Tuesday, December 10, 2013

A True Work Horse - The Flying Fortress B-17G

I thought each week I would showcase one of the WWII planes I've had the distinct pleasure to photograph during the Wing of Angels Project. It truly has been a once in a lifetime opportunity to be able to not only photograph these beauties, but to be able to sit inside the cockpit or walk the lengths of their bodies and see just what it would have been like to be a part of the air campaigns during WWII. Today I will share with you a behind the scenes look at the B-17G or Miss Angela that currently resides at the Palm Springs Air Museum if you ever want to see it close up. This is the plane that I shot with Wings of Angels Model Caitlin Litzinger.

In order to gain the upper hand during the war, many wondered if we simply needed to do this from the air. It would strengthen our resolve in order to weaken the enemies will and their capacity to resist. Thus we began the air campaign utilizing the B-17's. The air raids began with some experimentation during daylight hours beginning with the use of the RAF's or Royal Air Force planes, but when losses became unbearable they started with night campaigns instead over Germany. Estimates of between 60,000 and 100,000 people were killed according to the information from Germany.

Precision bombing targets needed improvement because of the various factors involved from clouds, fog, smoke, enemy fighter opposition, and haze. Studies show that only 20% of the bombs dropped hit their intended targets, and it wasn't until February of 1945 that the percentage of 70% was achieved. The need for a tactical formation became the standard for a greater success due to enemy fighter opposition. Studies show that the German people were left in fear based on the success of the air raids. They lost faith in their leaders and only wished for the war to end. They resorted to "Black Radio" listening to hear how the war was going on the other end.  The city devastation caused by the war were unprecedented as well as the loss of lives left by the bombing raids on both sides.

The B-17 became known for being labeled as the Flying Fortress. It was the bombing of Pearl Harbor that cause the rapid increase of the  production of the B-17's. They were flown by the United States Army Air Force throughout the United States participation in WWII during the daylight bombing raids on German targets, such as aircraft factories, oil refineries and railroad marshalling yards. This resulted in heavy losses to both planes and crew. Due to the heavy maneuverability of the plane it left it open for enemy fighter opposition. The need for a better defensive against the loss of aircraft and crew were needed. The United States Army Air Force deployed the use of the P-51 Mustangs as escorts to ensure the Bombers were able to make it to the targets in Germany.  Delivery of the B-17G (a major production version) with the "G" being the first variant to have a .50 caliber gun turret under the nose which increased the planes armament to 13 guns. In all there were 8.680 B-17G's built by Boeing, Vega and Douglas making this the largest production variation.

Now for some fun facts about the B-17G plane. Besides housing a crew of between 8-10 and having up to 13 50-caliber machine guns at its disposal for defensive attacks, the B-17G's top air speed was 287 mph with a cruising speed of 250 mph. The B-17G is read as follows. B=Bomber, 17=17th Bomber Design approved by the US Army Air Corps, and G=7th version of the aircraft.

Length: 67ft 11 in
Height: 19 ft  1 in
Wing Span: 103 ft 9 in
Weight Empty 32,720 lbs
Weight Maximum: 53,000 lbs

"The Miss Angela B-17G-105VE, with VE signifying that is was built by Lockheed Vega at its Burbank California plant. It was used by the Caribbean Air Command, Sixth Air Force. It was also flown by the U.S. Army Air Force and the U.S. Air Force in Brazil. It served for more than twenty years as a civilian Forestry Service fire bomber. Its markings are of the 34th Bomb Group, 8th Air Force, 1945. It  is housed at the Palm Springs Air Museum in California."(Palm Springs Air Museum).

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