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Liberty Belle B-17 Flying Fortress – On display at the Rocky Mountain Metro Airport, Broomfield, Colorado.
History of the Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress (www.libertyfoundation.org)
The Boeing B-17 is by far the most famous bomber of World War II. In 1934 the Boeing Aircraft Company of Seattle Washington began construction of a four engine heavy bomber. Known as the Model -299, first flight was achieved on July 28th 1935. As a result, the U.S. Government placed an order for production of 13 of these aircraft and began to take delivery of the 13 production aircraft between January 11th and August 4th 1937.<
The B-17, dubbed the “Flying Fortress” as a result of her amount of defensive firepower, underwent a number of improvements over its ten-year production run. B-17 Models ranged from the YB-17 to the B-17G model. Throughout the war the B-17 was refined and improved as the combat experience showed the Boeing designers where improvements could be made. The Final B-17 production model, the B-17G was produced in the largest quantities (8,680) than any other previous model and is considered the definitive “Flying Fortress”. With its 13 .50-caliber machine guns, Chin, top, ball and tail turrets; waist and cheek guns the B-17 was indeed an airplane that earned the respect of its combatants. In addition, the flight crews loved the B-17 for her ability to take and withstand heavy combat damage and return safely home.
During WWII, the B-17 saw service in every theater of operation, but was operated primarily by the 8th Air force in Europe and participated in countless missions from bases in England. A typical B-17 Mission often lasted for more than eight hours and struck targets deep within enemy territory. During the war, B-17’s dropped 640,036 tons of bombs on European targets in daylight raids. This compares to the 452,508 tons dropped by the B-24 and 464,544 tons dropped by all other U.S. aircraft. The B-17 also downed 23 enemy aircraft per 1,000 raid as compared with 11 by B-24’s and 11 by fighters and three by all U.S. medium and light bombers.
There were a total of 12,732 B-17’s that were produced between 1935 and May 1945. Of these 4,735 were lost in combat. Following WWII, the B-17 saw service in three more wars. B-17’s were used in Korea, Israel used them in the war of 1948 and they were even used during Vietnam.
Today, fewer than 100 B-17 airframes exist and fewer still are in airworthy condition. At one time, more than 1000 B-17’s could be assembled for mass combat missions, now less than 15 of Boeings famous bombers can still take to the sky.