1943 B-17 crew

Discussion in 'AviatorChat.com' started by Bob Parks, Nov 18, 2009.

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  1. Bob Parks

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    #1 Bob Parks, Nov 18, 2009
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    I ran across some photos. Since it is a bit passed Veteran's Day I decided that I would post this anyway to illustrate the way it was when we were in the worst stages of the war in the air. This crew is in front of a B-17F: no chin turret, no nose guns, and obviously not much future.
    Image Unavailable, Please Login
     
  2. snj5

    snj5 F1 World Champ
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    Good picture.
    It is an amazing amount of courage and focus to stay, on what seems like an eternity, flying the straight and level bomb run, in formation, unable to maneuver from the Hun's attentions.

    The fighter pilots may win the headlines, but the attack/bomber crews won the war..
     
  3. Gran Drewismo

    Gran Drewismo F1 Rookie

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    #3 Gran Drewismo, Nov 21, 2009
    Last edited: Nov 21, 2009
    Interesting:


    42-29749 Belle of the Bayous, with rear: Lt H. Banton, Lt. J. Omohundro, Sgt. O. Click, Sgt. P. O'Leary, Sgt. H. Prezlomski, Lt. J. Carson, Lt. R. Matthews, front: Sgt. J. Degraf, Sgt. R. Nelson, Sgt. G. Brown and Sgt. E. Smith


    42-29749
    Sep. 6 1943 landed at West Malling. Pilot Lt. Daniel D. Nauman.
    Sep. 16 1943 landed North Cornwall. Pilot Lt. Jack H. Omohundro.
    Dec. 20 1943 landed Nuthampstead. Pilot Lt. Walter R. Illies.
    Jan. 11 1944 Landed at Tibbenham. Pilot Lt. William E. Mclawhorn.
    June 7 1944 returned to ZOI.

    You can also find out what dates their missions were and what the targets were:

    http://www.351st.org/loadlist/search.php

    Enter in: 42-29749 under "Aircraft search"
     
  4. Bob Parks

    Bob Parks F1 Veteran
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    Thanks for adding the more human aspect of that photo. I got it from a man with whom I worked at Boeing. He was a photographer and gunner in the 8th Airforce and I have a collection of his pictures. He also knew the crew of Memphis Belle and the " story" of how they gained fame. Doesn't at all match the press releases.
    Switches
     
  5. Dgh123

    Dgh123 Rookie

    May 21, 2010
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    Hi There,

    I've been attempting to solve a mystery and this picture has further confused the situation. My Mum had a relative Henry 'Hank' Przelomski who wore a British Uniform with a peaked cap (my Mum assumed an officer). He lived in Preston, UK. She saw him in Preston from Fall 1941 to Jan/Feb 1943 and then he was reported Missing in Action. He was born in Ohio, USA but was of Polish descent and in fact my Mum thinks on his uniform there was an emblem that stood for Poland and perhaps the words POLAND on his sleeve somewhere. I don't know enough about the ins and outs of the war. Would have he signed up with the RAF, and then finished the war with the Americans. It appears that the B17 that is in that picture has successful missions right into 1944....would there be any way to find out about Henry Przelomski record of missing in action. Could he have reappeared? Family not aware??


    Gayle
     
  6. BullDog03

    BullDog03 Rookie

    Mar 9, 2011
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    Yes, it is an interesting picture. The man standing in the rear, second from the right is my father, John P Carson Jr. At the time the picture was taken he was the co-pilot of this aircraft. The pilot, Lt Jack H Omohundro is second from the left at the rear. My father and Jack flew 15 combat missions in this aircraft. Further, Jack named the aircraft after his first wife... a southern belle (Louisiana). The aircraft survived the war and ended up sold as war surplus scrap to Paul Mantz (aerial photographer for the movies - )

    This crew all trained together in the US before going overseas. This crew and aircraft was assigned to the 509 Bomb Squadron, 351st Bomb Group, 1st Air Division, 8th Air Force. They flew out of AAF Station 110, Polebrook, England.

    My Dad completed 23 mission before he was shot down in another aircraft (Kentucky Babe) and spent about a year as a POW in Stalug Luft One, barth, Germany. Jack survived his 25 missions, was awarded at the DFC, 4 Air Medals etc and returned to the US. He later was a pilot with PAN American until he retired in 1979. He died 8 October 2010. The last of his crew. I had the honor to met and know him as a friend.

    Just thought you would like to know.
     
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  8. Rifledriver

    Rifledriver Two Time F1 World Champ

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    #7 Rifledriver, Mar 9, 2011
    Last edited: Mar 9, 2011
    Thanks for putting some names and information to the picture.

    I know enough about the history of the war to know there are 2 jobs I would not have wanted. A submarine crewman anywhere or a bomber crewman over Europe. There is a comfort in a bad situation to having some control over your destiny. For both of those jobs often there was none. It took a lot of balls for them to stay with it for the 25 missions but we would not have won any other way.

    My hats off to your Father.
     
  9. Bob Parks

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    I flew with veterans of the 8th and 15th and I have known many more who were in the bomber business and the photos and stories that they passed on to me are unforgetable . I had a close friend with whom I worked at Boeing who flew B-24's in the 15th out Cerrginola ( SPL) and to sit with him and his crew while they went over their history in the 15th was amazing. Lew, my friend and pilot left two airplanes on the Island of Vis that were so shot up that they wouldn't have made it to Italy. The 15th had it much tougher than the 8th but they never got the press. The 8th had nice barracks in which to live, the 15th were housed in tents and they had to fly over or through the Alps to and from a mission to Europe losing airplanes and crew to terrain and weather as well as flak and FW-190's. They were a different breed
     
  10. Lemke

    Lemke F1 Rookie

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    It took that many men to fly one of those things? Even without the mentioned machine guns? wow
     
  11. BigTex

    BigTex Six Time F1 World Champ
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    Welcome to our first time posters........that is amazing.

    I hope the thread as it builds can answer your questions.....
     
  12. solofast

    solofast Formula 3

    Oct 8, 2007
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    I had always remembered that the B17 had a crew of 10... Don't know what the extra guy was doing in that photo..

    Here's a link that shows what each crew memeber was and if you click on the position it will take you to a page that shows what each member did on a mission.

    http://www.azcaf.org/pages/crew.html
     
  13. Bob Parks

    Bob Parks F1 Veteran
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    Sometimes there was a photographer or an extra to man the nose gun. I flew as an observer and trainee some times at Langley.
     
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  15. tazandjan

    tazandjan Two Time F1 World Champ
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    Bob- Most of the early B-17Fs did have a single .30 in the nose, like the B-17E, operated by the bombadier when not on the bomb run. Later, when they had discovered most bombadiers could not find a target to save their lives, they used formation drops with a master bombadier in the lead aircraft calling the drop. At that point, most of the bombadiers were nose gunners. Later B-17Fs did have two cheek 50s, which as you duly noted are missing from this early photo. Did they keep the .30 on those aircraft?

    Who operated the nose turret on the B-17G? Was it the pilots or the bombadier? Never mind, looked it up and the gun sight was just above the Norden for the bombadier.

    Taz
    Terry Phillips
     
  16. Bob Parks

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    The early B-17 F's didn't have " as designed" nose guns to start with and there were many field designed mods before Boeing designed some dedicated nose gun installations. .30's to start with and then the .50's in the nose dome and then cheek guns. The cal.50 weighed something close to 80 pounds if I remember and the recoil required some strong mounting structure. I have seen so many different early nose gun installations that I can't recall them all. Late Douglas built model F's came out with the chin turret and then all B-17G's had them. The sight was mounted on a curved rod mounted on the deck just forward of the bomb sight and operated by the bomb aimer when he wasn't aiming. The two chin turret cal.50's were no match for a string of FW-190's coming straight at you with the 30MM cannons that out-ranged and out-hit the .50's. Hitting a fighter with a flexible gun in a bomber was extremely lucky. Most B-24's and B-17's had 10 man crews except for the Mickey ships that sometimes had an extra radar guy.
     
  17. tazandjan

    tazandjan Two Time F1 World Champ
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    Bob- Thanks. Had seen all kinds of configurations and was curious. The .30 in the nose was obviously something kind of makeshift and could not have been very effective. Essentially a WW-I weapon even if you had 8 of them like the RAF.

    Taz
    Terry Phillips
     
  18. Bob Parks

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    I never understood why the British hung on to the .303's in their airplanes. I have a picture somewhere of an He111 that was shot down and crash landed in England. It was so full of little .303 holes that almost see through it. The cal.50 browning was and still is a formidable weapon but the Germans had the best with their cannons. The rounds were designed not to penetrate so much but to have tremendous explosive force and they were deadly when they hit. When sheet metal parts are shook loose at 165MPH they tend to leave the airplane and take things with them. Oxy bottles and fuel tanks were vulnerable as well as primary structure.
     
  19. Bob Parks

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    Terry, I was thinking about you flying in the F-111 within a sealed, quiet, and heated capsule at 40.000 and booming along at something above Mach 1. And then I thought about the stuff in '43-44 where one was in the fully exposed -40 deg howling wind and roaring engines while sucking on oxygen for 6 to 8 hours. I only did it a few times in the states without being fired at and I can't imagine how it was even though I bunked with those who did it. Unbelievable how primitive the " state of the art" equipment was.
     
  20. tazandjan

    tazandjan Two Time F1 World Champ
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    Bob- Douglas Bader was the big proponent of the 8 x .303s and when he was shot down, the RAF very quickly went to a four cannon armament on their fighters. The cannon had some big advantages against bombers and slow movers, but their slow rate of fire could be a disadvantage against fighters because of holes in the pattern like a duck flying through a shotgun pellet spread. With the 50's rate of fire, there were few holes in the pattern, especially with 6 or 8 of them firing.

    Still, I would rather be hit with a .50 shell than a cannon shell any day. The P-38 had a good compromise with 4 x .50s and a 20 mm, all boresighted straight ahead.

    We wore oxygen masks, but even in combat were breathing a mixture of pressurized cockpit air and oxygen and only went to 100% if there was a problem. We had a combat setting for the cabin pressure that ran lower pressure in the cockpit in case you took a round through the capsule at medium altitude. Even a couple of hours of pure oxygen will give you a screaming headache if you do not valsalva frequently to get rid of all the O2 absorbed into the inner ear. I am not sure B-17 crews were breathing pure oxygen, but were probably using a mixer similar to what we used. Pure oxygen is a fire hazard if a hit or a spark occurs. At least we could drop our masks and breathe cockpit pressurized air. So could the B-29 guys.

    Taz
    Terry Phillips
     
  21. Gatorrari

    Gatorrari F1 World Champ
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    Actually, in the mid-war period, the British put the "C" wing on their Spitfires, which split the difference: 4 .303 and 2 20mm. Towards the end of the war they did go to 4 20mm, which I think by then may have had an improved rate of fire.

    One thing they did do was to make the cannons more compact; early on they had long barrels extending well forward from the wing (consider the Typhoon) but later they managed to fit them entirely within the wing (the later Tempests).
     
  22. Bob Parks

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    I did some flying with Larry Blumer, a P-38 Ace, who shot down 5 FW-190's in less than 10 minutes. He was the classic fighter pilot; ready to fight anybody anytime and he told me about that fight and I should describe it again but the essence of his description was that when he hit a victim it disintegrated and his airplane came back with damage from flying through the debris many times. That combination of .50's and a 20MM concentrated within an area of a few feet was absolutely deadly. He did not dog fight anybody. It was a hit and run affair every time. One of his more interesting stories was shooting down a Spitfire that jumped him somewhere over Europe. He assumed that it was a captured Spit flown by a German but to be safe, he destroyed the gun camera film when he got back to base. Larry trained with Chuck Yeager at Tonapah, Nevada.


    Early and late WW2 oxygen masks had a mixing feature so that one did not breathe pure O2 but the dehydration and headaches did persist. If you had to, you could get pure O2 from the supply hose.

    The B-29 was like flying in the fanciest hotel compared to the B-17's and B-24. It was heated, pressurized , and comparatively quiet...and roomy. It was unique to scoot through the " communication tunnel" between the forward section and the aft section .
     
  23. tazandjan

    tazandjan Two Time F1 World Champ
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    Jim- Kind of makes you wonder why they bothered with the MGs later, but somebody liked them.

    Bob- Must have seemed like heaven to crews with any other bomber time compared to the B-29.

    Funny thing is the P-38 could actually out-turn just about any WW-II aircraft once they introduced the maneuvering flaps, but the roll rate was so slow it took you a long time to get to where you could use that turn rate. Not great for dog fighting unless you were already in plane.

    Taz
    Terry Phillips
     
  24. Spasso

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    Damage from German 88.

    By Allen Ostrom

    They could hear it before they could see it!

    Not all that unusual in those days as the personnel at Station 131 gathered around the tower and scattered hardstands to await the return of the B-17's sent out earlier that morning.

    First comes the far off rumble and drone of the Cyclones. Then a spec on the East Anglia horizon Soon a small cluster indicating the lead squadron. Finally, the group.

    Then the counting: 1-2-3-4-5.....

    But that would have been normal. Today was different! It was too early for
    the group to return.

    "They're 20 minutes early. Can't be the 398th."

    They could hear it before they could see it! Something was coming home. But what?

    All eyes turned toward the northeast, aligning with the main runway, each ground guy and stood-down airman straining to make out this "wail of a Banshee," as one called it.

    Not like a single B-17 with its characteristic deep roar of the engines blended with four thrashing propellers. This was a howl! Like a powerful wind blowing into a huge whistle.

    Then it came into view. It WAS a B-17!

    Low and pointing her nose at the 6,000 foot runway, it appeared for all the world to be crawling toward the earth, screaming in protest.

    No need for the red flares. All who saw this Fort knew there was death aboard.

    "Look at that nose!" they said as all eyes stared in amazement as this single, shattered remnant of a once beautiful airplane glided in for an unrealistic "hot" landing. She took the entire runway as the "Banshee" noise finally abated, and came to an inglorious stop in the mud just beyond the concrete runway.

    Men and machines raced to the now silent and lonely aircraft. The ambulance and medical staff were there first. The fire truck.....ground and air personnel....jeeps, truck, bikes......

    Out came one of the crew members from the waist door, then another. Strangely quiet. The scene was almost weird. Men stood by as if in shock, not knowing whether to sing or cry.

    Either would have been acceptable.

    The medics quietly made their way to the nose by way of the waist door as the remainder of the crew began exiting. And to answer the obvious question, "what happened?"

    "What happened?" was easy to see. The nose was a scene of utter destruction. It was as though some giant aerial can opener had peeled the nose like an orange, relocating shreds of metal, Plexiglas, wires and tubes on the cockpit windshield and even up to the top turret.. The left cheek gun hung limp, like a broken arm.

    One man pointed to the crease in chin turret. No mistaking that mark! A German 88 anti-aircraft shell had exploded in the lap of the togglier.

    This would be George Abbott of Mt Lebanon , PA. He had been a waist gunner before training to take over the bombardier's role.

    Still in the cockpit, physically and emotionally exhausted, were pilot Larry de Lancey and co-pilot Phil Stahlman.

    Navigator Ray LeDoux finally tapped de Lancey on the shoulder and suggested they get out. Engineer turret gunner Ben Ruckel already had made his way to the waist was exiting along with radio operator Wendell Reed, ball turret gunner Al Albro, waist gunner Russell Lachman and tail gunner Herbert Guild.

    Stahlman was flying his last scheduled mission. He was a replacement for regular co-pilot, Grady Cumbie. The latter had been hospitalized the day before with an ear problem. Lachman was also a "sub," filling in for Abbott in the waist.

    DeLancey made it as far as the end of the runway, where he sat down with knees drawn up, arms crossed and head down. The ordeal was over, and now the drama was beginning a mental re-play.

    Then a strange scene took place.

    Group CO Col. Frank P. Hunter had arrived after viewing the landing from the tower and was about to approach deLancey He was physically restrained by flight surgeon Dr. Robert Sweet.

    "Colonel, that young man doesn't want to talk now. When he is ready you can talk to him, but for now leave him alone."

    Sweet handed pills out to each crew member and told them to go to their huts and sleep.

    No dramatics, no cameras, no interviews. The crew would depart the next day for "flak leave" to shake off the stress and then be expected back early in November. (Just in time to resume "normal" activities on a mission to Merseburg!)

    Mission No. 98 from Nuthampstead had begun at 0400 that morning of October 15, 1944. It would be Cologne (again), led by CA pilots Robert Templeman of the 602nd, Frank Schofield of the 601st and Charles Khourie of the 603rd.

    Tragedy and death appeared quickly and early that day. Templeman and pilot Bill Scott got the 602nd off at the scheduled 0630 hour, but at approximately 0645 Khouri and pilot Bill Meyran and their entire crew crashed on takeoff in the town of Anstey . All were killed. Schofield and Harold Stallcup followed successfully with the 601st, with deLancey flying
    on their left wing in the lead element.

    The ride to the target was routine, until the flak started becoming "unroutinely" accurate..

    "We were going through heavy flak on the bomb run," remembered deLancey.

    "I felt the plane begin to lift as the bombs were dropped, then all of a sudden we were rocked by a violent explosion. My first thought - 'a bomb exploded in the bomb bay' - was immediately discarded as the top of the nose section peeled back over the cockpit blocking the forward view."

    "It seemed like the whole world exploded in front of us," added Stahlman. "The instrument panel all but disintegrated and layers of quilted batting exploded in a million pieces It was like a momentary snowstorm in the cockpit."

    It had been a direct hit in the nose. Killed instantly was the togglier, Abbott. Navigator LeDoux, only three feet behind Abbott, was knocked unconscious for a moment, but was miraculously was alive.

    Although stunned and bleeding, LeDoux made his way to the cockpit to find the two pilots struggling to maintain control of an airplane that by all rights should have been in its death plunge. LeDoux said there was nothing anyone could do for Abbott, while Ruckel opened the door to the bomb bay and signaled to the four crewman in the radio room that all was OK - for the time being.

    The blast had torn away the top and much of the sides of the nose. Depositing enough of the metal on the windshield to make it difficult for either of the pilots to see.

    "The instrument panel was torn loose and all the flight instruments were inoperative with the exception of the magnetic compass mounted in the panel above the windshield. And its accuracy was questionable. The radio and intercom were gone, the oxygen lines broken, and there was a ruptured hydraulic line under my rudder pedals," said deLancey.

    All this complicated by the sub-zero temperature at 27,000 feet blasting into the cockpit.

    "It was apparent that the damage was severe enough that we could not continue to fly in formation or at high altitude. My first concern was to avoid the other aircraft in the formation, and to get clear of the other planes in case we had to bail out.. We eased out of formation, and at the same time removed our oxygen masks as they were collapsing on our faces as the tanks were empty."

    At this point the formation continued on its prescribed course for home - a long, slow turn southeast of Cologne and finally westward.

    DeLancey and Stahlman turned left, descending rapidly and hoping they were heading west. (And also, not into the gun sights of German fighters.) Without maps and navigation aids, they had difficulty getting a fix. By this time they were down to 2,000 feet.

    "We finally agreed that we were over Belgium and were flying in a southwesterly direction," said the pilot.

    "About this time a pair of P-51's showed up and flew a loose formation on us across Belgium . I often wondered what they thought as they looked at the mess up front."

    "We hit the coast right along the Belgium-Holland border, a bit farther north than we had estimated. Ray said we were just south of Walcheren Island ...."

    Still in an area of ground fighting, the plane received some small arms fire. This gesture was returned in kind by Albro, shooting from one of the waist guns.

    "We might have tried for one of the airfields in France , but having no maps this also was questionable. Besides, the controls and engines seemed to be OK, so I made the decision to try for home."

    "Once over England , LeDoux soon picked up landmarks and gave me course corrections taking us directly to Nuthampstead. It was just a great bit of navigation. Ray just stood there on the flight deck and gave us the headings from memory."

    Nearing the field, Stahlman let the landing gear down. That was an assurance. But a check of the hydraulic pump sent another spray of oil to the cockpit floor. Probably no brakes!

    Nevertheless, a flare from Ruckel's pistol had to announce the "ready or not" landing. No "downwind leg" and "final approach" this time. Straight in!

    "The landing was strictly by guess and feel," said DeLancey. "Without instruments, I suspect I came in a little hot. Also, I had to lean to the left to see straight ahead. The landing was satisfactory, and I had sufficient braking to slow the plane down some. However, as I neared the taxiway, I could feel the brakes getting 'soft'. I felt that losing control and blocking the taxiway would cause more problems than leaving the plane at the end of the runway."

    That consideration was for the rest of the group. Soon three squadrons of B-17's would be returning, and they didn't need a derelict airplane blocking the way to their respective hardstands.

    Stahlman, supremely thankful that his career with the 398th had come to an end, soon returned home and in due course became a captain with Eastern Airlines. Retired in 1984, Stahlman said his final Eastern flight "was a bit more routine" than the one 40 years before.

    DeLancey and LeDoux received decorations on December 11, 1944 for their parts in the October 15 drama. DeLancey was awarded the Silver Star for his "miraculous feat of flying skill and ability" on behalf of General Doolittle, CO of the Eighth Air Force. LeDoux for his "extraordinary navigation skill” received the Distinguished Flying Cross.

    The following deLancey 1944 article was transcribed from the 398th BG Historical Microfilm. Note: due to wartime security, Nuthampstead is not mentioned, and the route deLancey flew home is referred to in general terms.

    TO: STARS AND STRIPES
    FOR GENERAL RELEASE

    AN EIGHTH AIR FORCE BOMBER STATION, ENGLAND - After literally losing the nose of his B-17 Flying Fortress as the result of a direct hit by flak over Cologne , Germany on October 15, 1944, 1st Lt. Lawrence M. deLancey, 25, of Corvallis , Oregon returned to England and landed the crew safely at his home base. Each man walked away from the plane except the togglier, Staff Sergeant George E. Abbott, Mt. Lebanon , Pennsylvania , who was killed instantly when the flak struck.

    It was only the combined skill and teamwork of Lt. DeLancey and 2nd Lt. Raymond J. LeDoux, of Mt. Angel , Oregon , navigator, that enabled the plane and crew to return safely.

    "Just after we dropped our bombs and started to turn away from the target", Lt. DeLancey explained, "A flak burst hit directly in the nose and blew practically the entire nose section to threads. Part of the nose peeled back and obstructed my vision and that of my co-pilot, 1st Lt. Phillip H. Stahlman of Shippenville , Pennsylvania . What little there was left in front of me looked like a scrap heap. The wind was rushing through our feet were exposed to the open air at nearly 30,000 feet above the ground the temperature was unbearable.

    "There we were in a heavily defended flak area with no nose, and practically no instruments. The instrument panel was bent toward me as the result of the impact. My altimeter and magnetic compass were about the only instruments still operating and I couldn't depend on their accuracy too well. Naturally I headed for home immediately. The hit which had killed S/Sgt. Abbott also knocked Lt. LeDoux back in the catwalk (just below where I was sitting) our oxygen system also was out so I descended to a safe altitude.

    "Lt. LeDoux who had lost all his instruments and maps in the nose did a superb piece of navigating to even find England ."

    During the route home flak again was encountered but due to evasive action Lt. DeLancey was able to return to friendly territory. Lt. LeDoux navigated the ship directly to his home field.

    Although the plane was off balance without any nose section, without any brakes (there was no hydraulic pressure left), and with obstructed vision, Lt. DeLancey made a beautiful landing to the complete amazement of all personnel at this field who still are wondering how the feat was
    accomplished.

    The other members of the crew include:

    1. Technical Sergeant Benjamin H. Ruckel, Roscoe, California, engineer top turret gunner;
    2. Technical Sergeant Wendell A. Reed, Shelby, Michigan, radio operator gunner;
    3. Technical Sergeant Russell A. Lachman, Rockport, Mass., waist gunner;
    4. Staff Sergeant Albert Albro, Antioch , California , ball turret gunner and
    5. Staff Sergeant Herbert D. Guild, Bronx , New York , tail gunner.
     

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  25. tazandjan

    tazandjan Two Time F1 World Champ
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    If that had been a B-24, they probably would not have made it. The B-17 was really tough.

    Taz
    Terry Phillips
     
  26. Bob Parks

    Bob Parks F1 Veteran
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    #24 Bob Parks, Mar 12, 2011
    Last edited by a moderator: Sep 7, 2017
    I thought the same thing,Terry. The B-24 was not as compact as the -17 and being built like a light weight box instead of a compact tube it was not as durable. The B-17 was designed at the beginning of semi-monocoque age and it was way over designed, but then it seems that most Boeings are always that way.
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  27. Bob Parks

    Bob Parks F1 Veteran
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    #25 Bob Parks, Mar 12, 2011
    Last edited by a moderator: Sep 7, 2017
    Fatally attacked by three FW-190's
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