The main stay of the USAAF’s strategic daylight bombing campaign over occupied Europe, the Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress was used against Germany’s large industrial and military targets in tandem with the RAF Bomber Command’s nighttime missions.

It was to become the third largest production run heavy bomber produced during WWII and operated in both the European and Pacific Theatres. One of the most iconic of these was the B-17F Memphis Belle, which became one of the first United States Army Air Force’s B-17 heavy bombers to complete 25 combat missions.

The B-17 carried nine crew members: the Pilot and Copilot sitting side by side above the Bomb Aimer in the nose, who also operated the forward guns. Behind the flight deck sat the Flight Engineer, Navigator and Wireless Operator whilst further back, the ball turret gunner crouched in his rotating gun platform suspended beneath the belly of the B-17.

Half way down the fuselage stood the two Waist Gunners behind their pivoting 50 calibre Browning machine guns whilst at the rear, the tail gunner scanned the skies for marauding fighters

Based on the USAAF's belief that tightly packed formations of bombers would have so much firepower that they could fend off fighters on their own - the B-17 found itself trading bomb capacity for heavy defensive armament with little attention given to fighter escort.

Initially the USAAF daytime operations met with limited resistance but as the bombing continued the Luftwaffe quickly moved their fighter forces from the Eastern front to the West. The consequences for the allies were disastrous. Unfortunately it was not until 137 B-17’s were lost in just two deep penetration missions in 1943 that long-range daylight missions were temporarily suspended until an effective long-range fighter escort could be found.  

Yet while this vulnerability persisted, the B-17 was also renown for its ability to absorb significant battle damage whilst still reaching its target and then bringing its crew home safely. One B-17 even suffered a midair collision with a Focke-Wulf Fw-190, losing an engine and suffering serious damage to both the starboard horizontal stabiliser and the vertical stabiliser. The B-17 survived and brought its crew home without injury.

With the whole US concept of the ‘self-defending bomber’ now called into question, thoughts were turned to the P-38 Lightning, Republic P-47 Thunderbolt and P-51B Mustang as possible bomber escorts but it quickly became apparent that the P-51 was the vastly superior fighter escort and soon took over full escort duties, moving far ahead of the main bombing group as 'fighter sweeps' designed to intercept the enemy fighters long before they reached the US bombers.

The B-17s were also used in early battles of the Pacific notably the Battle of Coral Sea and Battle of Midway but with limited success. Tasked with disrupting the Japanese sea lanes it was soon discovered that the US doctrine of conducting bombing runs from high altitude meant only 1% of their bombs hit targets.

The B-17's greatest success in the Pacific was in the Battle of the Bismarck Sea, in which the B-17’s were responsible for damaging and sinking several Japanese transport ships.   168 B-17 bombers operated in the Pacific theatre but by mid-1942 it was decided that the B-17 was unsuitable for the kind of operations required in the area and plans were progressed to replace all of the B-17s with B-24s and later B-29s.

All B-17 Flying Fortress Instruments listed below come complete with detailed Scale Model, Mango Wood Stand & Plaque plus Printed Fact Sheet featuring photo of instrument in aircraft cockpit.




    AN/ARN-7 Radio Compass Indicator display unit indicating signal direction and...


    Original B-17 BC-765 Friend or Foe IFF) Radio Destruct Switch...