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Discussion Starter · #21 ·
Odd circumstances, "Twelve O'Clock High" was on TV last night. The author of "Air War in Europe" had noted several times on its accuracy, and which squadrons, missions, and individuals it was based on.

I watched it through for probably the 10th time since I was 10 years old. It certainly had a different perspective for me this time.
 

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I used to shoot trap with a gentleman who was a flight engineer/top turret in a B-24. He was shot down shot and imprisoned by the Germans in WWII. I knew several others including our basketball coach who was a B-17 pilot in WWII When I first joined the Air Force in 1969 there were several old WWII crewmen still in uniform. I used to enjoy their stoties. From what I gather the B-17 was easirer to fly especially at higher altitude. The B-24 was heavy on the controls especially around the longtitudal axis and pretty nose heavy. The B-24 was also bulkier and offered a bigger target mass. The B-24 carried a bigger payload and had a greater range. The 24 had better performance at low altittude and that is why it was used on low level missons a lot. I knew some guys who flew in the "mighty 8th" They went through hell in the air. I salute them all!
 

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B-17 was the more rugged air frame. Interestingly, the B-17 was originally designed as a long range maritime recon plane with no tail guns, no ball turret, but rather had those large, fuselage "blisters" on either side for one .50 cal each - like the PBY "Catalina" had, plus the dorsal "hatch" gun by the radio operator station, which in the late 1930s, was a .30 cal M-1919, not
a .50 cal M-2. The 17s were upgraded rapidly as the war progressed.

(I'm speaking of the earliest B-17 versions with the brushed aluminum skin and
the red and white tail stripes and pre-WWII insignia)
 

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These have been some interesting threads, and there is a trapshooting connection here as well.


My dad flew a B-24 in WWII over in Africa, and later in Great Briatin. He was a member of the 376th Heavy Bombardment Group. Quite a few years ago, he attended their reunion and picked up a book written on the history of the 376th, and I've consulted it today to see if it held the answer to the question asked in the original post on mass production of the aircraft, and I regret that it I can't find that information in the 600+ pages.


This much, however, is clear. From the book, "The Liberandos" by James W. Walker, in the decade leading up to the bombing of Pearl Harbor, a number of senior planners and strategists in the Army Air Corps determined the best way to fight an industrialized enemy such as Japan and Germany would be to concentrate the efforts of the Army Air Corps on eliminating the enemy's industry and war making capacity. From this determination, this group saw the need to develop a program for heavy, long range, four engined bombers. The first delivered was the B-17 in 1935. When war broke out in 1939, the United States needed to get into high production of these type of bombers, so they approached Consolidated Aircraft and they were already working on a design for the British and the French. This was the design that became the B-24.


By 1941 production of both planes were in full production. The B-17 was selected to do the bombing out of Great Britain, while the B-24 was selected to do the bombing out of the Far East, the Mediterranean, and in the Pacific, due to that plane's capability of longer range and a heavier payload. Later, these planes would join with the B-17's in Great Britain.


More B-24's were made than the B-17. I'm sure that by the end of war, the US was pretty good at making them both, no matter who was the contractor. But if I were to guess, I'd say the missions designated for each of the plane determined how many of each got built.


Now for the trapshooting connection. When I started trapshooting in 1993, my father mentioned that shooting at clay targets was part of his flight school training in Texas after the war started, and that was how they taught the aviators to lead a flying target. A number of years after that I remember reading in Dick Baldwin's column in Trap and Field about ATA Hall of Famer Joe Hiestand being a trainer for the war effort in Texas as my Dad described. Evidently everyone had the chance to contribute to the war effort!


Many thanks to those of that generation who saved our society and civilization. When Veteran's Day rolls around, be sure to fly the flag in remberance of all those who have served our country in times of war.


Pat McKean

Richmond, CA
 

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I remember watching a WINGS segment some years ago on the Russian Ilyushin IL-2 “Shturmovik” (Flying Tank) ground attach airplane. It noted that the “Shturmovik” was the most produced military airplane during WW II with over 36,000 produced.


A quick trip to Wikipedia (not a 100% reliable source but often pretty good) reveals that the “Shturmovik” was the second most produced military aircraft with the PO-2 Polikarpov (Maize) being the most produced. The PO-2 was a biplane used as a trainer; night bomber and crop duster with over 40,000 were produced from 1928 into the 1950’s.


While in the Army in 1969, I heard an account (while drinking) from a Federal Service Officer of the downing of a large Russian biplane by a couple of “civilians” in an unmarked and unarmed light observation helicopter. The “civilians” were on a mission in Laos and were on the ground when a large biplane with Russian markings dropped a few small bombs on them and flew away.


The “civilians” took umbrage at the unprovoked attack and jumped into their then new Kiowa with a couple of M-16’s. The Kiowa had a top speed of over 170 knots and it ran down the Russian biplane and shot it down with several magazines of M16 ammo. I later read a similar account in 1975 in the Louisville Courier-Journal newspaper which confirmed, to me, the accuracy of the FSO’s story.


I worked for a man who was a B-17 air crew during WW II. He flew in 19444 and 1945 over Germany and had nothing but praise for the B-17.
 

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Here's a couple of pictures taken of me a few years ago. This B-24 is located a couple of hours drive from my place. "Beautiful Betsy" went missing in 1945 and was found about 15 years ago in Kroombit Tops national park. Trying to imagine yourself on board in the last few minutes of flight is very sobering when you see what is left of this plane...

Brett.
 
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