The Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress is a four-engined heavy bomber developed in the 1930s for the United States Air Force. It was a relatively fast, high-flying, long-range bomber with heavy defensive armament, initially at the expense of bigger payloads. With the first prototype flying successfully in July 1935, a reporter at the scene described it as a '15-ton flying fortress' referring to the number of machine guns sticking out. Boeing was quick to capitalize on that and trademarked the name for use. The prototype not only exceeded the USAF requirements but was also faster and had a longer range than the twin-engined competition from Douglas and Martin. But a few months later on the second evaluation flight, the aircraft suffered a fatal crash due to human error. While the air corps were still enthusiastic, the competition received large orders for their medium bombers, while Boeing had to settle for only 13 to be built for further army testing.
As Boeing continued working hard on major improvements of further variants, more orders started coming in and by the end of 1937 two U.S. coastal bombardment groups were operating it. But it would be the onset of World War II that would bring orders by the hundreds, with the B-17 by mid-war holding the record for the highest production rate for any large aircraft.
The B-17 was primarily employed by the USAF in the daylight bombing campaign against strategic German targets - it was already in use by the RAF in early 1941, before the U.S officially joined the fight in Europe. As soon as 1943, the U.S. Eighth Air Force, based in central, eastern and southern England, and the Fifteenth Air Force, based in Italy, complemented the RAF Bomber Command's night-time bombing to help secure air superiority in preparation for the invasion of France in 1944. Before being replaced by the B-24 and later the B-29, the B-17 also played a role in the early stages of the Pacific war theatre, with more than 150 aircraft operating in the region.
Although it developed a reputation for toughness based on stories and photos of badly damaged B-17s safely returning to base, at the peak of the European conflict the average life expectancy of the B-17 Flying Fortress was only 11 missions. Of the more than 12.000 built more than a third were lost during combat missions.
The Memphis Belle started off like any other B-17 and found a permanent war address with the 324th Bomb Squadron at England’s RAF Bassingbourn. It was named by pilot Robert Morgan with his sweetheart in mind, who was a Memphis, Tennessee resident - inspired by the name of a boat in the 1942 film 'Lady for a Night'. It flew out for her first mission in November 1942 and completed 25 successful missions before being flown back to the U.S. in June 1943. It then went on to inspire the making of two motion pictures: a 1944 documentary film, Memphis Belle: A Story of a Flying Fortress and the 1990 Hollywood feature film, Memphis Belle. In 2005 full restoration began at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force in Dayton Ohio, where it has been on display since 2018.
80% Combed Cotton, 17% Polyamide, 3% Elastane. We use seamless knitting to create a sock with no stitches.
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