Tag Archives: B-17F-10-BO

5 September 1942-5 January 1943

Brigadier General Kenneth Newton Walker, United States Army Air Forces. (Air University Press)

MEDAL OF HONOR

KENNETH N. WALKER (Air Mission)

Rank and organization: Brigadier General, U.S. Army Air Corps, Commander of V Bomber Command.

Place and date: Rabaul, New Britain, 5 January 1943.

Entered service at: Colorado.

Birth: Cerrillos, New Mexico

G.O. No.: 13, 11 March 1943.

Citation:

For conspicuous leadership above and beyond the call of duty involving personal valor and intrepidity at an extreme hazard to life. As commander of the 5th Bomber Command during the period from 5 September 1942, to 5 January 1943, Brig. Gen. Walker repeatedly accompanied his units on bombing missions deep into enemy-held territory. From the lessons personally gained under combat conditions, he developed a highly efficient technique for bombing when opposed by enemy fighter airplanes and by antiaircraft fire. On 5 January 1943, in the face of extremely heavy antiaircraft fire and determined opposition by enemy fighters, he led an effective daylight bombing attack against shipping in the harbor at Rabaul, New Britain, which resulted in direct hits on 9 enemy vessels. During this action his airplane was disabled and forced down by the attack of an overwhelming number of enemy fighters.

Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress heavy bombers of the 43rd Bombardment Group (Heavy) parked in revetments at 7 Mile Drome (Jackson Airfield), Port Moresby, 31 December 1942. (U.S. Air Force)

On the morning of 5 January 1943, six Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress and six Consolidated B-24 Liberator heavy bombers departed 7 Mile Drome, an airfield near Port Moresby at the eastern end of the island of New Guinea. Their mission was to attack an enemy shipping convoy believed to be approaching the Japanese military base at Rabaul on the neighboring island of New Britain.

Leading the attack force was B-17 41-24458, San Antonio Rose, flown by Major Allen Lindberg, commanding officer, 64th Bombardment Squadron (Heavy) and Captain Benton Hayes Daniel, Jr.  Also on board as observers were Lieutenant Colonel Jack Bleasdale, the executive officer of the 43rd Bombardment Group (Heavy), and Brigadier General Kenneth Newton Walker, commanding general, V Bomber Command, Fifth Air Force. There were a total of 11 airmen on board.¹

Boeing B-17 Flying Fortresses of the 43rd Bombardment Group (Heavy) en route to attack Rabaul, New Britain, 5 January 1943. (U.S. Air Force A–23272 A.C.)

The bombers arrived over Rabaul at 8,500 feet (2,591 meters) at 12:00 p.m., local time, and the formation broke up to make individual attacks against the ships in the harbor. Anti-aircraft artillery fire was light and ineffective. The bomber crews claimed several ships sunk and damaged.²

As the bombing force left the target, it was attacked by enemy fighter aircraft, which were described as Mitsubishi A6M Navy Type 0 (Allied reporting name, “Zeke,” but best known as the “Zero”) or Nakajima Ki-43 Army Type 1 Fighters (the Hayabusa, Allied reporting name, “Oscar”).

Enemy shipping under attack in Simpson Harbor, 5 January 1943. (U.S. Air Force E-23272 A.C.)

One of the B-24s had been badly damaged and diverted to Milne Bay. Four of the five B-17s which returned to Port Moreseby were damaged.

San Antonio Rose, the B-17 carrying General Walker, was seen trailing smoke and diving through clouds. A Fifth Air Force message stated, “Later B-17 was observed heading south just east of Vunakanau [10 miles (16 kilometers) south-southwest of Rabaul] at about 5,000 feet, left outboard engine smoking but later appeared alright, was being closely pursued by four to five Zekes and last seen going into clouds.” A Japanese fighter pilot wrote that the B-17 was seen flying to the south, about 25 miles south of Rabaul. It was not seen again.

San Antonio Rose and its crew never returned from the mission. Searches over the next several days were unsuccessful. The 11 airmen were listed as Missing in Action.³

On 12 December 1945, the crew of San Antonio Rose were reclassified as Killed in Action.

An 8 minute, 34 second, film of the 5 January 1943 mission from the National Archives and Records Administration is available on YouTube:

Kenneth Newton Walker was born 17 July 1898 at Los Cerrillos, a tiny community along the “Turquoise Trail” in the Territory of New Mexico. He was the son of Wallace Walker and Emma Helen Overturf Walker. His father abandoned them when he was very young. Mrs Walker took Kenneth to Denver, Colorado, and later to Kansas City, where he attended Central High School. He graduated from the Omaha High School of Commerce in Omaha, Nebraska in 1915. Ken Walker studied business through a college extension course.

The United States entered World War I on 6 April, 1917. Ten months later, 10 December 1917, Kenneth Newton Walker enlisted in the Signal Enlisted Reserve Corps, United States Army, at Denver, Colorado. Walker was 5 feet, 8 inches (1.73 meters) tall, with a high forehead and ruddy complexion. He had brown hair and green eyes.

Walker was promoted to private first class, Aviation Section, Sig. E.R.C., 7 March 1918. Pfc. Walker was then assigned to the University of California School of Military Aeronautics, and in June 1918, he began flight training at the Air Service Flying School, Mather Field, near Sacramento, California. On completion of his flight training, Pfc. Walker was discharged from his enlistment, effective 1 November 1918, to accept a commission as a second lieutenant, Aviation Section, Signal Corps, United States Army, the following day.

2nd Lieutenant Walker was sent to Brooks Field at San Antonio, Texas, where he trained as a flight instructor. He was then assigned to Barron Field, south of Fort Worth, Texas. In 1919, Walker was reassigned to Post Field at Fort Sill, Oklahoma.

Under the National Defense Act of 1920, the Aviation Section became the Air Service, a distinct combatant branch of the Army, and was no longer a part of the Signal Corps. This resulted in changes in officers’ commissions.

2nd Lieutenant Walker’s commission was vacated on 15 September 1920. Retroactively, he received a commission as a 2nd Lieutenant, Air Service, United States Army, effective 1 July 1920, and was promoted to 1st lieutenant with the same date of effect. The new commission was accepted 15 September 1920. His rank as 1st lieutenant was accepted 13 April 1921.

Lt. and Mrs. Kenneth N. Walker. (Photograph courtesy of Douglas P. Walker)

2nd Lieutenant Walker married Miss Marguerite Potter, 28 September 1922. The ceremony was performed by Rev. H. Leach Hoover at St. Andrew’s Church, Lawton, Nebraska. The Walkers would have two sons: Kenneth Newton Walker, Jr., born in 1927, and Douglas Potter Walker, born in 1933.

Also in 1922, Lieutenant Walker graduated from the Air Service Observation School, as a qualified aerial observer. On 15 December 1922, Walker was discharged as a 1st lieutenant, A.S., U.S.A., and appointed a 2nd lieutenant.

Lieutenant Walker was assigned to Nichols Field, south of Manila on the island of Luzon, in the Philippine Islands. He was once again promoted to 1st lieutenant, 24 July 1924.

1929, Air Corps Tactical School, Langley Field, 1929; faculty, senior instructor

1934 Divorce

Second Lieutenant Kenneth N. Walker, Air Service, United States Army, circa 1924. (National Archives and Records Administration)

On 18 August 1934, Lieutenant Walker married Ms. Juliet G. Wimberly in Madison County, Alabama. This was the second marriage for both. A second wedding ceremony took place in Franklin County, Tennessee, 8 September 1934, officiated by L.J. Sisk, Justice of the Peace. They would have one son, John W. Walker. This marriage ended in divorce at Reno, Nevada, in February 1940.

Captain Kenneth Newton Walker, Air Corps, United States Army. (U.S. Air Force)

Command and General Staff School, Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, 1935. Promoted to captain, 1 August 1935, then less than three months later, 20 October 1935, to the rank of major (temporary).

Douglas B-18 BG-23 after accident at Denver, Colorado, 23 December 1937. (UP)

On 23 December 1937, Captain Walker was piloting one of three Douglas B-18 twin-engine bombers which had picked up recent graduates from the Air Corps Technical School at Rantoul, Illinois, and were returning them to Hamilton Field, Novato, California. After a stop at Denver Municipal Airport (now Stapleton International Airport, DEN), Captain Walker’s airplane was the second to takeoff. Just after becoming airborne, the B-18 crashed.

Captain Walker said,

“We were about 20 feet off the ground and going about 80 miles an hour when the ship just seemed to lose power,” he said. “I kicked hard on the left rudder and we swung around at right angles after sliding across that little gully,” indicating a ravine at the roadside.

The Billings Gazette, Vol.. L., No. 50, Friday, 24 December 1937, Page 2 column 1

The B-18 hit the runway, slid about 200 feet (61 meters) then cut through a fence and came to rest on a roadway between a ravine and railroad tracks. None of the nine men on board ⁴ were injured but the B-18 was seriously damaged. It had flown just 49 hours since new. (49:00 TTSN)

Major Walker commanded the 18th Pursuit Group (Interceptor), Wheeler Field, Territory of Hawaii.

Major Walker’s Curtiss-Wright P-36A Hawk, in flight over the island of Oahu, Territory of Hawaii, 8 February 1940. (Hawaii Aviation)

Attended the General Staff School from 10 March 1942 to 1 July 1942. Walker was promoted to the temporary rank of Brigadier General, Army of the United States, on 17 June 1942.

In addition to the Medal of Honor, Brigadier General Kenneth Newton Walker was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross, the Silver Star, the Legion of Merit and the Purple Heart.

General Walker’s remains have not been recovered. There is a cenotaph in his memory is at the Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, Virginia. His name, along with the other airmen of San Antonio Rose, appears on the Walls of the Missing, Manila American Cemetery, Taguig City, Philippines. In 1948, Roswell Army Air Field was renamed Walker Air Force Base in his honor.

“Brigadier General Kenneth N. Walker, commanding general of a bomber command in the southwest Pacific, who has been reported missing in action after leading a flight against Japanese shipping. This is the most recent photograph of General Walker, taken in front of his tent-office in the field.” (Library of Congress LC-USW33-000979-ZC [P&P] )
A Boeing B-17F Flying Fortress, 42-30243, the same type heavy bomber as San Antonio Rose. (U.S. Air Force)

San Antonio Rose was a Boeing B-17F-10-BO Flying Fortress, c/n 3143, Army Air Corps serial number 41-24458. The bomber was built during the summer of 1942, in the same production block with another famous B-17, Memphis Belle (41-24485). It was delivered to the United States Army Air Corps 8 July 1941.

Deep within my heart lies a melody
A song of old San Antone
Where in dreams I live with a memory
Beneath the stars all alone

It was there I found beside the Alamo
Enchantment strange as the blue, up above
A moonlit path that only she would know
Still hears my broken song of love

Moon in all your splendor knows only my heart
Call back my Rose, Rose of San Antone
Lips so sweet and tender like petals fallin’ apart
Speak once again of my love, my own

Broken song, empty words I know
Still live in my heart all alone
For that moonlit pass by the Alamo
And Rose, my Rose of San Antone

—”New San Antonio Rose,” by Bob Wills, 1941

Boeing B-17F-10-BO Flying Fortress 41-24458, San Antonio Rose, parked in a revetment at 7 Mile Drome, Port Moresby, New Guinea, with all engines running. (U.S. Air Force via b17flyingfortress.de)

¹ Major Allen Lindberg, Pilot, Aircraft Commander; Captain Benton H. Daniel, Jr., co-pilot; 1st Lieutenant John W. Hanson, Navigator; 2nd Lieutenant Robert L. Hand, Bombardier; Technical Sergeant Dennis T. Craig, Engineer/Top Turret Gunner; Staff Sergeant Quentin W. Blakeley, Radio Operator/Top Gunner; Sergeant Leslie A. Stewart, Gunner; Private 1st Class William G. Fraser, Jr., Gunner; and Private Leland W. Stone, Gunner.

² Postwar analysis found that one ship, the transport Keifuku Maru, 5,833 tones, had been bracketed by two bombs and sank. Another freighter, Kagu Maru, and the Minikaze-class destroyer Tachikaze, were damaged. (Tachikaze had been damaged in an earlier air attack, 27 December 1942, and its commanding officer killed.) On 5 January 1943, the destroyer was alongside Yamabiko Maru, a passenger-cargo steamer which had been converted to a repair ship for the Imperial Japanese Navy.

Keifuku Maru, 5,833 tons, photographed during the 1930s, was sunk during the Allied air attack on Rabaul, 5 January 1943. (Wikipedia)

³ It is possible that two airmen, Lieutenant Colonel Bleasdale and Lieutenant Daniel, bailed out of the bomber and were later captured and held as prisoners of war. Neither survived the war, however.

⁴ Captain Walker, pilot; Lieutenant William Capp, co-pilot; Staff Sergeant William J. Oglesby, crew chief; Corporal Burton Vanderwerhen, gunner; with J.D. Rhodes, H.E. Perkins, G.J. Ambrose, J.S. Doherty, and J.S. Chamberlain.

© 2019, Bryan R. Swopes

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9 June 1943

Boeing B-17F-10-BO Flying Fortress 41-24485, Memphis Belle, flies home from England, 9 June 1943. (U.S. Air Force)

9 June 1943: After completing 25 combat missions over Western Europe from its base at Air Force Station 121 (RAF Bassingbourne, Cambridgeshire, England), Memphis Belle, a U.S. Army Air Forces Boeing B-17F-10-BO Flying Fortress, serial number 41-24485, assigned to the 91st Bombardment Group (Heavy), 324th Bomb Squadron (Heavy), was flown home by Captain Robert K. Morgan and Captain James A. Verinis.

The crew of the Memphis Belle after their 25th mission: (left to right) Technical Sergeant Harold Loch, Top Turret Gunner/Engineer; Staff Sergeant Cecil Scott, Ball Turret Gunner; Technical Sergeant Robert Hanson, Radio Operator; Captain James Verinis, Co-pilot; Captain Robert Morgan, Aircraft Commander/Pilot; Captain Charles Leighton, Navigator; Staff Sergeant John Quinlan, Tail Gunner; Staff Sergeant Casimer Nastal, Waist Gunner; Captain Vincent Evans, Bombardier; Staff Sergeant Clarence Winchell Waist Gunner. (U.S. Air Force photograph)

The daylight bombing campaign of Nazi-occupied Europe was very dangerous with high losses in both airmen and aircraft. For a bomber crew, 25 combat missions was a complete tour, and they were sent on to other assignments. Memphis Belle was only the second B-17 to survive 25 missions, so it was withdrawn from combat and sent back to the United States for a publicity tour.

Boeing B-17F-10-BO Flying Fortress 41-22485, Memphis Belle, in flight over England, 1943. (U.S. Air Force)
Miss Margaret Polk, 1943.

The B-17’s name was a reference to Captain Morgan’s girlfriend, Miss Margaret Polk, who lived in Memphis, Tennessee. The artwork painted on the airplane’s nose was a “Petty Girl” based on the work of pin-up artist George Petty of Esquire magazine. (Morgan named his next airplane—a B-29 Superfortress—Dauntless Dotty after his wife, Dorothy Morgan. With it, he led the first B-29 bombing mission against Tokyo, Japan, in 1944. It was also decorated with a Petty Girl.)

Memphis Belle and her crew were the subject of a 45-minute documentary, “Memphis Belle: A Story of a Flying Fortress,” directed by William Wyler and released in April 1944. It was filmed in combat aboard Memphis Belle and several other B-17s. The United States Library of Congress named it for preservation as a culturally significant film.

After returning to the United States, Memphis Belle was sent on a War Bonds tour. In this photograph, it is parked at Patterson Field, Dayton, Ohio. (U.S. Air Force)

Following the War Bonds tour, Memphis Belle was assigned to MacDill Field, Tampa, Florida, where it was used for combat crew training.

Boeing B-17F Flying Fortress 41-224485, “Memphis Belle,” arrives at the NACA Aircraft Engine Research Laboratory at Lewis Field, Cleveland, Ohio, 7 July 1943. (NASA)

After the war, Memphis Belle was sent to a “boneyard” at Altus, Oklahoma, to be scrapped along with hundreds of other wartime B-17s. A newspaper reporter learned of this and told Memphis’ mayor, Walter Chandler. Chandler purchased it for its scrap value and arranged for it to be put on display in the city of Memphis. For decades it suffered from time, weather and neglect. The Air Force finally took the bomber back and placed it in the permanent collection of the National Museum of the United States Air Force at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, where it has been undergoing a total restoration for the last several years.

“On July 17, 1946, at 2:55 p.m., the Memphis Belle rolled to a stop in front of the Administration Building at Municipal Airport and ended its final flight. The plane had been stored in Altus, Okla. Mayor Walter Chandler (fifth left in white suit) and some 200 people greeted the Belle and the final flight’s crew (from left) Stuart Griffin, radioman; Lt. James Gowdy, navigator; Capt. Hamp Morrison, co-pilot; Capt. Robert Little, pilot; Sgt. Percy Roberts Jr., engineer; Capt Robert Taylor, co-navigator and Tech Sgt. Charles Crowe, engineer. (Editor’s Note: This crew was the crew that flew the plane from Altus, Okla.; not the wartime flight crew)” (The Commercial Appeal)

The Boeing B-17F Flying Fortress was a four-engine heavy bomber operated by a flight crew of ten. It was 74 feet, 8.90 inches (22.781 meters) long with a wingspan of 103 feet, 9.38 inches (31.633 meters) and an overall height of 19 feet, 1.00 inch (5.187 meters). The wings have 3½° angle of incidence and 4½° dihedral. The leading edge is swept aft 8¾°. The total wing area is 1,426 square feet (132.48 square meters). The horizontal stabilizer has a span of 43 feet (13.106 meters) with 0° incidence and dihedral. Its total area, including elevators, is 331.1 square feet (12.18 square meters).

The B-17F had an approximate empty weight of 36,135 pounds (16,391 kilograms), 40,437 pounds (18,342 kilograms) basic, and the maximum takeoff weight was 65,000 pounds (29,484 kilograms).

The forward fuselage of Memphis Belle dismantled for restoration at the National Museum of the United States Air Force, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Dayton Ohio. The “Petty Girl” on the right side of the airplane is in red. (U.S. Air Force)

The B-17F was powered by four air-cooled, supercharged, 1,823.129-cubic-inch-displacement (29.876 liters) Wright Cyclone G666A (R-1820-65)¹ nine-cylinder radial engines with a compression ratio of 6.70:1. The engines were equipped with remote General Electric turbochargers capable of 24,000 r.p.m. The R-1820-65 was rated at 1,000 horsepower at 2,300 r.p.m. at Sea Level, and 1,200 horsepower at 2,500 r.p.m. for takeoff. The engine could produce 1,380 horsepower at War Emergency Power. 100-octane aviation gasoline was required. The Cyclones turned three-bladed, constant-speed, Hamilton-Standard Hydromatic propellers with a diameter of 11 feet, 7 inches (3.835 meters) though a 0.5625:1 gear reduction. The R-1820-65 engine is 3 feet, 11.59 inches (1.209 meters) long and 4 feet, 7.12 inches (1.400 meters) in diameter. It weighs 1,315 pounds (596 kilograms).

The B-17F had a cruising speed of 200 miles per hour (322 kilometers per hour). The maximum speed was 299 miles per hour (481 kilometers per hour) at 25,000 feet (7,620 meters), though with War Emergency Power, the bomber could reach 325 miles per hour (523 kilometers per hour) at 25,000 feet for short periods. The service ceiling was 37,500 feet (11,430 meters).

Boeing B-17F-10-BO Flying Fortress 41-24485, the Memphis Belle, under restoration at the National Museum of the United States Air Force, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Dayton, Ohio. (U.S. Air Force)

With a normal fuel load of 1,725 gallons (6,530 liters) the B-17F had a maximum range of 3,070 miles (4,941 kilometers). Two “Tokyo tanks” could be installed in the bomb bay, increasing capacity by 820 gallons (3,104 liters). Carrying a 6,000 pound (2,722 kilogram) bomb load, the range was 1,300 miles (2,092 kilometers).

The Memphis Belle was armed with 13 Browning AN-M2 .50-caliber machine guns for defense against enemy fighters. Power turrets mounting two guns each were located at the dorsal and ventral positions. Four machine guns were mounted in the nose, 1 in the radio compartment, 2 in the waist and 2 in the tail.

Restoration of the B-17 Flying Fortress Memphis Belle progresses. (Air Force Times)

The maximum bomb load of the B-17F was 20,800 pounds (9434.7 kilograms) over very short ranges. Normally, 4,000–6,000 pounds (1,815–2,722 kilograms) of high explosive bombs were carried. The internal bomb bay could be loaded with a maximum of eight 1,600 pound (725.75 kilogram) bombs. Two external bomb racks mounted under the wings between the fuselage and the inboard engines could carry one 4,000 pound (1,814.4 kilogram) bomb, each, though this option was rarely used.

The B-17 Flying Fortress was in production from 1936 to 1945. 12,731 B-17s were built by Boeing, Douglas Aircraft Company and Lockheed-Vega. (The manufacturer codes -BO, -DL and -VE follows the Block Number in each airplane’s type designation.) 3,405 of the total were B-17Fs, with 2,000 built by Boeing, 605 by Douglas and 500 by Lockheed-Vega.

Only three B-17F Flying Fortresses, including Memphis Belle, remain in existence. The completely restored bomber went on public display at the National Museum of the United States Air Force, 17 May 2018.

Boeing B-17F-10-BO Flying Fortress 41-24485, “Memphis Belle,” photographed 14 March 2018 at the National Museum of the United States Air Force, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio. (U.S. Air Force)

Memphis Belle ® is a Registered Trademark of the United States Air Force.

¹ Later production B-17F and B-17G bombers were equipped with Wright Cyclone C9GC (R-1820-97) engines.

© 2018, Bryan R. Swopes

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17 May 1943

The crew of the Memphis Belle after their 25th mission: (left to right) Technical Sergeant Harold Loch, Top Turret Gunner/Engineer; Staff Sergeant Cecil Scott, Ball Turret Gunner; Technical Sergeant Robert Hanson, Radio Operator; Captain James Verinis, Co-pilot; Captain Robert Morgan, Aircraft Commander/Pilot; Captain Charles Leighton, Navigator; Staff Sergeant John Quinlan, Tail Gunner; Staff Sergeant Casimer Nastal, Waist Gunner; Captain Vincent Evans, Bombardier; Staff Sergeant Clarence Winchell Waist Gunner. (U.S. Air Force photograph)

17 May 1943: The flight crew of the B-17 Memphis Belle completed their combat tour of 25 bombing missions over Western Europe with an attack on the massive Kéroman Submarine Base at Lorient, France.¹ The bomber was a U.S. Army Air Force Boeing B-17F-10-BO Flying Fortress, serial number 41-24485, assigned to the 324th Bombardment Squadron (Heavy), 91st Bombardment Group (Heavy), VIII Bomber Command, based at Air Force Station 121 (RAF Bassingbourne, Cambridgeshire, England). The aircraft commander was Captain Robert Knight Morgan, Air Corps, United States Army.

The daylight bombing campaign of Nazi-occupied Europe was extremely dangerous with high losses in both airmen and aircraft. For a bomber crew, 25 combat missions was a complete tour, and they were sent back to the United States for rest and retraining before going on to other assignments. Memphis Belle was only the second B-17 to survive 25 missions, so it was withdrawn from combat and sent back to the United States for a publicity tour.

Miss Margaret Polk
Miss Margaret Polk

The B-17′s name was a reference to Captain Morgan’s girlfriend, Miss Margaret Polk, who lived in Memphis, Tennessee. The artwork painted on the airplane’s nose was a “Petty Girl” based on the work of pin-up artist George Petty of Esquire magazine. ² (Morgan named his next airplane—a B-29 Superfortress—Dauntless Dotty, after his wife, Dorothy Grace Johnson Morgan. With it, he led the first B-29 bombing mission against Tokyo, Japan, in 1944. It was also decorated with a Petty Girl.)

Memphis Belle and her crew were the subject of a 45-minute documentary, “Memphis Belle: A Story of a Flying Fortress,” directed by William Wyler and released in April 1944. It was filmed in combat aboard Memphis Belle and several other B-17s. The United States Library of Congress named it for preservation as a culturally significant film.

B-17F-10-BO Flying Fortress 41-24485 (c/n 3190) was built by the Boeing Aircraft Company at its Plant 2 in Seattle, Washington, during the summer of 1942. It was the 195th airplane in the B-17F series, and one of the third production block. Flown by a Boeing pilot named Johnston, the new bomber made its first flight, 1 hour, 40 minutes, on 13 August 1942. Maintenance records indicate, “1st flight OK.”

The B-17 was flown to Bangor, Maine and on 31 August 1942 was assigned to the 324th Bombardment Squadron (Heavy), 91st Bombardment Group (Heavy), then preparing to deploy overseas.

2nd Lieutenant Morgan first flew 41-24485 on 3 September, and logged nearly 50 hours over the next three weeks. The squadron flew across the North Atlantic Ocean, and 41-24485 arrived at its permanent station, Bassingbourne, on 26 October 1942.

Following its twenty-fifth combat mission, Memphis Belle was flown back to the United States on 9 June 1943.

After the war, Memphis Belle was put on display in the city of Memphis. For decades it suffered from time, weather and neglect. The Air Force finally took the bomber back and placed it in the permanent collection of the National Museum of the United States Air Force at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Dayton, Ohio, where it has been undergoing a total restoration for the last several years.

Survivors. The crew of the Memphis belle after their 25th combat mission, 17 May 1943. (U.S. Air Force)
Survivors. The crew of the Memphis Belle after their 25th combat mission, 17 May 1943. (U.S. Air Force)

The Boeing B-17F Flying Fortress was a four-engine heavy bomber operated by a flight crew of ten. It was 74 feet, 8.90 inches (22.781 meters) long with a wingspan of 103 feet, 9.375 inches (31.633 meters) and an overall height of 19 feet, 1.00 inch (5.187 meters). The wings have 3½° angle of incidence and 4½° dihedral. The leading edge is swept aft 8¾°. The total wing area is 1,426 square feet (132.48 square meters). The horizontal stabilizer has a span of 43 feet (13.106 meters) with 0° incidence and dihedral. Its total area, including elevators, is 331.1 square feet (12.18 square meters).

The B-17F had an approximate empty weight of 36,135 pounds (16,391 kilograms), 40,437 pounds (18,342 kilograms) basic, and the maximum takeoff weight was 65,000 pounds (29,484 kilograms).

The B-17F was powered by four air-cooled, supercharged, 1,823.129-cubic-inch-displacement (29.876 liters) Wright Cyclone G666A (R-1820-65) ³ nine-cylinder radial engines with a compression ratio of 6.70:1. The engines were equipped with remote General Electric  turbochargers capable of 24,000 r.p.m. The R-1820-65 was rated at 1,000 horsepower at 2,300 r.p.m. at Sea Level, and 1,200 horsepower at 2,500 r.p.m. for takeoff. The engine could produce 1,380 horsepower at War Emergency Power. 100-octane aviation gasoline was required. The Cyclones turned three-bladed, constant-speed, Hamilton-Standard Hydromatic propellers with a diameter of 11 feet, 7 inches (3.835 meters) though a 0.5625:1 gear reduction. The R-1820-65 engine is 3 feet, 11.59 inches (1.209 meters) long and 4 feet, 7.12 inches (1.400 meters) in diameter. It weighs 1,315 pounds (596 kilograms).

Boeing B-17F-10-BO Flying Fortress 41-22485, Memphis Belle, in flight over England, 1943. (U.S. Air Force)

The B-17F had a cruising speed of 200 miles per hour (322 kilometers per hour). The maximum speed was 299 miles per hour (481 kilometers per hour) at 25,000 feet (7,620 meters), though with War Emergency Power, the bomber could reach 325 miles per hour (523 kilometers per hour) at 25,000 feet for short periods. The service ceiling was 37,500 feet (11,430 meters).

The original “Petty Girl” pin-up nose art of the B-17 bomber, “Memphis Belle,” during restoration.

With a normal fuel load of 1,725 gallons (6,530 liters) the B-17F had a maximum range of 3,070 miles (4,941 kilometers). Two “Tokyo tanks” could be installed in the bomb bay, increasing capacity by 820 gallons (3,104 liters). Carrying a 6,000 pound (2,722 kilogram) bomb load, the range was 1,300 miles (2,092 kilometers).

The Memphis Belle was armed with 13 Browning AN-M2 .50-caliber machine guns for defense against enemy fighters. Power turrets mounting two guns each were located at the dorsal and ventral positions. Four machine guns were mounted in the nose, 1 in the radio compartment, 2 in the waist and 2 in the tail.

The maximum bomb load of the B-17F was 20,800 pounds (9434.7 kilograms) over very short ranges. Normally, 4,000–6,000 pounds (1,815–2,722 kilograms) of high explosive bombs were carried. The internal bomb bay could be loaded with a maximum of eight 1,600 pound (725.75 kilogram) bombs. Two external bomb racks mounted under the wings between the fuselage and the inboard engines could carry one 4,000 pound (1,814.4 kilogram) bomb, each, though this option was rarely used.

The B-17 Flying Fortress was in production from 1936 to 1945. 12,731 B-17s were built by Boeing, Douglas Aircraft Company and Lockheed-Vega. (The manufacturer codes -BO, -DL and -VE follows the Block Number in each airplane’s type designation.) 3,405 of the total were B-17Fs, with 2,000 built by Boeing, 605 by Douglas and 500 by Lockheed-Vega.

Boeing B-17F-10-BO Flying Fortress 41-24485, Memphis Belle, flies home from England, 9 June 1943. (U.S. Air Force)

Only three B-17F Flying Fortresses, including Memphis Belle, remain in existence. The completely restored bomber goes on public display at the National Museum of the United States Air Force, today, 17 May 2018.

Boeing B-17F-10-BO Flying Fortress 41-24485, “Memphis Belle,” photographed 14 March 2018 at the National Museum of the United States Air Force, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio. (U.S. Air Force)

Memphis Belle ® is a Registered Trademark of the United States Air Force.

¹ VIII Bomber Command Mission No. 58

² The nose art was painted by Corporal Anthony L. Starcer.

³ Later production B-17F and B-17G bombers were equipped with Wright Cyclone C9GC (R-1820-97) engines.

Boeing B-17F-10-BO Flying Fortress 41-24485, “Memphis Belle,” photographed 14 March 2018 at the National Museum of the United States Air Force, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio. (U.S. Air Force)

© 2018, Bryan R. Swopes

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