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About the Photos

Most of the photos on this site were extracted from reference images (high-resolution tiffs, 20 to 200 megabytes in size) from the Library of Congress research archive. (To query the database click here.) Many were digitized by LOC contractors using a Sinar studio back. They are adjusted by your webmaster for contrast and color in Photoshop before being downsized and turned into the jpegs you see here.

 
 
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VINTAGRAPH • WPA • WWII • NORTH TUSCANY COAST, 1948

Builders of Victory: 1943

Builders of Victory: 1943

"Bomber factory. No caption for this image." 1943 or 1944. So, what are they and where is Shop 301? Office of War Information safety negative. View full size.

 

Type of B-17

In front of the windshield area, you can see the mounting hole for the Astrodome, this was used first, on the B-17F model. Looking at the type of Tail guns they are putting on them, I believe these to be F model B-17s.

Farewell Boeing Plant II

The building this picture was taken in will be torn down this year. Part of the reason is the environmental problems it has been causing – toxic wastes leaking from it into the Duwamish River that flows behind it (That part of the Duwamish is now an EPA superfund cleanup site). The ground beneath the building is also unstable, as the back of the building was built over the marshy river bank. One retired worker I interviewed said that when the level of the river rose or dropped enough, they had to realign the machinery. Boeing reported that the cost of maintaining the building has become prohibitive. What they don’t say is that they let it deteriorate badly over the last few decades.

They are thinking of using part of the land for a park. That would be nice, but I still hate to see Plant II go. My grandfather was one of the men who built this plant. We still have his certificate they gave each worker, thanking them for the speed in which they completed construction.

Plant II, Building 2-40

Yes, that is indeed Seattle Plant II, now designated Buildingg 2-40.

The shot is looking east within the southern portion of the main floor area, either from the mezzanine level or the subassembly balcony above what was nicknamed "Burma Road": a transportation aisle where the built-up tails, wings, vertical stabilizers etc. were brought down to the main floor to mate with the fuselages as they proceeded towards the east hangar doors.

Both assembly lines started back by the river and were fed materials from rail spurs to auxiliary buildings to the south and the north of the main floor (now the 2-31 and 2-44 buildings)

You can find people that were actually on the floor there then still hanging around at the Museum of Flight on occasion. Some still corporeal!

B-17 F's or G's

I also was trying to see the whether or not these models had the chin turret, which would make them the G model. If there are sponsons for the cheek guns (one each starboard and port sides), that would indicate a G model also. Cutouts for cheek guns without a sponson projection would usually indicate an F. Some of the B-17 G aircrews I've talked to pulled out the cheek guns as they would swing around in combat and there wasn't a lot of room in the nose canopy to begin with.

Rides on a B-17

The Collings Foundation travels around the country offering rides for around $300 on a B-17G, "Nine Oh Nine," as well as a B-25 and (they say) the only flyable B-24.

I did this in Dallas a couple of years back. Terrific experience. I got there in time to get a low boarding number good for the first flight which meant that I was on board as they started the engines and then took it to the runway and waited while they got warmed up. It was impressive to feel the bird shake as the engines increased RPM. After take off you were permitted to crawl all over the plane looking out the various gun stations and through a bomb sight, or even put your head through the observation hatch back of the top turret.

Well worth the money.

A bad copy

I wasn't sure if they made B-17s at Wichita, so I did a quick Google search for "confirmation" -- and I found other people who were under that impression. It was the equivalent of copying off someone else's paper when you don't know if THEY know the answers.

Museum of Flight

The Museum of Flight is restoring a B-17F in Boeing's Plant 2. That particular B-17F rolled off the assembly line at Boeing Field in February of '43, a couple months after I assume these photos were taken. It's returned to its birthplace to be reborn.

Seeing Stars

The "observation port just foward of the cockpit" is the astrodome. That's where the navigator used stellar navigation and his astrocompass for a position fix in the days before you could just punch up the Garmin for your "stellar" fix. Astrodomes were, as best I can find, a running change made in the middle of the B-17F run. Some Fs seem to have had them and some didn't.

The EEA's B-17G-VE "Aluminum Overcast" passed through Davenport, Iowa, a few years ago. You could buy a short ride (30 minutes?) for $400. I went out to the airport and got in line but it was cold and too windy. I guess the 60mph gusts made the pilots a bit nervous!! Even though the B-17 never got off the ground that day, it was still worth the trip to the airport to stand there and watch the old veterans hobble in and become 20 years old again. Even if the Fortress had gotten airborne that day I don't think I would have taken a seat on it knowing some old codger more deserving might have been left behind only because the seating was limited and he was behind me in line.

My aunt worked the Boeing-Wichita assembly line starting with the B-29s. She's gone, but remembering her stories if must have been the best years of her life and I'm sure many of the folks in this photo felt the same way in their later years.

B Stinger

Most B-17G's (the latest model that was used in Europe) had an updated "Cheyenne" tail turret with a rounded tip. The tail unit being installed on the plane in the picture is the model before the Cheyenne turret, indicating probably a B-17F or an early B-17G model.

Feininger in Seattle

This photo has a catalog number of LC-USW3-041249-C in the LOC archive and a negative number (see the edge of the image) of OWI-41249-C.

Several photos with similar negative numbers (e.g., OWI-41240-C, and OWI-41247-C) were taken by Andreas Feininger in December 1942 at the Boeing Seattle plant.

This photo is on sheet safety film and I think Feininger's photos are on nitrate roll film, so he may not have taken this photo, but it looks to me like they were taken at about the same time.

Looks like a B-17 G

After reviewing a lot of photos of B17s, the ones in Shop 301 appear to be G models. They have the observation port just foward of the cockpit that is shown in G model pics on the internet. The clincher would be if we could see the chin turret.

Boeing Wichita

Wichita never built B-17s. B-17s were only built in Seattle, Long Beach and Burbank. The Boeing plant in Wichita was originally their Stearman trainer manufacturing facility. Wichita also built gliders under license from nearby Cessna and it was expanded to produce B-29s for WW2. Later, Wichita produced B-47s and B-52s before it switched to commercial aircraft subassemblies and parts.

Kansas

Boeing built a plant in Wichita to produce B-17s as well.

Boeing in Seattle.

B-17s were built by Boeing in Seattle and under license by Douglas in Long Beach and by Lockheed-Vega in Burbank. The photo is of the Boeing variant made at Boeing Field in Seattle. This is probably "Building 2-40" at Plant 2 on East Marginal Way South in Seattle.

Negativity

Actually if you read the right hand side of the negative you'll see that it says Safety Negative.

[Oops. Thankew. - Dave]

Where?

B-17s were built by Boeing, Douglas and Vega, so we can narrow it down to Seattle or Southern California.

The Germans never had a chance

Lots of "Riveting Rosies" as well.

The Planes are B-17's

The planes are B-17's -- you can tell by the cockpit shape. As for where, no idea.

B-17s to start off

They are clearly B-17s to get started, but I don't see enough to guess at a model which would help to date the picture.

 
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