The articles included in this collection cover a range of subjects. Besides the Design Analysis articles in the trade magazines, there were articles on production and organization for production. There were also a few articles on operations and periodic reports on the air war. Some of the components, such as the Norden bombsight, the autopilot, armament and engines, were featured in articles of their own.

The enthusiast magazines had articles on model building and mission stories. There were also articles highlighting the teamwork of the bomber crew and occasional technically-oriented articles.

The articles section also includes "news clips," small news articles which typically have a photo included and mention an event or a design change, and columns giving a running account of the progress of the war [ HTML ].


A number of columns in the trade magazines, along with the occasional report issued by the War Department, kept the aeronautical engineering community updated on the progress of the war — or at least on the "official version" of the progress.

This collection includes most of the articles in my collection that featured or mentioned the B-17, because the original effort was directed toward creating a volume focused on the B-17. The "America at War" series of communiques in Aviation magazine did not always talk about the Flying Fortress but all of the articles were included for completeness. Between the "America at War" articles, some of the "War in the Air" articles in Flying magazine and the end-of-war reports, most of the major actions of the B-17s are covered.


The original impetus for my getting into the whole collecting-organizing-presenting thing was from the Design Analysis articles in Caltech's archive of Aviation magazines. Later, I became acquainted with Air Tech and Industrial Aviation, both of which also ran design analysis articles, all of which are included here.

Other articles dealt with design issues, but without going into the kind of nuts-and-bolts detail of the Design Analysis articles.

"Factors Controlling Aircraft Design And Combat Performance" [ PDF, 10.2 MiB ] , [ HTML ] discusses the tradeoffs involved in aircraft design and goes into some detail to explain why there is no single "best design" for a warplane. This was one of a number of articles written to counter criticisms of American aircraft in the popular press, especially during the early, dark days of the war.

"Engines and Altitude" [ HTML ] describes the tradeoffs in choosing a supercharging system for a warplane in considerable detail.

"The Bomber Is Born" [ PDF  9.7 Mi  ] , [ HTML ] goes into the history of the development of the two heavies: B-17 and B-24. Photos of each plane — a B-17F and an early B-24 (before the nose turret) plus six earlier types are included.

"Fort vs Lib" [ PDF, 3.5 Mi  ][ HTML ] mentions a few design elements of each plane as the author, Peter Masefield, tries to support his choosing the B-24J over the B-17G in an earlier article. There are example photos of each plane.

Production, Modifications and Maintenance

Since my primary sources are aviation industry magazines, the focus on the details and techniques of production and, perhaps more importantly, organization for production were of great general interest.

The original B-17 and the first several rounds of design change, through the B-17E, were all built by Boeing in Seattle. The B-17F and B-17G were also built by Boeing in Seattle, but they were also built by Vega (Vega Aircraft Corporation, subsidiary of Lockheed Corporation) and Douglas (Douglas Aircraft Company) under license, in order to be able to meet the USAAF's demand for heavy bombers. Someone seems to have realized that there were not enough bodies in the Seattle area, nor enough housing to house enough bodies, to turn out the quantities of B-17s that were planned for the air assault on Germany, much less enough to provision the other fighting fronts.

Articles describing the production processes at Boeing [ PDF, 13.2 MiB ] , [ HTML ], Douglas [ PDF, 14.9 MiB ] , [ HTML ], and Vega [ PDF, 14.4 MiB ] , [ HTML ] were printed together to compare and contrast the methods of the three companies. Given the disparity among their approaches, the nearly absolute interchangeability of parts and subassemblies among planes from the three manufacturers is remarkable.

The other big bomber built in mass numbers was the B-24, which was built by Consolidated at San Diego, CA, and Fort Worth,TX, by Ford at Willow Run, MI, by Douglas at Tulsa, OK, and by North American Aviation at Grand Prairie, TX, near Dallas. "Single Assembly Line Produces Both Bombers and Transports" [ HTML ] describes the main elements of the production of a B-24 and the changes made to produce C-87s on the same production line at Fort Worth.

"Liberators by Consolidated Vultee" [ HTML ] describes operations at the Fort Worth plant. "Will It Run?" [ HTML ] tells the story of the development of the Willow Run plant and lays out some of the ongoing problems in its operation.

The decision was made early on not to try to keep up with the demands for design changes in the production line — it was simply too disruptive, with much too much impact on both delivery rate and quality. So finished airframes were flown to modification centers for installation of new or specialized equipment to make them ready for action. The United Air Lines maintenance center at Cheyenne [ PDF, 11.1 MiB ] , [ HTML ], WY, became one of the most important of the centers for the B-17.

"Modification Centers … An American Military Innovation" [ HTML ] describes Consolidated Aircraft's approach to the mod center. The article and a news clip, "Outdoor assembly line," describe the Consolidated mod center in Tucson, AZ.

A center set up in "an isolated part of the British Isles" by Lockheed Overseas Corporation (nicknamed "Little America" [ PDF, 3.2 MiB ] , [ HTML ]) provided similar functions closer to the European front.

These articles and a number of others dealing with the same general topic matter are listed in chronological order on the Production, Modifications and Maintenance page.

Planning and Progress

By the time that the US declared war, the public had very little idea of our air strategy — why we needed so many planes and what we wanted to use them for. Those who had any concept of air war got it primarily from the Billy Mitchell hearings and Edward R Murrow's broadcasts from London during the Blitz. A number of articles in our magazines laid out the general plans, with updates as circumstances changed, and with ongoing progress reports as the war situation changed. Most of the reports took an optimistic spin. There were also dissenting opinions as to how air power should be managed and utilized, and there were articles published presenting those views, also.

The "Planning and Progress" page presents these articles, again listed in chronological order.

The history articles are included to provide context. Toward the same end, articles on the air forces of the Axis and our Allies are included in the same section.

A comment needs to be made on the subject of contemporary histories: information was incomplete and the goals were not always directed to "historically accurate" reporting. In his Preface to his Report to the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Eisenhower said it as well as anyone could:

References in this document to the operations of Allied and enemy units are based upon contemporary reports received at SHAEF. Often these reports were not clear or were fragmentary. The narration of our operations in full and accurate detail will be more adequately performed by historians, who, aided by the complete records, will be able to present in their true perspective the magnificent achievements of each of the manifold units which composed the Allied Expeditionary Force.
Anyone looking at contemporary reports will be well served to keep his words in mind.

Men, Missions and Training

While the trade magazines didn't carry as many action stories and mission reports as the popular media, there are a few in the collection. Included in this section are training and advisory articles.


In the simplest model, armament consists of guns and bombs (consider torpedoes as a subset of bombs. This page also includes information on armor.

Instrumentation and auxiliary equipment

Any warplane is a very complex system, with many interacting components. There are articles on the design, construction and operation of the bombsight, autopilot, and navigation instruments, as well as some of the other equipment used in the warplanes. In our case, instruments are grouped as:

Engines, Superchargers and High-altitude Flight

Technical articles

Inasmuch as two of my four primary sources — Aviation and Industrial Aviation — were directly targeted at engineers and another — Air Tech — was directed at technicians and mechanics, there were a lot of articles describing design or production techniques, materials properties, design equations, etc. Some of these are included in this collection.