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Sun Aug 12, 2012, 12:21 PM

 

(Warning Pic Heavy) WWII B17 survival story

I am pretty sure the govt built this plane and not rich dudes pursuing the latest deferrment scams for themselves and their children.



B-17 "All American" (414th Squadron, 97BG) Crew
Pilot- Ken Bragg Jr.
Copilot- G. Boyd Jr.
Navigator- Harry C. Nuessle
Bombardier- Ralph Burbridge
Engineer- Joe C. James
Radio Operator- Paul A. Galloway
Ball Turret Gunner- Elton Conda
Waist Gunner- Michael Zuk
Tail Gunner- Sam T. Sarpolus
Ground Crew Chief- Hank Hyland
B-17 in 1943
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 Group formation went out of control, probably with a wounded pilot 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 two right engines were out and one on the left had a serious oil pump leak. The vertical fin and the rudder had been damaged, the fuselage had been cut almost completely through connected only at two small parts of the frame and the radios, electrical and oxygen systems were damaged. There was also a hole in the top that was over 16 feet long and 4
feet wide at its widest and the split in the fuselage went all the way to the top gunner's turret.
Although the tail actually bounced and swayed in the wind and twisted when the plane turned and all the control cables were severed, except one single elevator cable still worked, and the aircraft still flew - miraculously! The tail gunner was trapped because there was no floor connecting the tail to the rest of the plane. The waist and tail gunners used parts of the German fighter and their own parachute harnesses in an attempt to keep the tail from ripping off and the two sides of the fuselage from splitting apart. While the crew was trying to keep the bomber from coming apart, the pilot continued on his bomb run and released his bombs over the target.

When the bomb bay doors were opened, the wind turbulence was so great that it blew one of the waist gunners into the broken tail section. It took several minutes and four crew members to pass him ropes from parachutes and haul him back into the forward part of the plane. When they tried to do the same for the tail gunner, the tail began flapping so hard that it began to break off. The weight of the gunner was adding some stability to the tail section, so he went back to his position.

The turn back toward England had to be very slow to keep the tail from twisting off. They actually covered almost 70 miles to make the turn home. The bomber was so badly damaged that it was losing altitude and speed and was soon alone in the sky. For a brief time, two more Me-109 German fighters attacked the All American. Despite the extensive damage, all of the machine gunners were able to respond to these attacks and soon drove off the fighters. The two waist gunners stood up with their heads sticking out through the hole in the top of the fuselage to aim and fire their machine guns. The tail gunner had to shoot in short bursts because the recoil was actually causing the plane to turn. 

Allied P-51 fighters intercepted the All American as it crossed over the Channel and took one of the pictures shown. They also radioed to the base describing that the empennage was waving like a fish tail and that the plane would not make it and to send out boats to rescue the crew when they bailed out. The fighters stayed with the Fortress taking hand signals from Lt. Bragg and relaying them to the base. Lt. Bragg signaled that 5 parachutes and the spare had been "used" so five of the crew could not bail out. He made the decision that if they could not bail out safely, then he would stay with the plane and land it. 

Two and a half hours after being hit, the aircraft made its final turn to line up with the runway while it was still over 40 miles away. It descended into an emergency landing and a normal roll-out on its landing gear. 

When the ambulance pulled alongside, it was waved off because 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 the crew all exited through the door in the fuselage and the tail gunner had climbed down a ladder, at which time the entire rear section of the aircraft collapsed onto the ground. The rugged old bird had done its job.















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Arrow 46 replies Author Time Post
Reply (Warning Pic Heavy) WWII B17 survival story (Original post)
2on2u Aug 2012 OP
eppur_se_muova Aug 2012 #1
leveymg Aug 2012 #2
Plucketeer Aug 2012 #18
ewagner Aug 2012 #3
Cooley Hurd Aug 2012 #4
leveymg Aug 2012 #5
DinahMoeHum Aug 2012 #8
Major Nikon Aug 2012 #26
Ellipsis Aug 2012 #28
The Magistrate Aug 2012 #13
AllenVanAllen Aug 2012 #16
Liberal_in_LA Aug 2012 #37
Stinky The Clown Mar 2013 #45
Mutt22 Aug 2012 #6
hobbit709 Aug 2012 #7
AtheistCrusader Aug 2012 #9
panader0 Aug 2012 #10
virgdem Aug 2012 #15
Major Nikon Aug 2012 #27
datasuspect Aug 2012 #11
UnrepentantLiberal Aug 2012 #12
A HERETIC I AM Aug 2012 #14
caraher Aug 2012 #17
The Magistrate Aug 2012 #19
leveymg Aug 2012 #20
LiberalAndProud Aug 2012 #21
Posteritatis Aug 2012 #31
caraher Aug 2012 #34
sgsilvey Sep 2012 #40
DURHAM D Sep 2012 #41
freethought Aug 2012 #22
Octafish Aug 2012 #23
uppityperson Aug 2012 #24
2on2u Aug 2012 #32
WilliamPitt Aug 2012 #25
DearHeart Aug 2012 #33
kskiska Aug 2012 #29
econoclast Aug 2012 #30
Lugnut Aug 2012 #35
2on2u Aug 2012 #36
Lugnut Aug 2012 #38
ProudSon Aug 2012 #39
Stinky The Clown Mar 2013 #44
malc55 Mar 2013 #42
cyberswede Mar 2013 #43
In_The_Wind Mar 2013 #46

Response to 2on2u (Original post)

Sun Aug 12, 2012, 12:29 PM

1. It looks like only the tail wheel collapsed -- tail still attached.

Don't think I would have liked trying to go airborne in it after that, though.

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Response to 2on2u (Original post)

Sun Aug 12, 2012, 12:30 PM

2. The 20 mm nose cannon on a ME109 was like a buz saw. The prop even more so.

You've gotta hand it to Boeing and that crew.

Amazing.

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Response to leveymg (Reply #2)

Sun Aug 12, 2012, 05:30 PM

18. The crew was amazing alright

Buncha really young men hoping to survive their tour and get back home. Boeing does get credit for the robust design of the B-17 - and they may well have produced this particular plane. But other aircraft makers were also building B-17s under license from Boeing. Matter of fact, alot of the engines used on B-17s were built by Studebaker.

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Response to 2on2u (Original post)

Sun Aug 12, 2012, 12:32 PM

3. There are many stories like this...

...and each one inspires me and fills me with gratitude and awe of the men who flew these missions...

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Response to 2on2u (Original post)

Sun Aug 12, 2012, 12:35 PM

4. Rec! I had the HONOR of flying in a B-17 a few weeks ago....

I documented it in this video:
&list=UUZgnCpEuJ9tmvOcjP2j_EGA&index=1&feature=plcp

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Response to Cooley Hurd (Reply #4)

Sun Aug 12, 2012, 01:11 PM

5. Great video of a wonderful old bird. Thnx for that.

Lucky you!

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Response to Cooley Hurd (Reply #4)

Sun Aug 12, 2012, 02:23 PM

8. Wow! Where did this take place?

and how can one get on a similar hop?

PM me if you can.

FYG, my uncle was a B-17 navigator stationed in Bassingbourn with the 91st Bomb Group (aka "The Ragged Irregulars")

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Response to DinahMoeHum (Reply #8)

Mon Aug 13, 2012, 10:42 AM

26. There are 10 B-17's left flying

If you're lucky enough to live nearby where one of them is based, they will generally sell rides a few times throughout the year, usually in conjunction with an airshow or a local aviation event. Some of the B-17s that are still flying will hit the airshow circuit in the summer and you can get a ride that way.

Here's the schedule for Sentimental Journey:
http://www.azcaf.org/pages/touring.html

Here's the schedule for the Texas Raiders B-17:
http://www.gulfcoastwing.org/GCW/B-17_Schedule.htm

Here's the tour schedule for Aluminum Overcast:
http://www.b17.org/tour/

Here's the Nine O Nine tour schedule:
http://www.collingsfoundation.org/cf_schedule-wof.htm

Here's the Memphis Belle tour schedule:
http://www.collingsfoundation.org/cf_schedule-wof.htm

There may be one or two others out there that are doing tours, but I'm not sure. Keep in mind that it will probably cost north of $400 to do this. B-17s are very expensive to operate. The crew and maintenance workers are all volunteers.

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Response to DinahMoeHum (Reply #8)

Mon Aug 13, 2012, 10:57 AM

28. Looks like EAA in Oshkosh.

Very Cool. Small world.

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Response to Cooley Hurd (Reply #4)

Sun Aug 12, 2012, 02:40 PM

13. Very Nice, Sir

I am getting near completion of a model of an early version, a 17D model, flying from Hickam Field in the spring of '41; it should be done in a couple of weeks.

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Response to The Magistrate (Reply #13)

Sun Aug 12, 2012, 03:24 PM

16. Very cool!



Nice work so far. I love scale aircraft models. I just don't have the time and skill to make them look any good. I wouldn't have the room in my studio anyway.

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Response to The Magistrate (Reply #13)

Thu Aug 16, 2012, 06:19 PM

37. lovely.

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Response to Cooley Hurd (Reply #4)

Sun Mar 3, 2013, 12:04 PM

45. I like that the interior of the plane is not over restored

Lots of paint missing, scratches, obvious wear.

That must have been quite the adventure.

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Response to 2on2u (Original post)

Sun Aug 12, 2012, 01:13 PM

6. That's just an awesome story

It's amazing the amount of damage those planes could withstand and still fly. Hope you don't mind but I cross posted this to a paintball forum I am on. I used the quote feature to attribute this to you but left out the political commentary as its not allowed over there.

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Response to 2on2u (Original post)

Sun Aug 12, 2012, 01:19 PM

7. It was built by Boeing under government contract.

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Response to 2on2u (Original post)

Sun Aug 12, 2012, 02:31 PM

9. I hate the silly embellishments.

"The Fortress sat placidly until the crew all exited through the door in the fuselage and the tail gunner had climbed down a ladder, at which time the entire rear section of the aircraft collapsed onto the ground. The rugged old bird had done its job."

Translation: The tail landing gear failed.

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Response to 2on2u (Original post)

Sun Aug 12, 2012, 02:31 PM

10. My dad flew 50 missions in WWII

Some in B-17s out of England (including the first daylight bombing raid)
and some in A-20s out of North Africa.
Distinguished Flying Cross with clusters.
He retired as a lieutenant colonel. I miss him.

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Response to panader0 (Reply #10)

Sun Aug 12, 2012, 03:12 PM

15. I wonder if your Dad knew my Dad...

he was a navigator on a B-17 that flew out of England. He was shot down over Germany in 1943, taken POW and liberated by Patton in April, 1945. He doesn't talk much about his experiences, but once in a while, will tell us about his experiences.

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Response to panader0 (Reply #10)

Mon Aug 13, 2012, 10:45 AM

27. A friend of mine was a B-17 pilot in WWII

He's still alive (although just barely). He gave me a flight review one time and I have his signature in my log book.

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Response to 2on2u (Original post)

Sun Aug 12, 2012, 02:32 PM

11. ww2 turned us from an agrarian backwater

 

into a worldwide superpower.

defense contractors built these birds.

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Response to 2on2u (Original post)

Sun Aug 12, 2012, 02:34 PM

12. Great thread.

 

Saving to read later.

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Response to 2on2u (Original post)

Sun Aug 12, 2012, 02:43 PM

14. "If it ain't Boeing, I ain't going"

This phrase originated with pilots and others who crewed such aircraft. There are hundreds of such stories, some with even more substantial damage. The 17 was truly a remarkable aircraft

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Response to 2on2u (Original post)

Sun Aug 12, 2012, 03:31 PM

17. The pictures are quite famous, but I don't trust the story in the OP

For one thing, it has them landing in England after bombing Tunis - not a chance! Most of the account is gratuitous glurge and while there's no shortage of true tales of B-17s bringing crews back home with incredible damage, the embellished details are not remotely plausible.

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Response to caraher (Reply #17)

Sun Aug 12, 2012, 06:03 PM

19. You are Right, Sir, that the Text Is Incorrect In Many Particulars

The unit was operating out of Algeria at the time, and the photograph was taken from another B-17 holding formation with the damaged machine as escort during the flight back to base.

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Response to caraher (Reply #17)

Sun Aug 12, 2012, 06:54 PM

20. Definitely not England, unless there was a desert landing strip near the Dover Coast in 1943

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Response to caraher (Reply #17)

Sun Aug 12, 2012, 07:07 PM

21. It seems, among other inaccuracies, the plane was damaged after the bombs were dropped.

This is clearly a fictionalized version of actual events. Makes for inspiring reading though, doesn't it?

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Response to caraher (Reply #17)

Mon Aug 13, 2012, 12:32 PM

31. Yeah. Some stories really don't need exaggeration.

Most of the wilder "...you landed what?!" stories are definitely in that list - stuff like that, the Israeli pilot who landed a one-winged F-15, etc. Those are amazing enough on their own (and I think it's a better credit to the pilots - and designers! - that they get told as is instead of with all the additions).

I sorta wish I knew what was going through the heads of people who start passing around glurge like that; there has to be a conscious decision to start making things up. I don't understand it.

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Response to Posteritatis (Reply #31)

Tue Aug 14, 2012, 01:19 AM

34. Well, when I was tracking down the source of this narrative...

it appears to have been passed around places like FreeRepublic. I think for some of them, piling on more and more fanciful details of our uniquely American pluck, courage, can-do spirit and overall blessed-by-Godness serve only to enhance the overall "truthiness" of the post.

The facts alone should be remarkable enough!

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Response to caraher (Reply #17)

Sun Sep 2, 2012, 02:09 AM

40. The 'All American' bombardier is my uncle...

Hello, joining this forum this evening to set the record straight on a couple of details... this is my uncle's plane, Ralph Burbridge was the bombardier... and he's still alive at the age of 92.

This particular version of the story is found in several places on the internet and has some problems that some of you have already identified. I thank you for setting the record straight.

The 97th BG was based near Tunis. After they dropped their bombs the mid-air collision occurred. The group formed up around the All American and that's how we have this great picture of her after the pilot Ken Bragg got her under control after the collision. After it was determined that Ken could control the plane with just engine speed and wing surface controls the formation returned to base in North Africa... not England. The All American came home much later to a grateful ground crew.

Several official pictures of her are available at the Fold3 website and you can see that the tail section never did 'fall off' or crumple after the crew got off.

I'm attempting to contact relatives of the crew to gather their versions of this great story and will do what I can to correct the errors where I find them. i currently have the pilot, navigator and bombardier's stories and I'm working on getting the radio operator, tail gunner and ball turret gunner's stories now.

My uncle was the past president of the 97th BG reunion association many years ago and I'm trying to find out where those records went to. If anyone has any ideas on this please let me know.

As a side bar to this story... the 414th flies today! The 414th was reactivated November 2011 and they contacted me earlier this year. Recently Ralph was presented a US flag flown in his honor in Turkey along with a citation thanking him for his service by the 414th. They still use the same insignia (bearcat on the damaged tail section praying) inspired by the All American almost 60 years ago. Made the old man's day!

Will work to provide more details and links as this story evolves.

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Response to sgsilvey (Reply #40)

Sun Sep 2, 2012, 12:03 PM

41. Welcome to DU and thank you for sharing.

Look forward to updates.

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Response to 2on2u (Original post)

Sun Aug 12, 2012, 07:47 PM

22. You're seeing first hand why crews preferred the B-17

to the B-24 Liberator. Very simple. The B-17 could take nearly unbelievable damage and still remain flying. Precisely why the bomber crews loved it. The B-24 was a little bit faster and they were able to crank out more of them but was not able to stay flying if hit with that sort of damage being shown in the photos.

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Response to 2on2u (Original post)

Mon Aug 13, 2012, 10:02 AM

23. Remarkable that plane could fly with one horizontal stabilizer...

...incredible aircraft, the All American, and pilot, Lt. Bragg.

This plane went down after a bomb dropped from a B-17 above it sliced throught its stabilizer. I don't know if it mattered, but in this case, the stabilizer did stay attached, bent downard at 90-degrees. Heartbreaking story as this plane, the Miss Donna Mae II, could not be controlled long enough to allow the crew to escape.



SOURCE w/ more photos and link to details: http://www.daveswarbirds.com/b-17/tail3.htm

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Response to 2on2u (Original post)

Mon Aug 13, 2012, 10:25 AM

24. Have you a link to this? I'd like to send it on to my father. Thnks.

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Response to uppityperson (Reply #24)

Mon Aug 13, 2012, 06:22 PM

32. I received this via email.... saved the pics to photobucket... you should be able to

 

cut and paste this into an email, I know aol will accept text and photos as is.... I don't know what kind of email you use but try it, highlight the entire post and see if you can paste it into your email.

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Response to 2on2u (Original post)

Mon Aug 13, 2012, 10:27 AM

25. Built by women.

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Response to WilliamPitt (Reply #25)

Mon Aug 13, 2012, 07:11 PM

33. Thanks for mentioning!!

Without the women working in the plants, these guys wouldn't have a plane to fly or ammunition to use!

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Response to 2on2u (Original post)

Mon Aug 13, 2012, 11:03 AM

29. Wow! Quite a story. My dad was co-pilot of a B-17

that got shot down over Germany. He bailed out and ended up in Stalag Luft 1 for over a year till the war ended. Guys in the back of the plane didn't make out so well. I'll send him this story.

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Response to 2on2u (Original post)

Mon Aug 13, 2012, 12:27 PM

30. Um...Bad Example .... But great aircraft

Actually, the prototype B17 (I forget it's experimental designation number ) was built by Boeing at Boeing's own expense and far surpassed the design parameters set out by the government.

Government thought they knew what they wanted, Boeing provided what was really needed.

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Response to 2on2u (Original post)

Tue Aug 14, 2012, 01:29 AM

35. Wow!

I have to send this thread to my son. Thank you for posting!

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Response to Lugnut (Reply #35)

Thu Aug 16, 2012, 06:17 PM

36. That you lugnut? Did you have that moniker in high school? Curious.

 

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Response to 2on2u (Reply #36)

Fri Aug 17, 2012, 12:21 AM

38. No. Not in high school.

My nickname back then was hung on me by my biology teacher because I had a horse. Mr Y called me Tex which was the only nickname I ever had.

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Response to 2on2u (Original post)

Tue Aug 28, 2012, 06:22 AM

39. Video tour of the inside of a B-29

I accompanied my father to his WW2 bomber group reunion a few months before he died. He was a crew member on a B-29 in the Pacific. At the National Museum of the USAF in Dayton, there is a section of a B-29 fuselage. We went through it and he talked about his experience flying in it. Here's the link to the video.
https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?v=188873723318

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Response to ProudSon (Reply #39)

Sun Mar 3, 2013, 12:02 PM

44. Treasure that.

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Response to 2on2u (Original post)

Sun Mar 3, 2013, 10:57 AM

42. german pilot

hello, I am new to this discussion, but i am trying to find out, what aircraft hit the All American, was it a Me109 or Fw190, books and the internet say both from different internet searches, can anyone tell me the answer, I have tried to email a guy on here sgsilvey who knows the crew, but as i am new i am unable to send him a message to see if he can find out, or is there a place on the internet i could find out the information.
Thank you in advance

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Response to malc55 (Reply #42)

Sun Mar 3, 2013, 11:23 AM

43. sgsilvey only posted once here

It looks like s/he stumbled on the thread via a web search, and signed up to post the single reply, and hasn't been back since.

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Response to malc55 (Reply #42)

Sun Mar 3, 2013, 01:17 PM

46. Hello ~ malc55. Good luck finding what you are looking for at DU.

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