B17: The Most Important Allied Bomber of the Second War

Possessing excellent precision, the plane was the envy of the Nazis, for it had flying range and a large capacity for storing bombs.

Initially designed to defend American territory, the B17 – Flying Fortress was the Allies’ most important bomber in World War II. It inaugurated a new phase of daylight attacks and played a central role in destroying the German war machine. To this end, it underwent several changes throughout the conflict.

Of all the versions, the most efficient were the F and G, because of their great autonomy, high bomb storage capacity, and excellent precision. The weak point: its crew suffered greatly from the conditions imposed by the missions. Intense cold due to the altitude and lack of space were two of the most common problems of the airmen.

In addition, there was the constant tension with German fighter attacks and anti-aircraft battery fire, which caused considerable aircraft and crew casualties. The efficiency of the B17 was also proven by the Nazis. Many captured aircraft were eventually used by the Germans: The Nazis found that the American air fortress – built by Boeing – was better than the Luftwaffe bombers.

1. Gunner

The chosen soldier located his targets by means of a Nordon targeting system and operated a .50 caliber M2 machine gun, which was mounted on the nose of the plane. This tip was made of acrylic, which guaranteed its curvature and gave it more security than glass.

2. Navigator

In this position, the agent plotted the plane’s routes and, during enemy attacks, operated one of the two .50 caliber M2 machine guns, located on the sides of the nose.

3. Pilot and co-pilot

Crucial to takeoffs, landings, and the journey itself, these officers were the only ones on the B17 who did not operate machine guns and were still in armored positions. Meanwhile, the plane’s technician was responsible for the two Browning M2 .50 caliber machine guns that were in the aircraft’s dorsal turret.

4. Oxygen tanks

Since the plane was not pressurized, the crew members needed oxygen masks on missions. Therefore, the B17 had large oxygen tanks.

5. Storage

Inside a B17, the crew had several lifeboats for emergency landings at sea. In addition to the equipment, the aircraft could hold up to 7893 kg of bombs, which were housed in vertical racks.

6. Communication

To contact the outside world, the crew had only one radio at their disposal, but it was used only in emergencies and was silent most of the time so as not to be detected by the enemy.

7. Dorsal machine gun

Unlike the other weapons, it was a .30 caliber M2, with a capacity of 1,200 shots per minute, used by the radio operator during the airstrikes.

8. Lower Tower

Besides being the most dangerous, because of its location, it was also the most uncomfortable for its occupant, who lay in a fetal position with his feet up. Its firepower, however, was great, as it had two M2 .50 caliber machine guns.

9. Lateral machine guns

Ready for any combat, two more .50 caliber M2s were arranged one on each side of the fuselage, being operated by two experienced shooters.

10. Tail Tower

To complete its war offensive, the B17 also had two Browning M2 .50-caliber machine guns with a capacity of 750 shots per minute, both operated by a sniper located on the tail of the plane.