This page deals with articles exclusively or primarily about the B-17 or having sections devoted to the B-17. Histories and reports, even though they may discuss some B-17 actions, are handled on other pages, as are such general topics as strategy, armament, instruments, engines, and use of air power.
Since my sources are primarily industry trade magazines, there are relatively few action stories.
The articles which were responsible for all this getting started were two Design Analysis articles, one in Aviation and one in Industrial Aviation.
A very interesting and detailed series of articles explained the differences and accommodations involved in having Boeing, Douglas and Vega all building B-17F, and later B-17G, planes with virtually complete interchangeability of key components.
Because of its prominence in (especially the European) war effort, the Flying Fortress was featured, or mentioned, in a wide range of contemporary articles. Prominent among these were Aviation magazine's "War Communique America at War" series, a monthly description of the ongoing situation. For the same reason, the Flying Fortress was usually featured in articles decrying the deficiencies of our warplanes or the articles refuting them.
A wide range of other articles featured the Flying Fortress:
An article, "Down to Rio with the GHQ", [ PDF, 4.8 MiB ] , [ HTML ], describes a "show the flag" flight of B-17Bs to South America. The article includes two photos of B-17Bs.
A Wright Aeronautical ad, "US Army Air Corps Salute Brazil" includes a map of the flight and a photo of a formation of B-17Bs over Rio de Janeiro, with Sugar Loaf in the background.
"Wright Field, Heart of the Army Air Corps", [ PDF, 3.5 MiB ] , [ HTML ], features photos of a B-17B.
Major General Arnold described "The New Army Air Force" [ PDF, 2.1 MiB ] , [ HTML ], in an article that included a photo of an early model B-17.
"Where Are Those Profits?" [ PDF, 4.7 MiB ] , [ HTML ] gives breakdowns on the outsourcing of materials and subassemblies on the Flying Fortress and a Beechcraft trainer.
This was one of the first of a number of articles and editorials produced during the war to counter claims of war profiteering by the aircraft companies. Much of the attitude behind those claims was probably based on the fact that the War Department chose to direct money toward developing an air force instead of funneling it all into battleships, tanks, artillery and bayonets.
"New Eagles for the Army" [ PDF, 12.2 MiB ] , [ HTML ] describes several new warplanes (in 1941) including the B-17E; a photo shows B-17Cs.
"Waiting for the Blitzkrieg A Letter from London" [ PDF, 5.8 MiB ] , [ HTML ]includes a photo of RAF B-17Cs (Fortress I) sent to England on Lend-Lease.
An article describing activities at "San Antonio Air Depot" [ PDF, 14.6 MiB ] , [ HTML ] shows modification work being done to bring older airframes up to B-17D standards.
"248 Factories Build the Flying Fortress" [ PDF, 6.8 MiB ] , [ HTML ] describes Boeing's outsourcing (called subcontracting in those days) policies and processes for building Flying Fortresses.
Brigadier General Kenney's article "Our Warplanes are Best!" [ PDF, 10.8 MiB ] , [ HTML ] is an early, official counter to complaints about the quality and performance of American warplanes.
It should be remembered that this article was written before American-designed and -built planes had seen much actual combat. The concern at the time and for some time later was the effect on morale of aircrew trainees and the potential impact on enlistment of the negative articles being written at the time.
Early exposure of US warplanes to combat, anecdotes of bravery and virtuoso fighting performances notwithstanding, did not yield sterling results. American planes were specified and designed to fight a particular kind of war in a particular operational structure. Those particulars turned out not to be the same as the war that was ultimately fought. The RAF, which did most of the fighting with American-designed and -built planes before Pearl Harbor, had a different operational structure than the USAAC and, as a result, did not use the planes so as to maximize their abilities. So the B-17 was considered a "flaming coffin" or "flying target" until feedback from the fighting front led to the changes that made the B-17E an effective air warrior. The American practice of using crews with highly integrated training contributed considerably to the improved success of the B-17 in combat, as did the system of production and post-production modifications that culminated in the B-17G.
It seems to have been a characteristic American trait to feel inferior to the Europeans and to resent the feeling and therefore act in the brash fashion that created the stereotype American image. Some of that, some one-upsmanship by some Brits, some resentment that the highly-touted (and rather expensive) planes we shipping over there didn't make everything better right away, and some attitude that we shouldn't have let ourselves be dragged into another European war, were probably all factors in creating a lot of negative press about American planes. The reaction to this came in the form of what I call here "morale pieces" articles with photos, spec-sheet numbers and anecdotes of successful encounters designed to create a more favorable and optimistic attitude among the American public toward the war effort.
It must be remembered that in the first year after Pearl Harbor, the war was still in doubt. It was mandatory to get the American public and workforce on board with the war program. Apart from the necessity to ramp up to the largest military production capability in history, civilian support of the military effort was critical; the Italians were already showing the effect on an army when the civilian population doesn't support the war they are waging. The Doolittle raid and the Battle of Midway stopped Japanese expansion toward our West Coast, but the first offensive actions over Europe (which was considered the greater threat and got most of the attention, both military and press) didn't occur until mid-1942 and the invasion of Africa not until November. With the dearth of good news from the fronts, it was necessary to counteract the negative views that were being disseminated. Hence, the "morale pieces."
"Seventy Percent Ahead of Schedule" [ PDF, 4.3 MiB ] , [ HTML ] describes Boeing's output spurt in the wake of Pearl Harbor.
"Our Planes Can Fight!", by Ohio Representative D W Harter, [ PDF, 9.5 MiB ] , [ HTML ] emphasized the performance of the much-maligned P-40 and of the B-17 in the Pacific theater. His article had the added value of appeal to authority in that he was a member of the House Military Affairs Committee and thereby had access to "secret" information.
A news clip, "Piloting Skill Saves Fortress", [ PDF, 1.7 MiB ] , [ HTML ] made a nice good-news piece, describing a successful landing of a B-17 with a flat tire.
"American Airplanes On the European Battlefronts" [ PDF, 6.5 MiB ] , [ HTML ], by Aviation's British correspondent, seems to be another morale piece, but written in light of American planes having got some combat exposure. The article mentions the extensive press exposure in Britain that the Fortress received.
"The Armament of Big Bombers" [ HTML ]discusses the development of the power turret and specifically mentions the Flying Fortress.
"Final Training for the Real Thing" [ PDF, 7 MiB ] , [ HTML ] shows flight and ground crews taking final training "somewhere in the Northwest," working with B-17Es, including the Yankee.
"The Truth About Our Bombers" [ PDF, 10.2 MiB ] , [ HTML ] seems to be yet another morale piece responding to criticisms of US warplanes. It focuses on a paper comparison between the B-17E and the Lancaster, with some reports of early action over Europe. There is also some mention of the range of US light and medium bombers. The final line, "Sweeping statements that American bombers are inferior should be taken with more than one grain of salt" is good advice.
"Factors Controlling Aircraft Design and Combat Performance" [ PDF, 10.2 MiB ] , [ HTML ] analyzes design factors and considerations of a number of planes, both Axis and Allied, with considerable attention to the B-17.
"Look at the Record" [ PDF, 3.2 MiB ] , [ HTML ] lists some actions, all in the South Pacific, in which B-17s were (successfully) involved.
"The Quality of US Aircraft" [ PDF, 3.3 MiB ] , [ HTML ] is another morale piece, this one from an official USAAC source. It is remarkable mostly for a short passage:
Today the position seems to be that Britain publishes information about American machines which is not released in America. An instance is the B-17. Performance figures for the B-17E and the B-17F had not been released (at the time of writing these notes) by the Americans and the manufacturer itself was unable to furnish me with the top speed figures.which indicates to me that the classified-information system in WWII was as screwed-up as it is today.
But these figures had already been given in the British publications, The Aeroplane and The Aeroplane Spotter .
Highlighting the changes that the aircraft industry, Boeing's "Good Tooling Simplifies Production of Flying Fortresses" [ PDF, 21.7 MiB ] , [ HTML ] describes some of the specialized tooling developed to allow mass production of B-17s.
Two sections [ PDF, 0.7 MiB ] in "Battles" describe B-17 involvement in actions at Midway and in the Aleutians. "Battles" [ HTML ] is an article in the February, 1943, "US Naval Aviation At War" Special Issue of Flying magazine.
"The World's Best Warplanes" [ PDF, 11.1 MiB ] , [ HTML ] is a counter to an article by Peter Masefield in which Masefield slighted some of the US planes.
Skyways' Movie of the Month, "Air Force", [ PDF, 8 MiB ] , [ HTML ] is a review of the 1943 Howard Hawks movie. The movie features a B-17C. The two reviews have different publicity stills.
"Air Force" [ PDF, 19.7 MiB ] , [ HTML ] is a review of the 1943 Howard Hawks movie. The movie features a B-17C.The two reviews have different publicity stills.
"Saga of the Suzy-Q [ PDF, 15.6 MiB ] , [ HTML ] is a story in three parts: preface, which introduces the crew; "If You Knew Suzy As I Know Suzy" by Captain Nice, Navigator; and "Tails We Win!" by Sgt Irons and S/Sgt Kiger, gunners. They tell of the travels and some of the combats of Suzy-Q, the first Flying Fortress to fly around the world.
Boeing's Flight & Aerodynamics Division was instrumental in the relatively rapid development of the B-17. "Flight Testing Is a Sound Business" [ PDF, 24.4 MiB ] , [ HTML ] describes the organization and operation of the Division.
Boeing's Flight & Aerodynamics Division was established by Edmund T Allen Eddie Allen who was killed testing the XB-29. His obituary [ PDF, 2.7 MiB ] , [ HTML ] in the April, 1943, issue of Aviation outlines some of his contributions to the industry.
Peter Masefield was one of the British authors who had a low opinion of US warplanes early on. He changed his tune a bit in a column he wrote [ PDF, 3 MiB ] , [ HTML ] after flying on a mission on a B-17. The B-17E is one of the vehicles he uses to advance his proposed figure of merit for warplanes: firepower in pounds per minute.
"The Invasion Has Started!" [ PDF, 11 MiB ] , [ HTML ] describes the early stages of the air assault on Europe.
An article from Air Trails magazine, "The Fortress" [ PDF, 8.6 MiB ] , [ HTML ], gives plans and instructions for building a solid model of the B-17E.
The reputation of the B-17 was inextricably tied up with "The Norden Bombsight" [PDF, 7.2 MiB ] , [ HTML ]. This article is one of the first to discuss the Norden. It lacks some of the nuts-and-bolts of later articles.
Three articles detailing the cooperation (and competition) among the Boeing, Vega, Douglas affiliation, affectionately known as the BVDs, established to allow massively increased production of B-17s for the air war, are listed above. The association began production with the B-17F and continued through the end of B-17G production. Considering the widely varying approaches to managing production, the interchangeability of parts and subassemblies among planes from the three different manufacturers was remarkable. As was the degree of cooperation among corporations who had been (and would continue to be, after the war) cutthroat competitors.
B-17s flew at exceptionally high altitudes. Aircrews learned oxygen discipline in "The Stratotrainer" [ PDF, 3.6 MiB ] , [ HTML ] before being assigned to their B-17s.
"Mass Producing Fortresses" [ PDF, 3.6 MiB ] , [ HTML ] is a short photo-essay on the Boeing production lines. The numbers of subassemblies shown are mind-boggling, but they go a long way toward showing how the US aircraft industry was able to meet production quotas.
"AAF Diary" [ PDF, 3.1 MiB ] , [ HTML ] gives a capsulized timeline of USAAC/USAAF activities between Pearl Harbor and the end of June, 1943.
"Mission" [ PDF, 7.5 MiB ] , [ HTML ] describes responsibilities of the various crew members in combat and reports some of the interphone chatter from different raids.
A news clip [ PDF, 0.6 MiB ] , [ HTML ] from the November, 1943, Aviation gives the first introduction to the chin turret that became the diagnostic feature of the B-17G. It appears that the turret was originally developed for the unsuccessful YB-40 gunship project. It was successful enough in its own right to become a standard feature on the B-17G.
B-17s were notorious for making it home with sometimes catastrophic battle damage. When they didn't make it back to an airbase, mobile units of the Service Command would effect repairs in the field sufficient to get the plane back to base or to a repair depot.
One such case is described in "Sighted Wreck, Repaired Same" [ PDF, 14.1 MiB ] , [ HTML ]. The plane in the story is referred to as "T___ S___" throughout the article, except in one caption, where it is "Tough S___". I have taken the liberty of spelling out the name in the HTML.
Interestingly, the plane shown in the accompanying photos was B-17F 229651 Stella. Stella does not show the damage described in the text.
For the younger members of the audience, "Sighted Sub, Sank Same" was the message sent by the pilot of a Lockheed Hudson on anti-submarine patrol duty off Newfoundland in January, 1942. The phrase caught the public attention and was still well known and in some use 10 years later. The title of the article is an obvious reference. JLM
B-17 crews got extensive training before being sent into battle. Since much flying was done over water, how to get out of a B-17 that had crashlanded in water was part of the training. "Ditch Ship" [ PDF, 8 MiB ] , [ HTML ] shows an installation for providing that training.
Peter Masefield came out with a revised "The World's Best Aircraft" [ PDF, 17 MiB ] , [ HTML ] list, this time showing a lot more American planes in the top slots in their categories. The B-17 still comes second to the B-24 in his list. This led to a somewhat defensive article in the very next issue, "Fort vs Lib" [ PDF, 3.5 MiB ] , [ HTML ], which compared the two planes in some detail and gave the author's reasons for his choice.
The "Modern Planes Album" column [ PDF, 4.4 MiB ] , [ HTML ] in Flying Aces magazine was one of the first to introduce the B-17G.
Another story about the activities of the Eighth Air Force Service Command is "Neither too little nor too late" [ PDF, 17.2 MiB ] , [ HTML ], which describes the overall organization and function of the Command. The article is heavily illustrated, largely with photos of B-17Fs being repaired.
In the theme of beat-up B-17s, "Flying Sieves" [ PDF, 9.1 MiB ] , [ HTML ] has more than a dozen detail photos of battle damage on B-17s, including two photos of Old Bill with his missing nose.
"Tons of Trouble" [ PDF, 8.5 MiB ] , [ HTML ] discusses the Eighth Bomber Command. The article is illustrated with a dozen photos of B-17s and a B-24; it includes an organization chart for the 8th Air Force.
"Nerve Center of a Fortress" [ PDF, 8 MiB ] , [ HTML ] describes the various operations that take place in the cockpit of a B-17, from warm-up to return from mission.
"Bombing Diary" [ PDF, 8 MiB ] , [ HTML ] describes actions of "Blank Squadron" against the Japanese in the South Pacific.
"The Schweinfurt Raids" [ PDF, 6.8 MiB ] , [ HTML ] is a first-person account of one of the costliest air raids of the war.
Another account of the mission, "Schweinfurt Raid", [ PDF, 5.4 MiB ] , [ HTML ] was printed in Yank.
"The RO's Work Is Never Done" [ PDF, 3.1 MiB ] , [ HTML ] describes the training and duties of the Radio Operator in a B-17.
US warplanes became notorious for their nose art, which could be quite racy. "What's in a Name?" [ PDF, 13.3 MiB ] , [ HTML ] celebrates that nose art with 9 examples on a variety of types. Vibrant Virgin, Old Bill, and Hells Angels represent the B-17 tradition.
A critical element in maintaining high production rates while being able to incorporate the latest changes dictated by the demands of the air war was the modification center. "Modification Center" [ PDF, 11 MiB ] , [ HTML ] describes the history and operations of the Cheyenne Modification Center run by United Air Lines. Cheyenne seems to have been the original mod center, developed early in the war to allow finished airframes to be moved off the production floors at Seattle while planes were being modified for special uses in the original case, for photo reconnaissance.
A news clip from September, 1944, "Swedes Make Airliners Out of Downed B-17s" [ HTML ] is an early report of the Swedes converting interned B-17s to airliners.
"5 years of air war" [ PDF, 9.5 MiB ] , [ HTML ] discusses the evolution of types during the war. Illustrations include inset photos of early-war types next to larger pictures of their late-war successors.
"Beer Bottle Blitz" [ HTML ] tells the story of a little-known element of the strategic bombing campaign in the South Pacific against Japanese emplacements.
"Crash Landing" [ PDF, 19.6 MiB ] , [ HTML ] is another account of the functions of the Service Command's mobile repair crews. It tells of the repair in situ of the crash-landed Sir Baboon McGoon, a B-17G.
Shuttle-bombing bombing missions where the bombers land at a different base from where they took off, so that they don't have to double back over enemy territory to return to their original bases became a useful tool in the last year of the European Air War. "Flight to Poltava" [ PDF, 7 MiB ] , [ HTML ] is a first-person account of the first 8th Air Force shuttle-bombing mission.
The following three articles, plus "Schweinfurt Raid" above, were originally published in Yank, The Army Weekly, dates unspecified. They are assigned to 1945 because that was the date of the compilation in my collection. JLM
"Psychological Warfare" [ PDF, 5.7 MiB ] , [ HTML ] tells of a Flying Fortress raid on Berlin with leaflet-dropping planes in the formation. It also discusses some of the technique and value of psychological warfare.
"The Birth of a Mission" [ PDF, 6.6 MiB ] , [ HTML ] is a personalized account of the process of preparing for a B-17 raid on Germany.
"Rosie's Riveters" [ PDF, 8.1 MiB ] , [ HTML ] tells the story of the final mission of Rosie's Riveters and her return from a mission over Berlin as Capt R Rosenthal and most of his crew finished their tour of duty.