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The Boeing B-17 "Flying Fortress" is a World War II bomber used primarily in Europe. B-17s from the Eighth Air Force participated in countless missions from bases in England. These missions often lasted for more than eight hours and struck at targets deep within enemy territory. Because of their long-range capability, formations of B-17s often flew into battle with no fighter escort, relying on their own defensive capabilities to insure a successful mission. The B-17 received the name "Flying Fortress" from a Seattle reporter who commented on its defensive firepower. The final B-17 production model, the B-17G, was produced in large quantities (8,680) and is considered the definitive "Flying Fort." With 13 .50-caliber machine guns -- chin, top, ball and tail turrets; waist and cheek guns -- the B-17G was indeed an airplane that earned the respect of its combatants. In addition, air crews liked the B-17 for its ability to withstand heavy combat damage and still return its crew safely home.A mid-air collision on February 1, 1943 between a B-17 and a German fighter over the Tunis dock area became the subject of one of the most famous photographs of World War II. An enemy fighter attacking a 97th Bomb
The B-17 Flying Fortress
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Group formation went out of control, probably with a wounded or dead pilot. It crashed into the lead aircraft of the flight, ripped a wing off the Fortress, and caused it to crash. The enemy fighter then continued its crashing descent into the rear of the fuselage of a Fortress named All American, piloted by Lt. Kendrick R. Bragg, of the 414th Bomb Squadron. When it struck, the fighter broke apart, but left some pieces in the B-17. The left horizontal stabilizer of the Fortress and left elevator were completely torn away. The vertical fin and the rudder had been damaged, the fuselage had been cut approximately two-thirds through, the control cables were severed, and the electrical and oxygen systems were damaged. Although the tail swayed in the breeze, one elevator cable still worked, and the aircraft still flew-miraculously! The aircraft was brought in for an emergency landing and when the ambulance pulled alongside, it was waved off for not a single member of the crew had been injured. No one could believe that the aircraft could still fly in such a condition. The Fortress sat placidly until three men climbed aboard through the door in the fuselage, at which time the rear collapsed. The rugged old bird had done its job.