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The B-17 Flying Fortress arrived in Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. The bomber was nicknamed the “Battleship” due to its role in aerial combat. The bomber was equipped with the A-20 “Wasp” engine. On August 10, 1942, the carrier USS Arkansas deployed the B-17 on her first combat mission.
In early 1943, the Boeing Company of Seattle received a contract from the US Navy to build 100 fighters for use in the Pacific theater at a cost of $60 million. This aircraft was based on an old model Airframe 715-A, and was one of the earliest aircraft in the class powered by a radial turbocharged Wright R-2770-20B, three-cylinder radial engine. This small, highly efficient fighter was one of the first in the US to use an in-house production engine, making it one of the few “true” production aircraft.
The Boeing Company went to work quickly. Design work began on January 1, 1943, two months ahead of the ship-to-ship date. The B-17 was delivered to the Marine Corps on March 28, 1943. On May 5, 1943, the B-17B was first dispatched to Japan.
It made six combat missions to Japan, including two bombing missions on Nagasaki and four raids in the Kokura peninsula and Tokyo.
However, as the Battle of Iwo Jima and the Battle of the Coral Sea unfolded, the B-17B became more of a liability in combat compared to its predecessors. The USN had ordered a total of 10,000 B-17Bs to be built when the war ended. By July of 1944, only 1,800 had been built. The final aircraft of this type was the B-17B-41 “Thunderbolt”. A total of 468 were built, including 477 prototypes.
B-17B-41 “Thunderbolt” (Vickers Model A)
This photo was made by the USN at Pearl Harbor showing an engine-powered B-17B that, while in its airframe, had just been loaded onto the flight deck of USS Arkansas, circa early summer 1943. (Click to enlarge.)
B-17 was assigned to the USN. When the war ended in 1945, it served in many roles including bomber escort for the
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