5.22.2007

B17s in the Air
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In the SF Bay Area, over the last few days you might have seen some classic aircraft in flight, lumbering overhead with a low, piston-powered rumble.


The Memphis Belle

These included the B-17 Flying Fortress, the B-24 Liberator, and the P-51 Mustang.


Women WASP pilots ferried B-17s from the U.S. to the European theatre. Heavy aircraft casualties required continued replenishment. The plane bears the phrase "Pistol Packin' Mama"


Actor Clark Gable, age 43, gunner, 8th Air Force

A wide variety of future celebrities and sports figures were associated with the B-17:

* Martin Caidin (1927–1997) — Author of Cyborg, the story that formed the basis of The Six Million Dollar Man and the saga of the last transatlantic formation flight of B-17s ever made, Everything But the Flak.
* Clark Gable (1901–1960) — Academy Award-winning film actor, five missions as waist gunner with several groups from May to September 1943, including the B-17 Eight Ball of the 359th Bomb Squadron (351st Bomb Group).
* Tom Landry — American football player and coach, flew 30 missions over Europe in 1944-45 as a B-17 pilot with the 493rd Bomb Group, surviving a crash landing in Czechoslovakia. (His older brother Robert died in a B-17 crash)[117]
* Norman Lear — Radio operator, with the 463rd Bombardment Group (Heavy), 15th Air Force, Celone Field, Foggia, Italy; television producer of American sitcoms Sanford and Son, Maude and All in the Family, among others.
* Gene Roddenberry — Creator of Star Trek; flew B-17s for the 394th Bomb Squadron, 5th Bomb Group (H), in the Pacific theater.[118]
* Robert Rosenthal — Assistant to the U.S. prosecutor at the Nuremberg Trials, where he interrogated Hermann Goering, pilot with the 100th Bomb Group.
* Brigadier General Robert Lee Scott, Jr. (1908–2006) — Best known for his autobiography God is My Co-Pilot, about his exploits in World War II with the Flying Tigers and the United States Army Air Forces in China and Burma.
* Jimmy Stewart — American film actor, instructed in B-17s before flying 20 combat missions in B-24s with the 8th Air Force, England; retired from Air Force Reserve a Brigadier General.[119]
* Bert Stiles (1920-1944) — 91st Bomb Group co-pilot from March to October 1944, short-story author, killed in action flying a P-51 on a second tour.
* Smokey Yunick — Award-winning motorsports car designer and premier NASCAR crew chief flew 50 missions as a B-17 pilot with the 97th Bombardment Group (Heavy) of the 15th Air Force, out of Amendola Airfield, Foggia, Italy.[120]

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