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'Locksted' in front of Cheyenne tail turret of B-17G

'Locksted' in front of Cheyenne tail turret of B-17G

'Locksted' in front of Cheyenne tail turret of B-17G

'Locksted' standing in front of a Cheyenne Tail Turret on a B-17G Flying Fortress. This was a significant improvement on the earlier tail turret, giving the guns a greater range of elevation, and providing the gunner with much larger windows and a more advanced gun sight.

Pictures provided by Sgt. Robert S. Tucker Sr. (Member of: The American Air Museum in Britain {Duxford} ).
Robert S. WWII Photo Book, Mighty 8th. AF, Ground Crew


B-17G chin turret (1 Viewer)

very much like the halifax and lancaster its blind spots were picked out early. for the 17F this was dead on from the front and a little from below leaving the upper turret useless being unable to depress far enough, the ball turret was too far back to shoot properly to the front and the two guns in the nose didn't point ahead. made sense to add the chin turret.
interesting that the F carried 10 guns and the G carried 13.

Superkeith1872

Airman 1st Class

GrauGeist

Generalfeldmarschall zur Luftschiff Abteilung

The idea for the chin turret of the B-17G actually came from the YB-40 gunship concept during the time period of the B-17F production run. The YB-40 gunship concept was a failure, but the B-17G inherited not only the chin turret, but the offset waist gunner positions and the improved tail gun station (referred to as a "Cheyenne") from the YB-40.

As a side note, the 13 .50 caliber guns of the B-17G paled in comparisonto the YB-40's average of 16 .50 guns, but a few were known to have been modified to carry more than this number.


Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress

Authored By: Staff Writer | Last Edited: 05/27/2021 | Content ©www.MilitaryFactory.com | The following text is exclusive to this site.

While the Consolidated B-24 Liberator four-engined heavy bomber dropped more war tonnage and was built in greater numbers, the Boeing B-17 "Flying Fortress" four-engined "heavy" left a longer lasting memory on American military aviation history for its part in World War 2 (1939-1945). The aircraft was a primary component of the famed Eight Air Force ("The Mighty Eighth") as it took over daytime bombing operations over Europe in the march to Berlin - amassed forces launching from airfields all over England. In time, the fortunes of war began to favor the Allies as the Third Reich's territories began to shrink - first from Italy and then from France and the Low Countries. The bomber made a name for itself as a workhorse component and was the subject of many war bond drives back in the United States to help drum up continued support of the war effort. Before the end, the Kingdom of Italy, Germany, and the Empire of Japan would all be defeated in full - each nation having tasted as least some of what the Boeing product could offer. Many of the line continued in service after the war with foreign players while many more were sent to the scrap heap after their flying days were over - leaving few in operational condition today.

For its contribution in the Grand Conflict, the B-17 accounted for nearly 300,000 total sorties against enemy targets and dropped a staggering 640,000 tons of bombs. It helped to refine American bomber doctrine that needed attention even prior to the start of the war and led to the development of another classic multi-engined platform of the conflict - the Boeing B-29 "Superfortress" (detailed elsewhere on this site). At the start of the Eighth Air Forces commitment in Europe, several hundred B-17s could be seen making up one bomber flight but, before the end of the war in 1945, the enemy was being pummeled into oblivion by what would become thousands of individual bombers making up wave-after-deadly wave of formational flying.

It was this kind of determination on the part of the Allies that led to an unrelenting bombing campaign - the Americans to handle the daylight duties and the British to enact their own brand of bombing justice in the low-light hours. Such attention to enemy targets eventually led to much destabilization of enemy infrastructure - disrupting supply lines, damaging key industry, and - of course - lowering pro-war morale. As the B-17 made a name for itself over Europe, the B-24 - of similar over-battlefield function - also made its case as another of the classic heavy American bombers of the war - its commitment eventually graduated from European airspaces to that of the Pacific Theater against the might of the Empire of Japan.

Flying Fortress Crews

A single flying fortress required the specialties of multiple, specially-trained crewmen. Some were charged with its flying, others with its repair, and still others with its defense. Depending on the model, the crew total could range up to ten personnel. The bombardier was positioned at the extreme front-end of the fuselage with a commanding view of the action ahead. A seat and the all-important bombing equipment was fitted here. Immediately behind him was the navigator whose station allowed paper maps to be splayed out for navigating the bomber to its expected location. A seat and light were allotted to this position for some creature comforts. The two pilots sat side-by-side above and behind the nose section with a clear view of both engine pairings located at each wing mainplane. A passageway located under the cockpit floor allowed crewmembers to reach the nose compartment as needed. Directly behind and above the flightdeck was the dorsal turret manned by a single operator - typically the aircraft's in-flight engineer.

Aft of the cockpit was the bomb bay with a plank set across the chasm for accessing the further rear of the aircraft. From this passage was the radio operator's station and, again, this was a seated position complete with tabletop that held the aircraft's communication's center (the radioman's position originally contained an upward-firing, trainable machine gun but this was deleted in later production models). Aft of the radioman was the ball turret (this was model dependent however) set into the floor of the fuselage offering excellent traversal under and around the aircraft's vulnerable underside. A pair of waist (or beam) gunners manned machine guns at the midway point of the empennage's length. The tail gunner (again, this position depended on the production model) was rather segregated at his station which was found at the extreme end of the fuselage.

Crewmen were called to operate in noisy, smelly, and utterly drafty conditions at altitudes that would freeze exposed skin. As such, fleece-lined flight suits were the norm as were oxygen supplies for breathing in the thin air. Individual comm systems allowed the crew to communicate with one another. No pressurization was possible with the crew spaces of the Flying Fortress.

Flying Fortress Development

The Flying Fortress had its roots set in the 1930s as the world seemingly geared up for another lengthy and bloody World War. "Strategic Air Power" was being formulated by the United States Army Air Corps (USAAC) which, at the time, operated both the land-based Army component as well as the air service section under one banner. Tactical bombers (typically light and medium classes) were called against smaller, more defined enemy targets often operating closer to the front lines while strategic bombers were to take the long-range approach and strike at enemy targets deep within enemy-held territory. The latter operation would require aircraft of some capability, particularly in range/endurance as well as a useful bombload capacity to make the trip worthwhile. Once over the target, accuracy over the target became another important quality.

In 1933, "Project A" was arranged under secrecy by authorities of the USAAC and Boeing managed to secure a deal by way of its XB-15 heavy bomber design. The XB-15 (detailed elsewhere on this site) very much mimicked the form and function of the future B-17 as its four engines were spread across wide-spanning wing mainplanes, the nose was glazed over, and the cockpit being stepped. The tail unit was conventional and "blisters" set off the waist gunner positions while a dorsal turret was overhead present towards the nose. The wings were so large and relatively deep that flight engineers could enter the structures to make on-the-spot repairs/adjustments of engines in-flight with access provided by passageways. At the time, the XB-15 marked the largest aircraft ever built by the Americans and went on to be a record-setter under some related class categories. Power was from 4 x Pratt & Whitney air-cooled radials and the crew numbered ten.

The XB-15 beat out Martin's XB-16 proposal which was to carry 4 x Allison V-12 liquid-cooled inline engines and a also feature a crew of ten. It is noteworthy that the USAAC was not all that interested in inline engines at this time - there being some exceptions such as the Curtiss P-40 Warhawk and Bell P-39 Airacobra fighters. In time these would be joined by the Lockheed P-38 Lightning and the North American P-51 Mustang fighters.

While the XB-15 was something of a technological marvel for the time, it was deemed obsolete by the time it recorded its first-flight on October 15th, 1937 and the program was eventually cancelled with just a single flyable prototype completed. This form was evolved into the Y1B-20 by Boeing but this model was never built by the company as it was also cancelled after 1938. Nevertheless, the two aircraft were influential in the development of the B-17 and its equally-storied successor, the B-29 "Superfortress" - forever cementing Boeing as a competent large aircraft-maker.

Even before the death knell was struck on the earlier Boeing products, company engineers had already been working on a refined heavy bomber concept that became the "Model 299" and this offering now competed directly with Douglas' own "DB-1". The USAAC requirement, now more refined after some years in existence, sought a heavy, multi-engined bomber-type capable of long distance travel with a full 2,000lb bomb load. The aircraft would be able to reach speeds between 200 and 250 miles per hour and range out to 2,000 miles. The four engines became a requirement for such a design and was highly favored for all heavy bomber forms during this time period - offering the necessary power to take-off, make the flight under full load, and eventually return home. Interestingly, the USAAC considered the heavy bomber to fulfill the primary role of "coastal defender" and to be sent to attack inbound enemy ships nearing American shores.

Design of the Model 299 was credited to a Boeing team headed by Edward Curtiss Wells and was a originally private venture initiative by the company which had yet to secure a formal USAAC development contract. The prototype was fitted with 4 x Pratt & Whitney R-1690 "Hornet" air-cooled engines driving three-bladed propeller units with the nacelles set in pairs at the rounded wing mainplanes which were, themselves, set low along the fuselage sides. The aircraft's finish was in all-metal (silver), giving it a futuristic appearance. A tricycle undercarriage was used for ground-running and gave the product a pronounced "nose-up" posture which limited pilot vision but was accepted practice in the world of aviation for the period. The nose was heavily framed at the bombardier's position and provided the crewmen with a good view of the forward action (arguably the best vantage point among the crew). Various window ports were set along the fuselage and the cockpit took its usual place above and behind the nose. The tail unit incorporated a single vertical fin and low-set horizontal planes.

During the rollout of this aircraft, it is said that a journalist present at the ceremony commented on the bomber as a "flying fortress" and the name apparently stuck with Boeing and its Model 299 when it entered service. The prototype made its maiden flight on July 28th, 1935 and official Army testing followed at Wright Field in Ohio during the latter part of that year. At this time, the Model 299 had been given the USAAC experimental designator of "XB-17".

The project suffered a setback during October of that year when the prototype crashed, killing several of the crew. Despite this, the USAAC ordered thirteen of the bombers in January of 1936 and graduated the design to the developmental designation of "Y1B-17". The first of this form appeared before the end of the year in December. Boeing added the Model 299F for the USAAC as a static air frame which the service took on as the "Y1B-17A". This model then graduated to become a flyable version as the "B-17A". With a revised nose section, enlarged control surfaces, and 4 x R-1820-51 radial engines of 1,200 horsepower, the Model 299M fulfilled the B-17B designation and thirty-nine aircraft were ordered in 1938 to the standard to continue testing under more realistic operational conditions. Another key switch was the shift from pneumatic braking to hydraulic.

World War 2 Arrives

The arrival of World War 2 in Europe on September 1st, 1939 pushed the American military network into action for the inevitable defense of the United States homeland as well as its overseas territories. As such, during 1940, the USAAC moved to order eighty B-17C/D models from Boeing's Model 299H design and these carried improved armoring, self-sealing fuel tanks, and increased defensive armament. The mark carried R-1820-65 series radials while the beam blister gun positions were replaced by teardrop-shaped shrouds for reduced drag. A gondola-type "bathtub" turret succeeded the ventral gun blister. It was these forms that the British took into service during the early part of the war under the Lend-Lease Act of 1941. British B-17s were named "Fortress" followed by the variant designations (Mk.1, Mk.2, Mk.3 and so forth). The USAAC was quite hesitant to hand over its new bomber to a foreign party for it wished to shore up its own limited heavy bomber stock.

The USAAC becomes the USAAF

In June of 1941, the USAAC was officially rebranded as the United States Army Air Forces (USAAF) and under this banner there were several distinct air services operating (hence the word "Forces" in the title). Each of these sub-services was charged with defense of a particular patch of global real estate. At present, the USAAC could call on fewer than 200 B-17 bombers and these were quickly shipped overseas to help thwart attacks on American overseas territories - namely those found in Hawaii and the Philippines (the Empire of Japan, and its military-driven expansionism, was the United States' most immediate threat in the pre-war period).

After some practical usage, the B-17 was soon found to lack adequate rearward-facing defensive armament. British bombers were mauled from the rear by German Luftwaffe Bf 109 fighters with little resistance so this led Boeing to answer with the Model 299O, the B-17E in service, which introduced the twin-gunned tail position overlooking the action directly to the rear of the aircraft. Firing arcs were limited but the guns were better than nothing at this critical section of the aircraft. They were, however, improved with the "Cheyenne" installation in soon-to-come B-17G models which offered a greater field-of-fire and as well as improved gun-laying. The gunner's station was positioned directly under the vertical tail fin and between the horizontal planes.

Like the belly turret gunner, the tail gunner made his way to his station only after the aircraft was in flight and connected to his oxygen supply and intercom system. He took on a kneeling position (sitting on his legs) during action - which was not the most comfortable over hours of scanning the skies.

Boeing would go on to build 512 of the E-model forms (from its Seattle plant) before the end of the run and this variant was monumental for the series at it became the first to see consistent operational service (including combat exposure). Its importance early-on cannot be understated as the platform was used as a deterrent as much as it was a bomb delivery system. For the early part of 1942, a few were beginning to be stationed on Australian soil in preparation for Japanese incursions in and around Australian territory across the South Pacific. By the middle part of that year, the E-models were arriving in England to shore up the Allied bomber arm over Europe as well.

Evolution of the line did not stop with the E-models for, in April of 1942, the B-17F quickly arrived based on Boeing's Model 299P design. This carried 4 x Wright R1820-97 "Cyclone" air-cooled radials of 1,380 horsepower each which improved higher-altitude performance and increased range, the latter made possible by the inclusion of what came to be known as "Tokyo Tanks". Defensive armament was once-again addressed: as the tail turret proved instrumental in deterring enemy fighters from attacking the rear of the heavy bomber, a "ball" turret was now added to the ventral line of the aircraft. This addition encompassed a ball enclosure which encapsulate the machine gunner who managed a pair of heavy machine guns. With feet placed into stirrups and a simple belt holding him in place, the small-statured gunner was expected to defend the bomber from threats emerging below the belly. Ammunition fed to each gun from outside the ball though within the fuselage and access to the ball turret was by a hatch. Power to the system was electrical.

Beyond the engines and ball turret, the F-model was notable in bringing about a single-piece plexiglass nose cone which did away with the complex, heavily-framed unit of earlier production models. This gave the bombardier one of the most impressive views from the aircraft as he was able to see through an unobstructed pane over all of the forward field of the bomber - very useful in identifying ground-based target areas for his role.

These changes led to a greater overall weight for the heavy bomber but this was acceptable amidst the growing demands of the war. The F-models took over production lines from the now-abandoned E-models and 3,405 units were added to the B-17 stable - Boeing contributed 2,300 aircraft while 605 arrived from Douglas Aircraft plants, and a further 500 came from Lockheed Vega facilities - a joint effort to be sure.

The B-17 Comes of Age - the Definitive B-17G

The evolution of the B-17 was fast and furious with much owed to the evolution of the war itself. The B-17G model was a major upgrade over previous versions and became the undisputed definitive form of the series. It carried over the refinements of the improved F-models mentioned earlier but also introduced the twin-gunned, electrically-powered Bendix chin turret for the bombardier's position. One of the lingering limitations of the defensive network of earlier B-17s was its defense against oncoming attacks by enemy fighters. There were "cheek" machine guns the bombardier and navigation could rely on as well as some support from the dorsal turret but these held restricted firing arcs when concerning direct frontal threats. The Bendix installation gave unrestricted access to the forward field of the aircraft and could scan across the horizon for threats side-to-side. German pilots were, no doubt, surprised that their frontal attacks were no longer useful and, instead, greeted with hot lead from twin 0.50 caliber Brownings.

Beyond this armament improvement came an increased war load capability: the bomber now capable of carrying up to 90,000lb of conventional drop stores over distance. Boeing contributed 4,035 G-models while Douglas added 2,395, and Lockheed Vega another 2,250 units.

The B-17 In Action

B-17 Flying Fortresses followed common bomber doctrine of the time in that the units were arranged in what was known as a "box formation". This formation, made up of multiple individual bombers flying within relatively close proximity to one another, allowed virtually every machine gunner onboard the respective aircraft to bring their guns to bear against any impending threat as needed through combined firepower. With no fewer than twelve machine guns featured on a single G-model, a sole B-17 was quite the defensive network for enemy fighters to get through during an attack run.

Gunner positions on a B-17G model included 2 x 0.50 caliber machine guns in the Bendix chin turret, 1 x 0.50 caliber machine guns at each cheek position, 2 x 0.50 caliber machine guns at the dorsal turret, 2 x 0.50 caliber machine guns at the ventral ball turret, 1 x 0.50 caliber machine guns at each beam position, and 2 x 0.50 caliber machine guns at the tail position. In theory, no one approach route outside of the bomber was uncontested. All positions were afforded some level of armor protection but this varied considerably by position.

The Norden Bombsight

One of the major challenges of bombing in the 1930-1940 period was accuracy and there were several technological attempts made to aid the bombardier in his role but none were as critical to the war effort as was the Norden Bombsight designed by Carl Lukas Norden - who previously had worked for the Sperry Gyroscope Company before World War 1 (1914-1918). Lucas first interested the United States Navy (USN) in his invention as the service sought to increase the lethality of its own bombers against moving enemy warships. The early-form Mk III bombsight was developed in 1921 from this requirement and the design eventually progressed to the M-Series units which were adopted in 1943.

The bombsight was instrumental in gradually increasing accuracy of American bombers and this improved from a near 25% accuracy (within 1,000 yards) to about 40% (within 500 yards) by 1944 and beyond. The bombardier was also allowed lateral control of the aircraft from the pilot during the bombing run which further gave aided the bombardier in placing the ordnance where it had to go. Bomber flights frequently followed a lead plane as their "director" and would drop war loads on queue. As such, the lead bombardier was to make absolutely sure he was over the correct target and this was accomplished by studying photography and maps for hours on end to verify physical structures and landmarks. During the bomb run itself, there were also the pressures of Flak attack, enemy fighter drives, and the like - external distractions not properly replicated in training. His job was made easier by a competent navigator whose primary role was to get the bomber to within range of the target by way of maps and measurements. The pilots fed off of the navigator's direction and the radioman aided the effort as well. In this way, the entire B-17 core crew was required to reach some level of cohesion for not only mission success but also unit survival.

About 40,000 candidates graduated from the USAAF bombardier program related to use of the ultra-secret Norden bombsight system.

The B-17 Cockpit

The pilot and co-pilot sat in the cockpit in a side-by-side arrangement with engine/throttle controls seated between them - offering equal control access. Each pilot also had a good view of his respective engine pairing for monitoring against fires and general failures. Either pilot could also control the aircraft as needed through their control yokes which was particularly useful should one crewman become incapacitated or killed during a mission. Views out-of-the-cockpit were generally adequate but restricted on the whole - ground-running certainly required the assistance of ground personnel for direction.

B-17 Reliability

The B-17 quickly became recognized for its ability to sustain an extraordinary amount of combat punishment and keep flying. This is not to say that the design was invulnerable to enemy attack - for many B-17 bombers and B-17 bomber crews lost their lives during the war - but the Boeing product was known to limp back home with even entire sections of aircraft missing. Whole sections of tail unit could be shot away or the fuselage blown open or severed to the point of nearly falling off but the Boeing bomber continued to "bring the boys home" time-and-time-again. While fighters were one direct threat, the seemingly random nature of ground-based FlaK fire were terrifying for the bomber formations required to hold course while entering into what was essentially an aerial minefield. When the enemy interceptors stopped attacking the Fortress, this was a sure sign that an extensive FlaK attack was to follow.

Despite all of the dangers, B-17 crews did their jobs successfully throughout the entire course of the war. This led the bomber to become a symbol of American aerial might over its enemies and was the principle component in the dismantling of the Reich's war-making capability into 1945. A flight of thousands of such bombers became commonplace heading into the final year of the war and the German nation capitulated under pressure from all sides by May of that year, signaling the end of the war in Europe. B-17s also did their part in the Pacific Theater and ultimately paved the way for the high-flying Boeing B-29 "Superfortress" which eventually dropped the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki to help end the war in the East.

B-17 Post-War Exposure

Total production of B-17s reached 12,731 units by war's end. Production spanned from 1936 until 1945. Beyond the United States and Great Britain, the B-17 was taken into service by a plethora of global operations mainly during the post-war years and these were used in both military and civilian markets. Operators ranged from Brazil, Canada, and Columbia to Portugal, the Soviet Union, and the Republic of China.

During the war, those B-17s operating in the Far East and unable to return to American bases in the region for one reason or another were forced to land on Soviet soil and these specimens were interned and reengineered by the Soviets down to the last bolts. This jumpstarted the Soviet bomber program of the Cold War period and resulted in types like the Tupolev Tu-4 which took over for the refurbished B-17s in Soviet service. Soviet B-17s operated into 1948.

Similarly during the war, the German regime captured as many as forty B-17s in various conditions and refurbished them back into fighting form. These were known locally as the Dornier Do 200 and used in reconnaissance and general spying roles through Luftwaffe unit KG 200.

When Israel was formed as a nation in 1948, it took on three B-17s when establishing its newly-founded air service. The specimens were obtained through Czech and South American sources and were pressed into combat during the 1948 Arab-Israeli War as the subsequent 1956 Suez Crisis, the fleet flying into 1958.

Notable Projects and Offshoots

While there proved many derivatives of the base B-17 design throughout its storied career, two were notable in their attempts - the XB-38 and the XB-40, both based on the established framework of the original B-17 (and both detailed elsewhere on this site). The XB-38, based in the B-17E model, was an attempt to develop an inline piston-engined form of the Flying Fortress to maximize performance of the heavy bomber. 4 x Allison V1710-89 12-cylinder units of 1,425 horsepower each replaced the typical air-cooled radials during the program and this allowed streamlined engine nacelles to be used for better aerodynamics. While performance was, in fact, improved, the sole prototype was consumed by fire in a June 1943 test which ended its flying days. This fire, and the arrival of F-models production units as well as the Allison inline engines being required elsewhere, all contributed to the end of the XB-38.

The XB-40/YB-40 was an F-model B-17 modified by Lockheed Vega to serve as a flying "Gun Bus" reminiscent of World War 1 types intended to escort vulnerable bombers into contested airspace. This was developed prior to jettisonable fuel drop tanks being adopted and longer-ranged escort fighters being available in number. Armament was variable on these aircraft due to their developmental status and some twenty-five aircraft emerged from the program. The Gun Bus variant included extra 0.50 caliber machine guns as well as automatic cannons to go along with improved crew station armoring. Some carried multiple dorsal turrets and individual twin-gunned positions.

The "improvements" led to an aircraft that was heavier by some 4,000lb when compared to a fully-laden B-17 bomber. Decreased performance due to weight gains and added drag, as well as the arrival of long-range P-51 Mustang fighters as escorts, all contributed to the death of the B-17 Gun Bus project. However, these gunships were used in operational service (though for only a short time) with the first mission flown in May of 1943. it was found that these gun-laden heavies had trouble keeping up with the formations once the bombers had dropped their loads. The XB-40/YB-40 program was ended in August of 1943.

The C-108 was the B-17 converted to serve in the transport role. General Douglas MacArthur's own C-108, named the "Bataan", became the most famous of these and was used in the VIP transport role across the Pacific Theater until war's end. The fleet was made up of E- and G-models and some were sent over to the United States Coast Guard service to operate in the Search and Rescue (SAR) role over water. These forms was additionally outfitted with radar for the task.

The B-17 was instrumental in the development of another Boeing product, the Model 307 "Stratoliner", a passenger-hauler introduced in July of 1940 with Pan American Airways. Just ten of these transports were completed but the series operated into 1975.

Beyond these were G-model inspired troop transports, drone aircraft, static and flyable test articles, a missile carrier (MB-17G), reconnaissance platforms (RB-17G), a lifeboat-equipped model (SB-17G), trainers, and an AWACS form (PB-1W) - such was the versatility of the aircraft.

Notable B-17 Bombers

Due simply to the sheer number of B-17 bombers built, and their constant exposure to combat in World War 2, it was only natural that many of the type went on to have highly publicized careers - the most famous of the these becoming the "Memphis Belle". A few notables of the bomber line are briefly detailed below:

Memphis Belle - The Memphis Belle, named after Margaret Polk of Memphis, Tennessee (who was then the girlfriend of the bomber's pilot, Lt. Robert Morgan), carried the iconic nose art of a leggy woman with her face turned away from the viewer (she wore blue on the portside of the forward fuselage and was depicted in red along the starboard side). She was painted by artist Tony Starcer of the 91st Bombardment Group onto the nose of a B-17F. The bomber is notable in being recognized as the first B-17 Flying Fortress to have completed a tour of 25 combat missions which meant that the crew had earned the right to return stateside for good (the aircraft also claimed eight air victories against the Luftwaffe in that time frame). The Belle went on to serve in war bond drives and the like during the conflict and ultimately ended in the care of the National Museum of the United States Air Force (Dayton, Ohio). A Hollywood version of the true story of the Memphis Belle appeared as a motion picture in 1990 (the bomber was played by the still-flying B-17G "Sally B"). During the war in 1944, the aircraft was also the subject of the 45-minute-long documentary "Memphis Belle: A Story of a Flying Fortress" which was meant to depict the final mission of the bomber (in reality it was actually the second-to-last mission flown).

Hell's Angels - The Hell's Angels was a B-17F named after the 1930s Howard Hughes movie "Hell's Angels". By January of 1944, this bomber had completed 48 total missions and she and her crew were sent stateside to drum up support for the war effort. She ended her days in March Field (California) to serve as a crew trainer from May of 1944 onward. Unfortunately this Flying Fortress was not saved from the scrap heap.


The history of B-17G crash

The 14 February 1944 mission was to bomb the railroad yards at Verona, Italy. Because of severe fog and undercast, the formation could not locate the target (no mention of heading to secondary target or targets of opportunity). Frank C. Chaplick’s aircraft was hit by about 12 enemy aircraft over the target area. Two engines were knocked out and the aircraft began skidding toward the outer edge of the formation. As a straggler, the enemy aircraft singled it out and concentrated their attacks upon it. The tail guns jammed when the first enemy aircraft attacked. A second enemy aircraft, realizing that the tail turret was inoperative, closed to point-blank range from astern before firing.

This aircraft killed the radio operator, one waist gunner, the tail gunner, and severely wounded the remaining waist gunner as well as inflicting light wounds on two others. The third fighter to attack was shot down (exploded in the air) by the wounded top turret gunner, Sgt. Frank E. Bradley before his turret also became inoperative. The fourth fighter was shot down by ball turret gunner Orville F. Grilliot. The navigator and bombardier combined to shoot down a further enemy aircraft before American P-47s arrived to drive off the onslaught.

With 2 engines in fire and a third with cough, there was nothing left to do, even holding the commands. One of P-47 escorted B-17G and the pilot took a direct course to Corsica. Then, a call with the Calvi’s control tower let the crew know that the landing track was too short to receive a damaged plane of B-17G size.

At Chaplick’s order, Bradley and Grilliot worked to lighten the load, throwing overboard as much equipment as possible. In sight of the field at Calvi, a third engine quit and Chaplick had no option but to ditch, with the aircraft landing in the sea about 100 yards offshore. Except for the pilot and the co-pilot, the remainder of the crew gathered in the radio compartment with two of the dead for the ditching. Sedgeley, the bombardier, tried to get Tony Duca out of the tail turret to apply first aid but found him dead.

That’s the way Frank G. Chaplick landed the B-17 on the water, very close in front of the Calvi’s citadel. The plane didn’t break during the operation and floated a few minutes, which enabled cew to evacuate it, except for the 3 machine gunners killed during the attack and whose bodies sunk with the wrecks. The crew managed to deploy and get into the life rafts but were unable to bring the three dead crewmembers with them.

After this difficult mission, the second lieutenant Chaplick went back definitively to the USA, the war for him was ended. The wreck is located 200 m in front of the port of Calvi at the height of the citadel. The wreck is still very well preserved and a popular diving destination. The wings are almost intact and the four engines are clearly visible. Unfortunately, most of the propeller blades were removed. The nose was destroyed by the impact. The cockpit with its two metal seats and the intervening instruments are still quite well preserved. A little further away are the remains of the stern and a tail wheel.


Monogram 1:48 B-17G Flying Fortress

At the time when I write this article, Monogram is the only choice for a B-17 in 48th scale. That is until now. I read that by October 2019, Hong Kong Model will release an early version of the B-17G in 1:48 If that is the case, the Monogram kit I have since 2001 will indeed become obsolete, because most modeller wants it easy to build and good quality to win contests. This is obvious when the new releases of F-101, F-105 and A-6, nobody I know would want to build a crappy Monogram kit that is hard to build well. Hence, more impetus for me to build it now.

This Monogram kit is a vintage Monogram from 1975 with raised panel lines and rivets and all. Typical with all Monogram kits, or any other kit manufacturers in that era, fit-up of parts is not so good and will require a lot of sanding and filler material to get rid of seam joints. But when doing so, all of the raised details, specifically the raised panel lines, would disappear and will require restoration. This kit is an excellent representation of the B-17G, however, there are other issues which may or may not, depending on which historic bomber you are doing, require modification efforts.

The B-17G represented in this kit is an earlier production version of B-17G because the waist guns are not staggered and the tail gun turret is not a Cheyenne gun turret. There is nothing wrong with that unless you are trying to build a B-17 with decals for the more common “later” G versions.

Staggered Waist Gun Windows

For Boeing (BO) built planes, waist windows were staggered during production block 50.

For Douglas (DL) built B-17s, the waist guns were staggered during production block 25.

For Vega (VE) built B-17s, waist windows were staggered from block 35 to 45

Tail Turret Guns

On later production B-17G, the tail turret was upgraded to a much-improved turret that was developed in the United Airlines Modification Center in Cheyenne, Wyoming. This new turret provided better visibility and greater sweep angle of the guns than the previous version. The Cheyenne tail turret was being field retrofitted on aircraft without staggered waist windows, and some even in Olive Drab paint finish. The factory-installed Cheyenne tail turret began with:

These modifications can be significant when attempting to build an accurate historical aircraft, especially if one has to replace the kit’s earlier version of a tail turret with a Cheyenne turret. The only available Cheyenne turret replacement is the very expensive resin replacement from Resin 2 Detail. I can build a new turret but I do not have the means to create a proper vacuformed window replacement. The staggered waist gun window issue can be easily solved by cutting a new window opening and blank out the old one. I think the best solution is to build an earlier production B-17G.

I think everybody has built this model over the years except me. The sheer size of this model and knowing the amount of effort will be required had turned me away from attacking this model. I’ve seen some really good efforts by others and they continue to inspire me. The earliest great work I saw was a B-17F built by Paul Budzik in 1989 when he converted this G kit into an F. He published his work on his B-17F on the December 1989 Fine Scale Modeler and he has since republished the same work with additional information on his website Paul Budzik Monogram B17 Conversion. I wish I have the machining tools he has so I can create all the wonder metal replacement pieces that he had created. Regardless, I will do my best with what little I have.

Building the Kit

To build this kit, I’ve gathered some aftermarket goodies over the years in the hope to make this project easier. I will use the following aftermarket products:

  1. True Details resin B-17G interior sets
  2. True Details resin wheels for B-17
  3. Teknics resin R-1820 engine.
  4. Quickboost resin gun barrels
  5. Squadron vacuformed windows
  6. Superscale Decal No. 48-803

Hikin For Home

Using the Superscale decals, I will be building a natural metal finish B-17G called ‘Hikin For Home’, B-17G-35-DL. It was a Production Block 35 B-17G built by the Douglas-Longbeach factory. In my research on this aircraft, I discovered that many sources such as books and decal manufacturers had gotten the production block wrong! Even the below photo from the Squadron Signal Book on B-17 erroneously states it is a Block 25 aircraft. This cannot be correct! The reason is if its serial number is 42-107027 then, according to the B-17 production serial number log, it would have been a production block 35 from the Douglas-Longbeach factory. Also, if it were a block 25 from DL then the serial number should have been within the range of 42-37989 to 42-38083.

‘Hikin For Home’ had the staggered waist guns and the early tail turret. This aircraft entered service in Bassingbourn, England, on July 7, 1944. It had three different names when she flew with three different squadrons. It was “Anne” when she flew with the 324th Bomb Squadron. Then, she was “The Bloody Bucket” when she flew with the 401st Bomb Squadron. Finally, she was named “Hikin For Home” by Lt. David Hanst when she flew with the 322nd Bomber Squadron. She survived two forced landings in France and finished the war with 125 combat missions. Lt. D. Hanst gave it this name because “…that’s what we were looking forward to after each mission: hiking for home.”

In the Osprey book ‘B-17 Flying Fortress Units of the 8th’, this photo was taken in June 1944 when Hikin For Home was on exercise.

Tail Colour

When doing research on this aircraft, I found that there is only one or two full view photo of this aircraft. One of them is the above photo from the Squadron Signal book which shows this bomber of the 91st Bomb Group to only have a red tail fin but no red paint on the stabilizer fin and wingtips. The bombers of the 91st Bomb Group should have the fin, stabilizers and the wingtips paint in red. Refer to this website for the 91st Bomb Group Identification webpage for additional info. Refer to USAAF 8th Airforce Organisation website for the full breakdown of the 8th Airforce in Europe. Model Art’s book on the B-17 has a very handy unit colour chart for all the B-17 Groups and it also confirmed that planes of the 91stBG should have the tails painted in red as well as the wingtips.

The above photo of Hiking For Home was taken at a stage of its life when the stabilizer and wing tips were not painted. I am pretty confident that at some time later the aircraft would have been “standardized” for a bomber in the 91BG and the red tail and wingtip colour would have been painted on. As such, I will be choosing this conclusion as the basis to paint my model.

Installing True Details Resin Cockpit

I begin this project by sanding off all the raised panel line and rescribed a recessed panel line, along with recessed rivets. Then, I trial fit all the True Details resin sets for the interior of this bomber.

Generally, I am not apprehensive on installing resin cockpits, but this True Details set did make me feel nervous.

There are many wall panels and floor parts to mate up. There are barely any matching mark or locating tabs to help line things up and to indicate where each part was meant to be located. The vagueness of the instruction sheet on these sets also didn’t help to encourage me. Hence, I avoided working on this set for many years and opted to do something easier instead. Well enough of that, “Times a Wastin”, I’d just jump right in now.

The key to installing any resin sets is to continuously dry fitting the parts together: Trim the parts more, if necessary, to fudge and fit all the parts together. In doing so, I am mentally prepared to spend a few days just doing this.

Using a Dremel tool, I scraped off all the interior raised surfaces and support posts. After numerous dry fitting of the resin cockpit, I determined where the floor and bulkhead should go for the best fit. Then I glued on support and locating braces made from styrene bar stock to help future alignment and support the parts for further dry fitting.

After more dry fitting, I trimmed the resin cockpit wall panels to fit the cockpit flooring and I glued the wall panels to both sides of the cockpit.

Here we see the resin cockpit floor/bulkhead assembly look like when they are fitted together. The sidewalls and the floor do not fit together perfectly despite my best attempts. In some places where there are gaps, I have filled them with Tamiya putty and styrene shims, but I only do this only at locations where I think it can be seen through the windows.

A lot more test fitting and shaving of the resin parts and kit parts are required to fit the instrument panel into the fuselage.

The Bombardier and Navigator compartment at the front of the plane also benefited from the True Detail set. I opted to discard the resin wall panels and keep the kit’s moulded in ribs details because the resin panels are not properly curved to fit into the nose section and trying to fit those four panels to match all the openings and the floor would be difficult. I choose to scrape off all the moulded details on the starboard lower sides and rebuild the ribs myself. There I was able to incorporate some of the better resin wall details into the wall as well as adding the rectangular heating and ventilation duct. I’m a bit disappointed that some important details such as the bombardier’s turret control’s mounting, engine throttle quadrant, ammo boxes are not provided. I scratch-built these missing details and will add them to the floor after painting.

I trial fitted most of the pieces together into the fuselage. It’s looking good.

Radio Room

A good 50% of the radio room can be seen through the large overhead window panel from various angle of viewing. Hence it is definitely worth the effort to improve this area.

The first thing to go is the moulded in a blob of plastic that tried to simulate a table. I saw off the blob and the chair mounting stub. The holes on the floor are patched over with a thin sheet of styrene. I built a new table, chairs and radio from styrene. The radio gears on the back wall were not provided on the kit part. Hence, following the images on the reference photo, I built a new set of radio gears complete with handles, nobs and chart display. The resulting three-dimensional details I provided there really improved the look in this room. I noticed that when I look into this room from the top, I can see the bottom side walls are missing and that really destroys the effects. I scratch-built the bottom half of the sidewalls and made it such that the top of the walls will blend in with the kit’s moulded in ribs.

I have read that it was common to have the 50cal removed in the B-17G’s radio room as operational experience found that this gun was not effective. Just looking at the gun position and one could easily conclude that this gun position has a limited field of view for the gunner and a limited cone of fire. Further substantiative evident is on the YB-40, a testbed B-17 to test out the best gun combinations and positions to obtain the best defensive combinations, on which they replaced this 50 calibre gun in the radio room with a full gun turret.

Photo of YB-40 gunship testbed in 1943. Note the radio room gun is replaced with a gun turret which is far more effective.

The above reference photo of Hiking For Home appears to show that there is no gun protruding above the mid-fuselage. As such, I think it is justified for me to leave out the gun here and I have no need to build the ammo box in the radio room.

Staggered Waist Guns

Moving on to the waist windows, I have to reposition the starboard gun window forward to obtain the staggered arrangement typical on B-17G.

I prepared a filler plate cut from styrene sheet to fill in the kit’s starboard waist window. The filler plate was bent over the handle of a brush to obtain the curvature required to match the fuselage curvature. It is then glued into place with cyanoacrylate glue and I backfilled the gaps with thick cyano glue for the perfect seamless joint. Following reference photos, I relocated the new window forward of the fuselage to a rib along the first navigation light on the fin. I cut it out using my handy Dremel tool with a fine-tooth circular saw blade. Filling an opening and cutting out a new window is the easy part. The hard work is rebuilding the fuselage frames inside the fuselage.

Again, I used my Dremel tool with a ball sphere grinding tip at a low-speed setting and grind out all the raised details inside the fuselage near each waist windows. I used a #10 Xacto blade to scrape clean all the ground surfaces smooth. New fuselage frames from the True Detail’s Waist Gun resin set were glued around the window openings. They really saved me a lot of work and speed things up. Rest of the new fuselage framing was scratch built to fill in the spaces next to the resin frames to complete the upgrades. New details such as the walkways, ammo boxes, ammo feed belts, oxygen tanks, etc were all scratch built to go into this area of the fuselage to complete the look. That is all I’m going to do for detailing here. I can detail the hell out of this if I wanted to. But, if I can’t see it later then I won’t waste effort doing it.

Interior colours of B-17:

I cannot trust many of the details, such as colour, inside most reference photos of current B-17s as they are all restorations. Hence, from my research, I found that the interior colours of the period B-17 were:

  • Dull Dark Green (Model Master Euro 1 Dark Green FS34092 is a good match) in the cockpit, nose compartment, and radio room
  • Bare metal in the waist area, and
  • Bombay may be either bare metal finish or possibly neutral grey

Before I can start painting the interior of this bomber model, I must ensure that all my rescribing of the panel lines and the external surfaces are made as scratch-free as possible. Since this model will be painted in a natural metal finish, there must not be any scratches on the model as they will show up on the finished model. This model has many clear parts (windows) that must be attached before the fuselage halves are glued together. So, I need to minimise the amount of sanding later so that I don’t inadvertently coat the inside surfaces of the clear parts with sanding dust or cleaning water.

Although I’m experienced on rescribing panel lines I still make mistakes. This is the time now to fill those fine scratches and errant scribing lines with Tamiya putty and sand them smooth.

In below photos, I have sprayed the external surfaces of the fuselage with a light coat of grey primer mixed from Mr Surfacer 1000. The primer helped to show me where the errant scribing lines and scratches are.

My loyal modelling buddy taking a nap next to me.. in my B-17 box.. with parts in it which she might be crushing.

Landing Gear Bay

The landing gear bay provided by the kit is so oversimplified that it demands some improvements. Anything would be an improvement!

Kit’s landing gear well is just a panel to support the landing gear.

Following the reference photos, I cut off the kit’s panel just ahead of the gear strut attachment point. Then I build-up the inside ribs and bulkheads. Note also at this time, I built up the boxes to close up the air intakes on the edges of the wing to the turbocharger. The oil cooler air takes are closed up with a photo-edge wire mesh just as it is on the real plane.

The engine oil tank on the side of the landing gear well, in the above photo, is made with modelling putty and its straps are made from wine bottle metal wrapping. Once painted, they will look right when viewed from outside.

The top side of the landing gear well with its bulkheads and frames were built up to create the depth in this cavernous gear well. The turbocharger’s compressed air and exhaust piping were dutifully created. Only a few of the small piping are reproduced to create the illusion of “things” are in here. That is enough.

Here we see what it looks like when I put them all together. Much better than the kit’s landing gear well, I think.

I painted the landing gear bays in aluminium colour.

When I started this project, I knew there are many hurdles to leap and I committed myself to do this. At this stage of the project, I have to admit I am weary as I know there’s still much more to do. So pushing on, I started the painting and assembly process for the interior of the fuselage. Some of the floor panels in a B-17 were made from wood to save on weight and material. To paint the wood veneer for these surfaces, I use a photoedge wood grain paint mask. My strategy is to paint wood grain onto a large sheet of thin styrene sheet and then cut individual panels to glue onto the various walkways and desks. I first spray the styrene sheet with Model Master Dark Tan. Then, I overlay with the paint mask and spray Model Master Burnt Sienna for the wood grains. I can make the wood grains look soft or hard by adjusting the distance of the mask from the surface of the painting surface.

I painted the cockpit, the bombardier station and the radio operator room with a mix of 70% Model Master Euro Dark Green and 30% Interior Green. Although the padded surfaces in the cockpit are supposed to be olive drab in colour, I opted to keep the same green colour throughout as I found the olive drab colour do not look right under poor lighting conditions after the fuselage is closed up. I cut each wood grain panels for the desk and walkway surfaces and glue them to the cockpit surfaces.

Although I persevered and assembled the True Detailed interior sets, I did not enjoy using it. However, it does look pretty good when done and it helped me reduced the amount of scratch building I have to do. Surfaces on some of the resin parts are rough and had air bubbles in some places, hence, the painted appearance did not look good and was not gratifying. The pilot seat frames are so thin and brittle that they keep on breaking and I got sick of repeatedly repairing them. Worst of all, trying to fit the seat, oxygen bottles and those pesky motors under the seats was tiresome as they barely fit! I ended up fudging all of them together to get it done.

The kit’s clear parts are not easy to install. The image through the curved clear parts is badly distorted. I decided to replace the windshield, nose bubble, and the radio operator ceiling window with the Squadron’s vacuformed clear parts. To give the thin edges of vacuformed parts a place to glue to, I prepared the openings by glueing on thin-small strips of styrene support.

After spending so much time and effort working on the inside I want to be able to see the details when I close up the fuselage. The solution is to have enough lighting inside the model. I wired up the bombardier nose compartment, cockpit, radio operator’s compartment and the waist gunner compartment with mini-LED lights. The LED lights I used are lights for ladies dollhouses: They are perfect for scale models as well.

The tail wheel from the kit is highly simplified and is missing the wheel housing cover. The tail wheel cover is made up of a half hemispherical shell and a canvas cover. It is difficult to form the half hemispherical shell from styrene sheet without vacuforming a part. Instead, I looked around the house and try to find something that is similar in shape and size to what I need. I found a plastic packaging from a pack of light bulb that has the shape and size that suits my need. I cut the shape I need from the clear packaging and fit it to the internal fuselage at the tail wheel area.

To simulate the canvas fabric cover, I glued a piece of thin foil wrapper from a Ferrero Rocher chocolate to the inside surface of the tail wheel housing. The wrinkle of the wrapper looks just like the wrinkle on a fabric.

I needed the strength provided by the kit’s tail wheel part so I opted to add details to the kit’s tail wheel. It’s a compromise as it will not be absolutely correct but it will be strong!

The parts are painted and assembled in place.

The next difficult task is to make new windows for the waist gun openings. The kit provided the earlier style of windows which has frames through the middle of the window. The midlife and later model B-17Gs had the one-piece plexiglass which afforded the gunner better vision. I made the new plexiglass windows from a sheet of Squadron’s clear styrene. I cut a long strip of clear styrene and soaked it in a pot of boiling water to soften the plastic to bend it into a curve shape. I then cut the windows from the curved strip to fit the opening. Patience is required here as I had to make several tries until I get it right.

With the side windows and guns all installed, I am ready to close up the fuselage. This is the last unobstructed view of the interiors. But, thanks to the LED lights I installed I will still be able to see most of the details after the model is finished.

I am cursed with this project. I stepped on my expensive Squadron vacuformed canopy today. It has fold marks on the windscreen where none should be. I am done with this project and will pack it away forever. I am not going to spend more money to order expensive vacuform shit from the USA. Done.


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Tail turret recovered (Parts of) from the B-17 ‘Tondelayo’ that crashed in the Harwich estuary, been a long term project I have been helping with, nice to jump on to help someone else produce another B-17 turret, still a way to go but metalwork is my thing

The crew of an 8th Air Force B-17 has been recovered from a crash site in the Harwich Estuary.

The wreckage of B17G Flying Fortress 43-37516 'Tondalayo' was recovered from the River Stour by the US Army CHLLI team, led by Major Todd Heussner, and assisted by Royal Navy clearance divers. The sole objective was to recover the remains of the aircraft's missing pilot and co- pilot, Lt Col Earle J. Aber & Lt Maurice J. Harper.

Both men perished on the night of March 4th 1945, when their aircraft was shot down by British anti- aircraft defences .The tragedy unfolded around 9.15pm, when the Tondalayo , returning from a leaflet drop on Amsterdam, Rotterdam and Utrecht, was crossing inland over the east coast. At the same time two enemy aircraft, homeward bound after a sneak raid, were heading easterly at a lower altitude, which no doubt confused the defenders. At 12,000 feet, over Clacton-on-Sea, exploding shells set the aircraft alight in the area of the waist gun positions, severing control cables and injuring the Bombardier, Lt Connie Morton., who sustained injuries to his eyes and right leg. The aircraft rapidly descended to 8,000 feet, and was heading for an emergency landing at Woodbridge when the aircraft was hit again, crippling her further and this time injuring the tail gunner. It was at this point the 'bail out' order was given. All the crew abandoned the aircraft apart from Aber and Harper. Captain Stonerock (navigator) was the last crewman through the hatch at 5,000ft, and later reported that both Aber and Harper had their harnesses on, but not their chutes, so it can only be assumed that they had insufficient time or altitude to do so.
This all matt black special operations aircraft was attached to the 406th Night Leaflet Squadron based at Cheddington, and was the personal aircraft of the unit's commander, Lt Col Aber, being retained by him when the squadron converted to Liberators. Aber was on his 51st mission when he was shot down. Lt Harper had flown Spitfires with the RCAF, before volunteering for a tour on 'Heavies.'

Recovery work began on June 9th 2000, when a salvage barge was positioned on the crash site located on the low tide mark off Wrabness. First attempts at clearing the mud from the site using giant vacuum hoses were soon abandoned due to technical difficulties, primarily with pumps and filters becoming clogged by heavy clay in which the wreckage lay. The recovery continued with a large tracked excavator. The operator worked blindly as the site was only visible for short periods of time. A vast quantity of wreckage was eventually recovered using this method. Parts included one of the aircraft's Cyclone engines together with several super chargers, propeller blades and an undercarriage leg. It was established that the entire tail section and rear fuselage was compressed into little more than eight feet, all of which was painstakingly worked through and sorted until the remains of Lt Col Aber and Lt Harper were found in the area of the bomb bay. Work finally ceased on June 28th when it was thought that sufficient remains of both men had been found. DNA tests later carried out at the US Army Central Identification Laboratory in Hawaii proved their identity. Both men now share a joint grave in Arlington National Cemetery, with Colonel Aber having an additional grave at Cambridge in the American Cemetery.


'Locksted' in front of Cheyenne tail turret of B-17G - History

The cheek nose guns introduced on the late B-17F were retained, but were staggered so that the left gun was in the forward side window and the right gun was in the middle side window, which reversed the positions used on the late Fs. The cheek gun mounts bulged somewhat outward into the airstream, which helped to improve the forward view from the cheek gun positions. The forward chin installation and the associated cheek guns were first tested out on B-17F-115-BO 42-30631. Originally, the Bendix turret was to be introduced on the Boeing production line with F-135, but the changes were sufficient to justify a new series letter, and the F-135s became G-1.

The B-17G now had the defensive firepower of no less than thirteen 0.50-inch machine guns--two chin guns, two "cheek" guns, two guns in the dorsal turret, two guns in the ventral turret, two guns in the waist, two guns in the tail, and one gun in the roof of the radio operator's position.

The B-17G entered service with the Eighth and Fifteenth Air Forces in late 1943.

Camouflage paint was deleted from production B-17Gs starting in January of 1944. B-17Gs were delivered in natural metal finish starting in (but not at the beginning) of production blocks G-35-BO (Boeing), G-20-VE (Lockheed-Vega), and G-35-DL (Douglas-Long Beach).

The so-called "Cheyenne" tail gun mounting modifications were incorporated in the B-17G-80-BO, -45-DL, -35-VE and subsequent batches. These tail gun mountings also had a reflector gunsight instead of the previous ring and bead. With this installation, these B-17Gs were five inches shorter than the earlier versions.

On later production versions, it was found necessary to stagger the waist gun positions so that the two gunners would not get in each other's way.

On the last production batches (B-17G-105 and -110-BO, B-17G-75 to -85-DL, and B-17G-85 to -110-VE), the radio compartment gun was not installed. The ammunition capacity of the waist guns was increased to 600 rpg.

When production terminated in 1945, a total of 4035 B-17Gs had been built by Boeing, 2395 by Douglas, and 2250 by Lockheed-Vega.

The last Boeing-built B-17G was delivered on April 13, 1945.

B-17G-1-VE 42-38940 was redesignated XB-17G when assigned to test work. It was not a prototype.

Specification of B-17G:

Four Wright R-1820-97 Cyclone radials with general Electric B-22 turbosuperchargers, each rated at 1200 hp for takeoff and 1000 hp at 25,000 feet, with a war emergency power of 1380 hp at 26,700 feet.

Maximum speed 263 mph at 25,000 feet, 300 mph at 30,000 feet (war emergency).

Cruising speed 150 mph at 25,000 feet.

Landing speed 90 mph Initial climb rate 900 feet per minute. An altitude of 20,000 feet could be attained in 37 minutes.

Service ceiling 35,000 feet.

Range 1850 miles with 4000 pounds of bombs at 25,000 feet with 2810 gallons of fuel. Dimensions: Wingspan 103 feet 9 3/8 inches, length 74 feet 9 inches, height 19 feet 1 inches, wing area 1420 square feet.

Weights: 32,720 pounds empty, 55,000 pounds normal loaded, 72,000 pounds maximum. Normal fuel load was 2520 US gallons, but extra fuel tanks could be installed which raised total fuel capacity to 3612 US gallons.


Blog topic: B-17 Bomber Models



1/72 scale model kit of a B-17D bomber made by Academy.

The earliest B-17 in my 1/72 scale model collection is a B-17D, which is a kit manufactured by Academy. The D model is distinguished from later models in that both the rudder and tail end of the fuselage were thinner, there was no rear gunner's position, and the belly gunner was in a tub rather than a turret.

The B-17 F was a much more substantial aircraft than the D model. I have the 1/72 scale Revell model kit of the Memphis Belle, the famous B-17F that finished twenty-five bombing missions and was sent back to the United States to do a war bond tour. The B-17F had a much heavier tail section, and had a rear gunner's position with twin machine guns. The vertical stabilizer was also more substantial, with an extended fillet from the rudder, extending back up the spine of the fuselage. The nose of the B-17F also was elongated as compared to the D model and the Sperry ball turret replaced the gunner's tub in the belly.



1/72 scale model kit of a B-17F bomber made by Revell.

The latest addition to my model collection is a Boeing B-17G kit, manufactured by MPC, and is the third in my series of B-17s . It has a turret under the front nose to fend off frontal attacks. The earlier E and F models had one or two machine guns mounted in the plexiglas which made them difficult to operate.

The G model also had two machine guns in the chin, one on either side of the nose. The G series put a solid, power assisted turret on the nose that had twin 50 caliber machine guns that were aligned so that it had a lot more fire power. Although technically not the final version, it was both the most produced version and the last to be produced in large numbers. There were, however, additional modifications made to the G version, the most notable being the Cheyenne turret on the tail.



1/72 scale model kit of a B-17G bomber from the Profile Series by MPC. This model has Bendix chin turrets and Cheyenne tail turret.

The Cheyenne turret was installed after the aircraft left the manufacturing plant. The newly manufactured aircraft would fly to Cheyenne, Wyoming to have the turret installed – hence the name Cheyenne turret. The tail gunner's position was enlarged to improve visibility and a turret was added that had a powered control and a wider range of movement for the twin machine guns.

Another modification made to the B-17Gs that wasn't visible, was the addition of more fuel tanks in the wings. These tanks were called the Tokyo tanks because they would presumably give the B-17 enough range to fly from Seattle, all the way to Tokyo. Of course that's only one way, and they never were actually flown to Tokyo.


42-31763

A B-17G Flying Fortress nicknamed "Ten Horsepower" (TU-A, serial number 42-21763) of the 351st Bomb Group, piloted by Second Lieutentant Walter E Treumper and Sergeant Archibald Mathies, after the pilot was severley injured. Truemper and Mathies unsucessfully attempted to land the aircraft at Polebrook and were posthumously awarded the Medal of Honour for their bravery, 20 Feb 1944. Handwritten caption on reverse: 'Enlargement TU-A. TCU Holsford, MOH acraft.'

A B-17G Flying Fortress nicknamed "Ten Horsepower" (TU-A, serial number 42-21763) of the 351st Bomb Group, piloted by Second Lieutentant Walter E Treumper and Sergeant Archibald Mathies, is guided by a fellow aircraft after the pilot was severley injured. Truemper and Mathies unsucessfully attempted to land the aircraft at Polebrook and were posthumously awarded the Medal of Honour for their bravery, 20 Feb 1944. Handwritten caption on reverse: 'Over Polebrook, MOH action. 2/44. Ten Horsepower.'

A B-17G Flying Fortress nicknamed "Ten Horsepower" (TU-A, serial number 42-21763) of the 351st Bomb Group, piloted by Second Lieutentant Walter E Treumper and Sergeant Archibald Mathies, is guided by a fellow aircraft after the pilot was severley injured. Truemper and Mathies unsucessfully attempted to land the aircraft at Polebrook and were posthumously awarded the Medal of Honour for their bravery, 20 February 1944. Handwritten caption on reverse: 'Polebrook, B-17G, TU-A. 20/2/44, 351BG. MOH AC down.' Second handwritten on reverse: 'Truemper, 20/2/44, 351.'

Crew of the B-17 42-31763, "Ten Horsepower", 351st BG, 510th BS. Back Row, L-R: S/Sgt. Archibald Mathies Sgt. Joseph F. Rex Sgt. Carl W. Moore Sgt, RussellR. Robinson Sgt. Thomas R. Sowell Sgt. Magnus A. Hagbo. Front Row, L-R: 2nd. Lt. Clarence R. Nelson F/O Ronald E. Bartley 2nd. Lt. Walter E. Truemper 2nd. Lt. Joseph R. Martin.

Delivered Denver 12/12/43 Gt Falls 16/12/43 Denver 21/12/43 Kearney 1/1/44 RAF Nutts Corner 14/1/44.

Assigned 510BS/351BG [TU-A] Polebrook 30/1/44.

Battle damaged Leipzig 20/2/44 with Clarry Nelson [wia, but died in crash], Co-pilot: Roland Bartley, Navigator: Walter Truemper post award, MOH, Flight engineer/top turret gunner: Archie Mathies post award - MOH (4 Killed in Action). Bombardier: Joe Martin (Prisoner of War) Radio Operator: Joe Rex, Ball turret gunner: Carl Moore, Waist gunner: Tom Sowell, Waist gunner: Russ Robinson, Tail gunner: Magnus Hagbo (5 Returned to Duty): awards for attempting to land aircraft with wounded man aboard after others bailed out, ship crashed near Gt. North Road at Glatton, Northamptonshire, UK nearby on fourth attempt to land at base.

On 20th February 1944, a Polebrook based USAAF B-17 'Flying Fortress' named "Ten Horsepower", on a mission over Leipzig in Germany, was attacked by a ME109 German fighter. A cannon shell exploded in the cockpit, killing the co-pilot F/O Bartley, and injuring the pilot, 2nd Lt. Nelson. The bomber then went in to a spiral dive. The bombardier Lt. Joe Martin came in to the cockpit, levelled the aircraft out, and not seeing anyone alive, decided to bailout. The flight engineer and ball turret gunner, Staff Sgt. Archie Mathies, helped by 2nd Lt. Walter Truemper, the navigator, took over the controls and began the flight home. Many of the windows were missing, and they were attacked again during the return flight.

When they finally reached Polebrook Airfield, Sgt. Mathies made two unsuccessful attempts to land. He was then ordered to gain height so that all the crew could parachute down. Five of the crew jumped, Mathies and Truemper chose to stay with the pilot, Lt. Nelson who was still alive. In its final minutes, the B-17 was travelling too fast and it bounced, then hit the side of "Red Hill", disintegrated, and came to rest in front of the small wood on the summit of the hill. Mathies and Truemper died instantly. The injured pilot, Lt. Nelson, died shortly afterwards".


B-17 43-37883 "Blue Streak" Goes Down

M/Sgt Lew Funk identified this picture as B-17G 43-38363 Flying Fortress, the "Powerful Poodle" which was his friend T/Sgt. Shephard G. Litsey's aircraft. He remembered this as the picture he took of Litsey's ship getting blown out of the sky in right in front of him on November 5, 1944.

However other experts have identified this as B-17G 43-37883 "Blue Streak" of the 834th Bomb Squadron, 486th BG.

On further research I believe this is indeed the "Blue Streak" and that somewhere over the years my Dad mixed up this picture with the one he took of Litsey's crash. My oldest brother remembers Dad showing him the print of a different picture that Dad said was Litsey's crash. Dad could never really look at this picture after I scanned the negative because it represented such an emotional event for him. I suspect that when I showed it to him, he quickly related it to Litsey's crash and never really examined the details.

Here are the original comments from the Flickr Community that led to this conclusion:

T/Sgt. Shephard G. Litsey's aircraft. B-17G 43-38363 Flying Fortress, the "Powerful Poodle"

Taken by M/Sgt Lew Funk abord ship 44-8271 Piloted by Hammersley

Comments From Flickr Community

coach_dave2002 (September 3, 2011)

Are you sure this caption is correct? The description doesn't seem to match what's on the Valor to Victory site.

"Just after bombs away, this aircraft received a direct hit which destroyed the tail section. The plane went into a steep climb to the right, then into a flat spin. Then the aircraft went into a steep dive. Two chutes were reported. "

And the aircraft in the picture do not appear to have 34th BG markings.

John Funk from Golden Colorado (September 6, 2011)

You point out interesting dependencies. I have a first hand account from the photographer who took this picture, M/Sgt. Lewis Funk, that this is a picture of Litsey's ship going down. Lewis Funk, my father, was a close friend of T/Sgt. Litsey. They were both photographers who served together since the time they were in training at Blythe CA.

The mission logs from M/Sgt. Lewis Funk from that day state:

11-5-44 Ludwigshafen Germany, Marshalling Yards Terrific Accurate Flak Litsey's ship had its tail shot off no chutes Pilot Hemmersly, Ship #271, Time 7:00

coach_dave2002 (September 7, 2011)

Well it is hard to argue with the guy who was there! Still I wonder if Lew ever flew with other groups? Or if this particular b-17 of the 34th was a recent transplant from another BG and retained it's original markings? Hmmmm?

coach_dave2002 (September 7, 2011)

I knew I saw this photograph before. Page 78 of "The history of the US Airforce" by David. A. Anderton, Cresent Books. It bears the caption

Over the notorious Merseburg oil refinery on November 2, 1944 this B-17G of the 486th BG had its entire nose torn off by heavy flak. The No. 2 engine was also blown off, and its propeller can be seen spinning away."

The markings of the accompanying aircraft are consistent with the 486th BG for November 44 (Square with W on right wing). Of course a caption in a book is no proof.

John Funk from Golden Colorado (September 8, 2011)

I'll check out that book reference that is very interesting and it's good to know more about aircraft markings. I'll see if I can get more of stories about this picture from my Dad.

In case you don't know, you can zoom in further on this image for a little more detail. The largest size I can post is available at: www.flickr.com/photos/johnfunk/5463671368/siz es/o/in/phot.

This is B-17G serial 43-37883 (coded 2S-T) of the 834th Bomb Squadron, 486th BG. The photo was taken 2 November 1944 during the Merseburg mission (MACR 10168).

The remarks in the 40-page report state, "A/C 883 received a direct hit just after bombs away. There was an explosion and the plane broke into many flaming pieces. no parachutes were seen. SGT Bacon saw two men come out of the plane. He couldn't say whether they had jumped or been blown clear. He saw no chutes."

Eyewitnesses listed in the report are SGT John E. Bacon, 2LT Erling R. Chappelle and 2LT Ralph L. Clinard it would take more digging to find their crew assignments and position in the formation. Most of the report is recovered Luftwaffe documents which describe the wings as 99% destroyed, fuselage 80%. Dates on the forms range from November '44 to January '45, possibly alluding to the fact that the recovery may have been prolonged due to scattered remains. All crew were KIA:

2LT Eugene F. Schmidt - Copilot

1LT William H. Beeson - Navigator

2LT Walter A. Rousky - Bombardier

CPL John Y. McGill - Flight engineer/top turret

SGT Nicholas D. Puglia - Radio operator

SGT John C. Burch - Ball turret

SGT Calvin B. Herrick - Waist gunner

SGT Warren L. Rudiger - Tail turret

John's Futher Research has found the following:

Page 63 of "B-17 Flying Fortress Units of the Eighth Airforce Part 2" by Martin Bowman which can be found at


Watch the video: World Of Warplanes - B-17G Gameplay Specialist Hell (January 2022).