WWII B-17 displayed in Auburn


A World War II B-17 bomber is on display at the DeKalb County Airport, Auburn.

“The B-17 represents everything that is good about America,” said Dan Bowlin, a pilot with the Experimental Aircraft Association, based out of Oshkosh, Wis. “This is the airplane that helped win World War II, along with the B-24.”

EAA tour coordinator, Tim Fox, said putting the bombers on display allows the public to connect with the veterans.

“Dad was a pilot, or dad was a gunner, or was a navigator,” said Fox. “And they just want to go on a ride in the airplane and try to understand what happened, and what that time was like.”

On Monday, nearly 50 people came out to see the B-17, including World War II veteran, Harold Meiser of Rochester. Meiser spent six months as a prisoner, and was released at the end of the war.

“The plane speaks for itself,” said Meiser, who was captured by the Germans in November of 1944. “Four of us got out. Four or five didn’t get out, and I evaded them for five days on the ground. The others were all injured, and they couldn’t walk.”

B-17s were flown by the United States Army Air Corps (USAAC), throughout the American participation in the Second World War. They were used by the US Eighth Air Force, based in the UK, to bombard German targets in Europe during daylight hours, a method which resulted initially in very heavy losses of aircraft and crew. As B-17 refinements progressed, along with better pilot training and tactics, it would become a formidable adversary in the Allied war against Germany.

Source: wane.com, aviation-history

Tales of a WWII B-17 tail gunner


Ed Youngers, a war veteran from had Calamus, Iowa had one of the worst jobs in World War II — a tail gunner on a B-17 bomber. He was one of hundreds of visitors who took a step back in time Friday to wander around, tour and even fly in the B-17 now sitting at the Davenport Municipal Airport.

Youngers flew 10 missions in a plane like this, was shot down once and spent three-and-a-half days in a life raft in the North Sea before “spending some time in one of Hitler’s motels.”

“The tail of the planes then only had a canvas covering, and flying out of England in the fog, the guns were almost frozen by the time we got to Germany,” he recalled. “When the plane went down, a wing was on fire and four of the 10 crewmen bailed out because “usually a wing on fire means an explosion.”

However, Youngers, now 91, didn’t know what was going on because there wasn’t an intercom. He tunnelled up to the front and heard the pilots say they were going to ditch the plane.

“It’s a good thing I came back to the tail because the German planes followed us all the way down,” he said. He and the five other crew members who stayed on the plane survived.

This B-17 Flying Fortress, nicknamed “Aluminum Overcast,” is owned by the Experimental Aircraft Association of Oshkosh, Wis.It was built in 1945 at the end of the war and never saw combat. The plane display continues today and Sunday at the Davenport Municipal Airport, 9230 N. Harrison St.

Source: Quad-City Times

Pilot of B-17 talks about incident

On Monday, a vintage World War II B-17 bomber made a hard landing in a cornfield in Illinois. Everyone escaped without injuries thanks to quick thinking by a pilot from Centennial.

“We smelled an acrid burning odor, got our attention almost immediately,” Lawrence “Bud” Sittig, the pilot, said. “A fellow B-17 pilot that was flying chase with us called us on the radio and said, ‘Hey, you are on fire.”

Sittig is a 25-year veteran of the Colorado Air National Guard and a long time pilot for Delta Airlines. He volunteers for the Liberty Foundation, a nonprofit trying to share the history of old planes like this B-17 bomber known as the “Liberty Belle.”

He says the fire started four minutes after take-off. Sittig and fellow pilot John Hess initially throught they could make it back to the airport. But, after a few moments, the pilot in the chase plane called again.

“And, he said, ‘Put it in a field, you’re really burning,’” Sittig said. “That changed the scenario dramatically.”

Sittig says that pointed out how bad the fire must’ve looked to the pilot in the plane behind him. With a residential area between him and the airport, he says he had no choice but to look for a place to land.

“If we had continued, I am not sure we would’ve made it,” Sittig said.


Source: 9News.com

Family seeks clues of B-17 crash, appreciates Memorial Day

Relatives of an Army Air Corps colonel who died in a B-17 plane crash on Europe’s Mont Blanc 6 decades ago have gained a new appreciation for Memorial Day.

Sydney Upham Soelter of Port Angeles recently learned the exact date — Nov. 1, 1946 — that her grandfather, Hudson Hutton Upham, and seven others died in a mission after World War II. Soelter and others in her extended family hope to attend a September dedication ceremony for a new memorial at the crash site on the slopes of the tallest mountain in western Europe on the border of France and Italy.

“It [Memorial Day] just has a lot more meaning because we’re talking about it all the time,” Soelter said.

Soelter and her brother, Jon Upham of Longmont, Colo., and father, David Upham of Sequim, are learning more about the crash through emails with interested parties in Europe. They learned that Hudson Upham was the co-pilot of the B-17 bomber that crashed into the 15,782-foot mountain.

“The weather was very bad, but they don’t know [what caused the crash],” David Upham said. “It’s a mystery as far as I know.”

Soelter said there are people are still trying to unravel the details of the post-war mission. Mountain climbers, geologists and World War II aficionados have coordinated their efforts through the Internet to investigate the crash.

The military considers the crash as officially under investigation, David Upham said.

Melting glaciers have revealed more and more of the wreckage in recent years, including a propeller that will be used as part of the memorial.

David Upham, who was only 5 when Hudson Upham was killed, said the revelations of past several months have given him new insights about his biological father.

“Later, I found out that he was on a secret mission in the Army, and it was really after the war, but it still had to do with the war. But nobody knew what it was. I was curious, but no one ever really knew. Only in the last few months that I found out that its this tremendous effort being made to kind of pull the story together by people in Europe.”

Soelter said she has been “impressed and humbled” by the efforts of the Italian and French people. She said many of them appreciate what America did in the war.

“I didn’t really pay attention to Memorial Day before, but now that I’ve heard about this, I like it a lot more,” said

Source: peninsuladailynews.com

B-17 Aluminum Overcast Memories


High winds sweeping along the Santa Maria Public Airport runway couldn’t keep 88-year-old Joel Johnson from crossing the tarmac for an up-close look at a restored B-17 parked outside the Radisson hotel last week.

A 10-year Nipomo resident, Johnson fought back tears as he examined the World War II bomber nicknamed “Aluminum Overcast“.

The B-17 Aluminum Overcast is owned by the Experimental Aircraft Association of Oshkosh, Wis., and it was at the Santa Maria Airport for flights and on-ground public tours April 26 and 27 as part of the EAA’s “Salute to Veterans Tour.”

“Strange. Strange,” he said later of the emotions he felt but couldn’t describe as memories of his 30 B-17 missions against Germany came flooding back.

Johnson should know. On six of his 30 missions as a co-pilot in 1944 and ’45, his B-17 returned with heavy damage — an engine knocked out or full of holes from flak. The nose of Johnson’s plane was demolished. The nose gunner was pinned to the ceiling, and the navigator was left hanging halfway out of the plane with no parachute, but he managed to pull himself back in, Johnson said.

On his third mission, his plane had an anti-aircraft shell go through a lead wing, injuring the navigator and flight engineer, knocking out the superchargers and preventing the crew from dropping 17 of their 20 bombs.

But the worst damage came on Johnson’s 23rd mission — to bomb an aspirin factory in Bitterfield, Germany, on March 17, 1945. Despite heavy weather, the B-17s bombed their target in an uneventful raid, and Johnson said they “settled down for the cruise home.”

During his visit to the Aluminum Overcast last week, he bought two detailed B-17 model kits he hopes to use to re-create the collision.

“I want to figure out what happened,” he said.


Source: timepressrecorder

Veteran Gunner visits Vintage B-17 bomber

Parked on the tarmac at the Santa Maria Public Airport, the B-17’s polished skin glinting in the sun and the Aluminum Overcast presented what is arguably one of the most iconic images of World War II.

A navigator aboard the B-17 Royal Flush, Ralph H. Nutter of Santa Barbara was looking at the plane. Assigned to the 305th Bomb Group, Nutter was the head navigator aboard the first B-17 to bomb Germany, piloted by then-Maj. Curtis LeMay.

“Isn’t that a beautiful airplane?” he said of the B-17 as it taxied up. “I think it was the most beautiful airplane of World War II.”

He was one of two B-17 veterans on hand Monday for the arrival of the Aluminum Overcast at the airport, where it will be available for public tours

“In that first raid, we only had about 35 planes, and we were met by several hundred German fighters,” recalled Nutter, who later wrote a book about his experiences.

Nutter flew a total of 26 missions, firing the twin .50-caliber machine guns — sometimes both at once — on either side of his B-17’s cheeks. After Germany’s defeat, Nutter few 10 more missions in B-29s in the Pacific Theater. Richardson, dressed in his World War II uniform, said he flew 30 missions in 279 days, including two on D-Day, with the 94th Bomb Group.

On his longest mission — 11 hours and 95 minutes — he and his fellow gunners battled German fighters for nearly four hours.

B-17 “Flying Fortress” arrives in Texas

There is more than vintage aircraft, a skydiver jump team and remote controlled aircraft to this weekend’s Jasper air show. World War II era bombers and modern military aircraft will be on the ground and in the air. The B-17 in particular, brings back memories for those who flew it.

The “Texas Raiders” B-17 touched down at the Jasper County Airport, Saturday, giving East Texans a chance to re-visit her power and beauty.

“I was raised on a farm and never did see planes hardly ever, let alone get to ride in them so that you know, gave me a chance to go,” expressed Carl Doyle as he remembers what it was like to fly aboard the B-17 bomber more than 60 years ago.

The World War II veteran joined the Air Force toward the end of the war, and served as a weather observer. Still, he got his chance to fly.

“The B-17 had a boat on the bottom to go out and drop down if one of the planes went down and every time I got a chance, I was on it,” said Doyle.

Donald Lee Hell, who spent 1,000 hours flying the bomber with the Coast Guard, rescuing lost ships and planes will take any opportunity to pay a visit to the B-17.

Donald Lee Hill

“Flying in one for that many hours, you just like to go look at them again,” said Hell.

She may be beautiful but the vintage aircraft was also a potent weapon that dropped more bombs than any other U.S. aircraft in World War II.

Helping to educate the people about the bomber public information officer Sandy Thompson explained that “it was called the Flying Fortress possibly because it took so much flack and stood up as a fortress in the war and those that were built, a very few remaining today.”

Source: ktre.com

B-17 Flying Fortress Loop: The Story that Made the Headlines

John ‘Reds’ Urban helped fly a B-17 that nosed up and into a loop after another bomber crashed across its tail. The photo shows Urban’s plane after making it back to England.


In the nearly 20 years Ed Krupa knew him, John Urban never let on that he had done anything extraordinary as a World War II bomber pilot.

“He never said anything about the loop,” Krupa said. Krupa read about the maneuver after Urban’s widow lent him her husband’s scrapbook.

Urban, a civic leader and lifelong Nazareth resident known as Reds, died in 2001. Krupa learned his secret last year: On a fiery mission over Germany in 1944, Urban’s B-17 performed a feat so spectacular it made headlines around the war-torn world.

With much of its tail section sheared off, the four-engine Flying Fortress — a heavy aircraft not built for aerobatics — shot straight up and onto its back, then swooped down in an arc. It was a complete, accidental inside loop.

Flying Fortress does inside loop: Navigator sticks to ceiling, drops on his head as plane swings back to normal,” reads a headline from the Omaha Daily Journal.

The Daily Express of London reported: “Battered Fort does full loop, but gets home.”

The Easton Express ran a photo of Urban and crowed, “Nazareth pilot on B-17 which did ‘impossible.’”

“John and I would discuss aviation,” said Krupa. “But John never said any more than that he flew a B-17. He just said that he was a copilot and he flew so many missions to Germany, and just left it be.”

The scrapbook is a neatly kept but time-worn collection of photos, reports and clippings chronicling Urban’s service with the Army Air Forces, including his flight records and even a fabric map of Europe he carried in case he was shot down.Its contents include proof of Urban’s valor: a July 1944 report by the operations officer of the 364th Bombardment Squadron certifying Urban had completed 25 missions. It lists the date and destination of each, as well as Urban’s decorations — three Air Medals for meritorious achievement and the Distinguished Flying Cross for heroism.

The B-17, nicknamed Hit Parade, reached England and landed at a Royal Air Force base with a flat tire and only five minutes of gas in its tanks, Urban noted in his scrapbook alongside photos of the plane’s damage. One of the 10 crew members was injured — a waist gunner, who broke his heel during the loop. The Hit Parade was junked.

The UP reported the loop tale was the topic of “much scientific debate among fliers in London bars … who shook their heads in disbelief.” Until then, they hadn’t heard any reports of B-17s doing loops and assumed such a maneuver was out of the question.

But aviation expert John J. Ruddy of Leesburg, Va., said recently that the story makes sense. “The plane had already dropped its bombs and burned off thousands of pounds of fuel, making it less resistant to the doomed B-17 crashing down across its tail,” he said.

The impact forced Hit Parade “to immediately rotate to an almost vertical nose-high position …and around its pitch axis,sort of like a seesaw going up too high and wanting to go over backward,” said Ruddy, a retired United Air Lines pilot, aircraft mechanic and aerobatic flier.

As a result of the “rotational impact,” Hit Parade could “simply flip over backward and wind up positioned as if it were approaching the bottom half of an intentional loop maneuver,” Ruddy said.


B-17G Chuckie

This B-17G started its military career when it was delivered to the USAAF on January 1944. Although military records are not available, Vega built -70 block B-17s were consistently sent to combat with the 8th and 15th Air Forces in Europe and there are repairs on the belly of Chuckie that could possibly be evidence of repaired combat damage.

When military records became available it shows Chuckie assigned as a TB-17G to base units at Patterson Field, Ohio with the Air Technical Services Command. It was given duties with the All Weather Flying Center, to develop equipment and procedures for all weather flying. On 09 November 1952, it was modified into a ETB-17G and used by the Federal Telecommunications Corporation based at Westchester Airport, New York as a flying electronic test bed modified with large wing-tip antennas and other electronic test equipment.. It was based at Westchester until 1957 when it was moved to Teterboro Airport, New Jersey until it finished its military service in 1959.

B-17G Chuckie served with the USAF until 1959 when it was finally sold as surplus to American Compressed Steel Corporation for $5,026.00. American Compressed Steel registered 44-8543 as N3701G and prepared it for sale on the civil market by installing cargo doors on the right waist. On 06 February 1961 it was purchased by a Fort Lauderdale company, Albany Building Company and used for hauling vegetables from Andros Island off the coast of Florida to Fort Lauderdale.

On 15 May 1962 it was sold to John Gregory of Fort Lauderdale, but its use by this owner is unknown. On 07 March 1963 it was bought by Dothan Aviation of Dothan Alabama. Under contract by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Dothan Aviation added tanks and spray bars for low level attacks against fire ants in Florida and Georgia. In 1976 when the spraying was discontinued it sat abandoned until 1979.

On 04 October 1979, after twenty years of civilian duty it was rescued by Dr. William. D. Hospers. Hospers had long wanted to acquire a B-17 when he found the abandoned fire ant sprayer in reasonable condition at Dothan. Hospers decivilianized Chuckie and painted it in the markings of the 486th Bomb Group, the colors it may have actually worn during combat years before. It is named after his wife Chuckie Hospers who was instrumental in forming the B-17 CoOp, an organization that brings together owners of B-17s and pools their resources. Chuckie is now a featured attraction at air shows today.

- members.cox.net

Story of the “Piggyback Hero” – B-17 Pilot Glenn Rojohn

The following war story took place on New Year’s Eve 1944 during a mission over Hamburg, Germany which resulted in the loss of 12 bombers and men of the 100th Bomb Group most of them from the 351st Bomb Squadron.

The Glenn H. Rojohn Crew

Capt. Glenn Rojohn of the 8th Air Force’s 100th Bomb Group was flying his B-17G Flying Fortress bomber on a raid over Hamburg. His formation had braved heavy flak to drop their bombs, then turned 180 degrees to head out over the North Sea They had finally turned northwest, heading back to England, when they were jumped by German fighters at 22,000 feet. The Messerschmitt Me-109s pressed their attack so closely that Capt. Rojohn could see the faces of the German pilots. He and other pilots fought to remain in formation so they could use each other’s guns to defend the group.

Rojohn saw a B-17 ahead of him burst into flames and slide sickeningly toward the earth. He gunned his ship forward to fill in the gap. He felt a huge impact. The big bomber shuddered, felt suddenly very heavy and began losing altitude. Rojohn grasped almost immediately that he had collided with another plane.

A B-17 below him, piloted by Lt. William G. McNab, had slammed the top of its fuselage into the bottom of Rojohn’s.

The top turret gun of McNab’s plane was now locked in the belly of Rojohn’s plane and the ball turret in the belly of Rojohn’s had smashed through the top of McNab’s. The two bombers were almost perfectly aligned — the tail of the lower plane was slightly to the left of Rojohn’s tail section. They were stuck together, as a crewman later recalled, ‘like mating dragon flies.’

The ball turret, hanging below the belly of the B-17, was considered by many to be a death trap — the worst station on the bomber. In this case, both ball turrets figured in a swift and terrible drama of life and death. Staff Sgt. Edward L. Woodall, Jr., in the ball turret of the lower bomber had felt the impact of the collision above him and saw shards of metal drop past him. Worse, he realized both electrical and hydraulic power was gone.

Remembering escape drills, he grabbed the handcrank, released the clutch and cranked the turret and its guns until they were straight down, then turned and climbed out the back of the turret up into the fuselage.
Once inside the plane’s belly Woodall saw a chilling sight, the ball turret of the other bomber protruding through the top of the fuselage. In that turret, hopelessly trapped, was Staff Sgt. Joseph Russo. Several crew members of Rojohn’s plane tried frantically to crank Russo’s turret around so he could escape, but, jammed into the fuselage of the lower plane, it refused to budge. Perhaps unaware that his voice was going out over the intercom of his plane, Sgt. Russo began reciting his Hail Marys.

Up in the cockpit, Capt. Rojohn and his co-pilot, 2nd Lt. William G. Leek, Jr., had propped their feet against the instrument panel so they could pull back on their controls with all their strength, trying to prevent their plane from going into a spinning dive that would prevent the crew from jumping out. Capt. Rojohn motioned left and the two managed to wheel the huge, collision-born hybrid of a plane back toward the German coast. Leek felt like he was intruding on Sgt. Russo as his prayers crackled over the radio, so he pulled off his flying helmet with its earphones.

Rojohn, immediately grasping that the crew could not exit from the bottom of his plane, ordered his top turret gunner and his radio operator, Tech Sgts. Orville Elkin and Edward G. Neuhaus, to make their way to the back of the fuselage and out the waist door on the left behind the wing. Then he got his navigator, 2nd Lt. Robert Washington, and his bombardier, Sgt. James Shirley, to follow them. As Rojohn and Leek somehow held the plane steady, these four men, as well as waist gunner, Sgt Roy Little, and tail gunner, Staff Sgt. Francis Chase, were able to bail out.

Now the plane locked below them was aflame. Fire poured over Rojohn’s left wing. He could feel the heat from the plane below and hear the sound of 50 cal. machine gun ammunition ‘cooking off’ in the flames. Capt. Rojohn ordered Lt. Leek to bail out. Leek knew that without him helping keep the controls back, the plane would drop in a flaming spiral and the centrifugal force would prevent Rojohn from bailing. He refused the order.

Meanwhile, German soldiers and civilians on the ground that afternoon looked up in wonder. Some of them thought they were seeing a new Allied secret weapon — a strange eight-engined double bomber. But anti-aircraft gunners on the North Sea coastal island of Wangeroogehad seen the collision. A German battery captain wrote in his logbook at 12:47 p.m:

Two fortresses collided in a formation in the NE. The planes flew hooked together and flew 20 miles south. The two planes were unable to fight anymore. The crash could be awaited so I stopped the firing at these two planes.

In the cockpit Rojohn and Leek held grimly to the controls trying to ride a falling rock. Leek tersely recalled, ‘The ground came up faster and faster. Praying was allowed. We gave it one last effort and slammed into the ground.’ The McNab plane on the bottom exploded, vaulting the other B-17 upward and forward. It slammed back to the ground, sliding along until its left wing slammed through a wooden building and the smoldering mess came to a stop. Rojohn and Leek were still seated in their cockpit. The nose of the plane was relatively intact, but everything from the B-17 massive wings back was destroyed. They looked at each other incredulously. Neither was badly injured.

Two of the six men who parachuted from Rojohn’s plane did not survive the jump. But the other four and, amazingly, four men from the other bomber, including ball turret gunner Woodall, survived. All were taken prisoner. Several of them were interrogated at length by the Germans until they were satisfied that what had crashed was not a new American secret weapon …

Rojohn, typically, didn’t talk much about his Distinguished Flying Cross. Of Leek, he said, ‘in all fairness to my co-pilot, he’s the reason I’m alive today.’

Glenn Rojohn was the last survivor of the remarkable piggyback flight. He was like thousands upon thousands of men, soda jerks and lumberjacks, teachers and dentists, students and lawyers and service station attendants and store clerks and farm boys, who in the prime of their lives went to war.

- asmba.typepad.com
- 390th.org