1. Attention: We have put together a thread with tips and a tutorial video to help with using the new software. Please take a moment to check out the thread here: Trapshooters.com Tutorial & Help Video.
    Dismiss Notice

WWII B17 Survival Story w/Pictures

Discussion in 'Off Topic Threads' started by \/\/\/Z\/\/\/, Aug 12, 2012.

Thread Status:
Not open for further replies.
  1. \/\/\/Z\/\/\/

    \/\/\/Z\/\/\/ Member

    Joined:
    Apr 14, 2011
    Messages:
    138
    WW II B17 Survival Story

    [​IMG]

    B-17 "All American" (414th Squadron, 97BG) Crew
    Pilot- Ken Bragg Jr.
    Copilot- G. Boyd Jr.
    Navigator- Harry C. Nuessle
    Bombardier- Ralph Burbridge
    Engineer- Joe C. James
    Radio Operator- Paul A. Galloway
    Ball Turret Gunner- Elton Conda
    Waist Gunner- Michael Zuk
    Tail Gunner- Sam T. Sarpolus
    Ground Crew Chief- Hank Hyland


    [​IMG]


    B-17 in 1943
    A mid-air collision on February 1, 1943, between a B-17 and a German fighter over the Tunis dock area, became the subject of one of the most famous photographs of World War II. An enemy fighter attacking a 97th Bomb Group formation went out of control, probably with a wounded pilot then continued its crashing descent into the rear of the fuselage of a Fortress named All American, piloted by Lt. Kendrick R. Bragg, of the 414th Bomb Squadron. When it struck, the fighter broke apart, but left some pieces in the B-17. The left horizontal stabilizer of the Fortress and left elevator were completely torn away. The two right engines were out and one on the left had a serious oil pump leak. The vertical fin and the rudder had been damaged, the fuselage had been cut almost completely through connected only at two small parts of the frame and the radios, electrical and oxygen systems were damaged. There was also a hole in the top that was over 16 feet long and 4
    Feet wide at its widest and the split in the fuselage went all the way to the top gunners turret.

    Although the tail actually bounced and swayed in the wind and twisted when the plane turned and all the control cables were severed, except one single elevator cable still worked, and the aircraft still flew - miraculously! The tail gunner was trapped because there was no floor connecting the tail to the rest of the plane. The waist and tail gunners used parts of the German fighter and their own parachute harnesses in an attempt to keep the tail from ripping off and the two sides of the fuselage from splitting apart. While the crew was trying to keep the bomber from coming apart, the pilot continued on his bomb run and released his bombs over the target.

    When the bomb bay doors were opened, the wind turbulence was so great that it blew one of the waist gunners into the broken tail section. It took several minutes and four crew members to pass him ropes from parachutes and haul him back into the forward part of the plane. When they tried to do the same for the tail gunner, the tail began flapping so hard that it began to break off. The weight of the gunner was adding some stability to the tail section, so he went back to his position.

    The turn back toward England had to be very slow to keep the tail from twisting off. They actually covered almost 70 miles to make the turn home. The bomber was so badly damaged that it was losing altitude and speed and was soon alone in the sky. For a brief time, two more Me-109 German fighters attacked the All American. Despite the extensive damage, all of the machine gunners were able to respond to these attacks and soon drove off the fighters. The two waist gunners stood up with their heads sticking out through the hole in the top of the fuselage to aim and fire their machine guns. The tail gunner had to shoot in short bursts because the recoil was actually causing the plane to turn.

    Allied P-51 fighters intercepted the All American as it crossed over the Channel and took one of the pictures shown. They also radioed to the base describing that the empennage was waving like a fish tail and that the plane would not make it and to send out boats to rescue the crew when they bailed out. The fighters stayed with the Fortress taking hand signals from Lt. Bragg and relaying them to the base. Lt. Bragg signaled that 5 parachutes and the spare had been "used" so five of the crew could not bail out. He made the decision that if they could not bail out safely, then he would stay with the plane and land it.

    Two and a half hours after being hit, the aircraft made its final turn to line up with the runway while it was still over 40 miles away. It descended into an emergency landing and a normal roll-out on its landing gear.

    When the ambulance pulled alongside, it was waved off because not a single member of the crew had been injured. No one could believe that the aircraft could still fly in such a condition. The Fortress sat placidly until the crew all exited through the door in the fuselage and the tail gunner had climbed down a ladder, at which time the entire rear section of the aircraft collapsed onto the ground. The rugged old bird had done its job.


    [​IMG]



    [​IMG]



    [​IMG]



    [​IMG]



    [​IMG]
     
  2. charleyj10

    charleyj10 TS Member

    Joined:
    Oct 18, 2011
    Messages:
    337
    An intriguing story. There were many stories of heroism and character that came out of WW1 and WW2. My adopted father served in the infantry in WW2. The free cigarettes were the cause of his addiction and death. I wish that he and my mother were still here.

    Charlie
     
  3. CalvinMD

    CalvinMD Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Jan 29, 1998
    Messages:
    9,857
    Location:
    Northeastern MD @ the top o the Bay
    That is phenomenal....how that plane didn't go straight to the ground had to be some divine intervention for sure...a real tribute to every person who had a hand in building her..from the drawing board down
     
  4. Rick Barker

    Rick Barker Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    May 25, 2009
    Messages:
    14,363
  5. buster45

    buster45 Active Member

    Joined:
    Jul 7, 2010
    Messages:
    573
    My Father and his twin brother were both tail gunners on the B17's Eigth Air Force England. Both shot down twice and both made it home. Thank God!!

    Buster
     
  6. Auctioneer

    Auctioneer Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Jul 5, 2009
    Messages:
    4,965
    Now some of you know why it was called the fortress. They were a tough plane and took alot and still flew.

    My father was a waist gunner and flew 25 missions. He was with the 338 out of England.
     
  7. MR870

    MR870 Member

    Joined:
    Sep 14, 2011
    Messages:
    228
    I had an uncle who served in England in the Army Air Corp.He never talked about his service as an MP at an airbase during the war.A few years before he passed away I showed him a Time Life book I had of the air war in Europe.He looked at it and asked if he could read it.A few days later he returned it and told me the reason he didn't talk about his wartime duty was because he learned not to make friends with the aircrews because they might not come back from their dangerous missions.He said with tears in his eyes how a kid(18) who he knew from boot camp was lost on his fist mission.My uncle said this is why he doesn't talk about it.Our greatest generation,our greatest heroes!
     
  8. CalvinMD

    CalvinMD Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Jan 29, 1998
    Messages:
    9,857
    Location:
    Northeastern MD @ the top o the Bay
    I know what you mean MR870...my grandfather is someone you never would have known to have been in the service..he loved planes and talked planes but when the subject of the war came up he would either suddenly remember something he needed from another room or bring up my dad being born when he was away and how he missed so much...my grandfather actually knew John McCains father when both were in the Panama Canal zone..my granpap was Army Air Corp and McCains dad was Navy
     
  9. Catpower

    Catpower Molon Labe TS Supporters

    Joined:
    Jan 29, 1998
    Messages:
    10,235
    Location:
    In the Cabana
    My Dad was a pilot in a B 17, when I was in the USAF over 40 yrs ago I bought a book about B 17's at the BX, it was a paperback about 3/4 of an inch thick and it was full of stories about the shot up ones that made it back, most of them were unbelievable

    They were truly some tough old birds, just like the men who rode in them
     
  10. Jerry944t

    Jerry944t Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Jan 29, 1998
    Messages:
    1,860
    Location:
    PA
    Amazing! Thanks for posting.
     
  11. pedagogue

    pedagogue Member

    Joined:
    May 16, 2006
    Messages:
    234
    I had the honor of working for Harry C. Nuessle the navigator in my first teaching job in 1968. I wish I had known the story then. Harry was quite the gentleman and never let on his hero status. jack melitsky
     
Thread Status:
Not open for further replies.
Search tags for this page

b17 tail gunner surviver shoot down

,

tail gunner survival