Meet the World’s Most Famous Bomber

The prototype: the characteristics of B-17 Bomber were a combination of Boeing 247 Transport Aircraft and Boeing XB-15. Although the B-17 Bomber prototype did not complete its evaluation because it crashed, Boeing was still able to sell 13 improved prototypes to the United States Army Air Force.

The name: thanks to a Seattle Times reporter, the term Flying Fortress was born to designate the engine. It was then Boeing’s trademark around the world. There are many models of this engine such as Model C, which had 0.50 cal and a 0.30 cal machine gun.

Production on a massive scale:  the B-17 was used during World War II on combat zones. Believe it or not, it was used every time on a combat zones. Together with the other aircraft companies Douglas & Vega, they were able to make 12, 731 bombers.

The United States 8th Air Force aimed to win over Germany’s strong will for a war in 1942. They used the B-17s and bomb raided Nazi-held territory in Europe, which damaged strategic points and railway networks. The Luftwaffe was able to defend itself from the raids, making the loss ratio 10 to 15.

Even the Luftwaffe had a hard time attacking the Flying Fortress, however it was able to find its weaknesses. It attacked the engine’s head. This resulted to the birth of “Bandits at 12 O’ Clock High”, which was developed to defend the B-17 from the Luftwaffe fighters.

The cost: B-17 Flying Fortress was produced at the army’s own expenses. It was heavier, larger, and firmer than any other engines during the Second World War; hence, the production cost a lot. In 1945, one B-17 would cost US$238,329.

There were many models of B-17 Flying Fortress, but the B-17G was the most prominent and likeable amongst all. The B-17 G had specs that you wouldn’t see in other models. There were about 9,000 B-17 G produced.

It was hard to survive during the war, but there was one B-17 Bomber who survived. This B-17 Bomber was able to fly back from a bombing mission. It had only 2 of 4 working engines and it sustained 180 flak holes.

The 20,000 pounds explosives, which were called Aphrodite Missiles, were used by the B-17s during World War II.  The Operation Aphrodite was launched to attack bunkers and enemy targets. the former US President John F. Kennedy’s brother, Joseph P. Kennedy Jr., was one of the pilots who died during the attack.

In 1943, the United States was joined by Allies to destroy the Nazi Empire. It was called Combined Bomber Offensive against the Germans. The Americans selected B-17 Fortress, which attacked during the day, and the British used the Wellington or Lancaster Bomber, which operated at night. Such operation was successful because it resulted to severe damage to the Nazi forces and weaken the army’s ability to defend itself even though it was able to cause some damages to the bombers.

The Germans were able to figure out how to destroy the B-17s. It would take about 20 hits with 20mm shells to destroy one. However, during World War II, pilots hit accuracy was 2% only, so bringing down the B-17s was a difficult task.

The Luftwaffe was able to seize about 40 B-17s. They were used by Luftwaffe for their training exercises. They were re-painted and improved.

After World War II ended, many of the remaining B-17s were used as commercial aircrafts. they were purchased for two reasons, one for VIP transport, and second for rescue missions. However, it was still operated during the Korean War.

It was an iconic plane that was used by many countries. It was operated in Asia, Europe, South America, and North America. These countries use B-17s for military and commercial purposes.

The B-17s also had its own bad history. There were three raids that took away many lives.  One was on August 17th, 1943 in Schweinfurt and in Regensburg, taking away 60 lives; October 14th, 1944 in the same location, taking away 77 lives; and January 11th, 1944 in different industries in Germany, taking away 60 lives.

The B-17 was very demanded in August 1944. That year was the Fortress’ peak time. There were 4.574 Fortresses operating.

There were 640,036 tons of bombs dropped by B-17s during World War II attacking European targets. The bombs dropped were about 200,000 tons more than the B-24 Liberator.

There were 11 U-Boats credited to Flying fortress during World War II. The Flying Fortresses were used to find German U-Boats. The U-627 was sunk by the B-17 from No. 206 Squadron RAF, making it the first to succeed.

The Memphis Belle is the one of the first B-17s to successfully complete 25 missions, which ended on May 19th, 1943. It returned to the United States with the complete crew. Today, the Memphis Belle is under restoration.

The YB-40 was a super-armed gunship that was used for protection when there were no escort fighters. It was heavy, weighing 4,000 pounds. It was slower compared to a usual B-17s; hence, it was shelved.

The cabins of the Fortress was cold, it was neither heated nor pressurized. The crew wore electrically heated suits, heavy gloves, and oxygen masks to survive in the cabin. However, wearing these things made movements very difficult.

There were also retired bombers, which are called Assemble ships. Even they were already retired, they were still flyable. These ships were painted uniquely so bombers could quickly see them in the air.

The B-17 phased out after World War II.  However, they were chosen by the United States in 1946 as drones during the Operation Crossroads atomic bomb tests. There were 107 B-17s used and converted to drones.

There were 17 crewmembers who were awarded of the Medal of Honor during World War II. The Medal of Honor is the highest U.S. Military Decoration. One of the awarded military during World War II was Maynard H. Smith.

After all this time, there is only one B-17 that is airworthy left in Europe. This is the Sally B. It can still fly across UK and Europe for airshows, and it is used for movies and documentaries.