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Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress

Along with the Jeep and the Sherman, the B-17 Flying Fortress will remain one of the most recognizable American machines of World War II. Famous for being the main instrument of the daylight bombing campaign of the Eighth Air Force, the Fortress was known for its ability to take amazing punishment and bring its crew safely home -- sometimes with large holes in the fuselage or pieces of the tail missing. The B-17G pictured here was powered by four Wright R-1820-97 radial engines and armed with ten to thirteen .50 caliber Brownings in various powered turrets or mounted in windows in the waist and nose, hence the moniker "Flying Fortress." The B-17G could carry a maximum bomb load of 9,600 pounds and had sufficient range to penetrate deep into Germany to strike at its industrial centers. The particular B-17 pictured here, a veteran of 55 combat missions with various crews, was hit by flak and forced to crash land in France on September 9, 1944 during a mission to Ludwigshaven. The B-17 came to rest very close to the front behind enemy lines and the crew managed to evade capture by heading west in groups of two or three. They were all picked up by a Tank Destroyer unit by the evening of the next day and back to flight status in a few more days. The nine man crew consisted of pilot Joseph Hartness; copilot Herbert Schaaf; navigator Clarence Hightshoe; bombardier Maurice Simons; engineer/gunner Lester Wolcott; radio operator Stanley Burek; ball turret gunner Raymond Wisdahl; waist gunner Frank Rock; and tail gunner Delmar Beesley. Beesley was later KIA on a mission with a different crew in March, 1945. (K. Ellefson, personal communication, July, 2010)


Sources: Wilson, Stewart. Aircraft Of WWII. Fyshwick, ACT: Aerospace Publications, Pty Ltd., 1998.
"384th Bomb Group B-17G Aircraft 42-102601." www.384thbombgroup.com. Oct. 9, 2010. http://384thbombgroup.com/_content/_pages/One384thAircraft.php?AircraftKey=42-102601