In 1934, Boeing began construction of a four-engined heavy bomber that was to be entered in an Army Air Corps competition that called for twin-engine bomber designs. Designated the Boeing Model 299, the aircraft was introduced to the public in 1935. In a story about the unveiling, a reporter stated that the aircraft, which bristled with guns, appeared to be “a flying fortress.” The name stuck. In January 1936, the Air Corps ordered 13 Model 299s, which it designated the YB-17 “Flying Fortress.” Thus began what may be the greatest of aircraft legends.
The B-17 went through several major modifications during its lifetime. The B-17G was the final major version. By the time the G model was developed in September 1943, the Fortress had already built for itself a legendary reputation for taking phenomenal amounts of damage and still returning to friendly territory. The G model continued, and added to, the legend. It was the largest production variation – of the 12,725 B-17s manufactured, 8,680 were G models.
- Wing span: 103 feet, 9 inches
- Length: 74 feet, 4 inches
- Height: 19 feet, 1 inch
- Engines: 4 supercharged, 1,200 horsepower Wright R-1820-97 Cyclones
- Top speed: 287 mph at 25,000 feet
- Cruise speed: 182 mph
- Range: 3,400 miles
- Service ceiling: 35,600 feet
- Empty weight: 36,135 pounds
- Gross weight: 55,000 pounds
- Maximum fuel load: 3,630 gallons
- Crew: 10 (pilot, co-pilot, navigator, bombardier, engineer, radio operator, 4 gunners)
- Maximum bomb load: 6,000 pounds
- Defensive armament: Thirteen .50 caliber machine guns with 6,380 rounds of ammunition
The purpose and objectives of this organization are to preserve and perpetuate the memory of the B-17 Flying Fortress high altitude bomber and the heroic men who flew, serviced, or contributed in some manner to the epic role the Flying Fortress played in bringing World War II to a final conclusion. The Flying Fortress carved for itself an ever-deepening niche in the history of military aviation.
The many roles of the B-17 may never be completely recorded. Every man of the thousands who flew them, every man of the handful who still fly them, hold something of her great story in his memory. Most did not fly for pleasure, nor as their chosen vocation; the Fort was their transportation to places they never dreamed of seeing, let alone destroying. The Flying Fortress was a heavy bomber designed to destroy the places it visited. Destroy it did, and was often itself destroyed in the effort.
Like all machines, the B-17 is mute and she must be spoken for by the men who flew her, or flew in her. When her name was a familiar term, she was regarded with admiration, or with dread, throughout the world. The B-17 COMBAT CREWMEN & WINGMEN was formed to perpetuate her glorious name and reputation. It is not our intention to take away any of the praise from the Liberator and her crews, she too earned a place of distinction in history, and we have the same respect for the gallant and courageous airmen who served with her. However, we have a romance with the Flying Fortress and many can recall seeing them make it back to base with tail sections gone, noses blown away, wings with large sections missing, and engines on one, or both sides not operating. Most of them did come home – some living long combat lives, many topping the one-hundred mission mark – “Nine-0-Nine” of the 91st, “Thunderbird” of the 303rd, and “Jamaica Ginger” of the 388th bomb group, to mention a few.
Some 12,731 Fonresses were built by Boeing, Douglas and Lockheed Aircraft. The development of the Fortress was unique to aviation history. Boeing Company assumed the expense of the design, and production of number 299, the bomber prototype that led to the B-17, and staked its future on this new plane. Number 299 first appeared on the Boeing drawing board in 1933. The first prototype flew on July 28, 1935. The imminence of war brought numerous Fortress modifications, with the B- I 7C as a result. Later, the D, E, F, and the B-17G appeared with the chin turret in large numbers. A total of 4,750 B-17’s were lost’on combat missions, more than any other type of aircraft. This was because the Fortress did so much of the fighting. Forts shot down an average of twenty-three fighters per thousand plane raid, compared with eleven shot down by U. S. fighters. During the war, B-17’s dropped a total of 640,036 tons of bombs on European targets. This compares with 452,508 tons dropped by B-24’s and 436,544 tons dropped by all other U. S. aircraft. Today, only thirty percent of the American people are old enough to remember the years from 1939 to 1945. The other seventy percent know very little about the years which are probably the most significant period in American history since 1776. They don’t know of the events that plunged the world into war or the horrors endured by millions of people, soldiers, and civilians alike. Nor, do they know of the great accomplishments of American industry or the great victories achieved in the air, on the land, and on the sea by civilian soldiers and seamen who, only a few months earlier, had no military training and no intention of going to war. We want to help tell the story of the accomplishments of this nation, and other free people of the world during the period from 1941 to 1945.