29 May 1935

First flight of the Messerschmitt Bf 109 fighter aeroplane.

Bf 109
Bundesarchiv Bild 101I-662-6659-37, Flugzeug Messerschmitt Me 109.jpg
A Bf 109G-6 of JG 27 in flight, 1943
Role Fighter
Manufacturer Bayerische Flugzeugwerke (BFW)
Messerschmitt AG
Designer Willy Messerschmitt, Robert Lusser
First flight 29 May 1935[1]
Introduction February 1937
Retired 9 May 1945, Luftwaffe
27 December 1965, Spanish Air Force
Primary users Luftwaffe
Hungarian Air Force
Aeronautica Nazionale Repubblicana
Royal Romanian Air Force
Number built 33,984[2]
+603 Avia S-199
+239 HA-1112
Variants Avia S-99/S-199
Hispano Aviación HA-1112

The Messerschmitt Bf 109 is a German World War II fighter aircraft that was, along with the Focke-Wulf Fw 190, the backbone of the Luftwaffe's fighter force.[3] The Bf 109 first saw operational service in 1937 during the Spanish Civil War and was still in service at the dawn of the jet age at the end of World War II in 1945.[3] It was one of the most advanced fighters when it first appeared, with an all-metal monocoque construction, a closed canopy, and retractable landing gear. It was powered by a liquid-cooled, inverted-V12 aero engine.[4] From the end of 1941, the Bf 109 was steadily supplanted by the Focke-Wulf Fw 190. It was called the Me 109 by Allied aircrew and some German aces, even though this was not the official German designation.[5]

It was designed by Willy Messerschmitt and Robert Lusser who worked at Bayerische Flugzeugwerke during the early to mid-1930s.[4] It was conceived as an interceptor, although later models were developed to fulfill multiple tasks, serving as bomber escort, fighter-bomber, day-, night-, all-weather fighter, ground-attack aircraft, and reconnaissance aircraft. It was supplied to several states during World War II, and served with several countries for many years after the war. The Bf 109 is the most produced fighter aircraft in history, with a total of 33,984 airframes produced from 1936 to April 1945.[2][3] Some of the Bf 109 production took place in Nazi concentration camps through slave labor.

The Bf 109 was flown by the three top-scoring fighter aces of all time, who claimed 928 victories among them while flying with Jagdgeschwader 52, mainly on the Eastern Front. The highest-scoring, Erich Hartmann, was credited with 352 victories. The aircraft was also flown by Hans-Joachim Marseille, the highest-scoring ace in the North African Campaign who shot down 158 enemy aircraft (in about a third of the time). It was also flown by many aces from other Axis nations, notably the Finn Ilmari Juutilainen, the highest-scoring non-German ace. Pilots from Italy, Romania, Croatia, Bulgaria, and Hungary also flew the Bf 109. Through constant development, the Bf 109 remained competitive with the latest Allied fighter aircraft until the end of the war.[6]

Design and development


During 1933, the Technisches Amt (C-Amt), the technical department of the Reichsluftfahrtministerium (RLM) ("Reich Aviation Ministry"), concluded a series of research projects into the future of air combat. The result of the studies was four broad outlines for future aircraft:[7]

  • Rüstungsflugzeug I for a multi-seat medium bomber
  • Rüstungsflugzeug II for a tactical bomber
  • Rüstungsflugzeug III for a single-seat fighter
  • Rüstungsflugzeug IV for a two-seat heavy fighter
Bf 109 in flight

Rüstungsflugzeug III was intended to be a short range interceptor, replacing the Arado Ar 64 and Heinkel He 51 biplanes then in service. In late March 1933 the RLM published the tactical requirements for a single-seat fighter in the document L.A. 1432/33.[8]

The projected fighter needed to have a top speed of 400 km/h (250 mph) at 6,000 m (19,690 ft), to be maintained for 20 minutes, while having a total flight duration of 90 minutes. The critical altitude of 6,000 metres was to be reached in no more than 17 minutes, and the fighter was to have an operational ceiling of 10,000 metres.[8] Power was to be provided by the new Junkers Jumo 210 engine of about 522 kW (700 hp). It was to be armed with either a single 20 mm MG C/30 engine-mounted cannon firing through the propeller hub as a Motorkanone, or two synchronized, engine cowl-mounted 7.92 mm (.312 in) MG 17 machine guns, or one lightweight engine-mounted 20 mm MG FF cannon with two 7.92 mm MG 17s.[9] The MG C/30 was an airborne adaption of the 2 cm FlaK 30 anti-aircraft gun, which fired very powerful "Long Solothurn" ammunition, but was very heavy and had a low rate of fire. It was also specified that the wing loading should be kept below 100 kg/m2. The performance was to be evaluated based on the fighter's level speed, rate of climb, and maneuverability, in that order.[8]

It has been suggested that Bayerische Flugzeugwerke (BFW) was originally not invited to participate in the competition due to personal animosity between Willy Messerschmitt and RLM director Erhard Milch;[nb 1] however, recent research by Willy Radinger and Walter Shick indicates that this may not have been the case, as all three competing companies—Arado, Heinkel and BFW—received the development contract for the L.A. 1432/33 requirements at the same time in February 1934.[8] A fourth company, Focke-Wulf, received a copy of the development contract only in September 1934.[8] The powerplant was to be the new Junkers Jumo 210, but the proviso was made that it would be interchangeable with the more powerful, but less developed Daimler-Benz DB 600 powerplant.[11] Each was asked to deliver three prototypes for head-to-head testing in late 1934.


Messerschmitt Bf 109 V1
A drawing of the V1 prototype
Prototype V3

Design work on Messerschmitt Project Number P.1034 began in March 1934, just three weeks after the development contract was awarded. The basic mock-up was completed by May, and a more detailed design mock-up was ready by January 1935. The RLM designated the design as type "Bf 109," the next available from a block of numbers assigned to BFW.[8]

The first prototype (Versuchsflugzeug 1 or V1), with civilian registration D-IABI, was completed by May 1935, but the new German engines were not yet ready. To get the "R III" designs into the air, the RLM acquired four Rolls-Royce Kestrel VI engines by trading Rolls-Royce a Heinkel He 70 Blitz for use as an engine test-bed.[nb 2] Messerschmitt received two of these engines and adapted the engine mounts of V1 to take the V-12 engine upright. V1 made its maiden flight at the end of May 1935 at the airfield located in the southernmost Augsburg neighborhood of Haunstetten, piloted by Hans-Dietrich "Bubi" Knoetzsch. After four months of flight testing, the aircraft was delivered in September to the Luftwaffe's central test centre at the Erprobungsstelle Rechlin to take part in the design competition.

In 1935, the first Jumo engines became available, so V2 was completed in October using the 449 kW (600 hp) Jumo 210A engine. V3 followed, the first to be mounted with guns, but it did not fly until May 1936 due to a delay in procuring another Jumo 210 engine.

Design competition

After Luftwaffe acceptance trials were completed at their headquarters Erprobungsstelle (E-Stelle) military aviation test and development facility at Rechlin, the prototypes were moved to the subordinate E-Stelle Baltic seacoast facility at Travemünde for the head-to-head portion of the competition. The aircraft participating in the trials were the Arado Ar 80 V3, the Focke-Wulf Fw 159 V3, the Heinkel He 112 V4 and the Bf 109 V2. The He 112 arrived first, in early February 1936, followed by the rest of the prototypes by the end of the month.

Because most fighter pilots of the Luftwaffe were used to biplanes with open cockpits, low wing loading, light g-forces and easy handling like the Heinkel He 51, they were very critical of the Bf 109 at first. However, it soon became one of the frontrunners in the contest, as the Arado and Focke-Wulf entries, which were intended as "backup" programmes to safeguard against failure of the two favourites, proved to be completely outclassed. The Arado Ar 80, with its gull wing (replaced with a straight, tapered wing on the V3) and fixed, spatted undercarriage was overweight and underpowered, and the design was abandoned after three prototypes had been built. The parasol winged Fw 159, potentially inspired by the same firm's earlier Focke-Wulf Fw 56, was always considered by the E-Stelle Travemünde facility's staff to be a compromise between a biplane and an aerodynamically more efficient, low-wing monoplane. Although it had some advanced features, it used a novel, complex retractable main undercarriage which proved to be unreliable.[12]

JG 53 Bf 109E-3, c. 1939/1940

Initially, the Bf 109 was regarded with disfavour by E-Stelle test pilots because of its steep ground angle, which resulted in poor forward visibility when taxiing; the sideways-hinged cockpit canopy, which could not be opened in flight; and the automatic leading edge slats on the wings which, it was thought, would inadvertently open during aerobatics, possibly leading to crashes. This was later borne out in combat situations and aerobatic testing by various countries' test establishments. The leading edge slats and ailerons would flutter rapidly in fast tight turns, making targeting and control difficult, and eventually putting the aircraft into a stall. They were also concerned about the high wing loading.[13]

The Heinkel He 112, based on a scaled-down Blitz, was the favourite of the Luftwaffe leaders. Compared with the Bf 109, it was also cheaper.[14] Positive aspects of the He 112 included the wide track and robustness of the undercarriage (this opened outwards from mid wing, as opposed to the 109s which opened from the wing root), considerably better visibility from the cockpit, and a lower wing loading that made for easier landings. In addition, the V4 had a single-piece, clear-view, sliding cockpit canopy and a more powerful Jumo 210Da engine with a modified exhaust system. However, the He 112 was also structurally complicated, being 18% heavier than the Bf 109, and it soon became clear that the thick wing, which spanned 12.6 m (41 ft 4 in) with an area of 23.2 m2 (249.7 ft2) on the first prototype (V1), was a disadvantage for a light fighter, decreasing the aircraft's rate of roll and manoeuvrability. As a result, the He 112 V4 which was used for the trials had new wings, spanning 11.5 m (37 ft 8.75 in) with an area of 21.6 m2 (232.5 ft2). However, the improvements had not been fully tested and the He 112 V4 could not be demonstrated in accordance with the rules laid down by the Acceptance Commission, placing it at a distinct disadvantage.

Because of its smaller, lighter airframe, the Bf 109 was 30 km/h (20 mph) faster than the He 112 in level flight, and superior in climbing and diving. The Commission ultimately ruled in favour of the Bf 109 because of the Messerschmitt test pilot's demonstration of the 109's capabilities during a series of spins, dives, flick rolls and tight turns, throughout which the pilot was in complete control of the aircraft.[15]

In March, the RLM received news that the British Supermarine Spitfire had been ordered into production. It was felt that a quick decision was needed to get the winning design into production as soon as possible, so on 12 March, the RLM announced the results of the competition in a document entitled Bf 109 Priority Procurement, which ordered the Bf 109 into production. At the same time, Heinkel was instructed to radically redesign the He 112.[16] The Messerschmitt 109 made its public debut during the 1936 Berlin Olympics, when the V1 prototype was flown.[17]

Design features

As with the earlier Bf 108, the new design was based on Messerschmitt's "lightweight construction" principle, which aimed to minimise the number of separate parts in the aircraft. Examples of this could be found in the use of two large, complex brackets which were fitted to the firewall. These brackets incorporated the lower engine mounts and landing gear pivot point into one unit. A large forging attached to the firewall housed the main spar pick-up points, and carried most of the wing loads. Contemporary design practice was usually to have these main load-bearing structures mounted on different parts of the airframe, with the loads being distributed through the structure via a series of strong-points. By concentrating the loads in the firewall, the structure of the Bf 109 could be made relatively light and uncomplicated.[18]

A Bf109E at the Royal Air Force Museum London with its wings temporarily removed, 2016

An advantage of this design was that the main landing gear, which retracted through an 85-degree angle, was attached to the fuselage, making it possible to completely remove the wings for servicing without additional equipment to support the fuselage. It also allowed simplification of the wing structure, since it did not have to bear the loads imposed during takeoff or landing. The one major drawback of this landing gear arrangement was its narrow wheel track, making the aircraft unstable while on the ground. To increase stability, the legs were splayed outward somewhat, creating another problem in that the loads imposed during takeoff and landing were transferred up through the legs at an angle.[19]

The small rudder of the Bf 109 was relatively ineffective at controlling the strong swing created by the powerful slipstream of the propeller during the early portion of the takeoff roll, and this sideways drift created disproportionate loads on the wheel opposite to the swing. If the forces imposed were large enough, the pivot point broke and the landing gear leg would collapse outward into its bay.[19] Experienced pilots reported that the swing was easy to control, but some of the less-experienced pilots lost fighters on takeoff.[20]

Because of the large ground angle caused by the long legs, forward visibility while on the ground was very poor, a problem exacerbated by the sideways-opening canopy. This meant that pilots had to taxi in a sinuous fashion which also imposed stresses on the splayed undercarriage legs. Ground accidents were a problem with inexperienced pilots, especially during the later stages of the war when pilots received less training before being sent to operational units.[20] At least 10% of all Bf 109s were lost in takeoff and landing accidents, 1,500 of which occurred between 1939 and 1941.[21] The installation of a fixed "tall" tailwheel on some of the late G-10s and −14s and the K-series helped alleviate the problem to a large extent.[22]

Freely moving, automatic leading edge slats on a Bf 109E. By using high-lift devices, the handling qualities of the Bf 109 were considerably enhanced.

From the inception of the design, priority was given to easy access to the powerplant, fuselage weapons and other systems while the aircraft was operating from forward airfields. To this end, the entire engine cowling was made up of large, easily removable panels which were secured by large toggle latches. A large panel under the wing centre section could be removed to gain access to the L-shaped main fuel tank, which was sited partly under the cockpit floor and partly behind the rear cockpit bulkhead. Other, smaller panels gave easy access to the cooling system and electrical equipment.[19] The engine was held in two large, forged, Elektron magnesium alloy Y-shaped legs, one per side straddling the engine block, which were cantilevered from the firewall. Each of the legs was secured by two quick-release screw fittings on the firewall. All of the main pipe connections were colour-coded and grouped in one place, where possible, and electrical equipment plugged into junction boxes mounted on the firewall. The entire powerplant could be removed or replaced as a unit in a matter of minutes,[19] a potential step to the eventual adoption of the unitized-powerplant Kraftei engine mounting concept used by many German combat aircraft designs, later in the war years.

Another example of the Bf 109's advanced design was the use of a single, I-beam main spar in the wing, positioned more aft than usual (to give enough room for the retracted wheel), thus forming a stiff D-shaped torsion box. Most aircraft of the era used two spars, near the front and rear edges of the wings, but the D-box was much stiffer torsionally, and eliminated the need for the rear spar. The wing profile was the NACA 2R1 14.2 at the root and NACA 2R1 11.35 at the tip,[23] with a thickness to chord ratio of 14.2% at the root and 11.35% at the tip.

Another major difference from competing designs was the higher wing-loading. While the R-IV contract called for a wing-loading of less than 100 kg/m2, Messerschmitt felt this was unreasonable. With a low wing-loading and the engines available, a fighter would end up being slower than the bombers it was tasked with catching.[citation needed]

A fighter was designed primarily for high-speed flight. A smaller wing area was optimal for achieving high speed, but low-speed flight would suffer, as the smaller wing would require more airflow to generate enough lift to maintain flight. To compensate for this, the Bf 109 included advanced high-lift devices on the wings, including automatically opening leading edge slats, and fairly large camber-changing flaps on the trailing edge. The slats increased the lift of the wing considerably when deployed, greatly improving the horizontal maneuverability of the aircraft, as several Luftwaffe veterans, such as Erwin Leykauf, attest.[24][25] Messerschmitt also included ailerons that "drooped" when the flaps were lowered (F series and later the lower radiator flap operated as part of the flap system), thereby increasing the effective flap area. When deployed, these devices effectively increased the wings' coefficient of lift.

Fighters with liquid-cooled engines were vulnerable to hits in the cooling system. For this reason, on later Bf 109 F, and K models, the two coolant radiators were equipped with a cut-off system. If one radiator leaked, it was possible to fly on the second, or to fly for at least five minutes with both closed.[26][27][28][29][30] In 1943, Oberfeldwebel Edmund Roßmann got lost and landed behind Soviet lines. He agreed to show the Soviets how to service the plane. Soviet machine gun technician Viktor M. Sinaisky recalled:

The Messer was a very well designed plane. First, it had an engine of an inverted type, so it could not be knocked out from below. It also had two water radiators with a cut-off system: if one radiator leaked you could fly on the second or close both down and fly at least five minutes more. The pilot was protected by armour-plate from the back, and the fuel tank was also behind armour. Our planes had fuel tanks in the centre of their wings: that's why our pilot got burnt. What else did I like about the Messer? It was highly automatic and thus easy to fly. It also employed an electrical pitch regulator, which our planes didn't have. Our propeller system, with variable pitch was hydraulic, making it impossible to change pitch without engine running. If, God forbid, you turned off the engine at high pitch, it was impossible to turn the propeller and was very hard to start the engine again. Finally, the German ammo counter was also a great thing.[30]

Armament and gondola cannons

A cannon-armed Bf 109E, showing the 20 mm MG FF installations in the wing.

Reflecting Messerschmitt's belief in low-weight, low-drag, simple monoplanes, the armament was placed in the fuselage. This kept the wings very thin and light. Two synchronized machine guns were mounted in the cowling, firing over the top of the engine and through the propeller arc. An alternative arrangement was also designed, consisting of a single autocannon firing through a blast tube between the cylinder banks of the engine, known as a Motorkanone mount in German.[7] [nb 3] This was also the choice of armament layout on some contemporary monoplane fighters, such as the French Dewoitine D.520, or the American Bell P-39 Airacobra, and dated back to World War I's small run of SPAD S.XII moteur-canon, 37 mm cannon-armed fighters in France.

When it was discovered in 1937 that the RAF was planning eight-gun batteries for its new Hawker Hurricane and Supermarine Spitfire fighters, it was decided that the Bf 109 should be more heavily armed. The problem was that the only place available to mount additional guns was in the wings. Only one spot was available in each wing, between the wheel well and slats, with room for only one gun, either a 7.92 mm MG 17 machine gun, or a 20 mm MG FF or MG FF/M cannon.[32]

The first version of the 109 to have wing guns was the C-1, which had one MG 17 in each wing. To avoid redesigning the wing to accommodate large ammunition boxes and access hatches, an unusual ammunition feed was devised whereby a continuous belt holding 500 rounds was fed along chutes out to the wing tip, around a roller and then back along the wing, forward and beneath the gun breech, to the wing root, where it coursed around another roller and back to the weapon.[32]

The gun barrel was placed in a long, large-diameter tube located between the spar and the leading edge. The tube channeled cooling air around the barrel and breech, exhausting from a slot at the rear of the wing. The installation was so cramped that parts of the MG 17's breech mechanism extended into an opening created in the flap structure.[32]

The much longer and heavier MG FF had to be mounted farther along the wing in an outer bay. A large hole was cut through the spar allowing the cannon to be fitted with the ammunition feed forward of the spar, while the breech block projected rearward through the spar. A 60-round ammunition drum was placed in a space closer to the wing root causing a bulge in the underside. A small hatch was incorporated in the bulge to allow access for changing the drum. The entire weapon could be removed for servicing by removing a leading edge panel.[32]

Luftwaffe ground-crew positioning a Bf 109G-6 equipped with the Rüstsatz VI underwing gondola cannon kit. Note the slat on the leading edge of the port wing. JG 2, France, late 1943.

From the 109F-series onwards, guns were no longer carried inside the wings. Instead, the Bf 109F had a 20 mm gun firing through the propeller shaft. The change was disliked by leading fighter pilots such as Adolf Galland and Walter Oesau, but others such as Werner Mölders considered the single nose-mounted gun to compensate well for the loss of the two wing guns.[33] Galland had his Bf 109F-2 field-modified with a 20 mm MG FF/M autocannon, the "/M" suffix indicating the capability of firing thin-walled 20mm mine shells, installed internally in each wing.[nb 4]

In place of internal wing armament, additional firepower was provided through a pair of 20 mm MG 151/20 cannons installed in conformal gun pods under the wings. The conformal gun pods, exclusive of ammunition, weighed 135 kg (298 lb);[34] and 135 to 145 rounds were provided per gun. The total weight, including ammunition, was 215 kg.[34] Installation of the under-wing gun pods was a simple task that could be quickly performed by the unit's armourers, and the gun pods imposed a reduction of speed of only 8 km/h (5 mph).[34] By comparison, the installed weight of a similar armament of two 20 mm MG 151/20 cannon inside the wings of the Fw 190A-4/U8 was 130 kg (287 lb), without ammunition.[35]

Although the additional armament increased the fighter's potency as a bomber destroyer, it had an adverse effect on the handling qualities, reducing its performance in fighter-versus-fighter combat and accentuating the tendency of the fighter to swing pendulum-fashion in flight.[33][36]

Some of the projected 109K-series models, such as the K-6, were designed to carry 30 mm (1.18 in) MK 108 cannons in the wings.[37]

Designation and nicknames

Originally the aircraft was designated as Bf 109 by the RLM, since the design was submitted by the Bayerische Flugzeugwerke (literally "Bavarian Aircraft Works", meaning "Bavarian Aircraft Factory"; sometimes abbreviated B.F.W.,[38] akin to BMW) during 1935. The company was renamed Messerschmitt AG after 11 July 1938 when Erhard Milch finally allowed Willy Messerschmitt to acquire the company. All Messerschmitt aircraft that originated after that date, such as the Me 210, were to carry the "Me" designation. Despite regulations by the RLM, wartime documents from Messerschmitt AG, RLM and Luftwaffe loss and strength reports continued to use both designations, sometimes even on the same page.[39]

All extant airframes bear the official[40] "Bf 109" designation on their identification plates, including the final K-4 models.[41] The aircraft was often referred to by the folk-designation, 'Me 109', particularly by the Allies.

The aircraft was often nicknamed Messer by its operators and opponents alike; the name was not only an abbreviation of the manufacturer, but also the German word for "knife". In Finland, the Bf 109 was known as Mersu, although this was originally the Finnish nickname for Mercedes-Benz cars.

Soviet aviators nicknamed the Bf 109 "the skinny one" (худо́й, khudoy), for its sleek appearance compared, for example, to the more robust Fw 190.

The names "Anton", "Berta", "Caesar", "Dora", "Emil", "Friedrich", "Gustav", and "Kurfürst" were derived from the variant's official letter designation (e.g. Bf 109G – "Gustav"), based on the German spelling alphabet of World War II, a practice that was also used for other German aircraft designs.[42] The G-6 variant was nicknamed by Luftwaffe personnel as Die Beule ("the bump/bulge") because of the cowling's characteristic, bulging covers for the breeches of the 13 mm (.51 in) MG 131 machine guns, with the separate Beule covers eliminated by the time of the G-10 model's introduction of a subtly reshaped upper cowling.

Record-setting flights

Bf 109G-10 (Messerschmitt foundation) flight demonstration

In July 1937, not long after the public debut of the new fighter, three Bf 109Bs took part in the Flugmeeting airshow in Zürich under the command of Major Seidemann. They won in several categories: First prize in a speed race over a 202 km course, first prize in the class A category in the international Alpenrundflug for military aircraft, and victory in the international Patrouillenflug category.[17] On 11 November 1937, the Bf 109 V13, D-IPKY flown by Messerschmitt's chief pilot Dr. Hermann Wurster, powered by a 1,230 kW (1,650 hp) DB 601R racing engine, set a new world air speed record for landplanes with piston engines of 610.95 km/h (379.62 mph), winning the title for Germany for the first time. Converted from a Bf 109D, the V13 had been fitted with a special racing DB 601R engine that could deliver 1,230 kW (1,650 hp) for short periods.[43][44][nb 5]

Heinkel, having had the He 112 rejected in the design competition of 1936, designed and built the He 100. On 6 June 1938, the He 100 V3, flown by Ernst Udet, captured the record with a speed of 634.7 km/h (394.4 mph). On 30 March 1939, test pilot Hans Dieterle surpassed that record, reaching 746.61 km/h (463.92 mph) with the He 100 V8. Messerschmitt, however, soon regained the lead when, on 26 April 1939, Flugkapitän Fritz Wendel, flying the Me 209 V1, set a new record of 755.14 km/h (469.22 mph). For propaganda purposes, the Me 209 V1 aircraft (possibly from its post-July 1938 first flight date) was given the designation Me 109R, with the later prefix, never used for wartime Bf 109 fighters.[45] The Me 209 V1 was powered by the DB 601ARJ, producing 1,156 kW (1,550 hp), but capable of reaching 1,715 kW (2,300 hp). This world record for a piston-engined aircraft was to stand until 1969,[46] when Darryl Greenamyer's modified Grumman F8F Bearcat, Conquest I, broke it with a 777 km/h (483 mph) record speed.[47]


Bf 109E-3 in flight, 1940

When the Bf 109 was designed in 1934, by a team led by Willy Messerschmitt and Robert Lusser,[48] its primary role was that of a high-speed, short range interceptor.[49] It used the most advanced aerodynamics of the time and embodied advanced structural design which was ahead of its contemporaries.[50] In the early years of the war, the Bf 109 was the only single-engined fighter operated by the Luftwaffe, until the appearance of the Fw 190. The 109 remained in production from 1937 through 1945 in many different variants and sub-variants. The primary engines used were the Daimler-Benz DB 601 and DB 605, though the Junkers Jumo 210 powered most of the pre-war variants. The most-produced Bf 109 model was the 109G series (more than a third of all 109s built were the G-6 series, 12,000 units being manufactured from March 1943 until the end of the war).[51] The initial production models of the A, B, C and D series were powered by the relatively low-powered, 670–700 PS (660–690 HP) Junkers Jumo 210 series engines. A few prototypes of these early aircraft were converted to use the more powerful DB 600.[52]

The first redesign came with the E series, including the naval variant, the Bf 109T (T standing for Träger, carrier). The Bf 109E (Emil) introduced structural changes to accommodate the heavier and more powerful 1,100 PS (1,085 HP) Daimler-Benz DB 601 engine, heavier armament and increased fuel capacity. Partly due to its limited 300 km (186 mile) combat radius on internal fuel alone, resulting from its 660 km (410 mile) range limit, later variants of the E series had a fuselage ordnance rack for fighter-bomber operations or provision for a long-range, standardized 300 litre (79 US gallon) drop-tank and used the DB 601N engine of higher power output.[5][53] The 109E first saw service with the "Condor Legion" during the last phase of the Spanish Civil War and was the main variant from the beginning of World War II until mid-1941 when the 109F replaced it in the pure fighter role.[54] (Eight 109Es were assembled in Switzerland in 1946 by the Dornier-Werke, using licence built airframes; a ninth airframe was assembled using spare parts.)[55]

Bf 109F-4 of JG 3 near Reims, France

The second big redesign during 1939–40 gave birth to the F series. The Friedrich had new wings, cooling system and fuselage aerodynamics, with the 1,175 PS (1,159 HP) DB 601N (F-1, F-2) or the 1,350 PS (1,332 HP) DB 601E (F-3, F-4). Considered by many as the high-water mark of Bf 109 development, the F series abandoned the wing cannon and concentrated all armament in the forward fuselage with a pair of synchronized machine guns above and a single 15 or 20 mm Motorkanone-mount cannon behind the engine, the latter firing between the cylinder banks and through the propeller hub, itself covered by a more streamlined, half-elliptical shaped spinner that better matched the streamlining of the reshaped cowling, abandoning the smaller, conical spinner of the Emil subtype. The F-type also omitted the earlier stabilizer lift strut on either side of the tail. The improved aerodynamics were used by all later variants. Some Bf 109Fs were used late in the Battle of Britain in 1940 but the variant came into common use only in the first half of 1941.[56]

Bf 109 Gustav cockpit

The G series, or Gustav, was introduced in mid-1942. Its initial variants (G-1 through G-4) differed only in minor details from the Bf 109F, most notably in the more powerful 1,475 PS (1,455 HP) DB 605 engine. Odd-numbered variants were built as high-altitude fighters with a pressurized cockpit and GM-1 boost, while even-numbered variants were un-pressurized, air superiority fighters and fighter-bombers. Long-range photo-reconnaissance variants also existed. The later G series (G-5 through G-14) was produced in a multitude of variants, with uprated armament and provision for kits of packaged, generally factory-installed parts known as Umrüst-Bausätze (usually contracted to Umbau) and adding a "/U" suffix to the aircraft designation when installed. Field kits known as Rüstsätze were also available for the G-series but those did not change the aircraft title. By early 1944, tactical requirements resulted in the addition of MW-50 water injection boost and high-performance superchargers, boosting engine output to 1,800–2,000 PS (1,775–1,973 HP). From early 1944, some G-2s, G-3s, G-4s and G-6s were converted to two-seat trainers, known as G-12s. An instructor's cockpit was added behind the original cockpit and both were covered by an elongated, glazed canopy.[57]

The final production version of the Bf 109 was the K series or Kurfürst, introduced in late 1944, powered by the DB 605D engine with up to 2,000 PS (1,973 HP). Though externally akin to the late production Bf 109G series, a large number of internal changes and aerodynamic improvements were incorporated that improved its effectiveness and remedied flaws, keeping it competitive with the latest Allied and Soviet fighters.[6][58] The Bf 109's outstanding rate of climb was superior to many Allied adversaries including the P-51D Mustang, Spitfire Mk. XIV and Hawker Tempest Mk. V.[59]

After the war, the 109 was built in Czechoslovakia, as the Avia S-99 and Avia S-199 (with twenty-five S-199s serving with Israel in 1948) and in Spain as the Hispano Aviación Ha 1109 and Ha 1112.[60]


Assembly of Bf 109G-6s in a German aircraft factory.

Total Bf 109 production was 33,984 units;[2] wartime production (September 1939 to May 1945) was 30,573 units. Fighter production totalled 47% of all German aircraft production, and the Bf 109 accounted for 57% of all German fighter types produced.[61] A total of 2,193 Bf 109 A–E was built prewar, from 1936 to August 1939.[citation needed]

In January 1943, as part of an effort to increase fighter production, Messerschmitt licensed an SS-owned company, DEST, to manufacture Bf 109 parts at Flossenbürg concentration camp. Messerschmitt provided skilled technicians, raw materials, and tools and the SS provided prisoners, in a deal that proved highly profitable for both parties. Production at Flossenbürg started in February.[62] The number of prisoners working for Messerschmitt increased greatly after the bombing of Messerschmitt's Regensburg plant on 17 August 1943.[63] , a subcontractor of Messerschmitt, established Flossenbürg subcamps to support its production: a subcamp at Johanngeorgenstadt, established in December 1943, to produce tailplanes for the Bf 109, and another subcamp at Mülsen-St. Micheln which produced Bf 109 wings, in January 1944.[64] The Flossenbürg camp system had become a key supplier of Bf 109 parts by February 1944, when Messerschmitt's Regensburg plant was bombed again during "Big Week". Increased production at Flossenbürg was essential to restoring production in the aftermath of the attacks.[64]

The Austrian resistance group, led by Heinrich Maier, very successfully passed on plans and production facilities in the Austrian area for Messerschmitt Bf 109 to the Allies from 1943. With the location of the production sites, the Allied bombers were able to attempt "precise" air strikes.[65][66][67][68]

After the August 1943 Regensburg raid, some Bf 109 production was relocated to Gusen concentration camp in Austria,[69][70] where the average prisoner's life expectancy was six months.[71] In order to make the new production facilities bomb-proof, other prisoners were forced to build tunnels so that production could be relocated underground. Many died while performing this hazardous duty.[72] By mid-1944, more than a third of the production at the Regensburg factory originated in Flossenbürg and Gusen alone; only the final assembly was done in Regensburg.[69][64] Separately, Erla employed thousands of concentration camp prisoners at Buchenwald on 109 production.[73] Forced labor at Buchenwald produced approximately 300 Bf 109 fuselages, tail sections, and wings before the end of the war.[73]

Some 865 Bf 109G derivatives were manufactured postwar under licence as Czechoslovak-built Avia S-99 and S-199s, with the production ending in 1948.[3] Production of the Spanish-built Hispano Aviación HA-1109 and HA-1112 Buchons ended in 1958.[3]

New-production Messerschmitt Bf 109 fighters, 1936–45.[74]
Factory, location Up to 1939 1939 1940 1941 1942 1943 1944 1945* Totals*
Messerschmitt GmbH, Regensburg 203 486 2,164 6,329 1,241 10,423
Arado, Warnemünde 370 370
Erla Maschinenwerk,
683 875 2,015 4,472 1,018 9,063
Gerhard-Fieseler-Werke, Kassel 155 155
W.N.F., Wiener Neustadt 836 1,297 2,200 3,081 541 7,892
Győri Vagon- és Gépgyár, Győr 39 270 309
AGO, Oschersleben
(switched to Fw 190A production)
381 381
Totals 1,860 1,540 1,868 2,628 2,658 6,418 14,152 2,800 33,984

* Production up to end of March 1945 only.

Variant[75] Amount Years produced
Bf 109A 22 1937 - 1938
Bf 109B 341 1937 - 1938
Bf 109C 58 1938 spring - 1938 late
Bf 109D 647 1938 - 1939
Bf 109E-1 1,183 1938 late - 1940
Bf 109E-3 1,276 1939 - 1940
Bf 109E-4 561 1939 - 1940
Bf 109E-5 19 1939 - 1940
Bf 109E-7 438 1940 August - 1941
Bf 109F-1 208 1940 July - 1941 January
Bf 109F-2 1,380 1940 October - 1941 August
Bf 109 F-3 15 1940 October - 1941 January
Bf 109F-4 1,841 1941 May - 1942 May
Bf 109F-5 1 1940 October
Bf 109G-1 167 1942 February - June
Bf 109G-2 1,586 1942 May - 1943 February
Bf 109G-3 50 1943 January
Bf 109G-4 1,242 1942 September - 1943 May
Bf 109G-5 475 1943 February - 1944 June
Bf 109G-6 ~5000+ 1943 February-1943 August - October
Bf 109G-6 with Erla Hood ~2000+ 1943 June - July - 1944 January
Bf 109G-6 with Erla Hood,
larger tail, and MW-50
~5,000+ 1944 January - 1944 July
Bf 109G-6/AS with MW-50 226 produced + 460 converted 1944 April - 1944 August
Bf 109G-8 906 1943 August-1945 February
Bf 109G-10 2,600+ 1944 October - 1945 March
Bf 109G-10/AS 100 1944 October - 1944 November
Bf 109G-12 500 planned[nb 6]/converted 1944 January - 1944 July
Bf 109G-14 5,500+ 1944 July - 1945 February
Bf 109G-14/AS ~1,373+ 1944 July[76] - 1945 March
Bf 109K-4 1,500+ 1944 August - 1945 March
Bf 109K-6 1 prototype 1944 Autumn
Totals 37,303 with conversions -

Operational history

Bf 109A from the Condor Legion during Spanish Civil War (1936–1939)

The first Bf 109As served in the Spanish Civil War. By September 1939, the Bf 109 had become the main fighter of the Luftwaffe, replacing the biplane fighters, and was instrumental in gaining air superiority for the Wehrmacht during the early stages of the war. During the Battle of Britain, it was pressed into the role of escort fighter, a role for which it was not originally designed, and it was widely employed as a fighter-bomber, as well as a photo-reconnaissance platform. Despite mixed results over Britain, with the introduction of the improved Bf 109F in early 1941, the type again proved to be an effective fighter during the Invasion of Yugoslavia (where it was used by both sides), the Battle of Crete, Operation Barbarossa (the invasion of the USSR) and the Siege of Malta.

In 1942, it began to be partially replaced in Western Europe by a new German fighter, the Focke-Wulf Fw 190, but it continued to serve in a multitude of roles on the Eastern Front and in the Defense of the Reich, as well as in the Mediterranean Theatre of Operations and with Erwin Rommel's Afrikakorps. It was also supplied to several of Germany's allies, including Italy, Finland, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria, Croatia and Slovakia.

More aerial kills were made with the Bf 109 than any other aircraft of World War II.[77] Many of the aerial victories were accomplished against poorly trained and badly organized Soviet forces in 1941 during Operation Barbarossa. The Soviets lost 21,200 aircraft at this time, about half to combat.[78] If shot down, the Luftwaffe pilots might land or parachute to friendly territory and return to fight again. Later in the war, when Allied victories began to bring the fight closer, and then in German territory, bombing raids supplied plenty of targets for the Luftwaffe. This unique combination of events — until a major change in American fighter tactics occurred very early in 1944, that steadily gave the Allies daylight air supremacy over the Reich — led to the highest-ever individual pilot victory scores.[79] One hundred and five Bf 109 pilots were each credited with the destruction of 100 or more enemy aircraft.[nb 7] Thirteen of these men scored more than 200 kills, while two scored more than 300. Altogether, this group of pilots was credited with a total of nearly 15,000 kills.[77] Though no official "ace" status existed in the Luftwaffe - the term Experte (expert) was used for an experienced pilot irrespective of his number of kills - using the Allied definition of pilots who scored five or more kills, more than 2,500 Luftwaffe fighter pilots were considered aces in World War II.[80] Against the Soviets, Finnish-flown Bf 109Gs claimed a victory ratio of 25:1.[81]

Bf 109s remained in foreign service for many years after World War II. The Swiss used their Bf 109Gs well into the 1950s. The Finnish Air Force did not retire their Bf 109Gs until March 1954. Romania used its Bf 109s until 1955. The Spanish Hispanos flew even longer. Some were still in service in the late 1960s. They appeared in films (notably Battle of Britain) playing the role of Bf 109Es. Some Hispano airframes were sold to museums, which rebuilt them as Bf 109s.


Note, this list includes operators who used Bf 109s for active service or combat. It does not include the United States, the United Kingdom, France and the Soviet Union, which all operated small numbers of captured aircraft for testing and evaluation (see: Messerschmitt Bf 109 operational history#Allied Bf 109s).

Finnish Messerschmitt Bf 109G-2s during the Continuation War
Romanian Messerschmitt Bf 109 at Stalingrad
S-199 782358 IAFM
Hispano Aviación HA-1112 Buchon, the second and last Spanish version built by Hispano Aviación
A Bf 109E-3 of the Swiss Air Force at the Flieger-Flab-Museum
Bf 109G-2 14792
Yugoslavian Aviation Museum
Bf 109E-7 of the Imperial Japanese Army Air Force in November 1941
 Independent State of Croatia
  • Czechoslovak Air Force operated captured aircraft and continued building Messerschmitt Bf 109Gs after the war under the Avia S-99 name, but soon ran out of the 109's Daimler-Benz DB 605 engine after many were destroyed during an explosion at a warehouse in Krásné Březno.
  • Finnish Air Force ordered 162 aircraft (48 G-2s, 111 G-6s and three G-8s) from Germany, but 3 were destroyed during transit, leaving the FAF with 159 Bf 109s. FAF pilots had 663 air victories during 1943–44 with Bf-109 G's and lost 34 in combat (20 shot down by enemy aircraft). 23 were non-combat losses and other write-offs. 102 Bf-109 G survived the war.
 Nazi Germany
  • Luftwaffe was the main operator of the Bf 109.
  • Israeli Air Force operated the Avia S-199 derivative, bought from Czechoslovakia. Despite the type's shortcomings the Israelis scored 8 victories. Egypt and Syria claimed 4 S-199 kills, and 1 probable.[82]
 Italian Social Republic
Slovakia Slovak Republic
 Spanish State
  • Spanish Air Force operated some D-1s, E-3s and 15 F-4s, and may have received several older B-types. Volunteers of Escuadrilla Azul on the Eastern Front operated E-4, E-7, E-7/B, F-2, F-4 (belonged in JG-27 under the command of Luftflotte 2, until April 1943) among G-4 and G-6 (detached in JG-51 under the command Luftflotte 4, until June 1944). A variant under license by the name Hispano Aviación HA-1112 was produced until 1958.

Surviving aircraft

Specifications (Bf 109G-6)

Orthographically projected diagram of the Bf 109G-6.

Data from The Great Book of Fighters[85] and the Finnish Air Force Bf 109 Manual[citation needed]

General characteristics

  • Crew: 1
  • Length: 8.95 m (29 ft 4 in)
  • Wingspan: 9.925 m (32 ft 7 in)
  • Height: 2.6 m (8 ft 6 in)
  • Wing area: 16.05 m2 (172.8 sq ft)
  • Airfoil: NACA 2R1 14.2; tip: NACA 2R1 11.35[86]
  • Empty weight: 2,247 kg (4,954 lb)
  • Gross weight: 3,148 kg (6,940 lb)
  • Max takeoff weight: 3,400 kg (7,496 lb)
  • Powerplant: 1 × Daimler-Benz DB 605A-1 V-12 inverted liquid-cooled piston engine 1,475 PS (1,455 hp; 1,085 kW)
  • Propellers: 3-bladed VDM 9-12087, 3 m (9 ft 10 in) diameter light-alloy constant-speed propeller


  • Maximum speed: 520 km/h (320 mph, 280 kn) at sea level
588 km/h (365 mph; 317 kn) at 4,000 m (13,123 ft)
640 km/h (400 mph; 350 kn) at 6,300 m (20,669 ft)[87]
622 km/h (386 mph; 336 kn) at 8,000 m (26,247 ft)[87]
  • Cruise speed: 590 km/h (370 mph, 320 kn) at 6,000 m (19,685 ft)
  • Range: 880–1,144 km (547–711 mi, 475–618 nmi)
  • Combat range: 440–572 km (273–355 mi, 238–309 nmi) 440-572 km to the front and back home
  • Ferry range: 1,144–1,994 km (711–1,239 mi, 618–1,077 nmi) 1144 without and 1994 with droptank
  • Service ceiling: 12,000 m (39,000 ft)
  • Rate of climb: 17 m/s (3,300 ft/min)
  • Wing loading: 196 kg/m2 (40 lb/sq ft)
  • Power/mass: 0.344 kW/kg (0.209 hp/lb)


  • Guns:
    • 2 × 13 mm (.51 in) synchronized MG 131 machine guns with 300 rpg
    • 1 × 20 mm (.78 in) MG 151/20 cannon as centerline Motorkanone with 200 rpg [88] or
    • 1 x 30 mm (1.18 in) MK 108 cannon as centerline Motorkanone with 65 rpg (G-6/U4 variant)
    • 2 × 20 mm MG 151/20 underwing cannon pods with 135 rpg (optional kit—Rüstsatz VI)
  • Rockets: 2 × 21 cm (8 in) Wfr. Gr. 21 rockets (G-6 with BR21)
  • Bombs: 1 × 250 kg (551 lb) bomb or 4 × 50 kg (110 lb) bombs or 1 × 300-litre (79 US gal) drop tank

FuG 16Z radio

See also

Related development

Aircraft of comparable role, configuration, and era

Related lists



  1. ^ In 1929 Milch, then managing director of Deutsche Luft Hansa cancelled an order for 10 Messerschmitt M20b light transport aircraft after Hans Hackman, a close friend of Milch, was killed testing the prototype.[10]
  2. ^ This aircraft was instrumental in testing the Rolls-Royce PV-12, later to become the Rolls-Royce Merlin
  3. ^ The engine's mass helped buffer the recoil. British reports on captured DB 601 series engines describe "a double-walled cannon tube housing" as part of the crankcase. Few if any Bf 109s used weapons firing through the propeller hub before the F-series, which mounted 15 mm (.59 in) and 20 mm weapons.[31]
  4. ^ Galland also flew another F-2/U1 in which the MG 17s above the engine were replaced by 13 mm MG 131s
  5. ^ World speed records and other aviation records were and still are set by the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI). A record attempt must be made over a recognized course at a set altitude to be considered. The Bf 109 and 209s came under the category "CLASS C, GROUP 1d""FAI record (current)." fai.org. Retrieved: 29 April 2008.
  6. ^ The exact amount of Bf 109G-12s built is unknown as war-weary G-2, G-4, and G-6 airframes were converted or rebuilt to produce this variant.
  7. ^ Some sources state one hundred and nine pilots were credited with more than 100 enemy aircraft.[citation needed]


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  4. ^ a b Green 1980, pp. 7, 13.
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  6. ^ a b Radinger and Otto 1999, pp. 35–37.
  7. ^ a b Zobel and Mathmann 1995, p. 3.
  8. ^ a b c d e f Ritger 2006, p. 6.
  9. ^ Kobel and Mathmann 1997, p. 3.
  10. ^ Green 1980, pp. 11–12.
  11. ^ Beaman and Campbell 1980, p. 13.
  12. ^ Green 1980, pp. 18–21.
  13. ^ Green 1980, p. 14.
  14. ^ Caidin 1968[page needed]
  15. ^ Green 1980, pp. 15–17.
  16. ^ Feist 1993, p. 14.
  17. ^ a b Nowarra 1993, p. 190.
  18. ^ Cross and Scarborough 1976, pp. 56–66.
  19. ^ a b c d Cross and Scarborough 1976, pp. 60–61.
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  • Kulikov, Victor (March 2000). "Des occasions en or pour Staline, ou les avions allemands en URSS" [Golden Opportunities for Stalin, or German Aircraft in the USSR]. Avions: Toute l'Aéronautique et son histoire (in French) (84): 16–23. ISSN 1243-8650.
  • Kulikov, Victor (April 2000). "Des occasions en or pour Staline, ou les avions allemands en URSS". Avions: Toute l'Aéronautique et son histoire (in French) (85): 44–49. ISSN 1243-8650.
  • Mankau, Heinz and Peter Petrick. Messerschmitt Bf 110, Me 210, Me 410. Raumfahrt, Germany: Aviatic Verlag, 2001. ISBN 3-925505-62-8.
  • Marshall, Francis L. Messerschmitt Bf 109T "Die Jäger der Graf Zeppelin". Gilching, Germany: Marshall-Verlag, 2002. ISBN 3-00-008220-4.
  • Marshall, Francis L. Sea Eagles: The Messerschmitt Bf 109T. Walton on Thames, Surrey, UK: Air Research Publications, 1994. ISBN 1-871187-23-0.
  • Mason, Francis K. Messerschmitt Bf 109B, C, D, E in Luftwaffe & Foreign service. London: Osprey Publishing Limited, 1973. ISBN 0-85045-152-3.
  • Massimello, Giovanni and Giorgio Apostolo. Italian Aces of World War Two. Oxford/New York, Osprey Publishing, 2000. ISBN 978-1-84176-078-0.
  • Mermet, Jean-Claude. Messerschmitt Bf 109 G-1 through K-4. Engines and Fittings. Marnaz, France: Jean Claude Mermet SA, 1999.
  • Messerschmitt AG. Messerschmitt Bf 109G; technisch Kompendium, Handbücher, Ersatztelliste, Bewaffnung Bedienungsvorschrift/Fl, Bordfunkanlage, Lehrbildreihe; 1942/1944. [Elektronische Resource] (Reprint) Ludwigsburg, Germany: Luftfahrt-Archiv, 2006. ISBN 3-939847-13-5 .
  • Messerschmitt AG. Messerschmitt Bf 109K; technisch Kompendium, Handbüch, Ersatztelliste, Rep.-Answeisung, Bewaffnung Bedienungsvorschrift; 1943–1944. [Elektronische Resource] (Reprint). Ludwigsburg, Germany: Luftfahrt-Archiv, 2006. ISBN 3-939847-14-3.
  • Morgan, Eric B. and Edward Shacklady. Spitfire: The History. Stamford, UK: Key Books Ltd, 2000. ISBN 0-946219-48-6.
  • Neulen, Hans Werner. In the Skies of Europe. Ramsbury, Marlborough, UK: The Crowood Press, 2000. ISBN 1-86126-799-1.
  • Nowarra, Heinz. Die Deutsche Luftrustung 1933–1945, Band 3: Flugzeugtypen Henschel-Messerschmitt. Koblenz, Germany: Bernard & Graefe, 1993. ISBN 3-7637-5467-9.
  • Osché, Philippe (translated by Patrick Laureau). The Messerschmitt Bf 109 in Swiss Service. Boulogne sur Mer, France: Lela Presse, 1996. ISBN 2-914017-31-6.
  • Prien, Jochen and Peter Rodeike. Messerschmitt Bf 109 F, G & K Series: An Illustrated Study. Atglen, Pennsylvania: Schiffer Publishing Ltd., 1995. ISBN 0-88740-424-3.
  • Price, Alfred. Spitfire Mk. I/II Aces (Osprey's Aircraft of the Aces). London: Osprey, 1996. ISBN 84-8372-207-0.
  • Punka, György. "Messer" : the Messerschmitt 109 in the Royal Hungarian "Honvéd" Air Force. Budapest, Hungary: OMIKK, 1995. ISBN 9789635932160.
  • Radinger, Willy and Walter Schick. Messerschmitt Me 109 (Alle Varianten: vion Bf (Me) 109A bis Me 109E). Oberhaching, Germany: Aviatic Verlag GmbH, 1997. ISBN 3-925505-32-6.
  • Radinger, Willy and Wolfgang Otto. Messerschmitt Bf 109 F-K – Development, testing, production. Atglen, PA: Schiffer Publishing Ltd., 1999. ISBN 0-7643-1023-2.
  • Rimmell, Ray. ME 109: Messerschmitt Bf 109E. Chipping Ongar, Essex, UK: Linewrights Ltd., 1986. ISBN 0-946958-18-1.
  • Ritger, Lynn. Meserschmitt Bf 109 Prototype to 'E' Variants. Bedford, UK: SAM Publications, 2006. ISBN 978-0-9551858-0-9.
  • Savic, D. and B. Ciglic. Croatian Aces of World War II (Osprey Aircraft of the Aces 49). Oxford, UK: Oxford, 2002. ISBN 1-84176-435-3.
  • Scutts, Jerry. Bf 109 Aces of North Africa and the Mediterranean. Oxford, UK: Osprey Publishing, 1994. ISBN 978-1-85532-448-0.
  • Shores, C., B. Cull and N. Malizia. Air War for Yugoslavia, Greece & Crete – 1940–41. London: Grub Street, 1987. ISBN 0-948817-07-0.
  • Starr, Chris. "Developing Power: Daimler-Benz and the Messerschmitt Bf 109." Aeroplane magazine, Volume 33, No. 5, Issue No 385, May 2005. London: IPC Media Ltd.
  • Stenman, Kari and Kalevi Keskinen. Finnish Aces of World War 2 (Osprey Aircraft of the Aces 23). London: Osprey Publishing Limited, 1998. ISBN 1-85532-783-X.
  • Taylor, John W.R. "Messerschmitt Bf 109". Combat Aircraft of the World from 1909 to the present. New York: G.P. Putnam's Sons, 1969. ISBN 0-425-03633-2.
  • Thompson, J. Steve with Peter. C Smith. Air Combat Manoeuvres. Hersham, Surrey, UK: Ian Allan Publishing, 2008. ISBN 978-1-903223-98-7.
  • U.S. Army Air Force. German Aircraft and Armament: Informational Intelligence, Summary No. 44–32, October 1944 (Informational Intelligence Summary). New York: Brassey's Inc., 2000 (first edition 1944). ISBN 1-57488-291-0.
  • Uziel, Daniel (2011). Arming the Luftwaffe: The German Aviation Industry in World War II. Jefferson: McFarland. ISBN 9780786488797.
  • Vajda, Ferenc A.; Dancey, Peter (1998). German Aircraft Industry and Production, 1933–1945. McFarland. ISBN 9781853108648.
  • Valtonen, Hannu. Messerschmitt Bf 109 ja saksan sotatalous (Messerschmitt Bf 109 and the German War Economy). Helsinki, Finland: Keski-Suomen Ilmailumuseo (Central Finnish Aviation Museum), 1999. ISBN 978-951-95688-7-4.
  • Vogt, Harald. Messerschmitt Bf 109 G/K Rüstsatze. Flugzeug Profile 21. Illertissen, Flugzeug Publikations GmbH.
  • Wagner, Ray and Heinz Nowarra. German Combat Planes: A Comprehensive Survey and History of the Development of German Military Aircraft from 1914 to 1945. New York: Doubleday, 1971.
  • Weal, John. Bf 109 Aces of the Russian Front. Oxford, UK: Osprey, 2001. ISBN 978-1-84176-084-1.
  • Weal, John. BF 109D/E Aces 1939–41. Oxford, UK: Osprey, 1996. ISBN 978-1-85532-487-9.
  • Weal, John. Bf 109F/G/K Aces of the Western Front. Oxford, UK: Osprey, 2000. ISBN 978-1-85532-905-8.
  • Winchester, Jim. "Messerschmitt Bf 109." Aircraft of World War II: The Aviation Factfile. Kent, UK: Grange Books plc, 2004. ISBN 1-84013-639-1.
  • Wolf, Manuel. Luftkrieg über Europa 1939–1945, die Angst im Nacken (in German). Stuttgart: Motorbuch-Verlag, 2009. ISBN 978-3-613-03084-8.

Further reading

  • Beale, Nick, Ferdinando D'Amico and Gabriele Valentini. Air War Italy: Axis Air Forces from Liberation of Rome to the Surrender. Shrewsbury, UK: Airlife, 1996. ISBN 1-85310-252-0.
  • Bergström, Christer and Martin Pegg. Jagdwaffe: The War in Russia, January–October 1942. Luftwaffe Colours, Volume 3 Section 4. London: Classic Colours Publications, 2003. ISBN 1-903223-23-7.

External links

15 September 1935

The Nuremberg Laws deprive German Jews of citizenship.

Title page of the German government gazette Reichsgesetzblatt issue proclaiming the laws, published on 16 September 1935 (RGB I No. 100)

The Nuremberg Laws (German: Nürnberger Gesetze, pronounced [ˈnʏʁnbɛʁɡɐ ɡəˈzɛt͡sə] (About this soundlisten)) were antisemitic and racist laws that were enacted in Nazi Germany on 15 September 1935, at a special meeting of the Reichstag convened during the annual Nuremberg Rally of the Nazi Party. The two laws were the Law for the Protection of German Blood and German Honour, which forbade marriages and extramarital intercourse between Jews and Germans and the employment of German females under 45 in Jewish households, and the Reich Citizenship Law, which declared that only those of German or related blood were eligible to be Reich citizens. The remainder were classed as state subjects without any citizenship rights. A supplementary decree outlining the definition of who was Jewish was passed on 14 November, and the Reich Citizenship Law officially came into force on that date. The laws were expanded on 26 November 1935 to include Romani and Black people. This supplementary decree defined Romanis as "enemies of the race-based state", the same category as Jews.

Out of foreign policy concerns, prosecutions under the two laws did not commence until after the 1936 Summer Olympics, held in Berlin. After the Nazis seized power in 1933, they began to implement their policies, which included the formation of a Volksgemeinschaft (people's community) based on race. Chancellor and Führer (leader) Adolf Hitler declared a national boycott of Jewish businesses on 1 April 1933, and the Law for the Restoration of the Professional Civil Service, passed on 7 April, excluded non-Aryans from the legal profession and civil service. Books considered un-German, including those by Jewish authors, were destroyed in a nationwide book burning on 10 May. Jewish citizens were harassed and subjected to violent attacks. They were actively suppressed, stripped of their citizenship and civil rights, and eventually completely removed from German society.

The Nuremberg Laws had a crippling economic and social impact on the Jewish community. Persons convicted of violating the marriage laws were imprisoned, and (subsequent to 8 March 1938) upon completing their sentences were re-arrested by the Gestapo and sent to Nazi concentration camps. Non-Jews gradually stopped socialising with Jews or shopping in Jewish-owned stores, many of which closed due to lack of customers. As Jews were no longer permitted to work in the civil service or government-regulated professions such as medicine and education, many middle class business owners and professionals were forced to take menial employment. Emigration was problematic, as Jews were required to remit up to 90% of their wealth as a tax upon leaving the country. By 1938 it was almost impossible for potential Jewish emigrants to find a country willing to take them. Mass deportation schemes such as the Madagascar Plan proved to be impossible for the Nazis to carry out, and starting in mid-1941, the German government started mass exterminations of the Jews of Europe.


The Nazi Party was one of several far-right political parties active in Germany after the end of the First World War.[1] The party platform included removal of the Weimar Republic, rejection of the terms of the Treaty of Versailles, radical antisemitism, and anti-Bolshevism.[2] They promised a strong central government, increased Lebensraum (living space) for Germanic peoples, formation of a Volksgemeinschaft (people's community) based on race, and racial cleansing via the active suppression of Jews, who would be stripped of their citizenship and civil rights.[3]

While imprisoned in 1924 after the failed Beer Hall Putsch, Hitler dictated Mein Kampf to his deputy, Rudolf Hess.[4] The book is an autobiography and exposition of Hitler's ideology in which he laid out his plans for transforming German society into one based on race. In it he outlined his belief in Jewish Bolshevism, a conspiracy theory that posited the existence of an international Jewish conspiracy for world domination in which the Jews were the mortal enemy of the German people. Throughout his life Hitler never wavered in his world view as expounded in Mein Kampf.[5] The Nazi Party advocated the concept of a Volksgemeinschaft ("people's community") with the aim of uniting all Germans as national comrades, whilst excluding those deemed either to be community aliens or of a foreign race (Fremdvölkische).[6]

Nazi Germany

Members of the SA picket in front of a Jewish place of business during the Nazi boycott of Jewish businesses, 1 April 1933.

Discrimination against Jews intensified after the Nazis seized power; following a month-long series of attacks by members of the Sturmabteilung (SA; paramilitary wing of the Nazi Party) on Jewish businesses, synagogues, and members of the legal profession, on 1 April 1933 Hitler declared a national boycott of Jewish businesses.[7] By 1933, many people who were not Nazi Party members advocated segregating Jews from the rest of German society.[8] The Law for the Restoration of the Professional Civil Service, passed on 7 April 1933, forced all non-Aryans to retire from the legal profession and civil service.[9] Similar legislation soon deprived Jewish members of other professions of their right to practise.[9] In 1934, the Nazi Party published a pamphlet titled "Warum Arierparagraph?" ("Why the Aryan Law?"), which summarised the perceived need for the law.[10] As part of the drive to remove Jewish influence from cultural life, members of the National Socialist Student League removed from libraries any books considered un-German, and a nationwide book burning was held on 10 May.[11] Violence and economic pressure were used by the regime to encourage Jews to voluntarily leave the country.[12] Legislation passed in July 1933 stripped naturalised German Jews of their citizenship, creating a legal basis for recent immigrants (particularly Eastern European Jews) to be deported.[9] Many towns posted signs forbidding entry to Jews.[13] Throughout 1933 and 1934, Jewish businesses were denied access to markets, forbidden to advertise in newspapers, and deprived of access to government contracts. Citizens were harassed and subjected to violent attacks.[14]

Other laws promulgated in this period included the Law for the Prevention of Hereditarily Diseased Offspring (passed on 14 July 1933), which called for the compulsory sterilisation of people with a range of hereditary, physical, and mental illnesses.[15] Under the Law against Dangerous Habitual Criminals (passed 24 November 1933), habitual criminals were forced to undergo sterilisation as well.[16] This law was also used to force the incarceration in prison or Nazi concentration camps of "social misfits" such as the chronically unemployed, prostitutes, beggars, alcoholics, homeless vagrants, black people and Romani (referred to as "Gypsies").[17][18]

Reich Gypsy Law

The Central Office for Combatting Gypsies was established in 1929.[19] In December 1938 Reichsführer-SS Heinrich Himmler issued an order for "combatting the Gypsy plague". Romanis were to be categorised in terms of their Roma ancestry as a racial characteristic, rather than their previous association as 'anti-social' elements of society.[20] This work was advanced by Dr Robert Ritter of the Racial Hygiene and Population unit of the Ministry of Health, who by 1942, had produced a scale of ZM+, ZM of the first and second degree, and ZM- to reflect an individual's decreasing level of Romani ancestry.[21] This classification meant that one could be classified as Roma and subject to anti-Roma legislation on the basis of having two Roma great-great grandparents.[22] Dr Zindel of the Ministry of the Interior prepared a draft of a Reich "Gypsy Law" intended to supplement and accompany the Nuremberg Laws. According to Zindel, the "Gypsy problem" could not be dealt with by forced resettlement or imprisonment within Germany. He recommended identification and registration of all Roma, followed by sterilisation and deportation. In 1938, public health authorities were ordered to register all Roma and Roma Mischlinge.[23] Despite Himmler's interest in enacting such legislation, which he said would prevent "further intermingling of blood, and which regulates all the most pressing questions which go together with the existences of Gypsies in the living space of the German nation",[24] the regime never promulgated the "Gypsy Law".[25] In December 1942, Himmler ordered that all Roma were to be sent to Nazi concentration camps.[20]

"The Jewish problem"

The SA had nearly three million members at the start of 1934.[26]

Disenchanted with the unfulfilled promise of Nazi Party leaders to eliminate Jews from German society, SA members were eager to lash out against the Jewish minority as a way of expressing their frustrations. A Gestapo report from early 1935 stated that the rank and file of the Nazi Party would set in motion a solution to the "Jewish problem ... from below that the government would then have to follow".[27] Assaults, vandalism, and boycotts against Jews, which the Nazi government had temporarily curbed in 1934, increased again in 1935 amidst a propaganda campaign authorised at the highest levels of government.[27] Most non-party members ignored the boycotts and objected to the violence out of concern for their own safety.[28] The Israeli historian Otto Dov Kulka argues that there was a disparity between the views of the Alte Kämpfer (longtime party members) and the general public, but that even those Germans who were not politically active favoured bringing in tougher new antisemitic laws in 1935.[29] The matter was raised to the forefront of the state agenda as a result of this antisemitic agitation.[30]

The Interior Minister Wilhelm Frick announced on 25 July that a law forbidding marriages between Jews and non-Jews would shortly be promulgated, and recommended that registrars should avoid issuing licences for such marriages for the time being. The draft law also called for a ban on marriage for persons with hereditary illnesses.[31]

Dr. Hjalmar Schacht, the Economics Minister and Reichsbank president, criticised the violent behaviour of the Alte Kämpfer and SA because of its negative impact on the economy.[30] The violence also had a negative impact on Germany's reputation in the international community.[32] For these reasons, Hitler ordered a stop to "individual actions" against German Jews on 8 August 1935, and the Interior Minister Wilhelm Frick threatened to take legal action against Nazi Party members who ignored the order.[30] From Hitler's perspective, it was imperative to quickly bring in new antisemitic laws to appease the radical elements in the party who persisted in attempting to remove the Jews from German society by violent means.[32] A conference of ministers was held on 20 August 1935 to discuss the question. Hitler argued against violent methods because of the damage being done to the economy, and insisted the matter must be settled through legislation.[33] The focus of the new laws would be marriage laws to prevent "racial defilement", stripping Jews of their German citizenship, and laws to prevent Jews from participating freely in the economy.[34]

Events at Nuremberg

Nazi Party dignitaries at the 1935 Nuremberg Rally

The seventh annual Nazi Party Rally, held in Nuremberg from 10 to 16 September 1935, featured the only Reichstag session held outside Berlin during the Nazi regime.[35] Hitler decided that the rally would be a good opportunity to introduce the long-awaited anti-Jewish laws.[36] In a speech on 12 September, leading Nazi physician Gerhard Wagner announced that the government would soon introduce a "law for the protection of German blood".[37] The next day, Hitler summoned the Reichstag to meet in session at Nuremberg on 15 September, the last day of the rally.[36] Franz Albrecht Medicus and Bernhard Lösener of the Interior Ministry were summoned to Nuremberg and directed to start preparing a draft of a law forbidding sexual relations or marriages between Jews and non-Jews. The two men arrived on 14 September.[38] That evening, Hitler ordered them to also have ready by morning a draft of the Reich citizenship law.[34] Hitler found the initial drafts of the Blood Law to be too lenient, so at around midnight Interior Minister Frick brought him four new drafts that differed mainly in the severity of the penalties they imposed. Hitler chose the most lenient version, but left vague the definition of who was a Jew.[39] Hitler stated at the rally that the laws were "an attempt at the legal settlement of a problem, which, if this proved a failure, would have to be entrusted by law to the National Socialist Party for a definitive solution".[40] Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels had the radio broadcast of the passing of the laws cut short, and ordered the German media to not mention them until a decision was made as to how they would be implemented.[41]

Text of the laws

Nuremberg Race Laws
Reich Citizenship Law
Law for the Protection of German Blood and German Honour

The two Nuremberg Laws were unanimously passed by the Reichstag on 15 September 1935.[42] The Law for the Protection of German Blood and German Honour prohibited marriages and extramarital intercourse between Jews and Germans, and forbade the employment of German females under 45 in Jewish households. The Reich Citizenship Law declared that only those of German or related blood were eligible to be Reich citizens; the remainder were classed as state subjects, without citizenship rights.[43] The wording in the Citizenship Law that a person must prove "by his conduct that he is willing and fit to faithfully serve the German people and Reich" meant that political opponents could also be stripped of their German citizenship.[42] This law was effectively a means of stripping Jews, Roma, and other "undesirables" of their legal rights, and their citizenship.[44]

Over the coming years, an additional 13 supplementary laws were promulgated that further marginalised the Jewish community in Germany.[13] For example, Jewish families were not permitted to submit claims for subsidies for large families and were forbidden to transact business with Aryans.[45]

Law for the Protection of German Blood and German Honour

Moved by the understanding that purity of German blood is the essential condition for the continued existence of the German people, and inspired by the inflexible determination to ensure the existence of the German nation for all time, the Reichstag has unanimously adopted the following law, which is promulgated herewith:

Article 1
  1. Marriages between Jews and citizens of German or related blood are forbidden. Marriages nevertheless concluded are invalid, even if concluded abroad to circumvent this law.
  2. Annulment proceedings can be initiated only by the state prosecutor.[46]
Article 2

Extramarital relations between Jews and citizens of German or related blood are forbidden.[46]

Article 3

Jews may not employ in their households female citizens of German or related blood who are under 45 years old.[46]

Article 4
  1. Jews are forbidden to fly the Reich or national flag or display Reich colours.
  2. They are, on the other hand, permitted to display the Jewish colours. The exercise of this right is protected by the state.[46]
Article 5
  1. Any person who violates the prohibition under Article 1 will be punished with prison with hard labour [Zuchthaus].
  2. A male who violates the prohibition under Article 2 will be punished with prison [Gefängnis] or prison with hard labour.
  3. Any person violating the provisions under Articles 3 or 4 will be punished with prison with hard labour for up to one year and a fine, or with one or the other of these penalties.[46]
Article 6

The Reich Minister of the Interior, in co-ordination with the Deputy of the Führer and the Reich Minister of Justice, will issue the legal and administrative regulations required to implement and complete this law.[46]

Article 7

The law takes effect on the day following promulgation, except for Article 3, which goes into force on 1 January 1936.[46]

Reich Citizenship Law

The Reichstag has unanimously enacted the following law, which is promulgated herewith:

Article 1
  1. A subject of the state is a person who enjoys the protection of the German Reich and who in consequence has specific obligations toward it.
  2. The status of subject of the state is acquired in accordance with the provisions of the Reich and the Reich Citizenship Law.[46]
Article 2
  1. A Reich citizen is a subject of the state who is of German or related blood, and proves by his conduct that he is willing and fit to faithfully serve the German people and Reich.
  2. Reich citizenship is acquired through the granting of a Reich citizenship certificate.
  3. The Reich citizen is the sole bearer of full political rights in accordance with the law.[46]
Article 3

The Reich Minister of the Interior, in co-ordination with the Deputy of the Führer, will issue the legal and administrative orders required to implement and complete this law.[46]

Classifications under the laws

Classification Translation Heritage Definition
Deutschblütiger German-blooded German Belongs to the German race and nation; approved to have Reich citizenship
Deutschblütiger German-blooded 18 Jewish Considered as belonging to the German race and nation; approved to have Reich citizenship
Mischling zweiten Grades Mixed race (second degree) 14 Jewish Only partly belongs to the German race and nation; approved to have Reich citizenship
Mischling ersten Grades Mixed race (first degree) 38 or ​12 Jewish Only partly belongs to the German race and nation; approved to have Reich citizenship
Jude Jew 34 Jewish Belongs to the Jewish race and community; not approved to have Reich citizenship
Jude Jew Jewish Belongs to the Jewish race and community; not approved to have Reich citizenship
Special Cases with First Degree Mischlinge[47]
Date Decree
15 September 1935 A Mischling will be considered a Jew if they are a member of the Jewish religious community.
15 September 1935 A Mischling will be considered a Jew if they are married to a Jew. Their children will be considered Jews.
17 September 1935 A mixed-race child that is born of a marriage with a Jew, where the marriage date is after 17 September 1935, will be classified as a Jew. Those born in marriages officiated on or before 17 September 1935 will still be classified as Mischlinge.
31 July 1936 A mixed-race child originating from forbidden extramarital sexual intercourse with a Jew that is born out of wedlock after 31 July 1936 will be classified as a Jew.


1935 chart shows racial classifications under the Nuremberg Laws: German, Mischlinge, and Jew.

While both the Interior Ministry and the Nazi Party agreed that persons with three or more Jewish grandparents would be classed as being Jewish and those with only one (Mischlinge of the second degree) would not, a debate arose as to the status of persons with two Jewish grandparents (Mischlinge of the first degree).[48] The Nazi Party, especially its more radical elements, wanted the laws to apply to Mischlinge of both the first and second degree.[49] For this reason Hitler continued to stall, and did not make a decision until early November 1935. His final ruling was that persons with three Jewish grandparents were classed as Jewish; those with two Jewish grandparents would be considered Jewish only if they practised the faith or had a Jewish spouse.[50] The supplementary decree outlining the definition of who was Jewish was passed on 14 November, and the Reich Citizenship Law came into force on that date. Jews were no longer German citizens and did not have the right to vote.[51] Jews and Gypsies were not allowed to vote in Reichstag elections or the Anschluss.[52] Civil servants who had been granted an exemption to the Law for the Restoration of the Professional Civil Service because of their status as war veterans were forced out of their jobs on this date.[51] A supplementary decree issued on 21 December ordered the dismissal of Jewish veterans from other state-regulated professions such as medicine and education.[51]

While Interior Minister Frick's suggestion that a citizenship tribunal before which every German would have to prove that they were Aryan was not acted upon, proving one's racial heritage became a necessary part of daily life.[49][53] Non-government employers were authorised to include in their statutes an Aryan paragraph excluding both Mischlinge and Jews from employment.[54] Proof of Aryan descent was achieved by obtaining an Aryan certificate. One form was to acquire an Ahnenpass, which could be obtained by providing birth or baptismal certificates that all four grandparents were of Aryan descent.[55] The Ahnenpass could also be acquired by citizens of other countries, as long as they were of "German or related blood".[56]

"Whoever wears this sign is an enemy of our people" – Parole der Woche, 1 July 1942

Under the Law for the Protection of German Blood and German Honour (15 September 1935), marriages were forbidden between Jews and Germans; between Mischlinge of the first degree and Germans; between Jews and Mischlinge of the second degree; and between two Mischlinge of the second degree. Mischlinge of the first degree were permitted to marry Jews, but they would henceforth be classed as Jewish themselves. All marriages undertaken between half-Jews and Germans required the approval of a Committee for the Protection of German Blood. Few such permissions were granted.[54] A supplementary decree issued on 26 November 1935 extended the law to "Gypsies, Negroes, and their bastards".[57]

Persons suspected of having sexual relations with non-Aryans were charged with Rassenschande (racial defilement) and tried in the regular courts. Evidence provided to the Gestapo for such cases was largely provided by ordinary citizens such as neighbours, co-workers, or other informants.[58] Persons accused of race defilement were publicly humiliated by being paraded through the streets with a placard around their necks detailing their crime.[59] Those convicted were typically sentenced to prison terms, and (subsequent to 8 March 1938) upon completing their sentences were re-arrested by the Gestapo and sent to Nazi concentration camps.[58] As the law did not permit capital punishment for racial defilement, special courts were convened to allow the death penalty for some cases.[60] From the end of 1935 through 1940, 1,911 people were convicted of Rassenschande. Over time, the law was extended to include non-sexual forms of physical contact such as greeting someone with a kiss or an embrace.[58]

For the most part, Germans accepted the Nuremberg Laws, partly because Nazi propaganda had successfully swayed public opinion towards the general belief that Jews were a separate race, but also because to oppose the regime meant leaving oneself open to harassment or arrest by the Gestapo.[61][62] Citizens were relieved that the antisemitic violence ceased after the laws were passed.[63] Non-Jews gradually stopped socialising with Jews or shopping in Jewish-owned stores.[64] Wholesalers who continued to serve Jewish merchants were marched through the streets with placards around their necks proclaiming them as traitors.[65] The Communist party and some elements of the Catholic Church were critical of the laws.[57] Concerned that international opinion would be adversely swayed by the new laws, the Interior Ministry did not actively enforce them until after the 1936 Summer Olympics, held in Berlin that August.[32][61]

Beginning in 1941, Jews were required by law to self-identify by wearing a yellow badge on their clothing.[66]

The Interior Ministry estimated there were 750,000 Mischlinge as of April 1935 (studies done after the war put the number of Mischlinge at around 200,000).[57] As Jews became more and more excluded from German society, they organised social events, schools, and activities of their own.[67] Economic problems were not so easily solved, however; many Jewish firms went out of business due to lack of customers. This was part of the ongoing Aryanization process (the transfer of Jewish firms to non-Jewish owners, usually at prices far below market value) that the regime had initiated in 1933, which intensified after the Nuremberg Laws were passed.[68] Former middle-class or wealthy business owners were forced to take employment in menial jobs to support their families, and many were unable to find work at all.[69]

Although a stated goal of the Nazis was that all Jews should leave the country, emigration was problematic, as Jews were required to remit up to 90 per cent of their wealth as a tax upon leaving the country.[70] Anyone caught transferring their money overseas was sentenced to lengthy terms in prison as "economic saboteurs".[71] An exception was money sent to Palestine under the terms of the Haavara Agreement, whereby Jews could transfer some of their assets and emigrate to that country. Around 52,000 Jews emigrated to Palestine under the terms of this agreement between 1933 and 1939.[72]

By the start of the Second World War in 1939, around 250,000 of Germany's 437,000 Jews had emigrated to the United States, Palestine, Great Britain, and other countries.[73][74] By 1938 it was becoming almost impossible for potential Jewish emigrants to find a country that would take them.[75] After the 1936–39 Arab revolt, the British were disinclined to accept any more Jews into Palestine for fear it would further destabilise the region.[76] Nationalistic and xenophobic people in other countries pressured their governments not to accept waves of Jewish immigrants, especially poverty-stricken ones.[77] The Madagascar Plan, a proposed mass deportation of European Jews to Madagascar, proved to be impossible to carry out.[78] Starting in mid-1941, the German government started mass exterminations of the Jews of Europe.[79] The total number of Jews murdered during the resulting Holocaust is estimated at 5.5 to 6 million people.[80] Estimates of the death toll of Romanis in the Porajmos range from 150,000 to 1,500,000.[81]

Legislation in other countries

Decree of Tsar Boris III of Bulgaria for approval of The law for protection of the nation

Some of the other Axis powers passed their own versions of the Nuremberg Laws.

  • In 1938, Fascist Italy passed the Italian racial laws and Manifesto of Race which stripped Jews of their citizenship and forbade sexual relations and marriages between Jewish and non-Jewish Italians.[82]
  • Hungary passed laws on 28 May 1938 and 5 May 1939 banning Jews from various professions. A third law, added in August 1941, defined Jews as anyone with at least two Jewish grandparents, and forbade sexual relations or marriages between Jews and non-Jews.[83]
  • In 1940 the ruling Iron Guard in Romania passed the Law Defining the Legal Status of Romanian Jews,[84]
  • In 1941 the Codex Judaicus was enacted in Slovakia,[85]
  • In 1941 Bulgaria passed the Law for Protection of the Nation,[86]
  • In 1941, the Ustaše in Croatia passed legislation defining who was a Jew and restricting contact with them.[87]
  • While the Empire of Japan did not draft or pass any legislation, they were pressured by the German government to place Singaporean Jews and Indonesian Jews in internment camps during the Japanese occupation of the Dutch East Indies and Singapore.[88][89]

Existing copies

An original typescript of the laws signed by Hitler was found by the US Army's Counterintelligence Corps in 1945. It ended up in the possession of General George S. Patton, who kept it, in violation of orders that such finds should be turned over to the government. During a visit to Los Angeles in 1945, he handed it over to the Huntington Library, where it was stored in a bomb-proof vault. The library revealed the existence of the document in 1999, and sent it on permanent loan to the Skirball Cultural Center, which placed it on public display. The document was transferred to the National Archives and Records Administration in Washington in August 2010.[90][91]

See also


  1. ^ Evans 2003, pp. 170–171.
  2. ^ Goldhagen 1996, p. 85.
  3. ^ Evans 2003, pp. 179–180.
  4. ^ Bullock 1962, p. 121.
  5. ^ Kershaw 2008, pp. 148–150.
  6. ^ Wildt 2012, pp. 96–97.
  7. ^ Shirer 1960, p. 203.
  8. ^ Evans 2005, p. 539.
  9. ^ a b c Longerich 2010, p. 40.
  10. ^ Schulz & Frercks 1934.
  11. ^ Longerich 2010, p. 39.
  12. ^ Longerich 2010, pp. 67–69.
  13. ^ a b Shirer 1960, p. 233.
  14. ^ Longerich 2010, p. 41.
  15. ^ Evans 2005, p. 507.
  16. ^ Evans 2005, p. 511.
  17. ^ Longerich 2010, p. 49.
  18. ^ Morrison 2006, p. 80.
  19. ^ Hilberg 2003, p. 1070.
  20. ^ a b McGarry 2010, p. 21.
  21. ^ Hilberg 2003, pp. 1070–1071.
  22. ^ Wolfe 2014, p. 96.
  23. ^ Grenville 2002, p. 320.
  24. ^ Burleigh & Wippermann 1991, p. 121.
  25. ^ USHMM, "Sinti and Roma".
  26. ^ Evans 2005, p. 22.
  27. ^ a b Kershaw 2008, p. 340.
  28. ^ Kershaw 2008, p. 341.
  29. ^ Marrus 2000, pp. 92–93.
  30. ^ a b c Kershaw 2008, p. 342.
  31. ^ Longerich 2010, pp. 57–58.
  32. ^ a b c Gordon 1984, p. 122.
  33. ^ Kershaw 2008, p. 343.
  34. ^ a b Longerich 2010, p. 59.
  35. ^ Friedländer 2009, p. 45.
  36. ^ a b Evans 2005, p. 543.
  37. ^ Kershaw 2008, p. 344.
  38. ^ Kershaw 2008, pp. 344–345.
  39. ^ Kershaw 2008, pp. 345–346.
  40. ^ Longerich 2010, p. 60.
  41. ^ Mommsen 1989, p. 225.
  42. ^ a b Evans 2005, p. 544.
  43. ^ Kershaw 2008, p. 345.
  44. ^ Wolfe 2014, p. 94.
  45. ^ Burleigh & Wippermann 1991, p. 84.
  46. ^ a b c d e f g h i j US Holocaust Memorial Museum.
  47. ^ a b Nuremberg Laws 1935.
  48. ^ Friedländer 2009, p. 49.
  49. ^ a b Mommsen 1989, p. 224.
  50. ^ Kershaw 2008, p. 347.
  51. ^ a b c Friedländer 2009, p. 50.
  52. ^ Milton 2001, p. 216.
  53. ^ Friedländer 2009, p. 52.
  54. ^ a b Evans 2005, p. 547.
  55. ^ Ehrenreich 2007, p. 68.
  56. ^ Scheil 2012.
  57. ^ a b c Friedländer 2009, p. 51.
  58. ^ a b c Evans 2005, p. 551.
  59. ^ Evans 2005, p. 540.
  60. ^ Majer 2003, pp. 331–332.
  61. ^ a b Evans 2005, p. 548.
  62. ^ Gordon 1984, p. 180.
  63. ^ Gordon 1984, p. 172.
  64. ^ Evans 2005, pp. 548, 553.
  65. ^ Gellately 1991, p. 105.
  66. ^ Longerich 2010, p. 217.
  67. ^ Friedländer 2009, p. 55.
  68. ^ Longerich 2010, pp. 65–66.
  69. ^ Longerich 2010, p. 86.
  70. ^ Longerich 2010, pp. 64, 66.
  71. ^ Longerich 2010, p. 66.
  72. ^ Evans 2005, pp. 556–557.
  73. ^ Longerich 2010, p. 127.
  74. ^ Evans 2005, p. 555.
  75. ^ Longerich 2010, p. 67.
  76. ^ Friedländer 2009, p. 57.
  77. ^ Evans 2005, pp. 560, 601.
  78. ^ Longerich 2010, pp. 162–164.
  79. ^ Rhodes 2003, pp. 159–160.
  80. ^ Evans 2008, p. 318.
  81. ^ Hancock 2012, p. 381.
  82. ^ Rodogno 2006, p. 65.
  83. ^ Frojimovics 2012, pp. 250–251.
  84. ^ Fischer 2012, p. 279.
  85. ^ Matić 2002, p. 174.
  86. ^ Dikovski 2000.
  87. ^ Gilbert 2002, p. 78.
  88. ^ Banka 2019.
  89. ^ Cheong Suk-Wai 2015.
  90. ^ Allen 2010.
  91. ^ Bradsher 2010.


Further reading

External links

29 July 1935

First flight of the Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress.

B-17 Flying Fortress
B17 - Chino Airshow 2014 (framed).jpg
A B-17G, Sentimental Journey, performing at the 2014 Chino Airshow in Chino, California
Role Heavy bomber
National origin United States
Manufacturer Boeing
First flight 22 July 1935[1]
Introduction April 1938
Retired 1968 (Brazilian Air Force)
Status Retired
Primary users United States Army Air Forces
Royal Air Force
Produced 1936–1945
Number built 12,731[2][3]
Developed into Boeing 307 Stratoliner

The Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress is a four-engined heavy bomber developed in the 1930s for the United States Army Air Corps (USAAC). Competing against Douglas and Martin for a contract to build 200 bombers, the Boeing entry (prototype Model 299/XB-17) outperformed both competitors and exceeded the air corps' performance specifications. Although Boeing lost the contract (to the Douglas B-18 Bolo) because the prototype crashed, the air corps ordered 13 more B-17s for further evaluation. From its introduction in 1938, the B-17 Flying Fortress evolved through numerous design advances,[4][5] becoming the third-most produced bomber of all time, behind the four-engined Consolidated B-24 Liberator and the multirole, twin-engined Junkers Ju 88.

The B-17 was primarily employed by the USAAF in the daylight strategic bombing campaign of World War II against German industrial and military targets. The United States Eighth Air Force, based at many airfields in central, eastern and southern England, and the Fifteenth Air Force, based in Italy, complemented the RAF Bomber Command's night-time area bombing in the Combined Bomber Offensive to help secure air superiority over the cities, factories and battlefields of Western Europe in preparation for the invasion of France in 1944.[6] The B-17 also participated to a lesser extent in the War in the Pacific, early in World War II, where it conducted raids against Japanese shipping and airfields.[7]

From its prewar inception, the USAAC (by June 1941, the USAAF) promoted the aircraft as a strategic weapon; it was a relatively fast, high-flying, long-range bomber with heavy defensive armament at the expense of bombload. It developed a reputation for toughness based upon stories and photos of badly damaged B-17s safely returning to base. The B-17 dropped more bombs than any other U.S. aircraft in World War II. Of approximately 1.5 million tons of bombs dropped on Nazi Germany and its occupied territories by U.S. aircraft, over 640,000 tons were dropped from B-17s.[8] In addition to its role as a bomber, the B-17 was also employed as a transport, antisubmarine aircraft, drone controller, and search-and-rescue aircraft.

As of October 2019, 9 aircraft remain airworthy, though none of them were ever flown in combat. Dozens more are in storage or on static display. The oldest of these is a D-series flown in combat in the Pacific and the Caribbean.



Model 299 NX13372
Gun turret atop the Model 299's nose glazing
Crashed Model 299
Boeing Y1B-17 in flight

On 8 August 1934, the USAAC tendered a proposal for a multiengine bomber to replace the Martin B-10. The Air Corps was looking for a bomber capable of reinforcing the air forces in Hawaii, Panama, and Alaska.[9] Requirements were for it to carry a "useful bombload" at an altitude of 10,000 ft (3,000 m) for 10 hours with a top speed of at least 200 mph (320 km/h).[10]

They also desired, but did not require, a range of 2,000 mi (3,200 km) and a speed of 250 mph (400 km/h). The competition for the air corps contract was to be decided by a "fly-off" between Boeing's design, the Douglas DB-1, and the Martin Model 146 at Wilbur Wright Field in Dayton, Ohio.

The prototype B-17, with the Boeing factory designation of Model 299, was designed by a team of engineers led by E. Gifford Emery and Edward Curtis Wells, and was built at Boeing's own expense.[11] It combined features of the company's experimental XB-15 bomber and 247 transport.[10] The B-17's armament consisted of five .30 caliber (7.62 mm) machine guns, with a payload up to 4,800 lb (2,200 kg) of bombs on two racks in the bomb bay behind the cockpit. The aircraft was powered by four Pratt & Whitney R-1690 Hornet radial engines, each producing 750 hp (600 kW) at 7,000 ft (2,100 m).[12]

The first flight of the Model 299 was on 28 July 1935 with Boeing chief test pilot Leslie Tower at the controls.[1][13] The day before, Richard Williams, a reporter for The Seattle Times, coined the name "Flying Fortress" when – observing the large number of machine guns sticking out from the new airplane – he described it as a "15-ton flying fortress" in a picture caption.[14] The most distinct mount was in the nose, which allowed the single machine gun to be fired toward nearly all frontal angles.[15]

Boeing was quick to see the value of the name and had it trademarked for use.[note 1] Boeing also claimed in some of the early press releases that Model 299 was the first combat aircraft that could continue its mission if one of its four engines failed.[16] On 20 August 1935, the prototype flew from Seattle to Wright Field in nine hours and three minutes with an average cruising speed of 252 miles per hour (406 km/h), much faster than the competition.[17]

At the fly-off, the four-engined Boeing's performance was superior to those of the twin-engined DB-1 and Model 146. Major General Frank Maxwell Andrews of the GHQ Air Force believed that the capabilities of large four-engined aircraft exceeded those of shorter-ranged, twin-engined aircraft, and that the B-17 was better suited to new, emerging USAAC doctrine.[18] His opinions were shared by the air corps procurement officers, and even before the competition had finished, they suggested buying 65 B-17s.[19][20]

Development continued on the Boeing Model 299, and on 30 October 1935, Army Air Corps test pilot Major Ployer Peter Hill and Boeing employee Les Tower took the Model 299 on a second evaluation flight. The crew forgot to disengage the "gust locks", which locked control surfaces in place while the aircraft was parked on the ground, and after takeoff, the aircraft entered a steep climb, stalled, nosed over, and crashed, killing Hill and Tower (other observers survived with injuries).[21][22][note 2]

The crashed Model 299 could not finish the evaluation, disqualifying it from the competition.[20] While the air corps was still enthusiastic about the aircraft's potential, army officials were daunted by its cost;[23] Douglas quoted a unit price of $58,200 (equivalent to $1.09 million today) based on a production order of 220 aircraft, compared with $99,620 ($1.86 million today) from Boeing.[24] Army Chief of Staff Malin Craig cancelled the order for 65 YB-17s, and ordered 133 of the twin-engined Douglas B-18 Bolo, instead.[19][20]

The loss was not total... but Boeing's hopes for a substantial bomber contract were dashed.

— Peter Bowers, 1976[25]

Initial orders

B-17Bs at March Field, California, prior to attack on Pearl Harbor, with framed nose glazing of the style retained through the B-17E model
Nose of a B-17G being restored at the Mighty Eighth Air Force Museum

Regardless, the USAAC had been impressed by the prototype's performance, and on 17 January 1936, through a legal loophole,[26][27] the Air Corps ordered 13 YB-17s (designated Y1B-17 after November 1936 to denote its special F-1 funding) for service testing.[20] The YB-17 incorporated a number of significant changes from the Model 299, including more powerful Wright R-1820-39 Cyclone engines. Although the prototype was company-owned and never received a military serial (the B-17 designation itself did not appear officially until January 1936, nearly three months after the prototype crashed),[28] the term "XB-17" was retroactively applied to the NX13372's airframe and has entered the lexicon to describe the first Flying Fortress.

Between 1 March and 4 August 1937, 12 of the 13 Y1B-17s were delivered to the 2nd Bombardment Group at Langley Field in Virginia for operational development and flight tests.[29] One suggestion adopted was the use of a preflight checklist to avoid accidents such as that which befell the Model 299.[27][30][note 3] In one of their first missions, three B-17s, directed by lead navigator Lieutenant Curtis LeMay, were sent by General Andrews to "intercept" and photograph the Italian ocean liner Rex 610 miles (980 km) off the Atlantic coast.[32] The mission was successful and widely publicized.[33][34] The 13th Y1B-17 was delivered to the Material Division at Wright Field, Ohio, to be used for flight testing.[35]

A 14th Y1B-17 (37-369), originally constructed for ground testing of the airframe's strength, was upgraded and fitted with exhaust-driven General Electric turbochargers.[36] Scheduled to fly in 1937, it encountered problems with the turbochargers, and its first flight was delayed until 29 April 1938.[37] The aircraft was delivered to the army on 31 January 1939.[38] Once service testing was complete, the Y1B-17s and Y1B-17A were redesignated B-17 and B-17A, respectively, to signify the change to operational status.[39]

Opposition to the air corps' ambitions for the acquisition of more B-17s faded, and in late 1937, 10 more aircraft designated B-17B were ordered to equip two bombardment groups, one on each U.S. coast.[40] Improved with larger flaps and rudder and a well-framed, 10-panel plexiglas nose, the B-17Bs were delivered in five small batches between July 1939 and March 1940. In July 1940, an order for 512 B-17s was issued,[41] but at the time of the attack on Pearl Harbor, fewer than 200 were in service with the army.[27]

A total of 155 B-17s of all variants was delivered between 11 January 1937 and 30 November 1941, but production quickly accelerated, with the B-17 once holding the record for the highest production rate for any large aircraft.[42][note 4] The aircraft went on to serve in every World War II combat zone, and by the time production ended in May 1945, 12,731 aircraft had been built by Boeing, Douglas, and Vega (a subsidiary of Lockheed).[43][44][45][46]

Though the crash of the prototype 299 in 1935 had almost wiped out Boeing, now it was seen as a boon. Instead of building models based on experimental engineering, Boeing had been hard at work developing their bomber and now had versions ready for production far better than would have been possible otherwise. One of the most significant weapons of World War II would be ready, but only by a hair.

— Jeff Ethell, 1985[41]

Design and variants

Waist position gun blister of Model 299, not adopted for production
Production numbers
Variant Produced First flight
Model 299 1 28 July 1935[1]
YB-17 13 2 December 1936[47]
YB-17A 1 29 April 1938[37]
B-17B 39 27 June 1939[48]
B-17C 38 21 July 1940[49]
B-17D 42 3 February 1941[50]
B-17E 512 5 September 1941[51]
B-17F (total) 3,405 30 May 1942[52][53]
B-17F-BO 2,300 [52]
B-17F-DL 605 [52]
B-17F-VE 500 [52]
B-17G (total) 8,680 16 August 1943
B-17G-BO 4,035
B-17G-DL 2,395
B-17G-VE 2,250
Total 12,731
B-17s were built at Boeing Plant 2
Seattle, Washington (BO)
and starting with the B-17F also at
Lockheed Vega, Burbank California (VE) and
Douglas Aircraft, Long Beach California (DL)[54]

The aircraft went through several alterations in each of its design stages and variants. Of the 13 YB-17s ordered for service testing, 12 were used by the 2nd Bomb Group of Langley Field, Virginia, to develop heavy bombing techniques, and the 13th was used for flight testing at the Material Division at Wright Field, Ohio.[35] Experiments on this aircraft led to the use of a quartet of General Electric turbo-superchargers which would become standard on the B-17 line. A 14th aircraft, the YB-17A, originally destined for ground testing only and upgraded with the turbochargers,[55] was redesignated B-17A after testing had finished.[38][39]

As the production line developed, Boeing engineers continued to improve upon the basic design. To enhance performance at slower speeds, the B-17B was altered to include larger rudders and flaps.[48] The B-17C changed from three bulged, oval-shaped gun blisters to two flush, oval-shaped gun window openings, and on the lower fuselage, a single "bathtub" gun gondola housing,[49] which resembled the similarly configured and located Bodenlafette/"Bola" ventral defensive emplacement on the German Heinkel He 111P-series medium bomber.

While models A through D of the B-17 were designed defensively, the large-tailed B-17E was the first model primarily focused on offensive warfare.[55] The B-17E was an extensive revision of the Model 299 design: The fuselage was extended by 10 ft (3.0 m); a much larger rear fuselage, vertical tailfin, rudder, and horizontal stabilizer were added; a gunner's position was added in the new tail; the nose (especially the bombardier's well-framed, 10-panel nose glazing) remained relatively the same as the earlier B through D versions had; a Sperry electrically powered manned dorsal gun turret just behind the cockpit was added; a similarly powered (also built by Sperry) manned ventral ball turret just aft of the bomb bay – replaced the relatively hard-to-use, Sperry model 645705-D[56] remotely operated ventral turret on the earliest examples of the E variant. These modifications resulted in a 20% increase in aircraft weight.[55] The B-17's turbocharged Wright R-1820 Cyclone 9 engines were upgraded to increasingly more powerful versions of the same powerplants throughout its production, and similarly, the number of machine gun emplacement locations was increased.[57]

Boeing-built B-17Fs, with the clear-view two-piece Plexiglas bombardier's nose.

The B-17F variants were the primary versions flying for the Eighth Air Force to face the Germans in 1943, and had standardized the manned Sperry ball turret for ventral defense, replacing the earlier, 10-panel well-framed bombardier's nose glazing from the B subtype with an enlarged, nearly frameless plexiglas bombardier's nose enclosure for improved forward vision.

Two experimental versions of the B-17 were flown under different designations, the XB-38 Flying Fortress and the YB-40 Flying Fortress. The XB-38 was an engine test bed for Allison V-1710 liquid-cooled engines, should the Wright engines normally used on the B-17 become unavailable. The only prototype XB-38 to fly crashed on its ninth flight, and the type was abandoned. The Allison V-1710 was allocated to fighter aircraft.[58][59]

The YB-40 was a heavily armed modification of the standard B-17 used before the North American P-51 Mustang, an effective long-range fighter, became available to act as escort. Additional armament included an additional dorsal turret in the radio room, a remotely operated and fired Bendix-built "chin turret" directly below the bombardier's accommodation, and twin .50 in (12.7 mm) guns in each of the waist positions. The ammunition load was over 11,000 rounds. All of these modifications made the YB-40 well over 10,000 lb (4,500 kg) heavier than a fully loaded B-17F. The YB-40s with their numerous heavy modifications had trouble keeping up with the lighter bombers once they had dropped their bombs, so the project was abandoned and finally phased out in July 1943.[60][61][62] The final production blocks of the B-17F from Douglas' plants did, however, adopt the YB-40's "chin turret", giving them a much-improved forward defense capability.[63]

B-17G nose detail

By the time the definitive B-17G appeared, the number of guns had been increased from seven to 13, the designs of the gun stations were finalized, and other adjustments were completed. The B-17G was the final version of the Flying Fortress, incorporating all changes made to its predecessor, the B-17F,[55] and in total, 8,680 were built,[64] the last (by Lockheed) on 28 July 1945.[65] Many B-17Gs were converted for other missions such as cargo hauling, engine testing, and reconnaissance.[66] Initially designated SB-17G, a number of B-17Gs were also converted for search-and-rescue duties, later to be redesignated B-17H.[67]

Postwar SB-17G-95DL (ser. no. 44-83722), assigned to the 2nd ERS as a search-and-rescue aircraft, beside a Stinson L-5

Late in World War II, at least 25 B-17s were fitted with radio controls and television cameras, loaded with 20,000 lb (9,100 kg) of high explosives and dubbed BQ-7 "Aphrodite missiles" for Operation Aphrodite. The operation, which involved remotely flying Aphrodite drones onto their targets by accompanying CQ-17 "mothership" control aircraft, was approved on 26 June 1944, and assigned to the 388th Bombardment Group stationed at RAF Fersfield, a satellite of RAF Knettishall.[68]

The first four drones were sent to Mimoyecques, the Siracourt V-1 bunker, Watten, and Wizernes on 4 August, causing little damage. The project came to a sudden end with the unexplained midair explosion over the Blyth estuary of a B-24, part of the United States Navy's contribution as "Project Anvil", en route for Heligoland piloted by Lieutenant Joseph P. Kennedy Jr., future U.S. president John F. Kennedy's elder brother. Blast damage was caused over a radius of 5 miles (8.0 km). British authorities were anxious that no similar accidents should again occur, and the Aphrodite project was scrapped in early 1945.[68]

Operational history

Boeing B-17E Flying Fortress of the 19th Bombardment Group USAAF, summer 1942
B-17 Flying Fortresses from the 398th Bombardment Group flying a bombing mission to Neumünster, Germany, on 13 April 1945.

The B-17 began operations in World War II with the Royal Air Force (RAF) in 1941, and in the Southwest Pacific with the U.S. Army. The 19th Bombardment Group had deployed to Clark Field in the Philippines a few weeks before the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor as the first of a planned heavy bomber buildup in the Pacific. Half of the group's B-17s were wiped out on 8 December 1941 when they were caught on the ground during refueling and rearming for a planned attack on Japanese airfields on Formosa. The small force of B-17s operated against the Japanese invasion force until they were withdrawn to Darwin, in Australia's Northern Territory. In early 1942, the 7th Bombardment Group began arriving in Java with a mixed force of B-17s and LB-30/B-24s.[69] A squadron of B-17s from this force detached to the Middle East to join the First Provisional Bombardment Group, thus becoming the first American B-17 squadron to go to war against the Germans.[citation needed] After the defeat in Java, the 19th withdrew to Australia, where it continued in combat until it was sent home by General George C. Kenney when he arrived in Australia in mid-1942.[70] In July 1942, the first USAAF B-17s were sent to England to join the Eighth Air Force. Later that year, two groups moved to Algeria to join Twelfth Air Force for operations in North Africa. The B-17s were primarily involved in the daylight precision strategic bombing campaign against German targets ranging from U-boat pens, docks, warehouses, and airfields to industrial targets such as aircraft factories.[71] In the campaign against German aircraft forces in preparation for the invasion of France, B-17 and B-24 raids were directed against German aircraft production while their presence drew the Luftwaffe fighters into battle with Allied fighters.[6]

During World War II, the B-17 equipped 32 overseas combat groups, inventory peaking in August 1944 at 4,574 USAAF aircraft worldwide.[72] The British heavy bombers, the Avro Lancaster and Handley Page Halifax, dropped 608,612 long tons (681,645 short tons) and 224,207 long tons (251,112 short tons)[73] respectively.

RAF use

RAF Fortress I serial AN529, with He 111H-style "bathtub" ventral gondola

The RAF entered World War II with no heavy bomber of its own in service; the biggest available were long-range medium bombers such as the Vickers Wellington, which could carry up to 4,500 pounds (2,000 kg) of bombs.[74] While the Short Stirling and Handley Page Halifax became its primary bombers by 1941, in early 1940, the RAF entered into an agreement with the U.S. Army Air Corps to acquire 20 B-17Cs, which were given the service name Fortress I. Their first operation, against Wilhelmshaven on 8 July 1941 was unsuccessful.[75][76] On 24 July three B-17s of 90 Squadron took part in a raid on the German capital ship Gneisenau and Prinz Eugen anchored in Brest from 30,000 ft (9,100 m), with the objective of drawing German fighters away from 18 Handley Page Hampdens attacking at lower altitudes, and in time for 79 Vickers Wellingtons to attack later with the German fighters refuelling. The operation did not work as expected, with 90 Squadron's Fortresses being unopposed.[77][78][79]

By September, the RAF had lost eight B-17Cs in combat and had experienced numerous mechanical problems, and Bomber Command abandoned daylight bombing raids using the Fortress I because of the aircraft's poor performance. The experience showed both the RAF and USAAF that the B-17C was not ready for combat, and that improved defenses, larger bomb loads and more accurate bombing methods were required. However the USAAF continued using the B-17 as a day bomber, despite misgivings by the RAF that attempts at daylight bombing would be ineffective.[80]

As use by Bomber Command had been curtailed, the RAF transferred its remaining Fortress I aircraft to Coastal Command for use as a long-range maritime patrol aircraft, instead.[81] These were augmented starting in July 1942 by 45 Fortress Mk IIA (B-17E) followed by 19 Fortress Mk II (B-17F) and three Fortress Mk III (B-17G). A Fortress IIA from No. 206 Squadron RAF sank U-627 on 27 October 1942, the first of 11 U-boat kills credited to RAF Fortress bombers during the war.[82]

As sufficient Consolidated Liberators finally became available, Coastal Command withdrew the Fortress from the Azores, transferring the type to the meteorological reconnaissance role. Three squadrons undertook Met profiles from airfields in Iceland, Scotland and England, gathering data for vital weather forecasting purposes.

The RAF's No. 223 Squadron, as part of 100 Group, operated a number of Fortresses equipped with an electronic warfare system known as "Airborne Cigar" (ABC). This was operated by German-speaking radio operators who were to identify and jam German ground controllers' broadcasts to their nightfighters. They could also pose as ground controllers themselves with the intention of steering nightfighters away from the bomber streams.[83]

Initial USAAF operations over Europe

"Combat boxes" of 12 B-17 during bombing missions
Marks and letters on the tails of B-17 during WWII in Europe

The air corps – renamed United States Army Air Forces (USAAF) on 20 June 1941 – used the B-17 and other bombers to bomb from high altitudes with the aid of the then-secret Norden bombsight, known as the "Blue Ox",[84][85] which was an optical electromechanical gyrostabilized analog computer.[86] The device was able to determine, from variables put in by the bombardier, the point at which the aircraft's bombs should be released to hit the target. The bombardier essentially took over flight control of the aircraft during the bomb run, maintaining a level altitude during the final moments before release.[87]

The USAAF began building up its air forces in Europe using B-17Es soon after entering the war. The first Eighth Air Force units arrived in High Wycombe, England, on 12 May 1942, to form the 97th Bomb Group.[88] On 17 August 1942, 12 B-17Es of the 97th, with the lead aircraft piloted by Major Paul Tibbets and carrying Brigadier General Ira Eaker as an observer, were close escorted by four squadrons of RAF Spitfire IXs (and a further five squadrons of Spitfire Vs to cover the withdrawal) on the first USAAF heavy bomber raid over Europe, against the large railroad marshalling yards at Rouen-Sotteville in France, while a further six aircraft flew a diversionary raid along the French coast.[89][90] The operation, carried out in good visibility, was a success, with only minor damage to one aircraft, unrelated to enemy action, and half the bombs landing in the target area.[91] The raid helped allay British doubts about the capabilities of American heavy bombers in operations over Europe.[citation needed]

Two additional groups arrived in Britain at the same time, bringing with them the first B-17Fs, which served as the primary AAF heavy bomber fighting the Germans until September 1943. As the raids of the American bombing campaign grew in numbers and frequency, German interception efforts grew in strength (such as during the attempted bombing of Kiel on 13 June 1943[92]), such that unescorted bombing missions came to be discouraged.[93]

Combined offensive

The two different strategies of the American and British bomber commands were organized at the Casablanca Conference in January 1943. The resulting "Combined Bomber Offensive" weakened the Wehrmacht, destroyed German morale, and established air superiority through Operation Pointblank's destruction of German fighter strength in preparation for a ground offensive.[6] The USAAF bombers attacked by day, with British operations – chiefly against industrial cities – by night.[citation needed]

B-17F formation over Schweinfurt, Germany, 17 August 1943
Boeing B-17F radar bombing through clouds: Bremen, Germany, on 13 November 1943

Operation Pointblank opened with attacks on targets in Western Europe. General Ira C. Eaker and the Eighth Air Force placed highest priority on attacks on the German aircraft industry, especially fighter assembly plants, engine factories, and ball-bearing manufacturers.[6] Attacks began in April 1943 on heavily fortified key industrial plants in Bremen and Recklinghausen.[94]

Since the airfield bombings were not appreciably reducing German fighter strength, additional B-17 groups were formed, and Eaker ordered major missions deeper into Germany against important industrial targets. The 8th Air Force then targeted the ball-bearing factories in Schweinfurt, hoping to cripple the war effort there. The first raid on 17 August 1943 did not result in critical damage to the factories, with the 230 attacking B-17s being intercepted by an estimated 300 Luftwaffe fighters. The Germans shot down 36 aircraft with the loss of 200 men, and coupled with a raid earlier in the day against Regensburg, a total of 60 B-17s was lost that day.[95]

A second attempt on Schweinfurt on 14 October 1943 later came to be known as "Black Thursday".[96] While the attack was successful at disrupting the entire works, severely curtailing work there for the remainder of the war, it was at an extreme cost.[97] Of the 291 attacking Fortresses, 60 were shot down over Germany, five crashed on approach to Britain, and 12 more were scrapped due to damage – a loss of 77 B-17s.[98] Additionally, 122 bombers were damaged and needed repairs before their next flights. Of 2,900 men in the crews, about 650 did not return, although some survived as prisoners of war. Only 33 bombers landed without damage. These losses were a result of concentrated attacks by over 300 German fighters.[99]

B-17G of the 384th Bomb Group on the bomb run

Such high losses of aircrews could not be sustained, and the USAAF, recognizing the vulnerability of heavy bombers to interceptors when operating alone, suspended daylight bomber raids deep into Germany until the development of an escort fighter that could protect the bombers all the way from the United Kingdom to Germany and back. At the same time, the German nightfighting ability noticeably improved to counter the nighttime strikes, challenging the conventional faith in the cover of darkness.[100] The 8th Air Force alone lost 176 bombers in October 1943,[101] and was to suffer similar casualties on 11 January 1944 on missions to Oschersleben, Halberstadt, and Brunswick. Lieutenant General James Doolittle, commander of the 8th, had ordered the second Schweinfurt mission to be cancelled as the weather deteriorated, but the lead units had already entered hostile air space and continued with the mission. Most of the escorts turned back or missed the rendezvous, and as a result, 60 B-17s were destroyed.[102][103]

A third raid on Schweinfurt on 24 February 1944 highlighted what came to be known as "Big Week",[104] during which the bombing missions were directed against German aircraft production.[100] German fighters needed to respond, and the North American P-51 Mustang and Republic P-47 Thunderbolt fighters (equipped with improved drop tanks to extend their range) accompanying the American heavies all the way to and from the targets engaged them.[105] The escort fighters reduced the loss rate to below 7%, with only 247 B-17s lost in 3,500 sorties while taking part in the Big Week raids.[106]

By September 1944, 27 of the 42 bomb groups of the 8th Air Force and six of the 21 groups of the 15th Air Force used B-17s. Losses to flak continued to take a high toll of heavy bombers through 1944, but the war in Europe was being won by the Allies. And by 27 April 1945, 2 days after the last heavy bombing mission in Europe, the rate of aircraft loss was so low that replacement aircraft were no longer arriving and the number of bombers per bomb group was reduced. The Combined Bomber Offensive was effectively complete.[107]

Pacific Theater

B-17C AAF S/N 40-2074 at Hickam Field: An onboard fire burnt the aircraft in two shortly after landing on 7 December 1941. One crewman was killed by a Zero attack.[108]

On 7 December 1941, a group of 12 B-17s of the 38th (four B-17C) and 88th (eight B-17E) Reconnaissance Squadrons, en route to reinforce the Philippines, was flown into Pearl Harbor from Hamilton Field, California, arriving while the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor was going on. Leonard "Smitty" Smith Humiston, co-pilot on First Lieutenant Robert H. Richards' B-17C, AAF S/N 40-2049, reported that he thought the U.S. Navy was giving the flight a 21-gun salute to celebrate the arrival of the bombers, after which he realized that Pearl Harbor was under attack. The Fortress came under fire from Japanese fighter aircraft, though the crew was unharmed with the exception of one member who suffered an abrasion on his hand. Japanese activity forced them to divert from Hickam Field to Bellows Field. On landing, the aircraft overran the runway and ran into a ditch, where it was then strafed. Although initially deemed repairable, 40-2049 (11th BG / 38th RS) received more than 200 bullet holes and never flew again. Ten of the 12 Fortresses survived the attack.[109]

B-17E BO AAF S/N 41-9211
Typhoon McGoon II of the 11th BG / 98th BS, taken in January 1943 in New Caledonia: The antennae mounted upon the nose were used for radar tracking surface vessels.

By 1941, the Far East Air Force (FEAF) based at Clark Field in the Philippines had 35 B-17s, with the War Department eventually planning to raise that to 165.[110] When the FEAF received word of the attack on Pearl Harbor, General Lewis H. Brereton sent his bombers and fighters on various patrol missions to prevent them from being caught on the ground. Brereton planned B-17 raids on Japanese air fields in Formosa, in accordance with Rainbow 5 war plan directives, but this was overruled by General Douglas MacArthur.[111] A series of disputed discussions and decisions, followed by several confusing and false reports of air attacks, delayed the authorization of the sortie. By the time the B-17s and escorting Curtiss P-40 Warhawk fighters were about to get airborne, they were destroyed by Japanese bombers of the 11th Air Fleet. The FEAF lost half its aircraft during the first strike,[112] and was all but destroyed over the next few days.[citation needed]

Another early World War II Pacific engagement, on 10 December 1941, involved Colin Kelly, who reportedly crashed his B-17 into the Japanese battleship Haruna, which was later acknowledged as a near bomb miss on the heavy cruiser Ashigara. Nonetheless, this deed made him a celebrated war hero. Kelly's B-17C AAF S/N 40-2045 (19th BG / 30th BS) crashed about 6 mi (10 km) from Clark Field after he held the burning Fortress steady long enough for the surviving crew to bail out. Kelly was posthumously awarded the Distinguished Service Cross.[113] Noted Japanese ace Saburō Sakai is credited with this kill, and in the process, came to respect the ability of the Fortress to absorb punishment.[114]

B-17s were used in early battles of the Pacific with little success, notably the Battle of Coral Sea[115] and Battle of Midway.[116] While there, the Fifth Air Force B-17s were tasked with disrupting the Japanese sea lanes. Air Corps doctrine dictated bombing runs from high altitude, but they soon found only 1% of their bombs hit targets. However, B-17s were operating at heights too great for most A6M Zero fighters to reach.

The B-17's greatest success in the Pacific was in the Battle of the Bismarck Sea, in which aircraft of this type were responsible for damaging and sinking several Japanese transport ships. On 2 March 1943, six B-17s of the 64th Squadron flying at 10,000 ft (3,000 m) attacked a major Japanese troop convoy off New Guinea, using skip bombing to sink Kyokusei Maru, which carried 1,200 army troops, and damage two other transports, Teiyo Maru and Nojima. On 3 March 1943, 13 B-17s flying at 7,000 ft (2,000 m) bombed the convoy, forcing the convoy to disperse and reducing the concentration of their anti-aircraft defenses. The B-17s attracted a number of Mitsubishi A6M Zero fighters, which were in turn attacked by the P-38 Lightning escorts. One B-17 broke up in the air, and its crew was forced to take to their parachutes. Japanese fighter pilots machine-gunned some of the B-17 crew members as they descended and attacked others in the water after they landed.[117] Five of the Japanese fighters strafing the B-17 aircrew were promptly engaged and shot down by three Lightnings, though these were also then lost.[118] The allied fighter pilots claimed 15 Zeros destroyed, while the B-17 crews claimed five more.[117][119] Actual Japanese fighter losses for the day were seven destroyed and three damaged.[120][121] The remaining seven transports and three of the eight destroyers were then sunk by a combination of low level strafing runs by Royal Australian Air Force Beaufighters, and skip bombing by USAAF North American B-25 Mitchells at 100 ft (30 m), while B-17s claimed five hits from higher altitudes.[122] On the morning of 4 March 1943, a B-17 sank the destroyer Asashio with a 500 lb (230 kg) bomb while she was picking up survivors from Arashio.[123]

At their peak, 168 B-17 bombers were in the Pacific theater in September 1942, but already in mid-1942 Gen. Arnold had decided that the B-17 was unsuitable for the kind of operations required in the Pacific and made plans to replace all of the B-17s in the theater with B-24s (and later, B-29s) as soon as they became available. Although the conversion was not complete until mid-1943, B-17 combat operations in the Pacific theater came to an end after a little over a year.[124] Surviving aircraft were reassigned to the 54th Troop Carrier Wing's special airdrop section, and were used to drop supplies to ground forces operating in close contact with the enemy. Special airdrop B-17s supported Australian commandos operating near the Japanese stronghold at Rabaul, which had been the primary B-17 target in 1942 and early 1943.[125]

B-17s were still used in the Pacific later in the war, however, mainly in the combat search and rescue role. A number of B-17Gs, redesignated B-17Hs and later SB-17Gs, were used in the Pacific during the final year of the war to carry and drop lifeboats to stranded bomber crews who had been shot down or crashed at sea.[126] These aircraft were nicknamed Dumbos, and remained in service for many years after the end of World War II.[127]

Bomber defense

Part of a USAAF stream of over 1,000 B-17s

Before the advent of long-range fighter escorts, B-17s had only their .50 caliber M2 Browning machine guns to rely on for defense during the bombing runs over Europe. As the war intensified, Boeing used feedback from aircrews to improve each new variant with increased armament and armor.[128] Defensive armament increased from four 0.50 in (12.7 mm) machine guns and one 0.30 in (7.62 mm) nose machine gun in the B-17C, to thirteen 0.50 in (12.7 mm) machine guns in the B-17G. But because the bombers could not maneuver when attacked by fighters, and needed to be flown straight and level during their final bomb run, individual aircraft struggled to fend off a direct attack.

German training model on how to attack a "flying porcupine" (fliegendes Stachelschwein)

A 1943 survey by the USAAF found that over half the bombers shot down by the Germans had left the protection of the main formation.[129] To address this problem, the United States developed the bomb-group formation, which evolved into the staggered combat box formation in which all the B-17s could safely cover any others in their formation with their machine guns. This made a formation of bombers a dangerous target to engage by enemy fighters.[130] In order to more quickly form these formations, assembly ships, planes with distinctive paint schemes, were utilized to guide bombers into formation, saving assembly time.[131][132] Luftwaffe fighter pilots likened attacking a B-17 combat box formation to encountering a fliegendes Stachelschwein, "flying porcupine", with dozens of machine guns in a combat box aimed at them from almost every direction. However, the use of this rigid formation meant that individual aircraft could not engage in evasive maneuvers: they had to fly constantly in a straight line, which made them vulnerable to German flak. Moreover, German fighter aircraft later developed the tactic of high-speed strafing passes rather than engaging with individual aircraft to inflict damage with minimum risk.[citation needed] As a result, the B-17s' loss rate was up to 25% on some early missions. It was not until the advent of long-range fighter escorts (particularly the North American P-51 Mustang) and the resulting degradation of the Luftwaffe as an effective interceptor force between February and June 1944, that the B-17 became strategically potent.[citation needed]

Formation flying through dense flak over Merseburg, Germany

The B-17 was noted for its ability to absorb battle damage, still reach its target and bring its crew home safely.[133][134][135] Wally Hoffman, a B-17 pilot with the Eighth Air Force during World War II, said, "The plane can be cut and slashed almost to pieces by enemy fire and bring its crew home."[136] Martin Caidin reported one instance in which a B-17 suffered a midair collision with a Focke-Wulf Fw 190, losing an engine and suffering serious damage to both the starboard horizontal stabilizer and the vertical stabilizer, and being knocked out of formation by the impact. The B-17 was reported as shot down by observers, but it survived and brought its crew home without injury.[137] Its toughness was compensation for its shorter range and lighter bomb load compared to the B-24 and British Avro Lancaster heavy bombers.[clarification needed] Stories circulated of B-17s returning to base with tails shredded, engines destroyed and large portions of their wings destroyed by flak.[138] This durability, together with the large operational numbers in the Eighth Air Force and the fame achieved by the Memphis Belle, made the B-17 a key bomber aircraft of the war. Other factors such as combat effectiveness and political issues also contributed to the B-17's success.[139]

Luftwaffe attacks

B-17G 43-38172 of the 8th AF 398th BG 601st BS which was damaged on a bombing mission over Cologne, Germany, on 15 October 1944; the bombardier was killed.[140]

After examining wrecked B-17s and B-24s, Luftwaffe officers discovered that on average it took about 20 hits with 20 mm shells fired from the rear to bring them down.[98] Pilots of average ability hit the bombers with only about two percent of the rounds they fired, so to obtain 20 hits, the average pilot had to fire one thousand 20 mm (0.79 in) rounds at a bomber.[98] Early versions of the Fw 190, one of the best German interceptor fighters, were equipped with two 20 mm (0.79 in) MG FF cannons, which carried only 500 rounds when belt-fed (normally using 60-round drum magazines in earlier installations), and later with the better Mauser MG 151/20 cannons, which had a longer effective range than the MG FF weapon. Later versions carried four or even six MG 151/20 cannon and twin 13 mm machine guns. The German fighters found that when attacking from the front, where fewer defensive guns were mounted (and where the pilot was exposed and not protected by armor as he was from the rear), it took only four or five hits to bring a bomber down.[98]

To rectify the Fw 190's shortcomings, the number of cannons fitted was doubled to four, with a corresponding increase in the amount of ammunition carried, creating the Sturmbock bomber destroyer version. This type replaced the vulnerable twin-engine Zerstörer heavy fighters which could not survive interception by P-51 Mustangs flying well ahead of the combat boxes in an air supremacy role starting very early in 1944 to clear any Luftwaffe defensive fighters from the skies. By 1944, a further upgrade to Rheinmetall-Borsig's 30 mm (1.2 in) MK 108 cannons mounted either in the wing, or in underwing, conformal mount gun pods, was made for the Sturmbock Focke-Wulfs as either the /R2 or /R8 field modification kits, enabling aircraft to bring a bomber down with just a few hits.[98]

B-17G-15-BO Wee Willie, 322d BS, 91st BG, after direct flak hit on her 128th mission.[141]

The adoption of the 21 cm Nebelwerfer-derived Werfer-Granate 21 (Wfr. Gr. 21) rocket mortar by the Luftwaffe in mid-August 1943 promised the introduction of a major "stand-off" style of offensive weapon – one strut-mounted tubular launcher was fixed under each wing panel on the Luftwaffe's single-engine fighters, and two under each wing panel of a few twin-engine Bf 110 daylight Zerstörer aircraft.[98] However, due to the slow 715 mph velocity and characteristic ballistic drop of the fired rocket (despite the usual mounting of the launcher at about 15° upward orientation), and the small number of fighters fitted with the weapons, the Wfr. Gr. 21 never had a major effect on the combat box formations of Fortresses.[98] The Luftwaffe also fitted heavy-calibre Bordkanone-series 37, 50 and even 75 mm (2.95 in) cannon as anti-bomber weapons on twin-engine aircraft such as the special Ju 88P fighters, as well as one model of the Me 410 Hornisse but these measures did not have much effect on the American strategic bomber offensive. The Me 262, however, had moderate success against the B-17 late in the war. With its usual nose-mounted armament of four MK 108 cannons, and with some examples later equipped with the R4M rocket, launched from underwing racks, it could fire from outside the range of the bombers' .50 in (12.7 mm) defensive guns and bring an aircraft down with one hit,[142] as both the MK 108's shells and the R4M's warheads were filled with the "shattering" force of the strongly brisant Hexogen military explosive.

Luftwaffe-captured B-17s

Captured B-17F-27-BO in Luftwaffe markings, the USAAF-named "Wulfe-Hound", 41-24585, of the 360th BS/303rd BG, downed on 12 December 1942 near Leeuwarden, Netherlands, while on a raid on Rouen, France, the first Flying Fortress to fall intact into German hands. Operated by Kampfgeschwader 200 from March 1944.[143]

During World War II, after crash-landing or being forced down, approximately 40 B-17s were captured and refurbished, with about a dozen put back into the air. Given German Balkenkreuz national markings on their wings and fuselage sides, and "Hakenkreuz" swastika tail fin-flashes, the captured B-17s were used to determine the B-17's vulnerabilities and to train German interceptor pilots in attack tactics.[144] Others, with the cover designations Dornier Do 200 and Do 288, were used as long-range transports by the Kampfgeschwader 200 special duties unit, carrying out agent drops and supplying secret airstrips in the Middle East and North Africa. They were chosen specifically for these missions as being more suitable for this role than other available German aircraft; they never attempted to deceive the Allies and always wore full Luftwaffe markings.[145][146] One B-17 of KG200, bearing the Luftwaffe's KG 200 Geschwaderkennung (combat wing code) markings A3+FB, was interned by Spain when it landed at Valencia airfield, 27 June 1944, remaining there for the rest of the war.[88] It has been alleged that some B-17s kept their Allied markings and were used by the Luftwaffe in attempts to infiltrate B-17 bombing formations and report on their positions and altitudes.[147] According to these allegations, the practice was initially successful, but Army Air Force combat aircrews quickly developed and established standard procedures to first warn off, and then fire upon any "stranger" trying to join a group's formation.[88]

Soviet-interned B-17s

The U.S. did not offer B-17s to the Soviet Union as part of its war materiel assistance program, but at least 73 aircraft were acquired by the Soviet Air Force. These aircraft had landed with mechanical trouble during the shuttle bombing raids over Germany or had been damaged by a Luftwaffe raid in Poltava. The Soviets restored 23 to flying condition and concentrated them in the 890th bomber regiment of the 45th bomber division, but they never saw combat. In 1946 the regiment was assigned to the Kazan factory to aid in the Soviet effort to reproduce the more advanced Boeing B-29 as the Tupolev Tu-4.[148]

Swiss-interned B-17s

During the Allied bomber offensive, U.S. and British bombers sometimes flew into Swiss airspace, either because they were damaged or, on rare occasions, accidentally bombing Swiss cities. Swiss aircraft attempted to intercept and force individual aircraft to land, interning their crews; one Swiss pilot was killed, shot down by a U.S. bomber crew in September 1944. From then on, red and white neutrality bands were added to the wings of Swiss aircraft to stop accidental attacks by Allied aircraft.[149]

Official Swiss records identify 6,501 airspace violations during the course of the war, with 198 foreign aircraft landing on Swiss territory and 56 aircraft crashing there. In October 1943 the Swiss interned Boeing B-17F-25-VE, tail number 25841, and its U.S. flight crew after the Flying Fortress developed engine trouble after a raid over Germany and was forced to land. The aircraft was turned over to the Swiss Air Force, who then flew the bomber until the end of the war, using other interned but non-airworthy B-17s for spare parts. The bomber was repainted a dark olive drab, but retained its light gray-painted under surfaces. It carried Swiss national white cross insignia in red squares on both sides of its rudder, fuselage sides, and the underside wings, with white crosses in red roundels atop both upper wings. On its gray under surfaces, the B-17F also carried light gray flash letters "RD" and "I" on either side of the Swiss national insignia.[71]

Japanese-captured B-17s

This captured USAAF Boeing B-17D, in Japanese livery, was flown to Japan for technical evaluation

Three damaged B-17s, one "D" model and two "E" models, were rebuilt to flying status by Japanese technicians and mechanics with parts stripped from B-17 wrecks in both the Philippines and Indonesia. The three bombers, containing captured top secret Norden bombsights, were then flown to Japan where they underwent extensive technical evaluation by the Imperial Japanese Army Air Force's Air Technical Research Laboratory (Koku Gijutsu Kenkyujo) at Tachikawa. The "D" model was later deemed an obsolescent design. The two "E" models were used to develop B-17 air combat counter-tactics and also as enemy aircraft in several Japanese propaganda films. One of the captured "E" Flying Fortresses was photographed by U. S. aerial recon and code named "Tachikawa 105" after its wing span was measured; photo recon analysts never identified it as a captured B-17 until after the war. No traces of these captured Flying Fortresses were found in Japan by Allied occupation forces, and they were assumed scrapped late in the war for their vital war materials.[150]

Postwar history

U.S. Air Force

BQ-17 Flying Fortress drones over New Mexico, April 1946

Following the end of World War II, the B-17 was quickly phased out of use as a bomber and the Army Air Forces retired most of its fleet. Flight crews ferried the bombers back across the Atlantic to the United States where the majority were sold for scrap and melted down, although significant numbers remained in use in second-line roles such as VIP transports, air-sea rescue and photo-reconnaissance.[151][152] Strategic Air Command (SAC), established in 1946, used reconnaissance B-17s (at first called F-9 [F for Fotorecon], later RB-17) until 1949.[153][154]

SB-17G of the USAF 5th Rescue Squadron c. 1950

The USAF Air Rescue Service of the Military Air Transport Service (MATS) operated B-17s as so-called "Dumbo" air-sea rescue aircraft. Work on using B-17s to carry airborne lifeboats had begun in 1943, but they entered service in the European theater only in February 1945. They were also used to provide search and rescue support for B-29 raids against Japan. About 130 B-17s were converted to the air-sea rescue role, at first designated B-17H and later SB-17G. Some SB-17s had their defensive guns removed, while others retained their guns to allow use close to combat areas. The SB-17 served through the Korean War, remaining in service with USAF until the mid-1950s.[67][155][156]

See also: 3205th Drone Group

In 1946, surplus B-17s were chosen as drone aircraft for atmospheric sampling during the Operation Crossroads atomic bomb tests, being able to fly close to or even through the mushroom clouds without endangering a crew. This led to more widespread conversion of B-17s as drones and drone control aircraft, both for further use in atomic testing and as targets for testing surface-to-air and air-to-air missiles.[157] One hundred and seven B-17s were converted to drones.[158] The last operational mission flown by a USAF Fortress was conducted on 6 August 1959, when a DB-17P, serial 44-83684 , directed a QB-17G, out of Holloman Air Force Base, New Mexico, as a target for an AIM-4 Falcon air-to-air missile fired from a McDonnell F-101 Voodoo. A retirement ceremony was held several days later at Holloman AFB, after which 44-83684 was retired.[citation needed] It was subsequently used in various films and in the 1960s television show 12 O'Clock High before being retired to the Planes of Fame aviation museum in Chino, California.[159] Perhaps the most famous B-17, the Memphis Belle, has been restored – with the B-17D The Swoose underway – to its World War II wartime appearance by the National Museum of the United States Air Force at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio.[160]

U.S. Navy and Coast Guard

Under project Cadillac II, an AN/APS-20 radar was fitted onto the B-17G, making the PB-1W one of the first AWACS.
The U.S. Coast Guard PB-1G carried a droppable lifeboat.

During the last year of World War II and shortly thereafter, the United States Navy (USN) acquired 48 ex-USAAF B-17s for patrol and air-sea rescue work. The first two ex-USAAF B-17s, a B-17F (later modified to B-17G standard) and a B-17G were obtained by the Navy for various development programs.[153] At first, these aircraft operated under their original USAAF designations, but on 31 July 1945 they were assigned the naval aircraft designation PB-1, a designation which had originally been used in 1925 for the Boeing Model 50 experimental flying boat.[161]

Thirty-two B-17Gs[162] were used by the Navy under the designation PB-1W, the suffix -W indicating an airborne early warning role. A large radome for an S-band AN/APS-20 search radar was fitted underneath the fuselage and additional internal fuel tanks were added for longer range, with the provision for additional underwing fuel tanks. Originally, the B-17 was also chosen because of its heavy defensive armament, but this was later removed. These aircraft were painted dark blue, the standard Navy paint scheme which had been adopted in late 1944.[153][161] PB-1Ws continued in USN service until 1955, gradually being phased out in favor of the Lockheed WV-2 (known in the USAF as the EC-121, a designation adopted by the USN in 1962), a military version of the Lockheed 1049 Constellation commercial airliner.[citation needed]

In July 1945, 16 B-17s were transferred to the Coast Guard via the Navy; these aircraft were initially assigned U.S. Navy Bureau Numbers (BuNo), but were delivered to the Coast Guard designated as PB-1Gs beginning in July 1946.[153][156] Coast Guard PB-1Gs were stationed at a number of bases in the U.S. and Newfoundland, with five at Coast Guard Air Station Elizabeth City, North Carolina, two at CGAS San Francisco, two at NAS Argentia, Newfoundland, one at CGAS Kodiak, Alaska, and one in Washington state.[156] They were used primarily in the "Dumbo" air-sea rescue role, but were also used for iceberg patrol duties and for photo mapping. The Coast Guard PB-1Gs served throughout the 1950s, the last example not being withdrawn from service until 14 October 1959.[153][163]

Special operations

B-17s were used by the CIA front companies Civil Air Transport, Air America and Intermountain Aviation for special missions. These included B-17G 44-85531, registered as N809Z. These aircraft were primarily used for agent drop missions over the People's Republic of China, flying from Taiwan, with Taiwanese crews. Four B-17s were shot down in these operations.[164]

In 1957 the surviving B-17s had been stripped of all weapons and painted black. One of these Taiwan-based B-17s was flown to Clark Air Base in the Philippines in mid-September, assigned for covert missions into Tibet.

On 28 May 1962, N809Z, piloted by Connie Seigrist and Douglas Price, flew Major James Smith, USAF and Lieutenant Leonard A. LeSchack, USNR to the abandoned Soviet arctic ice station NP 8, as Operation Coldfeet. Smith and LeSchack parachuted from the B-17 and searched the station for several days. On 1 June, Seigrist and Price returned and picked up Smith and LeSchack using a Fulton Skyhook system installed on the B-17.[165] N809Z was used to perform a Skyhook pick up in the James Bond movie Thunderball in 1965. This aircraft, now restored to its original B-17G configuration, is on display in the Evergreen Aviation & Space Museum in McMinnville, Oregon.


Military operators of the B-17
Civil operators of the B-17

The B-17, a versatile aircraft, served in dozens of USAAF units in theaters of combat throughout World War II, and in other roles for the RAF. Its main use was in Europe, where its shorter range and smaller bombload relative to other aircraft did not hamper it as much as in the Pacific Theater. Peak USAAF inventory (in August 1944) was 4,574 worldwide.[72]

Surviving aircraft

46 planes survive in complete form, nine of which are airworthy, and 39 of which reside in the United States.

Fortresses as a symbol

The B-17's capacity to repel enemy attacks and still inflict heavy damage upon German military capability and production centers is rendered in this caricature.

The B-17 Flying Fortress became symbolic in the United States of that country's air power. In a 1943 Consolidated Aircraft poll of 2,500 men in cities where Consolidated adverts had been run in newspapers, 73% had heard of the B-24 and 90% knew of the B-17.[135]

After the first B-17s were delivered to the Air Corps 2nd Bombardment Group, they were used on flights to promote their long range and navigational capabilities. In January 1938, group commander Colonel Robert Olds flew a YB-17 from the United States's east coast to its west coast, setting a transcontinental record of 13 hours 27 minutes. He also broke the west-to-east coast record on the return trip, averaging 245 mph (394 km/h) in 11 hours 1 minute.[167] Six bombers of the 2nd Bombardment Group took off from Langley Field on 15 February 1938 as part of a goodwill flight to Buenos Aires, Argentina. Covering 12,000 miles (19,000 km) they returned on 27 February, with seven aircraft setting off on a flight to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, three days later.[168] In a well-publicized mission on 12 May of the same year, three B-17s "intercepted" and took photographs of the Italian ocean liner SS Rex 610 miles (980 km) off the Atlantic coast.[169][note 5]

Many pilots who flew both the B-17 and the B-24 preferred the B-17 for its greater stability and ease in formation flying. Its electrical systems were less vulnerable to damage than the B-24's hydraulics, and the B-17 flew better than the B-24 when missing an engine.[170] During the war, the largest offensive bombing force, the Eighth Air Force, had an open preference for the B-17. Lieutenant General Jimmy Doolittle wrote about his preference for equipping the Eighth with B-17s, citing the logistical advantage in keeping field forces down to a minimum number of aircraft types with their individual servicing and spares. For this reason, he wanted B-17 bombers and P-51 fighters for the Eighth. His views were supported by Eighth Air Force statisticians, whose studies showed that Fortresses had utility and survivability much greater than that of the B-24.[135] Making it back to base on numerous occasions despite extensive battle damage, its durability became legendary;[133][134] stories and photos of B-17s surviving battle damage were widely circulated during the war.[135] Despite an inferior performance and smaller bombload than the more numerous B-24,[171] a survey of Eighth Air Force crews showed a much higher rate of satisfaction in the B-17.[172]

Notable B-17s

The severely damaged All American continues to fly after collision with an attacking Bf 109 fighter, eventually landing without crew injuries.
  • All American – This B-17F survived having her tail almost cut off in a mid-air collision with a Bf 109 over Tunisia but returned safely to base in Algeria.[173]
  • Chief Seattle – sponsored by the city of Seattle, it disappeared (MIA) on 14 August 1942[174] flying a recon mission for the 19th BG, 435th BS[175] and the crew declared dead on 7 December 1945.
  • Hell's Kitchen – B-17F 41-24392 was one of only three early B-17F's in 414th BS to complete more than 100 combat missions.[176]
  • Mary Ann – a B-17D that was part of an unarmed flight which left Hamilton Air Field, Novato, California on 6 December 1941 en route to Hickam Field in Hawaii, arriving during the attack on Pearl Harbor. The plane and its crew were immediately forced into action on Wake Island and in the Philippines during the outbreak of World War II. It became famous when its exploits were featured in Air Force, one of the first of the patriotic war films released in 1943.[177]
  • Memphis Belle – one of the first B-17s to complete a tour of duty of 25 missions in the 8th Air Force and the subject of a feature film, now completely restored and on display since 17 May 2018[178] at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force at Wright-Patterson AFB in Dayton, Ohio.
  • Miss Every Morning Fix'n – B-17C. Previously named 'Pamela'. Stationed in Mackay, Queensland, Australia during World War II. On 14 June 1943, crashed shortly after takeoff from Mackay while ferrying U.S. forces personnel back to Port Moresby, with 40 of the 41 people on board killed. It remains the worst air disaster in Australian history. The sole survivor, Foye Roberts, married an Australian and returned to the States. He died in Wichita Falls, Texas, on 4 February 2004.[179]
  • Murder Inc. – A B-17 bombardier wearing the name of the B-17 "Murder Inc." on his jacket was used for propaganda in German newspapers.[180]
  • Old 666 – B-17E flown by the most highly decorated crew in the Pacific Theater[181]
  • Royal Flush – B-17F 42-6087 from the 100th Bomb Group and commanded on one mission by highly decorated USAAF officer Robert Rosenthal, it was the lone surviving 100th BG B-17 of 10 October 1943 raid against Münster to return to the unit's base at RAF Thorpe Abbotts.[182]
  • Sir Baboon McGoon – B-17F featured in the June 1944 issue of Popular Science magazine[183] and the 1945 issue of Flying magazine.[184] Articles discuss mobile recovery crews following October 1943 belly landing at Tannington, England.
  • The Swoose – Initially nicknamed Ole Betsy while in service, The Swoose is the only remaining intact B-17D, built in 1940, the oldest surviving Flying Fortress, and the only surviving B-17 to have seen action in the Philippines Campaign (1941–42); it is in the collection of the National Air and Space Museum and is being restored for final display at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force at Wright-Patterson AFB in Dayton, Ohio.[185] The Swoose was flown by Frank Kurtz, father of actress Swoosie Kurtz, who named his daughter after the bomber.
  • Ye Olde Pub – the B-17 that Franz Stigler did not shoot down, as memorialized in the painting A Higher Call by John D. Shaw.[186]
  • 5 Grand – 5,000th B-17 made, emblazoned with Boeing employee signatures, served with the 333rd Bomb Squadron, 96th Bomb Group in Europe. Damaged and repaired after gear-up landing, transferred to 388th Bomb Group. Returned from duty following V-E Day, flown for war bonds tour, then stored at Kingman, Arizona. Following an unsuccessful bid for museum preservation, the aircraft was scrapped.[187]

Accidents and incidents

Noted B-17 pilots and crew members

Maynard H. Smith receiving Medal of Honor from Secretary of War Henry L. Stimson.
Forrest L. Vosler receiving Medal of Honor from President Roosevelt.
L–R, Nancy Love, pilot and Betty (Huyler) Gillies, co-pilot, the first women to fly the Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress heavy bomber for the WASP.[188]

Medal of Honor recipients

Many B-17 crew members received military honors and 17 received the Medal of Honor, the highest military decoration awarded by the United States:[189]

Other military achievements or events

  • Lincoln Broyhill, tail-gunner on a B-17 in the 483rd Bombardment Group. He received a Distinguished Unit Citation, and set two individual records in a single day: (1) most German jets destroyed by a single gunner in one mission (two), and (2) most German jets destroyed by a single gunner during the entirety of World War II.[206]
  • Allison C. Brooks (1917–2006), a B-17 pilot who was awarded numerous military decorations, and was ultimately promoted to the rank of major general and served in active duty until 1971.[207]
  • 2nd Lt James Gordon Dennis, co-pilot of B-17 #42-31941 "Big Stoop", shot down over Berlin, 24 May 1944, who was murdered in the open street by propaganda ministry official Alfred Ingemar Berndt after Dennis had parachuted and was captured.[208]
  • 1st Lt Eugene Emond (1921–1998): Lead pilot for Man O War II Horsepower Limited. Received the Distinguished Flying Cross, Air Medal with three oak leaf clusters, American Theater Ribbon and Victory Ribbon. Was part of D-Day and witnessed one of the first German jets when a Me 262A-1a flew through his formation over Germany. One of the youngest bomber pilots in the U.S. Army Air Forces.
  • Immanuel J. Klette (1918–1988): Second-generation German-American whose 91 combat missions were the most flown by any Eighth Air Force pilot in World War II.[209]
  • Capt Colin Kelly (1915–1941): Pilot of the first U.S. B-17 lost in action.[210]
  • Col Frank Kurtz (1911–1996): The USAAF's most decorated pilot of World War II. Commander of the 463rd Bombardment Group (Heavy), 15th Air Force, Celone Field, Foggia, Italy. Clark Field Philippines attack survivor. Olympic bronze medalist in diving (1932), 1944–1945. Father of actress Swoosie Kurtz, herself named for the still-surviving B-17D mentioned above.
  • Gen Curtis LeMay (1906–1990): Became head of the Strategic Air Command and Chief of Staff of the USAF.
  • Lt Col Nancy Love (1914–1976) and Betty (Huyler) Gillies (1908–1998): The first women pilots to be certified to fly the B-17, in 1943 and to qualify for the Women's Auxiliary Ferrying Squadron.[188]
  • SSgt Alan Magee (1919–2003): B-17 gunner who on 3 January 1943 survived a 22,000-foot (6,700-meter) freefall after his aircraft was shot down by the Luftwaffe over St. Nazaire.
  • Col Robert K. Morgan (1918–2004): Pilot of Memphis Belle.
  • Lt Col Robert Rosenthal (1917–2007): Commanded the only surviving B-17, Royal Flush, of a US 8th Air Force raid by the 100th Bomb Group on Münster on 10 October 1943. Completed 53 missions. Earned sixteen medals for gallantry (including one each from Britain and France), and led the raid on Berlin[211] on 3 February 1945, that is likely to have ended the life of Roland Freisler, the infamous "hanging judge" of the People's Court.
  • 1st Lt Bruce Sundlun (1920–2011): Pilot of Damn Yankee of the 384th Bomb Group was shot down over Belgium on 1 December 1943 and evaded capture until reaching Switzerland 5 May 1944.[212]
  • Brig Gen Paul Tibbets (1915–2007): Flew with the 97th Bombardment Group (Heavy) with both the 8th Air Force in England and the 12th Air Force in North Africa. Later pilot of the B-29 Enola Gay, dropping the atomic bomb on Hiroshima, Japan.
  • The final crew of the bomber Ye Olde Pub (20 December 1943): Flew home from Bremen, Germany in a bomber that was a miracle in the fact that it was flying. The crew earned a total of 9 Silver Stars and 1 Air Force Cross.

B-17 in popular culture

Hollywood featured the B-17 in its period films, such as director Howard Hawks' Air Force starring John Garfield and Twelve O'Clock High starring Gregory Peck.[213] Both films were made with the full cooperation of the United States Army Air Forces and used USAAF aircraft and (for Twelve O'Clock High) combat footage. In 1964, the latter film was made into a television show of the same name and ran for three years on ABC TV. Footage from Twelve O' Clock High was also used, along with three restored B-17s, in the 1962 film The War Lover. The B-17 also appeared in the 1938 movie Test Pilot with Clark Gable and Spencer Tracy, with Clark Gable in Command Decision in 1948, in Tora! Tora! Tora! in 1970, and in Memphis Belle with Matthew Modine, Eric Stoltz, Billy Zane, and Harry Connick Jr. in 1990. The most famous B-17, the Memphis Belle, toured the U. S. with its crew to reinforce national morale (and to sell war bonds). It starred in a USAAF documentary, Memphis Belle: A Story of a Flying Fortress.[214]

B-17s are seen flying (and crashing in flames) in the British film The Way to the Stars.

In the closing scene of "Thunderball" 1965, A sky hook-equipped CIA B-17 rescues James Bond and Domino.

The song, "Icarus II (Borne On Wings Of Steel)" by Kansas, from their album Somewhere to Elsewhere, has lyrics sung by Steve Walsh that describe the heroic sacrifice a B-17 pilot makes to save his crew after they are hit and going down, ordering them to jump, leaving him to steer the dying plane to its end.

The B-17 has also been featured in artistic works expressing the physical and psychological stress of the combat conditions and the high casualty rates that crews suffered.[215][216] Works such as The Death of the Ball Turret Gunner by Randall Jarrell and Heavy Metal 's section "B-17" depict the nature of these missions. The Ball turret itself has inspired works like Steven Spielberg's The Mission. Artists who served on the bomber units also created paintings and drawings depicting the combat conditions in World War II.[217][218]

A B-17 was featured in a sequence of the same name in the 1981 Canadian adult animated sci-fi-fantasy film "Heavy Metal"

The B-17 has been the subject of two video games: B-17 Bomber released for Mattel's Intellivision in 1982, and B-17 Flying Fortress released in 1992 for MS-DOS, Amiga, and Atari ST PCs.

Specifications (B-17G)

3-view projection of a B-17G, with inset detail showing the "Cheyenne tail" and some major differences with other B-17 variants
B-17G nose guns

Data from The Encyclopedia of World Aircraft[37]

General characteristics

  • Crew: 10: Pilot, co-pilot, navigator, bombardier/nose gunner, flight engineer/top turret gunner, radio operator, waist gunners (2), ball turret gunner, tail gunner[219]
  • Length: 74 ft 4 in (22.66 m)
  • Wingspan: 103 ft 9 in (31.62 m)
  • Height: 19 ft 1 in (5.82 m)
  • Wing area: 1,420 sq ft (131.92 m2)
  • Airfoil: NACA 0018 / NACA 0010
  • Empty weight: 36,135 lb (16,391 kg)
  • Gross weight: 54,000 lb (24,500 kg)
  • Max takeoff weight: 65,500 lb (29,700 kg)
  • Aspect ratio: 7.57
  • Powerplant: 4 × Wright R-1820-97 "Cyclone" turbosupercharged radial engines, 1,200 hp (895 kW) each
  • Propellers: 3-bladed Hamilton-Standard constant-speed propeller


  • Maximum speed: 287 mph (462 km/h, 249 kn)
  • Cruise speed: 182 mph (293 km/h, 158 kn)
  • Range: 2,000 mi (3,219 km, 1,738 nmi) with 6,000 lb (2,700 kg) bombload
  • Service ceiling: 35,600 ft (10,850 m)
  • Rate of climb: 900 ft/min (4.6 m/s)
  • Wing loading: 38.0 lb/sq ft (185.7 kg/m2)
  • Power/mass: 0.089 hp/lb (150 W/kg)


  • Guns: 13 × .50 in (12.7 mm) M2 Browning machine guns in 9 positions (2 in the Bendix chin turret, 2 on nose cheeks, 2 staggered waist guns, 2 in upper Sperry turret, 2 in Sperry ball turret in belly, 2 in the tail and one firing upwards from radio compartment behind bomb bay)
  • Bombs:
    • Short range missions (<400 mi): 8,000 lb (3,600 kg)
    • Long range missions (≈800 mi): 4,500 lb (2,000 kg)
    • Overload: 17,600 lb (7,800 kg)

Notable appearances in media

See also

B-17 modified for testing of the XT-34 turboprop. When testing concluded, the aircraft was restored to stock configuration as the "Liberty Belle", but was lost in a post-forced-landing fire near Oswego, Illinois, on 13 June 2011.

Related development

Related lists


  1. ^ The Air Corps News Letter, however, notes in its edition of 1 January 1938 (ACNL Vol. XXI, No. 1, p. 7 Archived 3 September 2015 at the Wayback Machine) an attempt by the Langley Field correspondent to apply the appellation "Jeep" to the B-17, which it objected to as "not befitting" the aircraft and adding, "Why not let the term 'Flying Fortress' suffice?"
  2. ^ On board the aircraft were pilots Major Ployer P. Hill (his first time flying the 299) and Lieutenant Donald Putt (the primary army pilot for the previous evaluation flights), Leslie Tower, Boeing mechanic C.W. Benton, and Pratt and Whitney representative Henry Igo. Putt, Benton, and Igo escaped with burns, and Hill and Tower were pulled from the wreckage alive, but later died from their injuries.
  3. ^ The idea of a pilot's checklist spread to other crew members, other air corps aircraft types, and eventually throughout the aviation world. Life published the lengthy B-17 checklist in its 24 August 1942 issue.[31]
  4. ^ Quote: "At the peak of production, Boeing was rolling out as many as 363 B-17s a month, averaging between 14 and 16 Forts a day, the most incredible production rate for large aircraft in aviation history." This production rate was, however, surpassed by that of the Consolidated B-24 Liberator.
  5. ^ This is a common error. The Rex was 725 miles offshore on her last position report as the B-17s were taxiing for takeoff from Mitchel Field, four hours before interception.


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Further reading

  • Birdsall, Steve. The B-17 Flying Fortress. Dallas, Texas: Morgan Aviation Books, 1965. OCLC 752618401.
  • Davis, Larry. B-17 in Action. Carrollton, Texas: Squadron/Signal Publications, 1984. ISBN 0-89747-152-0.
  • Jablonski, Edward. Flying Fortress. New York: Doubleday, 1965. ISBN 0-385-03855-0.
  • Johnsen, Frederick A. Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress. Stillwater, Minnesota: Voyageur Press, 2001. ISBN 1-58007-052-3.
  • Gansz, David M. B-17 Production - Boeing Aircraft: 4 January 1944 - 26 February 1944 B-17G-35 to G-45 42-31932 - 42-32116 and 42-97058 - 42-97407. New Jersey: First Mountain Belgians, 2020. ISBN 978-1734380606.
  • Gansz, David M. B-17 Production - Boeing Aircraft: 26 February 1944 - 25 April 1944 B-17G-50 to G-60 42-102379 - 42-102978. New Jersey: First Mountain Belgians, 2013. ISBN 978-0692365465.
  • Gansz, David M. B-17 Production - Boeing Aircraft: 25 April 1944 - 22 June 1944 B-17G-65 to G-75 43-37509 - 43-38073. New Jersey: First Mountain Belgians, 2017. ISBN 978-0692859841.
  • Lloyd, Alwyn T. B-17 Flying Fortress in Detail and Scale, Vol. 11: Derivatives, Part 2. Fallbrook, California: Aero Publishers, 1983. ISBN 0-8168-5021-6.
  • Lloyd, Alwyn T. B-17 Flying Fortress in Detail and Scale, Vol. 20: More derivatives, Part 3. Blue Ridge Summit, Pennsylvania: Tab Books, 1986. ISBN 0-8168-5029-1.
  • Lloyd, Alwyn T. and Terry D. Moore. B-17 Flying Fortress in Detail and Scale, Vol. 1: Production Versions, Part 1. Fallbrook, California: Aero Publishers, 1981. ISBN 0-8168-5012-7.
  • O'Leary, Michael. Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress (Osprey Production Line to Frontline 2). Botley, Oxford, UK: Osprey Publishing, 1999. ISBN 1-85532-814-3.
  • Thompson, Scott A. Final Cut: The Post War B-17 Flying Fortress, The Survivors: Revised and Updated Edition. Highland County, Ohio: Pictorial Histories Publishing Company, 2000. ISBN 1-57510-077-0.
  • Willmott, H.P. B-17 Flying Fortress. London: Bison Books, 1980. ISBN 0-85368-444-8.
  • Wagner, Ray, "American Combat Planes of the 20th Century", Reno, Nevada, 2004, Jack Bacon & Company, ISBN 0-930083-17-2.

External links