Corgi AA33321 USAAF Boeing B-17G Flying Fortress Heavy Bomber - 43-37756, "Milk Wagon", 708th Bombardment Squadron, 447th Bombardment Group, RAF Rattlesden, England, 1945 (1:72 Scale)
"Well, I can tell you right now what the problem is. I saw it in your faces last night. I can see it there now. You've been looking at a lot of air lately, and you feel you need a rest. In short, you're feeling sorry for yourselves. Now I don't have a lot of patience with this "What are we fighting for?" stuff. We're in a war, a shooting war. We've got to fight. And some of us have got to die!"
- General Frank Savage, from the feature film "Twelve O'Clock High"
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.
This particular 1:72 scale replica of a B-17G Flying Fortress heavy bomber was nicknamed "Milk Wagon", and attached to the 708th Bombardment Squadron, 447th Bombardment Group, then deployed to RAF Rattlesden, England, during 1945.
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Historical Account: "Milk Wagon" - The military airfield at Rattlesden in Suffolk was constructed for American use during 1942 and was classified as an 'A' standard airfield. With three concrete runways and 50 dispersed aircraft hardstanding points, it was initially intended for use by twin engined Martin B-26 Marauder bombers, but when it was later felt that these aircraft would be better suited flying from bases further south, Rattlesden became home for the soon to arrive B-17s of the 447th Bombardment Group. The first bombing mission undertaken by aircraft of the 447th took place on Christmas Eve 1943, when their B-17s were sent to flatten a suspected V-1 flying bomb site near Saint Omer, a mission which would set the tone for a busy few months to come. Fully committed to the campaign in preparation for D-Day, the 447th would be sent against targets such as airfields, rail marshalling yards, suspected rocket sites, submarine pens and naval installations across France, Belgium and into Germany itself, interspersed with joining other units in concentrated attacks against city targets.
On D-Day itself, the unit bombed the beachhead sectors in advance of the landings, following pathfinder aircraft for target identification.The weeks following D-Day saw no let-up in mission activity for the Fortresses of the 447th, as they undertook almost daily missions in support numerous strategic objectives, which included the Battle of the Bulge and Operation Varsity. They flew their final combat mission on April 21st, 1945, targeting a marshalling yard at Ingolstadt in Germany, and by the summer of the same year, all serviceable aircraft were flown back to the US, where the 708th Bomb Squadron was inactivated on November 7th, 1945.
One of the most enduring features of US air operations from Britain during the Second World War was their use of nose artwork to adorn many of their combat aircraft, a practice which was generally frowned upon by RAF hierarchy, but seemingly ignored by their American counterparts. The adoption of nose artwork is thought to have taken many forms, from being a good luck charm for the crew or highly visible warning to enemy fighter pilots to leave them alone, if they know what's good for them. They could also have been a simple reminder of home, which must have seemed such a long way away during the savage air fighting at this stage of the war. Whatever the reason for applying it, the practice ensured that some of these aircraft and the men who flew them, will be remembered for many generations to come.
Boeing B-17G-70-BO serial number 43-37756 was built at Boeing's Seattle factory in the early spring of 1944 and delivered to the USAAF at Dow Field, Maine on May 18th the same year. She was assigned to the 708th Bomb Squadron, 447th Bomb Group and later flown to Rattlesden, Suffolk, England, where she would join the rest of her unit already engaged in combat. Flying her first combat mission on June 20th, 1944, she would be in the air again the following day, this time on a raid to the Big One - Berlin, in the hands of a different crew. This crew had recently transferred to Rattlesden from the 15th Air Force, flying bombing missions from bases in Italy. As this was quite unusual for base personnel, on landing back following the Berlin mission, they were asked by members of the ground crew how did it compare to flying missions from the opposite side of Europe and they replied, 'It was like a 'Milk Run', obviously a little tongue in cheek, as this was a colloquialism for a mission which was without incident and one which incurred no casualties.This off the cuff remark would stay with this particular Flying Fortress from that point onwards and 43-37756 would later benefit from the addition of some impressive and rather unique artwork. She would be adorned with a friendly looking cartoon cow and the words Milk and Wagon painted on either side of it. For every successful mission flown, a new milk bottle would be added to the scoreboard on the port side nose of the bomber, with the white bottles painted over a black background, so they could be more easily seen. If the addition of this nose artwork was intended to bring the crew luck, then this was a shrewd move, as "Milk Wagon" was definitely seen as being a lucky ship.
She would eventually set a record for a Fortress in the 447th Bomb Group, as she racked up no fewer than 129 missions without suffering a single abort due to mechanical issues, testament not only to the strength of the B-17, but also the ground crews who kept her in the air. Following the end of hostilities, "Milk Wagon" was flown back to the US and despite her impressive war record and distinctive nose artwork, was sent to Kingman Storage Depot 41 in the Arizona desert for scrapping, a fate which awaited so many former wartime military aircraft.