Top turret of B-17 (1 of 2)

Top turret of B-17 (1 of 2)

Top turret of B-17 (1 of 2)

Here we see Vernon A. 'DG' 'Flicka' Fleig sitting next to the top turret of a B-17, with one sat between the gun barrels.

Pictures provided by Sgt. Robert S. Tucker Sr. (Member of: The American Air Museum in Britain {Duxford} ).
Robert S. WWII Photo Book, Mighty 8th. AF, Ground Crew


Top turret of B-17 (1 of 2) - History

This B-17 top turret is for sale. Part of the proceeds will go toward the restoration of our museum's flying 1945 Lockheed PV-2D Harpoon (pictured behind the turret in some of the shots below).

The A-1 upper turret was only used on the Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress series of aircraft. Of all of the turrets surviving today the A-1 upper turret is the rarest of the rare. This is the only Sperry upper turret available for sale and they hardly ever become available simply because almost all of them are installed in surviving B-17's or are in museums. Very few are known to be in private collections.

The coolest part of this turret is the dome and the gun platform which are actually new old stock parts that have been tucked away in the factory that made them in WWII. The olive drab paint on the outside and the Army Bronze Green paint on the inside are the very paint from the day they were made at the factory.

Because this dome is painted olive drab green camouflage it was used on earlier B-17G's as the later aircraft and turrets were silver or natural aluminum. This turret would have been installed on a B-17 that was painted camouflage with overall olive drab on the top and grey on the bottom.

This turret is extra special because the dome and gun platform are completely original and are not restored. Except for the center panel all of the Plexiglas in the turret dome is also factory original and is just as clear as the day it was made. This is a testament to the fact that this dome has been well protected for almost 70 years. What a truly rare find today. The two type 6 six and one type one domes that came out of that factory just a few years ago are believed to be the only Sperry top turret domes in existence that retain their original factory paint. One of those domes is for sale here and the other two are in our museum.

The surviving domes, mostly on B-17's, have all been restored with new glass and paint. This dome and gun platform are true museum pieces as even the WWII paint is not faded. The glass does have scratches and one panel is cracked as can be seen in the photos but the scratches can be polished out should you desire.

This turret can be used for many different things. Besides the fact that it would look great right in your living room (Guaranteed wife approved!) or in your B-17, it is a great display ready turret for any collection or museum. This has to be the ultimate WWII gamers trophy too.

If you are actually operating a B-17 then this is the perfect top turret for a flying aircraft. Instead of a dummy turret fixed in place like so many B-17's today have, this one can be installed in the aircraft to rotate and elevate. This Sperry turret can do this without the lower turret structure so you can have a rotating and elevating turret and yet still have a clear flight deck for your passengers and tours. This is the best of both worlds. I will also take original Sperry turret parts or other Warbird parts in trade toward the purchase of this turret. No flying B-17 today has an upper turret that can rotate let alone both rotate and elevate. Having a turret that a passenger can stand up in, spin around and raise the guns would be a selling point all by itself potentially creating a revenue stream to not only offset the cost but possibly paying for the turret purchase itself in time. The word of mouth/repeat and new customers as a result of a turret that the public could potentially manipulate without the the inherent dangers of a full operating powered turret are something to consider. Having something like this as an additional draw to bring people to see your B-17 instead of the competitions aircraft can be a real marketing tool. How about for an extra $20 per person you will give a special tour of the top turret that allows someone to spin the turret during ground tours. A volunteer could take several folks up for a small group tour of the top turret telling them about the importance of the gun turrets for defense. The tour could discuss all of the turrets with the opportunity to spin this top turret.

It would also be possible to power this turret should you desire as the roller bearing ring structure has a precision gear machined into it which lends itself to making the turret capable of powered rotation and elevation. This turret ring and gear assembly is heavy duty and is quite strong.

Here is a YouTube video of Sydney taking the turret for a spin. The guns will elevate from 90 degrees up to 5 degrees below horizontal.

The partial guns used in the turret for the pictures and video do not come with the turret. Full good looking replica guns have been ordered and will go with the turret when sold. The replica guns are for display only and cannot be made to function. They are not considered firearms and are legal to own. This is not a weapon but a piece of history. please also understand that this is not a full and complete turret but is the upper portion of the turret made up of the original unrestored type 6 dome, original unrestored gun platform and upper part of the cast ring structure. These original parts are secured to a steel roller bearing/ring gear which is what allows it to manually rotate and elevate the turret just like the original. There are three legs to support the turret that can be unbolted easily. If you have any questions just email [email protected] or call 209 534 4466

The turret can also be used for photos to generate revenue for your museum or at air shows

This shot shows the crack in the aft right hand Plexiglas panel and the scratches can also be seen. The factory original hardware, except for 5 screws and nuts, are all in place.

A computing gun sight is also installed on its mount. Some of the castings have cracks as most turrets do. These can be repaired or left alone. My reference is to leave the original paint and accept the flaws. It is only original once and once it has been "restored" then the original finish is gone for ever.

The view through the fixed ring and bead of the gun sight. The sight could be hooked up to 24 volts to make the optics light up

Here are some great WWII photos of the B-17 top turret

Here is a dome only top turret installed on a currently flying B-17G that is rigidly mounted and no gun platform. This and several other B-17's flying today could benefit from having a moving top turret like ours which will leave the flight deck clear for passengers and crew. EAA's Aluminum Overcast, CAF's Texas Raiders, Yankee Air Museum, Sally B in England and Lonestar's Thunderbird are a few of the flying B-17's with dummy turrets fixed in position. Any sponsors out there want to help this turret get back into a flying B-17? Several B-17's in restoration now could also use a turret like this one. It is a fact that there are more B-17's around today then there are Sperry upper turrets. They were all removed from the aircraft and scrapped not long after WWII because they were not needed.

Any questions can be directed to the email above or by calling at the number below

TO ALL OF OUR COUNTRY'S VETERANS, WE HERE AT VINTAGE AIRCRAFT WOULD LIKE TO SAY:


Top turret of B-17 (1 of 2) - History

I was being very cautious,

and was patrolling to the rear and the sides in my top turret. I noticed a speck which turned out to be a 110. It flew around out there for a while, sizing things up, and finally decided to attack. Why it came in from this angle I'll never know…but it came in to about 100 or 150 yards, still four o'clock high, and then pulled up and to the right. Of course all the top turrets, right waist guns, and any other gun that could get on it was firing. It was the perfect target and there was no way it could get through all those .50s. My right waist gunner, Kurt Backert, saw it crash in the woods with field glasses.

From “Half a Wing, Three Engines and a Prayer, B-17s over Germany” by Brian D. O'neill.

The flight engineer on the B-17 was like a flying ground crewman. He had to know the intricate workings of the Flying Fortress and would assist the pilots with monitoring the mechanical operation of the aircraft. If battle damage severed control cables, started a fuel leak, prevented the landing gear from being dropped, jammed a turret, or caused one of a thousand other problems, it was the flight engineer's job to try and fix it. He could transfer fuel if a fuel tank began to leak. Any fires that started in the bomb bay or on the flight deck were attended to by him. If a control cable had a problem, he would be the one to run back into the aircraft and try to make the repair. A good flight engineer sometimes meant the difference between a plane making it home or not.

On top of this, the flight engineer had to be a crack gunner as well for he manned perhaps the most crucial defensive position in the entire aircraft, the top turret. This position was so vital because it was the only one that could cover the front, rear and both sides of the aircraft from level on up. Since enemy fighters usually liked to approach a target from above, this made the top turret a very important position indeed. Once the Luftwaffe realized that the front of the Flying Fortress was not well defended and began attacking from the famous 12 o'clock high position, the top turret became even more crucial as it had the best chance of fighting off these attacks. That being said though, because the flight engineer could be pulled out of the turret to work on more pressing issues, like keeping the plane flying, other gunners were trained in the top turret's operation to ensure that the turret would always be manned regardless of what was going on elsewhere in the aircraft.

Because of the engineer's location relative to the pilots, he was usually the voice of the enlisted part of the crew. Usually he held a higher rank than the other enlisted men but this was not always the case. The flight engineer would watch engine gauges and alert the pilots to any potential problems during the mission. Because of the demands of formation flying, the flight engineer was a much needed extra set of eyes for the heavily worked pilots.

Like all gunners, the flight engineer was also responsible for the maintenance of his position's weapons. He would check the barrels before each flight and stow them away after every mission.

As was mentioned before, the flight engineer was and enlisted man's positon usually with a rank of Sergeant or higher.


Bombing Bremen: Why Most of America's B-17 Bombers Didn't Come Home

“Bombs Away” rang out over the intercom static of the 29 aircraft of the 91st Bomb Group (Heavy). From each olive drab Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress, five 1,000-pound general purpose bombs broke free of their shackles and fell through the open bomb bay doors.

Relieved of the weight, the bombers lurched upward. The high explosives streamed downward onto the Bremen, Germany, Flugzeugbau assembly works of the Focke-Wulf aircraft factory 26,000 feet below. The plant produced about 80 Focke-Wulf FW-190 fighters each month. FW-190s, along with hoards of Messerschmitt Me-109s, were wreaking havoc among heavy bomber formations as they penetrated into German airspace.

Many of the bombs exploded within the factory itself, destroying at least half of the buildings. Others fell on the adjoining airfield and aircraft dispersal areas. The time was 1259 hours, April 17, 1943 and planes of the 91st Bomb Group had been in the air for almost three hours. Thus ended successfully the day’s work for Uncle Sam. From that point on, the air crews were working for themselves. The crewmen’s primary objective for the rest of the day was to return safely to their home base at Bassingbourn, East Anglia, England where a party awaited them. Local English girls, the crewmen’s dates, were already preparing for a night of dancing and general revelry. In a few hours, “passion wagons,” (trucks) would be heading out to nearby villages to pick up the girls and bring them to the airbase.

The Largest Heavy Bomber Contingent to Date

For the April 17 mission, VIII Bomber Command had launched the largest number of heavy bombers over the continent to date in the war. Of the 115 aircraft put into the air earlier that morning, 107 made it to the target, another record. It was a rough mission, even for this period of the air war over Germany.

Weather over the target was clear, perfect for bombing, putting the Germans on guard as to the possibility of an attack on Bremen. Further, a Luftwaffe reconnaissance plane spotted the American formation while it was still well out over the North Sea. German fighter control was alerted as to the likely target, as well as heading, speed, altitude, and number of bombers in the strike force. A “welcoming committee” of 150 German fighters awaited the formations as they approached the enemy coast.

This was the 69th combat mission the 91st Group had flown since its first foray over the continent on November 7, 1942. The 91st and the 306th Bomb Groups, comprising the 101st Provisional Combat Wing (PBCW), with the 91st in the lead, were first over the target that day. They were followed by the 305th and 303rd Groups of the 102nd PBCW. The 91st Group put up 32 bombers that morning, the largest force it, too, had mounted to date.

Heading for the Initial Point

The 91st Group lead aircraft, “Stupntakit,” of the 323rd Squadron, had lifted off at 0956 hours. Other planes followed at approximately 30-second intervals, the last one, No. 399, “Man-O-War,” leaving the runway at 1008 hours. There was considerable ground haze at Bassingbourn during takeoff, reducing visibility to between one and two miles. In spite of this, the pilots did not experience serious problems in forming up on the group lead and heading for the wing rendezvous with the 306th Group.

Weather conditions over the prescribed route to the target were the best they had been for the past month. Although a general ground haze covered the continent and cloud patches were prevalent at 6,000, 14,000, and 20,000 feet over most of the route, at no place did cloud cover exceed 5/10 density. Still, it required considerable skill and a little luck for the lead navigator, Captain Charles F. Maas, to identify checkpoints along the route.

The flight path took the strike force to the northeast over the North Sea, over the East Frisian Islands, and on to Germany west of Wilhelmshaven and Oldensburg. Checkpoints along the way were Baltrum Island, Edewecht, Ahlhorn, and the IP (Initial Point, beginning of the bomb run) at Wildeshausen. The IP was five minutes from the target. The prescribed rate of climb to bombing altitude while over the North Sea was very fast the bombers had to move from 6,000 feet to 26,000 feet in 32 minutes.

Two Bombers Turn Back Early

This placed considerable stress on the heavily loaded bombers. Two aircraft encountered problems because of the fast rate of climb.

One 322nd Squadron crew in the Composite Group, Lieutenant McGehee Word’s “Piccadilly Commando,” had to return to base. After test firing his .50-caliber left waist machine gun, S/Sgt. Edward A. Murphy lifted the gun back into the aircraft to make adjustments. In doing so, he accidentally hit the trigger, causing the gun to run away inside the fuselage. He shot up the stabilizer, knocked the oxygen system out, and nearly hit the tail gunner, S/Sgt. Marvin E. Dyer. Word turned back at 1230 hours, 15 miles northwest of Baltrum Island.

When the group crossed onto the continent, only 29 of the 32 bombers that left Bassingbourn remained in the strike force. Eight 401st Squadron planes went over the continent, five in the low squadron of the 91st formation and three in the low squadron of the Composite Group.

The Luftwaffe Greeting Party

As the 91st passed over the East Frisian Islands, moderately heavy and accurate flak came up at the formation. None of the 91st Group planes received serious hits. As soon as the bombers passed beyond the range of these antiaircraft guns, German fighters appeared. The fighters did not at first charge into the bomber stream, but gradually picked up the tempo of runs at the bombers until the IP, Wildeshausen, by which time they were mounting vicious attacks on the intruding aircraft. All the while flak continued to come at the strike force from Aurica, Oldenburg, Alhorn, Wildeshausen and of course, Bremen.

Nearly every type of fighter available to the Luftwaffe came at the strike force. Most were Me-109s, but a number of FW-190s also attacked the bombers. Although the majority of the enemy aircraft stormed in on the bombers from between 10 o’clock and 2 o’clock high, attacks were made from almost every conceivable direction. Many of the passes were made by “javelin” formations of several enemy aircraft flying in line directly through the bomber formation. Others swarmed at the bombers in groups of three.

Me-110 twin-engine fighters engaged the bombers at a distance of over 1,000 yards, beyond the protective range of the bombers’ machine guns, firing 20mm and 30mm cannon shells at the planes. Twin-engine Junkers Ju-88s were believed to have dropped aerial bombs into the formation from above. No fewer than 125 single-engine and 25 twin-engine enemy aircraft were estimated to have engaged the strike force.

Captain Maas could not see the IP because of the haze, but rather than diverting to the alternate target, he turned at the time he was supposed to turn on the IP and hoped for the best. He was accurate. Bremen appeared directly ahead, and the bomb run was on course.

The heaviest fighter attacks were experienced at the beginning of the flak barrage at Bremen. Fighters continued coming at the bombers over the target as enemy pilots ignored the exploding flak. It appeared to the bomber crews that the enemy attacks were planned to drive lead elements of the squadrons off the bomb run after the group had been committed, to render the entire bombing inaccurate. Many German pilots pressed their attacks to within 25 yards of the bombers before breaking off. In spite of persistent flak on the run into the target and intensifying fighter attacks on the 91st as the group approached Bremen, all 91st planes that crossed the enemy coast remained in formation over the target.

Despite Damage, ‘Sky Wolf II’ Makes It’s Bombing Run

Just after leaving the IP and beginning the bomb run, “Sky Wolf II” received flak hits and was attacked head-on by German fighters. The windshields in front of both pilots were shattered. Fighters were queuing up off to the left of the bomber, darting ahead, turning over on their backs, and circling back in head-on attacks. Others were coming in from all positions. Some of the enemy aircraft came so close that 1st Lt. Nicholas Stoffel and co-pilot Captain Robert Foster could see their eyes. Crewmen were literally screaming out directions of incoming fighters over the intercom.

One 20mm shell came through the nose of the plane and exploded in the bulkhead just in front of the pilots’ legs, severely wounding the bombardier, 2nd Lt. Everet A. Coppage, in the buttocks. A piece of shrapnel went on through the nose compartment and into the flight deck, hitting Foster in the right leg, causing a gaping wound. Stoffel was wounded in the left leg by the exploding shell.

Foster believed his wound to be serious and knew that he would need immediate medical attention. He went down into the nose to bail out, hoping the Germans would find him quickly and get him to a hospital. When he discovered that he did not have his chute on, he returned to the cockpit, removed the chest pack from under his seat, snapped it on, returned to the nose, and bailed out.

After free floating for a short while, Foster pulled the ripcord. It came loose in his hand. He had to pull the parachute canopy out of the pack by hand. While descending, Foster took his oxygen mask hose and tied it around his right leg to slow the blood still flowing from his wound. He landed heavily in a field and lay there, unable to get up because of his injured leg. A group of angry farmers came running at him from one direction and a small open vehicle with military men in it from another. The military won, and he was taken prisoner. Foster was taken to a hospital in Oldenburg, where he remained for almost five months while his leg healed. He was later moved to the center compound at Stalag Luft 3.

“Sky Wolf II” continued to the target, with Stoffel handling the controls alone. She took more flak hits on the bomb run. The No. 1 engine was set afire while 20mm cannon shells ripped through the rest of the plane. Much of the electrical system was knocked out, and the plane sustained structural damage to the wings and fuselage. Still, “Sky Wolf II” remained in formation.

All of the Bombs are Dropped

The Composite Group also remained intact to the target. In the confusion of evasive action in response to fighter attacks, Lieutenant William Genheimer and “Frisco Jinny” moved ahead of Lieutenant Kenneth Wallick in “The Old Standby,” who ended up flying on Genheimer’s right wing. As the two aircraft turned on the IP, 20mm cannon fire blasted into the top turret of “Frisco Jinny.” The gunner, T/Sgt. Roland E. Hale, was hit in the middle of the back and killed instantly. In spite of the damage to “Frisco Jinny,” the two 322nd Squadron planes continued over the target, dropping with the rest of the formation.

Only two bombers from the entire Strike Force, both from the 306th Group, were lost en route to the target.

Except for “Ritzy Blitz” of the 324th high squadron of the Composite Group, the 91st bombers dropped all their bombs on the target. Three bombs hung up when the bombardier of “Ritzy Blitz,” 2nd Lt. R.W. Stephenson, toggled over the target. He eventually was able to salvo the three remaining bombs, causing them to fall on Ochtelbur at 1329 hours on the return leg of the mission.

Flak over the target was intense, the most concentrated barrage the group had encountered on any mission up to that time. The crews had been briefed that morning that there were an estimated 496 antiaircraft batteries around Bremen. This appeared to be an accurate assessment. The guns put up a solid box of exploding 88mm and 105mm shells. The resulting flak formed a massive black cloud of steel shards over the target.

A Nightmarish Trip Home

The trip home proved to be a nightmare for the 401st Squadron. After bombs away, the prescribed route out of Germany started with a 90 degree right turn off the target, heading south into a sweeping right turn just north of Vilsen, angling back over Wildeshausen, and then to Ahlhorn. From there, the bomber stream made a straight-line run out of Germany, passing east of Emden, west of Aurich and to the North Sea over the west end of Juist, one of the Frisian Islands.

The enemy aircraft did not break off their attacks on the 91st until the group had left the enemy coast and was about 40 miles out over the North Sea. At this time, the strike force was picked up by a formation of 12 British Supermarine Spitfire fighters which escorted the bombers back to England. Only two 401st bombers, both from the Composite Group, were still in the air when the strike force was met by the protecting British fighters.

The Crash of ‘Invasion 2nd’

While over the target, “Invasion 2nd” took flak hits and was attacked by German fighters. Three fighters came in head-on at 12 o’clock. They shot the front of the No. 2 engine completely off. The left wing and fuselage were also hit, turning the bomber into an inferno. “Invasion 2nd” was on her way down. The pilot, Captain Oscar O’Neill, rang the bail-out bell and called over the intercom for the crew to leave the aircraft.

The ball turret gunner, T/Sgt. Benedict B. Borostowski, came into the fuselage to the partly open waist door. The door was jammed, and the waist gunners, S/Sgts. William B. King and Eldon R. Lapp, were sitting in front of the door, unable to squeeze out. Borostowski stepped up, put a foot between the shoulders of the two men, and one at a time, pushed them through the narrow opening. The others in the rear of the aircraft had already left. The tail gunner, S/Sgt. Aaron S. Youell, dropped through his tail escape hatch. The radio operator, S/Sgt. Charles J. Melchiondo, and the flight engineer, T/Sgt. Harry Goldstein, went out through the bomb bay.

There was no one left to push Borostowski out, so he went to the tail escape hatch and dropped out. The rest of the crew, including O’Neill and the co-pilot, 1st Lt. Robert W. Freihofer, bailed out through the nose hatch. The bombardier, Captain Edwin R. Bush, detached the Norden bombsight and tossed it out the escape hatch before following the navigator, Captain Edwin M. Carmichael, through the opening.

“Invasion 2nd” crash-landed in an almost perfect landing on the ground near Oldenburg. Five planes were left in the low squadron.

‘Hellsapoppin’ Goes Down

The next 401st low squadron plane to go down was “Hellsapoppin.” Three or four minutes after the target was hit, there was a very hard jolt under the left side of the plane, close to the fuselage. An antiaircraft shell had exploded just under “Hellsapoppin.”

Flak ripped into the left side of the aircraft, tearing off chunks of metal from the fuselage and throwing them through the interior of the plane. At the same time, a three-foot section of the right wingtip was blown off by a flak burst. A one-and-one-half-foot hole appeared in the nose compartment, and all the nose window plexiglass blew out. There was fire in the left wing and nose compartment. The radio room became engulfed in fire from broken oxygen lines.

The pilot, Lieutenant John Wilson, was wounded in the head, and the co-pilot, 1st Lt. Arthur A. Bushnell, was hit in the right eye, both legs, the left arm, and the right hand by flying aluminum. In the nose, bombardier, 1st Lt. Harold Romm was hit in the left leg by flak. Earlier, before arriving over the target, Romm had been hit in the same leg by a machine-gun bullet during an attack by an FW-190.

In the top turret, the flight engineer, T/Sgt. Norman L. Thompson, felt a jolt and saw the left wing on fire. He had just seen a fighter off the left wing going after a plane below and was afraid it would come back up at “Hellsapoppin.” The enemy fighter was about 15 feet too low for Thompson to deflect his top turret guns to get off a burst.

Since the intercom was shot out, Thompson was not certain what was happening to the plane. He stepped down from the turret and went into the cockpit. There he saw both pilots with their oxygen masks off and blood pouring from under their helmets. He assumed both were dead. Thompson had not heard any firing from the gunners since “Hellsapoppin” had left the target. He figured they either had been killed by the flak and fighters or were too seriously injured to move. From the intensity of the fire he knew “Hellsapoppin” could explode at any second.

Thompson took a final glance at the instruments to ensure that the plane was still in level flight. He went back to the bomb bay and opened the doors. After checking below and seeing there was no plane under him, he dropped out.

Almost immediately after Thompson bailed out, the plane broke in two at the radio room. Four others, Bushnell, Barton, Romm, and the radio operator, T/Sgt. Howard A. Earney, were wounded but managed to escape the plane. The rest of the crew remained trapped in the falling aircraft. “Hellsapoppin” crashed 20 miles south of Bremen. Four planes were left in the low squadron.

The Demise of ‘Thunderbird’

“Thunderbird” also was hit hard by flak over the target and limped along only a few minutes longer than did “Hellsapoppin.” Apparently, “Thunderbird” took two direct hits on the No. 3 and 4 engines. The right wing was immediately set ablaze by burning oil. There was also fire in the radio room and bomb bay. The pilot, Lieutenant Harold Beasley, hit the fire extinguisher switch. Nothing.

The ball turret gunner, S/Sgt. James L. Branch, looked up at all the fire and knew “Thunderbird” was in serious trouble. He figured it was time to get out. Branch had been hit in the corner of one eye by a piece of shrapnel, and blood covered the eye. He called Beasley over the intercom and asked to come into the fuselage.

After getting out of the turret, Branch grabbed a fire extinguisher and went to work in the radio room and bomb bay but could not extinguish the fires. Beasley rang the bail-out bell and then asked Branch to go to the rear of the plane to see if everyone was out. Branch saw that the tail gunner, S/Sgt. Johnnie Cagle, had bailed out through the tail hatch. He then told the waist gunners to jump from the waist hatch and told the radio operator, T/Sgt. Jay M. Franklin, to “get your ass back there and bail out.”

Franklin started back but passed out in the door of the radio compartment, apparently from lack of oxygen. Branch and the right waist gunner, S/Sgt. Everett L. Creason, picked him up and threw him out, assuming he would come to and open his chute when he fell to where oxygen was adequate. He did. Creason bailed out, and Branch called up to the pilot to tell him everyone else was out and he was leaving. After exiting the aircraft, Branch opened his chute and looked up. He saw “Thunderbird” rise up on its back, turn on it nose, and go straight into the ground.

While all this was going on in the rear of the aircraft, the flight engineer, T/Sgt. Mark L. Schaefer, came down from the top turret and stood behind the pilot and co-pilot to assist them in getting control of the aircraft. He saw Beasley push the control column all the way forward and then pull it all the way back. No response! The controls were shot out. Beasley and the co-pilot, Lieutenant Walter McCain, were getting ready to get out of their seats and snap on their chutes as Schaefer went down to the nose hatch and bailed out.

As the action had begun to develop, the bombardier, 2nd Lt. Mathew Michaels, who was on his first mission, saw puffs of black smoke around the aircraft. He thought to himself, “This must be what they had told us about.” Just then “Thunderbird” took direct flak hits in the right wing. Beasley hit the bail-out bell, which Michaels mistakenly took to be only a warning. While Michaels was waiting for the second bail-out bell to ring, the navigator, 1st Lt. Harry D. Sipe, headed for the nose hatch and bailed out. At that time a fighter appeared alongside the bomber. Lt Michaels fired at him with the side gun, but missed.

“Thunderbird” started spinning downward. A case of .50-caliber machine-gun ammunition pinned Michaels to the top of the nose compartment. He heard glass breaking as his head crunched against one of the windows. A fighter came head-on at “Thunderbird,” blowing away part of the nose with 20mm cannon fire. The next thing Michaels knew, he was floating free of the plane. Either he had been blown out the nose when the 20mm cannon shells hit or was stunned by the explosion and did not remember going out the nose hatch. He was still fairly high up and pulled his ripcord in time to float safely to the ground.

Beasley and McCain must have been locked into the plane as it nosed over and dived downward. Their bodies were discovered by the Germans in the wreckage of “Thunderbird,” which crashed about 20 miles southwest of Bremen. Three planes were left in the low squadron.

‘Sky Wolf II’ Finally Succumbs

Although “Sky Wolf II” had been hit hard on the bomb run and the No. 1 engine was on fire, Stoffel kept her in position over the target. The bombardier, Coppage, toggled the bombs with the rest of the squadron. As soon as the group turned off the target and was just beyond the edge of the flak barrage, more enemy aircraft jumped “Sky Wolf II.” Another 20mm shell hit the nose, throwing plexiglass into Coppage’s face, causing severe wounds. The navigator, 1st Lt. John F. Segrest, Jr., who had also suffered wounds in both legs and his shoulder, told Coppage he needed immediate medical attention and helped him out the nose hatch. Although alive when he left the aircraft, Coppage did not survive.

Segrest then went into the cockpit to help Stoffel fly the plane. They flew along for about five minutes when more fighters came at them. “Sky Wolf II” took a direct 20mm hit that knocked out all the controls. Stoffel pushed the bail-out bell and said to Segrest, “Let’s go.” Both officers went down to the nose hatch and bailed out.

The electrical system to the ball turret was inactive, and the gunner, Sergeant Carl H. Quist, could not rotate around to get out. He remained trapped in the falling aircraft. The tail gunner, Sergeant Mathew C. Medina, had not been heard over the intercom for some time. He apparently was either dead or so badly injured that he could not bail out. Medina also went down with “Sky Wolf II,” which crashed 10 miles south of Aurich, in Ostfriesland, Germany. Two planes were left in the low squadron.

Just Two Planes Left in the Low Squadron

“Rain of Terror” was hit by flak as well as by Me-109s and FW-190s over the target, setting the aircraft afire. The bombs had just dropped when more flak hit the aircraft. The bomb bay doors were still open. The pilot, Lieutenant Robert Walker, managed to keep the plane with the formation in spite of the fire. On the way to the coast, a fighter made a pass over the top of the bomber, wounding the top turret gunner, T/Sgt. Robert F. Flanagan. The tail gunner, S/Sgt. Nick Sandoff, was most likely killed during this attack. The radio operator, T/Sgt. Gust E. Collias, saw him slumped over in the tail.

As “Rain of Terror” continued toward the North Sea, the fires became more intense, and Walker could no longer keep her in the air. The aft crew bailed out, Collias going out through the bomb bay. He did not see the left waist gunner, S/Sgt. Donald J. Snell, in the plane when he bailed out. He assumed Snell, who did not survive, had already gone out the waist door. The ball turret gunner, S/Sgt. Raymond C. Ottman, came up from the turret and went out the waist hatch. He had been hit in the buttocks and back during the fighter attacks.

The togglier, a Sergeant Zedoneck, and the navigator, 1st Lt. Roy W. Scott, bailed out the nose hatch. Zedonek landed in a tree, severely straining his back. German farmers spotted him and turned him over to the military. Scott fell softly to the ground about two miles southwest of Bremen. As “Rain of Terror” continued losing altitude, the pilot and co-pilot finally made a crash-landing on the coast of the North Sea. They both became POWs.

All 401st planes were now gone from the low squadron. Only the 323rd Groups’ spare aircraft, No. 399, “Man-O-War,” flown by the 92nd Bomb Group crew, was left. Pilot Lieutenant Lowell Walker formed up with another squadron for protection. The low squadron was no more.

‘Short Snorter III’ Goes Down at Sea

In the Composite Group, No. 337, “Short Snorter III,” made it through the flak over the target without being hit. On the way out to the coast, she was attacked by fighters which inflicted heavy damage on the aircraft. Still, “Short Snorter III” remained in formation. At 1326 hours, as the aircraft passed three miles east of Emden, “Short Snorter III” took direct flak hits that knocked out the No. 3 engine and set the No. 4 engine afire. The pilot, Lieutenant Nathan Lindsey, feathered the No. 3 engine. Almost immediately afterward, another antiaircraft shell burst into the cockpit, killing both Lindsey and the co-pilot, 2nd Lt. George Slivkoff. More flak hits smashed into the aircraft. “Short Snorter III” began slowly circling downward.

The bombardier, 2nd Lt. Albert Dobsa, was hit in the stomach by one of the flak bursts. The navigator, 2nd Lt. Rocco J. Maiorca, was uninjured. Dobsa, sensing the plane was out of control, went to the cockpit to see what was wrong. He saw both pilots dead in their seats. He looked back into the fuselage and saw crewmen lying on the floor, also apparently dead.

Dobsa knew it was time to bail out and went back into the nose. Maiorca was standing above the nose hatch, hesitating to jump. Dobsa pushed him out the hatch and dropped through after him. Dobsa came down in the shallow water near a beach in the Frisian Islands where he was immediately captured by German troops. Maiorca drifted about a mile out to the sea off the Islands and swam ashore. He was in the water for three hours before he was taken captive.

“Short Snorter III” went on out to sea where she crashed, taking the rest of the crew with her to a cold, watery grave. Only two of the seven 401st planes, Nos. 484 (“Bad Egg”) and 437 (“Frank’s Nightmare”) were still flying. “Frank’s Nightmare” had only six bullet holes in the right stabilizer, and the pilot, Lieutenant Donald Frank, landed her at 1556 hours. “Bad Egg” had one of her tail guns disabled by a flak burst and several holes in the fuselage. She touched down at Bassingbourn at 1615 hours.

The Heavy Toll on the 91st

Of the 21 returning aircraft in the other three squadrons, three sustained heavy damage. The top turret of No. 497 (“Frisco Jinny”) was blown out by the 20mm shell that killed Sergeant Hale. The other two bombers with major damage were from the 323rd Squadron. Number 77 (“Delta Rebel No. 2”) was hit hard a 20mm shell had exploded in the nose, knocking out most of the glass, damaging the Norden bombsight, and wounding the bombardier, 1st Lt. Robert G. Abb, in the hand. The No. 1 engine was also hit. Number 475 “Stric-Nine,” flown by 1st Lt. Homer C. Briggs, Jr., was raked by 20mm cannon fire as she came off the target. The No. 4 engine and the oxygen system on the plane’s left side were shot out. “Stric-Nine” landed at Hethel to refuel before going on to Bassingbourn.

The remaining 91st planes returned safely to England. The last plane in formation going straight on to Bassingbourn, No. 481 (“Hell’s Angels”) of the 322nd, touched down at 1636 hours. The sky was clear of bombers. The 401st ground crews milled around with looks of disbelief on their faces. Only three of the nine squadron planes that had taken off six and a half hours earlier were now sitting on their hardstands. One of these had aborted over the English Channel and did not make the run.

Fifty 401st crewmen, along with 10 men of the 92nd Group flying in the 401st Squadron, were missing. Eventually, it would be learned that a total of 32 had been killed and 28 survived to become POWs. While accustomed to losses, so many on one mission and all from one squadron had a demoralizing effect on all crewmen of the 91st Bomb Group, flight and ground alike.

Morale was no better over in the 306th Bomb Group at Thurleigh. Ten of the two dozen planes the group had put in the air were shot down. Five of the six planes in the high squadron and three of four in the low squadron were lost. Thirty-four crewmen were killed, and 66 became POWs. Planes of the 369th Squadron of the 306th, flying in the Composite Group, were hit hard by flak and fighters, but none of these bombers went down. During the May 17, 1943, mission to Bremen, 16 of the 107 bombers that reached the target were lost, all from the 91st and 306th Bomb Groups.

Of the 233 91st Group crewmen who returned to Bassingbourn from Germany that day, 42 were later killed in action, while 31 others became POWs. The casualty rate among them was 31.3 percent.

Bleak Future for the Surviving Planes of the 91st

The future for the surviving planes of the 91st Group was even bleaker. Eighteen of the 23 returning B-17s were shot down within a few months. Three were so badly damaged that they were placed in salvage and cannibalized for spare parts. One was declared unfit for combat and transferred to the Aphrodite program to be filled with explosives and sent as a flying bomb to attack the V-1 buzz bomb site at Mimoyecques, France. The plane was blown to bits and missed her target. A total of 80 crewmen flying on the last missions of these bombers were killed in action, and 92 became prisoners of war. Another 19 crewmen were shot down but evaded capture.

Hollywood movie director William Wyler had been at Bassingbourn for several weeks filming combat action for a documentary dealing with VIII Bomber Command. His intention was to base the documentary on the plane and crew to complete 25 missions, the required number for a return Stateside. The Army planned to have the crew fly its plane back to the States for a public relations tour to encourage sales of war bonds. The plane Wyler had selected and had been filming was “Invasion 2nd,” but the crew and Captain Oscar D. O’Neill were lost on the pilot’s 24th mission.

With the loss of “Invasion 2nd” and Captain O’Neill’s crew, Wyler had to select another plane and crew. He picked No. 485, “Memphis Belle,” and Captain Robert K. Morgan’s crew from the 324th Squadron. “Memphis Belle” flew her final mission on May 19, with 1st Lt. Clayton L. Anderson’s crew. Captain Morgan’s crew had completed its 25th mission two days earlier.

“Memphis Belle” was ordered to return to the U.S., and Captain Morgan and his crew departed with her on June 13. “Memphis Belle” was the only plane that flew the May 17 mission to Bremen to survive the war. She was also one of the very few B-17s that flew combat to escape the recycler after the war. “Memphis Belle” eventually came to reside on public display in Memphis, Tenn.

The party scheduled for the evening of May 17 went on as scheduled. Approximately 200 officers and 150 service and civilian guests congregated in No. 1 Mess. The events of the day cast an ominous gloom over the evening, the sense of despair heightened by the presence of girls whose dates were among the missing. A few found other escorts, but most simply stood around watching the dancing until the trucks took them back to their villages.

Late in the evening, many of the officers who had indulged too freely of the alcohol became unruly, creating a considerable disturbance. This behavior was understandable, given the pent-up frustration of losing so many friends and knowing that very likely they would be next. Eventually order was restored, the men retired to their billets, and the girls returned to their homes.

There would be other bad missions, other parties, other dates, and other missing escorts. The losses went on, the parties went on, the war went on. There were 271 missions yet to be flown.


News 8 remembers the history of the B-17 bomber that caught fire at Bradley Airport

STAMFORD, Conn. (WTNH) — News 8 looks back at the history of the WWII B-17 military aircraft that caught fire with 13 passengers on board at Bradley International Airport Wednesday morning.

News 8’s Kent Pierce had the opportunity to fly in the vintage aircraft several times over the last 15 years, accompanied by historians and men who served their country in these planes in WWII.

September 2006:

When WWII veteran, Joe Melita of Redding, climbs into the B-17, it’s like he’s stepping back in time. In 1944, he was a radio operator in the U.S. military on a plane just like this.

WWII B-17 aircraft that crashed Monday at Bradley Airport.

Joe explains his job as the man responsible for keeping “in touch with the base. If anything’s coming through from the home base, they would notify me, and it was all done with secret code.”

“Of the planes that we’re seeing here today, there’s only a handful left flying, and to have all three together in one spot is even more unusual,” explained Tim Brady of 3 Wing Flight Services.

The Collings Foundation owns the B-17 along with a B-25 of ‘Doolittle’s Raiders’ fame, and a B-24 Liberator. They fly around the country teaching people some history and letting vets relive their youth.

“As soon as you board ship, you just get this smell of the aircraft you’re back where it was,” explained Ed Mastrone of Bridgeport Veterans Affairs.

Ed flew rescue missions in B-17s in WWII. For him, the memories came flooding back. He remembers the cold of flying missions in an unheated plane. Joe says he remembers the sound of gunfire and the dangerous flak in the air as he flew missions over occupied France.

The hope is that the younger generation who sees these planes will remember the sacrifices willingly made by a generation now almost as rare as these planes.

September 2007:

World War II veteran, Chuck Theriault, tells his grandson that the top turret gun was his post for the 30 missions he flew in a B-17 bomber over Germany in World War II. Chuck’s job was to defend the ‘Flying Fortress’ from German fighters.

“I would shoot them and I knew I had hit them because I would see pieces fly off,” Chuck told his grandson.


B-17 Bomber Flying Fortress – The Queen Of The Skies Memphis Belle Crew

The crew of the “Memphis Belle” after their 25th and last mission (L-R): Harold P. Loch Cecil H. Scott Robert Hanson James Verinis Robert K. Morgan Charles B. Leighton John P. Quinlan Casimer A “Tony” Nastal Vincent Evans Clarence E. “Bill” Winchell // Wikipedia Commons [Public Domain]

Pilot – Col. Robert K. Morgan
Then Capt. Morgan was 24 years of age when in command of the Memphis Belle. After reaching the rank of Lt. Col., he led the very first B-29 formation over Tokyo.
Died – May 15th 2004

Copilot – Lt. Col. James A. Verinis
From Woodbrigde, CT. Verinis als piloted his own B-17 named “The Connecticut Yankee”. Jim was the crew member who purchased the crew’s mascot: A Scottish-Terrier named “Stuka”
Died – March 3rd 2003

Navigator – Charles B. Leighton
From Flint Michigan, he retired as a teacher and conselor. He saved the Belle and more B-17’s after identifying false German radio beacons designed to lure unwary B-17s into harms way.
Died – 1991

Bombardier – Vince Evans
Hollywood writer for Bogart, freind of Ronald Reagan, Jimmy Stewart, June Allyson. Restaurant operator, race car driver. Completed 2dn tour of duty aboard B-29 with Morgan in the Pacific. Died in 1980’s by an aircraft crash.

The First Engineer/Top Turret Gunner – Leviticus “Levy” Dillon
Transferred to 306th BG after flying raids 1,2,3 & 5 aboard the Belle. On mission 3, he was shot in the leg and bandaged by Fred Astaire’s sister. He never reported the injury.
Died – 1998

The Second Engineer/Top Turret Gunner – Eugene Adkins
From Johnson City, TN. He flew on the 4th and on missions 6-10. Suffered severe frostbite on #10. Retired rank of Major. Gunnery Specialist on B-17’s, B-29’S, B-36’s, and B-50’s.
Died – 1995

The Third Engineer/Top Turret Gunner – Harold P. Loch
From Green Bay, WI. His first raid aboard the Belle was 14 Feb. 1943 to Hamm, Germany. A former building contractor and records regristar today he is active in real estate.
Died – 2004

Radio Operator – Robert Hanson
Became a regular member of the crew during training at Walla Walla, WA in 1941. Retired from the fodd distribution. Lives today in Mesa, AZ. Still has bullet-ridden log book.
Died Oct. 1th 2005

Ball Turret Gunner – Cecil Scott
From Arapahoe, NC. “From down there I could see everything”. He fired at a great many German fighters and achieved one “Damaged” credit. Retired from Ford Motors Company after 30 years.
Died – 1979

Right Waist Gunner – E. Scott Miller
From Kingwood, WV. He was called “The Lost Crewman”, because he dropped out of sight after the war. He flew 15 missions aboard the Belle but missed the “tour” because he hadn’t flown 25 yet.
Died – 1995

Right Waist Gunner – Casmer A “Tony” Nastal
From Apache Junction, AZ. Nastal flew one mission on the Belle. He had 24 raids on other forts. After the “tour”, Tony decided to go back to Europe and completed sixty missions.
Died – Aug. 10th 2002

Left Waist Gunner – Clarence E. “Bill” Winchell
Was his guns that downed the 8th and final German fighter from the Belle. And his diaries that provided most of the accurate accounts of the missions. Retired as a chemical engineer.
Died – 1994

Tail Gunner – John P. Quinlan
After the “tour”, he tried in vain to fly with Morgan in the Pacific. Was assigned to CBI theatre and downed 3 Zeros before his B-29 was shot down. He bagged 2 German fighters from the Belle’s tail.
Died – 2000

Crew Chief – Joe Giambrone
He kept the Belle Flying through six month of combat. Replaced 9 engines, both wings, two tails, both main landing gear, and more! From Hulneville, PA. He retired as Construction Co. Office Manager.
Died – 1992

The Memphis Belle – Miss Margaret Polk
The subject of the affections of Capt. Robert K. Morgan. It was Margaret for which Army 41-24485 was named “The Memphis Belle”. She helped in fund raising for the Association until her death.
Died – 1990

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Service

Units

8th Air Force

Eighth Air Force Bomber Command became the Eighth Air Force on February 1944, it oversaw bombardment of strategic targets in Europe until 1945. .

95th Bomb Group

Group
The 95th Bomb Group was the only Eighth Air Force Group to be awarded three Distinguished Unit Citations. The first, shared by all four Bomb Wing Groups, was for the bombing of an aircraft factory under intense enemy fire at Regensburg on 17 August.

334th Bomb Squadron

People

Corry Blount

Military | First Lieutenant | Bombardier | 95th Bomb Group
Assigned to 334BS, 95BG, 8AF USAAF. Had mechanical failure and crashed at Outer, Belgium on 23-Jun-44 in B-17 'To Hell Or Glory' 42-38123 Prisoner of War (POW) MACR 5915 Awards: POW, WWII Victory, EAME.

Herbert Cahn

Military | Second Lieutenant | Navigator | 95th Bomb Group
Assigned to 334BS, 95BG, 8AF USAAF. Had mechanical failure and crashed at Outer, Belgium on 23-Jun-44 in B-17 'To Hell Or Glory' 42-38123, Prisoner of War (POW). MACR 5915 Awards: POW, WWII Victory, EAME.

Harvey Cox

Military | Major | Co-Pilot | 95th Bomb Group
Assigned to 334BS, 95BG, 8AF USAAF. 18 x combat missions. Suffered mechanical failure and crashed at Outer, Belgium on 23-Jun-44 in B-17 'To Hell Or Glory' 42-38123 Evaded (EVD) via the Belgium underground. .

Richard Ennis

Military | Technical Sergeant | Radio Operator | 95th Bomb Group
Assigned to 334BS, 95BG, 8AF USAAF. Had mechanical failure and crashed at Outer, Belgium on 23-Jun-44 in B-17 'to Hell Or Glory' 42-38123 Evaded (EVD) Awards: AM, WWII Victory, EAME.

Ernest Erickson

Military | First Lieutenant | Pilot | 95th Bomb Group
An Aviator's Dream: The Man From Painted Woods .

Albert Huff

Military | Technical Sergeant | Top Turret Gunner | 95th Bomb Group
Assigned to 334BS, 95BG, 8AF USAAF. Flight Eng/Top Turret B-17 42-38123 'To Hell Or Glory' Killed in Action (KIA). A/C suffered mechanical failure and crashed at Outer, Belgium. MACR 5915 Awards: PH.

Daniel Mangan

Military | First Lieutenant | Pilot | 95th Bomb Group
Daniel J Mangan flew 27 missions as co-pilot with the 95th Bomb Group's "James Hagenbaugh" crew. He was piloting B-17 42-38123 'To Hell Or Glory' on his 29th mission. The aircraft suffered an in-flight fire, and crashed at Outer, Belgium on 23 June.

James Phillips

Military | Staff Sergeant | Right Waist Gunner, Waist Gunner | 95th Bomb Group
Assigned to 334BS, 95BG, 8AF USAAF. Had mechanical failure and crashed at Outer Belgium on 23-Jun-44 in B-17 'To Hell Or Glory' 42-38123 Evaded (EVD) MACR 5915 Awards: AM, WWII Victory, EAME.

Ewell Riddle

Military | Staff Sergeant | Tail Gunner | 95th Bomb Group
Assigned to 334BS, 95BG, 8AF USAAF. Had mechanical failure and crashed at Outer, Belgium on 23-Jun-44 in B-17 'To Hell Or Glory' 42-38123 Evaded (EVD) Awards: PH, WWII Victory, EAME.

William Rottstedt

Military | Captain | Pilot | 95th Bomb Group
Assigned to 334BS, 95BG, 8AF USAAF. B-17 42-38123 with Walter O. Rottstedt force landed RAF Hurn, Kent 27-Apr-44 Awards: AM, PH, WWII Victory, EAME, AP, OCC, American Campaign and Defense Medals.


Contents

Sperry and Emerson Electric each developed a ball turret, and the designs were similar in the nose turret version. Development of the spherical Emerson was halted. The Sperry nose turret was tested and preferred, but its use was limited due to poor availability of suitable aircraft designs. The Sperry-designed ventral system saw widespread use and production, including much sub-contracting. The design was mainly deployed on the B-17 Flying Fortress and the B-24 Liberator, as well as the United States Navy's Liberator, the PB4Y-1. The ventral turret was used in tandem in the Convair B-32, successor to the B-24. Ball turrets appeared in the nose and tail as well as the nose of the final series B-24.

The Sperry ball turret was very small [ clarification needed ] in order to reduce drag, and was typically operated by the smallest man of the crew. To enter the turret, the turret was moved until the guns were pointed straight down. The gunner placed his feet in the heel rests and occupied his cramped station. He would put on a safety strap and close and lock the turret door. There was no room inside for a parachute, which was left in the cabin above the turret. A few gunners wore a chest parachute.

The gunner was forced to assume a fetal position within the turret with his back and head against the rear wall, his hips at the bottom, and his legs held in mid-air by two footrests on the front wall. This left him positioned with his eyes roughly level with the pair of light-barrel Browning AN/M2 .50 caliber machine guns which extended through the entire turret, located to either side of the gunner. The cocking handles were located too close to the gunner to be operated easily, so a cable was attached to the handle through pulleys to a handle near the front of the turret. Another factor was that not all stoppages could be corrected by charging (cocking) the guns. In many cases, when a stoppage occurred, it was necessary for the gunner to "reload" the gun, which required access to the firing chamber of the guns. Access was severely restricted by the guns' location in the small turret. Normally, the gunner accessed the firing chamber by releasing a latch and raising the cover to a position perpendicular to the gun but this was not possible in the ball turret. To remedy that, the front end of the cover was "slotted". The gunner released the latch and removed the cover which allowed space to clear the action. Small ammunition boxes rested on the top of the turret and additional ammunition belts fed the turret by means of a chute system. A reflector sight was hung from the top of the turret, positioned roughly between the gunner's feet.

In the case of the B-24, the Liberator's tricycle landing gear design mandated that its A-13 model Sperry ball turret have a vertically retractable mount, so that the turret would not strike the ground as the plane pitches up for takeoff or during the landing flare. The conventional landing gear of the B-17 allowed for a non-retractable mount, but if the plane was required to do a belly landing (such as in the case of landing gear system failure), the ball turret would likely be destroyed due to the lack of clearance, meaning anyone occupying the turret would be in a precarious position if unable to escape.


Memphis Belle: 25 Trips to Hell and Back

The crew of "Memphis Belle" (from left): top turret gunner Harold Loch, ball turret gunner Cecil Scott, radioman Robert Hanson, copilot Jim Verinis, pilot Robert Morgan, navigator Chuck Leighton, tail gunner John Quinlan, right waist gunner Tony Nastal, bombardier Vince Evans and left waist gunner Bill Winchell.

George T. Wilson
September 2003

America’s most famous Flying Fortress found a permanent place in the hearts of Americans after her hazardous career in the European Theater.

In the flak-filled sky over a German U-boat installation in occupied France on January 23, 1943, Memphis Belle was battling for her life. The U.S. Army Air Forces Boeing B-17F, destined to become the most famous Flying Fortress in history, had approached the submarine base at Lorient flying in formation, amid one of four groups of bombers that had targeted the sub pens.

Nearing their goal, Captain Robert K. Morgan and the crew of Memphis Belle had to penetrate a protective screen of German fighters, then thread their way through a thick blanket of anti-aircraft fire over the sub pens. Their basic mission was straightforward: Hold steady, with no evasive maneuvers to complicate the drop, and finally “Bombs away.” Then the bomber could head home to the Eighth Air Force base at Bassingbourn, England. But they still had to get past those fighters. “Because ours was the smallest of the four groups, they concentrated on us,” Morgan later remembered. “For 22 minutes, they gave us hell.”

At one point, a Focke Wulf Fw-190 attacked Belle head-on. “One of us had to move,” Morgan recalled. “The usual procedure was to dive. I couldn’t do this because another group was below us, so I pulled up straight. The shells meant for our nose banged into our tail.”

Morgan was not immediately aware of what happened after that impromptu chandelle, but he thought that he had likely avoided disaster—until he heard a report from the tail gunner, Sergeant John Quinlan. Quinlan shouted over the mic: “Chief, the tail is hit. The whole back end is shot off! It’s blazing! The whole tail is leaving the plane!” After what seemed an eternity, Quinlan’s voice came through again: “Chief, it’s still on fire. There goes another piece!” Another moment of silence, then the tail gunner came through again more calmly, “Chief, the fire has gone out.” Morgan said later, “This was the sweetest music I ever heard.”

The lanky pilot climbed out of his seat to see exactly what had happened. “It looked like we had no tail at all,” Morgan recalled. “I got back in the cockpit and flew back to the base in two hours. It was tough flying, and tougher than that to set her down. The elevators were damaged so badly that the controls jammed. Somehow we managed to get down safely.” In later years one of Belle‘s former crewmen summed up Morgan’s flying skills: “He’s a damn good pilot. He always brought us back.”


Tail gunner Staff Sgt. John P. Quinlan needed his lucky horseshoe on “Bell’s” January 1943 mission to the submarine pens at Lorient, France. (National Archives)

Of the 12,750 B-17s produced, Memphis Belle is famous for being the first Eighth Air Force bomber to complete 25 combat missions over occupied Europe without a crewman being killed and returning to the United States. In Belle‘s first three months of sorties from Bassingbourn, 80 percent of the bomb group she was part of was shot down. Morgan has a grim and graphic explanation of what those devastating losses meant to the surviving crews: “Eighty-percent losses means you have breakfast with 10 men and dinner with only two of them.” During public appearances he is frequently asked, “Weren’t you scared to death?” “Scared is not the word,” he generally answers. “You had apprehension and concern. You were so busy. Each of the 10 guys had a job to do. We didn’t have time to get scared.” He adds: “If you want just one word on how we were able to go through the hell over Europe 25 times and get back without a casualty, I’ll give it to you. It is teamwork. Until you have been on a Flying Fortress in combat, you can’t know how essential that is.”

Belle participated in some of the most hazardous raids of the war, when the Luftwaffe still had a commanding fighter superiority and defenses of the Nazi regime were strong. She was bullet-ridden, flak-battered and on five separate occasions had one of her engines shot out. But she slugged it out with Messerschmitts and Focke Wulfs and absorbed their cannon fire without flinching. The longest period the storied plane was out of service was five days, when transportation difficulties delayed a wing replacement.


They weren't all milk runs. A crewmember looks over damage to Belle's vertical stabilizer. (National Archives)

During her 25 combat missions, Belle‘s gunners were credited with destroying eight enemy fighters, but they also probably destroyed five others and damaged at least a dozen more. Her crew dropped more than 60 tons of bombs over France, Germany and Belgium, knocking out supply depots, railway yards, aircraft plants and an assortment of military bases. With amazing accuracy—thanks in no small part to the sterling work of bombardier Vincent B. Evans—Belle‘s crew blasted the Focke Wulf plant at Bremen, locks at St. Nazaire and Brest, docks and shipbuilding installations at Wilhelmshaven, railroad yards at Rouen, submarine pens and powerhouses at Lorient and aircraft factories at Antwerp.

Looking back on those days, Morgan remembered no easy missions, no milk runs. The secret to a successful B-17 mission, he decided, was tight formations—so tight that the wings often nearly touched in flight. That way, “We were able to put out an amazing amount of firepower,” he said. “That, and the Norden bombsight, which made us extremely accurate at high altitudes. I also feel there was a bit of divine intervention for the crew.”

Although Belle‘s crew members earned 51 decorations, only one Purple Heart was awarded—to tail gunner John Quinlan, who described his wound as a pin scratch on the leg. Each of the crew received the Distinguished Flying Cross and the Air Medal with three oak leaf clusters.

The members of Belle‘s crew first set eyes on their brand new B-17F-10-BO at Bangor, Maine, in September 1942. Morgan had just begun a romance with Margaret Polk, from Memphis, Tenn., and when it came time for the bomber crews to name their planes, he thought Memphis Belle had a nice ring to it. Other crew members had their own ideas for a name, but Morgan persuaded one of them to vote with him, so now he had two votes for Belle and eight for other names. Memphis Belle it was, and a belle in a bathing suit was painted on her side. Her soon-to-be famous nose art had originally been created by George Petty for Esquire magazine. Captain Morgan contacted Petty and gained permission to re-create the curvaceous cutie, and Corporal Tony Starcer painted her on the bomber’s nose.


“Memphis Belle's" iconic nose art was based on an “Esquire” magazine illustration by well-known artist George Petty. The bathing suit is painted blue on the left side of the B-17 and red on the right. (National Archives)

Morgan flew Belle to Memphis on her shakedown flight. There she was officially christened, with Margaret Polk as an admiring witness. Memphis Belle then crossed the Atlantic to what became the home base for the 91st Bomb Group, Bassingbourn, England.

One of Belle‘s more notable missions was flown as part of the 91st Bomb Group’s assault on enemy installations at Romilly sur Seine. In his post-mission debriefing, Morgan recalled: “We hit the hangars and the depots. We wrecked 100 German fighter planes on the ground, and we hit a German officers’ mess at lunchtime. We heard later that we also blew up a cellar full of cognac.” A diary kept by navigator Charles Leighton provided additional details: “On the way we flew over Romilly. We flew over Rouen, where we were attacked by about 25 German fighters. They were coming at the nose so I got off a lot of shots. Bob said ‘I got one,’ but I was firing so fast I didn’t have time to notice. I shot over 700 rounds. I saw two B-17s go down in front of us. When they fire at you head-on, it looks as if the whole plane is exploding.”

Morgan reported: “First one squadron hit us and then another and another. We were shot at on the way to the target, over the target and then on the way out. By the time it was over, some of the Germans had attacked us…landed and refueled, picked up some ammunition and were up attacking us again. For one hour and fifty-eight minutes they followed us. I never saw so many attacks in my life.” On that occasion, Belle was over enemy territory for 2 1/2 hours.

After her 25th, and final, raid over Europe, Belle set out on one more mission—returning to the States on a triumphant public relations tour. That three-month mission during the summer of 1943 took the crew to 31 cities, including Washington, Cleveland, Los Angeles, Wichita and Mobile. Every time they appeared—at bond rallies and aircraft plants—the crewmen were treated as heroes.


"Memphie Bell" takes off on its last "mission," heading back to the States for an extensive public relations tour and War Bond drive. (National Archives)

The famous plane had only one female passenger in her triumphal tour across the United States—the aircraft’s mascot, Stuka, a Scottish terrier that came aboard in England. Purchased in a London pet store by copilot James Verinis, the Scottie accompanied the crew to every one of Belle’s tour destinations. Stuka dined on filet mignon almost daily. Although General Henry H. “Hap” Arnold had given Morgan permission to fly the B-17 as low as he pleased during their tour, it’s almost certain that the general hadn’t meant for the bomber to buzz rooftops as she made her way across the nation. Nonetheless, when Morgan piloted Belle to an event in his hometown of Asheville, N.C., he brought the big bomber in low, barely skimming the roofs of downtown buildings and seemingly aiming for the city hall and courthouse. There was some space between the two buildings, but not enough to accommodate the 103-foot wingspan of the B-17. Just moments before Belle would have crashed, Morgan flipped her on her side and blasted through the gap—vertically. Some startled observers on the ground muttered that whoever was piloting the plane should be court-martialed.

Morgan again put on a good show in Memphis, the second stop on the tour. Once more someone mentioned a court-martial for the pilot, this time a high-ranking military officer. One Memphis newsman wrote: “He had a special reason to pull out all the stops here. Waiting on the ground was the girl he loved (Margaret Polk), the girl he was engaged to marry. A cocky young man always wants to strut in front of his girl.” Morgan and Polk never quite made it to the altar, but they remained lifelong friends after their romance ended. As for Belle, she would eventually end up in the city that she was named after.

Morgan’s military career did not end with his final flight in Memphis Belle. When the young pilot returned from Europe, USAAF commander Hap Arnold had jokingly told him that he could have any position in the Army Air Forces but his own. Morgan subsequently volunteered to lead a squadron in the first Boeing B-29 Superfortress strike against Tokyo, in November 1944. He flew in a B-29 dubbed Dauntless Dotty (named after Dorothy Johnson, the woman Morgan did marry, just before shipping out for the Pacific War). Morgan’s B-29 strike against Tokyo was America’s first attack on the Japanese city since the Doolittle raid two years earlier in North American B-25s. One hundred eleven planes were launched against the Japanese city, 17 of which were forced to turn back by engine problems. The flight was commanded by General Emmett Rosy O’Donnell, flying with Morgan in Dotty.


"Belle's" crewmen celebrate the completion of their 25th mission. Many members of the crew would go on to additional combat tours, including pilot Robert Morgan, who flew 26 more missions in B-29s in the Pacific. (National Archives)

When they encountered the jet stream for the first time during that mission, the bomber formations were disrupted, making accurate bombing all but impossible. Morgan later recalled of that sortie, “We had a hell of a time with our bombsight, and I had the best bombardier with me, Vince Evans, my bombardier on the Memphis Belle.”

A later mission to the Japanese Home Islands, on March 9, 1945, proved much more successful. This time 302 B-29s participated, with 270 arriving over the target.

As a squadron commander, Morgan went on to fly with many different crews, racking up mission after mission. On April 14, General O’Donnell suggested that it was about time for him to quit risking his life, saying: “Don’t you think it’s time to retire from combat? You’ve been extraordinarily lucky to complete 50 missions, and I think it’s time for you to go home.” After he arrived back in the States, Morgan continued to serve in the U.S. Air Force, retiring in 1965 as a full bird colonel. Dauntless Dotty flew 53 combat missions but failed to survive the war. On her return flight to the States, she plunged into the Pacific.

Divorced from Dorothy in 1958, Morgan later remarried—in a venue befitting a former Flying Fortress pilot. He and Linda Dickerson, herself a pilot, were married in a red-carpet ceremony in 1992 on Mud Island, near Memphis, with Memphis Belle serving as the backdrop for the ceremony. Dickerson, an airshow producer, was given away by retired General Paul Tibbets, the man who dropped the first atomic bomb on Hiroshima. Morgan’s copilot on Belle, James Verinis, served as best man.

After her public relations tour, Belle had been assigned for a time to a training command. But in 1945 she ended up in the aircraft boneyard in Altus, Okla., waiting to be scrapped. An enterprising reporter saw her, wrote a story on her plight and contacted the mayor of Memphis—who engineered her purchase for $340.

For a time the famous B-17 rested outside Memphis’ National Guard armory, mounted on a concrete base. Belle was eventually moved near the Memphis International Airport, where she remained on display in the open, unprotected from the elements, for many years.

Then Hugh Downs, host of the ABC News TV show 20/20, flew to Memphis in May 1986 to narrate a special segment on Belle. Downs, who had served as a pilot in World War II, interviewed both Morgan and Colonel Richard Uppstrom, director of the Air Force Museum near Dayton, Ohio. Uppstrom delivered an ultimatum to the city of Memphis: If they continued to force Belle to live like some of its street people, he said, she was going to be reclaimed by the Air Force.

After the show aired, Frank Donofrio, chairman of the Memphis Belle Memorial Association, found that he had some fresh recruits. One of the most enthusiastic was Memphis advertising executive Ward Archer Jr., who would found the Save the Belle Fundraising Drive. Contributions rolled in from the city of Memphis, Boeing Aircraft Company, local corporations and thousands of private citizens—$552,000 in six months.

In May 1987, Memphis celebrated Memphis Belle‘s homecoming to Mud Island. Thousands of city residents flocked to the island to see the largest formation of B-17s assembled since World War II roar across the sky in tribute. Among those present on the stage were Polk, Morgan, Donofrio and Archer. Other Belle crew members on hand were navigator Charles Leighton James Verinis (who recently died) Casimar A. Tony Nastal and Clarence E. Bill Winchell, both waist gunners and Robert J. Hanson, radio operator. For all, it was a memorable occasion. Belle had come home, destined for refurbishment and an exciting new career in the public eye.


Movie director William Wyler used one of the squadron’s B-17s, “The Bad Penny,” as a camera ship for his award-winning documentary about “Memphis Belle.” He placed cameras at a number of gun stations on the bomber and flew five missions in order to get his footage. (National Archives)

Now in his mid-80s, Robert Morgan still makes personal appearances and speaks at airshows, collectibles shows and universities. Few know more about real aerial combat than Morgan—although moviegoers are pretty well versed about Morgan’s career with Memphis Belle, thanks to a spate of films and documentaries that immortalized the famous B-17’s story.


Academy Award-winning director William Wyler's wartime documentary "The Memphis Belle" celebrated the famous B-17's exploits. (Library of Congress)

Filmmaker William Wyler created his The Memphis Belle documentary during the war. In postwar interviews, Morgan recalled that working with Wyler gave him his first taste of cinema. He told an interviewer that Wyler gave out 16mm cameras to crew members. “He said, ‘If you’re not busy shooting your guns, stick these cameras out the window and get some footage.’ Wyler stayed back by the waist gunners, because the angles he’d have gotten from the front would have been terrible. He flew five missions with us. We thought he was making a training film.”

The postwar movie 12 O’Clock High was partially based on Belle‘s history, as was the 1990 film Memphis Belle. While the latter was fictional (it borrowed exploits of many bombers), that and other movies have brought renewed attention to an aircraft that deserves a permanent spot in the hearts of Americans.

George T. Wilson hails from Memphis. For more on Belle‘s exploits, try: The Man Who Flew the Memphis Belle, by Colonel Robert Morgan, with Ron Powers The Memphis Belle: Home at Last, by Menno Duerkson and Biography of a B-17, by Brent Perkins.

This article originally appeared in the September 2003 issue of Aviation History magazine.

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The Brothers Brick

We recently reviewed the new Brickmania F-4C Phantom II fighter kit, but the Brickmania team has also just restocked the massive B-17G WWII Heavy Bomber custom kit, their largest LEGO aircraft kit produced to date. This custom kit of the legendary “Flying Fortress” is built from 3,074 LEGO pieces and includes 10 custom-printed minifigures.

The packaging, instructions, and sticker sheet

Official LEGO sets have varying box sizes based on the number of parts in the set, but Brickmania only uses a few box sizes. As a result, the B-17 comes in the same size box as the Phantom II jet we recently reviewed, with artwork highlighting the bomber and its crew on the front and a historical photo and a focus on working features on the back of the box.

But because the box is the same size as other large Brickmania sets, the parts are packed in so tightly that we had trouble re-packing them after this photo!

The spiral-bound instruction booklet reminds us of the large booklet that comes with the UCS Millennium Falcon. Each page includes more steps than the build process for official LEGO sets, so the 88 large pages in the Brickmania instruction booklet give you a sense of just how massive this custom kit is from the moment you open the box.

The first page of the instruction booklet highlights the service history of the real-world aircraft, while the end of the book showcases the LEGO model’s various working features.


Brickmania prints their own custom decals in-house, and the sticker sheet for the bomber includes markings that depict the aircraft as it appeared in service in the European Theater with the US Army Air Corps (USAAC) during World War II.

The build

Unlike most other Brickmania custom LEGO kits, the B-17’s parts do come in five numbered bags, each with several unnumbered bags inside. Given that most of the parts are dark or light gray, the large numbered bags and smaller sub-bags were a huge relief.

Each of the bags corresponds to a specific section of the aircraft, with the first bag providing the parts for the nose and its cockpit.

Right away, it’s clear that this is no regular LEGO kit, despite the fact that all but the custom BrickArms pieces for the ten .50 caliber machine guns are genuine LEGO (contrary to the “not LEGO” comments these reviews inevitably get from people who can’t be bothered to read the articles themselves). Because the Brickmania B-17 has a fully detailed interior, the fuselage is built as a tube, with an outer skin attached via brackets.

Although the markings on the plane’s exterior are accomplished with decals, all of the interior details, from the cockpit dashboard and radio equipment to the pilot and co-pilot’s seat cushion life preservers with “U.S. Air Corps” stencils are all custom-printed. Many of these printed details aren’t visible when the model is complete — attention to detail that would be skipped to reduce cost in an official LEGO set.

The instructions have you build the crew into their stations within the plane, leaving us worried that they’d be difficult to remove and add back in later. However, all of the interior sections have fuselage sections that pop off easily to allow removal of the minifigs. It’s actually rather amazing that the pilot and co-pilot can sit side by side, and that the navigator and bombardier (who operates the chin turret) fit in the nose.

As we noted earlier, the skin is attached studs-out to the structure of the fuselage, with slopes and tiles yielding smooth curves.

At first glance, this open interior looks like it wouldn’t be very sturdy, but after the top panels are added and overlying sections connect across various segments, the fuselage is unbelievably strong.

The large opening for the bomb bay (with its bomb racks and opening bomb bay doors) means that the enormous, heavy LEGO wings aren’t directly connected to each other through the largely System-built fuselage. But by extending Technic liftarms into the fuselage and essentially creating a box-like structure around the bomb bay, the Brickmania designers have achieved a trifecta of structural stability, design accuracy, and working features.

The finished model

The Boeing B-17 heavy bomber first entered service with the United States Army Air Corps in 1938, and until production ended in 1945, 12,731 aircraft were produced. Over 8,000 of those were the B-17G variant depicted by this Brickmania kit. TBB Co-Founder Josh Wedin and I toured a fully restored B-17 (one of the last remaining airworthy Flying Fortresses) at the Seattle Museum of Flight several years ago, so I can attest to the fantastic accuracy of this custom LEGO model, both in its exterior shaping and interior detail.

Seattle Museum of Flight Boeing B-17F “Boeing Bee” in flight over Puget Sound (photo courtesy Seattle Fortress Bombers Restoration

When complete, the Brickmania B-17 has a wingspan of 3 feet (91 cm) and the aircraft measures 25.5″ (65 cm) from nose to tail. It’s just plain huge, its wingspan surpassing the 33″ (84 cm) length of the UCS Falcon. Nevertheless, for the ten crew members crammed on either side of the bomb bay, the B-17 was a claustrophobic metal tube.

The sheer scale of this LEGO model is evident when you place a couple of minifigs nearby, as you can see in this photo with a pair of minifigs inspecting the port wing.

Royal Air Force Supermarine Spitfire fighters escorted USAAF Flying Fortresses on their first raid into occupied France in August 1942, so we thought we’d highlight the Brickmania B-17’s scale with the Brickmania Spitfire Mk Vb (a gorgeous custom LEGO kit in its own right).

From nose to tail, the aircraft is fully detailed, with complex curves achieved with inset sub-assemblies and brick-built canopies. Custom stickers give the nose character, with a reclining Daniel Siskind on the left side of the nose above lettering that says “Sassy Siskind” and a row of bombs indicating the number of missions that this fictional aircraft has completed. The chin turret rotates, as does the top turret. Both feature custom BrickArms .50 caliber machine gun elements.

The waist gunner positions also use BrickArms .50 caliber elements, with openings through which the gunners can spot enemy aircraft. This view also shows how Brickmania stickers are applied across multiple LEGO elements, and even across stepped levels on the model’s surface. This is something we’d typically frown on for a regular LEGO set, but it’s very unlikely that you’re going to disassemble your Brickmania B-17, so an approach more similar to plastic model kits makes sense.

The ailerons on each wing flap up and down. LEGO doesn’t have every angle in wedge plates yet, so some angles on the model are achieved by stepping tiles and plates. This view accentuates the stepped angle, but from most angles the stepping works very well.

Similarly, the elevators on the tailplane are moveable, as is the rudder on the vertical stabilizer.

The tail gunner position sits at the very rear of the aircraft, with a tiny canopy. To provide access to the minifig, the Brickmania kit has a top panel that swings out on hinges, and side panels that pop off. (On some real B-17s, the rear gunner sat on a bicycle seat, and he would have to crawl through the narrow tail to get to his station.)

The tail wheel can be raised and lowered with the small Technic gear on the right side of the rear fuselage.


The main landing gear can be detached manually, but there is no mechanism to retract them into the engine compartments.

One of the most unenviable crew positions on a B-17 is the lower ball turret. When Josh and I toured the restored B-17, our guide (a retired Boeing engineer) described how ball turret gunners would have to sit crouched inside the turret for the duration of the mission, and their legs would fall asleep, requiring their crew-mates to lift them out at the end of the mission — a horrific situation if the aircraft was damaged and the crew had to bail out quickly, or worse if the landing gear fails…

“Sperry” type ball turret used on B-17s (this historic photo is from one on a B-24 Liberator bomber)

The LEGO ball turret doesn’t actually fit a minifigure, though it does fully rotate in all directions. The mechanism inserts up into the plane’s fuselage.

As the ball turret and landing gear indicate, the underside of the plane has all the expected details. Since the wings are built entirely studs-out on the Technic frame, much of the wings’ undersides are also tiled, with subtle curves from inverted “baby bow” slopes on the wing’s leading edge.

The B-17’s bomb bay occupies the space behind the cockpit, between the wings. Four brick-built bombs are attached to bomb racks that angle up to the top of the LEGO aircraft. On a real B-17, getting from the radio station to the cockpit required walking along a narrow catwalk between the V-shaped bomb racks, and during our tour we sacrificed a perfectly good LEGO T-shirt as it got hung up on the solenoids (neither Josh nor I are the size of 19-year-old WWII airmen).

The bomb bay doors open and close to reveal the bombs on their racks. However, the bombs themselves can’t really be dropped — it would have been interesting to see what kind of working function Brickmania designers would have come up with to drop and re-load the bombs (features that LEGO Star Wars designers have accomplished in sets like 75172 Y-wing Starfighter from Rogue One and 75188 Resistance Bomber from The Last Jedi). In other words, the bombs are there for you to enjoy as a detail during the build process, but you probably won’t be flipping your B-17 upside down very often to get to them.

The Brickmania B-17’s stability can’t be understated. Photography for a LEGO set review can require some serious manhandling, and more than a few interior connections and sub-assemblies popped off during our review of the UCS Millennium Falcon last year. Not so with this custom LEGO kit. Despite carting the aircraft from my place to Chris’s for photography, flipping it over for underside shots, spinning it this way and that for detail photos, and even partially disassembling it to highlight building techniques, the Brickmania B-17 lived up to the indestructible reputation of its real-life counterpart.

It’s also remarkably balanced. Simply for the purpose of photography, we often build small stands or jigs to hold a LEGO model in place. While we don’t recommend doing this for long-term display, the Brickmania B-17 almost appears to float when placed on only a pair of 1ࡨ clear column pieces.

One major difference from LEGO’s UCS sets is that the specification panel is printed — a welcome change from having to position an enormous sticker.

The minifigs

The B-17G flew with a full crew complement of 10 officers and enlisted airmen. The Brickmania Flying Fortress includes two identical sets of 5 custom-printed minifigs — five officers and five enlisted airmen, differentiated only by whether they’re wearing a leather helmet or an officer’s hat.

The torso and leg printing is identical on all ten minifigs, and uses digital printing to produce a textured, 3D feeling on every surface of the minifig. I mentioned in our review of the F-4 Phantom that I personally prefer custom-printed elements created with pad printing like LEGO’s own designs, but I wholeheartedly acknowledge that this is a stylistic preference and not a comment on quality or durability.

The printing extends right around the minifig, including arms and the back of the minifig’s legs.

Conclusions & recommendation

The Brickmania B-17G WWII Heavy Bomber custom kit yields a beautiful model not just for its overall look and working features but also for the sheer engineering prowess necessitated by its massive scale. We’ve compared various aspects of the kit to the official LEGO Star Wars UCS Millennium Falcon several times throughout this review, and the comparison is entirely apt (and not just because they’re both gray flying machines with lots of weapons bristling in all directions). Both sets are Premium, Prestige sets with capital P’s.

At $1,750 for this Brickmania kit, you could buy two UCS Falcons, so this won’t be a casual purchase for all but the rather well-to-do. It bears repeating, as we’ve noted in previous Brickmania and other custom kit reviews, that the kit maker sources their LEGO bricks on the open market just like the rest of us (there’s no special program from LEGO for bulk parts for custom kit makers), and they must cover a higher proportion of the cost for design and packaging. But as a deeply meaningful gift for a person or organization with a connection to the real-life aircraft, or for the die-hard LEGO military collector, this custom kit is absolutely amazing. (It’s also important to note that Brickmania has a frequent-buyer program that would immediately pay for itself even if you’re just purchasing this one set, and they have frequent sales of as much as 30% off the custom kits in their inventory.)

While it’s certainly hard to set aside the cost entirely, if you can look past the price, the Brickmania B-17G brings together innovative building techniques and remarkably sturdy construction that results in an absolutely gorgeous finished model. This is an LEGO aircraft model that would look stunning as the centerpiece of any LEGO World War II display.

Brickmania is a Premier Sponsor of The Brothers Brick and sent The Brothers Brick a copy of this set for review. However, providing TBB with products for review guarantees neither coverage nor positive reviews.


Watch the video: B-17 Ride - Hatch to Top Turret