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B-17 question


twostepn2001
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l've read in a lot of different places that the bomber crews in Europe during WWll had to fly a minimum of 25 missions. But l've also heard of some doing a lot more, some up to 60 missions. My question is wonder how long it took them to get 25 missions? l understand about not flying because of bad weather and such. And l've also wondered what if for some a certain plane didn't fly, for example had a bad engine or something, did that crew not fly that day? Each crew was assigned to a certain aircraft weren't they? And was the number of missions requirements for fighter pilots different than bomber crews?

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According to the Wikipedia page for the Memphis Belle (the plane not the movie), its first mission was November 7, 1942 and the 25th (26th) was the May 19, 1943.  So, a little over 6 months. Another plane, ****'s Angels, beat Memphis Belle to 25 missions by about a week, but the Belle got to be famous probably due to its more civilized name.

The page actually lists 26 missions but puts asterisks next to three of them, with a footnote stating that the crew only received credit for two of these three missions. What exactly that means, I don't know. Could be they didn't fly one of the three. Could be they flew but did not receive credit for some reason...

They also list four missions that the crew of the Memphis Belle completed in planes other than the Memphis Belle, so it appears they would fly a different plane if necessary.

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In 1943 the magic number was 25 missions, however, at that point before the allies had control of the skies, a new crew was lucky to get to 10. Sometimes a plane may have flown 26 or 27 missions but not with the usual crew due sick call, etc. As fighter escort was improved by the P38 then the P51 and the Luftwaffe suffered tremendous fighter pilot attrition, the requirement went up first to 30 and then 35 as fighter resistance fell in 1944. The Luftwaffe didn't have the pilot pipeline the Allies and especially the US did.

Most crews wanted to get it over with and go home so they attempted to get it done quickly. Some guys would get wounded or sick and spend time in hospital while the rest of the crew would carry on with replacements so they wouldn't go home with the rest of their crew. As Matt said, 7 months was fast.

A good read is Damn Lucky by Kevin Maurer; A kindle version is available.

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A B-17 story from the other side. This young man went to school where my daughter went. The athletic center at The Tilton School is a memorial to all the schools alumni veterans. 

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harl_Pease

There's a large and wonderful tribute to both him and a Vietnam Medal of Honor recipient on the wall outside the gym where several blessed and fortunate children train and play games all year long, and hopefully are inspired to service and selflessness.

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Didn't most of the engines used on the bombers and other planes in the big war have a very short overhaul cycle. Wonder how many engines did it take  to make 25 missions from normal wear and tear? What was the life of the engine anyway? I have read as low as 300 Hours between OHC. 

The techs that actually made the planes fly,  are very rarely covered in history books, and is still true today! 

 

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They started out at 25 and finished at 50. 7.42% died on missions or due to wounds received on missions. A total of about 12.5% died due to accidents and due to enemy action. For the 8TH Airforce: Of those who flew the original twenty-five mission bomber tour in 1942-1943, just 35% survived, the twenty-five to thirty mission requirements of 1944 saw 66% completed, and by 1945, 81% of the combatants flew the full thirty-five engagements.

The early rates were due to the Airfare brass not wanting to go to area bombing. So they were willing to sacrifice aircraft and crews to prove that precision bombing worked and the the B17 could defend itself. They hit a point that they were almost forced to stop daylight missions.

 

Rick

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My Dad was on an a base in England that received new aircraft and repaired existing ones. The actual overhaul for a B17G Wright R1820-97 is like 1200 hours. However he said that engines were rarely disassembled and overhauled. It was much easier to simply replace them with new. The supply of parts was immense, new engines came in by the hundreds. Virtually anything that was damaged in combat or whatever was replaced with new.

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Great topic, I could delve into this and armoured topics about WW2 anytime, the only comment I could make is the facts of the plane "hellls angels", it was the first to finish 25 missions, and it went on to finish 48 missions, this was with no crewman injured or having to turn back. 

Now as for the discussion of the the "Memphis Belle" being taken out and shown across the US for celebratory and congratulations from a thankful public because of the name, I wonder if, because of the 1930 movie the heads of the tour decided on the Belle instead of the HA moniker, just a thought, also because flyboys who came back could not settle down to the mundane life they left and started tinkering with bikes and cars and formed an infamous group of bikers with just that name, one thing I had as a thought with the way the woke crowd is these days that a great name for a group of bikers these days could be the "Memphis Belles" rrrmmmm rrrmmm rrrmmm.

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5 hours ago, oldtanker said:

They started out at 25 and finished at 50. 7.42% died on missions or due to wounds received on missions. A total of about 12.5% died due to accidents and due to enemy action. For the 8TH Airforce: Of those who flew the original twenty-five mission bomber tour in 1942-1943, just 35% survived, the twenty-five to thirty mission requirements of 1944 saw 66% completed, and by 1945, 81% of the combatants flew the full thirty-five engagements.

The early rates were due to the Airfare brass not wanting to go to area bombing. So they were willing to sacrifice aircraft and crews to prove that precision bombing worked and the the B17 could defend itself. They hit a point that they were almost forced to stop daylight missions. 

 

Rick

The early 25 mission target was also to allow experienced pilots to go back home and help train new pilots. The British didn't care who or what they bombed as they only flew at night. The precision type bombing was thrown out the window against Japan. Gen Curtis Lemay was out to win in the Pacific. Later quoted he wanted to bomb North Vietnam "back into the stone age" 

For thousands of years armies fought to win. Somehow from the Korean conflict and since we have lost our way on the win part. Being content on not completely winning or not completely loosing. 

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Uncle Neil was a bomber air crewman in the early days of WWII in England. I don't know what he did but he wasn't a pilot. He was not sent home after his 25 missions but was assigned to ground crew. His enlistment, like everyone else was for the duration of the war. He was later transferred to the pacific again as ground crew.

He didn't talk much about his time as an air crewman but he talked alot otherwise. He was kinda crazy. Always figured it was because of time as a crewman.

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55 minutes ago, cedar farm said:

Gen Curtis Lemay was out to win in the Pacific. Later quoted he wanted to bomb North Vietnam "back into the stone age" 

A GREAT American, and whose love of country,  and devotion to being THE BEST, made the Strategic Air Command a force to be reckoned with, by living up to its motto "Peace Is Our Profession".

His name is on the very short list of those I personally admire. 

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1 hour ago, acem said:

Japan and Germany flew captured B17s as well.

B17_kg200.jpg

B17jp.jpg

Donier Do200, they had a special unit I/KG 200, they flew captured 17s, how the helll could they get enough planes to man a unit.

As for the jap markings, I guess the same happenings in the pacific.

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9 hours ago, oldtanker said:

They started out at 25 and finished at 50. 7.42% died on missions or due to wounds received on missions. A total of about 12.5% died due to accidents and due to enemy action. For the 8TH Airforce: Of those who flew the original twenty-five mission bomber tour in 1942-1943, just 35% survived, the twenty-five to thirty mission requirements of 1944 saw 66% completed, and by 1945, 81% of the combatants flew the full thirty-five engagements.

The early rates were due to the Airfare brass not wanting to go to area bombing. So they were willing to sacrifice aircraft and crews to prove that precision bombing worked and the the B17 could defend itself. They hit a point that they were almost forced to stop daylight missions.

 

Rick

The "precision bombing" was a joke. The claim that the Norden bombsight could put a bomb in a pickle barrel was  a myth. Recon after the mission often found that the bombs were nowhere near the target and they'd have to try again.

The B17 may have been bristling with guns but it was no match for the Luftwaffe fighter pilots, especially early on. Success finally depended upon fighter escort.

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1 hour ago, New Englander said:

The "precision bombing" was a joke. The claim that the Norden bombsight could put a bomb in a pickle barrel was  a myth. Recon after the mission often found that the bombs were nowhere near the target and they'd have to try again.

The B17 may have been bristling with guns but it was no match for the Luftwaffe fighter pilots, especially early on. Success finally depended upon fighter escort.

Seems the ones that the RAF used with Tallboys and Grand Slams did pretty well.

R.V. Jones in "Most Secret War" goes through how hard it was to bring to the attention of Bomber Command as to how useless their early navigation was.

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1 hour ago, Ian Beale said:

Seems the ones that the RAF used with Tallboys and Grand Slams did pretty well.

R.V. Jones in "Most Secret War" goes through how hard it was to bring to the attention of Bomber Command as to how useless their early navigation was.

The RAF used a different bombsight. It was a stabilized sight but I don't think it operated the autopilot. The Norden sight actually worked well at lower altitudes but from the 20s, not so much. If I recall correctly the bunker busters the RAF dropped were from relatively low altitude. They were so big that even close would inflict serious damage.

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28 minutes ago, New Englander said:

The RAF used a different bombsight. It was a stabilized sight but I don't think it operated the autopilot. The Norden sight actually worked well at lower altitudes but from the 20s, not so much. If I recall correctly the bunker busters the RAF dropped were from relatively low altitude. They were so big that even close would inflict serious damage.

The Tallboy's and Grandslam did not enter service until mid 1944 so the skies were a little safer then....

I was reading an article not long ago about the Regensburg mission in August of 1943. It was reported that the bombing was quite accurate and a fair amount of damage was done to the Messerschmitt plant. Of over 1200 bombs dropped, 88 were direct hits and 55 landed in the factory area.  

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11 hours ago, TomH said:

My Dad was on an a base in England that received new aircraft and repaired existing ones. The actual overhaul for a B17G Wright R1820-97 is like 1200 hours. However he said that engines were rarely disassembled and overhauled. It was much easier to simply replace them with new. The supply of parts was immense, new engines came in by the hundreds. Virtually anything that was damaged in combat or whatever was replaced with new.

So they were just a bunch of parts swappers then? Hmm...

Wonder how many WWII aircraft mechanics complained about modern automotive mechanics just being "parts swappers."

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Still amazes me that the 8th Air Force suffered more casualties in WWII than the entire US Marines Corps.

Seems like I read years ago that a couple of the crew members of the Memphis Belle actually had to fly another mission or two over Germany after the famous 25th mission that they made the movie out of as they had not had their full count of 25 missions for some reason or another. Seems like one of the waist gunners and another crew member fell into this category.

Robert Morgan, the pilot of the Memphis Belle, later flew B-29s in the Pacific. Think the B-29 he flew was named "Joltin Josie, the Pacific Pioneer". He was one of many pilots that said flying a B-17 was easy, flying a B-29 was a workout. 

Also, a mission over Germany was not necessarily treated the same as a mission over France, especially after France was liberated. Most of the guys that flew 50+ missions flew medium bombers over shorter distances. Think they sometimes got credit for flying more than one mission per day if time allowed.

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1 hour ago, Matt Kirsch said:

Wonder how many WWII aircraft mechanics complained about modern automotive mechanics just being "parts swappers."

Dad was good at swapping parts....... Not throwing parts mind you just swapping!😎

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We had a security guard years ago that was an aircraft mechanic in WW2 and I was interested in the engines and fuel systems, he had a picture of a very large carburetor being removed but couldn't remember any fine details about it

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17 hours ago, cedar farm said:

The early 25 mission target was also to allow experienced pilots to go back home and help train new pilots. The British didn't care who or what they bombed as they only flew at night. The precision type bombing was thrown out the window against Japan. Gen Curtis Lemay was out to win in the Pacific. Later quoted he wanted to bomb North Vietnam "back into the stone age" 

For thousands of years armies fought to win. Somehow from the Korean conflict and since we have lost our way on the win part. Being content on not completely winning or not completely loosing. 

When they first started the idea of 25 missions to be able to send pilots back to train new ones was indeed fact. Later it became a huge issue as crew moral tanked and they came close to a mutiny from the aircrews who thought they were being sent to their deaths. Go read the "bomb survey reports" that were done after Germany surrendered. Precision bombing was total failure. All the brass did was sacrifice a lot of lives trying to prove a theory. Germany's peak production was dictated by availability of raw materials, not production facilities. They peaked in 43 and production didn't fall off until boots on the ground captured the factories in March 1945.    

12 hours ago, New Englander said:

The "precision bombing" was a joke. The claim that the Norden bombsight could put a bomb in a pickle barrel was  a myth. Recon after the mission often found that the bombs were nowhere near the target and they'd have to try again.

The B17 may have been bristling with guns but it was no match for the Luftwaffe fighter pilots, especially early on. Success finally depended upon fighter escort.

Not only that but the bombs were too small. The 500 pound GP bomb wasn't destroying the machinery in factories when they did actually manage to hit a target. In the Pacific theater Japanese production was already down due to them having to import everything. Their merchant fleet was systematically destroyed by the sub force and Naval air. By the time we could bomb main land Japan war production was already greatly reduced due to the lack of raw materials. 

 

Rick 

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5 hours ago, hardtail said:

We had a security guard years ago that was an aircraft mechanic in WW2 and I was interested in the engines and fuel systems, he had a picture of a very large carburetor being removed but couldn't remember any fine details about it

Here's a cutaway of a pressure carb off a Pratt R2000, a C54 engine. We spent quite a lot of time on the theory in A&P school but it seems they were never a problem on anything I worked on. I worked on mostly R985s and they were a conventional updraft. The very last Beech 18s were fuel injected but I never touched one. One of the officers in the company has an H18 factory tricycle gear that's fuel injected.

Peter was responsible for the replica Vickers Vimy now here:https://www.brooklandsmuseum.com/explore/heritage-and-collection/our-collection/vickers-vimy

He always would ride in the jumps seat and regale us with stories of the flights they made.

 

 

800px-Vergaser_für_Pratt_&_Whitney_R-2000.jpg

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Without getting into it here because my knowledge isnt REALLY great, but the b17 and b24 comparison is quite interesting, also the lanc and the liberator is another interesting story when compared with the 17, great topic but when do we start the name calling and slander.

Bwahahahahahahahaha.

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