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Deadly Queen of the Skies

“Flying Fortress: Deadly Queen of the Skies… pride of the Army Air Forces” — WWII poster from the Office of War Information. Source: U.S. National Archives and Records Administration.

B-17 Flying Fortress: Deadly Queen of the Skies... pride of the Army Air Forces

B-17E Recognition

U.S. War Department WWII Recognition Guide for the B-17E Flying Fortress:

B-17E Flying Fortress Recognition Drawing

DISTINGUISHING FEATURES: Four-engine, low-wing monoplane. Wings equally tapered with rounded tips and full dihedral. Long, narrow fuselage. Gun turret on top of fuselage just aft of pilot’s cockpit enclosure. Large ventral turret aft of wings. Tail has broad single fin and rudder with fin faired far forward into fuselage. Large stabilizer and elevator, similar in shape to the wing.

INTEREST: Designed for high altitude, daytime precision bombing of restricted targets, the B–17 was the first long-range American bomber. Intended primarily for long flights over the Pacific, great fuel capacity rather than tremendous bomb load was emphasized in the individual design. It now does effective work, however, for the Army Air Forces in raids at shorter range in Europe, North Africa, and in the Southwest Pacific. The relative lack of armament characterizing early models is now corrected so it is possible on some missions to operate under the protection of its own guns without fighter escort. The early models, B–17 to B–17D had a much smaller fin with straight leading edge intersecting the fuselage back of the L.E. of the stabilizer.

Delayed Action

Strange tale (tail?) from Air Force, April 1943.


CREWMEN of a B-17 had a surprise recently while flying over a quiet sector of England when a 20 mm. shell exploded in the left horizontal stabilizer. They had reason to be surprised. There wasn’t an enemy plane in sight.

After the big bomber had landed, Captain Henry J. Schmidt, an engineering officer with the Eighth Air Force, began investigating. He found that the B-17 had been carrying the shell around ever since it had attacked German installations in France some three weeks before. During that attack the shell had pierced the stabilizer without exploding. The hole it made was subsequently repaired, but without knowledge on anyone’s part that the missile was still in the ship.


Wings of Freedom Tour Visits New Orleans

Wings of Freedom Tour Collings FoundationThe Wings of Freedom Tour visits New Orleans with vintage aircraft including P-51 Mustang, Consolidated B-24 Liberator “Witchcraft”, and Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress “Nine O Nine”. The Collings Foundation’s Wings of Freedom Tour will be at Lakefront Airport from March 9th to March 11th.

Details from “Hours of ground tours and display are: 2:00 PM through 5:00 PM on Friday, March 9; 9:00 AM through 5. Also on display will be a P-51 Mustang. Visitors are invited to explore the aircraft inside and out – $12 for adults and $6 for children under 12 is requested for access to up-close viewing and tours through the inside of the aircraft. WWII Veterans can tour through the aircraft at no cost. Discounted rates for school groups. Visitors may also experience the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to actually take a 30-minute flight aboard these rare aircraft. Flights on either the B-17 or B-24 are $425 per person. Get some ‘stick time’ in the world’s greatest fighter! P-51 flights are $2,200 for a half hour and $3,200 for a full hour.”

Words from the Wing Wise

Tips from bomber gunners to prevent guns and gunners from freezing during missions from a special edition of Army Talks, “Stars over the Reich,” published for the officers and men of the Eighth Air Force.


These tips on preventing frozen guns and gunners come from gunners who were on operations last winter.

How to Keep Your Guns from Freezing

Thorough cleaning before and after every mission is point number one. Remove all moisture and powder deposits, especially from the bolt recesses. Firing pin port and receiver (especially extractor switch recess and front barrel bearing) should be thoroughly cleaned, dried and then properly oiled with AXS 777 (new specification number—2-120). Leave only a light film of oil. And keep oil cans tightly closed to keep out dust and foreign matter.

Keep your gun and gunner from freezing

A canvas bag will keep recoiling parts dry while they’re being carried to the plane.

Charge your gun just before or just after take-off (whichever is your Group’s policy). If your gun freezes when unloaded you’re stuck. If it’s loaded the recoil will loosen any frozen parts.

Test-fire at bombing altitude. If you can charge the gun but it won’t fire, hold the trigger back while the parts slam forward into battery—this sometimes loosens frosted parts. Only charge the gun when you have to; it lets cold moist air in to the recoiling parts. If the extractor switch is frozen, charging may result in an out-of-battery stoppage.

How to Keep Yourself from Freezing

Use the correct equipment and wear clothing as it says on the posters. Clothing should fit loosely, as air insulates, and your blood circulates better.

Keep dry. If your feet get wet, change your socks before take-off. Don’t Work around the plane in too heavy clothing before take-off, as sweat increases the danger of frostbite.

Pre-flight your heated suit. The connection in the plane may be out of order. Only turn your heated-suit rheostat up far enough so you are just warm enough to keep you from being miserable. Be sure to have fleece-lined clothing in case the suit goes permanently out of order. If it does, keep moving the parts of your body that don’t have heat, flexing the muscles, wiggling your fingers and toes. And it’s a good idea to have extra heated gloves and cords.

Wear mufflers or bath towels around your knees, neck and anywhere else that gets cold. Goggles and canvas or wool hoods are available, and they sure are handy if the plexiglass is broken near you.

If you have to take off your heated glove at altitude don’t remove the glove liner. Don’t leave any part of your body exposed for more than a few seconds. Remember, at 40 below zero you may freeze a hand badly enough to lose a finger before you feel any pain or realize anything’s wrong.


Memphis Belle Departs for Home

The famous B-17 Flying Fortress “Memphis Belle” and her crew depart England for home.


Give Us More B-17’s

A dynamic U.S. Army poster from WWII recounting a successful mission by the B-17 Flying Fortress in Europe against the Luftwaffe.

Give Us More B-17s WWII US Army War Poster

Idiots’ Delight

Color photograph of the B-17 Flying Fortress “Idiots’ Delight” of Eighth Air Force in England. The original caption states the M/Sgt is Penrose A. Bingham of Reading, Pennsylvania. The B-17 “Idiots’ Delight” served with the 332nd Bomb Squadron, 94th Bomb Group and later with the 710th Bomb Squadron, 447th Bomb Group. (U.S. Air Force Photograph.)

B-17 Nose Art -- Idiots Delight

B-17 Flying Fortress "Idiots' Delight" (U.S. Air Force Photo.)

B-17 “Chuckie” Moves to Military Aviation Museum

Chuckie B-17 Flying FortressThe B-17 Flying Fortress “Chuckie” is moving from the Vintage Flying Museum in Fort Worth, Texas to the Military Aviation Museum in Virginia Beach, Virginia. The B-17 “Chuckie” was used for cropdusting until 1979. Owned by Chuckie Hospers, the B-17 was purchased by Don Anklin for permanent display at the Military Aviation Museum. The museum plans on sending the aircraft to American Aero in Florida for restoration work after which the B-17 returns to the museum.

See: Rare WWII Bomber Finds New Home in Virginia Beach


Fortress of the Sky

Boeing color film from 1943 telling the story of the B-17 Flying Fortress.

“Here is the story of the B-17. THE FLYING FORTRESS. The research, engineering and production genius which built this airplane has since given America its great new aerial weapon… the BOEING B-29 SUPERFORTRESS.”

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