Every time 10 crewmen boarded a B-17 Flying Fortress in England between 1942 and 1945 to do battle over German targets, courage was reaffirmed. The era of mass strategic bombardment formations was a brief window in time, made possible by the development of bombers like the B-17 and B-24, and made obsolete in just a few short years by advances in weaponry. Faster, more capable fighters were one threat to the mass bomber formation. But what really worried AAF planners was something as simple as the proximity fuze, which the U.S. had and Germany was on the cusp of developing.
For those brief war years, stoically courageous American bomber crews took the war to the Germans as stoically courageous Luftwaffe fighter pilots faced aggressive American fighters and bombers sometimes numbering more than a thousand. Ultimately, the unscathed and unrelenting production capacity of the United States provided streams of bombers and skilled crews, escorted by some of the best of the piston-engine fighters of the day. It has been argued that World War II in Europe was a race against time, in which vast numbers of good warplanes with great American crews defeated smaller numbers of amazing fighters, including jets and rockets.
As we watch these time-honored film clips of B-17s and their crews rising to do battle, never lose sight of the courage and teamwork it took to mount this ongoing strategic campaign. The bombers, the fighters, and the battles are receding ever farther in to the past as we lose contact with the men who left their mark in the sky in World War II. Never forget them. Never lose sight of their courage. Summon that courage to face our own challenges.
We hope you appreciate this moment in time from the Airailimages Channel. We salute the men and women who took a stand in World War II.
Subscribe to the Airailimages Channel
To see color slides from World War II Eighth Air Force B-17 and B-24 bases, check these links: