Air Force 1 AF10110 USAAF Boeing B-17G Flying Fortress Heavy Bomber - "A Bit O' Lace", 709th Bombardment Squadron, 447th Bombardment Group, Rattlesden, Norfolk, 1945 (1:72 Scale)
"Why, it's a flying fortress!"
- Richard Williams, reporter for the Seattle Times, upon seeing a B-17 heavy bomber for the first time
The B-17, arguably World War II's most famous heavy bomber, first flew on July 28th, 1935, before a crowd of reporters eager to see Boeing's new bomber take wing. It was dubbed the "Flying Fortress" by the members of the press in attendance because of its (at least for the time) heavy defensive armament. The prototype crashed in October, but because of its impressive speed and handling the US Army Air Corps (USAAC) decided to continue testing anyway. They ordered 13 YB-17s for further evaluation, a decision that would prove momentous in years to come.
The YB-17 had five machine guns, room for 4,800 pounds of bombs and a crew of nine. It had electrically retractable landing gear. After testing the YB-17, an improved prototype, the Y1B-17, was built with Wright Cyclone radial engines. Twelve were delivered to the USAAC's 2nd Bombardment Group for trials. One of these was soon equipped with new Moss/General Electric turbochargers that became standard on all future Flying Fortresses. The first production order was for 39 B-17Bs with turbo-charged engines, and as soon as these were under production another order for the B-17C was placed, with seven machine guns instead of the original five.
The RAF received their first B-17Cs in 1941, and were soon conducting daylight raids over Germany. The defensive armament soon proved inadequate, and the B-17's altitude was little defense against the German fighters. Orders for the B-17D were soon placed with self-sealing fuel tanks and more armor because of lessons learned in bombing missions over Europe. The B-17E and B-17F soon followed with larger tail. The B-17F was the first to serve with the USAAF 8th Air Force. After suffering staggering losses in late 1943, analysis proved head-on attacks by enemy fighters were a distinct problem. The final major version, the B-17G, added a chin turret with dual machineguns. This gave the B-17 a defensive armament of 13 guns.
After the war, several dozen B-17s lived on as fire-bombers and aerial surveyors until the last one was retired in the 1970s. Today, a few B-17s have been restored to their wartime splendor. Ten are currently flying in the United States, one in the UK and another one in France.
Pictured here is a 1:72 scale replica of a USAAF Boeing B-17G Flying Fortress heavy bomber from the 709th Bombardment Squadron, 447th Bombardment Group, based at Rattlesden, Norfolk, in 1945 and nicknamed "A Bit O' Lace."
Release Date: August 2016
Historical Account: "Male Call" - A Bit 'O Lace was based on a popular Army cartoon strip, "Male Call." Armourer Nicholas Fingelly painted it in 1944 and in July 1945 the Bomber returned to the US after having flown 83 missions. The B-17 was ultimately scrapped along with her surplus sisters. Milton Caniff's comic strip, Male Call, from where the, Miss Lace artwork was drafted, was also scrapped at about the same time. The dark olive drab color on the rudder, elevators, and starboard aileron are obviously replacement parts after she received extensive tail damage on April 4th, 1945. Prior to April 4th, 1945, the rudder and ailerons were painted silver.
The squadron was stationed at RAF Rattlesden, England, from December 1943 to August 1945. It flew its first combat mission on December 24th, 1943, against a V-1 missile site near Saint-Omer in Northern France.
From December 1943 to May 1944, the squadron helped prepare for the invasion of the European continent by attacking submarine pens, naval installations, and cities in Germany; missile sites and ports in France; and airfields and marshaling yards in France, Belgium and Germany. The squadron conducted heavy bombardment missions against German aircraft industry during Big Week, February 20th - 25th. 1944.
The unit supported the invasion of Normandy in June 1944 by bombing airfields and other targets. On D-Day the squadron bombed the beachhead area using pathfinder aircraft.
The squadron aided in the breakthrough at St. Lo, France, and the effort to take Brest, France, from July to September 1944. It bombed strategic targets from October to December 1944, concentrating on sources of oil production. It assaulted marshalling yards, railroad bridges and communication centers during the Battle of the Bulge from December 1944 to January 1945. In March 1945 the group bombed an airfield in support of airborne assault across the Rhine. The unit flew its last combat mission on April 21st, 1945 against a marshalling yard at Ingolstadt, Germany.
The 709th redeployed to the United States during the summer 1945. The air echelon ferried their aircraft and personnel back to the United States, leaving on June 29th-30th, 1945. The squadron ground echelon, along with the 711th squadron sailed 3 August 1945 on the SS Benjamin R. Milam, from Liverpool. Most personnel were discharged at Camp Myles Standish after arrival at the port of Boston. A small cadre proceeded to Drew Field, Florida and the squadron inactivated on November 7th, 1945.