B-17 Flying Fortress

Even though it wasn’t a revolutionary aircraft such as the B-29, the Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress is probably the most famous American bomber of World War 2 (compared to the B-29, it was twice as “light”, so to speak). At first lacking sufficient anti-fighter defence, this heavy bomber was enhanced and become known as the “Fortress” because of its great survivability.

The most renowned B-17, perhaps, is the Memphis Belle, which flew 25 bombing missions over hostile territory, before its crew got to go back to the USA as instructors. Many times, the B-17s would come back to their England base with only one engine working, crew members injured and a several damages, and would take off again a few weeks later, repaired but some would land in such a terrible state that they would simply go the dump. That speaks volume about the sturdiness of this aircraft.

military aircraft

Created in 1935, the Boeing B-17 entered service in 1941 (one must keep in mind that before that, the United States were not at war). The number of machine-guns equipping the Flying Fortress gradually reached 13. This allowed the planes to defend themselves, especially when flying in “boxes” formation – every angle would then be covered and the Axis’ fighters would have no place to hide when attacking.

More than 12,300 Boeing Flying Fortress were built.


Type: Heavy  Bomber
Crew: 10  to 13
Powerplant: Four  1250hp Wright Cyclone R-1820-65
Max speed: 323mph  (520 km/h)
Ceiling: 11,278m  (37,000ft)
Range: Over  3000 miles (4830km)
Weight (empty): 16,206kg  (35,728 lb)
Weight (loaded): 29,759kg  (65,600lb)
Wingspan: 31.6m  (103’9″)
Length: 20.7m  (67’11”)
Height: 17  ft. 9 in. (5.6m)
Armament: Between  9 & 12 M2 12.7mm (0.50″) Machine Guns, 1x 7.7mm (0.303″)  machine gun, bombload upto  17,600 lbs (7,985 kg)

11 thoughts on “B-17 Flying Fortress

  1. Christine Treece Potts

    My father was a belly-gunner on these planes. I cannot even imagine what that was like for him. His plane was flying into Pearl Harbor during the attack unarmed from San Diego.

    Our parents were heroes and I salute the Greatest Generation with thanks for keeping America safe.

  2. Jelene Johnston

    My father was a tailgunner on a flying fortress in WW II. He received many metals fron this war. He passed away in 1987.

  3. Marsha Duggan

    My father was the pilot of a flying fortress. (B 17) He tells me the name of the plane was Not today Cleo. He is now 92 but still lucid and has quite a memory of bombing flights to Germany. His crew called him Pappy. His given n a me is John Duggan.

    1. Michael Lund

      My uncle, Wesley Lund passed away at 90 years old. I believe he flew in both B-17s and B-24s. We recently found a old newspaper clipping describing his 23 missions as a waist gunner and winning the Air Medal with two Oak Leaf clusters. At the time of this article he was in a plane named “Spring Plowing.” Any info or suggested sites would be helpful. Thank you.

  4. unknow

    I saw a real B-17 taking off at the airport I got to be a polet of the B-17 when I was 7:-) ♠↖

  5. James Fassinger

    My Father was with the 13th Air Force 390th Bombardment Group 42nd (Jungle Air Force) he was with B-25’s one of which is famous (THE HEAVENLY BODY). These planes help stop the Japanese in the Pacific WAR.

  6. Carl Guenther

    My uncle Benny flew 25 missions with the 8th air force over Germany
    was a belly gunner, a small man 5 ft. 5inch. he rotated back to states as
    a gun trainer. He again volunteered flew 10 missions and had a nervous
    break down, that was the end of combat for him. He had plenty war stories
    about the B17 flying over Germany

  7. Doug Hively

    My Dad was in the Army Air Corps for four years during WWII. Much of that time he was a pilot instructor. His favorite “full-size” bomber was the B-17 Flying Fortress. His all-time favorite aircraft was the B-25 Mitchell because of its power and maneuverability. Of course he flew many other planes–P-47’s, P-51’s, B-26’s and others. Although they weren’t “War Stories”, he had lots of stories about his flying experiences. One that comes to mind, he was part of a very large search for five missing B-26 Marauders. (The B-26 had only recently arrived at the base that he was stationed at.) He said that it took almost two weeks to find them. When they did, they found all five planes “pancaked” into the side of a mountain–in formation! Investigators found that all five pilots were very experienced B-25 pilots (Instructors). The investigation found that they were all accustomed to the ability of the B-25 to pull-up out of a steep dive–in a much shorter distance than the B-26. They learned this difference between the two aircraft the hard way!

  8. dorine emery

    I am befuddled over something i saw. It was, i believe, a B-17, green, fly into a cloud and never come out. I read about someone else seeing the very same thing hundreds of miles away. What do i make of such a thing? I was walking on top of a hill, no trees blocking view. I heard the loud noise of a big prop plane and looked to see a WW2 bomber i believe was a B-17, tho i’m not sure. I watched as it seemed move so slowly, toward an isolated cloud, blue sky all around the cloud, and not so big that a plane would not emerge somewhere. The plane did not emerge tho i watched for sufficient enough time. How can this be explained? Happened i think in 2014. In Northern New Jersey.


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