Sunday, January 31, 2010

Sentimental Journey

For those of you who weren't fans of "Twelve O'clock High," either the T.V. series or the movie, and have no idea what a Boeing B-17 looks like, here it is. The "G" model was the last mass produced version of the Flying Fortress. You can see the chin, belly and top gun turrets quite easily. It also had a tail gun position, plus two waist gun positions and two cheek gun installations. Some also had another gun sticking up from the radioman's position aft of the top turret where the dorsal spine fairs into the fuselage. All in all the later versions of the airplane carried thirteen .50 caliber machine guns.

And it still wasn't enough, even when flying in large formations with other B-17s covering you. German fighter pilots were bold and daring and the toll they took on our planes and crews was immense. Some raids in late 1943 saw 50 to 60 or more bombers lost out of the attacking force per raid, losses that approached 20% per mission. Considering each B-17 and B-24 carried a crew of 10, the crew attrition was tremendous as well. And this didn't include the damaged planes with killed or wounded crews that made it back to their bases in Britain. It wasn't until U.S. fighters started escorting bombers throughout the entire mission profile that our losses came down to an "acceptable" level. We really have no idea what casualties are these days.

I don't know if that American generation was the "greatest" of all, but they certainly can make a valid claim to it in my book - right next to the generation that fought the Civil War.

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