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B-17, Brennan's Circus: The Plane Who Wouldn't Die

B-17, Brennan's Circus: The Plane Who Wouldn't Die

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B-17, Brennan's Circus: The Plane Who Wouldn't Die

Lunghezza:
338 pagine
1 ora
Pubblicato:
Mar 11, 2016
ISBN:
9781311747594
Formato:
Libro

Descrizione

The B-17 ahead and 300 feet above suddenly staggered as though it had struck another plane. Flames erupted from the root of the right wing. In just moments crewmen started leaping from the plane. The helpless observers watched and counted together—1, 3, 5 . . . then, in quick sequence, the wing folded, the plane exploded into flame and one last crewman sprang, engulfed in fire, into the 25,000 foot void below. His chute opened momentarily and then vanished, burned away. He fell like a flare, trailing smoke A moment later the horrified watchers realized their plane was plowing right through the falling parachutes. The copilot screamed and closed his eyes. But the pilot could only stare in horror as the stricken B-17 rolled over above them, began to spin madly and hurtled directly down toward them wreathed in flames. The plane, spinning like a child’s toy, flashed by in front of them so close they could see the pilot and copilot trapped on the flight deck by the monstrous g-forces generated by the rotation. Instantly they were gone from sight.

It was WWII, October 14, 1943, and the most violent 1-day air battle ever fought was underway. The target was the ball-bearing factories at Schweinfurt, Germany. Before the day was over, 60 of the great B-17 bombers with their crews of 10 men each would fall from the sky. Nearly 600 US airmen would be lost in the span of just 7 hours. It would be the biggest disaster for the USAAF of the air war.
The B-17 “Flying Fortress” as it was designated by Boeing, or just the “Fort” as it was affectionately called by the media and the men who crewed her, was a plane that could take incredible abuse, absorb staggering damage and still keep flying and get her crew home. The men who flew her loved her for her sturdy bones but, at the same time, they hated her for her quirks and, most of all, for what she represented . . . a horrific way to die.
Before every mission, as they approached their plane in the predawn hours, they hated the sight of her looming through the fog. They hated her as they clambered aboard in their heavy, cumbersome flight suits. They hated her balkiness and obstinate refusal to get up to speed carrying tons of bombs and fuel. During take-off they cursed her and cajoled her and prayed for her to climb safely into the sky just one more time and, most of the time, she delivered.
And then, when she brought them safely home from the hell in the sky, they loved her, hugged her, patted her and spoke of her with ebullient praise. They fawned over her, tended her wounds and saw to her every need. Is it any wonder then that the men who flew in the B-17 called her the “Queen?” Their Queen was a ruthless bitch, an unforgiving taskmaster and a stone killer but, when it really mattered, it was well known and reassuring that “the Queen died hard.” It took a lot to kill her and few ever died harder than Brennan’s Circus.

“Brennan’s Circus” is the true story of the events that occurred leading up to the 23rd and final mission of the renowned B-17F Bomber, “Brennan’s Circus.” This astounding story tells of one plane and its crew’s stubborn refusal to quit as they fought their way through the deadliest air battle in history, the 2nd raid on the Schweinfurt ball bearing factories It is the account of their struggle to bring their indomitable “Flying Fortress” home. With the plane shot to rags, an engine in flames, they flew across Europe, less than 50 feet above the ground on 2 engines with one wing ready to fall off. Then, a third engine quit. This is their heroic story. Included is detailed unit information, dates and locations, numerous photos of the plane, individual crew photos and data, enlistment records, letters from crewmen, newspaper accounts, press releases, and more. Over 85 images and photos are included.

Pubblicato:
Mar 11, 2016
ISBN:
9781311747594
Formato:
Libro

Informazioni sull'autore

Author of 3 books in both print and PDF and 8 ebooks, Michael Beech has been helping the 3D community since 2002 by writing and publishing educational manuals on 3D photography. A leader in developing and promoting innovations in digital 3D special effects, he has shared his findings and knowledge about such topics as: — Simplified stereo base calculation — Virtual (floating) windows — Forward windows — Frameless windows — Out-of-frame effects — Techniques to cure window violations — Legal” and “soft” window violations — Fatal mistakes when photographing 3D — Ways to fix errors made when photographing 3D — 2D to 3D conversion — Slide-bar designs — Photoshop stereo alignment techniques His books have provided “how-to” information that could not, and cannot be found elsewhere. Over the past 12 years, thousands of students of 3D have been helped by his tireless advice in multiple 3D stereo forums online. He has been published in Stereo World (NSA) magazine and Stereoscopy (ISU) magazine and won a first place award in an international 3D photography contest. Books include: — Digital 3D Stereo Guide — Mastering 2D to 3D Conversion — 3D Stereo Magic — Super Stereo 3D — Beginner’s Guide to 3D Photography — 3D Photography with Photoshop — 3D Photograph Assembly with Photoshop Actions — Mastering the 3D Cha-Cha — 3D Photography Slide-Bars --- 3D Photography Stereo Base Made Easy — 2D to 3D Conversion with SPM — 3D Photograph Assembly with SPM — 3D Photography Made Easy

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Anteprima del libro

B-17, Brennan's Circus - Michael Beech

Introduction

[This image is in color for color readers and monitors]

Return to Photo List

The story of Brennan’s Circus and the strong men who crewed her is a tale of terror, sacrifice, stern resolve, unwavering commitment and, most of all, extreme bravery. It is a story little different from that of thousands of other aircrews who fought in and sometimes survived the great strife in the skies during World War II. The little difference for these men was that their efforts and their skills, along with a huge helping of luck and a legendary aircraft—the Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress—brought them through to tell their tale.

The event that helped to immortalize their plane was the largest and most violent one-day air battle ever fought—and the costliest ever for the USAAF. It was the 2nd Schweinfurt Raid, October 14, 1943, Bomber Command Mission 115 of WWII.

The Plane

Boeing B-17F

The B-17 Flying Fortress as it was designated by Boeing, or just the Fort as it was affectionately called by the media and the men who crewed her, was a plane that could take incredible abuse, absorb staggering damage and still keep flying and bring her crew home. The aircrews loved her for her sturdy bones, but at the same time they hated her for her quirks and, most of all, for what she represented . . . a horrific way to die.

Before every mission, as her crew approached her in the predawn hours, that was when their fear and doubt was the worst. They hated the sight of her looming through the fog. They hated her as they clambered aboard in their heavy, cumbersome flight suits. On takeoff they hated her balkiness and obstinate refusal to get up to speed carrying tons of bombs and fuel. Then they cursed her and cajoled her and prayed for her to climb into the sky and, most of the time, she delivered. They hated her coldness when, at 25,000 feet, the 80 degrees below zero winds whipped through her open gun ports and unpressurized shell. They hated her when their oxygen masks froze solid and they died of anoxia.

And then, when she brought them safely home from the hell in the sky, they loved her, hugged her, patted her and spoke of her with ebullient praise. They fawned over her, tended her wounds and saw to her every need. Is it any wonder then that the men who flew in the B-17 called her the Queen? Their Queen was a cold, ruthless bitch, an unforgiving taskmaster and a stone killer. But, when it really mattered, it was well known and reassuring that the Queen died hard. It took a lot to kill her and few ever died harder than Brennan’s Circus.

Brennan’s Circus was a B-17F-100-BO Flying Fortress, SN 42-30383. It was built in the Boeing plant in Seattle, Washington, and delivered to Cheyenne, Wyoming, May 25, 1943.

She would carry a crew of 10 and was able to deliver 8000 pounds of bombs to the target. For defense she was more heavily armed than the earlier B17-F models. Instead of two .30 caliber cheek mounted guns in the front, she had two .50 caliber cheek mounted Browning machine guns, plus a third .50 caliber mounted in the center of the nose. In total she carried 12 Browning .50 caliber machine guns: 3 in the nose, 2 in the top turret, 2 in the belly mounted Sperry ball turret, 1 dorsal gun, 2 waist guns and 2 tail guns. This increase in armament was a precursor to the 13 guns of the B-17G with its chin mounted turret with twin .50 calibers. Because of this armament, the Germans called the B-17 the flying porcupine, fliegendes Stachelschwein, literally flying thorn pig.

Detail of Nose of Brennan’s Circus

B-17F, 42-30383 with 3 Nose Guns

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From Cheyenne the plane was sent to Kearney Army Airfield, Kearney, Kansas, on June 5, 1943. Kearney Army Airfield was primarily a processing center for plane assignments. The plane was assigned to the 8th Army Air Force, (3rd Air Division), 4th Bomb Wing, 94th Bombardment Group (Heavy), 332nd Bomb Squadron (Heavy). The Group Commander was Colonel Frederick W. Castle, an eventual Congressional Medal of Honor Recipient (Posthumous).

The plane was next moved to Dow Army Air Field, Bangor, Maine on July 7, 1943. This airfield, due to its proximity to the ferry route to the United Kingdom via a Great Circle route, was used as a jumping off point for the journey to the European Theater. The planes were serviced there for the flight to England.

From there the plane was flown to England by either a ferry crew (usually WASP’s) or a combat crew being deployed. It arrived at Rougham Field, Bury St. Edmunds England, on July 8, 1943.

42-30383 was not flown to England by Lt. Brennan and his crew because, almost a month previously, Lt. Brennan and his crew, having completed a year of training, had been assigned as a ferry crew and had delivered a different B-17 to England (apparently the one in which they had trained). According to Lt. Brennan, the crew flew the plane to Gander, Newfoundland. Then they flew 13 hours in the worst instrument weather Brennan had ever experienced to Prestwick, Scotland. From there they flew to Warten (near Liverpool) and surrendered the plane. They then waited nearly a month for a plane to be assigned to them. Eventually, 42-30383 arrived at Bury St. Edmunds on July 8, 1943. Lt. Brennan and crew were assigned the plane and 2 days later participated in their first combat mission together (Lt. Brennan had already flown his first mission with a different crew on a different plane.

When the plane, 42-30383, left the US, it sported a new roundel design (wing insignia) with a red outline authorized by the USAAF in June 1943. This pattern was quickly discontinued by the end of July 1943, but 42-30383 apparently never changed the red outline to the revised blue outline mandated by August 1943. It is very rare to see this red and blue roundel in a photograph of a B-17. In black-and-white photos this roundel appears to have a white outline in contrast to planes with the blue outlined roundel, where the outline is distinctly dark. This perplexed me (the author) for a very long time. Fortunately, being a photographer, I finally realized that aerial military photography was generally done using a red filter to cut through haze. This red filter canceled the color red of the roundel, causing it to appear to be white (this may be the reason the colors were changed from red to blue). On the other hand, photos taken on the ground through unfiltered lenses would cause the outline to appear dark or black.

Red Outlined Roundel (shown in color)

Only used in June and July of 1943

Unit Organization 8th Air Force

Below are 2 unit organization charts that show the location of the 332nd Bomb Squadron in the Air Force hierarchy and the units most closely associated with that squadron. I found this useful in determining unit participations in various raids and actions.

The second chart shows the hierarchy after the reorganization on September 13, 1943, when the 3rd Bomber Division was formed. At that time the 4th Bombardment Wing was broken up and reduced to just 3 Bombardment Groups; the 94th, 385th, and the new 447th. The symbol H stands for Heavy. Bomber Squadron numbers are only listed for the 94th Bombardment Group.

8th Air Force:

4th Bombardment Wing, Col. Curtis E. LeMay

(Received DUC for August 17, 1943 Schweinfurt/Regensburg raid)

(Received DUC for January 11, 1944, Germany)

95th Bombardment Group (H)

96th Bombardment Group (H)

100th Bombardment Group (H)

385th Bombardment Group (H)

388th Bombardment Group (H)

390th Bombardment Group (H)

94th Bombardment Group (H), Lt. Col. Frederick W. Castle

331 Bomber Squadron, QE

332 Bomber Squadron (H), XM (Xray-Mike)

42-30383, Brennan’s Circus, XM-D2 (Xray-Mike, Delta-Two)

333 Bomber Squadron, TS

410 Bomber Squadron, GL

On September 13, 1943, the 3rd Air Division was formed. The 4th Bombardment Wing was reduced in size and rearranged as shown below:

8th Air Force

3rd Bomber Division, Col. Curtis E. LeMay

13th Bombardment Wing

45th Bombardment Wing

4th Bombardment Wing, Brig. Gen. Russell A Wilson, Bury St. Edmunds

385th Bombardment Group (H)

447th Bombardment Group (H)

94th Bombardment Group (H), Col. Frederick W. Castle

331 Bomber Squadron, QE

332 Bomber Squadron, XM

42-30383, Brennan’s Circus, XM-D2

333 Bomber Squadron, TS

410 Bomber Squadron, GL

The planes of each Bomber Group were identified with a letter on the tail fin. For the 94th BG it was the letter A in a white square or Square A, as it was called.

There were usually about 12 to 18 planes in a B-17 Bomber Squadron. When flying in formation, the squadron was further divided into 3 flights (A, B and C flight) of 4 to 6 planes each. The Flight letter was just a reference to a position in the flight formation; the top layer was A-flight and C flight was the bottom layer. Any plane might be assigned to any Flight. This arrangement was their standard box formation which afforded maximum defense for the squadron.

The airfield at Bury St. Edmunds, Station 468, had 48 hardstands for the 4 squadrons that were stationed there.

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Photos of Brennan’s Circus

B-17F S/N 230383 on tail, Square A not yet added to tail

Photo 1

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In photo 1 you can clearly see the new style roundel that had a red outline. Here, in this black and white photo it appears to have a white outline (not an authorized pattern). Actually, this was because the photo was taken in black and white with a red filter over the lens, as was commonly done by photographers to cut through any haze. As a result, red color is erased and appears white in the black and white photographs. Blue colors appear black.

Brennan’s Circus With Crew, July 1943

Photo 2

[This image is in color for color readers and monitors]

Detail of Photo 2 showing Label on Propeller

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