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Our holdings include hundreds of glass and film negatives/transparencies that we've scanned ourselves; in addition, many other photos on this site were extracted from reference images (high-resolution tiffs) in the Library of Congress research archive. (To query the database click here.) They are adjusted, restored and reworked by your webmaster in accordance with his aesthetic sensibilities before being downsized and turned into the jpegs you see here. All of these images (including "derivative works") are protected by copyright laws of the United States and other jurisdictions and may not be sold, reproduced or otherwise used for commercial purposes without permission.

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[REV 25-NOV-2014]

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Warship of the Air: 1942

Warship of the Air: 1942

December 1942. "Production. B-17 heavy bomber. The four mighty engines of a new B-17F (Flying Fortress) bomber warm up at the airfield of Boeing's Seattle plant as another warship of the air awaits its flight test. The Flying Fortress has performed with great credit in the South Pacific, over Germany and elsewhere. It is a four-engine heavy bomber capable of flying at high altitudes." Photo by Andreas Feininger for the Office of War Information. View full size.

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The 5 Grand and my dad

My dad, St.Sgt. Johnny Wearing, born 1925 in Detroit and still living there at 93, was the tailgunner on this plane. The plane was called the 5 Grand and my dad was in the first combat crew to fly 35 missions on her. Dad is in the front row on knees far right. He graduated high school in June of 1944 and was in the tail performing missions in September. Sincerely, Rick Wearing, Warren, Michigan.

No Disc Brakes

The B-17 did not have disc brakes. I currently fly as a crew member on the B-29 FIFI operating from Meacham Field in Fort Worth. The B-29, B-24 and B-17 all have expander tube brakes. We in the warbird organizations share brakes when we need to because they are hard to find parts for them.

Still had some art-deco lines

This version of the B-17 still had some of the elegant, Gernsback-ish lines of the prototype B-17's. Later models would get more guns, more antennas and more kit bolted on and the clean lines losts. The B-17 would be much less pretty, but much more effective.

Factory equipped

with turbo-superchargers and disc brakes. "Capable of flying at high altitudes" is right---as much as 40,000 feet!

But remember, these aircraft were unheated and unpressurized. Fleece-lined flight suits and gloves with electric heating were worn against the extreme sub-zero temperatures, and oxygen for your mask came from a manifold fed by bottles mounted on the bulkheads.

And the only thing between you and enemy fire or flak was a dime-thick skin of aluminum!


And quite fragile looking in some places. For instance, aileron hinge pin diameters of not even 1/2", if I recall correctly what I have once seen on a dressed-down B-17 at Meachum Field in Fort Worth.

Regarding the B-17

Wonderful picture.

I volunteer at a vintage aircraft museum. I've had the opportunity to fly as a paying passenger on a vintage B-24, and to tour a couple of B-17s (on the ground).

I know planes and piloting to a certain extent, and have heard and picked up this information from the old timers at the museum, and from the internet:

The B-17 was more robust, damage resistant, and more likely to get their crews back to the base after incurring often horrific battle damage.

The B-24 was faster, had a larger bomb capacity, and played more versatile roles in the war.

Lots of debate among vintage aviation buffs on this one. One thing is beyond debate..the bravery of those young guys who were up there in the very, very wild blue yonder.

Early model

Early production with few forward firing guns.

The Memphis Belle was one

A rugged, dependable aircraft

SHORPY OLD PHOTO ARCHIVE | History in HD is a vintage photo archive featuring thousands of high-definition images from the 1850s to 1960s. (Available as fine-art prints from the Shorpy Archive.) The site is named after Shorpy Higginbotham, a teenage coal miner who lived 100 years ago.

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