 1941, the U.S. Army sent 20 B-17Cs to England for use by the RAF to test their combat capabilities. Although the RAF crewmen praised the Flying Fortress for its ability to take hits from enemy fire, the test turned out to be a dismal failure for the much-publicized bomber. Mechanical problems plagued the Boeing bombers, and their daylight high-altitude bombing accuracy turned out to be much less than advertised. The test came to a dubious end after three of the 20 airplanes were lost to enemy action, five were destroyed in accidents, and the rest were grounded due to mechanical failure. In 39 sorties, only 18 Flying Fortresses managed to actually bomb a target. Only two bombs were believed to have actually hit the targets they were aimed at—and not a single German fighter had fallen to the Fortresses’ guns.

After the B-17s proved ineffective in British hands, the Army Air Corps sought to determine why. Initially, the British were impressed with the Fort’s ability to withstand gunfire, but that early confidence quickly faded as the desired results were not achieved. U.S. military leaders blamed the failure on the British having elected to use the airplane to bomb from very high altitudes, which led to unforeseen problems: frozen guns, frosted-over windshields, and oxygen failure. At high altitude the airplane lacked the speed and firepower to deal with enemy attack. Ironically, the RAF chose to operate the airplane under exactly the same conditions that many U.S. Army Air Corps officers were claiming was possible with the B-17, even though the U.S. training curriculum called for operations at considerably lower altitudes.

The RAF’s Preferences

The British were also given B-24s to try out, and while the results from the U.S. viewpoint were less than hoped for, the RAF did prefer the Liberator over the Fortress because of its heavier payload capabilities. The main problems with the tests of the Liberator were that necessary modifications for the kind of war being fought in Europe took longer than expected, while the British preferred to use the high-capacity Liberators in the transport role. The report of the RAF crews who flew both the American-designed Flying Fortress and Liberator was that they might be suitable for a war in the Pacific where missions would be flown over open expanses of ocean, but they were too poorly armed for daylight operations into Germany. They reported that the planes might be useful as night bombers.

By December 1941, B-17s had been in service with U.S. Army bomber squadrons for more than four years. In September 1941, two squadrons of the 19th Bombardment Group were dispatched from Hamilton Field, Calif., to provide a heavy-bomber presence in the Philippines. Two months later the ground echelon of the 7th Bombardment Group set sail by ship to join the 19th. The first of the air element left California on December 6 and arrived in Hawaii in the midst of the Japanese attack.

Bombers Making Their Debut in the Philippines

Part of the 19th Bomb Group was destroyed at Clark Field on December 8, when Japanese bombers caught the planes on the ground in the midst of rearming for an attack on Formosa. Fortunately, part of the group had been moved south to a new airfield at Del Monte on Mindanao and would continue to fly from there for several weeks. Only a few Liberators were in the Far East serving as transports when the war broke out, and a few others would be sent to Australia in the opening weeks of the war.

It was in the Philippines and Java that U.S. heavy bombers made their combat debut. While the B-17s managed to hold their own in combat with the Japanese, design deficiencies, particularly in armament and armor, very quickly became apparent. In the confusion following the Japanese attack, the U.S. Army dispatched “Project X,” a complement of 80 heavy bombers, to reinforce Allied forces in Australia, with the goal of supporting the U.S. forces in the Philippines. Included in the 80 airplanes were 15 LB-30 bombers that had been repossessed from Britain, although only 12 actually reached Australia. The LB-30s did not fare very well in combat in Java (neither did the B-17s) in large measure due to the inexperience of the crews. Except for the 19th Bomb Group crews which were brought down to Darwin from Del Monte, few of the bomber pilots had more than a few hours of four-engine experience. Losses due to accident were as great as those from enemy action. As the numbers of LB-30s declined, the remainder joined the converted B-24As that were in the theater in transport duties, flying cargo to and evacuees from Java and Mindanao.

As combat-weary bomber crews began returning to the United States after the ill-fated Java campaign, they were called upon to give reports of their experiences. The returning pilots, most of whom had flown B-17s, reported that the B-17 had stood up better to Japanese fighters, though they evidently failed to take into consideration their own losses and the fact that several of the LB-30s were lost to ground attack and accident. The legend of the superiority of the Flying Fortress over the Liberator was born. Yet, ironically, within a year the vaunted B-17 would be on the way out of the war in the Pacific and the B-24 would be in.

The HALPRO Project

After the Java Campaign, B-17s remained as the only heavy bombers operating in what had become the Southwest Pacific Area of Operations, though a handful of LB-30s and B-24s served in the transport role. A few Liberators were involved in the Battle of Midway in June 1942, but it was in the Middle East that the Liberator returned to combat in the role for which it was intended, as a long-range bomber. The HALPRO Project, named for its commander, Colonel Harry Halvorsen, had originally been intended for duty in China, where the War Department had envisioned it as the nucleus of a heavy-bomber force equipped with B-24Ds that would begin a strategic bombing campaign against the Japanese homeland from bases in China. However, in the wake of the Doolittle Raid, Burma fell and a massive Japanese offensive in China led to the loss of the region from which the bombers were to operate. HALPRO was diverted to fly a single long-range mission against the oil-refinery complex at Ploesti, Romania, though plans still called for the squadron to continue on to China.

While the detachment was in the Middle East, the Germans went on the offensive in Africa, and the HALPRO force was ordered to remain in Palestine. Along with the HALPRO diversion, Tenth Air Force commander Maj. Gen. Lewis H. Brereton was ordered to the Middle East from India with as many of his heavy bombers as he could muster. This was only a handful of battle-weary B-17s. The HALPRO squadron and Tenth Air Force B-17s went to Palestine where they were joined by more B-24s to make up the nucleus of what would become the Ninth Air Force Bomber Command.

Operating from Egypt and Palestine under the command of General Brereton, the B-24s of the HALPRO squadron and an advanced element of the 98th Bombardment Group began the American bombing effort against the German war machine. Attacks were aimed at the supply lines of the German Afrika Korps, particularly the ports and supply depots at Tobruk and Benghazi in Libya. The U.S. B-24s often operated in formation with RAF Liberator squadrons. As it turned out, the force mix of B-24s and B-17s was exactly reversed from that of the bomber forces in Java. By mid-October the American heavy bomber force in Palestine consisted of 53 B-24s and only 10 B-17s. The B-24s in Africa performed well as they went against German and Italian targets. Missions were flown at night and in daylight as the fledgling Ninth Air Force took advantage of the cloak of darkness on missions to the most heavily defended targets.

B-17s in Doolittle’s Twelfth

It was not until the late summer of 1942 that American heavy bombers began operations over Western Europe from bases in England. The first groups to arrive in England were B-17 groups, of which two would transfer to North Africa in the fall of 1942 to become the heavy bomber force of Jimmy Doolittle’s Twelfth Air Force. While U.S. Army Air Forces commanders in other theaters were not locked in to the daylight-bombing methodology, the leadership of the fledgling Eighth Air Force felt that it had a point to prove and all missions were planned for daylight operations.

The first B-17 missions were flown in September 1942 to Rouen, France. A little over a month later the pioneer Eighth Air Force B-17 groups were joined by the 93rd Bomb Group, the first U.S. Army B-24 group to see combat from English bases. The 93rd went on to rack up an impressive combat record, including the lowest loss rate of any of the heavy-bomber groups that entered combat with the Eighth Air Force in 1942. In fact, the loss rate per sortie for the 93rd Bomb Group was lower than that of all but three of the B-17 groups, two of which did not enter combat until mid-1944. The other did not enter combat until November 26, 1943, more than a year after the 93rd flew its first mission.

For several weeks the 93rd was the only B-24 group flying combat from English bases. But on November 7, 1942, the 44th Bomb Group, which was actually the oldest B-24 group in the Army, flew its first mission. After the 44th Bomb Group entered combat, it quickly achieved a reputation as a “hard luck” outfit, taking fairly heavy losses in comparison to the other groups, though they came about in ones and twos, and in one instance as the result of a midair collision. Shortly after the 44th entered combat, three squadrons of the veteran 93rd were sent south in support of the North African campaign while the fourth was placed on a special assignment. The departure of the 93rd left the 44th alone in the skies over Occupied Europe, and their smaller numbers led their peers in B-17s to take heavier note of their losses, just as had those who fought before them in Java, where the proportion of B-24s to B-17s was similar.

1943: Dark Days for Eighth Air Force B-17s

Flying Fortress crew members began saying that they didn’t need a fighter escort when the Liberators were along, because the German fighters would go after the smaller force of B-24s. Yet, in spite of the higher losses in the first few months of operations, the overall loss rate for the 44th Bomb Group was no higher than those of the B-17 groups. In fact, they were lower at 3.73 percent than nine of them and equal to two others, all but two of which entered combat after the 44th.

The summer and early fall of 1943 were dark days for the B-17s of the Eighth Air Force as they attempted deep-penetration raids into Germany without fighter escort. This is the period that is most often addressed by the TV documentaries and literature about the bombing campaign in Europe. The leadership of the Eighth was trying to prove that the prewar concept that the “bomber will always get through” was not ill-founded. The British, however, had decided to change tactics after early experiences against the Third Reich. Due to heavy losses, the RAF elected to discontinue daylight operations and turned entirely to night-bombing operations. British military aviation leaders suggested that the Americans do likewise, but the Eighth Air Force leadership insisted on continuing daylight operations.

On August 17, the Eighth Bomber Command mounted a massive effort with a split force of B-17s going against Regensburg and Schweinfurt. The 147 airplanes of the Regensburg force were to go on to North Africa. When they got there, 24 bombers were missing, 17 of which had been shot down. Of the 230 bombers that went to Schweinfurt, 36 failed to return—a total of 60 B-17s had been lost in one day. Previously, the highest single-day loss had been 26 airplanes—all B-17s—lost on June 26. The terrible losses of August 17 were repeated on October 14 when a 360-plane force of B-17s went back to Schweinfurt and 60 failed to return. Sixty B-24s were supposed to have gone to the target, but bad weather in their assembly area caused a mission scrub, though a small force from two groups went on to Germany to create a diversion for the B-17s. Losses in such numbers would be repeated among Eighth Air Force B-17 formations a couple of times in early 1944, though never to such a large extent among the B-24s that flew alongside them.

Throughout the summer of 1943, Eighth Air Force B-17 crews found themselves alone in the skies on the long—and treacherous—missions over Germany. In early June the two B-24 groups that made up the entire Liberator strength of the Eighth at the time were taken off operations. Rumors abounded, and many B-17 crew members who had bought the line that their airplanes were superior probably believed the B-24s were gone because they couldn’t “hack the mission.” They were probably ignorant of the fact that their own type had been withdrawn from combat duty in the Pacific because of its shorter range capability in comparison to the longer legged B-24s. It was that very factor that had led the chief planners at Army Air Forces Headquarters in Washington, DC, to conclude that the B-24 was the only type that could possibly fly what was to be the most dangerous and ambitious heavy-bomber mission of World War II.

During the first week of June 1943, the 389th Bomb Group arrived in England to bolster the two groups already there. Three weeks later, after several low-flying training missions over England, the three groups pulled up stakes for North Africa, leaving most of their ground echelons behind. They joined the two B-24 groups of the Ninth Air Force Bomber Command on a series of missions against targets along the Mediterranean, including Naples, Rome, and the German aircraft factories at Weiner-Neustadt in Austria.

However, the real reason the B-24s had gone to Africa was to attack the Ploesti, Romania, oil refineries in a daring low-level attack that put the crews in range of every weapon available to the German defenders, from 88mm antiaircraft guns to machine pistols, not to mention German and Romanian fighter aircraft. The August 1, 1943, mission to Ploesti cost the Eighth Air Force groups 30 B-24s out of 103 on the 171-plane mission, a loss rate just shy of 30 percent and considerably higher than the loss rates suffered by the B-17s on the Regensburg and Schweinfurt missions. Twenty-five other Liberators were lost from the two Ninth Air Force groups on the mission known as “Tidal Wave.”

Disparity in Publicity

No less than 51 Eighth Air Force B-24s were lost during the three months the three groups were in Africa, a loss of almost half of the airplanes in the groups. Ironically, the 44th sustained twice as many losses as the seemingly charmed 93rd. In proportion to their smaller numbers, the B-24 groups of the Eighth sustained even higher casualties during that summer and “Fall of Fortresses” than did their peers in the B-17 groups. The skies were extremely hazardous for both types, and the B-24s were getting their share of punishment from enemy fighters and flak.

What the B-24 groups were not getting was publicity. While the world knew all about the great air battles over Germany being fought by the B-17s, very little about the B-24s was making its way into newsprint.

Along with thousands of words telling how the brave boys in B-17s were going up against the Germans, pictures of battle-damaged airplanes began showing up in Stars & Stripes and U.S. newspapers that illustrated the “ruggedness” of the Flying Fortresses. Looking closely at these pictures, which have been republished in numerous books about the B-17 and the Eighth Air Force, one who is familiar with airplanes and aerodynamics sees that much of the damage is confined to structural areas of the airplane that are not necessary for flight. Many B-17 battle-damage pictures show holes in—and even sections gone from—the vertical stabilizer, otherwise known as the “tail,” an airfoil, the sole purpose of which is to keep the nose of the airplane tracking straight however, there are pictures of B-24s maintaining formation with one of their twin vertical stabilizers shot completely away—and one famous Liberator suffered the loss of both when it was struck by a British Lancaster bomber, yet it returned to the United States for a War Bond Tour. The huge stabilizer of the B-17 presented a target for rounds that would miss the smaller tail of a B-24.

Wing Design—Which Model Has the Edge?

There is only one part of an airplane—any airplane—that is absolutely necessary for flight and that is the wing. This is one area in which the B-17 possessed something of an advantage over the B-24. The aerodynamics of the Flying Fortress stemmed from designs of the late 1920s and early 1930s, featuring a wide chord, the width of the wing from leading to trailing edge, and shorter span. The British slang “kite” is appropriate for the B-17, because the huge wing provided tremendous lift that did make for a stable bombing platform and, at least in the minds of B-17 fans, provided increased lift that was valuable in the event of a power loss on an engine. The B-24, on the other hand, incorporated a brand-new wing design that was on the very cutting edge of aviation technology in 1937. The long, narrow Davis Wing was what is known as a “high aspect ratio” wing, meaning that the span is proportionally much greater than the chord, a feature that provides significantly reduced drag and increased performance on heavier airplanes—which is why the B-24 was considerably faster than the B-17.

The strength of an airplane wing is in the spar, the piece of wood or metal around which the wing is constructed of ribs and stringers, then covered by a metal or fabric skin. If the spar on the wing of the B-24 was hit by flak or an explosive cannon round, it was likely to fail, sending the airplane into a spin toward the ground. However, if the spar on a B-17 was hit, the results were the same. As with the huge vertical stabilizer, the wider wing of the B-17 often resulted in hits in noncritical areas that missed the spar and would have passed harmlessly in space behind the slimmer wing of the B-24.

Part of the B-17 myth is its “rugged construction.” However, in the aviation world, “rugged” and “weight” are practically synonymous, and the fact is that the Liberator was considerably heavier than the B-17 in all models. The empty weight of an airplane is the sum of the weight of the components used in its construction—including the ribs, spars, stringers, and longerons that form the wings, the vertical and horizontal stabilizers, and the fuselage. If the B-17G was so much more “rugged” than the B-24J, why did it weigh 20 percent less standing empty? Perhaps the answer lies in the fact that there was more dead space in the huge airfoils of the B-17 where hits could do little damage. The larger wings and vertical stabilizer of the B-17 could take hits that did only superficial damage because they missed crucial components that would cause structural failure if they were damaged.

Engine Power On Equal Measure

One area in which the B-17 and all models of the B-24 were completely equal was in the power of their engines. Both the Flying Fortress and the Liberator were equipped with engines that were flat-rated at 1,200 shaft horsepower each at takeoff—for a total of 4,800 hp on an airplane with all engines running. Yet, in spite of the heavier airframe of the B-24, it was considerably faster than comparable models of the B-17 and carried a similar payload over longer distances and a considerably larger one on shorter legs. By the end of the war, the Army had increased the gross weight of the B-17G to the point that it could carry a bomb load almost as great as that carried by the B-24J, but at a sacrifice in airspeed that made the Fortress more than 50 miles per hour slower at normal cruise speed. The one area in which the B-17 had better performance, at least in theory, was that the airplane’s lighter weight allowed it to operate at higher altitudes. This was only true with light payloads and reduced fuel, though.

In January 1945, Eighth Air Force Commander Lt. Gen. James H. Doolittle wrote a letter to Army Air Forces chief of procurement General Barney Giles in which he expressed his preferences for the B-17 over the B-24 for his command. However, the circumstances of Doolittle’s letter are somewhat suspect. He wrote it at a time when the War Department was in the process of cutting back on aircraft production and was making the decision as to which types to continue in production. As the only combat commander at the numbered air-force level who favored B-17s, Doolittle may very well have been concerned about replacements. Within four months after the letter was sent to Washington, the last B-17 to be built by Boeing rolled off the assembly line. Liberator production continued for several weeks after B-17 production ceased, and was only suspended when it became apparent that the war would soon be over.

Doolittle’s letter is interesting because he wrote it at a time when losses in his command had been declining for some time while his sister unit in the U.S. Strategic Air Forces in Europe, the Fifteenth Air Force, was continuing to sustain fairly heavy losses among its force of B-17s and B-24s. Yet no preference was shown for B-17s in the Fifteenth Air Force, where the proportion of Liberators to Forts was reversed from that of the Eighth in England. The heavier losses among Fifteenth Air Force groups were due in part to the longer missions over enemy territory, while two of the most heavily defended targets in Europe—the oil fields at Ploesti and aircraft factories at Wiener-Nuestad, Austria—lay within the Fifteenth’s area of responsibility. On an ironic note, losses among Fifteenth Air Force groups increased even while they decreased in the Eighth as Allied ground forces closed in on Germany.

Which was the better airplane? In reality, it is probably accurate to say that for the kind of war fought by the Eighth and Fifteenth Air Forces in Europe, there was really very little difference. Advocates of the superiority of the B-17 are surprised to learn that their per-sortie overall loss rate was nearly half a percent higher among Eighth Air Force groups than that of their peers who flew B-24s. When comparing the number of sorties flown and losses sustained by the two types, the difference is even greater. Groups flying B-17s flew 60.38 percent of sorties flown by the Eighth Air Force and sustained 69.75 percent of the losses, while B-24 groups flew 29.77 percent of the sorties yet sustained only 26.1 percent of the heavy bombers lost. Groups that operated both types flew 9.85 percent of the sorties and took 4.14 percent of the losses.

Most who look at these statistics quickly jump to the conclusion that the B-17 losses were heavier because of the period in 1943 when they were going it alone on deep-penetration missions over Germany. This theory is contradicted by the fact that Eighth Air Force B-24 groups suffered losses that were even higher on a per-group basis than those of most B-17 groups during the same time frame. Furthermore, the overall losses were lower for the three B-24 groups that were in combat in the summer of 1943 than those for most B-17 groups.

Was the B-17 Safer?

Even more astounding, the last seven Eighth Air Force B-17 groups to enter combat, all of which began their missions during a time when more and more B-24 groups were entering combat, flew 16.93 percent of all sorties and took 22.28 percent of the losses. Yet seven B-24 groups that entered combat during the same time frame flew almost the same percentage of sorties—16.85 percent—but sustained only 14.99 percent of the losses, a difference of more than 5 percent. In the Eighth Air Force, 1.43 percent of all heavy-bomber sorties resulted in an aircraft missing in action. In B-17 groups, 1.66 percent of the sorties resulted in a loss, while in B-24 groups the loss rate was 1.26 percent, a difference of 0.4 percent. These figures relegate to myth the belief that the B-17 was the “safer” airplane. It is also worth noting that the Eighth Air Force B-24s were often used on tactical missions at lower altitudes where ground fire was more effective after the invasion, while in the strategic role their formations operated below the B-17s, where the flak was thicker.

In the Pacific Theater, there was no doubt as to which type was “best” because it became an all-B-24 region by the end of 1943. General George Churchill Kenney chose the B-24 as the heavy bomber for his theater because, unlike the daylight-bombing crowd that had gone to Europe, he had no particular preference for the B-17. Since the European Theater of Operations had been given precedence in the conduct of the war, the Eighth Air Force had priority in equipment and was receiving the new B-17 groups that had already been formed before the outbreak of the war. Before he went to Australia to command the Allied air forces in the Southwest Pacific Area of Operations, Kenney was told he would have to function with only the two B-17 groups that were already in the theater, but that he could have one group of B-24s that was then in the training pipeline.

General Kenney began his World War II combat career in the Pacific with two heavy-bomber groups under his command, the 19th and 43rd, both of which were equipped with B-17s and had been in combat since early in the war. The 19th had been in continuous combat since December 8, 1941, and was already worn out. In late 1942, the 90th Bomb Group arrived in Australia with four squadrons of B-24Ds. Shortly after the 90th arrived, Kenney sent the 19th back to the United States. The 90th got off to a shaky start due to cracks in the nose struts of its airplanes, but once its B-24s began combat operations, they quickly proved superior to the B-17 for the kind of war being fought in the Southwest Pacific. Missions were long and required considerable distances over water, conditions for which the Liberator had been created.

The B-24 in the Pacific Theater

Beginning in the spring of 1943, the 43rd Bomb Group replaced its B-17s with B-24s, ending the combat career of the Flying Fortress in the Pacific. Not a single B-17 bomber ever appeared in the skies over Japan while hostilities were under way. Just as the 43rd began converting to the Liberator, the 380th Bomb Group arrived in Australia and began combat operations with B-24s. The 22nd Bomb Group, which had entered combat with B-26s, then was equipped with B-25s, would also convert to the B-24. Operating from Darwin, the men of the 380th utilized the long-range capabilities of their Liberators by flying a mission to attack the oil-refining complex at Balikpapan, Borneo, a flight that kept the crews in the air for as long as 17 hours.

On the Asian mainland, Liberators assigned to the 7th Bomb Group of the Tenth Air Force were flying 14-hour missions from bases in India to attack targets as far away as Bangkok, Thailand. Other long-range missions were being flown by B-24s assigned to the 28th Composite Group in the Alaska Command. By the end of the war, 28th B-24s were flying missions from the Aleutians against targets in the northern home islands of Japan. The extremely long-range missions flown in the Pacific would have been impossible with the shorter legged B-17s.

The B-24 became a key factor in the plans of Generals Douglas MacArthur and Kenney as they sought to push the Japanese farther and farther north away from Australia and back toward Japan. The MacArthur/Kenney strategy was to isolate major Japanese installations with air power, while capturing terrain on which to construct airfields from which to launch B-24s on long-range missions that eventually were reaching all the way to the Philippines.

As the war moved northward, Far East Air Forces Liberators began attacking the Japanese homeland. Kenney and his bomber commanders worked to extend the range of the four-engine bombers until 2,400-mile round-trip missions were being flown routinely by B-24s. In comparison, the average mission flown by B-17s in Europe was less than 1,600 miles.

Missions by B-24 crews in the Pacific were considerably different from those of their peers in Europe. Much of the flying was over water, which reduced the exposure of the bomber crews to flak to a small percentage of mission time in comparison to the constant exposure faced by Eighth Air Force crews prior to the Normandy invasion. Kenney had no point to prove in regard to daylight bombing, and often his crews struck the most heavily defended targets at night, thus further reducing the exposure of the aircraft and crews. Consequently, B-24s in the Pacific flew missions at much lower altitudes than heavy bombers in Europe, and thus achieved much greater accuracy with their bombs. Shortly after General Kenney arrived in Australia, he introduced the concept of low-altitude “skip-bombing” by heavy and medium bombers. Although the skip-bombing role was assumed by the twin-engine A-20 and B-25 gunships that became important weapons in the Southwest Pacific, some B-24s were modified with radar equipment to become “snoopers,” which flew at night on daring low-level attacks against Japanese shipping.

Converted to Transport Use

Another use of the Liberator that proved extremely valuable to the war effort was as a long-range transport. Stripped of guns, armor, and other equipment, the transport version of the B-24 could carry a 10,000-pound payload up to 1,000 miles, or 6,000 pounds over 3,300 miles. Most of the original B-24s delivered to the Army Air Corps were converted into transports, as were about half the LB-30s that were repossessed from the British. In 1942, Ford Motor Company began converting B-24Ds into the C-87 transport on the assembly lines at the Willow Run Plant in Michigan for a burgeoning military airline that was soon operating the converted Liberators throughout the world. In early 1943, a squadron of C-87s was sent to India’s Assam Valley for operations across the Himalayan Hump into China. The Liberator also played the major role in the antisubmarine Battle of the Atlantic, becoming a weapon greatly feared by German U-boat crews.

While the Liberator proved to be an extremely versatile airplane, the Flying Fortress was also used for other roles, though in much more limited fashion than its sister bomber. In the Pacific, both B-17s and B-24s were converted for transport use after they were replaced in combat units. The Fifth Air Force converted a B-17 into an executive transport for General MacArthur’s personal use. The Eighth Air Force used B-17s as weather-reconnaissance aircraft, while their most prolific noncombat role was as lifeboat-carrying search and rescue (SAR) aircraft with the Air Transport Command. It was as an SAR airplane that several B-17s survived the war, while all but a handful of B-24s were scrapped.

In the final analysis, there is no real way to determine if either the B-24 or the B-17 was truly superior. But, the record of the two types indicates that, of the two, the Liberator design was more versatile and considerably more advanced than that of the Flying Fortress. The combat records of both types contradict the assertions that aircrews flying B-17s were “safer” than those in B-24s. The argument as to which was the best can never be settled. As long as there are still two surviving heavy- bomber veterans, one from each type, the B-17 veteran will believe his airplane was best, while the B-24 vet will know better.

Originally Published January 5, 2019

This article by Sam McGowan originally appeared on the Warfare History Network.

Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress in the Pacific - History

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The Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress is a four-engine heavy bomber developed in the 1930s for the United States Army Air Corps (USAAC). Competing against Douglas and Martin for a contract to build 200 bombers, the Boeing entry outperformed both competitors and exceeded the air corps' performance specifications. Although Boeing lost the contract because the prototype crashed, the air corps was so impressed with Boeing's design that it ordered 13 more B-17s for further evaluation. From its introduction in 1938, the B-17 Flying Fortress evolved through numerous design advances.

The B-17 was primarily employed by the United States Army Air Forces (USAAF) in the daylight precision strategic bombing campaign of World War II against German industrial and military targets. The United States Eighth Air Force, based at many airfields in central and southern England, and the Fifteenth Air Force, based in Italy, complemented the RAF Bomber Command's nighttime area bombing in the Combined Bomber Offensive to help secure air superiority over the cities, factories and battlefields of Western Europe in preparation for the invasion of France in 1944. The B-17 also participated to a lesser extent in the War in the Pacific, early in World War II, where it conducted raids against Japanese shipping and airfields.

Boeing B-17 vs B-29: What is a Heavy Bomber?

Both the B-17 and B-29 are a type of bomber called a “Heavy bomber”. To many, even those familiar with the roles of aircraft in WWII, they may get confused by the concept of a “Heavy bomber”.

Generally this is because we tend to focus of the fast and nimble WWII fighters like the Yak-3, P-51, Bf 109, Spitfire and Hurricane. As a result, we tend to focus less on other types of aircraft such as those cumbersome bombers.

During WWII, the role of a heavy bomber was simple: Carry as many bombs as physically possible.

These aircraft would then be escorted by hundreds of smaller, more nimble fighters, all headed for the enemy heartland. Upon arriving, the bombers would target strategic targets such as factories, military bases, dams etc.

Once they had completed their mission, those fighters that remained would head back to friendly territory.

Heavy bombers differ from light bombers (such as the B-26 Marauder, Ju 88, A-26 Invader etc.) mostly due to their size and the number of bombs they carried. Typically, light bombers would only carry less than one ton of bombs.

They also differed from fighter bombers (such as the P-47 Thunderbolt, Fw 190, P-38 Lightning etc.) in the sense of their design. Fighter bombers looked like fighters but carried bombs, whilst heavy bombers are much larger.

The symbol shown for the 97BG IS IN FACT THAT OF THE 482 BG. The 2nd, 97th, 99th & 301 should either contain a Y consistent with th3 63(sic) [463] & 483 or be smaller than the 1st & 3rd BD/AD SYMBOLS. The Ys would be consistent for the period of table showing Square P & W. — Preceding unsigned comment added by 2600:1002:B020:7C67:450:A990:1F1C:9253 (talk) 23:30, 3 June 2015 (UTC)

The 493 BG DID NOT CARRY THIS MARKING on its B-17 and in fact had dropped it while still Flying the Liberator. The BW used red segments on the tails on both the B-24 and B-17. The 34 BG was among the BW groups. See also the 490th BG. The 385 BG transfered in and adopted a large red checkerboard tail marking. — Preceding unsigned comment added by 2600:1002:B020:7C67:450:A990:1F1C:9253 (talk) 23:17, 3 June 2015 (UTC)

The Y in the circle segment is the symbol of the 463 BG. THERE WAS NO 63 BG in the EAME. — Preceding unsigned comment added by 2600:1002:B020:7C67:450:A990:1F1C:9253 (talk) 23:02, 3 June 2015 (UTC)

Please stop ranting on the talk page. Citation needed If there are errors or inconsistencies in this article then please feel free to correct them using citations and reliable sources. The principle is outlined at WP:SOFIXIT. Nimbus (Cumulus nimbus floats by) 23:51, 3 June 2015 (UTC)

The chart is incorrect. — Preceding unsigned comment added by 2600:1002:B020:7C67:450:A990:1F1C:9253 (talk) 00:05, 4 June 2015 (UTC)

Correct it then, using a cited reliable source. Nimbus (Cumulus nimbus floats by) 00:24, 4 June 2015 (UTC)

Focus on the content, please. — Preceding unsigned comment added by 2600:1002:B020:7C67:450:A990:1F1C:9253 (talk) 01:57, 4 June 2015 (UTC)

I'm simply explaining why you can't edit the article as Nimbus suggested. As to focusing on the content, please provide verifiable reliable source vto support your change, and explaining the change you want made, and perhaps Nimbus will change it for you if he feels the changes have merit, after checking the sources if he so desires. - - BilCat (talk) 02:07, 4 June 2015 (UTC)

Which would have been "embedded graphic" regardless of who. or geograph.

Mundy . 15Th AF MARKINGS and others. However the graphic is unreferenced, unsourced and unsubstanciated. That it is even encyclopedic is questionable.

Their user pages are semiprotected because no one else has any business editing them. Their talk pages are not protected, and that's the place for a warning -- but beware of the boomerang. You come across as being here to pick fights, not to build an encyclopedia, and you're likely to get a cold reception if you go to any of the arbitration or administrator intervention pages with unclean hands. --Yaush (talk) 21:01, 4 June 2015 (UTC)

This article deviates from the standard aircraft article by omitting this major section. Instead it splits the subjects and interjects numerious intervening titled and untitled paragraphs that disrupt the continuity and chronolgy of the fundamental design & development storyline.

Moreover, either the standard format is not present or if present, the content deviates from the heading, thoughout much of the article. The result is a meandering and disorganized presentatiion complete with redundencies and contradictions. What ever praise the article once enjoyed is no longer in evidence. To understand this more objectively, outline the article in hard copy, complete with hierarchy, given each topic its heading. Look at the results and form your assessment. Mine found the article has been amended too often in piecemeal, and suffers accordingly. It needs an overhaul.

. and oh, I have no desire to participate in this process. I abdicate that to R. Freeman (dec) and David Osborne and their B-17 Flying Fortress Story. The latter has reviewed the individual history for every one of the 12, 730 B-17 that have a card on file and supplement those histories in many ways. And that one model 299, never a B-17, is also in the book. So when instead you choose the 1963 work of Bowers in any reiteration, be cognizant of want you are rejecting. You can use a map of the flat earth, but you won t soar to new heights.

the combat box initiated by Le May and adopted in the VIIII BC was an 18 plane formation stacked high and low of the lead six. it was NOT the diamond 12 shown. the unsourced, incorrect graphic is recommened for removal. — Preceding unsigned comment added by 2600:1002:B00D:405:FA26:7363:F8F0:2AAE (talk) 09:54, 4 June 2015 (UTC)

ref: The B-17 Flying Fortress Story Freeman & Osborne 1998. this book is authoritative and contains a synopsis of the official aircraft history cards for each B-17 ( less a few NIF). The number of F-DL is less than the 600 first ordered from Long Beach, not the 605 stated in the chart. That number is cited to Bowers (#53) work which is a reinteration of his 1963 colaboration ( also cited in the article). That 1963 was based on factory production planning records and not actual production. The F-DL series ended at block 65. The blocks G-1 into 10 account for DL # 530 to 605 and seq. 529 F-DL. ( plus 71 to G & G-DL) MOREOVER, the current G total can not be summed correctly if five (5) G-10-DL are alleged as F-80/85. Do the math.

The article now has the order both ways in different places. The mission prefix for the SAR dates to 1948. The H SERIES was the AAF war time designation. The ATC/ MATS assumption of the role was post war. The wartime AAF had about a half dozen ASR emergency rescue squadrons (ERS) and most used the B-17H at least at some point. See Craven & Cate Vol VII for a whole chapter on the subject. Meanwhile the article needs some repair, consistency, clarification of timeframes and removal of redundencies. or find the coverage that was reverted and restore it. — Preceding unsigned comment added by 2600:1002:B023:61A7:BF0A:E9DC:25D8:F585 (talk) 01:18, 5 June 2015 (UTC)

and with it goes the credibility of Defeat of the Wehrmacht as the CBO primary objective. citation needed now.

No. Citation still stands, and fortunately "is your friend" . GraemeLeggett (talk) 12:18, 5 June 2015 (UTC)

I don t understand this reply. Are you saying you got the link to work? are you saying the ref was published? what exactly are you saying? — Preceding unsigned comment added by 2600:1002:B027:8ACD:5D09:1E54:32B4:388D (talk) 12:59, 5 June 2015 (UTC)

the inserted discussions on German weapons systems recently inserted into the article are no the subject of the article. If deemed germane, hyperlinks are recommended in lieu of sidetracking the article's focus on the Mitchell.

"Mitchell"? GraemeLeggett (talk) 12:40, 5 June 2015 (UTC)

Just to note that IP 2600 has been blocked from editing and they are not allowed to contribute, as such any contributions can be removed, thanks. MilborneOne (talk) 15:19, 5 June 2015 (UTC)

Isn't this factually incorrect? The de Havilland Mosquito had a service ceiling of 11,000m which is greater. Maybe the text should read '. than any contemporary allied heavy bombers.

I wouldnt have considered the Mosquito as a contemporary of the B-17. MilborneOne (talk) 11:17, 28 July 2015 (UTC)

Jesus wept. Somebody's awfully desperate to award the B-17 an undeserved propaganda superlative. The United States wasn't allied with anyone till December 1941. The passage at issue refers to the B-17's war service with the USAAF (and not its first, unsuccessful period in action with 90 Squadron RAF in summer 1941). The term 'Allied contemporaries' therefore means 'US and British bombers of the Second World War', so both the Mosquito and the B-29 beat the B-17 hollow. On operations it actually flew at around 25,000 - 26,000. When the RAF tried to fly it higher, it didn't work because the engines bled oil in the low air pressure and the oil caked on the tailplane and froze and seized the elevators. Plus the oxygen system froze, the radios froze and the guns jammed. Later models used by the Eighth Air Force (and redesigned in light of 90 Squadron's experience, with far more guns and a bigger tailfin to counter the directional instability) were much heavier and couldn't reach 30,000 at operational load anyway. So the article is awarding an undeserved propaganda superlative. Khamba Tendal (talk) 19:28, 5 September 2015 (UTC)

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My name is Dean Carter. I am a first time Wikipedia contributor.

I have attempted to enter information regarding B-17 Pilot LT. Robert V. Mercer (1923-1945).

LT. Mercer died in January 1945, after his B-17 took heavy flak and caught fire. He ordered his entire crew to bail out, including his Co-Pilot, Lt. Charles Taylor (Whom sadly died of impact injuries sustained from the jump) but which saved the lives of the other six men.

LT. Mercer also avoided the small village of Tournai, Belgium, sparing many civilian lives.

This act of sacrifice was witnessed by many of the village residents, whom in 2008, had Belgium dedicate an official memorial to LT. Mercer and the crew.

LT. Mercer also has an entire chapter concerning him in James Hammond's (Award winning Journalist and former Wall Street Journal writer), book, "Tom's War". A book concerning his father, Tom Hammond, also a B-17 pilot and friend of LT. Mercer's.

My question is in my novice attempt to insert this information to the B-17 page, it seems I am doing it correctly, as I can see a "Updated" page after I insert the new info, but when I check back in an hour it is not updated.

What do you think I am doing wrong, or am I having to await an "Approval"?

Dean CarterCarter1969 (talk) 21:29, 16 January 2016 (UTC) Wilmington, NC, USA

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Hello all, i read the article but could find no information on how much ammo each gun had and how long they could fire for, or if they had extra ammo stored and had to reload the guns86.141.175.1 (talk) 22:09, 2 January 2017 (UTC)

The B-17E carried 11,275 rounds according to this [[1]] Irondome (talk) 22:21, 2 January 2017 (UTC)

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Austria never had a Boeing B-17 in service. I think this is a mistake, because we (I am from Austria) had one Saab 17 (also known as B17) in service- a complete different plane with the same name --Peettriple (talk) 12:12, 27 July 2017 (UTC)

    I have two photos of an Austrian AF B-17 on my HD, modified as a transport postwar and numbered 672 - and both roundels and flag are visible so misidentification is impossible. I can't find a reference to it in my usual sources though, but here is one of the photos, on wikimedia commons -

Request: remove Austria from the list of operators. Austria never had a Boeing B-17 in service. The Austrian Air Force had one Saab 17 (also known as B-17), but that is a complete different plane--Peettriple (talk) 07:25, 28 July 2017 (UTC) Peettriple (talk) 07:25, 28 July 2017 (UTC)

Not done: please provide reliable sources that support the change you want to be made. jd22292 (Jalen D. Folf) (talk) 15:42, 28 July 2017 (UTC)

Reviewer: Factotem (talk · contribs) 13:33, 11 October 2017 (UTC)

Well Written? Edit

On first read through it's fundamentally good. I'll copy-edit the small stuff as I go through, and highlight more substantial changes here.FactotEm (talk) 13:45, 11 October 2017 (UTC)

Second sentence, third para, Design and variants section, is huge and unwieldy. Can it be broken down into discrete sentences, and do we really need to know who designed/built the turrets?FactotEm (talk) 14:13, 11 October 2017 (UTC)

3rd para in section "Initial USAAF operations over Europe" begins "At the same time. " but not clear which time is being referred to. Also has the abbreviation "AAF" - need to clarify what this stands for (USAAF?). FactotEm (talk) 14:49, 11 October 2017 (UTC)

The 2nd Schweinfurt raid is already discussed in the 4th para, "Combined offensive" section. The 5th para then talks about the effects of the losses and other stuff, but the last sentence then seems to return to the 2nd Schweinfurt raid and Doolittle's attempts to cancel it. Is there a disconnect here?FactotEm (talk) 15:06, 11 October 2017 (UTC)

The last para in the lead contradicts itself. FactotEm (talk) 08:00, 12 October 2017 (UTC)

Referencing Edit

  • Cite book (1)
  • cite book (3)
  • cite journal (5)
  • cite magazine (3)
  • cite news (4)
  • cite web (34)
  • Cite web (4)
  • citation (1)
  • sfn (1)
  • harvnb (1)

Zamzow is a dead link. It's also a thesis, which need to be handled carefully. FactotEm (talk) 13:45, 11 October 2017 (UTC)

I've added a fair few citation needed tags. Also, running the External Links checker on this page throws up quite a few problems. FactotEm (talk) 17:39, 11 October 2017 (UTC)

Overall, a mess. —Trappist the monk (talk) 10:24, 13 October 2017 (UTC) I've learned that deadlinks aren't a show-stopper for GA, but nevertheless it might be a good idea to look at this.FactotEm (talk) 14:28, 22 October 2017 (UTC)

Coverage Edit

Third sentence in Design and varients section begins "While models A through D of the B-17 were designed defensively. " and then details the E model, but preceding paras make no mention of the D model. FactotEm (talk) 14:09, 11 October 2017 (UTC)

The section on Colin Kelly's actions seems a bit anecdotal, and just plain odd. In one sentence he's crashing his B-17 into a Japanese ship (which the article on him makes no mention of), then 2 sentences later he's flying his burning B-17 long enough for the crew to bale. Does this need to be in the article? FactotEm (talk) 15:55, 11 October 2017 (UTC)

The last sentence in the section "Bomber defense", beginning "This durability. " seems out of place. It's something I would expect to see in a summary somewhere, at the end of the article or maybe the lead, but not in a section with such a specific subject. Is it necessary? FactotEm (talk) 16:28, 11 October 2017 (UTC)

The whole "Luftwaffe attacks" section seems to stray off topic. Do we need so much information? Would it be better to condense into a couple of sentences and place it at the end of the preceding section?FactotEm (talk) 16:35, 11 October 2017 (UTC)

Not a fan of 'in popular culture' sections myself, and this and the "Other non-military achievements and events" section don't seem to add much to the article. Consider removing?FactotEm (talk) 17:18, 11 October 2017 (UTC)

There were at most 168 B-17s in the Pacific Theatre, of over 12,000 built, yet the Pacific Theatre section represents around half of the text in the whole Operational History section, which includes an introductory section, RAF usage, initial USAAF operations, and the combined offensive sub-sections. I would have thought there would be more to say about operations over Europe, or have I missed something? FactotEm (talk) 18:15, 11 October 2017 (UTC)

The Accidents and incidents section needs a short summary FactotEm (talk) 14:27, 22 October 2017 (UTC)

Stable Edit

Yes. FactotEm (talk) 17:24, 11 October 2017 (UTC)

Illustrated Edit

If anything, the article is over-illustrated. Lots of images down the right hand side, and some sandwiching of the text. Do we really need so many images? FactotEm (talk) 17:26, 11 October 2017 (UTC)

Review on hold Edit

I've replaced the review on hold to give the nominator a chance to respond to the comments above. FactotEm (talk) 09:58, 13 October 2017 (UTC)

Unfortunately I'm going to fail this nomination. Sorry. None of the comments have been addressed, either by discussion or amendments to the article. It's a shame, because it's really quite well written. The balance, however, doesn't feel right, specifically with regard to information about European theatre of operations in comparison with the rest of the article. The profusion of images is another key issue. Note that I have not checked the licensing of these, nor do I intend to while there is the likelihood that quite a few will be removed. Happy to revisit this if someone wants to get involved. FactotEm (talk) 14:37, 22 October 2017 (UTC)

" it was a relatively fast, high-flying, long-range bomber with heavy defensive armament at the expense of bombload" is dubious according to discussion in GA nomination on plwiki (see ) - fuel and armour was mentioned as also important and that bombload was not really low Mateusz Konieczny (talk) 22:23, 9 November 2017 (UTC)

It is true that the B-17 did not carry such a great bomb load as compared to other, later bombers serving in the same role, for instance the B-24 which carried three more tons of bombs, flew faster, and had greater range, but could not fly as high. Or you could point out that any mass on a bomber aircraft is going to affect the mass of the bomb load. A larger bomb load would be possible by eliminating gunners and guns, or by reducing fuel – both methods were used at various times in WWII. So it's fair to say that heavy defensive armament resulted in a smaller bomb load. Binksternet (talk) 22:47, 9 November 2017 (UTC)

The article currently reads:

Richard Williams, a reporter for the Seattle Times, coined the name "Flying Fortress" with his comment, "Why, it's a flying fortress!".

However, the cited reference does not include that exact wording instead only noting that:

When Seattle newspaperman Richard L. Williams caught sight of the Model 299, he promptly dubbed it “flying fortress.” The name stuck.

Assigned to write a Seattle Times caption on a picture of the B-299, a B-17 prototype, on July 17, 1935, Williams wrote: "Declared to be the largest land plane ever built in America, this 15-ton flying fortress, built by the Boeing Aircraft Co. under Army specifications, today was ready to test its wings."

Does anyone have a primary source for the wording of the quote in the article? (That is to say, one that does not simply reprint the version from an earlier source.) Otherwise, I am tempted to change it.

I found a book that cites Roger Freeman's book B-17: Fortress at War, which might be a good place to start. Unfortunately, I don't have access to it at the moment. –Noha307 (talk) 00:32, 25 September 2018 (UTC)

I checked the B-17: Fortress at War book today, and it does not mention any sort of exclamatory comment either. Instead, it mentions the exact same picture caption story from the Los Angeles Times obituary above. To quote page 8 of the book: The Seattle Daily Times, serving the area around the largest city of Washington State in the north-western corner of the United States, has always given a good measure of publicity to Boeing, the aircraft manufacturers, ultimately Seattle's major employer. In 1935 Boeing, establishing themselves as a progressive force in the highly competitive and financially perilous business of aeroplane design and construction, were known to be working on the prototype of an advanced bomber although the Company did its best to keep details secret. Final assembly took place in a hangar at Boeing Field, a few miles south-east of the city, and on the afternoon of July 16 the completed 4-engined aircraft, Boeing Model 299, was at last unveiled for public view. A press photographer took pictures of the event and these, with details given by Boeing, arrived on the desk of Richard L. Williams, a member of the editorial staff. The laudatory copy prepared included the sentence: 'Ropes kept a throng of spectators from closely inspecting the fifteen-ton flying fortress, which made its first public appearance yesterday afternoon when it was rolled out of its hangar and its motors tested.' Williams noting the novel machine gun turrets jutting out from the streamlined metal body of the aircraft depicted in the photographs picked out as a caption heading the words – 15-TON FLYING FORTRESS. The title caught the attention of Boeing executives and Flying Fortress was later registered as a Company name for their Model 299, although in a rather different context, echoing the defensive posture of the nation and in line with the isolationist policy then pursued by the United States Government. The aircraft was ostensibly for long range ocean patrol to protect America's coastline from a hostile fleet, although many officers of the Air Corps realised its offensive potential. Note that in this telling, Mr. Williams did not even see the bomber in person. So if it did indeed occur, it was in the editorial office and not while standing in front of the plane itself. Unfortunately, the book has neither footnotes, nor a bibliography, so Freeman's version of the source of the story cannot be traced any farther back. –Noha307 (talk) 18:10, 25 September 2018 (UTC)

I am going to be bold and delete the entries of surviving aircraft with no notable wartime history. It is starting to suffer from listcruft. In addition, the surviving aircraft article already covers the subject in sufficient detail and including them here would simply be redundant. –Noha307 (talk) 23:42, 22 October 2018 (UTC)

This article states that RAF B-17s "on 24 July .. attacked the Scharnhorst, anchored in Brest, and inflicted considerable damage on the vessel."

There are quite a few discrepancies with this account.

1. The article on German_battleship_Scharnhorst#Air_raid_on_24_July_1941 makes no mention of this inflicting of "considerable damage" by B-17s.

2. Scharnhorst was not anchored in Brest, but 200 miles away in La Rochelle on the 24th July having left Brest on the 21st and arriving in La Rochelle on the 23rd.

3. Only Halifax heavy bombers of No. 35 Squadron RAF and No. 76 Squadron diverted to Scharnhorst in La Rochelle (in it's port of La Pallice).

4. The B-17s were part of the initial, undiverted plan to attack all of the ships in Brest. The RAF had planned a large, complicated raid on the capital ships in Brest for the night of 24 July, but an aerial reconnaissance photograph [1] of Scharnhorst in her berth at La Pallice caused a last minute alteration to the operation. The Halifax heavy bombers of No. 35 Squadron RAF and No. 76 Squadron RAF flew the extra 200 miles to reach Scharnhorst and the rest of the raid on Brest went ahead as planned, with Prinz Eugen and Gneisenau as their principal targets.. I.e. they attacked Prinz Eugen and Gneisenau in Brest.

5. The only RAF B-17s (List_of_Boeing_B-17_Flying_Fortress_operators#_United_Kingdom) to attack German capital ships were those of No._90_Squadron_RAF which, on the 24th July played a part of the aforementioned "large, complicated raid" on the Prinz Eugen and Gneisenau - i.e. the part that wasn't diverted to Brest - ... taking part in a large scale attack on the German battleship Gneisenau at Brest, France on 24 July. Three Fortresses attacked were to attack from 30,000 ft (9,100 m), with the objective of drawing German fighters away from 18 Handley Page Hampdens attacking at lower altitudes. A larger force of 79 Vickers Wellingtons would attack later, while the fighters were meant to be refuelling. The operation did not work as expected, with 90 Squadron's Fortresses being unopposed, with the German defenders concentrating on the Hampdens and Wellingtons, shooting down two and ten respectively.. Further, the record of 90 Squadron with B-17s in Northern Europe is concluded.. 90 Squadron flew its final operational mission over northern Europe on 25 September 1941. In 51 operational sorties, 25 were abandoned due to faults with the aircraft, with 50 tons of bombs being dropped, of which only about 1 ton hit the intended targets.. Again no mention of any bombs from RAF B-17s hitting any German capital ship, especially not the Scharnhorst, which was 200 miles away on the 24th July.

6. Neither are any recorded as hitting the sister of the Scharnhorst that was in Brest, German_battleship_Gneisenau#Air_attacks_in_Brest - which does not mention any bombs hitting on the 24th July, but many attacks around that time from other squadrons and aircraft. Clearly the part that the B-17s played in the attacks on Brest did not succeed, only the Halifaxes attacking Scharnhorst scored any hits that day. So they were a diversionary attack from a high altitude of 30,000 ft on Prinz Eugen and Gneisenau, and not surprisingly none hit.

7. The source being used for this baffling claim of "severly damaging Scharnhorst" is Garzke & Dulin, pp. 159–160. but this is used in many the other articles on this point, which all corroborate with each other, and not "severly damaging Scharnhorst" which is clearly a fantasy. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 23:31, 16 December 2018 (UTC) (talk) 16:26, 18 December 2018 (UTC)

The early B-17E's did not use the Bendix remote turret. It was a Sperry remote turret. The same people that designed and built the upper turret and the later ball. This is clearly called out in the B-17E pilots manual and also shows in the Boeing engineering drawings. This Bendix thing has been repeated for years and is wrong. B17FE (talk) 00:24, 8 February 2019 (UTC)

I do not know how to use this fully, so bear with me. I need to contact BilCat and provide him with the correct information on the remote turret used on the early B-17E's. I have the Boeing installation drawing and the B-17E Pilots Manual which show this information.

Karl Hauffe B17FE (talk) 00:23, 8 February 2019 (UTC) — Preceding unsigned comment added by B17FE (talk • contribs) 00:22, 8 February 2019 (UTC)

I'm just going to point interested editors to the discussion on your talk page: User talk:B17FE#Confused. — jmcgnh (talk) (contribs) 05:08, 10 February 2019 (UTC)

Came across a book by one of the test engineers for the B-17, Seth B Anderson, and he states that the B-17 had severe stall problems.

According to his tests, the aircraft would roll nearly 90 degrees to the left during a stall. This nearly destroyed one of the prototypes when it rolled 90 degrees on landing.

The stall behavior was judged "very unsatisfactory" and stated that the aircraft had no effective stall warning.

He states this is because the different direction of the prop wash on each wing, and that the wingtips would stall before the roots due to the propwash.

Here is the reference for anyone interested in posting it. [1]

  1. ^ Memoirs of an aeronautical engineer: flight testing at Ames Research Center. Seth B. Anderson, United States. National Aeronautics and Space Administration. History Office, Ames Research Center. P.16

Towards the end of the History section of the RAF Brawdy article there’s mention of a squadron of Boeing Fortress II being stationed there. “Boeing Fortress II” Is wikilinked to this article. The citation is Jetson, with a page number. Could anyone there please correct that article? It makes no sense to me - what was a Mk.II? Thanks! Boscaswell talk 03:45, 1 March 2020 (UTC)

Nothing wrong with "Boeing Fortress II" it is the RAF designation for the B-17F. MilborneOne (talk) 10:26, 1 March 2020 (UTC) Well you know that, but no-one looking at the article I mentioned and this one would find that out. Thanks for informing me! Boscaswell talk 10:41, 4 March 2020 (UTC) It's in the section on RAF use of this article, at List of Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress operators#United Kingdom. amnd List of Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress variants. But a redirect might possibly be warranted GraemeLeggett (talk) 13:14, 4 March 2020 (UTC)

change: All content about the aircraft in fictional and gaming use has been moved to [[Aircraft in fiction, please see WP:AIRPOP
to: All content about the aircraft in fictional and gaming use has been moved to Aircraft in fiction, please see WP:AIRPOP
Even though the line is inside a comment tag, it messes with scripts trying to parse the document.

Done: I added a closing pair of brackets to the “Aircraft in fiction” link. — Tartan357 ( Talk ) 15:11, 23 June 2020 (UTC)

The specifications section contains a puzzler: The ferry range is listed as less than double the combat range with a bomb load. It should be more than double, because the bombs aren't there. I think the listed combat range is too high by a few hundred miles. Who has a copy of David Donald's American warplanes of World War II?

Also, the topic of Tokyo tanks is entirely missing from this article. The ferry range would be greatly increased with such tanks. Binksternet (talk) 22:01, 1 May 2021 (UTC)


The plane received a barrage of German artillery after unloading its cargo. The aircraft was hit while travelling in Yugoslav airspace

The plane was en-route to Vis Island - the only island that the Nazis didn't occupy by 1944. The Adriatic campaign was a minor campaign during World War II but resulted in an Allied victory

Photographer and diver Martin Strimiska, 40, of Vietnamska, Slovakia captured the stunning footage. He was fascinated by the wreckage. 'You constantly want to see what’s behind the next corner,’ he said.

The plane was en-route to Vienna on a bombing mission before veering towards Vis Island - the nearest Allied airport. Vis is located off the Dalmatian coast.

Co-pilot US Army Air Force Second Lieutenant Ernest Vinneau died at the scene as the crew couldn’t rescue him in time before the aircraft filled with water and sank.

He was just 25 and grew up in Millinocket, Maine and served with the 340th Bomber Squadron, part of the 97th Bomber Group.

The remains of the B-17 on the Adriatic seabed is one of the best preserved World War II plane wrecks due to its depth of over 60m, making it difficult for divers to reach.

Pictured: a close up of the tail of the Boeing B-17 Bomber. The tail fin remains visible as small fish circle it and algae grow

The remains of the B-17 is one of the best preserved World War II plane wrecks due to its depth of over 60m, making it difficult for divers to reach

A diver (pictured) close to the cockpit of the 'Flying Fortress'. The cockpit remains visible but the windshield has shattered

Pictured: a sunken ship on the Adriatic Sea. Vessels carrying supplies were often torpedoed by the enemy during World War II as they made fateful journeys

Photographer and diver Martin Strmiska, 40, of Vietnamska, Slovakia captured the stunning images during a visit to Vis last year.

‘It’s (the wreckage) is basically untouched, the feeling of being under there is quite overwhelming. You constantly want to see what’s behind the next corner,’ he said.

‘At some point it will be gone so I’m thrilled to be able to show these images and talk about the history behind it,’ he added.

Along with the B-17, Mr Strmiska also photographed a fallen B-24 Liberator, nicknamed 'Tulamerican' which was discovered in 2009.

Mr Strmiska said he felt 'overwhelmed' when he came face-to-face with the wreckage. Pictured is a diver investigating the remains of the historic World War II plane

The aircraft sunk just three days after arriving at its base in Amendola, Italy. Crew members managed to evacuate the plane on life rafts but their stories remain a mystery

Pictured: The propeller engines of the World War 2 fighter plane. They are coated in algae, sand and dead crustaceans. The plane was designed during a period when twin engines were the norm

Mr Strmiska was thrilled that he had the opportunity to capture the stunning footage before the wreckage disintegrates

The Boeing B-17 Bomber: The Flying Fortress

A Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress named 'Sentimental Journey' at the 1997 Confederate Air Force airshow

The Boeing B-17 was a four-engine heavy bomber developed in the U.S. in the 1930s that became symbolic of the country's air power during the Second World War.

Looking to replace Martin B-10, the USAAC (United States Army Air Corps) tendered a proposal for a multi-engine bomber that could reach an altitude of 10,000 ft and reinforce the country's air capabilities.

Competing against two other aircraft manufacturers at the time - Douglas and Martin - to build 200 bombers, the Boeing entry outperformed both competitors.

While Boeing lost out on the initial contract to Douglas because the company's prototype crashed, the USAAC ordered a further 13 for evaluation, before it was eventually introduced in 1938 after numerous design changes.

Even before the war, the B-17 received recognition, with the nickname 'Flying Fortress' coined by a Seattle Times reporter.

In January 1938, group commander Colonel Robert Olds flew a YB-17 from the United States's east coast to its west coast, setting a transcontinental record of 13 hours 27 minutes.

He also broke west-to-east coast record on his return, trip in 11 hours 1 minute, averaging 245 mph.

But the bomber was mainly used during the Second World War in precision daylight bombing campaigns against military and industrial targets to weaken Nazi Germany.

In early 1940 the RAF entered into an agreement with the U.S. to be provided with 20 B-17Cs, which were given the service name Fortress I. But their initial missions over Germany were unsuccessful.

But they were widely used by American forces in the Pacific and in a succession of raids targeting German factories.

In February 1944, the B17s flew a vital mission to destroy the factories that kept the Luftwaffe flying, in what was termed ‘Big Week’, and helped secure air superiority over the cities, factories and battlefields of Western Europe in preparation for the invasion of France in 1944.

The Luftwaffe found it easier to attack a Flying Fortress head on and Americans coined the phrase 'Bandits at 12 o'clock high' as a result.

German studies revealed that on average 20 hits with 20mm shells were required to gun down a B17. Forty B-17s were captured by the Luftwaffe.

In all, 3,500 B17s were involved in bombing raids on factories in Germany. 244 planes were lost in just a week but the back of the factories producing for the Luftwaffe were fatally broken.

The B-17s were also used in the War in the Pacific earlier in the Second World War where it conducted raids against Japanese shipping and airfield sites.

Many crew members who flew in B-17s received military honours, with 17 receiving the highest military decoration awarded by the United States, the Medal of Honour.

The B-17 went on to become the third-most produced bomber of all time, behind the four-engined Consolidated B-24 Liberator and the multirole, twin-engined Junkers Ju 88, and dropped more bombs than any other aircraft in World War II.

The plane was used in every World War II combat zone and by the end of production in 1945, Boeing had built over 12,000 bombers.

It dropped approximately 640,000 tonnes of bombs over Nazi Germany, over a third of the estimated 1.5 million tons of bombs dropped in total by US aircraft.

One of the most most famous B-17s, the Memphis Belle, was immortalised in a 1970 Hollywood movie of the same name. The bomber also featured in earlier films such as 'Air Force' and 'Twelve O'Clock High'.

As of October 2019, there are 9 B-17 aircraft that remain airworthy, although none of them have ever flown in combat.

Dozens more remain in storage or on display is museums - the oldest being a D-series that flown in combat in the Pacific on the first day of World War II.

Watch the video: B17 Bomber - The