Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress
The Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress was the bomber of bombers because it was designed as an aerial fortress to fight and bomb. It could receive horrendous battle damage and still bring its crew home.
In 1990, at my CAF Hill Country squadron, I chatted with Werner Seitz, formerly of KG-200, about what it was like to attack a B-17.
Werner exclaimed, "Mein Gott in himmel, it was like trying to have intimate relations with a hornets nest. And, it was nearly impossible to shoot down, and if you could, it was probably shooting you down."
Especially when the G model was introduced. From any position on just one B-17G, there would be five to eight fifty-caliber machine-guns shooting at you. He said the two planes the Germans did not like to fight, P-51 Mustang or B-17 "Festung." Dreaded most was to see both in the air together bearing down on German airspace.
One of the United States' two standard heavy bombers. Wing to wing with B-24 Liberators, B-17s were used by the US Eighth Air Force based in the UK, to bombard German targets in Europe during daylight hours a method which resulted initially in very heavy losses.
The Pearl Harbor attack of December 7, 1941 finally brought the United States into the war. By July 1942 the US began forming the Eighth Air Force in Britain, equipped with B-17Es. The 'E' represented an important improvement over the earlier B-17s, in that it had a tail gun position, so eliminating a previous defensive blind spot. On August 17,1942 United States B-17s carried out a bombing raid on the railway yards at Rouen in France. The real offensive, however, started on January 27,1943, when B-17s of the USAAF made their first attack on Germany. Initially, casualties were very high because they attacked during daylight hours to achieve greater accuracy and because a particular flight formation called a "Box" (to enable a group of airplanes to defend each other with crossfire) had not yet been formulated. Delivery of the B-17G (the major production version) helped. The 'G' was the first variant to have a gun turret under the nose, so increasing the armament to 13 guns.
On 19 July 1943 US B-17s and B-24 Liberators carried out the first bombing raid on Rome; and US bombing in Europe reached its high point in February 1945 with a 1,000-bomber raid on Berlin, escorted by 400 fighters, and the Dresden raid (alongside the Royal Air Force) which caused a massive fire storm to sweep the city.
The B-17G specifications included a span of 103 feet 9 inches, length of 74 feet 4 inches, and a height of 19 feet 1 inch. The four factory-fresh supercharged Wright R-1820-97 Cyclones delivered 1,200 hp and gave a new Flying Fortress the top speed of 287 mph, cruising at 182 mph. Service ceiling was 35,600 feet, with a range of 3,400 miles. Empty and gross weights were 36,135 pounds and 55,000 pounds. Maximum fuel load was 3,630 gallons.
Cargo conversions of the B-17 were known as C-108 .
Boeing B-17E Flying Fortress, circa early 1943
G Model B-17 Flying Fortress
Note the 'chin' machine-gun turret. Also the planes were no longer painted to save weight