B-17 Gunners vs. Luftwaffe

It took some serious courage to climb in those aircraft and complete those missions knowing your chance of survival was very slim. The fighter escort was the only reason the missions were sustainable after the terrible losses in the first years of the air war.
The German fighter pilots had to be killed or they’d be back in the fight the next day if they parachuted out of a damaged aircraft. Most of them were shot down several times but recovered.
So how many Luftwaffe fighters did the 8AF gunners kill? And how many 8AF gunners were killed in aerial combat? :confused:
One of my uncles was a tail gunner on a B-17 and flew 32 missions over Europe. I'm not sure what variant he was in, but he was of medium height and build. Since returning from the war and until he passed away he never flew again on civilian or military aircraft. If he couldn't drive, he wouldn't go.
the cost of in both lives and materials has made the bombing campaign a topic of much debate. In the early days of the war, US bomber (and crew) losses were as high as 90%. Later operation improved that number, but the average US bomber losses throughout the WW II bombing campaign was 71%. Not good odds. Add civilian deaths (in the hundreds of thousands) and one has to ask if there might have been a better way. A debate that rages even today. I am of the opinion that this was something that had to be done. It consumed Germany's resources, sowed disarray, shaped military tactics, and demoralized the population. Without it, Hitler may have developed his jets, and other weapons (including the Atomic bomb) earlier in the war, and that could have changed the out come.
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My dad was a B-17 waist gunner. He was shot down near the end of the war by an Me 262. He never talked much about it, but I have copies of the official report stating the when and where. I also have the messages sent to my mom letting her know that he was missing in action. The good news is that most of the crew either bailed out or were blown out of the plane and were subsequently captured and sent to a prisoner of war camp.
What is seldom talked about was the "bomber mafia" the upper level Generals who firmly believed that bombers didn't need fighter escort. While the P51 was given all the glory about their range. The P47's could have had drop tanks 6 months earlier if those self same generals would have allowed them. The wound up "borrowing" spitfire drop tanks at first.
And the P-38 was the first US escort fighter to fly over Berlin.



In the above image, the 4 closest escorting fighters can be identified as P-38s by their twin contrails.

Long Range Fighter Escorts: The Essential Defenders of Allied Bombers

The P-38 in the European Theatre


The P-38 could fly further than these....

as per...


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So how many Luftwaffe fighters did the 8AF gunners kill? And how many 8AF gunners were killed in aerial combat? :confused:
According USAAF records/ statistics, the majority of B-17 gunners were killed by Flak rather than by Luftwaffe fighters. The same is true of B-17's being shot down. The vast majority were shot down by Flak.
Thanks Tom! This article gives me a better understanding of my Uncle Jack's Ball Turret. He had 2 tours in Europe and then was an instructor stateside. That much unpressurized air time gave him an enlarged heart. He never spoke of the war much more than I stated above.
One thing never mentioned in the history of the B17 is the name "Flying Fortress". It's true that with all that armament it was a Flying Fortress but before the war the military was looking for something that could engage ships beyond the range of the artillery of a coastal fortress. The B17 was designed for that job hence the name Flying Fortress.
Only the experimental YB-40 Flying Fortress (only 5 were built) had five (5) gun turrets, whereas the definitive B-17G had four (4) turrets, and the previous models did not have the chin turret. So, the articles author mistakenly assumed that the overwhelming number of B-17's had five gun turrets.

All heavy bombers were developed to project power, at long ranges, to any potential invading force beyond a nations' border. Also, there were plenty of shorter range aircraft designed to attack ships off shore.

The World History article never stated anything about coastal artillery fortresses (aka artillery battery) as it applied to the B-17, beyond the authors' assumption. He may have thought of Gen Billy Mitchell's 1921 air power demonstration that aircraft could attack ships beyond the range coastal defenses.

The links I provided state the facts on why the B-17 got it's name vs. World History article's authors' assumption/opinion. While the World History article is a decent one, again, the prototype of the B-17, the Model 299 was named the Flying Fortress based on the following. See...

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 aircraft – he described it as a "15-ton flying fortress" in a picture caption.[14] The most distinctive 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]

When newspaper reporters were first shown the Model 299 in Boeing’s Seattle factory on 16th July 1935, the aircraft simply took their breath away.

“Why, it’s a flying fortress!”
Richard Williams, reporter for the Seattle Times, upon seeing a B-17
“A regular fortress”, one of them said, “a fortress with wings!”

The Boeing Airplane Company liked the name used in the headlines, so decided to register it as a trade mark. “The Flying Fortress” was born.

And...See page 9 of the Air Service Newsletter 1938 below

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