Inside a B-17 Flying Fortress bomber a radio operator & an engineer, clad in hi-altitude sheepskin clothing, goggles & oxygen masks, manning .50 cal. waist guns during bombing raid launched by US 8th Bomber Command fr. England. Photo by Margaret Bourke-White, Sept. 1942, from the LIFE Archives.
Over the past several days I’ve been watching World War II classic movies. Films like “Dive Bomber,” “12 o’clock High,” “30 Seconds Over Tokyo,” and the 1970s classic “Tora! Tora! Tora!”
One of the things I like best about them is the planes and equipment. Both of my grandfathers served during the war. My dad’s dad, William, was a transport pilot who shuttled aircraft of all types from base to base, depending on the needs of the time. My mom’s dad, Norman, was a radio operator and gunner in a B-17. As such, the B-17 has always fascinated me.
Four engines of raw, heavy bomber power, the Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress was introduced in the 1930s and was used by American forces as well as the RAF during World War II, providing high altitude bombing and advanced bomb sight technology.
Returning B-17 bomber crewmen of the 8th Bomber Command being interrogated by Intelligence officer (unseen) for all the details of their recent bombing raid in Europe, at airdrome in southern England. United Kingdom, 1942. Photo by Margaret Bourke-White, from the LIFE Archives.
Jubilant B-17 Flying Fortress crew of 8th Bomber Command clad in heaavy flight clothing posing next to their plane after returning unscathed fr. a bombing raid of Europe, at airdrome in southern England. United Kingdom, Sept. 1942. Photo by Margaret Bourke-White, from the LIFE Archives.
*Note: My dad used to have a leather/sheepskin jacket similar to this that my grandpa used during World War II during high altitude missions. I wonder if he still has it somewhere.
8th Bomber Command, B-17 Flying Fortress ground crew on English bicycles bidding goodby to Fortress gunners before bomber takes off on raid in Europe, at airdrome in southern England. United Kingdom, Sept. 1942. Photo by Margaret Bourke-White, from the LIFE Archives.
OVER GERMANY — B-17 Flying Fortresses from the 398th Bombardment Group fly a bombing run to Neumunster, Germany, on April 13, 1945, less than one month before the German surrender on May 8. Photo courtesy of the U.S. Air Force.
8Th Air Force Bomber Command An Amer. airman clad in heavy sheepskin jacket & pants holding up one heavy insulated boot as he poses proudly next to the nose of his B-17 Flying Fortress bomber decorated the name “STINKY” 45, parked at US 8th Bomber Command airdrome.. Sept. 1942, Photo by Margaret Bourke-White, from the LIFE Archives.
B-17 Flying Fortress crew of 8th Bomber Command donning their in flatable Mae West life preservers, parachute harnesses & flying clothes upon arrival by jeep at the plane they named “The Big Bitch” before bombing mission take-off at airdrome. United Kingdom, Sept. 1942, Photo by Margaret Bourke-White, from the LIFE Archives.
LIFE photographer Margaret Bourke-White clad in fleece flight suit while holding aerial camera, standing in front of Flying Fortress bomber in which she made combat mission photographs of the US attack on Tunis. Algeria, Feb. 1943, from the LIFE Archives.