Boeing B-17F Flying Fortress

A Boeing B-17F Flying Fortress is inspected by its crew at a training field on the eighth anniversary of the B-17's first flight. The F model was the first mass produced version of the B-17, with 3405 completed by July 1943. 2300 were produced by Boeing, in Seattle, Washington; 605 by Douglas, in Long Beach, California; and 500 by Lockheed Vega, in Burbank, California, in a coordinated effort. The B-17F model entered combat on September 5, 1942, when 31 of 36 aircraft from the 97th and 301st Bombardment Groups attacked the railway yards in Rouen, France. Combat experience quickly showed that the factory placement of armor and anti-flak skirts did not protect the crew from a frontal assault; while some 20 rounds of 20mm (.78 inch) cannon fire from German fighters were required to bring down the bomber from the rear, only four or five shots were required from the front. Additional Browning .50 caliber (12.7 mm) machine guns replaced the single .30 in the nose; B-17F "Memphis Belle" had four machine guns firing forward. Two can be seen in this view, mounted on either side of the nose. Additional holes are cut into the plexiglass nose for additional machine guns. Later B-17Fs had an additional machine gun firing upwards in the radio compartment. This brought the total number of guns to thirteen. While the Norden Bombsight provided excellent accuracy in the clear skies of Texas (performing eight times better than its British counterpart) the grey, cloudy weather of Europe, combined with flak bursts and fighters, hampered the Americans' ability for precision bombing. In Rouen, on the first B-17F mission, only 20% of bombs landed within 500 yards of the target. Some 340 French civilians were killed or wounded. (Because of the additional machine guns in the nose, the date of this photo is likely incorrect.)
Caption Written By: 
Jason McDonald
United States Army
Date Photographed: 
Tuesday, July 28, 1942
Army Air Field
United States