Jump to content

Flying Fortress Story......


Guest DWB
 Share

Recommended Posts

I received this in an email today & thought it a good read to post here...........

 

You gotta love the ole Flying Fortress (it truly WAS) 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.

 

[ATTACH=full]853[/ATTACH]

 

20111101064214_image22.jpg.d1dce9f600f33ad102c4e3976076922f.jpg

 

 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

It's a great story. They say the crews liked the B17 for it's survivability, as opposed to the Liberator which wasn't very good in that department. Another bomber which could still fly with large parts of it missing was the Wellington. It was constructed a bit like an airship, with aluminium 'w' beams tied with longitudinal wooden stringers. The skin was doped fabric. Apparently it could sustain a lot of damage & a few stringers & a bit of framework would still hold the tail section on.

 

Cheers Willie.

 

[ATTACH=full]854[/ATTACH]

 

Wellington-Bomber-Frame.jpg.9ba5b299af1d96f3766a1d635ac7ec7b.jpg

 

 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

It's a great story. They say the crews liked the B17 for it's survivability, as opposed to the Liberator which wasn't very good in that department. Another bomber which could still fly with large parts of it missing was the Wellington. It was constructed a bit like an airship, with aluminium 'w' beams tied with longitudinal wooden stringers. The skin was doped fabric. Apparently it could sustain a lot of damage & a few stringers & a bit of framework would still hold the tail section on.Cheers Willie.

[ATTACH=full]854[/ATTACH]

Correct me if necessary, but I think the stringers were spiral, rather than longitudinal, and were not wooden.

Check out geodetic/geodesic in Wikipedia: there's a superb photo of a Wimpie which made it back with most of its aft fabric missing.

 

 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Correct me if necessary, but I think the stringers were spiral, rather than longitudinal, and were not wooden.Check out geodetic/geodesic in Wikipedia: there's a superb photo of a Wimpie which made it back with most of its aft fabric missing.

You had me thinking for a minute there, Siz. Some geodetic designs are like you say, but looking at some higher res photos, the Wellington definitely has longitudinal stringers or battens. As far as them being wooden, I can't say 100% for sure, but every reference to them I've read describes them as wooden battens. Here's some photos of the frame & a couple with the battens showing through the fabric. Last photo, I think is of an early experimental design by the designer of the system; can't remember his name offhand, he designed the Dambuster Bomb as well. This is more like the design you mention with the spiral.

 

Cheers, Willie.

 

[ATTACH=full]855[/ATTACH][ATTACH=full]856[/ATTACH][ATTACH=full]857[/ATTACH][ATTACH=full]858[/ATTACH][ATTACH=full]859[/ATTACH]

 

geodetics.jpg.48750b1935b33a7d898218c924eb1cdf.jpg

 

 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

You are right Willy, here is a quote from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vickers_Wellington

 

"The Wellington used a geodesic construction method, which had been devised by Barnes Wallis inspired by his work on airships, and had previously been used to build the single-engine Wellesley light bomber. The fuselage was built up from 1650 elements, consisting of aluminium alloy (duralumin) W-beams that were formed into a large framework. Wooden battens were screwed onto the aluminium, and these were covered with Irish linen, which, once treated with many layers of dope, formed the outer skin of the aircraft. The metal lattice gave the structure tremendous strength, because any one of the stringers could support some of the weight from even the opposite side of the aircraft."

 

More details and photos in the Wiki.

 

Peter.

 

 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

That would be Barnes Wallis. Always loved the line attributed to him when he was battling to get an aircraft to air test the bouncing bomb; "Do you think it would help if they knew that I designed the Wellington?"

 

 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

That would be Barnes Wallis. Always loved the line attributed to him when he was battling to get an aircraft to air test the bouncing bomb; "Do you think it would help if they knew that I designed the Wellington?"

Thanks, Spin. I'd forgotten all about that. Fairly sure I've got that old movie somewhere in the dvd collection. About time to watch it again, I remember it as a good story.

Cheers, Willie.

 

 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Apologies to Dexter, looks like the Wellington has tried to hi-jack the B17's thread. Typical British. Getting back to the OP, an excellent story with a good ending, and reminds me about this recent article about a German airman assisting a crippled Fortress.

 

Cheers, Willie.

 

http://benlovegrove.com/2009/06/24/charlie-brown-b-17-called-ye-old-pub-german-pilot-franz-steigler/

 

 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Apologies to Dexter

No need for that Willie - they're all great stories & deserve to be told. The Charlie Brown one yet an other great story. Thanks

 

 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
 Share

×
×
  • Create New...