Inside a Flying Fortress
Look inside one of the only surviving B-17Gs with a combat record.
- By Roger Connor and Christopher Moore. Photographs by Eric Long and Mark Avino.
- AirSpaceMag.com, May 27, 2011
The B-17 Flying Fortress shaped the air war over Western Europe like no other World War II aircraft. From the outset of fighting, it provided a strategic bombing capability that the Axis could never match. Its heavy payload, defensive armament, and rugged construction allowed the Army Air Forces to bomb heavily defended targets in Western Europe, unescorted, in daylight. While the strategic bombing campaign suffered its share of missteps and the legacy of civilian casualties is still hotly debated, the efficacy of the Flying Fortress in crippling German industry and infrastructure is not in doubt. Eighth Air Force B-17s alone dropped well over 400,000 tons of bombs on Axis-held territory from August 17, 1942 to May 8, 1945. However, 4,754 Flying Fortresses were lost or written off in the course of operations, constituting 37 percent of the production run of 12,731 airframes.
See above for a gallery of B-17 photos. Text and images are from the Smithsonian book In the Cockpit II: Inside History-Making Aircraft of World War II (Collins Design, Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum, 2010), photography by Eric F. Long and Mark A. Avino, text by Roger D. Connor and Christopher T. Moore. Reprinted with permission.