The B-17 Bomber: A True Flying Fortress
Aside from its replacement (the B-52 Stratofortress), the B-17 Flying Fortress will go down as one of the most iconic bombers of all time when each of the nine remaining airworthy planes eventually take their last respective flights.
At the height of B-17 production during the Second World War, 90% of Americans knew of the B-17 bomber, such was its notoriety. The legends of this plane's ability to sustain substantial damage, and nevertheless perform its duty, have formed the basis for many famous Hollywood blockbusters.
But how exactly did this magnificent machine come from an inauspicious start to become the third-most produced bomber of all time?
During the 1930s, the United States Army Air Corps (USAAC) put a contract request out for 200 bombers, which was hotly contested by airplane manufacturers Douglas and Boeing.
Although Boeing's prototype Model 299 XB-17 exceeded performance specifications, it lost out to the Douglas B-18 Bolo after crashes during testing. Crucially, however, the USAAC requested 13 B-17s for further evaluation.
What may have seemed like a small decision at the time would lead to the creation of one of the most successful heavy bombers of all time, playing a crucial role in the Allied victory of the Second World War.
During further testing, a reporter remarked when seeing the B-17 for the first time that it looked like a "flying fortress" since it had several machine guns sticking out of multiple locations. Boeing quickly snapped up the term, trademarked it, and the rest is history.
B-17 Design and Specification
From the first YB-17 produced in 1935 to the B-17G-VE produced ten years later, the B-17 went through several improvements on its journey to becoming the most feared bomber of the Second World War.
Firstly, the B-17 used four Pratt & Whitney engines, which was double the amount used by the Martin B-10 it was designed to replace. The extra engine power gave the B-17 a range of 2,000 miles, a payload of 6,000 lbs., and a top speed of 287 mph.
As noticed by the Seattle Times reporter, one of the striking design elements was how many gun positions there were. Gunners were placed at the rear, mid-section, and to the front of the plane (both above and below the cockpit), providing maximum defensive protection.
This heavy defensive armament was added at the expense of carrying a bigger payload. However, this investment proved wise and helped the B-17 earn a reputation for being the most difficult WWII bomber to bring down.
Even though its maiden flight was in 1938, the B-17 didn't make its full operational debut until 1941, amidst the backdrop of World War II. They initially saw action under the stewardship of the Royal Air Force, was requested 20 B-17s as they had no long-range heavy bombers at their disposal.
After making steady progress serving in the European theater, the B-17 came into its own in the latter stages of the war, particularly during and after the Allied Invasion.
Over the intervening years, both RAF and USAAF pilots worked out a way to fly in a tight box formation that meant a machine gun protected every angle of attack. Luftwaffe pilots described trying to attack a B-17 combat box as akin to trying to strike a "Flying Porcupine."
This flying arrangement helped the B-17 develop its indestructible reputation, which was only enhanced when the P-51 mustang came into service to provide protection much deeper into bombing run.
It was so universally admired that the Nazis, Soviets, and Japanese all spent time and money repairing any captured B-17 aircraft to fly them for their own purposes. At one point, the Luftwaffe had over 40 captured and refurbished B-17s in service!
By the end of the Second World War, the B-17 had dropped more bombs than any other U.S. aircraft during the conflict. Of the 1.5 million bombs dropped on Nazi Germany, 640,000 came from the bomb bay of a B-17.
There were many legendary stories of the B-17s uncanny ability to sustain massive damage and still manage to make it home safely with crewman unharmed.
One such incident was that of All American, which lost almost all of her tail wing during a mid-air collision. Yet despite this catastrophe, the pilots managed to get her back to base in Algeria with no crew harmed.
Other notable B-17s include Hell's Kitchen, which managed to become one of only three B-17s to complete over 100 combat missions. The star of the movie by the same name, Memphis Belle, completed 25 high-risk missions during World War II. She's on display today in the National Museum of the Air force in Dayton, Ohio.
Another movie star was Mary Ann, whose crew set off unarmed to Hawaii, only to arrive during the attack on Pearl Harbor. The plane and crew were immediately forced into operational action and performed bombing campaigns against the Japanese, which were immortalized in the 1943 movie, Air Force.
Mobilize Your Bombing Squadron with the Best of them All
As you may well know, there's something special about the B-17. Regularly commemorated within popular culture and amongst the veteran community, these bombers played a crucial role in the war effort, and no doubt helped turn the tide in favor of the Allied Forces.
Their seemingly indestructible nature, coupled with their defensive capabilities, helped the B-17 become one of the most-loved aircraft of a whole generation. With that in mind, the "Flying Fortress" 3-D optical illusion lamp would make a great addition to any room.
Whether you want to reimagine the action of flying across Europe to strike critical targets, or you just want to pay homage to a beautiful machine, this is a great way to do it. With a range of ambient colors and superior attention to detail, you're not going to be disappointed with your purchase!
Why not team it up with its ally and protector the P51 Mustang to take advantage of free shipping?