B-17F-25-DL 42-3082 Double Trouble of the 333rd BS/94th BG, Bury St Edmunds (Rougham), October 1943 This Fortress certainly lived up to its name, pilot Lt Bill Winnesheik being forced to abort the mission to Bremen on 25 June 1943 after fighters knocked out two engines. He landed in England despite a full bomb load. On 4 October 1943, during a mission to St Dizier, in France, fighters again disabled the No 3 engine, and this time the propeller refused to feather. However, the crew managed to crash-land at Margate - the bomber was duly salvaged. Assistant engineer/waist gunner Vance Van Hooser, who was on his 23rd mission, was hit in the head by 20 mm shell fragments and never flew again.
B-17F-80-BO 42-30207 BIG RED of the 561st BS/ 388th BG, Knettishall, Spring 1944 2nd Lt Julius Lederman's crew flew this aircraft's last mission, to Bordeaux, on 27 March 1944, BIG RED, in the high squadron, suffering a fire in the radio room at 13:38 hrs just before reaching the target. The bomber left the formation, circled, and finally went into a steep dive. Six parachutes were seen before the aircraft crashed at Aicenay, 20 miles north-west of Roche-sur-You. Sgt B H Herman, the radio operator, and three of the gunners died. Seven of the crewmen were on only their second mission, while navigator 2nd Lt J J Carrol, who ended up as a POW, was on his first.
B-17F-85-BO 42-30080 HIGH LIFE of the 351st BS/ 100th BG, Thorpe Abbotts, August 1943 HIGH LIFE is depicted as it appeared after it became the first B-17 to make a forced landing in Switzerland during the Regensburg mission on 17 August 1943. A 20 mm shell exploded within the No 3 engine nacelle, cutting the throttle cable and causing an oil leak. The pilot, 1st Lt Donald K Oakes, feathered the propeller, but was then advised by ball turret gunner S/Sgt Leslie D Nadeau of another major oil leak in the No 2 engine. The aircraft could not keep formation, so a forced landing was made and the crew was interned...
The ZOOT SUITERS
B-17F-95-BO 42-30235 The ZOOT SUITERS of the 412th BS/95th BG, Horham, late 1943. Initially, this aircraft (which was also known for a time as Lonesome Polecat) was assigned to the 401st BS/91st BG at Bassingbourn, but it was transferred to the 95th BG on 16 June 1943. At Horham, The ZOOT SUITERS was flown by Capt (later Lt Col) William 'Catfish', or 'Wild Bill', Lindley, whose crew had survived the infamous Kiel raid of 13 June 1943 (when the group lost ten B-17s) flying 42-29967. A 'zoot suit' was a gentleman's outfit popular in the US in the 1940s, consisting of baggy trousers with much tapered bottoms and a long jacket with wide padded shoulders. Lindley's crew performed the bomber's first operational mission on 22 June 1943. On 16 September Lindley force-landed a battle damaged The ZOOT SUITERS at Great Ashfield. Soon repaired, the bomber was used by Lindley for the last time when he flew it as lead pilot on the 10th October mission to Munster. He remembers;
'This was the first American mission where the target was the city itself and not an industrial complex. One of the purposes of the strike was to destroy a university in the city centre. Apparently, it was being used as a centre for developing hard-line Nazis. Some of the crews had misgivings about using the city centre as an aiming point. Not me. I thought it was great. The ZOOT SUITERS failed to take off on
16th November 1943 and the crew was forced to hastily use a spare. On 16th December it force-landed at Bungay, and six days later the bomber's No 4 propeller ran away. The supercharger failed on 4th January 1944, and on the 3rd February mission the aircraft could not maintain position in the formation. On 21st February its No 2 supercharger failed and the No 4 engine developed high oil pressure. The Zoot Suiters once again failed to take off on 4th March 1944, and four days later it developed fluctuating manifold pressure. Showing definite signs of battle fatigue, the weary bomber flew its final operational sortie on 26th March. 42-30235 was returned to the US at the end of the war and scrapped at Altus, in Oklahoma, in October 1945.
B-17F-95-BO 42-30301 IDIOT'S DELIGHT of the 332nd BS/94th BG, Bury St Edmunds (Rougham), and the 710th BS/447th BG, Rattlesden, April-June 1944
Originally issued to the 332nd BS/94th BG at Earls Colne on 5th June 1943 (the group moved to Bury St Edmunds eight days later), where it was christened IDIOT'S DELIGHT, this bomber was transferred to the 710th BS/447th BG at Rattlesden in April 1944. By then a multi-mission veteran, it survived until it was hit by flak over the Pas de Calais on 19th June 1944. Pilot 2nd Lt Theodore A Milton was forced to ditch the bomber in the Channel, where nine of its ten-man crew perished. One survived to become a POW.