8 April 1945: Wee Willie, a Flying Fortress heavy bomber, left its base at Air Force Station 121 (RAF Bassingbourne, Cambridgeshire, England), on its 129th combat mission over western Europe. The aircraft commander was 1st Lieutenant Robert E. Fuller, U.S. Army Air Forces.
Wee Willie was a B-17G-15-BO, serial number 42-31333, built by the Boeing Airplane Company’s Plant 2, Seattle, Washington. It was delivered to the United States Army Air Forces at Cheyenne, Wyoming on 22 October 1943, and arrived at Bassingbourne 20 December 1943. It was assigned to the 322nd Bombardment Squadron (Heavy), 91st Bombardment Group (Heavy), 1st Air Division, 8th Air Force. The identification letters LG W were painted on both sides of its fuselage, and a white triangle with a black letter A on the top of its right wing and both sides of its vertical fin.
On 8 April 1945, the 322nd Bombardment Squadron was part of an attack against the locomotive repair facilities at the railroad marshaling yards in Stendal, Saxony-Anhalt Germany. The squadron was bombing through clouds using H2S ground search radar to identify the target area. Antiaircraft gunfire (flak) was moderate, causing major damage to four B-17s and minor damage to thirteen others. Two bombers from the 91st Bomb Group were lost, including Wee Willie.
The Missing Air Crew Report, MACR 13881, included a statement from a witness:
“We were flying over the target at 20,500 feet [6,248 meters] altitude when I observed aircraft B-17G, 42-31333 to receive a direct flak hit approximately between the bomb bay and #2 engine. The aircraft immediately started into a vertical dive. The fuselage was on fire and when it had dropped approximately 5,000 feet [1,524 meters] the left wing fell off. It continued down and when the fuselage was about 3,000 feet [914.4 meters] from the ground it exploded and then exploded again when it hit the ground. I saw no crew member leave the aircraft or parachutes open.”
The pilot, Lieutenant Fuller, did escape from the doomed bomber. He was captured and spent the remainder of the war as a Prisoner of War. The other eight crew members, however were killed.
1st Lieutenant Robert E. Fuller, O-774609, California. Aircraft Commander/Pilot—Prisoner of War
2nd Lieutenant Woodrow A. Lien, O-778858, Montana. Co-pilot—Killed in Action
Technical Sergeant Francis J. McCarthy, 14148856, Tennessee. Navigator—Killed in Action
Staff Sergeant Richard D. Proudfit, 14166848, Mississippi. Togglier—Killed in Action
Staff Sergeant William H. Cassiday, 32346219, New York. Ball Turret Gunner—Killed in Action
Staff Sergeant Ralph J. Leffelman, 19112019, Washington. Radio Operator/Top Gunner—Killed in Action
Staff Sergeant James D. Houtchens, 37483248, Nebraska. Waist Gunner—Killed in Action
Sergeant Le Moyne Miller, 33920597, Pennsylvania. Tail Gunner—Killed in Action
Wee Willie was the oldest B-17G still in service with the 91st Bomb Group, and the next to last B-17 lost to enemy action by the group before cessation of hostilities. The War in Europe came to an end with the unconditional surrender of Germany just 30 days later, 7 May 1945.
8 March 1936: First Lieutenant Robert Kinnaird Giovannoli, United States Army Air Corps, a test pilot assigned to the Material Division at Wright Field, Ohio, was killed when the right wing of his Boeing P-26 pursuit, serial number 32-414, came off in flight over Logan Field, near Baltimore, Maryland.
The Cincinnati Enquirer reported:
Air Crash Victim.
Robert Giovannoli Dies At Baltimore Field
When Wing Of Plane Falls Off—Lexington, Ky., Man An Army Lieutenant.
Baltimore, March 8—(AP)—Lieutenant Robert K. Giovannoli, 31 years old of Lexington, Ky., hero of the spectacular bombing plane crash during army tests at Dayton, Ohio, last October, was killed today in the crack-up of his army plane at Logan Field, here.
Giovannoli’s single-seated pursuit plane lost its right wing coming out of a glide and hurtled down in a crazy spin from an altitude of less than 500 feet [ meters]. It rolled over after hitting the landing field and was demolished.
Lieutenant Giovannoli received a medal for his heroism in rescuing two men from the flaming wreckage of the Boeing “flying fortress” after it crashed in the army bomber tests at Wright Field, Dayton.
The Wright Field hero was taking off for the Middletown, Penn., air station when his plane plunged him to death at Logan Field.
QUIZ TO BE BEGUN.
The flier had arrived here yesterday.
Lieutenant Colonel H.C.K. Nuhlenberg, air officer of the Third Corps Area and in command of Logan Field, said an Army Board of Inquiry would be summoned promptly to investigate the fatal crash.
Nuhlenberg, who had just landed at the field himself, said Giovannoli had gotten his craft under way and turned back to fly over the field at a low altitude.
The wing of Giovannoli’s plane wrenched off, Nuhlenberg said, just as the craft was coming out of the glide and starting a zoom to regain altitude.
—The Cincinnati Enquirer, Vol. XCV, No. 334, Monday, 9 March 1936, at Page 7, Column 1
Lieutenant Giovannoli had been awarded the Soldier’s Medal and the Cheney Award for his heroic rescue of two men from the burning wreck of the Boeing Model 299, which had crashed on takeoff at Wright Field, 30 October 1935. His citation reads:
The President of the United States of America, authorized by Act of Congress, July 2, 1926, takes pleasure in presenting the Soldier’s Medal to First Lieutenant Robert K. Giovannoli, United States Army Air Corps, for heroism, not involving actual conflict with an enemy, displayed at Wright Field, Dayton, Ohio, 30 October 1935. When a Boeing experimental bomber crashed and burst into flames, Lieutenant Giovannoli, who was an onlooker, forced his way upon the fuselage and into the front cockpit of the burning plane and extricated one of the passengers. Then upon learning that the pilot was still in the cockpit, Lieutenant Giovannoli, realizing that his own life was in constant peril from fire, smoke, and fuel explosions, rushed back into the flames and after repeated and determined efforts, being badly burned in the attempt, succeeded in extricating the pilot from an entrapped position and assisted him to a place of safety.
General Orders: War Department, General Orders No. 4 (1936)
Robert Kinnaird Giovannoli was born at Washington, D.C., 13 March 1904, the second of two sons of Harry Giovannoli, a newspaper editor, and Carrie Kinnaird Giovanolli. His mother died when he was six years old.
Giovannoli graduated from Lexington High School at Lexington, Kentucky, in 1920 and then attended the University of Kentucky, where, in 1925, he earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Mechanical Engineering (B.S.M.E.). He was a member of the Phi Delta Theta (ΦΔΘ) and Tau Beta Phi (ΤΒΦ) fraternities, treasurer of the sophomore class, and president of the American Institute of Electrical Engineers. He was employed by the General Electric Company at Schenectady, New York.
Giovannoli enlisted in the United States Army in 1927. After completing the Air Corps Primary Flying School at Brooks Field, and the Advanced Flying School at Kelly Field, both in San Antonio, Texas, he was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the Air Corps Reserve, 20 October 1928. Lieutenant Giovannoli was called to active duty 8 May 1930. In 1933, he was assigned to a one year Engineering School at Wright Field. He then was sent to observe naval aircraft operations aboard USS Ranger (CV-4) in the Pacific Ocean. He had returned just a few days prior to the accident.
At the time of his death, Lieutenant Giovannoli had not yet been presented his medals.
First Lieutenant Robert Kinnaird Giovannoli was buried at the Bellevue Cemetery, Danville, Kentucky. In 1985, the Robert Kinnaird Giovannoli Scholarship was established to provide scholarships for students in mechanical engineering at the University of Kentucky College of Engineering.
The P-26, Air Corps serial number 32-414, was the last of three prototype XP-936 pursuits built by Boeing in 1932. Boeing’s chief test pilot, Leslie R. Tower, conducted the first flight of the type on 20 March 1932. Leslie Tower was one of the two men that Lieutenant Giovannoli had pulled from the burning Boeing 299.
The Boeing P-26 was a single-seat, single-engine monoplane. It was the first all-metal U.S. Army pursuit, but retained an open cockpit, fixed landing gear and its wings were braced with wire. The airplane was 23 feet, 7 inches (7.188 meters) long with a wingspan of 28 feet (8.534 meters). The empty weight of the prototype was 2,119 pounds (961.2 kilograms) and gross weight was 2,789 pounds (1,265.1 kilograms).
The Y1P-26 was powered by an air-cooled, supercharged, 1,343.804-cubic-inch-displacement (22.021 liter) Pratt & Whitney R-1340-21 (Wasp S2E), a single-row, nine-cylinder radial engine. The P-26A and P-26C were powered the Pratt & Whitney R-1340-27 (Wasp SE), while the P-26B used a more powerful, fuel-injected R-1340-33 (Wasp D2). Each of these engines were direct drive and had a compression ratio of 6:1. The engine was surrounded by a Townend Ring which reduced aerodynamic drag and improved engine cooling.
The R-1340-21 had a Normal Power rating of 600 horsepower at 2,200 r.p.m. at 6,000 feet (1,829 meters); 500 horsepower at 2,200 r.p.m. at 11,000 feet (3,353 meters); and 500 horsepower at 2,000 r.p.m. for takeoff. It required 87-octane gasoline. The –21 had a diameter of 3 feet, 3.44 inches (1.307 meters) and weighed 715 pounds (324 kilograms).
The R-1340-27 had a Normal Power and Takeoff power rating of 570 horsepower at 2,200 r.p.m., to 7,500 feet (1,524 meters), using 92-octane gasoline. The –27 was 3 feet, 7.25 inches (1.099 meters) long, 4 feet, 3.50 inches (1.308 meters) in diameter and also weighed 715 pounds (324 kilograms).
The R-1340-33 was rated at 575 horsepower at 2,200 r.p.m. to 10,000 feet (3,048 meters), and 600 horsepower at 2,120 r.p.m. for Takeoff, with 87-octane gasoline. It was 3 feet, 10.75 inches (1.187 meters) long, with the same diameter as the –27. It weighed 792 pounds (359 kilograms).
The engines drove a two-bladed, Hamilton Standard adjustable-pitch propeller.
The pursuit had a maximum speed of 227 miles per hour (365 kilometers per hour) at 10,000 feet (3,048 meters), and a service ceiling of 28,900 feet (8,809 meters).
As a pursuit, the P-26 was armed with two air-cooled Browning M1919 .30-caliber machine guns, synchronized to fire forward through the propeller arc.
Boeing built 136 production P-26s for the Air Corp and another 12 for export. Nine P-26s remained in service with the Air Corps at the beginning of World War II.
26 February–2 March 1949: A Boeing B-50A Superfortress, Air Force serial number 46-010, named Lucky Lady II, flew from Carswell Air Force Base, Fort Worth, Texas, and with inflight refueling, circumnavigated the Earth non-stop, landing back at Carswell after 94 hours, 1 minute. The bomber had traveled 23,452 miles (37,742 kilometers).
Lucky Lady II was the backup aircraft for this flight, but became primary when the first B-50, Global Queen, had to abort with engine problems. It was a standard production B-50A-5-BO (originally designated B-29D) with the exception of an additional fuel tank mounted in its bomb bay.
The aircraft commander was Captain James G. Gallagher, with 1st Lieutenant Arthur M. Neal as second pilot. Captain James H. Morris was the copilot. In addition to the three pilots, the flight was double-crewed, with each man being relieved at 4-to-6 hour intervals. The navigators were Captain Glenn E. Hacker and 1st Lieutenant Earl L. Rigor, and the radar operators were 1st Lieutenant Ronald B. Bonner and 1st Lieutenant William F. Caffrey. Captain David B. Parmalee was project officer for this flight and flew as chief flight engineer, with flight engineers Technical Sergeant Virgil L. Young and Staff Sergeant Robert G. Davis. Technical Sergeant Burgess C. Cantrell and Staff Sergeant Robert R. McLeroy were the radio operators. Gunners were Technical Sergeant Melvin G. Davis and Staff Sergeant Donald G. Traugh Jr.
Four inflight refuelings were required using the looped hose method. Two KB-29M tankers of the 43d Air Refueling Squadron were placed at air bases along the Lucky Lady II‘s route, at the Azores, Saudi Arabia, the Philippine Islands and Hawaiian Islands. The KB-29 flew above the B-50 and lowered a cable and drogue. This was captured by equipment on the bomber and then reeled in, bringing along with it a refueling hose. The hose was attached to the B-50’s refueling manifold and then fuel was transferred from the tanker to the bomber’s tanks by gravity flow.
Each refueling occurred during daylight, but weather made several transfers difficult. One of the two tankers from Clark Field in The Philippines, 45-21705, crashed in bad weather when returning to base, killing the entire 9-man crew.
On their arrival at Carswell, the crew of Lucky Lady II was met by Secretary of the Air Force W. Stuart Symington, Jr., General Hoyt S. Vandenberg, Chief of Staff of the Air Force, General Roger M. Ramey, commanding 8th Air Force, and Lieutenant General Curtis E. LeMay, Strategic Air Command. Each member of the crew was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross. They also were awarded the Mackay Trophy for the most meritorious flight of the year.
At 11:25 a.m., 13 August 1950, B-50A 46-010, under the command of Captain Warren E. Griffin, was on a maintenance test flight and returning to its base, Davis-Monthan AFB, Tucson, Arizona when all four engines failed. Unable to reach the runways, Captain Griffin landed in the desert approximately two miles southeast. Though the landing gear were down, the bomber was severely damaged with all four propellers bent, the belly dented and its tail breaking off. The 11-man crew were uninjured except for the bombardier, 1st Lieutenant Theodore Hastings, who was scratched by cactus which entered the cockpit through the broken Plexiglas nose.
The Superfortress was damaged beyond economical repair and was stricken from the Air Force inventory (“written off”). The unrestored fuselage of Lucky Lady II is at the Planes of Fame Air Museum, Chino, California.
8 February 1933: Boeing test pilot Leslie R. (“Les”) Tower and United Air Lines Captain Louis C. Goldsmith made the first flight of the Boeing Model 247, NX13300, a twin-engine airline transport, at Boeing Field, Seattle, Washington. The first flight lasted 40 minutes and Tower was quite pleased with the airplane. He took it up a second time later in the day.
The 247 is considered to be the first modern airliner because of its all-metal semi-monocoque construction, cantilevered wing and retractable landing gear. It was 50 miles per hour (80.5 kilometers per hour) faster than its contemporaries, and could climb on one engine with a full load.
The airplane was built at Boeing’s Oxbow factory on the Duwamish River, then barged to Boeing Field where it was assembled and tested. The 247 was originally named “Skymaster,” but this was soon dropped.
Two months after the first flight, the first production 247, NC13301, was placed in service with United Air Lines. It was the first of ten 247s bought by United.
The Model 247 was operated by a pilot, co-pilot and a flight attendant and carried up to ten passengers. The airplane was 51 feet, 5 inches (15.672 meters) long, with a wingspan of 74 feet, 1 inch (22.581 meters) and overall height of 12 feet, 5 inches (3.785 meters). The empty weight was 8,921 pounds (4,046.5 kilograms) with a maximum takeoff weight of 16,805 pounds (7,622.6 kilograms).
The Duralamin skin panels were anodized, rather than painted, for corrosion protection. This saved weight, and resulted in the 247’s characteristic gray-green color.
The airliner was powered by two air-cooled, supercharged, 1,343.804-cubic-inch-displacement (22.021 liters) Pratt & Whitney Wasp S1H1-G nine-cylinder radial engines with a compression ratio of 6.03:1. The S1H1-G had a Normal power rating of 550 horsepower at 2,200 r.p.m., to 8,000 feet (2,438 meters), and 600 horsepower at 2,250 r.p.m. for Takeoff. They drove three-bladed Hamilton Standard constant-speed propellers through a 3:2 gear reduction. The Wasp S1H1-G was 3 feet, 11.80 inches (1.214 meters) long, 4 feet, 3.61 inches (1.311 meters) in diameter, and weighed 930 pounds (422 kilograms).
The Boeing 247 had a maximum speed of 200 miles per hour (321.9 kilometers per hour) with a cruising speed of 188 miles per hour (302.6 kilometers per hour. It had a range of 745 miles (1,199 kilometers) and a service ceiling of 25,400 feet (7,742 meters).
75 Model 247s were built. 60 were bought by Boeing Air Transport.
[Note: the windshield was canted forward to prevent instrument panel lighting from reflecting into the cockpit at night. Unfortunately, ground lighting was reflected instead. This was soon changed to a rearward slant and resulted in a slight increase in speed.]
24 January 1963: A Boeing B-52C-40-BO Stratofortress, 53-0406, call sign “Frosh 10,” of the 99th Bombardment Wing, Heavy, was conducting a low-altitude training flight using terrain-following radar. Eight crewmen were aboard. Flying at or below 500 feet (152 meters) above ground level (AGL) and at 280 knots (322 miles per hour, 519 kilometers per hour) the bomber encountered wind gusts of up to 40 knots (21 meters per second).
As the turbulence became severe, the aircraft commander, Lieutenant Colonel Dante E. Bulli, began a climb to avoid it. At approximately 2:52 p.m., EST, however, the vertical fin attachment failed and the B-52 began rolling to the right and pitching down. Colonel Bulli, unable to control the airplane, ordered the crew to abandon the bomber.
B-52C 53-0406 crashed into the west side of Elephant Mountain, a 3,774 foot (1,150 meters) forest-covered mountain, 6 miles (10 kilometers) from Greenville, Maine. Only three men, Colonel Bulli, co-pilot Major Robert J. Morrison and navigator Captain Gerald J. Adler, were able to get out of the B-52, but Major Morrison died when he hit a tree. Lieutenant Colonel Joe R. Simpson, Jr., Major William W. Gabriel, Major Robert J. Hill, Jr., Captain Herbert L. Hansen, Captain Charles G. Leuchter and Technical Sergeant Michael F. O’Keefe were also killed.
Large sections of Frosh 10 are still on Elephant Mountain. The crash site is a popular hiking destination.
The Boeing B-52 Stratofortress had been designed as a very high altitude penetration bomber, but changes in Soviet defensive systems led to a change to very low altitude flight as a means of evading radar. This was subjecting the airframes to unexpected stresses. Several crashes resulted from structural failures during turbulence.
Less than one year later, Boeing was conducting flight tests of the B-52 in turbulence, using a highly-instrumented B-52H. That airplane also lost its vertical fin when it encountered severe turbulence in Colorado. The Boeing test pilots aboard were able to save the bomber and landed it six hours later.
Dante E. Bulli was born at Cherry, Illinois, 17 July 1922, the second child of Italian immigrants Giovanni Bulli, a salesman, and Anna Gareto Bulli. He attended Hall High School before working on the aircraft assembly lines of the Lockheed Aircraft Company in California.
Bulli enlisted as an aviation cadet in the U.S. Army Air Corps in 1942. He was commissioned as a second lieutenant, Army of the United States, 5 December 1943, and promoted to first lieutenant, 5 December 1946.
In 1947 Lieutenant Bulli married Miss Evelyn Lewis, also from Cherry, Illinois.
“Dan” Bulli was a combat veteran of World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War. He flew B-24 Liberators, the B-29 Superfortress and B-52 Stratofortress. He retired from the Air Force in 1974.
Colonel Dante E. Bulli died at Omaha, Nebraska, 30 December 2016, at the age of 94 years.