Miscellaneous Rumbles

Took a ride on a B-17 Flying Fortress

1

For my 50th, my wife got me a ride on a Fortress.

The Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress.

Humbling.

Sitting inside, feeling those engines rev up to take flight, feeling the wheels leave the ground, brings a tear to the eye... these crews, of 18-25 year old men... some of them BARELY men, taking to the skies for 8 hours, at 30,000 feet where it's -38F, suffering frostbite, fatigue, knowing the moment their fighter escorts had to turn back, they would be swarmed with German fighter intent on their destruction.... all alone, over Germany, praying they can get home... every mission.

The Greatest Generation, indeed. THANK YOU.

2

Great pictures. That must have been awesome.

4

For me, it wasn't just a "fun ride", it was an emotional experience. I am very connected to WWII and the greatest generation, having been raised by a father who flew in the Pacific theatre for the entirety of the war. How he made it home alive, I'll never know. He was the rear seat man/radio/gunner in Dauntless dive bombers and Helldivers. His first battle was Midway. He was on deck when Billy Mitchell's B-25's took off from the Hornet for the famous Tokyo Raid. I don't believe in reincarnation, but if I did, I'd have to believe I myself was in WWII, that's how connected I feel to the entire era... the war, the culture, the music....

Sitting behind the pilot & co-pilot for takeoff, with the engines running up while they were holding the brakes, feeling that ship shake with anticipation "let me go! let go! Let's go get 'em boys!!!" Literally brought tears to my eyes.

5

I got to tour some WWII warbirds recently, but the closest thing I've flown on was a C-47 "Gooney Bird". My Dad was a B-17 crew chief, and the Uncle I'm named for died in a B-24. I served in the USAF as did other Uncles and cousins. It was indeed the greatest generation. After having lived thru the Great Depression, the men and women of that era were totally involved in the massive war, often, as you've said, just kids themselves. I was stationed at an old RAF bomber base in NATO in England's East Anglia, where many of these planes flew from. The legacy is still felt there. There are less than 10 B-17s still flying, and only one B-24. We're seeing the last of the brave folks that served on these planes leave this world daily. Yesterday was the 80th anniversary of the start of WWII. Lest we forget.

6

WOW thanks great pictures.

7

Wabash,

One of my co-passengers had just finished a ride in a B-24. He said it was DEAFENINGLY loud. They were handed ear muffs as they boarded the plane. I was surprised at how loud the B-17 WASN'T. No hearing protection required; I've been to many louder concerts.

Of course, I'm sure it got quite loud when those .50 cals started going off!

8

What an experience, must have been cool. Timing was right on the money to coincide with Sept 1, 2019 eightieth anniversary of World War 2, right after Hitler rolled his Tanks into Poland under false pretenses. Thanks for sharing.

9

A big thank you to all who have served this country!

10

Wow, ruger, that's very cool... and indeed very humbling.

Coincidentally (tooting my own horn a bit here), I am currently working as an editor on a 2-hour special about the 8th Air Force's campaign during WW II — the same guys who flew those B17s. It's an amazing saga for sure. The 8th lost so many in the lead up campaign to D-Day, supposedly more than the Marines lost in all of WW II. And without their efforts and immense sacrifice, D-Day would likely not have succeeded (the Luftwaffe were vastly diminished, giving the Allies domination over the skies).

"The Mighty Eighth" is slated to air on National Geographic sometime next year. While this doc has it's own unique perspective, the same company previously produced "The Air War" — part of "World War II in HD" — a great doc series also produced for television and worth checking out:

11

Redrocker,

That is awesome!!! Looking forward to it!!!

12

Wow indeed, ruger9! I've wanted to fly in a B - 17 all my life. I can't imagine the feelings those crews had, trying to make it through the allotted number of missions in one piece. Most didn't make it, they suffered the largest loss of life (per centage wise), than any other units in the war. They rained destruction onto Nazi Germany, bombing that country nearly flat, and into ultimate capitulation. Their contributions to the war effort, and the sacrifices they made, are sealed in history. They were indeed the greatest generation of Americans!

I was born in 1960, in Wiesbaden Germany, my dad was a career US Army soldier, stationed there after the war (1958 - 61). He has told me of the horrific state of destruction, that Germany was in after the war. He said that you could drive endlessly, for miles and miles, through bombed out areas. It was something that had to be seen, to fully appreciate, the vast scale of destruction brought about by the B -17's. It left a life long lasting impression on dad, he will be 80 years old in November, and he's still of sound mind and body. He retired from the Army in 1982, as a CW4 (Warrant Officer).

Thank you for sharing your adventure with us, I'm envious. Happy 50th, you've finally reached the age of discretion (as my friends told me on my 50th)

13

My now deceased neighbor was in Europe flying in one of those as the photographer ( low tech, they needed photos to access targets afterwards). He was born in the 1890's house I bought and still live in. When we first met it was about the time that the movie Memphis Belle came out. I was telling him of the scene that moved me where the plane in front blew apart in air and you see tumbling bodys falling out. Guys the characters all knew. He replied "I see those guys every night, I'll never forget ". His descriptions of the constant flak the planes were always hitting. Those guys had grit for sure. Cool that you got a ride in one. I've only been aboard one on ground.

14

I have been to see that very B-17 three times. The Nine 'O Nine owned by the Collings Foundation. Never flown in it though. Always amazes me how cramped it is in there. What guts the guys had that flew missions in them. The greatest generation indeed.

15

Got to tour the inside of one once - amazing experience. They look so huge from the outside but feel tiny on the inside. The control flaps are canvas covered and you get a sense of how fragile those ships were. Cool Flying Tigers t-shirt btw!

16

Yes! Enormous on the outside, VERY tight on the inside! You have to crawl through much of it.

Just watched Memphis Belle again (hadn't seen it since it first came out 30 years ago), and had a new appreciation. I want to watch the actual war dept movie they filmed about it.

17

You mean the one directed by William Wyler?

I look at footage from it every day - great stuff.

18

Wow, ruger, that's very cool... and indeed very humbling.

Coincidentally (tooting my own horn a bit here), I am currently working as an editor on a 2-hour special about the 8th Air Force's campaign during WW II — the same guys who flew those B17s. It's an amazing saga for sure. The 8th lost so many in the lead up campaign to D-Day, supposedly more than the Marines lost in all of WW II. And without their efforts and immense sacrifice, D-Day would likely not have succeeded (the Luftwaffe were vastly diminished, giving the Allies domination over the skies).

"The Mighty Eighth" is slated to air on National Geographic sometime next year. While this doc has it's own unique perspective, the same company previously produced "The Air War" — part of "World War II in HD" — a great doc series also produced for television and worth checking out:

– redrocker

That will be highly worth watching. My Dad was in the Mighty Eighth, and I was stationed 30 miles from were he was 25 years later. The Eighth lost more men (18K) than the entire USMC (12K) did during the war.

By the way, there are two different "Memphis Belle" films, both worth watching. The theatrical version was good, but glossed over a lot. The original documentary from the '40s was dark and honest.

19

Ruger9, It looks like you were at the airfest held at the North Cape May airport. I love watching all those planes flying over my house all Labor Day weekend. Watching and hearing them makes me think about the danger of flying in one of those, during combat. On the ground, you can hear them before they come lumbering through the sky over you. If they were flying as low as they do around here, they weren't sneaking up on any enemy. I hope they flew much higher in combat.

21

Wow, Ruger, you're not going to believe this, but I took a flight in that very same bird (B17-G "Nine-O-Nine") a few years back!

Thanks for posting the pics... It is, indeed, a humbling experience to be sure. A big congrats on celebrating your 50th in style!

22

I am so glad at least some of those planes survived, and those who flew them in WW II -- although there are fewer each day now.

23

Ruger9, It looks like you were at the airfest held at the North Cape May airport. I love watching all those planes flying over my house all Labor Day weekend. Watching and hearing them makes me think about the danger of flying in one of those, during combat. On the ground, you can hear them before they come lumbering through the sky over you. If they were flying as low as they do around here, they weren't sneaking up on any enemy. I hope they flew much higher in combat.

– Jams

They flew at 25,000' to 30,000'. Temps were -60F with open gun ports. They wore electrically heated suits. There wasn't enough oxygen, so they had to breathe with masks or they'd pass out in a minute.

Noisy? Can you imagine 1,000 of these birds overhead? Nothing like the sound of of radial engines en masse.

24

On later models, the gun ports were sealed with plexiglass, which no doubt helped the wind chill factor. I had just finished reading the EXCELLENT memoir "Combat Crew", the daily journal of a B-17 engineer who made his 25 missions, so I knew everything I was looking at! I was explaining to the others about the bailout bell, the outlets for the electric suits, the flight control wires overhead, the oxygen tanks, etc.

25

I've heard stories from my Mother about being a young girl in Germany and hearing the bombers lumbering over her as they came in. She watched the bombing of Berlin, from a distance and talked about how it looked like the sky was burning. As the planes passed over on the return flight, the lumbering sounds of the engines had turned into a low hum or rumble. She was told to go inside and not to watch because there was a fear that she would be labelled a spy.

War is terrible. Mad respect for anyone who has served, especially those who have served in combat.


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