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BOEING B-17 FLYING FORTRESS - ELGIN 562

THE CLOCK

Elgin made this model of clock between 1931 and 1954. It was made to give time, not as a navigation instrument. It has the basic 7 rubies and a barrel with power for 8 days.

 

THE PLANE

The B-17B started to work in 1939, despite the successive improvements, until version E it wasn’t suitable for combat. It was added a bigger direction rudder to improve de maneuverability at great heights, and it was improved in weaponry with a ventral turret.

 

The use of the B17 in Europe started in 1942 in massive formations that protected themselves from the fighters by the fire concentration of their weapons, until Germans discovered their weakness point, frontage attack, despite the front cannon.

 

American crews when they saw for first time the Germans attacking them, it was always front attack and from up to down. “Bandits at twelve o’clock high” was the first signal that there was danger.

 

The normal losses were between 10% and 15% every mission, this meant that mathematically a crew lasted from 7 to 10 missions. The 17th of August of 1943, out of the 376 planes that went out to bomb Germany, 60 were taken down, 100 were damaged, and 35 were irreparable. The crew members were rotated every 25 missions, but who lasted 25 missions?.

 

In 1944 the G version with improvements in defense, and specially the introduction of the P-51 Mustang, a long range escort fighter, made possible the bombing on German territory with great success, lowering the losses to a 3%.

 

In total 12,700 planes were built. The crew was composed of 2 pilots, Navigator, Radio, Bomber, and the 5 cannon operators, the top one was also mechanic, adding up a total of 10 members.

 

THE COCKPIT

The wide and luminous cockpit was divided in three parts. In the left the hydraulic and electric switches, in the center the primary flight and radio instruments, and in the right the motor parameters.

The only problem was the cockpit access, when entering by the front, pilots had to come in through a 61cm (24 inches) side square that was 1.80 meters off the floor, and with all the flight equipment, you had to be an athlete to go in, they have to pull themselves up like chinning oneself through he nose hatch or just go disgraceful by the back entry.

 

THE "MEMPHIS BELLE" OR THE "HELL´S ANGELS"

Although it was only for 3 days the first B-17 to complete the 25 missions was the “HELLS ANGELS”, but for propaganda reasons a legend was generated with the Memphis Belle, who is believed to be the first.

Anyway to return home victorious after 25 missions was something incredible for those times when loses was close to 30% in much missions. The 25 Memphis Belle´s missions was flown in 7 months between the 1st of November of 1942 and the 25th of May of 1943. The mission number 26 was the flight back home. The crew who returned to United States for a barnstorming tour of 31 cities was picked by the Eight Air Force from the larger group that had flown the Belle, not the original crew.

A fact that can show us the toughness of these missions is that during these 7 months, the Memphis Belle changed 9 motors, both wings, the landing gear twice and the tail twice too.

The pilot in command, Captain Morgan, once completed the 25 missions could have gone home, but he chose to fly the B-29 and complete another 25 missions in the Pacific. He had to be convinced to leave flight on the front line.

This information is from the amazing book MASTERS OF THE AIR by DONALD L. MILLER, in my opinion one of the best book ever written about the Eight Air Force.

 

 

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