B-17 Flying Fortress
Overview
 
{|On 8 August 1934, the U.S. Army Air Corps
United States Army Air Corps
The United States Army Air Corps was a forerunner of the United States Air Force. Renamed from the Air Service on 2 July 1926, it was part of the United States Army and the predecessor of the United States Army Air Forces , established in 1941...

 (USAAC) tendered a proposal for a multi-engined bomber to replace the Martin B-10
Martin B-10
The Martin B-10 was the first all-metal monoplane bomber to go into regular use by the United States Army Air Corps, entering service in June 1934...

. The Air Corps was looking for a bomber capable of reinforcing the air forces in Hawaii, Panama, and Alaska. Requirements were that it would carry a "useful bombload" at an altitude of 10000 feet (3 km) for 10 hours with a top speed of at least 200 miles per hour (321.9 km/h).

They also desired, but did not require, a range of 2000 miles (3,218.7 km) and a speed of 250 miles per hour (402.3 km/h).
Encyclopedia
{|On 8 August 1934, the U.S. Army Air Corps
United States Army Air Corps
The United States Army Air Corps was a forerunner of the United States Air Force. Renamed from the Air Service on 2 July 1926, it was part of the United States Army and the predecessor of the United States Army Air Forces , established in 1941...

 (USAAC) tendered a proposal for a multi-engined bomber to replace the Martin B-10
Martin B-10
The Martin B-10 was the first all-metal monoplane bomber to go into regular use by the United States Army Air Corps, entering service in June 1934...

. The Air Corps was looking for a bomber capable of reinforcing the air forces in Hawaii, Panama, and Alaska. Requirements were that it would carry a "useful bombload" at an altitude of 10000 feet (3 km) for 10 hours with a top speed of at least 200 miles per hour (321.9 km/h).

They also desired, but did not require, a range of 2000 miles (3,218.7 km) and a speed of 250 miles per hour (402.3 km/h). The competition for the Air Corps contract would be decided by a "fly-off" between Boeing's design, the Douglas DB-1 and the Martin Model 146
Martin Model 146
|-See also:-References:* Baugher, Joe. "Martin B-10". Encyclopedia of American Aircraft. Access date: 4 July 2007.* Taylor, John W. R. "Martin B-10". Combat Aircraft of the World from 1909 to the Present. New York: G.P. Putnam's Sons, 1969. ISBN 0-425-03633-2.-External links:*...

 at Wright Field
Wright Field
Wright Field was an airfield of the United States Army Air Corps and Air Forces near Riverside, Ohio. From 1927 to 1947 it was the research and development center for the Air Corps, and during World War II a flight test center....

 in Dayton
Dayton, Ohio
Dayton is the 6th largest city in the U.S. state of Ohio and the county seat of Montgomery County, the fifth most populous county in the state. The population was 141,527 at the 2010 census. The Dayton Metropolitan Statistical Area had a population of 841,502 in the 2010 census...

, Ohio
Ohio
Ohio is a Midwestern state in the United States. The 34th largest state by area in the U.S.,it is the 7th‑most populous with over 11.5 million residents, containing several major American cities and seven metropolitan areas with populations of 500,000 or more.The state's capital is Columbus...

.

The prototype B-17, designated Model 299, was designed by a team of engineers led by E. Gifford Emery and Edward Curtis Wells
Edward Curtis Wells
Ed Wells redirects here. For the baseball player, see Ed Wells Edward Curtis Wells was senior vice president and served on the board of directors of Boeing Company. He designed the Boeing 747. He was known as the "Elder Statesman of Aviation".-Biography:He was born in Boise, Idaho on August 26, 1910...

 and built at Boeing's own expense. It combined features of the experimental Boeing XB-15
Boeing XB-15
|-See also:-References:NotesBibliography* Boniface, Patrick. "Boeing's Forgotten Monster: XB-15 a Giant in Search of a Cause." Air Enthusiast, 79 January–February 1999....

 bomber with the Boeing 247
Boeing 247
The Boeing Model 247 was an early United States airliner, considered the first such aircraft to fully incorporate advances such as all-metal semi-monocoque construction, a fully cantilevered wing and retractable landing gear...

 transport airplane. The B-17's armament consisted of up to 4800 pounds (2,177.2 kg) of bombs on two racks in the bomb bay behind the cockpit, and five 0.3 inches (7.62 mm) machine gun
Machine gun
A machine gun is a fully automatic mounted or portable firearm, usually designed to fire rounds in quick succession from an ammunition belt or large-capacity magazine, typically at a rate of several hundred rounds per minute....

s, and it was powered by four Pratt & Whitney R-1690
Pratt & Whitney R-1690
|-See also:-External links:*...

 "Hornet" radial engines each producing 750 hp at 7000 feet (2,133.6 m).

The first flight of the Model 299 was on 1935, with Boeing chief test-pilot Leslie Tower at the controls. Richard Williams, a reporter for the Seattle Times
The Seattle Times
The Seattle Times is a newspaper serving Seattle, Washington, US. It is the largest daily newspaper in the state of Washington. It has been, since the demise in 2009 of the printed version of the rival Seattle Post-Intelligencer, Seattle's only major daily print newspaper.-History:The Seattle Times...

 coined the name "Flying Fortress" when the Model 299 was rolled out, bristling with multiple machine gun installations. The most unique being the nose installation (see note for description and drawing) which allowed the single machine gun to be fired from about any frontal angle any approaching enemy fighter would take to attack the B-17

Boeing also claimed in some of the early press releases that Model 299 was the first combat aircraft that could continue its mission if one of its four engines for what ever reason failed. Boeing was quick to see the value of the name and had it trademarked for use. On , the prototype flew from Seattle to Wright Field in nine hours and three minutes at an average cruising speed of 252 miles per hour (405.6 km/h), much faster than the competition.

At the fly-off, the four-engine Boeing's performance was superior to those of the twin-engine DB-1 and Model 146. Then-Major General
Major General
Major general or major-general is a military rank used in many countries. It is derived from the older rank of sergeant major general. A major general is a high-ranking officer, normally subordinate to the rank of lieutenant general and senior to the ranks of brigadier and brigadier general...

 Frank Maxwell Andrews
Frank Maxwell Andrews
Frank Maxwell Andrews was a general officer in the United States Army and one of the founding fathers of the United States Air Force. In leadership positions within the Army Air Corps, he succeeded in advancing progress toward a separate and independent Air Force where predecessors and allies...

 of the GHQ Air Force believed that the long-range capabilities of four-engine large aircraft were more efficient than shorter-ranged twin-engined airplanes, and that the B-17 was better suited to their doctrine. His opinions were shared by the Air Corps procurement officers, and even before the competition had finished they suggested buying 65 B-17s.

Development continued on the Boeing Model 299, and on 1935, Army Air Corps test-pilot Major Ployer Peter Hill
Ployer Peter Hill
Ployer Peter Hill was a pilot and an officer with a varied career, but is best known for his abilities as a test pilot. In an aviation career that spanned eighteen years, Hill piloted nearly 60 of the Army Air Corps' newest aircraft, testing and evaluating their capabilities for service.Pete Hill...

 and Boeing employee Les Tower took the Model 299 on a second evaluation flight; however, the crew forgot to disengage the airplane's "gust lock," a device that held the bomber's movable control surfaces in place while the aircraft was parked on the ground. Having taken off, the aircraft entered a steep climb, stalled, nosed over and crashed, killing Hill and Tower (other observers survived with injuries).

The crashed Model 299 could not finish the evaluation, and while the Air Corps was still enthusiastic about the aircraft's potential, Army officials were daunted by the much greater expense per aircraft (Douglas quoted a unit price of $58,200 based on a production order of 220 aircraft, compared with a price of $99,620 from Boeing), and as the competition could not be completed Boeing was legally disqualified from the consideration for the contract. Army Chief of Staff Malin Craig
Malin Craig
Malin Craig was a United States Army general.-Biography:Malin Craig was born in St. Joseph, Missouri, on August 5, 1875; Graduated from the United States Military Academy, 1898; was commissioned a second lieutenant and assigned to the 4th Infantry, April 1898;-Spanish American War:Served with the...

 cancelled the order for 65 YB-17s, and ordered 133 of the twin-engine Douglas B-18 Bolo instead.

Initial orders

Regardless, the USAAC had been impressed by the prototype's performance, and on 1936, through a legal loophole, the Air Corps ordered 13 YB-17s (designated Y1B-17 after November 1936 to denote its special F-1 funding) for service testing. The YB-17 incorporated a number of significant changes from the Model 299, including more powerful Wright R-1820
Wright R-1820
|-See also:-References:* Bridgman, L, Jane's Fighting Aircraft of World War II. Crescent. ISBN 0-517-67964-7* Eden, Paul & Soph Moeng, The Complete Encyclopedia of World Aircraft. Amber Books Ltd. Bradley's Close, 74-77 White Lion Street, London, NI 9PF, 2002, ISBN 0-7607-3432-1), 1152...

-39 Cyclone engines replacing the original Pratt & Whitneys. Although the prototype was company-owned and never received a military serial (the B-17 designation itself did not appear officially until January 1936, nearly three months after the prototype crashed), the term "XB-17" was retroactively applied to the airframe and has entered the lexicon to describe the first Flying Fortress.

Between 1 March and 4 August 1937, 12 of the 13 Y1B-17s were delivered to the 2nd Bombardment Group at Langley Field in Virginia for operational development and flight tests. One suggestion adopted was the use of a pre-flight checklist to avoid accidents such as that which befell the Model 299. In one of their first missions, three B-17s, directed by lead navigator Lieutenant
Lieutenant
A lieutenant is a junior commissioned officer in many nations' armed forces. Typically, the rank of lieutenant in naval usage, while still a junior officer rank, is senior to the army rank...

 Curtis LeMay
Curtis LeMay
Curtis Emerson LeMay was a general in the United States Air Force and the vice presidential running mate of American Independent Party candidate George Wallace in 1968....

, were sent by General Andrews to "intercept" and photograph the Italian ocean liner Rex
Interception of the Rex
The interception of the Rex was a training exercise and military aviation achievement of the United States Army Air Corps prior to World War II. The tracking and location of an ocean going vessel by B-17 Flying Fortresses in May 1938 was a major event in the development of a doctrine that led to a...

 610 miles (981.7 km) off the Atlantic coast. The mission was successful and widely publicized. The 13th Y1B-17 was delivered to the Material Division at Wright Field, Ohio, to be used for flight testing.

A 14th Y1B-17 (37-369), originally constructed for ground testing of the airframe's strength, was upgraded and fitted with exhaust-driven turbochargers. Scheduled to fly in 1937, it encountered problems with the turbochargers, and its first flight was delayed until 1938. The aircraft was delivered to the Army on 1939. Once service testing was complete, the Y1B-17s and Y1B-17A were redesignated B-17 and B-17A respectively to signify the change to operational status.

Opposition to the Air Corps' ambitions for the acquisition of more B-17s faded, and in late 1937, 10 more aircraft designated B-17B were ordered to equip two bombardment groups, one on each U.S. coast. Improved with larger flaps, rudder and Plexiglas
Acrylic glass
Poly is a transparent thermoplastic, often used as a light or shatter-resistant alternative to glass. It is sometimes called acrylic glass. Chemically, it is the synthetic polymer of methyl methacrylate...

 nose, the B-17Bs were delivered in five small batches between July 1939 and March 1940. In July 1940, a significant order for 512 B-17s was issued; however, prior to the attack on Pearl Harbor
Attack on Pearl Harbor
The attack on Pearl Harbor was a surprise military strike conducted by the Imperial Japanese Navy against the United States naval base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, on the morning of December 7, 1941...

, fewer than 200 B-17s were in service with the Army.

A total of 155 B-17s of all variants were delivered between 1937 and 1941, but production quickly accelerated with the B-17 eventually setting the record for achieving the highest production rate for large aircraft.The aircraft went on to serve in every World War II combat zone, and by the time production ended in May 1945, 12,731 aircraft had been built by Boeing, Douglas
Douglas Aircraft Company
The Douglas Aircraft Company was an American aerospace manufacturer, based in Long Beach, California. It was founded in 1921 by Donald Wills Douglas, Sr. and later merged with McDonnell Aircraft in 1967 to form McDonnell Douglas...

, and Vega
Vega Aircraft Corporation
The Vega Aircraft Corporation was a subsidiary of the Lockheed Aircraft Company responsible for much of its parent company's production in World War II. The company was first formed in August 1937 as the AiRover Company to produce a new lightplane design...

 (a subsidiary of Lockheed
Lockheed Corporation
The Lockheed Corporation was an American aerospace company. Lockheed was founded in 1912 and later merged with Martin Marietta to form Lockheed Martin in 1995.-Origins:...

).

Design and variants

{| class="wikitable" style="float:right; text-align:center; background:#faf5ff;"
|+ Production numbers
! Variant
! Produced
! First flight
|-
| Model 299 || 1 || 28 July 1935
|- style="background:#f5faff;"
| YB-17 || 13 || 2 December 1936
|-
| YB-17A || 1 || 29 April 1938.
|- style="background:#f5faff;"
| B-17B || 39 || 27 June 1939
|-
| B-17C || 38 || 21 July 1940
|- style="background:#f5faff;"
| B-17D || 42 || 3 February 1941
|-
| B-17E || 512 || 5 September 1941
|- style="background:#f5faff;"
| B-17F || 3,405 || 30 May 1942
|-
| B-17F-BO || 2,300 ||
|- style="background:#f5faff;"
| B-17F-DL || 605 ||
|-
| B-17F-VE || 500 ||
|- style="background:#f5faff;"
| B-17G || 8,680 ||
|-
| B-17G-BO || 4,035 ||
|- style="background:#f5faff;"||
| B-17G-DL || 2,395 ||
|-
| B-17G-VE || 2,250 ||
|- style="background:#f5faff;"
| Grand total || 11,931 ||
|}

The B-17 went through several alterations in each of its design stages and variants. Of the 13 YB-17s ordered for service testing, 12 were used by the 2nd Bomb Group of Langley Field, Virginia, to develop heavy bombing techniques, and the 13th was used for flight testing at the Material Division at Wright Field, Ohio. Experiments on this aircraft led to the use of a turbo-supercharger which would become standard on the B-17 line. A 14th aircraft, the YB-17A, originally destined for ground testing only and upgraded with the turbocharger, was re-designated B-17A after testing had finished.

As the production line developed, Boeing engineers continued to improve upon the basic design. To enhance performance at slower speeds, the B-17B was altered to include larger rudder
Rudder
A rudder is a device used to steer a ship, boat, submarine, hovercraft, aircraft or other conveyance that moves through a medium . On an aircraft the rudder is used primarily to counter adverse yaw and p-factor and is not the primary control used to turn the airplane...

 and flaps
Flap (aircraft)
Flaps are normally hinged surfaces mounted on the trailing edges of the wings of a fixed-wing aircraft to reduce the speed an aircraft can be safely flown at and to increase the angle of descent for landing without increasing air speed. They shorten takeoff and landing distances as well as...

. The B-17C changed from gun blisters to flush, oval-shaped windows. Models A through D of the B-17 were designed defensively, while the B-17E was the first model primarily focused on offensive warfare.

The B-17E was an extensive revision of the design; the fuselage was extended by 10 ft (3 m), a much larger vertical fin and rudder were incorporated into the original design, and a gunner's position in the tail as well as an improved nose were added, resulting in a 20% increase in aircraft weight. The engines were upgraded to more powerful versions multiple times throughout its production, and similarly, the gun stations were altered on numerous occasions to enhance their effectiveness.

By the time the definitive B-17G appeared, the number of guns had been increased from seven to 13, the designs of the gun stations were finalized, and other adjustments were complete. The B-17G was the final version of the B-17, incorporating all changes made to its predecessor, the B-17F, and in total 8,680 were built, the last one (by Lockheed) on 1945. Many B-17Gs were converted for other missions such as cargo hauling, engine testing and reconnaissance
Reconnaissance aircraft
A reconnaissance aircraft is a manned military aircraft designed, or adapted, to carry out aerial reconnaissance.-History:The majority of World War I aircraft were reconnaissance designs...

. Initially designated SB-17G, a number of B-17Gs were also converted for search-and-rescue duties, later to be redesignated B-17H.

Two versions of the B-17 were flown under different designations, the XB-38 Flying Fortress
XB-38 Flying Fortress
|-See also:-References:NotesBibliography* Francillon, René J. Lockheed Aircraft since 1913. London:Putnam, 1982. ISBN 0-370-30329-6.* Hess, William N. and Jim Winchester. ""Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress:Queen of the Skies". Wings Of Fame. Volume 6. London:Aerospace Publishing, 1997. ISBN...

 and the YB-40 Flying Fortress
YB-40 Flying Fortress
The Boeing YB-40 Flying Fortress was a modification of the United States B-17 Flying Fortress bomber aircraft, converted to act as a heavily armed escort for other bombers during World War II...

. The XB-38 was an engine test-bed for Allison V-1710 liquid-cooled engines, should the Wright engines normally used on the B-17 become unavailable. The only prototype XB-38 to fly crashed on its ninth flight and the type was abandoned, the V-1710 being kept for fighters.

The YB-40 was a heavily armed modification of the standard B-17 used before the P-51 Mustang
P-51 Mustang
The North American Aviation P-51 Mustang was an American long-range, single-seat fighter and fighter-bomber used during World War II, the Korean War and in several other conflicts...

, an effective long-range fighter, became available to act as escort. Additional armament included an additional dorsal turret in the radio room, a chin turret (which became standard with the B-17G) and twin 0.5 in (1.3 cm) guns in the waist positions. The ammunition load was over 11,000 rounds, making the YB-40 well over 10000 lb (4,535.9 kg) heavier than a fully loaded B-17F. The YB-40s with their numerous heavy modifications had trouble keeping up with the lighter bombers once they had dropped their bombs, and so the project was abandoned and finally phased out in July 1943.

Late in World War II, at least 25 B-17s were fitted with radio controls and television cameras, loaded with 20000 lb (9,071.8 kg) of high-explosives and dubbed BQ-7 "Aphrodite missiles" for Operation Aphrodite
Operation Aphrodite
Aphrodite and Anvil were the World War II code names of United States Army Air Forces and United States Navy operations to use B-17 and PB4Y bombers as precision-guided munitions against bunkers such as those of Operation Crossbow....

. The operation, which involved remotely flying Aphrodite drones onto their targets by accompanying CQ-17 "mothership" control aircraft, was approved on , 1944, and assigned the 388th Bombardment Group stationed at RAF Fersfield
RAF Fersfield
RAF Fersfield is a former World War II airfield located southwest of Norwich, Norfolk.Built in 1943/1944, the airfield was originally a satellite of RAF Knettishall. It was constructed to Class-A bomber specifications, with a main runway , and two secondary runways of...

, a satellite of RAF Knettishall
RAF Knettishall
RAF Knettishall is a former World War II airfield in England. The field is located 6 miles SE of Thetford in Suffolk between the villages of Knettishall and Coney Weston, which lies to the south...

.

The first four drones were sent to Mimoyecques, the Siracourt V-1 bunker, Watten and Wizernes
La Coupole
La Coupole , codenamed Bauvorhaben 21 , Schotterwerk Nordwest or Wizernes, is a Second World War bunker complex built by the forces of Nazi Germany between 1943 and 1944 to serve as a launch base for V-2 rockets against London and southern England...

 on August 4, causing little damage. The project came to a sudden end with the unexplained mid-air explosion over the Blyth
River Blyth, Suffolk
The River Blyth is a river in Suffolk, England, with a tidal estuary between Southwold and Walberswick.It can be crossed by pedestrians by a public footbridge called the Bailey Bridge about a mile upstream from the sea or by the Walberswick rowing boat ferry between 9am-5pm daily.The estuary mouth...

 estuary of a B-24 Liberator
B-24 Liberator
The Consolidated B-24 Liberator was an American heavy bomber, designed by Consolidated Aircraft of San Diego, California. It was known within the company as the Model 32, and a small number of early models were sold under the name LB-30, for Land Bomber...

, part of the United States Navy
United States Navy
The United States Navy is the naval warfare service branch of the United States Armed Forces and one of the seven uniformed services of the United States. The U.S. Navy is the largest in the world; its battle fleet tonnage is greater than that of the next 13 largest navies combined. The U.S...

's contribution as "Project Anvil", en route for Heligoland
Heligoland
Heligoland is a small German archipelago in the North Sea.Formerly Danish and British possessions, the islands are located in the Heligoland Bight in the south-eastern corner of the North Sea...

 piloted by Lieutenant Joseph P. Kennedy Jr., future U.S. president John F. Kennedy
John F. Kennedy
John Fitzgerald "Jack" Kennedy , often referred to by his initials JFK, was the 35th President of the United States, serving from 1961 until his assassination in 1963....

's elder brother. Blast damage was caused over a radius of 5 miles (8 km). British authorities were anxious that no similar accidents should again occur, and the Aphrodite project was scrapped in early 1945.

Operational history

The B-17 began operations in World War II with the RAF in 1941 (but was not successful), and in the Southwest Pacific with the US Army. The 19th Bombardment Group had deployed to Clark Field in the Philippines a few weeks before the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor as the first of a planned heavy bomber buildup in the Pacific. Half of the group's airplanes were wiped out on December 8, 1941 when they were caught on the ground during refueling and rearming for a planned attack on Japanese airfields on Formosa. The small force of B-17s operated against the Japanese invasion force until they were withdrawn to Darwin. In early 1942 the 7th Bombardment Group began arriving in Java with a mixed force of B-17s and LB-30/B-24s. After the defeat in Java, the 19th withdrew to Australia where it continued in combat until it was sent back home by Gen. George C. Kenney when he arrived in Australia in mid-1942. In July 1942 the first B-17s were sent to England to join Eighth Air Force
Eighth Air Force
The Eighth Air Force is a numbered air force of the United States Air Force Global Strike Command . It is headquartered at Barksdale Air Force Base, Louisiana....

. Later that year two groups moved to Algeria to join Twelfth Air Force for operations in North Africa. The B-17s were primarily involved in the daylight precision strategic bombing
Strategic bombing
Strategic bombing is a military strategy used in a total war with the goal of defeating an enemy nation-state by destroying its economic ability and public will to wage war rather than destroying its land or naval forces...

 campaign against German targets ranging from U-boat pens, docks, warehouses and airfields to industrial targets such as aircraft factories. In the campaign against German aircraft forces in preparation for the invasion of France, B-17 (and B-24 Liberator) raids were directed against German aircraft production while their presence drew the Luftwaffe fighters into battle with Allied fighters.

Early models proved to be unsuitable for combat use over Europe and it was the B-17E that was first successfully used by the USAAF. The defense expected from bombers operating in close formation alone did not prove effective and the bombers needed fighter escorts to operate successfully.

During World War II, the B-17 equipped 32 overseas combat groups, inventory peaking in August 1944 at 4,574 USAAF aircraft worldwide. B-17s dropped 640036 short ton of bombs on European targets (compared to 452508 short ton dropped by the Liberator and 463544 short ton dropped by all other U.S. aircraft). The British heavy bombers, the Avro Lancaster
Avro Lancaster
The Avro Lancaster is a British four-engined Second World War heavy bomber made initially by Avro for the Royal Air Force . It first saw active service in 1942, and together with the Handley Page Halifax it was one of the main heavy bombers of the RAF, the RCAF, and squadrons from other...

 and Handley Page Halifax
Handley Page Halifax
The Handley Page Halifax was one of the British front-line, four-engined heavy bombers of the Royal Air Force during the Second World War. A contemporary of the famous Avro Lancaster, the Halifax remained in service until the end of the war, performing a variety of duties in addition to bombing...

, dropped 608,612 and 224,207 long tons respectively.

The RAF

The Royal Air Force
Royal Air Force
The Royal Air Force is the aerial warfare service branch of the British Armed Forces. Formed on 1 April 1918, it is the oldest independent air force in the world...

 entered World War II with no heavy bomber of its own in service; the biggest available were long-range medium bombers such as the Vickers Wellington
Vickers Wellington
The Vickers Wellington was a British twin-engine, long range medium bomber designed in the mid-1930s at Brooklands in Weybridge, Surrey, by Vickers-Armstrongs' Chief Designer, R. K. Pierson. It was widely used as a night bomber in the early years of the Second World War, before being displaced as a...

 which could carry up to 4,500 lb of bombs. While the Short Stirling
Short Stirling
The Short Stirling was the first four-engined British heavy bomber of the Second World War. The Stirling was designed and built by Short Brothers to an Air Ministry specification from 1936, and entered service in 1941...

 and Handley Page Halifax
Handley Page Halifax
The Handley Page Halifax was one of the British front-line, four-engined heavy bombers of the Royal Air Force during the Second World War. A contemporary of the famous Avro Lancaster, the Halifax remained in service until the end of the war, performing a variety of duties in addition to bombing...

 would become its primary bombers by 1941, in early 1940 the RAF entered into an agreement with the U.S. Army Air Corps to be provided with 20 B-17Cs, which were given the service name
British military aircraft designation systems
British military aircraft designations are used to refer to aircraft types and variants operated by the armed forces of the United Kingdom.Since the end of the First World War, aircraft types in British military service have generally been known by a name British military aircraft designations are...

 Fortress I. Their first operation, against Wilhelmshaven
Wilhelmshaven
Wilhelmshaven is a coastal town in Lower Saxony, Germany. It is situated on the western side of the Jade Bight, a bay of the North Sea.-History:...

 on 1941 was unsuccessful; on , the target was Brest, France
Brest, France
Brest is a city in the Finistère department in Brittany in northwestern France. Located in a sheltered position not far from the western tip of the Breton peninsula, and the western extremity of metropolitan France, Brest is an important harbour and the second French military port after Toulon...

, but again the bombers missed completely.

By September, after the RAF had lost eight B-17Cs in combat or to accidents and many instances of aborts due to mechanical problems, Bomber Command
RAF Bomber Command
RAF Bomber Command controlled the RAF's bomber forces from 1936 to 1968. During World War II the command destroyed a significant proportion of Nazi Germany's industries and many German cities, and in the 1960s stood at the peak of its postwar military power with the V bombers and a supplemental...

 abandoned daylight bombing raids because of the Fortress I's poor performance. The experience showed both the RAF and USAAF that the B-17C was not ready for combat, and that improved defenses, larger bomb loads and more accurate bombing methods were required. However the USAAF continued using the B-17 as a "day" bomber, despite pleas from the RAF that attempted daylight bombing would be ineffective.

As usage by Bomber Command had been curtailed, the RAF transferred its remaining Fortress I aircraft to Coastal Command
RAF Coastal Command
RAF Coastal Command was a formation within the Royal Air Force . Founded in 1936, it was the RAF's premier maritime arm, after the Royal Navy's secondment of the Fleet Air Arm in 1937. Naval aviation was neglected in the inter-war period, 1919–1939, and as a consequence the service did not receive...

 for use as a long-range maritime patrol aircraft instead. These were later augmented in August 1942 by 19 Fortress Mk II (B-17F) and 45 Fortress Mk IIA (B-17E). A Fortress from No. 206 Squadron RAF
No. 206 Squadron RAF
No. 206 Squadron was a Royal Air Force unit employed, until 2005, in the maritime patrol role with the Nimrod MR.2 at RAF Kinloss, Moray. It was announced in December 2004 that 206 Squadron would disband on 1 April 2005, with half of its crews being redistributed to Nos. 120 and 201 Squadrons, also...

 sank U-627 on 1942, the first of 11 U-boat kills credited to RAF Fortress bombers during the war. No. 223 Squadron
No. 223 Squadron RAF
No. 223 Squadron RAF was a squadron of the Royal Air Force. Originally formed as part of the Royal Naval Air Service , the Squadron flew in both World Wars.-History:...

, as part of 100 Group
No. 100 Group RAF
No. 100 Group was a special duties group within RAF Bomber Command.It was formed on 11 November 1943 to consolidate the increasingly complex business of electronic warfare and countermeasures within one organisation. The group was responsible for the development, operational trial and use of...

 operated a small number of Fortresses in support of the bombing offensive for jamming German radar.

Initial USAAF operations over Europe

The Air Corps (renamed United States Army Air Forces
United States Army Air Forces
The United States Army Air Forces was the military aviation arm of the United States of America during and immediately after World War II, and the direct predecessor of the United States Air Force....

 (USAAF) on June 20, 1941), using the B-17 and other bombers, bombed from high altitudes using the then-secret Norden bombsight
Norden bombsight
The Norden bombsight was a tachometric bombsight used by the United States Army Air Forces and the United States Navy during World War II, and the United States Air Force in the Korean and the Vietnam Wars to aid the crew of bomber aircraft in dropping bombs accurately...

, which was an optical electro-mechanical gyro-stabilized analog computer
Analog computer
An analog computer is a form of computer that uses the continuously-changeable aspects of physical phenomena such as electrical, mechanical, or hydraulic quantities to model the problem being solved...

. The device was able to determine, from variables input by the bombardier, the point at which the aircraft's bombs should be released to hit the target. The bombardier essentially took over flight control of the aircraft during the bomb run, maintaining a level altitude during the final moments before release.

The USAAF began building up its air forces in Europe using B-17Es soon after entering the war. The first Eighth Air Force
Eighth Air Force
The Eighth Air Force is a numbered air force of the United States Air Force Global Strike Command . It is headquartered at Barksdale Air Force Base, Louisiana....

 units arrived in High Wycombe, England, on 1942, to form the 97th Bomb Group. On 1942, 12 B-17Es of the 97th, with the lead aircraft piloted by Major Paul Tibbets
Paul Tibbets
Paul Warfield Tibbets, Jr. was a brigadier general in the United States Air Force, best known for being the pilot of the Enola Gay, the first aircraft to drop an atomic bomb in the history of warfare. The bomb, code-named Little Boy, was dropped on the Japanese city of Hiroshima...

 and carrying Brigadier General
Brigadier General
Brigadier general is a senior rank in the armed forces. It is the lowest ranking general officer in some countries, usually sitting between the ranks of colonel and major general. When appointed to a field command, a brigadier general is typically in command of a brigade consisting of around 4,000...

 Ira Eaker as an observer, were escorted by RAF Spitfires
Supermarine Spitfire
The Supermarine Spitfire is a British single-seat fighter aircraft that was used by the Royal Air Force and many other Allied countries throughout the Second World War. The Spitfire continued to be used as a front line fighter and in secondary roles into the 1950s...

 on the first USAAF raid over Europe, against railroad marshalling yards
Classification yard
A classification yard or marshalling yard is a railroad yard found at some freight train stations, used to separate railroad cars on to one of several tracks. First the cars are taken to a track, sometimes called a lead or a drill...

 at Rouen
Rouen
Rouen , in northern France on the River Seine, is the capital of the Haute-Normandie region and the historic capital city of Normandy. Once one of the largest and most prosperous cities of medieval Europe , it was the seat of the Exchequer of Normandy in the Middle Ages...

-Sotteville in France, while a further six aircraft flew a diversionary raid along the French coast. The operation was a success, with only minor damage to two aircraft.

As the raids of the American bombing campaign grew in numbers and frequency, German interception efforts arose to respond to the bombers (such as during the attempted bombing of Kiel on 13 June 1943) to the level where unescorted bombing missions became discouraged.

Combined offensive

The two different strategies of the American and British bomber commands were organized at the Casablanca Conference
Casablanca Conference (1943)
The Casablanca Conference was held at the Anfa Hotel in Casablanca, Morocco, then a French protectorate, from January 14 to 24, 1943, to plan the European strategy of the Allies during World War II. Present were Franklin D...

 in January 1943. The resulting "Combined Bomber Offensive
Combined Bomber Offensive
The Combined Bomber Offensive was an Anglo-American offensive of strategic bombing during World War II in Europe. The primary portion of the CBO was against German Air Force targets which was the highest priority from June 1943 to 1944...

" would weaken the Wehrmacht
Wehrmacht
The Wehrmacht – from , to defend and , the might/power) were the unified armed forces of Nazi Germany from 1935 to 1945. It consisted of the Heer , the Kriegsmarine and the Luftwaffe .-Origin and use of the term:...

, destroy German morale and establish air superiority through Operation Pointblank's destruction of German fighter strength in preparation of a ground offensive. The USAAF bombers would attack by day, with British operations – chiefly against industrial cities – by night.

Operation Pointblank opened with attacks on targets in Western Europe. General Ira C. Eaker and the Eighth Air Force placed highest priority on attacks on the German aircraft industry, especially fighter assembly plants, engine factories and ball-bearing manufacturers. Attacks began in April 1943 on heavily fortified key industrial plants in Bremen
Bremen
The City Municipality of Bremen is a Hanseatic city in northwestern Germany. A commercial and industrial city with a major port on the river Weser, Bremen is part of the Bremen-Oldenburg metropolitan area . Bremen is the second most populous city in North Germany and tenth in Germany.Bremen is...

 and Recklinghausen
Recklinghausen
Recklinghausen is the northernmost city in the Ruhr-Area and the capital of the Recklinghausen district. It borders the rural Münsterland and is characterized by large fields and farms in the north and industry in the south...

.

Since the airfield bombings were not appreciably reducing German fighter strength, additional B-17 groups were formed, and Eaker ordered major missions deeper into Germany against important industrial targets. The 8th Air Force then targeted the ball-bearing factories in Schweinfurt
Schweinfurt
Schweinfurt is a city in the Lower Franconia region of Bavaria in Germany on the right bank of the canalized Main, which is here spanned by several bridges, 27 km northeast of Würzburg.- History :...

, hoping to cripple the war effort there. The first raid
Schweinfurt-Regensburg mission
The Schweinfurt–Regensburg mission was an air combat battle in World War II. A strategic bombing attack flown by B-17 Flying Fortresses of the U.S. Army Air Forces on August 17, 1943, it was conceived as an ambitious plan to cripple the German aircraft industry...

 on 1943 did not result in critical damage to the factories, with the 230 attacking B-17s being intercepted by an estimated 300 Luftwaffe fighters. The Germans shot down 36 aircraft with the loss of 200 men, and coupled with a raid earlier in the day against Regensburg
Regensburg
Regensburg is a city in Bavaria, Germany, located at the confluence of the Danube and Regen rivers, at the northernmost bend in the Danube. To the east lies the Bavarian Forest. Regensburg is the capital of the Bavarian administrative region Upper Palatinate...

, a total of 60 B-17s were lost that day.

A second attempt on Schweinfurt on 14 October 1943 would later come to be known as "Black Thursday
Second Raid on Schweinfurt
The second Schweinfurt raid bombed World War II ball bearing factories to reduce production of these vital parts for all manner of war machines. Named Black Thursday because the loss of aircrewmen was the highest for any USAAF mission...

". While the attack was successful at disrupting the entire works, severely curtailing work there for the remainder of the war, it was at an extreme cost. Of the 291 attacking Fortresses, 60 were shot down over Germany, five crashed on approach to Britain, and 12 more were scrapped due to damage – a total loss of 77 B-17s. One hundred and twenty-two bombers were damaged and needed repairs before their next flight. Out of 2,900 men in the crews, about 650 men did not return, although some survived as prisoners of war
Prisoner of war
A prisoner of war or enemy prisoner of war is a person, whether civilian or combatant, who is held in custody by an enemy power during or immediately after an armed conflict...

. Only 33 bombers landed without damage. These losses were a result of concentrated attacks by over 300 German fighters.

Such high losses of air crews could not be sustained, and the USAAF, recognizing the vulnerability of heavy bombers to interceptors when operating alone, suspended daylight bomber raids deep into Germany until the development of an escort fighter that could protect the bombers all the way from the United Kingdom to Germany and back. At the same time, the German night fighting ability noticeably improved to counter the nighttime strikes, challenging the conventional faith in the cover of darkness. The Eighth Air Force
Eighth Air Force
The Eighth Air Force is a numbered air force of the United States Air Force Global Strike Command . It is headquartered at Barksdale Air Force Base, Louisiana....

 alone lost 176 bombers in October 1943, and was to suffer similar casualties on 1944 on missions to Oschersleben
Oschersleben
Oschersleben is a town in the Börde district, in Saxony-Anhalt, Germany. The population in 1905 was 13,271, in 2005 about 18,000.-Geography:...

, Halberstadt
Halberstadt
Halberstadt is a town in the German state of Saxony-Anhalt and the capital of the district of Harz. It is located on the German Half-Timbered House Road and the Magdeburg–Thale railway....

 and Brunswick
Braunschweig
Braunschweig , is a city of 247,400 people, located in the federal-state of Lower Saxony, Germany. It is located north of the Harz mountains at the farthest navigable point of the Oker river, which connects to the North Sea via the rivers Aller and Weser....

. Lieutenant General
Lieutenant General (United States)
In the United States Army, the United States Air Force and the United States Marine Corps, lieutenant general is a three-star general officer rank, with the pay grade of O-9. Lieutenant general ranks above major general and below general...

 James Doolittle
Jimmy Doolittle
General James Harold "Jimmy" Doolittle, USAF was an American aviation pioneer. Doolittle served as a brigadier general, major general and lieutenant general in the United States Army Air Forces during the Second World War...

, commander of the Eighth, had ordered the second Schweinfurt mission to be cancelled as the weather deteriorated, but the lead units had already entered hostile air space and continued with the mission. Most of the escorts turned back or missed the rendezvous, and as a result 60 B-17s were destroyed. A third raid on Schweinfurt on 1944 highlighted what came to be known as "Big Week
Big Week
Between February 20–25, 1944, as part of the European strategic bombing campaign, the United States Strategic Air Forces launched Operation Argument, a series of missions against the Third Reich that became known as Big Week. The planners intended to lure the Luftwaffe into a decisive battle by...

", during which the bombing missions were directed against German aircraft production. German fighters would have to respond, and the North American P-51 Mustang and Republic P-47 Thunderbolt fighters (equipped with improved drop tank
Drop tank
In aeronautics, a drop tank is used to describe auxiliary fuel tanks externally carried by aircraft. A drop tank is expendable and often jettisonable...

s to extend their range) accompanying the American heavies all the way to and from the targets would engage them. The escort fighters reduced the loss rate to below seven percent, with only 247 B-17s lost in 3,500 sortie
Sortie
Sortie is a term for deployment or dispatch of one military unit, be it an aircraft, ship, or troops from a strongpoint. The sortie, whether by one or more aircraft or vessels, usually has a specific mission....

s while taking part in the Big Week raids.

By September 1944, 27 of the 40 bomb groups of the Eighth Air Force and six of the 21 groups of the Fifteenth Air Force used B-17s. Losses to flak continued to take a high toll of heavy bombers through 1944, but by 1945 (two days after the last heavy bombing mission in Europe), the rate of aircraft loss was so low that replacement aircraft were no longer arriving and the number of bombers per bomb group was reduced. The Combined Bomber Offensive was effectively complete.

Pacific Theater

On 7 December 1941, a group of 12 B-17s of the 38th (four B-17C) and 88th (eight B-17E) Reconnaissance Squadrons, en route to reinforce the Philippines, were flown into Pearl Harbor from Hamilton Field, California
California
California is a state located on the West Coast of the United States. It is by far the most populous U.S. state, and the third-largest by land area...

, arriving during the attack on Pearl Harbor
Attack on Pearl Harbor
The attack on Pearl Harbor was a surprise military strike conducted by the Imperial Japanese Navy against the United States naval base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, on the morning of December 7, 1941...

. Leonard "Smitty" Smith Humiston, co-pilot on First Lieutenant
First Lieutenant
First lieutenant is a military rank and, in some forces, an appointment.The rank of lieutenant has different meanings in different military formations , but the majority of cases it is common for it to be sub-divided into a senior and junior rank...

 Robert H. Richards' B-17C, AAF S/N 40-2049, reported that he thought the U.S. Navy was giving the flight a 21-gun salute to celebrate the arrival of the bombers, after which he realized that Pearl Harbor was under attack. The Fortress came under fire from Japanese fighter aircraft, though the crew was unharmed with the exception of one member who suffered an abrasion on his hand. Enemy activity forced an abort from Hickam Field to Bellows Field, where the aircraft overran the runway and into a ditch where it was then strafed. Although initially deemed repairable, 40-2049 (11th BG / 38th RS) received more than 200 bullet holes and never flew again. Ten of the 12 Fortresses survived the attack.

By 1941, the Far East Air Force (FEAF) based at Clark Field
Clark Air Base
Clark Air Base is a former United States Air Force base on Luzon Island in the Philippines, located 3 miles west of Angeles City, about 40 miles northwest of Metro Manila. Clark Air Base was an American military facility from 1903 to 1991...

 in the Philippines had 35 B-17s, with the War Department eventually planning to raise that to 165. When the FEAF received word of the attack on Pearl Harbor, General
General
A general officer is an officer of high military rank, usually in the army, and in some nations, the air force. The term is widely used by many nations of the world, and when a country uses a different term, there is an equivalent title given....

 Lewis H. Brereton
Lewis H. Brereton
Lewis Hyde Brereton was a military aviation pioneer and lieutenant general in the United States Air Force...

 sent his bombers and fighters on various patrol missions to prevent them from being caught on the ground. Brereton planned B-17 raids on Japanese air fields in Formosa
Taiwan
Taiwan , also known, especially in the past, as Formosa , is the largest island of the same-named island group of East Asia in the western Pacific Ocean and located off the southeastern coast of mainland China. The island forms over 99% of the current territory of the Republic of China following...

, in accordance with Rainbow 5 war plan directives, but this was overruled by General Douglas MacArthur
Douglas MacArthur
General of the Army Douglas MacArthur was an American general and field marshal of the Philippine Army. He was a Chief of Staff of the United States Army during the 1930s and played a prominent role in the Pacific theater during World War II. He received the Medal of Honor for his service in the...

. A series of disputed discussions and decisions, followed by several confusing and false reports of air attacks, delayed the authorization of the sortie. By the time the B-17s and escorting Curtiss P-40
Curtiss P-40
The Curtiss P-40 Warhawk was an American single-engine, single-seat, all-metal fighter and ground attack aircraft that first flew in 1938. The P-40 design was a modification of the previous Curtiss P-36 Hawk which reduced development time and enabled a rapid entry into production and operational...

 fighters were about to get airborne, they were destroyed by Japanese bombers of the 11th Air Fleet. The FEAF lost half its aircraft during the first strike, and was all but destroyed over the next few days.

Another early World War II Pacific engagement on 1941 involved Colin Kelly who reportedly crashed his B-17 into the Japanese battleship Haruna
Japanese battleship Haruna
, named after Mount Haruna, was a warship of the Imperial Japanese Navy during :World War I and :World War II. Designed by the British naval engineer George Thurston, she was the fourth and last battlecruiser of the , among the most heavily armed ships in any navy when built...

, which was later acknowledged as a near bomb miss on the heavy cruiser Ashigara
Japanese cruiser Ashigara
Ashigara was a Myōkō class heavy cruiser of the Imperial Japanese Navy. The other ships of her class were Myōkō , Nachi , and Haguro...

. Nonetheless, this deed made him a celebrated war hero. Kelly's B-17C AAF S/N 40-2045 (19th BG / 30th BS) crashed about 6 mi (9.7 km) from Clark Field after he held the burning Fortress steady long enough for the surviving crew to bail out. Kelly was posthumously awarded the Distinguished Service Cross
Distinguished Service Cross (United States)
The Distinguished Service Cross is the second highest military decoration that can be awarded to a member of the United States Army, for extreme gallantry and risk of life in actual combat with an armed enemy force. Actions that merit the Distinguished Service Cross must be of such a high degree...

.
Noted Japanese ace Saburo Sakai
Saburo Sakai
Sub-Lieutenant was a Japanese naval aviator and flying ace of the Imperial Japanese Navy during World War II. Sakai was the Imperial Navy's fourth-ranking ace and Japan's second leading fighter pilot to survive the war ....

 is credited with this kill, and in the process, gained respect for the ability of the Fortress to absorb punishment.

B-17s were used in early battles of the Pacific with little success, notably the Battle of Coral Sea and Battle of Midway
Battle of Midway
The Battle of Midway is widely regarded as the most important naval battle of the Pacific Campaign of World War II. Between 4 and 7 June 1942, approximately one month after the Battle of the Coral Sea and six months after Japan's attack on Pearl Harbor, the United States Navy decisively defeated...

. While there, the Fifth Air Force
Fifth Air Force
The Fifth Air Force is a numbered air force of the United States Air Force Pacific Air Forces . It is headquartered at Yokota Air Base, Japan....

 B-17s were tasked with disrupting the Japanese sea lanes. Air Corps doctrine dictated bombing runs from high altitude, but it was soon discovered that only one percent of their bombs hit targets. However, B-17s were operating at heights too great for most A6M Zero
A6M Zero
The Mitsubishi A6M Zero was a long-range fighter aircraft operated by the Imperial Japanese Navy Air Service from 1940 to 1945. The A6M was designated as the , and also designated as the Mitsubishi A6M Rei-sen and Mitsubishi Navy 12-shi Carrier Fighter. The A6M was usually referred to by the...

 fighters to reach, and the B-17's heavy gun armament was easily more than a match for lightly protected Japanese planes.

On March 2, 1943, six B-17s of the 64th Squadron attacked a major Japanese troop convoy from 10000 ft (3 km) during the early stages of the Battle of the Bismarck Sea
Battle of the Bismarck Sea
The Battle of the Bismarck Sea took place in the South West Pacific Area during World War II. During the course of the battle, aircraft of the U.S. 5th Air Force and the Royal Australian Air Force attacked a Japanese convoy that was carrying troops to Lae, New Guinea...

, off New Guinea
New Guinea
New Guinea is the world's second largest island, after Greenland, covering a land area of 786,000 km2. Located in the southwest Pacific Ocean, it lies geographically to the east of the Malay Archipelago, with which it is sometimes included as part of a greater Indo-Australian Archipelago...

, using skip bombing
Skip bombing
Skip bombing was a low-level bombing technique developed by Italian pilot Giuseppe Cenni flying German Junkers Ju 87 Stuka aircraft during attacks on Allied ships off the coast of North Africa, between May and October of 1941...

 to sink three merchant ships including the Kyokusei Maru. A B-17 was shot down by a New Britain
New Britain
New Britain, or Niu Briten, is the largest island in the Bismarck Archipelago of Papua New Guinea. It is separated from the island of New Guinea by the Dampier and Vitiaz Straits and from New Ireland by St. George's Channel...

-based A6M Zero
A6M Zero
The Mitsubishi A6M Zero was a long-range fighter aircraft operated by the Imperial Japanese Navy Air Service from 1940 to 1945. The A6M was designated as the , and also designated as the Mitsubishi A6M Rei-sen and Mitsubishi Navy 12-shi Carrier Fighter. The A6M was usually referred to by the...

, whose pilot then machine-gunned some of the B-17 crew members as they descended in parachutes and attacked others in the water after they landed. Later, 13 B-17s bombed the convoy from medium altitude, causing the ships to disperse and prolonging the journey. The convoy was subsequently all but destroyed by a combination of low level strafing runs by Royal Australian Air Force
Royal Australian Air Force
The Royal Australian Air Force is the air force branch of the Australian Defence Force. The RAAF was formed in March 1921. It continues the traditions of the Australian Flying Corps , which was formed on 22 October 1912. The RAAF has taken part in many of the 20th century's major conflicts...

 Beaufighters
Bristol Beaufighter
The Bristol Type 156 Beaufighter, often referred to as simply the Beau, was a British long-range heavy fighter modification of the Bristol Aeroplane Company's earlier Beaufort torpedo bomber design...

, and skip bombing by USAAF North American B-25 Mitchells at 100 ft (30.5 m), while B-17s claimed five hits from higher altitudes.

A peak of 168 B-17 bombers were in the Pacific theater in September 1942, with all groups converting to other types by mid-1943. In mid-1942 Gen. Arnold decided that the B-17 was inadequate for the kind of operations required in the Pacific and made plans to replace all of the B-17s in the theater with B-24s as soon as they became available. Although the conversion was not complete until mid-1943, B-17 combat operations in the Pacific theater came to an end after a little over a year. Surviving airplanes were reassigned to the 54th Troop Carrier Wing's special airdrop section, and were used to drop supplies to ground forces operating in close contact with the enemy. Special airdrop B-17s supported Australian commandos operating near the Japanese stronghold at Rabaul, which had been the primary B-17 target in 1942 and early 1943.

Bomber defense

Before the advent of long-range fighter
Fighter aircraft
A fighter aircraft is a military aircraft designed primarily for air-to-air combat with other aircraft, as opposed to a bomber, which is designed primarily to attack ground targets...

 escorts, B-17s had only their 0.5 in (12.7 mm)
.50 BMG
The .50 Browning Machine Gun or 12.7×99mm NATO is a cartridge developed for the Browning .50 caliber machine gun in the late 1910s. Entering service officially in 1921, the round is based on a greatly scaled-up .30-06 cartridge...

 M2 Browning machine guns to rely on for defense during the bombing runs over Europe. As the war intensified, Boeing used feedback from aircrews to improve each new variant with increased armament and armor. The number of defensive guns increased from four 0.5 in (12.7 mm) machine guns and one 0.3 in (7.6 mm) nose machine gun in the B-17C, to thirteen 0.5 in (12.7 mm) machine guns in the B-17G. But because the bombers could not maneuver when attacked by fighters, and during their final bomb run they needed to be flown straight and level, individual aircraft struggled to fend off a direct attack.

A 1943 survey by the Air Corps found that over half the bombers shot down by the Germans had left the protection of the main formation. To address this problem, the United States developed the bomb-group formation, which evolved into the staggered combat box
Combat box
The Combat box was a tactical formation used by heavy bombers of the U.S. Army Air Forces during World War II. The combat box was also referred to as a "staggered formation"...

 formation where all the B-17s could safely cover any others in their formation with their machine guns, making a formation of the bombers a dangerous target to engage by enemy fighters. Luftwaffe "jagdflieger" (fighter pilots) likened attacking a B-17 combat box formation to encountering a fliegendes stachelschwein, or "flying porcupine". However, the use of this rigid formation meant that individual aircraft could not engage in evasive maneuvers: they had to always fly in a straight line, which made them vulnerable to the German flak. Additionally, German fighter aircraft later used the tactic of high-speed strafing passes rather than engaging with individual aircraft to inflict damage with minimum risk.

As a result, the B-17s' loss rate was up to 25% on some early missions (60 of 291 B-17s were lost in combat on the second Raid on Schweinfurt), and it was not until the advent of long-range fighter escorts (particularly the North American P-51 Mustang) resulting in the degradation of the Luftwaffe as an effective interceptor force between February and June 1944, that the B-17 became strategically potent.

The B-17 was noted for its ability to absorb battle damage, still reach its target and bring its crew home safely. Wally Hoffman, a B-17 pilot with the Eighth Air Force during World War II, said, "The plane can be cut and slashed almost to pieces by enemy fire and bring its crew home." Martin Caidin
Martin Caidin
Martin Caidin was an American author and an authority on aeronautics and aviation.Caidin wrote more than 50 books, including Samurai!, Black Thursday, Thunderbolt!, Fork-Tailed Devil: The P-38, Zero!, The Ragged, Rugged Warriors, A Torch to the Enemy and many other works of military history...

 reported one instance in which a B-17 suffered a mid-air collision with a Focke-Wulf Fw 190
Focke-Wulf Fw 190
The Focke-Wulf Fw 190 Würger was a German Second World War single-seat, single-engine fighter aircraft designed by Kurt Tank in the late 1930s. Powered by a radial engine, the 190 had ample power and was able to lift larger loads than its well-known counterpart, the Messerschmitt Bf 109...

, losing an engine and suffering serious damage to both the starboard horizontal stabilizer and the vertical stabilizer, and being knocked out of formation by the impact. The airplane was reported as shot down by observers, but it survived and brought its crew home without injury. Its toughness more than compensated for its shorter range and lighter bomb load when compared to the Consolidated B-24 Liberator
B-24 Liberator
The Consolidated B-24 Liberator was an American heavy bomber, designed by Consolidated Aircraft of San Diego, California. It was known within the company as the Model 32, and a small number of early models were sold under the name LB-30, for Land Bomber...

 or the British Avro Lancaster
Avro Lancaster
The Avro Lancaster is a British four-engined Second World War heavy bomber made initially by Avro for the Royal Air Force . It first saw active service in 1942, and together with the Handley Page Halifax it was one of the main heavy bombers of the RAF, the RCAF, and squadrons from other...

 heavy bombers. Stories abound of B-17s returning to base with tails having been destroyed, with only a single engine functioning or even with large portions of wings having been damaged by flak
Anti-aircraft warfare
NATO defines air defence as "all measures designed to nullify or reduce the effectiveness of hostile air action." They include ground and air based weapon systems, associated sensor systems, command and control arrangements and passive measures. It may be to protect naval, ground and air forces...

. This durability, together with the large operational numbers in the Eighth Air Force
Eighth Air Force
The Eighth Air Force is a numbered air force of the United States Air Force Global Strike Command . It is headquartered at Barksdale Air Force Base, Louisiana....

 and the fame achieved by the "Memphis Belle
Memphis Belle (B-17)
Memphis Belle is the nickname of a Boeing B-17F Flying Fortress during the Second World War that inspired the making of two motion pictures: a 1944 documentary film, Memphis Belle: A Story of a Flying Fortress, and a 1990 Hollywood feature film, Memphis Belle...

", made the B-17 a significant bomber aircraft of the war. Other factors such as combat effectiveness and political issues also contributed to the B-17's success.

The B-17 design went through eight major changes over the course of its production, culminating in the B-17G, differing from its immediate predecessor by the addition of a chin turret
Gun turret
A gun turret is a weapon mount that protects the crew or mechanism of a projectile-firing weapon and at the same time lets the weapon be aimed and fired in many directions.The turret is also a rotating weapon platform...

 with two 0.5 in (12.7 mm) caliber M2 Browning machine guns under the nose. This eliminated the B-17's main defensive weakness in head-on attacks.

The Luftwaffe

After examining wrecked B-17s and B-24s, Luftwaffe
Luftwaffe
Luftwaffe is a generic German term for an air force. It is also the official name for two of the four historic German air forces, the Wehrmacht air arm founded in 1935 and disbanded in 1946; and the current Bundeswehr air arm founded in 1956....

officers discovered that on average it took around 20 hits with 20 mm (0.78740157480315 in)
MG 151 cannon
The MG 151 was a 15 mm autocannon produced by Waffenfabrik Mauser starting in 1940. It was in 1941 developed into the 20 mm MG 151/20 cannon which was widely used on many types of German Luftwaffe fighters, fighter bombers, night fighters, ground attack and even bombers as part of or as...

 shells fired from the rear to bring them down. Pilots of average ability hit the bombers with only about two percent of the rounds they fired, so to obtain 20 hits, the average pilot had to fire one thousand 20 mm (0.78740157480315 in) rounds at a bomber. Early versions of the Fw 190
Focke-Wulf Fw 190
The Focke-Wulf Fw 190 Würger was a German Second World War single-seat, single-engine fighter aircraft designed by Kurt Tank in the late 1930s. Powered by a radial engine, the 190 had ample power and was able to lift larger loads than its well-known counterpart, the Messerschmitt Bf 109...

, one of the best German interceptor fighters, were equipped with two 20 mm (0.78740157480315 in) MG FF
MG FF cannon
The MG FF was a drum-fed, 20 mm aircraft autocannon, developed in 1936 by Ikaria Werke Berlin of Germany. It was a derivative of the Swiss Oerlikon FF F cannon, itself a development of the German World War I Becker 20 mm cannon, and was designed to be used in fixed or flexible mountings, as...

 cannons, which carried only 500 rounds, and later with the better Mauser MG 151/20
MG 151 cannon
The MG 151 was a 15 mm autocannon produced by Waffenfabrik Mauser starting in 1940. It was in 1941 developed into the 20 mm MG 151/20 cannon which was widely used on many types of German Luftwaffe fighters, fighter bombers, night fighters, ground attack and even bombers as part of or as...

 cannons, which had a longer effective range than the MG FF weapon. The German fighters found that when attacking from the front, where fewer defensive guns were pointed, it only took four or five hits to bring a bomber down. To address the Fw 190's shortcomings, the number of cannons fitted was doubled to four with a corresponding increase in the amount of ammunition carried, and in 1944, a further upgrade to Rheinmetall
Rheinmetall
Rheinmetall AG is a German automotive and defence company with factories in Düsseldorf, Kassel and Unterlüß. The company has a long tradition of making guns and artillery pieces...

-Borsig's 30 mm (1.2 in) MK 108 cannon
MK 108 cannon
The MK 108 was a 30 mm caliber autocannon manufactured in Germany during World War II by Rheinmetall-Borsig for use in aircraft.-Development:...

s was made, which could bring a bomber down in just a few hits.
The adoption of the Werfer-Granate 21 (Wfr. Gr. 21) rocket mortar by the Luftwaffe in mid-August 1943 promised the introduction of a major "stand-off" style of offensive weapon – one strut-mounted tubular launcher was fixed under each wing panel on the Luftwaffes single-engined fighters, and two under each wing panel of a few twin-engined Bf 110
Messerschmitt Bf 110
The Messerschmitt Bf 110, often called Me 110, was a twin-engine heavy fighter in the service of the Luftwaffe during World War II. Hermann Göring was a proponent of the Bf 110, and nicknamed it his Eisenseiten...

 daylight Zerstörer aircraft. However, due to the ballistic drop of the fired rocket (despite the usual mounting of the launcher at about 15° upward orientation), and the small number of fighters fitted with the weapons, the Wfr. Gr. 21 never had a major effect on the combat box formations of Fortresses. Also, the attempts of the Luftwaffe to fit heavy-calibre Bordkanone-series 37, 50 and even 75 mm (3 in) cannon as anti-bomber weapons on twin-engined aircraft such as the special Ju 88P
Junkers Ju 88
The Junkers Ju 88 was a World War II German Luftwaffe twin-engine, multi-role aircraft. Designed by Hugo Junkers' company through the services of two American aviation engineers in the mid-1930s, it suffered from a number of technical problems during the later stages of its development and early...

 fighters, as well as one model of the Me 410
Messerschmitt Me 410
The Messerschmitt Me 410 Hornisse was a German heavy fighter and Schnellbomber used by Luftwaffe during World War II. Though essentially a straightforward modification of the Me 210, it was designated the Me 410 to avoid association with its notoriously flawed predecessor.-Design and...

 Hornisse, did not have much effect on the American strategic bomber offensive. The Me 262
Messerschmitt Me 262
The Messerschmitt Me 262 Schwalbe was the world's first operational jet-powered fighter aircraft. Design work started before World War II began, but engine problems prevented the aircraft from attaining operational status with the Luftwaffe until mid-1944...

 had moderate success against the B-17 late in the war however. With its usual nose-mounted armament of four MK 108 cannon
MK 108 cannon
The MK 108 was a 30 mm caliber autocannon manufactured in Germany during World War II by Rheinmetall-Borsig for use in aircraft.-Development:...

s, and with some examples later equipped with the R4M rocket
R4M rocket
The R4M rocket, nicknamed the Hurricane due to its distinctive smoke trail when fired, was an anti-aircraft rocket. It was developed by the German Luftwaffe during World War II.-Development:...

, launched from underwing racks, it could fire from outside the range of the bombers' 0.5 in (12.7 mm) defensive guns and bring an aircraft down with one hit.

During World War II, after crash-landing or being forced down, approximately 40 B-17s were captured and refurbished by the Luftwaffe with about a dozen put back into the air. Given German markings, the captured B-17s were used to determine the plane's vulnerabilities and to train German interceptor pilots in tactics. Others, with the cover designations Dornier Do 200 and Do 288, were used as long-range transports by the Kampfgeschwader 200 special duties unit, carrying out agent drops and supplying secret airstrips in the Middle East and North Africa. They were chosen for these missions as being more suitable for the role than available German aircraft and not in an attempt to deceive the Allies, being operated in full Luftwaffe markings. One of the B-17s of KG200, bearing Luftwaffe markings A3+FB, was interned by Spain when it landed at Valencia airfield, 1944, and remained there for the rest of the war. Some B-17s kept their Allied markings and were used in attempts to infiltrate B-17 formations and report on their position and altitude. The practice was initially successful, but the Army Air Forces combat aircrews quickly developed and established standard procedures to first warn off, and then fire upon any "stranger" trying to join a group's formation.

Soviet use

The U.S. did not offer B-17s to the Soviet Union, however, at least 73 aircraft were acquired by the Soviet Air Force
Soviet Air Force
The Soviet Air Force, officially known in Russian as Военно-воздушные силы or Voenno-Vozdushnye Sily and often abbreviated VVS was the official designation of one of the air forces of the Soviet Union. The other was the Soviet Air Defence Forces...

. These were aircraft that landed with mechanical trouble during the shuttle bombing
Shuttle bombing
Shuttle bombing is a tactic where bombers fly from their home base to bomb a first target and continue to a different location where they are refuelled and rearmed. The aircraft may then bomb a second target on the return leg to their home base...

 raids over Germany, or had been damaged by a Luftwaffe raid in Poltava
Poltava
Poltava is a city in located on the Vorskla River in central Ukraine. It is the administrative center of the Poltava Oblast , as well as the surrounding Poltava Raion of the oblast. Poltava's estimated population is 298,652 ....

. The Soviets restored 23 to flying condition and concentrated them in the 890th bomber regiment of the 45th bomber division but they never saw combat. In 1946 the regiment was assigned to the Kazan
Kazan
Kazan is the capital and largest city of the Republic of Tatarstan, Russia. With a population of 1,143,546 , it is the eighth most populous city in Russia. Kazan lies at the confluence of the Volga and Kazanka Rivers in European Russia. In April 2009, the Russian Patent Office granted Kazan the...

 factory to aid in the Soviet effort to reproduce the Boeing B-29 as the Tupolev Tu-4
Tupolev Tu-4
The Tupolev Tu-4 was a piston-engined Soviet strategic bomber that served the Soviet Air Force from the late 1940s to mid 1960s...

.

Japanese use

Three B-17 Flying Fortress were captured by the Japanese in the Philippines and Netherlands East Indies. At Clark Field they recovered the turbosupercharger of a B-17 and other spare parts. Eventually an entire B-17D was put together from the collection of parts. Another B-17E was restored in the Netherlands East Indies, from the remains of almost 15 B-17s found on airfields. The third B-17E was found in reasonable condition in the same area, after it crash landed at Djokjakarta, Java and was abandoned.

They were tested by the IJAAF Koku Gijutsu Kenkyujo (Air Technical Research Laboratory) at Tachikawa. In the spring of 1945 an American aerial photo of the Japanese Tachikawa air base revealed a large unknown Japanese four-engine bomber. After the war investigators discovered the aircraft was actually a B-17E.

U.S. Air Force

Following the end of World War II, the B-17 was quickly phased out of use as a bomber and the Army Air Forces retired most of its fleet. Flight crews ferried the bombers back across the Atlantic to the United States where the majority were sold for scrap and melted down, although significant numbers remained in use in second-line roles such as VIP transports, air-sea rescue and photo-reconnaissance. Strategic Air Command
Strategic Air Command
The Strategic Air Command was both a Major Command of the United States Air Force and a "specified command" of the United States Department of Defense. SAC was the operational establishment in charge of America's land-based strategic bomber aircraft and land-based intercontinental ballistic...

 (SAC), established in 1946, used reconnaissance B-17s (at first called F-9 [F for Fotorecon], later RB-17) until 1949. With the disestablishment of the US Army Air Forces and the establishment of an independent U.S. Air Force in 1947, most extant B-17s were transferred to USAF.

The USAF Air Rescue Service
Air Rescue Service
The Air Rescue Service is a disestablished organization in the United States Air Force. Previously a subcommand of the Military Air Transport Service , a USAF major command , ARS was redesignated as the Aerospace Rescue and Recovery Service on 1 Jan 1966 when MATS was redesignated as the Military...

 of the Military Air Transport Service
Military Air Transport Service
The Military Air Transport Service is an inactive Department of Defense Unified Command. Activated on 1 June 1948, MATS was a consolidation of the United States Navy Naval Air Transport Service and the United States Air Force Air Transport Command into a single, joint, unified command...

 (MATS) operated B-17s as so-called "Dumbo"
Dumbo (air-sea rescue)
Dumbo was the code name used by the United States Navy during the 1940s and 1950s to signify search and rescue missions, conducted in conjunction with military operations, by long-range aircraft flying over the ocean. The purpose of Dumbo missions was to rescue downed American aviators as well as...

 air-sea rescue
Air-sea rescue
Air-sea rescue is the coordinated search and rescue of the survivors of emergency water landings as well as people who have survived the loss of their sea-going vessel. ASR can involve a wide variety of resources including seaplanes, helicopters, submarines, rescue boats and ships...

 aircraft. Work on using B-17s to carry airborne lifeboat
Airborne lifeboat
Airborne lifeboats were powered lifeboats that were made to be dropped by fixed-wing aircraft into water to aid in air-sea rescue operations. An airborne lifeboat was to be carried by a heavy bomber specially modified to handle the external load of the lifeboat...

s had begun in 1943, but they only entered service in the European theater in February 1945, also being used to provide search and rescue support for B-29 raids against Japan. About 130 B-17s were converted to the air-sea rescue role, at first designated B-17H and later SB-17G. Some SB-17s had their defensive guns removed, while others retained their guns to allow use close to combat areas. The SB-17 served through the Korean War
Korean War
The Korean War was a conventional war between South Korea, supported by the United Nations, and North Korea, supported by the People's Republic of China , with military material aid from the Soviet Union...

, remaining in service with USAF until the mid-1950s.

In 1946, surplus B-17s were chosen as drone aircraft
Unmanned aerial vehicle
An unmanned aerial vehicle , also known as a unmanned aircraft system , remotely piloted aircraft or unmanned aircraft, is a machine which functions either by the remote control of a navigator or pilot or autonomously, that is, as a self-directing entity...

 for atmospheric sampling during the Operation Crossroads
Operation Crossroads
Operation Crossroads was a series of nuclear weapon tests conducted by the United States at Bikini Atoll in mid-1946. It was the first test of a nuclear weapon after the Trinity nuclear test in July 1945...

 atomic bomb tests, being able to fly close to or even though the mushroom cloud
Mushroom cloud
A mushroom cloud is a distinctive pyrocumulus mushroom-shaped cloud of condensed water vapor or debris resulting from a very large explosion. They are most commonly associated with nuclear explosions, but any sufficiently large blast will produce the same sort of effect. They can be caused by...

s without endangering a crew. This led to more widespread conversion of B-17s as drones and drone control aircraft, both for further use in atomic testing and as targets for testing surface-to-air
Surface-to-air missile
A surface-to-air missile or ground-to-air missile is a missile designed to be launched from the ground to destroy aircraft or other missiles...

 and air-to-air missile
Air-to-air missile
An air-to-air missile is a missile fired from an aircraft for the purpose of destroying another aircraft. AAMs are typically powered by one or more rocket motors, usually solid fuelled but sometimes liquid fuelled...

s. were converted to drones. The last operational mission flown by a USAF Fortress was conducted on 1959, when DB-17P, AF Ser. No. 44-83684 directed a QB-17G, AF Ser. No. 44-83717, out of Holloman Air Force Base
Holloman Air Force Base
Holloman Air Force Base is a United States Air Force base located six miles southwest of the central business district of Alamogordo, a city in Otero County, New Mexico, United States. The base was named in honor of Col. George V. Holloman, a pioneer in guided missile research...

, New Mexico, as a target for an AIM-4 Falcon
AIM-4 Falcon
The Hughes AIM-4 Falcon was the first operational guided air-to-air missile of the United States Air Force.-Development:Development of a guided air-to-air missile began in 1946. Hughes Aircraft was awarded a contract for a subsonic missile under the project designation MX-798, which soon gave way...

 air-to-air missile fired from an F-101 Voodoo
F-101 Voodoo
The McDonnell F-101 Voodoo was a supersonic military jet fighter which served the United States Air Force and the Royal Canadian Air Force...

. A retirement ceremony was held several days later at Holloman AFB, after which 44-83684 was retired to the Military Aircraft Storage and Disposition Center (MASDC) at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base
Davis-Monthan Air Force Base
Davis–Monthan Air Force Base is a United States Air Force base located within the city limits, and approximately south-southeast of downtown, Tucson, Arizona....

, Arizona. Perhaps the most famous B-17, the Memphis Belle, is currently being fastidiously restored to its World War II wartime appearance by the National Museum of the United States Air Force
National Museum of the United States Air Force
The National Museum of the United States Air Force is the official museum of the United States Air Force located at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base northeast of Dayton, Ohio. The NMUSAF is the world's largest and oldest military aviation museum with more than 360 aircraft and missiles on display...

 at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base
Wright-Patterson Air Force Base
Wright-Patterson Air Force Base is a United States Air Force base in Greene and Montgomery counties in the state of Ohio. It includes both Wright and Patterson Fields, which were originally Wilbur Wright Field and Fairfield Aviation General Supply Depot. Patterson Field is located approximately...

, Ohio.

U.S. Navy and U.S. Coast Guard

During the last year of World War II and shortly thereafter, the United States Navy
United States Navy
The United States Navy is the naval warfare service branch of the United States Armed Forces and one of the seven uniformed services of the United States. The U.S. Navy is the largest in the world; its battle fleet tonnage is greater than that of the next 13 largest navies combined. The U.S...

 acquired 48 ex-USAAF B-17s for patrol and air-sea rescue work. The first two ex-USAAF B-17s, a B-17F (later modified to B-17G standard) and a B-17G were obtained by the Navy for various development programs. At first, these aircraft operated under their original USAAF designations but on July 31, 1945, they were assigned the naval aircraft designation PB-1, a designation which had originally been used in 1925 for the Boeing Model 50 experimental flying boat.

Thirty-two B-17Gs were used by the Navy under the designation PB-1W, the suffix -W standing for antisubmarine warfare. A large radome for an S-band AN/APS-20 search radar was fitted underneath the fuselage and additional internal fuel tanks were added for longer range, with the provision for additional underwing fuel tanks, while no armament was fitted. These aircraft were painted dark blue, a standard Navy paint scheme which had been adopted in late 1944. The PB-1W eventually evolved into an early warning aircraft by virtue of its APS-20 search radar. PB-1Ws continued in USN service until 1955, gradually being phased out in favor of the Lockheed WV-2 (known in the USAF as the EC-121, a designation adopted by USN in 1962), a military version of the Lockheed 1049 Constellation
Lockheed Constellation
The Lockheed Constellation was a propeller-driven airliner powered by four 18-cylinder radial Wright R-3350 engines. It was built by Lockheed between 1943 and 1958 at its Burbank, California, USA, facility. A total of 856 aircraft were produced in numerous models, all distinguished by a...

 commercial airliner.

In July 1945, 16 B-17s were transferred to the Coast Guard via the Navy; these aircraft were initially assigned U.S. Navy Bureau Numbers (BuNo), but were delivered to the Coast Guard designated as PB-1Gs beginning in July 1946. Coast Guard PB-1Gs were stationed at a number of bases in the U.S. and Newfoundland, with five at Coast Guard Air Station Elizabeth City
Coast Guard Air Station Elizabeth City
Coast Guard Air Station Elizabeth City is a United States Coast Guard air station located at Elizabeth City Regional Airport in Elizabeth City, North Carolina, along the Pasquotank River near the opening of the Albemarle Sound...

, North Carolina, two at CGAS San Francisco
San Francisco International Airport
San Francisco International Airport is a major international airport located south of downtown San Francisco, California, United States, near the cities of Millbrae and San Bruno in unincorporated San Mateo County. It is often referred to as SFO...

, two at NAS Argentia, Newfoundland, one at CGAS Kodiak, Alaska, and one in Washington state. They were used primarily for air-sea rescue, but were also used for iceberg patrol duties and for photo mapping. Air-sea rescue PB-1Gs usually carried a droppable lifeboat underneath the fuselage and the chin turret was often replaced by a radome. The Coast Guard PB-1Gs served throughout the 1950s, the last example not being withdrawn from service until October 14, 1959.

Cold War Special Missions

A number of B-17s were used by the CIA front companies Civil Air Transport, Air America and Intermountain Aviation for special missions. These included B-17G 44-85531, registered as N809Z. These aircraft were primarily used for agent drop missions over the People's Republic of China, flying from Taiwan, with Taiwanese crews. In all, four B-17s were shot down in these operations.

In 1957 the surviving B-17s had been stripped of all weapons and painted black. In mid-September, one of these Taiwan-based B-17s was flown to Clark Air Force Base in the Philippines. assigned for covert missions into Tibet. Two missions into Tibet are known to have been flown by
this B-17G (44-85531).

On 28 May 1962, N809Z, piloted by Connie Seigrist and Douglas Price, flew Maj. James Smith, USAF and Lt. Leonard A. LeSchack, USNR to the abandoned Soviet arctic ice station NP 8, as Operation Coldfeet. After parachuting from the B-17, Smith and LeSchack searched the station for several days. On 1 June, Seigrist and Price returned and picked up Smith and LeSchack using a Fulton Skyhook system installed on the B-17. In 1965, N809Z was used to perform a Skyhook pick up in the James Bond movie Thunderball
Thunderball (film)
Thunderball is the fourth spy film in the James Bond series starring Sean Connery as the fictional MI6 agent James Bond. It is an adaptation of the novel of the same name by Ian Fleming, which in turn was based on an original screenplay by Jack Whittingham...

. This aircraft, now restored to its original B-17G configuration, is now on display in the Evergreen Aviation & Space Museum in McMinnville, Oregon
McMinnville, Oregon
McMinnville is the county seat and largest city of Yamhill County, Oregon, United States. According to Oregon Geographic Names, it was named by its founder, William T. Newby , an early immigrant on the Oregon Trail, for his hometown of McMinnville, Tennessee...

.

Operators

The B-17 was a versatile aircraft, serving in dozens of USAAF units in theaters of combat throughout World War II, and in non-bomber roles for the RAF. Its main use was in Europe
European Theatre of World War II
The European Theatre of World War II was a huge area of heavy fighting across Europe from Germany's invasion of Poland on September 1, 1939 until the end of the war with the German unconditional surrender on May 8, 1945...

, where its shorter range and smaller bombload relative to other aircraft available did not hamper it as much as in the Pacific Theater
Pacific Theater of Operations
The Pacific Theater of Operations was the World War II area of military activity in the Pacific Ocean and the countries bordering it, a geographic scope that reflected the operational and administrative command structures of the American forces during that period...

. Peak USAAF inventory (in August 1944) was 4,574 worldwide.
as Beuteflugzeug (captured aircraft)

Survivors

There are a total of 51 surviving airframes worldwide:
  • 10 active flying
  • 9 on static display
  • 2 currently undergoing restoration to fly
  • 3 currently undergoing restoration for display
  • 5 in storage
  • 19 partial airframes/hulks

Fortresses as a symbol

The B-17 Flying Fortress has become, for many reasons, an icon of American power and a symbol of its Air Force. During the 1930s, the USAAC, as articulated by then-Major General Frank Maxwell Andrews
Frank Maxwell Andrews
Frank Maxwell Andrews was a general officer in the United States Army and one of the founding fathers of the United States Air Force. In leadership positions within the Army Air Corps, he succeeded in advancing progress toward a separate and independent Air Force where predecessors and allies...

 and the Air Corps Tactical School
Air Corps Tactical School
The Air Corps Tactical School, also known as ACTS and "the Tactical School", was a military professional development school for officers of the United States Army Air Service and United States Army Air Corps, the first such school in the world. Created in 1920 at Langley Field, Virginia, it...

, touted the bomber as a strategic weapon.General Henry H. Arnold
Henry H. Arnold
Henry Harley "Hap" Arnold was an American general officer holding the grades of General of the Army and later General of the Air Force. Arnold was an aviation pioneer, Chief of the Air Corps , Commanding General of the U.S...

, Chief of the Air Corps, recommended the development of bigger aircraft with better performance and the Tactical School agreed completely.

When the Model 299 was rolled out on 1935, bristling with multiple machine gun
Machine gun
A machine gun is a fully automatic mounted or portable firearm, usually designed to fire rounds in quick succession from an ammunition belt or large-capacity magazine, typically at a rate of several hundred rounds per minute....

 installations, Richard Williams, a reporter for the Seattle Times
The Seattle Times
The Seattle Times is a newspaper serving Seattle, Washington, US. It is the largest daily newspaper in the state of Washington. It has been, since the demise in 2009 of the printed version of the rival Seattle Post-Intelligencer, Seattle's only major daily print newspaper.-History:The Seattle Times...

coined the name "Flying Fortress" with his comment "Why, it's a flying fortress!". Boeing was quick to see the value of the name and had it trademarked for use. In 1943, Consolidated Aircraft
Consolidated Aircraft
The Consolidated Aircraft Corporation was founded in 1923 by Reuben H. Fleet, the result of the Gallaudet Aircraft Company's liquidation and Fleet's purchase of designs from the Dayton-Wright Company as the subsidiary was being closed by its parent corporation, General Motors. Consolidated became...

 commissioned a poll to see "to what degree the public is familiar with the names of the Liberator and the Flying Fortress." Of 2,500 men in cities where Consolidated adverts had been run in newspapers, 73% had heard of the B-24 Liberator
B-24 Liberator
The Consolidated B-24 Liberator was an American heavy bomber, designed by Consolidated Aircraft of San Diego, California. It was known within the company as the Model 32, and a small number of early models were sold under the name LB-30, for Land Bomber...

, while 90% knew of the B-17.

After the initial B-17s were delivered to the Air Corps 2nd Bombardment Group, they were used on promotional flights emphasizing its great range and navigational precision. In January 1938, group commander Colonel
Colonel (United States)
In the United States Army, Air Force, and Marine Corps, colonel is a senior field grade military officer rank just above the rank of lieutenant colonel and just below the rank of brigadier general...

 Robert Olds
Robert Olds
Robert Olds was a general officer in the United States Army Air Forces, theorist of strategic air power, and proponent of an independent United States Air Force. Olds is best known today as the father of Brig. Gen...

 flew a YB-17 from the east to west coast, setting a transcontinental record of 13 hours 27 minutes. He also broke the west-to-east coast record on the return trip, averaging 245 mi/h in 11 hours 1 minute. Six bombers of the 2nd Bombardment group took off from Langley Field on 1938 as part of a goodwill flight to Buenos Aires, Argentina. Covering 12000 miles (19,312.1 km) they returned on , with seven aircraft setting off on a flight to Rio de Janeiro
Rio de Janeiro
Rio de Janeiro , commonly referred to simply as Rio, is the capital city of the State of Rio de Janeiro, the second largest city of Brazil, and the third largest metropolitan area and agglomeration in South America, boasting approximately 6.3 million people within the city proper, making it the 6th...

, Brazil, three days later. In a well-publicized mission on May 12 of the same year, three B-17s "intercepted" and took photographs of the Italian ocean liner SS Rex
SS Rex
The SS Rex was an Italian ocean liner launched in 1931. It held the westbound Blue Riband between 1933 and 1935. Originally built for the Navigazione Generale Italiana as the SS Guglielmo Marconi, its state-ordered merger with the Lloyd Sabaudo line meant that the ship sailed for the newly created...

 610 miles (981.7 km) off the Atlantic coast.

During the war, the largest offensive bombing force, the Eighth Air Force
Eighth Air Force
The Eighth Air Force is a numbered air force of the United States Air Force Global Strike Command . It is headquartered at Barksdale Air Force Base, Louisiana....

, had an open preference for the B-17. Lieutenant General
Lieutenant General
Lieutenant General is a military rank used in many countries. The rank traces its origins to the Middle Ages where the title of Lieutenant General was held by the second in command on the battlefield, who was normally subordinate to a Captain General....

 Jimmy Doolittle
Jimmy Doolittle
General James Harold "Jimmy" Doolittle, USAF was an American aviation pioneer. Doolittle served as a brigadier general, major general and lieutenant general in the United States Army Air Forces during the Second World War...

 wrote about his preference for equipping the Eighth with B-17s, citing the logistical advantage in keeping fielded forces down to a minimum number of aircraft types with their unique servicing and spares. For this reason, he wanted B-17 bombers and P-51 fighters for the Eighth. His views were supported by Eighth Air Force statisticians, whose studies purportedly showed that Fortresses had utility and survivability much greater than that of the B-24. Making it back to base on multiple occasions despite extensive battle damage, its durability took on mythical proportions; stories and photos of B-17s surviving battle damage were widely circulated during the war. Despite an inferior performance and bombload compared to the more numerous B-24 Liberator
B-24 Liberator
The Consolidated B-24 Liberator was an American heavy bomber, designed by Consolidated Aircraft of San Diego, California. It was known within the company as the Model 32, and a small number of early models were sold under the name LB-30, for Land Bomber...

, a survey of Eighth Air Force
Eighth Air Force
The Eighth Air Force is a numbered air force of the United States Air Force Global Strike Command . It is headquartered at Barksdale Air Force Base, Louisiana....

 crews showed a much higher rate of satisfaction in the B-17.

Hollywood
Classical Hollywood cinema
Classical Hollywood cinema or the classical Hollywood narrative, are terms used in film history which designates both a visual and sound style for making motion pictures and a mode of production used in the American film industry between roughly the 1910s and the early 1960s.Classical style is...

 featured the airplane in its movies, such as Twelve O'Clock High
Twelve O'Clock High
Twelve O'Clock High is a 1949 American war film about aircrews in the United States Army's Eighth Air Force who flew daylight bombing missions against Nazi Germany and occupied France during the early days of American involvement in World War II. The film was adapted by Sy Bartlett, Henry King ...

starring Gregory Peck
Gregory Peck
Eldred Gregory Peck was an American actor.One of 20th Century Fox's most popular film stars from the 1940s to the 1960s, Peck continued to play important roles well into the 1980s. His notable performances include that of Atticus Finch in the 1962 film To Kill a Mockingbird, for which he won an...

. This film was made with the full cooperation of the United States Air Force
United States Air Force
The United States Air Force is the aerial warfare service branch of the United States Armed Forces and one of the American uniformed services. Initially part of the United States Army, the USAF was formed as a separate branch of the military on September 18, 1947 under the National Security Act of...

 and made use of actual combat footage. In 1964, the movie was made into a television show of the same name
Twelve O'Clock High (TV series)
Twelve O'Clock High or 12 O'Clock High is an American drama series set in World War II. This TV series originally broadcasted on ABC-TV for two-and-one-half TV seasons from September 18, 1964, through January 13, 1967; was based on the motion picture Twelve O'Clock High...

 and ran for three years. Footage from Twelve O' Clock High was also used, along with three restored B-17s, in the 1962 film The War Lover
The War Lover
The War Lover is a 1962 British black-and-white war film directed by Philip Leacock and written by Howard Koch loosely based on the 1959 novel, The War Lover by John Hersey, altering the names of characters and events but retaining its basic framework...

. The B-17 also appeared in the 1938 movie Test Pilot
Test Pilot (film)
Test Pilot is a 1938 film directed by Victor Fleming and featuring Clark Gable, Myrna Loy, Spencer Tracy, and Lionel Barrymore. The movie tells the story of a daredevil test pilot , his wife , and his best friend...

with Clark Gable
Clark Gable
William Clark Gable , known as Clark Gable, was an American film actor most famous for his role as Rhett Butler in the 1939 Civil War epic film Gone with the Wind, in which he starred with Vivien Leigh...

 and Spencer Tracy
Spencer Tracy
Spencer Bonaventure Tracy was an American theatrical and film actor, who appeared in 75 films from 1930 to 1967. Tracy was one of the major stars of Hollywood's Golden Age, ranking among the top ten box office draws for almost every year from 1938 to 1951...

, with Clark Gable in Command Decision
Command Decision (film)
Command Decision is a 1948 war film starring Clark Gable, Walter Pidgeon, Van Johnson and Brian Donlevy and directed by Sam Wood, based on a stage play of the same name written by William Wister Haines, which he based on his best-selling novel. The screenplay for the film was written by George...

 in 1948, in Tora! Tora! Tora!
Tora! Tora! Tora!
is a 1970 American-Japanese war film that dramatizes the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, to the extent these facts were known at the time of production. The film was directed by Richard Fleischer and stars an all-star cast, including So Yamamura, E.G...

in 1970, and in Memphis Belle
Memphis Belle (film)
Memphis Belle is a 1990 film directed by Michael Caton-Jones and written by Monte Merrick, starring Matthew Modine and Eric Stoltz and introducing Harry Connick Jr. in his screen debut...

 with Matthew Modine
Matthew Modine
Matthew Avery Modine is an award-winning American actor. His film roles include Private Joker in Stanley Kubrick's Full Metal Jacket, the title character in Alan Parker's Birdy, high school wrestler Louden Swain in Vision Quest, football star turned spy Alec McCall in Funky Monkey and the...

, Eric Stoltz
Eric Stoltz
Eric Hamilton Stoltz is an American actor, director and producer. He is widely known for playing the role of Rocky Dennis in the biographical drama film Mask, which earned him the nomination for a Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actor in a Motion Picture...

, Billy Zane
Billy Zane
William George "Billy" Zane, Jr. is an American actor, producer and director. He is probably best known for his roles as Caledon Hockley in Titanic, The Phantom from The Phantom, John Wheeler in Twin Peaks and Mr...

, and Harry Connick, Jr.
Harry Connick, Jr.
Joseph Harry Fowler Connick, Jr. is an American singer, big-band leader/conductor, pianist, actor, and composer. He has sold over 25 million albums worldwide. Connick is ranked among the top 60 best-selling male artists in the United States by the Recording Industry Association of America, with...

 in 1990. The most famous B-17, the Memphis Belle
Memphis Belle (B-17)
Memphis Belle is the nickname of a Boeing B-17F Flying Fortress during the Second World War that inspired the making of two motion pictures: a 1944 documentary film, Memphis Belle: A Story of a Flying Fortress, and a 1990 Hollywood feature film, Memphis Belle...

, toured the U.S. with its crew to reinforce national morale (and to sell War Bonds), and starred in a USAAF documentary, Memphis Belle: A Story of a Flying Fortress
Memphis Belle: A Story of a Flying Fortress
The Memphis Belle: A Story of a Flying Fortress is a 1944 documentary film which ostensibly provides an account of the final mission of the crew of the Memphis Belle, a Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress. In May 1943 it became the first U.S...

.

Notable B-17s

  • Aluminum Overcast
    Aluminum Overcast
    Aluminum Overcast, B-17G-105-VE, s/n 44-85740, civil registration N5017N, is one of only a few surviving B-17 Flying Fortresses in existence. It is owned by the Experimental Aircraft Association , and it tours the U.S.A. and Canada offering flight experiences...

     – flying example.
  • Yankee Lady – flying example, Yankee Air Force.
  • Liberty Belle
    Liberty Belle (B-17)
    Liberty Belle was the name of several individual combat Boeing B-17 Flying Fortresses of World War II. The first Liberty Belle B-17 crashed near Wakes Colne after an accidental on-board fire on November 30, 1943; while the BQ-7 Aphrodite variant named Liberty Belle against the Heligoland U-boat...

     – former engine testbed restored as flying example, destroyed in a forced landing on 13 June 2011, outside of Chicago, Illinois; no fatalities.
  • Memphis Belle
  • My Gal Sal
  • Murder Inc. – A B-17 bombardier wearing the name of the B-17 "Murder Inc." on his jacket was used for propaganda in German newspapers.
  • Nine-O-Nine
    Nine-O-Nine
    The Nine-O-Nine, a B-17 Flying Fortress heavy bomber of the 323rd Bomb Squadron, 91st Bomb Group, completed 140 combat missions during World War II, believed to be the Eighth Air Force record for most missions, and never lost a crewman as a casualty....

     – flying example, Collings Foundation of Stow, Massachusetts.
  • Old 666
    Old 666
    Old 666, B-17E 41-2666 was a World War II B-17 Flying Fortress Bomber which was assigned to the 43rd Bomb Group in 1943 and was the aircraft piloted by Lt. Col...

     - the B-17 flown by the highest decorated crew in the Pacific Theater
  • Piccadilly Lilly II - 200th from last B-17G to be built, used in the movie Twelve O'Clock High
    Twelve O'Clock High
    Twelve O'Clock High is a 1949 American war film about aircrews in the United States Army's Eighth Air Force who flew daylight bombing missions against Nazi Germany and occupied France during the early days of American involvement in World War II. The film was adapted by Sy Bartlett, Henry King ...

    , being restored to Flight status, at the Planes of Fame
    Planes of Fame
    Planes of Fame Air Museum is an aviation museum located in Chino, California, and Valle, Arizona. The museum has many flying and static aircraft, along with multiple rare examples under restoration.-History:...

     museum.
  • I'll Be Around - B-17G in the 390th Bomb Group Museum at the Pima Air and Space Museum near Tucson, AZ.
  • (The) Pink Lady
    The Pink Lady (B-17G)
    The Pink Lady is the current nickname of a B-17G Flying Fortress bomber. It is one of the few B-17s still in flying condition, and the only flying survivor to see action in Europe during World War II....

  • Sally B
    Sally B
    Sally B is the name of an airworthy 1945-built Boeing B-17G Flying Fortress. It was delivered to the United States Army Air Force on 19 June 1945 as 44-85784; after being converted to both a TB-17G and then an EB-17G it was struck off charge in 1954. In 1975 the Institut Géographique National in...

     – The last flying example in Europe.
  • Sentimental Journey
    Sentimental Journey (aircraft)
    Sentimental Journey is the nickname of a B-17G Flying Fortress bomber. It is housed at the museum at Falcon Field, Arizona by the Commemorative Air Force. The aircraft is regularly flown to airshows around the country....

     – flying example, Commemorative Air Force.
  • Shoo Shoo Baby
    Shoo Shoo Baby (aircraft)
    Shoo Shoo Baby is the name of a B-17 Flying Fortress in World War II, preserved and on public display. A B-17G-35-BO, serial number 42-32076, and manufactured by Boeing, it was named by her crew for a song of the same name made popular by The Andrews Sisters, the favorite song of its crew chief...

  • Swamp Ghost
    Swamp Ghost
    The Swamp Ghost is a Boeing B-17E Flying Fortress piloted by Captain Frederick 'Fred' C. Eaton, Jr, that crashed in Papua New Guinea during the Second World War in 1942, during America's first mission there. Whilst flying over Rabaul, it was intercepted and it had to force-land.The plane was...

  • (The) Swoose
    The Swoose
    The Swoose is a Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress D-BO, USAAF 40-3097, that saw extensive use in the Southwest Pacific theatre of World War II and survived to become the oldest B-17 still intact. It is the only early "shark fin" B-17 known to exist...

  • Texas Raiders
    Texas Raiders
    The Commemorative Air Force’s Gulf Coast Wing "Texas Raiders" group maintains and flies the former PB-1W / B-17G Flying Fortress named "Texas Raiders", which is based at David Wayne Hooks Memorial Airport in Tomball, Texas.-History of the B-17:...

     – flying example, Commemorative Air Force.
  • Thunderbird
    Thunderbird (B-17)
    Thunderbird is the name given to a Boeing B-17G Flying Fortress. She is one of the few surviving flyable B-17s, and is the largest aircraft housed at the Lone Star Flight Museum, located in Galveston, Texas....

  • Ye Olde Pub – the B-17 that Franz Stigler did not shoot down, as memorialized in the painting "A Higher Call" by John D. Shaw.
  • 5 Grand - 5,000th B-17 made, emblazoned with Boeing employee signatures, served with the 333rd Bomb Squadron, 96th Bomb Group in Europe. Damaged and repaired after gear-up landing, transferred to 388th Bomb Group. Returned from duty following V-E Day, flown for war bonds tour, then stored at Kingman, Arizona. Following unsuccessful bid for museum preservation, the aircraft was scrapped.

Noted B-17 pilots and crew members

Medal of Honor awards

Many B-17 crew members received military honors and 17 received the Medal of Honor
Medal of Honor
The Medal of Honor is the highest military decoration awarded by the United States government. It is bestowed by the President, in the name of Congress, upon members of the United States Armed Forces who distinguish themselves through "conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his or her...

, the highest military decoration awarded by the United States:
  • Brigadier General Frederick Castle (flying as co-pilot) – awarded posthumously for remaining at controls so others could escape damaged aircraft.
  • 2nd Lt Robert Femoyer
    Robert Edward Femoyer
    Robert Edward Femoyer is one of only eight known Eagle Scouts who also received the Medal of Honor; the others are Aquilla J. Dyess, Eugene B. Fluckey, Charles P. Murray, Jr., Mitchell Paige, Ben L. Salomon, Leo K. Thorsness and Jay Zeamer, Jr. He served in the U.S...

     (navigator) – awarded posthumously
  • 1st Lt Donald J. Gott
    Donald J. Gott
    Donald J. Gott was a United States Army Air Forces officer and a recipient of the United States military's highest decoration—the Medal of Honor—for his actions in World War II.-Biography:...

     (pilot) – awarded posthumously
  • 2nd Lt David R. Kingsley
    David R. Kingsley
    David R. Kingsley was a United States Army Air Forces officer and a recipient of the United States military's highest decoration—the Medal of Honor—for his actions in World War II.-Biography:...

     (bombardier) – awarded posthumously for tending to injured crew and giving up his parachute to another
  • 1st Lt William R. Lawley, Jr.
    William R. Lawley, Jr.
    William Robert "Bill" Lawley, Jr. was a United States Army Air Forces officer and a recipient of the United States military's highest decoration—the Medal of Honor—for his actions in World War II.-Biography:...

     – "heroism and exceptional flying skill"
  • Sgt Archibald Mathies
    Archibald Mathies
    Archibald Mathies posthumously received the Medal of Honor as an enlisted member of the U.S. Army Air Forces during World War II.-Childhood:...

     (engineer-gunner) – awarded posthumously
  • 1st Lt Jack W. Mathis
    Jack W. Mathis
    Jack W. Mathis was a United States Army Air Forces officer and a recipient of the Medal of Honor, the United States military's highest decoration, for his actions in World War II.-Biography:...

     (bombardier) – posthumously, the first airman in the European theater to be awarded the Medal of Honor
  • 2nd Lt William E. Metzger, Jr.
    William E. Metzger, Jr.
    William E. Metzger, Jr. was a United States Army Air Forces officer and a recipient of the United States military's highest decoration—the Medal of Honor—for his actions in World War II....

     (Co-pilot) – awarded posthumously
  • 1st Lt Edward Michael
  • 1st Lt John C. Morgan
    John C. Morgan
    John Cary "Red" Morgan was a United States Army Air Forces pilot in World War II who received the Medal of Honor for his actions during a 1943 bombing run over Germany, which also inspired a character of the novel and film Twelve O'Clock High.-Background:Born August 24, 1914, at Vernon, Texas, and...

  • Capt Harl Pease
    Harl Pease
    Harl Pease, Jr., was a United States Army Air Forces officer and a recipient of the United States military's highest award, the Medal of Honor, for his actions during World War II...

     (awarded posthumously)
  • 2nd Lt Joseph Sarnoski
    Joseph Sarnoski
    Joseph Raymond Sarnoski was an officer of the United States Army Air Forces during a World War II, and received the Medal of Honor posthumously. Sarnoski was part of Capt...

     (awarded posthumously)
  • S/Sgt Maynard H. Smith
    Maynard Harrison Smith
    Maynard Harrison Smith, aka Snuffy Smith, , US Army Air Forces Staff Sergeant and gunner aboard a B-17 Flying Fortress bomber in World War II, received the Medal of Honor for his conduct during a bombing mission over Germany on May 1, 1943.-Enlistment:Maynard H. Smith enlisted in the US Army Air...

     (gunner)
  • 1st Lt Walter E. Truemper
    Walter E. Truemper
    Walter Edward Truemper was a United States Army Air Forces officer in World War II and a recipient of the U.S. military's highest decoration, the Medal of Honor...

     (awarded posthumously)
  • S/Sgt Forrest L. Vosler
    Forrest L. Vosler
    Forrest L. Vosler, a Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress radio operator, was the second enlisted airman to ever receive a Medal of Honor.-Biography:...

     (radio operator)
  • Brig Gen Kenneth Walker
    Kenneth Walker
    Brigadier General Kenneth Newton Walker was a United States Army aviator and a United States Army Air Forces general who had a significant influence on the development of airpower doctrine. He posthumously received the Medal of Honor in World War II.Walker joined the United States Army in 1917,...

     (not part of crew at time) – awarded posthumously
  • Maj Jay Zeamer, Jr.
    Jay Zeamer, Jr.
    Jay Zeamer Jr. was a pilot of the United States Army Air Forces in the South Pacific during World War II, and received the Medal of Honor for valor during an air mission on June 16, 1943. Zeamer is one of only seven known Eagle Scouts who also received the Medal of Honor. The others are Aquilla...

     (pilot) – earned on unescorted reconnaissance mission

Other military achievements or events

  • Allison C. Brooks
    Allison Brooks
    Allison C. Brooks was a United States Air Force aviator who piloted both the Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress and North American P-51 Mustang aircraft in combat missions over Nazi Germany during World War II. In the Vietnam War, he flew Lockheed C-130 Hercules aircraft in combat support missions...

     (1917–2006): Was awarded numerous military decorations, and was ultimately promoted to the rank of major general and served in active duty until 1971.
  • 1st Lt. Emil "Mickey" Cohen (1924–2008): Nicknamed "The Kid". Flew with the 447th Bombardment Group, 709th squadron, out of Rattlesden, England. Piloted the Barbara Jane and two missions on The Blue Hen Chick. Was the youngest B-17 pilot in the 8th Air Force and may have been the youngest bomber pilot in the U.S. Army Air Forces.
  • 1st Lt. Eugene Emond
    Eugene Emond
    Eugene Patrick Emond was an Officer of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. During World War II, he was one of the youngest Lieutenants of the B-17 Flying Fortress Man O War II, Horsepower Ltd. .-Early life and education:Eugene Patrick Emond was born January 11, 1921 to Eugene Emond and Mary...

     (1921–1998): Lead pilot for Man O War II Horsepower Limited. Received the Distinguished Flying Cross, Air Medal with three oak leaf clusters, American Theater Ribbon and Victory Ribbon. Was part of D-Day and witnessed one of the first German jets when a ME-262 flew through his formation over Germany. One of the youngest bomber pilots in the U.S. Army Air Forces.
  • Immanuel J. Klette
    Immanuel J. Klette
    LtCol. Immanuel J. Klette , aka Manny Klette, was a bomber pilot and squadron commander in the U.S. Army Air Forces during World War II....

     (1918–1988): Second-generation German-American whose 91 combat missions were the most flown by any Eighth Air Force pilot in World War II.
  • Colin Kelly (1915–1941): Pilot of the first U.S. B-17 lost in action.
  • Col Frank Kurtz
    Frank Kurtz
    Col. Frank Allen Kurtz is known as an Olympic diver, as an aviator, the United States Army Air Force being awarded the Croix de Guerre, 3 Distinguished Flying Crosses, 3 Silver Stars, 3 Air Medals, 5 Presidential Citations...

     (1911–1996): The USAAF's most decorated pilot of World War II. Commander of the 463rd Bombardment Group (Heavy), 15th Air Force, Celone Field, Foggia, Italy. Clark Field Philippines attack survivor. Olympic
    Olympic Games
    The Olympic Games is a major international event featuring summer and winter sports, in which thousands of athletes participate in a variety of competitions. The Olympic Games have come to be regarded as the world’s foremost sports competition where more than 200 nations participate...

     bronze medalist in diving (1932), 1944–1945. Father of actress Swoosie Kurtz
    Swoosie Kurtz
    Swoosie Kurtz is an American actress. She began her career in theater during the 1970s and shortly thereafter began a career in television, garnering ten nominations and winning one Emmy Award. Her most famous television project was her role on the 1990s NBC drama Sisters...

    .
  • Gen. Curtis LeMay
    Curtis LeMay
    Curtis Emerson LeMay was a general in the United States Air Force and the vice presidential running mate of American Independent Party candidate George Wallace in 1968....

     (1906–1990): Became head of the Strategic Air Command
    Strategic Air Command
    The Strategic Air Command was both a Major Command of the United States Air Force and a "specified command" of the United States Department of Defense. SAC was the operational establishment in charge of America's land-based strategic bomber aircraft and land-based intercontinental ballistic...

     and of the USAF.
  • Lt. Col. Nancy Love
    Nancy Harkness Love
    Nancy Harkness Love , born Hannah Lincoln Harkness, was an American pilot and commander during World War II.-Early life:The daughter of a wealthy physician, Harkness developed an intense interest in aviation at an early age. At 16 she took her first flight and earned her pilot's license within a...

     (1914–1976) and Betty (Huyler) Gillies
    Betty Gillies
    Betty Gillies was a pioneer American aviatrix.-World War II:The first pilot to qualify for the Women's Auxiliary Ferrying Squadron was Betty Huyler Gillies of Syosset, Long Island, New York. She entered the WAFS on September 12, 1942...

     (1908–1998): The first women to be certified to fly the B-17, in 1943.
  • Col. Robert K. Morgan (1918–2004): Pilot of Memphis Belle.
  • Lt. Col. Robert Rosenthal
    Robert Rosenthal (USAF)
    Lieutenant Colonel Robert "Rosie" Rosenthal was a highly-decorated pilot in the Eighth Air Force of the United States Army Air Forces in World War II, receiving sixteen awards including the Distinguished Service Cross for "extraordinary heroism in connection with military operations against the...

     (1917–2007): Commanded the only surviving B-17, "Rosie's Riveters", of a US 8th Air Force raid by the 100th Bomb Group on Münster
    Münster
    Münster is an independent city in North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany. It is located in the northern part of the state and is considered to be the cultural centre of the Westphalia region. It is also capital of the local government region Münsterland...

     in 1943. Earned sixteen medals for gallantry (including one each from Britain and France), and led the raid on Berlin on February 3, 1945, that is likely to have ended the life of Roland Freisler
    Roland Freisler
    Roland Freisler was a prominent and notorious Nazi lawyer and judge. He was State Secretary of the Reich Ministry of Justice and President of the People's Court , which was set up outside constitutional authority...

    , the Third Reich's infamous "hanging judge".
  • 1st Lt Bruce Sundlun
    Bruce Sundlun
    Bruce Sundlun was an American politician and member of the Democratic Party who served as 71st Governor of Rhode Island from 1991 to 1995. He was Rhode Island's second Jewish governor, and the only Jewish governor in the United States during his two terms...

     (1920–2011): Pilot of Damn Yankee of the 384th Bomb Group was shot down over Belgium on 1 Dec 1943 and evaded capture until reaching Switzerland 5 May 1944.
  • Brig Gen Paul Tibbets
    Paul Tibbets
    Paul Warfield Tibbets, Jr. was a brigadier general in the United States Air Force, best known for being the pilot of the Enola Gay, the first aircraft to drop an atomic bomb in the history of warfare. The bomb, code-named Little Boy, was dropped on the Japanese city of Hiroshima...

     (1915–2007): Flew with the 97th Bombardment Group (Heavy) with both the 8th Air Force in England and the 12th Air Force in North Africa. Later pilot of the B-29 Enola Gay
    Enola Gay
    Enola Gay is a Boeing B-29 Superfortress bomber, named after Enola Gay Tibbets, mother of the pilot, then-Colonel Paul Tibbets. On August 6, 1945, during the final stages of World War II, it became the first aircraft to drop an atomic bomb as a weapon of war...

    , dropping the atomic bomb on Hiroshima
    Hiroshima
    is the capital of Hiroshima Prefecture, and the largest city in the Chūgoku region of western Honshu, the largest island of Japan. It became best known as the first city in history to be destroyed by a nuclear weapon when the United States Army Air Forces dropped an atomic bomb on it at 8:15 A.M...

    , Japan.
  • Robert Webb (1922–2002): One of the youngest bomber pilots in the U.S. Army Air Forces. Received the Distinguished Flying Cross with seven oak leaf clusters.


Civilian achievements or events

  • Martin Caidin
    Martin Caidin
    Martin Caidin was an American author and an authority on aeronautics and aviation.Caidin wrote more than 50 books, including Samurai!, Black Thursday, Thunderbolt!, Fork-Tailed Devil: The P-38, Zero!, The Ragged, Rugged Warriors, A Torch to the Enemy and many other works of military history...

     (1927–1997): Author of Cyborg
    Cyborg (novel)
    Cyborg is the title of a science fiction/secret agent novel by Martin Caidin which was first published in 1972. The novel also included elements of speculative fiction, and was adapted as the television series The Six Million Dollar Man and also inspired its spin-off, The Bionic Woman.-Plot...

    , the story that formed the basis of The Six Million Dollar Man
    The Six Million Dollar Man
    The Six Million Dollar Man is an American television series about a former astronaut with bionic implants working for the OSI...

    wrote the saga of the last transatlantic formation flight of B-17s ever made, Everything But the Flak.
  • Clark Gable
    Clark Gable
    William Clark Gable , known as Clark Gable, was an American film actor most famous for his role as Rhett Butler in the 1939 Civil War epic film Gone with the Wind, in which he starred with Vivien Leigh...

     (1901–1960): Academy Award-winning film actor, five missions as waist gunner with several groups from May to September 1943, including the B-17 Eight Ball of the 359th Bomb Squadron (351st Bomb Group).
  • Irv Homer (1922–2009). Philadelphia Radio host served as 15th Air Force B-17 co-pilot during WW2.
  • Tom Landry
    Tom Landry
    Thomas Wade "Tom" Landry was an American football player and coach. He is ranked as one of the greatest and most innovative coaches in National Football League history, creating many new formations and methods...

     (1924–2000): American football player and coach, flew 30 missions over Europe in 1944–45 as a B-17 pilot with the 493rd Bomb Group, surviving a crash landing in Czechoslovakia. (His older brother Robert died in a B-17 crash)

  • Norman Lear
    Norman Lear
    Norman Milton Lear is an American television writer and producer who produced such 1970s sitcoms as All in the Family, Sanford and Son, One Day at a Time, The Jeffersons, Good Times and Maude...

    : Radio operator, with the 463rd Bombardment Group (Heavy), 15th Air Force, Celone Field, Foggia, Italy; television producer of American sitcoms Sanford and Son
    Sanford and Son
    Sanford and Son is an American sitcom, based on the BBC's Steptoe and Son, that ran on the NBC television network from January 14, 1972, to March 25, 1977....

    , Maude
    Maude (TV series)
    Maude was an American television sitcom that was originally broadcast on the CBS network from September 12, 1972 until April 22, 1978.Maude starred Beatrice Arthur as Maude Findlay, an outspoken, middle-aged, politically liberal woman living in suburban Tuckahoe, Westchester County, New York with...

    and All in the Family
    All in the Family
    All in the Family is an American sitcom that was originally broadcast on the CBS television network from January 12, 1971, to April 8, 1979. In September 1979, a new show, Archie Bunker's Place, picked up where All in the Family had ended...

    , among others.
  • Gene Roddenberry
    Gene Roddenberry
    Eugene Wesley "Gene" Roddenberry was an American television screenwriter, producer and futurist, best known for creating the American science fiction series Star Trek. Born in El Paso, Texas, Roddenberry grew up in Los Angeles, California where his father worked as a police officer...

     (1921–1991): Creator of Star Trek
    Star Trek
    Star Trek is an American science fiction entertainment franchise created by Gene Roddenberry. The core of Star Trek is its six television series: The Original Series, The Animated Series, The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, Voyager, and Enterprise...

    ; flew B-17s for the 394th Bomb Squadron, 5th Bomb Group (H), in the Pacific theater.
  • Robert Rosenthal
    Robert Rosenthal (USAF)
    Lieutenant Colonel Robert "Rosie" Rosenthal was a highly-decorated pilot in the Eighth Air Force of the United States Army Air Forces in World War II, receiving sixteen awards including the Distinguished Service Cross for "extraordinary heroism in connection with military operations against the...

     (1917–2007): Assistant to the U.S. prosecutor at the Nuremberg Trials
    Nuremberg Trials
    The Nuremberg Trials were a series of military tribunals, held by the victorious Allied forces of World War II, most notable for the prosecution of prominent members of the political, military, and economic leadership of the defeated Nazi Germany....

    , where he interrogated Hermann Göring
    Hermann Göring
    Hermann Wilhelm Göring, was a German politician, military leader, and a leading member of the Nazi Party. He was a veteran of World War I as an ace fighter pilot, and a recipient of the coveted Pour le Mérite, also known as "The Blue Max"...

    , pilot with the 100th Bomb Group.
  • Brigadier General Robert Lee Scott, Jr.
    Robert Lee Scott, Jr.
    Robert Lee Scott Jr. was a Brigadier General in the United States Air Force. Scott is best known for his autobiography God is My Co-Pilot about his exploits in World War II with the Flying Tigers and the United States Army Air Forces in China and Burma...

     (1908–2006): Best known for his autobiography God is My Co-Pilot, about his exploits in World War II with the Flying Tigers and the United States Army Air Forces in China and Burma.
  • James Stewart
    James Stewart (actor)
    James Maitland Stewart was an American film and stage actor, known for his distinctive voice and his everyman persona. Over the course of his career, he starred in many films widely considered classics and was nominated for five Academy Awards, winning one in competition and receiving one Lifetime...

     (1908–1997): Academy Award-winning film actor, instructed in B-17s before flying 20 combat missions in B-24s with the 8th Air Force, England; retired from Air Force Reserve as a Brigadier General.
  • Bert Stiles
    Bert Stiles
    Bert Stiles was an American author of short stories who was killed in action during World War II while serving as a fighter pilot in the U.S. Army Air Forces.-Youth:...

     (1920–1944): 91st Bomb Group
    91st Bomb Group
    The 91st Bomb Group was an air combat unit of the United States Army Air Forces during the Second World War. Classified as a heavy bombardment group, the 91st operated B-17 Flying Fortress aircraft and was known unofficially as "The Ragged Irregulars" or as "Wray's Ragged Irregulars", after the...

     co-pilot from March to October 1944, short-story author, killed in action flying a P-51
    P-51 Mustang
    The North American Aviation P-51 Mustang was an American long-range, single-seat fighter and fighter-bomber used during World War II, the Korean War and in several other conflicts...

     on a second tour.
  • Bruce Sundlun
    Bruce Sundlun
    Bruce Sundlun was an American politician and member of the Democratic Party who served as 71st Governor of Rhode Island from 1991 to 1995. He was Rhode Island's second Jewish governor, and the only Jewish governor in the United States during his two terms...

     (1920–2011): 384th Bomb Group Pilot of B-17F Damn Yankee avoided capture after being shot down over Jabbeke, Belgium
    Jabbeke
    Jabbeke is a municipality located in the Belgian province of West Flanders. The municipality comprises the towns of Jabbeke proper, Snellegem, Stalhille, Varsenare and Zerkegem. On 1 January 2006 the municipality had 13,572 inhabitants...

    , 1943 to become a lawyer, businessman and Governor of Rhode Island
    Rhode Island
    The state of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, more commonly referred to as Rhode Island , is a state in the New England region of the United States. It is the smallest U.S. state by area...

     1991–95.
  • Smokey Yunick
    Smokey Yunick
    Henry "Smokey" Yunick was an American mechanic and car designer associated with motorsports. Yunick was deeply involved in the early years of NASCAR, and he is probably most associated with that racing genre...

     (1923–2001): Award-winning motorsports car designer and premier NASCAR
    NASCAR
    The National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing is a family-owned and -operated business venture that sanctions and governs multiple auto racing sports events. It was founded by Bill France Sr. in 1947–48. As of 2009, the CEO for the company is Brian France, grandson of the late Bill France Sr...

     crew chief flew 50 missions as a B-17 pilot with the 97th Bombardment Group (Heavy) of the 15th Air Force, out of Amendola Airfield, Foggia, Italy.

Specifications (B-17G)


See also

  • Air warfare of World War II
    Air warfare of World War II
    Air warfare of World War II was a major component of World War II in all theatres, and consumed a large fraction of the industrial output of the major powers....



Citations

Further reading

  • Birdsall, Steve. The B-17 Flying Fortress. Dallas, Texas: Morgan Aviation Books, 1965.
  • Davis, Larry. B-17 in Action. Carrollton, Texas: Squadron/Signal Publications, 1984. ISBN 0-89747-152-0.
  • Jablonski, Edward. Flying Fortress. New York: Doubleday, 1965. ISBN 0-385-03855-0.
  • Johnsen, Frederick A. Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress. Stillwater, Minnesota: Voyageur Press, 2001. ISBN 1-58007-052-3.
  • Lloyd, Alwyn T. B-17 Flying Fortress in Detail and Scale, Vol. 11: Derivatives, Part 2. Fallbrook, California: Aero Publishers, 1983. ISBN 0-8168-5021-6.
  • Lloyd, Alwyn T. B-17 Flying Fortress in Detail and Scale, Vol. 20: More derivatives, Part 3. Blue Ridge Summit, Pennsylvania: Tab Books, 1986. ISBN 0-8168-5029-1.
  • Lloyd, Alwyn T. and Terry D. Moore. B-17 Flying Fortress in Detail and Scale, Vol. 1: Production Versions, Part 1. Fallbrook, California: Aero Publishers, 1981. ISBN 0-8168-5012-7.
  • O'Leary, Michael. Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress (Osprey Production Line to Frontline 2). Botley, Oxford, UK: Osprey Publishing, 1999. ISBN 1-85532-814-3.
  • Thompson, Scott A. Final Cut: The Post War B-17 Flying Fortress, The Survivors: Revised and Updated Edition. Highland County, Ohio: Pictorial Histories Publishing Company, 2000. ISBN 1-57510-077-0.
  • Willmott, H.P. B-17 Flying Fortress. London: Bison Books, 1980. ISBN 0-85368-444-8.


External links

The source of this article is wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.  The text of this article is licensed under the GFDL.
 
x
OK