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Great WWII B-17 story in the NY Post

Discussion in 'General Topics' started by Cav, Dec 13, 2012.

  1. Cav

    Cav Well-Known Member

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  2. jskibo

    jskibo Old

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    Nice story. Will have to look for the book...
  3. A Life Aloft

    A Life Aloft Well-Known Member

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    Incredible story! Just watched the video as well. Going to have to read this book. Thanks for posting this. Damn, B-17's were tough birds, not to mention the men that flew them........ one engine out, part of the tail missing, left horizontal stabilizer gone, holes blown through the fuselage, the nose severely damaged, 6 crew members injured, one dead and Brown himself injured, after being attacked by some 15 German aircraft.

    There is a story of one B-17 that lost three engines, the pilot was ditching the aircraft, and it bounced back into the air. Pilot figured "WTH? At least we're getting closer to England." A bit later, still couldn't keep it in the air, so he went to ditch again. Bounced again. Meanwhile, the aircraft was getting lighter due to the fuel burned by one good engine so they were getting a little farther with each bounce, and eventually made it back to England.

    I've seen photos after some these planes landed, missing most of a wing, gigantic holes in the fuselage, canopies, damage to gears and hydraulics, and just other sorts horrific damage, yet the plane survived and the pilot(s) were able to land them. Human spirit overcoming incredible odds.

    Another such story: Robert Johnson had run out of options, he couldn't fight back, he couldn't bail out, and his only option was to get his seat as low as possible behind the armor plating and hope it didn't get hit by a 20 mm shell: One of the 56th's worst setbacks occurred on June 26, 1943, when 48 P-47Cs left a forward operating base at RAF Manston late in the afternoon to provide escort for B-17 Flying Fortress bombers returning from a mission against Villacoublay airfield in the Paris suburbs. As the P-47s approached the rendezvous point near Forges-les-Eaux, they were jumped from above and behind by 16 Focke-Wulf Fw 190s of II Gruppe, JG 26.

    The first pass scattered the Thunderbolts, and Johnson's aircraft, flying at the rear of the 61st Squadron's formation, was seriously damaged by a 20 mm shell that exploded in his cockpit and ruptured his hydraulic system. Burned and partially blinded by hydraulic fluid, Johnson tried to bail out, but could not open his shattered canopy.

    After pulling out of an uncontrolled spin and with the fire amazingly going out on its own, Johnson headed for the English Channel, but was intercepted by a single Fw 190. Unable to fight back, he maneuvered while under a series of attacks, and although sustaining further heavy damage from both 7.92mm and 20mm rounds, managed to survive until the German ran out of ammunition, who, after saluting him by rocking his wings, turned back. His opponent has never been identified, but Johnson could have been one of three victories claimed that day by the commander of III/JG 2, Oberst Egon Mayer.

    After landing, Johnson tried to count the bullet holes in his airplane, but when he passed 200, including 21, 20 mm cannon shell impacts, without even moving around the aircraft, he gave up. While Johnson made it back to crash land at Manston, four other pilots of the 56th FG were killed in action. A fifth, able to extend only one of his plane's landing gear struts, had to bail out over the English Channel and was rescued north of Yarmouth. Five other Thunderbolts suffered battle damage. Johnson suffered shrapnel wounds and minor burns to his face, hands, and legs, and was awarded the Purple Heart. He resumed flying missions on July 1.
  4. A Life Aloft

    A Life Aloft Well-Known Member

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  5. highspeed

    highspeed Well-Known Member

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    My grandmothers first cousin piloted B-17s. He and my grandma were only children so they were raised as close as brother and sister. Was KIA by flak according to an article I've found online. Even though as a kid all I did was talk about flying in the service I was never told of him until I was in college. I was given his Wright Field ring (I guess its a flight school graduation ring?) shortly before graduating riddle.

    http://www.teaneck.org/virtualvillage/scrapbook/JanFeb1944.pdf
    pg 5, he's mentioned in the Teanek story

    http://www.hmdb.org/PhotoFullSize.asp?PhotoID=173863
    a monument with his name

    http://www.wfu.edu/history/HST_WFU/memorial.htm
    a mention at his college from the war days.
    A Life Aloft likes this.
  6. jskibo

    jskibo Old

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    My father was in B26's and later B25's. As a medium bomber they had to hit the target from a much lower altitude. His plane had an 88 shell punch through it and not explode, either a dud or an altitude burst shell, but it was a few feet from where he was standing.

    A few from my collection of his...

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    and one of his planes, Bar Fly

    [​IMG]
  7. staledog

    staledog Well-Known Member

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    Wow. Great story. Almost made me cry. Almost..
  8. MikeD

    MikeD Administrator Staff Member

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    Is there a flying example of the B-26 Marauder today? The last one I remember was the Confederate Air Forces' Carolyn which crashed on landing at KMAF in 1995.
  9. jskibo

    jskibo Old

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  10. A Life Aloft

    A Life Aloft Well-Known Member

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    There was one that was restored out at Chino owned by Kermit Weeks (he had bought it up in Canada, I think) and after restoration (it was restored by Aero Traders if I remember correctly) it was flown, with some stops along the way, to his place in Florida. He did fly it to a couple of cities for events but this was all back many years ago (the last I knew of it flying was (I think) back in ''97 or '98) and I have not heard of it flying since. It may well be on display though at his museum there.

    I am not aware sadly, of any of these beautiful birds still flying anywhere in any country. There are a few being restored for static displays, however. Wasn't there one being restored out at Pima?
  11. A Life Aloft

    A Life Aloft Well-Known Member

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    I was in the middle of posting and had to get some crap and groceries out of my wife's car when she got home and put them away, and just came back to finish my post. That is Kermit's plane, but I don't believe it has flown in a very long time.
  12. jskibo

    jskibo Old

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  13. A Life Aloft

    A Life Aloft Well-Known Member

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    Do they intend to have that one flying or just on display? She's beautiful. I think there was one restored somewhere back east over a couple of years, is privately owned and made just a handful of test flights. But I have no idea who owns it or where she is currently. Last time I looked there were only just less than like 50 or so even registered.
  14. MikeD

    MikeD Administrator Staff Member

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    The Pima one is going to be display only, I believe.
  15. jskibo

    jskibo Old

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    Doesn't the DDay museum in France have one as well?
  16. chrisreedrules

    chrisreedrules Master Blaster

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    I have an extensive collection of literature and photographs from the 8th AF in WW2. I'll try and post some stories/pictures that are hard to find. What these kids did (And thats what they were... kids. Some were as young as 17) and what they endured is incredible. They sustained one of the highest loss rates of any branch of service. Some 40% KIA (and higher during the first year). To get up every day for a mission facing those odds is unimaginable to me.
    A Life Aloft likes this.
  17. A Life Aloft

    A Life Aloft Well-Known Member

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    That would be terrific if you do that! "Kids" back then were a helluva lot different that they are today, IMO.
  18. milleR

    milleR Well-Known Member

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    My Dad forwarded me this email a couple of months ago.

    I love stories about the “Greatest Generation”. For those of you not familiar with that title, allow me to explain. I am 70 years old. My parents, aunts, and uncles were of the “Greatest Generation”. Stories like the following explain why they were awarded that most deserved title. They did not know what the word “quit” meant. Whatever it took, they got it done.

    B17 Survival StoryB-17 "All American" (414th Squadron, 97BG) Crew

    Pilot- Ken Bragg Jr.
    Copilot- G. Boyd Jr.
    Navigator- Harry C. Nuessle
    Bombardier- Ralph Burbridge
    Engineer- Joe C. James
    Radio Operator- Paul A. Galloway
    Ball Turret Gunner- Elton Conda
    Waist Gunner- Michael Zuk
    Tail Gunner- Sam T. Sarpolus
    Ground Crew Chief- Hank Hyland
    [​IMG]
    B-17 in 1943
    A mid-air collision on February 1, 1943, between a B-17 and a German fighter over the Tunis dock area, became the subject of one of the most famous photographs of World War II. An enemy fighter attacking a 97th Bomb Group formation went out of control, probably with a wounded pilot then continued its crashing descent into the rear of the fuselage of a Fortress named All American, piloted by Lt. Kendrick R. Bragg, of the 414th Bomb Squadron. When it struck, the fighter broke apart, but left some pieces in the B-17. The left horizontal stabilizer of the Fortress and left elevator were completely torn away. The two right engines were out and one on the left had a serious oil pump leak. The vertical fin and the rudder had been damaged, the fuselage had been cut almost completely through connected only at two small parts of the frame and the radios, electrical and oxygen systems were damaged. There was also a hole in the top that was over 16 feet long and 4
    feet wide at its widest and the split in the fuselage went all the way to the top gunners turret.
    Although the tail actually bounced and swayed in the wind and twisted when the plane turned and all the control cables were severed, except one single elevator cable still worked, and the aircraft still flew - miraculously! The tail gunner was trapped because there was no floor connecting the tail to the rest of the plane. The waist and tail gunners used parts of the German fighter and their own parachute harnesses in an attempt to keep the tail from ripping off and the two sides of the fuselage from splitting apart. While the crew was trying to keep the bomber from coming apart, the pilot continued on his bomb run and released his bombs over the target.
    When the bomb bay doors were opened, the wind turbulence was so great that it blew one of the waist gunners into the broken tail section. It took several minutes and four crew members to pass him ropes from parachutes and haul him back into the forward part of the plane. When they tried to do the same for the tail gunner, the tail began flapping so hard that it began to break off. The weight of the gunner was adding some stability to the tail section, so he went back to his position.
    The turn back toward England had to be very slow to keep the tail from twisting off. They actually covered almost 70 miles to make the turn home. The bomber was so badly damaged that it was losing altitude and speed and was soon alone in the sky. For a brief time, two more Me-109 German fighters attacked the All American. Despite the extensive damage, all of the machine gunners were able to respond to these attacks and soon drove off the fighters. The two waist gunners stood up with their heads sticking out through the hole in the top of the fuselage to aim and fire their machine guns. The tail gunner had to shoot in short bursts because the recoil was actually causing the plane to turn.
    Allied P-51 fighters intercepted the All American as it crossed over the Channel and took one of the pictures shown. They also radioed to the base describing that the empennage was waving like a fish tail and that the plane would not make it and to send out boats to rescue the crew when they bailed out. The fighters stayed with the Fortress taking hand signals from Lt. Bragg and relaying them to the base. Lt. Bragg signaled that 5 parachutes and the spare had been "used" so five of the crew could not bail out. He made the decision that if they could not bail out safely, then he would stay with the plane and land it.
    Two and a half hours after being hit, the aircraft made its final turn to line up with the runway while it was still over 40 miles away. It descended into an emergency landing and a normal roll-out on its landing gear.
    When the ambulance pulled alongside, it was waved off because not a single member of the crew had been injured. No one could believe that the aircraft could still fly in such a condition. The Fortress sat placidly until the crew all exited through the door in the fuselage and the tail gunner had climbed down a ladder, at which time the entire rear section of the aircraft collapsed onto the ground. The rugged old bird had done its job.
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
  19. Vector4Food

    Vector4Food This job would be easier without all the airplanes

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    That's incredible.

    I love WW2 history in general, but stories like these are always a great read.

    Early 20's kids pulling off stuff like this, while todays generation sits there and whines because their text message plan is getting full.
  20. chrisreedrules

    chrisreedrules Master Blaster

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    Here are a few personal stories that I have always found to be riveting. I have read them countless times. They attest to the carnage and mercilessness found in the skies over Europe. I am still amazed by what these young men experienced/witnessed every time I read them...

    Technical Sergeant Dwight N. Miller, radio operator on "Lady Stardust II" (452nd Bomb Group) described a nightmarish return from a mission to Brux, then in Czechoslovakia on May 12, 1944:

    "Our radio room had the old open hatch and I could see and hear everything plainly. The sky was full of tracers. In the smoke a tail and parts of a fuselage went past. Some ships were on fire and 846 to the right was flaming from the Number 3. Focke Wulfs came right over us. Two exploded to the right, one to the left, and some were on fire. A P-47 was going down burning. Someone bailed out and immediately his chute opened, right in the midst of everything. A Focke Wulf exploded by his side and his chute folded in rags. I didn't fire a shot because three B-17's were above us. I heard something banging, like a bass drummer going mad. It was the landing flap on the right wing. It was hanging down waving in the wind and hitting the wing.
    Then I heard a sharp snap. The lieutenant formation officer in the tail turret of the crippled lead ship above had bailed out and he had fallen right into the plexiglass nose before bouncing off and into our right wing. Some 'stringy stuff' slid back across my window. The lieutenant's harness and lines were hanging on our wing. I opened the door and looked toward the cockpit. The nose was gone. Blood--a lot of it--and a terrific wind blinded me. I was covered from head to foot. It went on through the ship painting it red and freezing. The bomb bays were solid red and slippery. The blood came from the engineer 'Uncle Dudley' Orcutt. The right side of his head was gone. He didn't look like Dud. I had no doubt he was dead.
    I took the extra oxygen bottle and started up the catwalk. There was a hard wind coming from the front. I was holding onto the left rope when it broke. It was weakened from an exploded shell, I guess. I fell on the right rope. I dropped my oxygen bottle and it went tumbling down. I spent some time trying to get the bombay doors up with my knife. The crank and extension were gone so I gave the job up. I took some wire from the bomb pins and fixed the rope back.
    I got some first aid kits and hunted for some Sulfur powder. There was none. The right waist gunner grabbed a bandage and put it on his head. The expression in his eyes reminded me of a patient taking his first look at the stub of his leg after an amputation. Red was still bleeding and as he breathed, blood came out of the hole in his eye. I wiped the blood off his face. He returned the act and said, "I thought you were a walking dead man". Then the tail gunner yelled, "Tail gunner hit"!
    From the way he said it, I knew he was in a lot of pain. I grabbed the first aid kit and ran to him. After laying him down in the waist, I began slicing my way to his wound, which was in his back. It was a terrible hole and I hurried to get a bandage on so he wouldn't lose too much blood. I gave him a shot of morphine. We were alone, flying just above the ground, like a coyote sneaking among bushes in fear of yelping hounds close behind...
    Then came the call over the interphone that we loved to hear. "There is the Channel ahead"!"


    Crews were instructed that badly wounded airmen were to be bailed out over enemy territory if their wounds were such that they were likely to die before returning to base. Loss of blood was a determining factor, and crewmen were told that Germans had given good medical care to airmen in such straits. This is what happened to the top-turret gunner on "Ruthie II" (92nd Bomb Group) on July 26th, 1943. The B-17, which was piloted by 1st Lt. Robert L. Campbell and copilot Flight Officer John C. Morgan, a tall, red-haired Texan, was attacked by FW-190 fighters, as the navigator, Keith J. Koske recalled:

    "On their first pass I felt sure they had got us because there was a terrific explosion overhead and the ship rocked badly. A second later the top turret gunner, Staff Sgt. Tyre C Weaver, fell through the hatch and slumped to the floor at the rear of my nose compartment. When I got to him I saw his left arm had been blown off at the shoulder and he was a mass of blood. I first tried to inject some morphine but the needle was bent and I could not get it in.
    As things turned out it was best I didn't give him any morphine. My first thought was to try and stop his loss of blood. I tried to apply a tourniquet but it was impossible as the arm was off too close to the shoulder. I knew he had to have the right kind of medical treatment as soon as possible and we had almost four hours flying time ahead of us, so there was no alternative. I opened the escape hatch, adjusted his chute for him and placed the ripcord firmly in his right hand. He must have become excited and pulled the cord, opening the pilot chute in the up-draft.
    I managed to gather it together and tuck it under his right arm, got him into a crouched position with legs through the hatch, made certain again that his good arm was holding the chute folds together and toppled him out into space. I learned somewhat later from our ball-turret gunner that the chute opened okay. We were at 24,500ft. and 25 miles due west of Hanover and our only hope was that he was found and given medical attention immediately".
    -Morgan meanwhile got the ailing Fortress home with Lt Campbell slumped down in his seat, a mass of blood and with the back of his head blown off. Morgan flew the plane with one hand, holding the pilot off with the other; he later received the Medal of Honor for his outstanding achievement.


    Bert Stiles, a B-17 pilot in the 91st BG, remembers a time a ship came back in with dead onboard:

    "One flak shell had burst just outside the waist window. The waist gunner wore a flak suit and a helmet but that didn't help much. One chunk hit low on his forehead and clipped the top of his head off. Part of his brains sprayed as far forward as the door into the radio room. The rest of them spilled out when the body crumpled up, quite dead. The flak suit protected his heart and lungs alright, but both legs were blown off and hung with the body, because the flying suit was tucked into electric shoes.


    Staff Sgt. Sam N. Fain, ball turret gunner in "Lady Stardust II" (452nd BG), flown by 2nd Lt. Milan "Mike" Maracek, describes another mid-air pitched battle:

    "I saw the FW-190s and Me-109s clearly; mean fighters to tangle with. They made frontal attacks and came in 15 at a time in a staircase formation. I picked up one in my sights and fired a five-second burst. They were firing cannon shells at us. I felt them hit our ship and I began to sweat. I picked a FW-190 up in my sight track for one second and opened fire. I followed him. He was going off our left waist... I got him. He exploded in a ball of fire.
    I swung my turret to 6 o'clock and could see five of our Forts going down on fire and exploding, throwing flames around the sky. I saw seven men bale out of a Fortress. An enemy plane circled them once and came in firing at the chutes. They all caught fire and I could see the men falling to earth. I fired at the enemy ship for eight seconds. I saw smoke trailing from his engine and hoped that I got the rat.
    I looked down at the ground and saw many fires, small and large, burning. They were enemy fighters and our Forts. Another man bailed out of a Fort in front of us. His chute hit our propeller blades. They cut the top out of his chute. I saw him falling, looking back at his flapping shroud lines. I tried to shoot him. He fell to the ground, still alive. We limped over the target. Our bombs went out. We made it...".


    If anyone is interested in first hand accounts of the Air War over Europe... I would suggest reading anything written by Martin Bowman.
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