View Full Version : History Channels dog fights, B-17

02-26-2007, 09:24 AM
Did any one skip the oscars to watch History Channels Dog Fight, one with a lone B-17E (early model) being chased by 17 Japanese zeros? WOW!!! I hope some caught this it was fantastic! The Bomber killed 3 zeros before the zeros had to turn back due to "dog fight" they were low on fuel. A great story.
The bombers name the 666, Outstanding guys!!!

02-26-2007, 09:37 AM
I was flipping channels and thought the show was wonderful! The effects really brought home the intensity of the stories.

Doug C
02-26-2007, 09:52 AM
I missed it last night but I think it was a marathon consisting of previous episodes. Me and my young son look forward to watching it on Friday evenings. It's about my favorite show, ever.

Doug C

02-26-2007, 10:05 AM
Im primarily interested in B-17 bombers, but this shows dramatization, graphics, or animations are fantastic! I dont play video games but its impressive so much Im watching what ever Dog Fights are aired, I hope you all catch it, the 666? Dont mess with the devil lol

02-26-2007, 11:17 AM
#666 was one tough B-17!

02-27-2007, 09:44 AM
Here's another story of a plane with the tail #666. During the S.A.R.T. treaty when we were chopping up B-52's by the bushel a certain B-52 with the tail #666 was waiting at A.M.A.R.C. in Arizona. When time came to cut this bird up it became apparent that the hydraulic system had not been de-pressurized causing hydraulic fluid to spray everywhere. Well somwhere hydraulic fluid met ignition source and one heck of a fire started. I guess that was this planes last fight for it's life. :)

Doug C
02-27-2007, 11:14 AM
One of my favorite 'Dog Fights" episodes was when a US fighter pilot was wildly chasing a MIG 21 (I think it was), the MIG pilot led the American back to his airfield so the ground crews anti-aircraft could shoot down the American plane that was chasing him. Instead the American tagged the MIG over his own airfield causing the MIG to crash on his runway and take out another 6 or 7 MIGs in the process, that were staged next to the strip. Classic!

Doug C

02-27-2007, 12:14 PM
Thanks guys for the comments shared here, Im fascinated with B17s (the love of my childhood) and this one the 666, an earlier B17E was equipped with extra armament (guns) and would have liked to know more about this, sustained heavy damage to its nose section, the navigator who was injured, and later died still went back to return fire, bloody and all, true heroism.
I do say all and all that this program did an excellent description on dog fights in all eras. Enjoyed be there exactly as the engagement happened, It was well worth the time, may buy this later when funds become available.

02-27-2007, 12:30 PM
I haven't been disappointed in any of those shows, they are all great. What amazes me is the amount of damage those old aircraft (& men) could take and still make it home.

02-27-2007, 12:33 PM
As I've mentioned THIS is the quintessential documentary on aerial combat. Even though I've interviewed some of the same guys they've had on the CGI assists in the telling of the tale like moving pilot hands can't.:) There were some giants back then!

02-27-2007, 02:06 PM
As I've mentioned THIS is the quintessential documentary on aerial combat. Even though I've interviewed some of the same guys they've had on the CGI assists in the telling of the tale like moving pilot hands can't.:) There were some giants back then!

So very true, the damage these planes took and remained flying, If any one ever gets a chance to be inside a B-17, youll be surprised at how cramped to compartments are, many thought the nose section Plexiglas was bullet proof, no way!!!
As describe in this program, 17 Zeros after a lone B17, and they made a hell of a fight, In this fight, the 666 pilot was bloodied after bullets ripped through the cockpit, blood over instruments and while trying to stop his owe wounds he managed to keep control and fly back, they made it!! I just love to absorb this stuff, the courage, heroism of the entire crew. You read so much about how many B17s were lost in the early part of WWII in Europe and some how this lone B17 managed to survive against all odds.
Outstanding :eusa_clap

03-08-2007, 11:51 AM
i <3 Dogfights. i hate TV but i do love this show. did anyone watch the Marathon they had lately? i have my heart set on owning season one of Dogfights on DVD, which is available now for pre-order.


03-08-2007, 12:05 PM
Miss Kitty, I agree, not really a TV viewer, mostly TCM, some times ESPN, nightly news and History Channel, caught part, not all of it of this series, sure will be on my DVD list to purchase later :)

Sweet Leilani
03-08-2007, 12:32 PM
This is my favorite show EVER! I'm not much for TV in general, but I will stop the world to watch "Dogfights"! Even the ones I wasn't expecting to like (the Six Day War one, the Bismarck one) I thought were fascinating.

At my museum on Saturday mornings we all are talking about Friday's show. All the docents are veterans (we have an F4U pilot, a B-17 ball gunner, an F-4 crewchief, etc.) and it's cool to hear what these guys think of the show. They all say it's almost like being there again.

04-04-2007, 08:25 AM
I will have to watch for that episode. Hondo, I'm also interested in B-17's as well. So much I had a B-17 tattoo'd on my arm! And If you ever get chance to fly on one do it. It's an amazing experience.


04-04-2007, 09:50 AM
I will have to watch for that episode. Hondo, I'm also interested in B-17's as well. So much I had a B-17 tattoo'd on my arm! And If you ever get chance to fly on one do it. It's an amazing experience.


Thats wild, having B17 tattooed, I would have preferred nose art, still thats cool! Yup Ive hitched a ride on a B-17 (The Nine-o-Nine) hope I get another chance as well as the B-24. but the B-17 has always been since childhood a life time interests, dream to ride in. "Amazing experience" :eusa_clap
I recall the old TV show 12'O'clock High and they used mattress in cock-pit to simulate plane being hit by flack :eusa_doh:

04-04-2007, 10:30 AM
There was a B 17 living at the Jamestown NY airport for a while a couple of years ago. I happened to see it lumbering across the sky at low altitude over Chautauqua Lake on a lovely summers day for several minutes. What a thing to see! What a rumble it made!
I was stationed in Hawaii in 1967 when they were filming Tora Tora Tora. I used to stand in the window of my office at Camp Smith, overlooking Pearl harbor, and watch them "bomb" Pearl. Once I was at a PX right on the water at Pearl Harbor when 6 of their painted up T6's roared over head at treetop level. Now That was a roar! Imagine the din of 360 of them!

04-04-2007, 12:41 PM
This my friend Jack he has a nice full sleeve.

Jack's arm is very big.

When a customer came into my friends studio to see the piece he asked who is getting a back piece done?


Then there is the back of his arm.


Then the bottom before the wrist.


The cat's that did it.........



04-05-2007, 08:35 AM
I had the nose art tattooed beside it. I flew in the B-17 Yankee Lady from Michigan. It is an amazing experience!

04-05-2007, 09:16 AM
I had the nose art tattooed beside it. I flew in the B-17 Yankee Lady from Michigan. It is an amazing experience!

Cool! I've seen the Yankee Lady, she is a beauty, any Pictures??? [huh]

There was a B 17 living at the Jamestown NY airport for a while a couple of years ago. I happened to see it lumbering across the sky at low altitude over Chautauqua Lake on a lovely summers day for several minutes. What a thing to see! What a rumble it made!
I was stationed in Hawaii in 1967 when they were filming Tora Tora Tora. I used to stand in the window of my office at Camp Smith, overlooking Pearl harbor, and watch them "bomb" Pearl. Once I was at a PX right on the water at Pearl Harbor when 6 of their painted up T6's roared over head at treetop level. Now That was a roar! Imagine the din of 360 of them!

Must have been scary as well as awesome! as if like being thrown back into time, being there during the bombing at Pearl.
What a feeling to be standing on runway on a dark, cloudy morning to hear and feel the "rumbling" of B-17, it was thrill, something I'll never for get. :eusa_clap

Sweet Leilani
04-10-2007, 12:33 PM
Did any one skip the oscars to watch History Channels Dog Fight, one with a lone B-17E (early model) being chased by 17 Japanese zeros? WOW!!! I hope some caught this it was fantastic! The Bomber killed 3 zeros before the zeros had to turn back due to "dog fight" they were low on fuel. A great story.
The bombers name the 666, Outstanding guys!!!

I neglected to mention that I have the actual Medal of Honor won by Joe Sarnoski (the nose gunner in the 666) in my museum. Here's the display case representing a B-17 bombadier; Sarnoski's Medal of Honor & the citation are in the middle. (Right where the glare is- I'm sorry about that- PM me if anyone wants more info or better photos.)


The pilot, Jay Zeamer, also won the MOH, making that crew the most decorated aircrew of the war. Here's an account of their heroics:

"In the nose of the B-17 was 2d Lt. Joseph Sarnoski, who had received an unorthodox introduction to the craft of bombing. In the late 1930s, he and another raw recruit at Langley Field, Va., were put through an informal course on the Norden bombsight to demonstrate its simplicity and to prove that bombardiers could be turned out en masse if the US became involved in a major war.

The photo recce part of the Buka mission went off without incident, though 22 enemy fighters were seen taking off from the island's airfield. A few minutes later, Zeamer started a mapping run along Bougainville's west coast. Forty-five seconds from completion of the run, his B-17 was attacked head-on by five Japanese fighters. Though wounded in the attack, Sarnoski continued to fire his nose gun, shooting down two enemy aircraft. Had it not been for him, says retired Lt. Col. Jay Zeamer, the B-17 would have been destroyed by that initial attack. For his part, Zeamer shot down one of the attackers with a nose gun fired by a button on the control column--a rare, perhaps unique, achievement for the pilot of a heavy bomber.

Then a 20-mm shell exploded in the nose of the bomber, hurling Sarnoski into the catwalk under the cockpit and riddling Zeamer's arms and legs with shell fragments. With a supreme act of will, the mortally wounded Sarnoski dragged himself back to the nose and continued to fire until he fell dead over his guns.

The head-on attack knocked out the B-17's oxygen and hydraulic systems and all flight instruments. Zeamer, with a broken leg and multiple deep lacerations, put the bomber into an almost vertical dive from 25,000 feet to about 10,000 feet. He could judge his altitude only by the increase in engine manifold pressure. As he leveled off, an estimated 17 enemy fighters resumed the attack from all quarters, staying with the B-17 for 45 minutes until they ran low on fuel. During the running battle in which Zeamer saved the B-17 by taking violent evasive action, his crew shot down two fighters and probably downed another two.

Although weak from pain and loss of blood, Zeamer refused medical aid and remained at the controls until the enemy fighters had left. Then, during moments of consciousness, he assessed the condition of the bomber, decided it could not make it over New Guinea's Owen Stanley Mountains, and directed his copilot to land at Dobodura on the east coast. With no brakes or flaps, the B-17 ground-looped to a stop with one dead and six wounded aboard. Only the copilot and two gunners had escaped injury.

For their heroic roles in that incredible mission, both Zeamer and Sarnoski were awarded the Medal of Honor, the only instance of World War II when two members of a crew were so honored for separate and independent acts of heroism in combat. All other members of the crew were awarded Distinguished Service Crosses.

A year later, Zeamer was released from the hospital. In January 1945, he was retired for disability resulting from his combat wounds. He now lives in Boothbay Harbor, Maine.


(Air Mission)

Rank and organization: Major, U.S. Army Air Corps. Place and date: Over Buka area, Solomon Islands, 16 June 1943. Entered service at: Machias, Maine. Birth: Carlisle, Pa. G.O. No.: 1, 4 January 1944. Citation: On 16 June 1943, Maj. Zeamer (then Capt.) volunteered as pilot of a bomber on an important photographic mapping mission covering the formidably defended area in the vicinity of Buka, Solomon Islands. While photographing the Buka airdrome. his crew observed about 20 enemy fighters on the field, many of them taking off. Despite the certainty of a dangerous attack by this strong force, Maj. Zeamer proceeded with his mapping run, even after the enemy attack began. In the ensuing engagement, Maj. Zeamer sustained gunshot wounds in both arms and legs, 1 leg being broken. Despite his injuries, he maneuvered the damaged plane so skillfully that his gunners were able to fight off the enemy during a running fight which lasted 40 minutes. The crew destroyed at least 5 hostile planes, of which Maj. Zeamer himself shot down 1. Although weak from loss of blood, he refused medical aid until the enemy had broken combat. He then turned over the controls, but continued to exercise command despite lapses into unconsciousness, and directed the flight to a base 580 miles away. In this voluntary action, Maj. Zeamer, with superb skill, resolution, and courage, accomplished a mission of great value.


*SARNOSKI, JOSEPH R. (Air Mission)

Rank and organization: Second Lieutenant, U.S. Army Air Corps, 43rd Bomber Group, Place and date: Over Buka Area, Solomon Islands, 16 June 1943. Entered service at: Simpson, Pa. Born. 30 January 1915, Simpson, Pa. G.O. No.: 85, 17 December 1943. Citation: For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action above and beyond the call of duty. On 16 June 1943, 2d Lt. Sarnoski volunteered as bombardier of a crew on an important photographic mapping mission covering the heavily defended Buka area, Solomon Islands. When the mission was nearly completed, about 20 enemy fighters intercepted. At the nose guns, 2d Lt. Sarnoski fought off the first attackers, making it possible for the pilot to finish the plotted course. When a coordinated frontal attack by the enemy extensively damaged his bomber, and seriously injured 5 of the crew, 2d Lt. Sarnoski, though wounded, continued firing and shot down 2 enemy planes. A 20-millimeter shell which burst in the nose of the bomber knocked him into the catwalk under the cockpit. With indomitable fighting spirit, he crawled back to his post and kept on firing until he collapsed on his guns. 2d Lt. Sarnoski by resolute defense of his aircraft at the price of his life, made possible the completion of a vitally important mission.

04-10-2007, 02:11 PM
the actual Medal of Honor won by

Nice grouping and cool diplay, but I found out a long time ago that you "never" refer to anyone that has a MOH as a winner. You always refer to them as a recipient. I know because I did it in front of a MOH recipient years ago and recieved quite the tongue lashing. They say that it's not a contest, therefore there are no winners.


04-10-2007, 02:23 PM
I guess that was this planes last fight for it's life. :)

Can you say you blame the old girl? I've "known" a few B-52s (a big chunk of my tiny little heart will always belong to '094 at Boeing Wichita/McConnell AFB), and it's like with time each of them has taken on it's own personality, almost a soul if it's possible for a machine to have one.:eek: Most of the B-17s and other surviving heavies I've been aboard have been the same way...

Miss Kitty, it's such a shame my heart is committed elsewhere--a young lady who appreciates things on wings is truly a rare and beautiful thing.;)

04-11-2007, 10:46 AM
in my museum

What is the name of the museum and where is it located?

04-11-2007, 10:58 AM
Sweet Leilani: WOW! thats a much better description of the 666 dogfight than I or History Channel did, your on the ball lady, well done Miss, Great job. Thanks for sharing info, great pictures.

Likewise, where is this museum?

Sweet Leilani
04-12-2007, 10:11 AM
It's the Harold F. Pitcairn Wings of Freedom Museum in Willow Grove, PA. We're adjacent to the Willow Grove Naval Air Station. You can visit our website at www.dvhaa.org for more information. I've been the curator there for just over a year and love every minute of it!

04-15-2007, 09:56 AM
Just for those who love the "Big Friends" here's an article I did several years ago.


Two months later the Mustangs would have made a difference. Four months later there would have been four P-51B groups with men like Don Blakeslee, Glen Eagleston and Don Gentile to watch out for their Big Friends. The carnage would have never happened. But on October 14, 1943 when the 103 P-47s turned back near Aachen, the Luftwaffe fighters pounced like lions on the B-17s sent to bomb Schweinfurt’s ball bearing plants.

To put it concisely, virtually every piece of war machinery from a searchlight or 88 mm gun to a fighter or bomber aircraft used them at an average rate of 2.5 million per month. The strategic concept was to lessen then destroy the vital production of ball bearings so that the hardware of war could not be manufactured. Similarly, attacking fuel production facilities was another way to hinder Germany’s ability to wage war.

A Ju 88 twin-engine bomber required 1,056 anti-friction bearings. The efficient 88 mm AA gun used 47 while a typical searchlight needed 90. During the month of December 1943 alone the German aircraft industry used 2,395,000 bell bearings. The Schweinfurt factory complex accounted for 42% of all bearing production making it a ripe target.

An August 17th attack on Schweinfurt had lost 36 B-17s out of 376 sent. The early days of October leading up to the raid showed mounting losses of heavies as increasing numbers plied the skies to German targets.

It would have been a airplane model hobbyist’s dream to see so many types of planes in vast numbers. For the men in the B-17s it proved a nightmare.

Virtually every type of combat aircraft intercepted the American force once the Thunderbolts were forced to return home due to minimal fuel status. This was the tactic of the Germans for they knew the range of the P-47s and always waited just beyond their turn-back point to pounce on the heavies. The P-47s did break up many attacks and accounted for 13 German planes before sorrowfully winging west.

Once the Little Friends were gone it must have looked like a Luftwaffe recognition book to the crewmen on the bombers. Bf 109Gs, FW 190s, Bf 110s & 210s, six cannoned Ju 88s, Do 217s and even rocket lugging He111s attacked. Green kids in feeble He113s were airborne with the likes of He 177s while huge FW 200 four-engine bombers trailed the Fortresses giving position to incoming comrades. Even JU 87 Stukas were seen by the startled airmen at 22,000 feet altitude. FW 189s, usually used in ground support, swept against the Forts too. Beyond that, the color array of aircraft was astounding its variety as well. Only this paint shop show soon took on a macabre, Dali surrealness as the slaughter commenced.

Sixty B-24Ds were to be part of the attack force but the heavy clouds made it impossible, once airborne, to join up with the B-17Es and “Fs”. Only 29 assembled. The plan was for attack on a secondary target if that occurred. With 56 P-47 Thunderbolt escorts the Liberators performed their diversion attack on Emden without losses. The original plan for Mission 115 called for 383 heavy bombers. Now at the onset there were sixty less.

The bomb group assembled. The difficulty of maintaining position and speed relative to the leader, Colonel Budd Peaslee, commenced. So began the concert of twiddling throttles to keep in the 130 to 190 MPH range. Height position in relation to other B-17s was crucial to keep fire coverage in the box formation. Pilots were constantly moving throttles to speed up or kicking rudders left and right to slow down then moving the control column to gain or lose height. Then all this became infinitely more difficult once the Germans attacked. Eighteen big bombers made a box that was roughly a 750-foot cube of aircraft.

It was figured that about 300 German fighters were to be encountered along the path of the bombers. Actually, in the summer of 1943 many squadrons were recalled from other fronts to defend the Reich proper. The force consisted of 600 Bf 109 and FW 190 single-engine fighters and nearly 200 twin-engine day fighter destroyers. Many of these planes and pilots flew a second sortie that day after landing to re-fuel and re-arm.

The fighters assembled to take on heavy bombers were heavily armed. Extra armor and armament was the order of the day. These planes didn’t come to dogfight. They came to transfer as much ballistic power as possible from their guns into the B-17s to bring them down. There were many rocket-carrying twin-engine planes mounting the huge 21-cm. projectiles.

They lobbed the rockets from both sides and the back of the formations from 1,500 yards as the 109s and 190s bore in from head on. From the time the P-47s broke off near Aachen leaving the Big Friends to their fate, the Germans attacked. But as they neared the target the Germans began concentrating on one formation at a time and fired from very close range for effectiveness.

There were Bf 109s with bright orange noses and the rest of the plane black. Some 190s were painted yellow all over. 110s had big yellow patches on the bellies. The Ju 88s had multi-colored striped tops with white bellies. Other Ju 88s were solid black over white undersides. More 109s were noted all silver with green noses. The FW 200s were all silver and 190s were seen with yellow noses and green cowls. Attacking He 177s were black and white. One would think the flamboyant G&#246;ring himself was in the paint shops.

But as surreal as it seemed to the defenders, the 20 mm rounds were real enough as fifty to sixty fighters at a time from groups of an ongoing gaggle of 300 closed to ramming distance to fire. A large filght of Me 210s closed to 500 yards and released rockets. B-17 crews said the rocket bursts were as powerful as the 88 mm flak explosions from the guns four miles below. Some were even larger. Huge flashes from high caliber cannon mounted on twin-engine attackers were noted. FW 200 maritime bombers and Bf 109s flying above the formations dropped air-to-air bombs, which exploded differently depending on the type- incendiary, fragmentary or bright high explosive. Some bombs came down on parachutes.

And most strange of all, four aircraft were positively identified as P-47s near the B-17s. They were painted a very dark brown and had no Allied white stripe markings or insignia. They were fired on since the last P-47 escorts left long ago. They were captured aircraft!

Through this melee the 228 remaining B-17s bombed the target area and defended themselves. Gunners with limbs shattered or lost fought on with their fifties. The gunners were getting confirmed kills, probables and plenty of damaged claims but the onslaught came at the rate of fifty to seventy individual, close-in attacks per minute not counting the rockets fired in standoff mode at a distance!

Between 1405 hours and 1421 hours near Luxembourg the 332nd Squadron 94th Bomb Group were hit by 109s and 190s. Sergeants R.E. King, W.P. Wetzel, and S.H. Rodeschin got three of the Messerschmitts damaged another and then Sergeant D.A. Nowlin killed a Focke Wolf 190. These were confirmed kills with exploding aircraft not eager claims by enthusiastic, confused crewmen. The kill ranges are significant in that they ranged from 300 to 600 yards out

At 1431 hours a Bf 109 closed on a Fortress near Wurtzburg at 22,500 feet. At 500 yards Sergeant E. Hunt, tail gunner opened up. Two wingmen just behind peeled off but the leader kept closing. It was a 20-millimeter vs. 50-caliber duel as the 109 thrust in to point blank range. With out any visible, serious damage on either side the German plane passed beneath the tail. Seconds later the belly gunner saw the pilot bail and the fighter violently explode. At 1440 Hunt again drew blood flaming a 109 diving from 5 o’clock. Then another and yet another were fired upon as the fighters kept coming.

1451 hours saw a JU88 fighter, probably the G7 version, lobbing in 20-millimeter shells met by top turret gunner Sergeant F.C. Mancuso. He flamed both engines but the crew took never to chutes and the Ju 88 dived into the ground.

A few minutes later at 1515 hours while tail gunner Hunt was firing at a Ju 88 off to the side a bit, another heavy fighter slipped unseen up to only 150 yards closing slowly at six. The nose lit up with cannon fire but the big plane made an easy target for Hunt who smashed the cockpit with fifties. Sheets of flame broiled from the cockpit and spread as the plane went down.

Ten minutes later at 1525 it was the left waist’s turn. Sergeant S.J. Maciolek dueled with his one fifty vs. the six cannons of yet another Ju88 who fired rockets as well from 8 o’clock. Both engines aflame, the stricken enemy rolled over and went down to crash and explode.

Another 94th Group B-17 at 21,000 feet near Eupen at 1400 hours took on a 109. Right waist Sergeant Mccabe fired a short burst and the fighter began its death dive. The ball turret confirmed the kill.

At 1445 near Wurzburg Sergeant Rand in the left waist opened on a distant but closing Bf 109 at 1,000 yards. Three very short bursts send the pilot to his chute.

At 1510, near Schweinfurt the tail gunner, Sergeant W.P. Brown tangled with a twin-engine fighter firing repeated 20 mm bursts. Brown fired about sixty rounds at the plane. Pieces flew off as it began smoking. Then the tanks lit up. It crashed without the crew getting out.

1515 hours saw top turret Sergeant C.T. Troot poured fifty rounds right into the cockpit of a 109 at seven o’clock, which exploded.

Still another Fortress’ approaching the Initial Point found top turret, A.A. Ulrich, scoring on an FW 190. A pair of them came in and Ulrich began firing at the leader at 800 yards. He kept firing until at fifty yards the plane erupted in flames and careened away exploding below.

The ball turret gunner, Sergeant C.T. Noulles, fired on an Me 210 from 1,000 yards out on down to 400. Peeling off the 210 came back for more. Noulles had plenty more and blazed the 210 to pieces with 300 rounds.

At 1506 Ulrich drew a bead at 1,400 yards on a 109 from seven o’clock high. At 700 yards he opened up with a continuous burst of about 200 rounds. He quit firing at 300 yards. The fighter had pulled up and was engulfed in .50s. The 109 wreathed in flames fell away.

1533 hours saw Sergeant B. Lewis in the tail unleash seventy-five rounds from his .50s at 200 yards into at 109, which spun and began shredding itself to bits.

Five minutes later Lewis took on a 190 with its belly tank still on. From 600 yards he maintained steady bursts until the FW passed over the tail at twenty yards, belly tank ablaze. It exploded. No chute.

From the 92nd Group a B-17 had about thirty Ju 88s attacking them. A lone Ju 88 closed at 5 o’clock level. Sergeant D.M. Radney, the tail gunner, saw flame from the port engine at 500 yards. The enemy responded and its nose produced familiar 20mm fireworks. Radney fired till the fighter broke at 200 yards.

Belly gunner, Sergeant J.W. Disher defended against an FW 190 A-4. It was his two .50s vs. two 7.9s and four 20mms. The German got hits on the Fortress’ belly. Disher was struck by fragments but continued the maniacal duel. The .50s won the face off and the German went over the side to fight another day.

A pack of Ju 88s now concentrated their fire on the group. Sergeant B.L. Boutwell in the top turret lived up to his namesake and fired at a Junkers coming in at 2 o’clock from 300 yards, hacking it with his fifties. The ball turret confirmed the plane was afire as two chutes appeared.

Simultaneously, a Ju 88 G7 engaged Radney in his tail position as it came in from 5 o’clock low. Radney sprayed the big twin from 500 yards in to about 350. The German was scoring though and the Queen shook from hits. The starboard wing of the Ju 88 was soon roasting itself and the portside V-12 caught fire as well. As if in an shooting arcade, another Ju 88 appeared forcing the Sergeant to swing his guns into the next gunfight as it passed by.

A new type arrived, none other than a Dornier Do 217 night fighter that came in pumping large caliber cannon shells into the B-17. This time Disher in the ball scored with three heavy bursts. With both Diamler V-12s blazoned from the .50s, it fell out of control and exploded two miles below.

Now more of the nasty Ju 88s appeared and began streaming in their fire. Radney frantically swung is duo of fifties to attempt to meet each challenge snapping off bursts. Suddenly an FW 190 was dead astern at only twenty-five yards! The wings and nose were enveloped in a corona of yellow-orange flash from its guns. Radney winced at the impending collision, but kept firing. Smoke appeared in the 190 and at the last second it broke port. Once again Sergeant Radney’s aim was true. About 150 yards out it exploded in a seething inferno.

Even the bombardier, Lt. K.A. Pfleger took out a two 190s from 1 o’clock at 400 yards with a single cheek-mounted fifty. Sergeant C.T. Hultquist in the right waist confirmed that the one Pfleger hit went out of control and smashed into the second one!

Left Waist Sergeant N.J. Barbato drew blood when a Ju 88 was caught in his sights at 600 yards. The right engine flamed and he went out of control and struck the ground far below.

Hulquist tagged one in a group of attacking 109s coming in at 2 o’clock below the starboard wing. Strikes on one got him smoking heavily immediate and Radney saw him explode.

Navigator, Lt. P.L. Stebbins got hits on a Ju 88 hosing it 400 yards out. Trailing smoke from both engines, the plane finally dived into the ground.

Other Forts went down. Pilots descended in circles so as not to make too easy of a target. Parachutes blossomed and lucky crewmen escaped. Some damaged aircraft were forced to jettison their bombs in order to keep pace with the others and maintain fire coverage. Lone B-17s were usually doomed to pick off.

Planes like Brennan’s Circus plunged from 25,000 feet to just fifteen feet off the deck with two engines out as she ran for the coast. She was riddled with holes but the attackers, not able to make good pass angles, finally left her, certainly to crash. Every gun on the ground fired, as she swept past. A barrage of tracers took out a third engine. Pilot, Lt. Joseph Brennan knew the book said that he couldn’t fly on one engine but he revved up the remaining, venerable Wright Cyclone and dragged the cripple away. They were drawing fire still as the flying wreck past the shoreline. But Circus made to within five miles of the British coast where she ditched without causality.

Flak hit the previously unscathed Paper Doll just seven minutes from the French coast. Then fighters came in spewing 20 mms. A rocket killed the pilot and left the co-pilot severely wounded. That left the navigator, Lt. Miles McFann, as the only salvation. McFann had flown light planes before the war and even the Fortress for brief stints in calmer mission moments. Paper Doll made it home.

An unnamed plane the crew just called 741 lost one engine but stayed in the box. But when the squadron climbed out she could not. Soon she was alone in the big sky with German fighters. 190s and 109s attacked wounding ball turret gunner Sergeant Walter Molzon. The continued onslaught let daylight into the holed, sieve-like rear compartment. Tail gunner, Sergeant James Sweely said that all the armor around him was cut or dented but his wounds were minor. Finally the plane lumbered into the gray bliss of the clouds.

They had three choices- 1. Bail out over Germany 2. Head for internment in Switzerland 3.Steer for England. The vote was to head for home. Diving to treetop level 741 began her race for the French coast. Lt. Harold Christensen, piloting the Fort, collapsed from wounds. He died the next day. Co-pilot, Lt. Stuart Mendelsohn recovered the big bomber but it smashed the nose into a tree as a crewman called out a burning engine. The radio operator had the only ammo left and picked off several enemy gunners on a sea wall as 741 staggered out over the water. Fuel exhausted, to where the engines began coughing, Mendelsohn brought the Fortress into a British airfield.

Windy City Avenger had her elevator shredded and the crew bailed out 1,000 over England. Others bellied in and some landed on their wheels with chewed up metal as a souvenir of the day.

Three Thunderbolts were lost defending the Big Friends. Fifty-nine B-17s went down over the Reich’s airspace. Six others were destroyed near of over England from ditching or bailouts. Another seventeen were damaged so badly that they would never fly again. Only fifty planes received no damage of the 257 that made it over Germany’s airspace.

In the space of a few days eighty-eight bombers were lost on missions leading up to the big Schweinfurt raid. While the Germans acknowledged the accuracy of the bombing, the 8th A.F. could not sustain the percentage of losses needed to keep the pressure on the German war machine. It forced 80% of ball bearing production to be dispersed by October 1944, but in the long run that was much to German advantage. But by March 1944, with sufficient numbers of P-51s capable of to-and-from target escort, the tide began turn ever so slowly. Never again would the Big Friends be mauled as bad as they were that bloody Thursday.

Between the hours of 1439-1457 the 228 B-17s dropped 450 1,000 lb. high explosive bombs, 663 500 lb. HE bombs 1,751 100 lb. incendiary bombs and expended 697,828 rounds of .50 caliber ammunition.