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Boeing B-17G Flying Fortress — a walkaround

7 October 2011

Boeing B-17G Flying Fortress — a walkaround

30º 28′  00″ N / 86º 33′ 41″ W

U.S. Air Force Armament Museum

The Flying Fortress received its name due to the original mission for which it was built and not for its ruggedness and almost seeming indifference to battle damage. Her conventional gear and unpressurized fuselage date the design to the 1930s. Gun turrets and gun positions in windows or fuselage cut outs may have been crude in concept but the numbers of 0.50″ caliber Browning machine guns made for fearsome lethality to attacking fighters.

She was intended to patrol out far and wide, armed with bombs if necessary, to take the place of land based installations, forts in other words, hence her name Flying Fortress. Flying out hundreds of miles over the nation’s (USA’s) bordering oceans it was envisioned by some air power advocates to supplant the battleship navy (along with the prestige and funding that goes with that position) in its strategic role of defending the shores, as well as projecting force. What would become the U.S. Air Force was not the only national armed force which had these advocates and such is the reality with new weapons — they are game changers while some view them as only new pieces on the board of the same game.

Of course, it would not be until WW II that the premise of sinking moving and maneuvering ships with horizontal bombing from on high would prove to be almost entirely fruitless. That, however, left land targets which did not move. Famous and as accurate as the Norden bombsight was, and it could be very accurate, bombing of land based targets became largely statistical by having a large number of bombers drop as many bombs as possible.

Boeing’s B-17 Flying Fortress was used in numbers, at times well into the hundreds at a time, during WW II both in the Europe and the Pacific Theaters. The Flying Fort gained her reputation for absorbing punishment, and love from her crews, primarily in Europe as it was there that stories of the aircraft surviving flack and fighter onslaughts occurred with regularity. There is a photo of a B-17 that was flown back with the entire nose either blown or torn away, another of a missing vertical stabilizer, and another where a Luftwaffe wing has nearly severed the tail from the fuselage. Incredible accomplishments of the crew as well as this aircraft they flew.

This B-17 can be identified easily as the G-model by its unique chin turret, unmanned but remotely controlled by the bombardier or the navigator. The cheek gun to either side of the nose had been there with the F-model and all combined to blunt attacks from the front, which had been the weakest zone defended. There was also a top turret as well as manually operated gun positions to the rear of the flight deck — each waist position as well as the tail gun position. Finally, there is the ventral position — the ball turret gunners combat station — manned by brave men of small stature fully exposed to enemy fire and flak. The aircraft, in its G-model variant, had a respectable defensive armament total of 12 heavy caliber machine guns.

Boeing B-17G at the U.S. Air Force Armament Museum — photo by Joseph May

Head on the B-17 had up to eight heavy caliber machine guns that could be brought to bear — photo by Joseph May

Rear quarter view of the Flying Fortress, not the tail gun position as well as waist, ball turret and top turret positions — photo by Joseph May

The Flying Fortress has broad and graceful wings — photo by Joseph May

Left side portrait of the B-17G — photo by Joseph May

The chin turret marks the G-model apart from the earlier models — photo by Joseph May

Pasting the name of the museum, U.S. Air Force Armament Museum, will bring to posts about my visit there as well as other aircraft displayed there.

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