Sunday, June 11, 2017


The B-17 Flying Fortress was famous for its durability. This B-17, Hang the Expense, of the 100th Bomber Squadron of the USAAF rests in an English airfield after being severely damaged by flak over Ostend on an aborted mission to Frankfurt, Germany, 24 January 1944. The tail gunner, Roy Urick, was blown out - but survived and was taken prisoner. Pilot, Frank Valesh, and co-pilot ,John Booth, miraculously flew the badly damaged B-17 back to England and put down safely at Eastchurch


  1. The young men were taught to fly with all the control surfaces working. I really would have liked to buy both of them a beer or two and swap sea stories.

  2. Survivorship Bias
    During WWII the US Air Force wanted to minimize bomber losses to enemy fire. The Center for Naval Analyses ran a research on where bombers tend to get hit with the explicit aim of enforcing the parts of the airframe that is most likely to receive incoming fire.

    Quick read, well worth it. Enjoy.


  3. Oh, guess I should post the URL.


  4. I recall reading a similar story (one of many) where a shot up B-17 came down at the first emergency strip they could get to, except that it was for fighters, and much too short. Also, their last engine ran out of gas on approach, so it was a dead stick landing. When they finally ground to a stop and the dust settled, the ship was still upright. Shortly a British officer drove up and asked incredulously "How did that plane get there?". The crew replied "We flew it here". The Brit turned, looked at them for a moment, then with a wry smile said "Now I know we're going to win!".

  5. twenty-one year old boys flying them - sick and rudder work even if the rudder is shot away...greatest generation.

  6. look up another B-17 from the "bloody 100th" aka "The bloody century" It was named "Rosie's Riveters" Numbers 1 thru 13! He flew "tail end Charlie" for the mighty 8th. Not just the 100th. The whole AF. The guy (Robert Rosenthall)(Spell?) got them all home. Look it up. The man was the stuff of legend.--Ray

  7. So I got to thinking and re-read parts of 'Flying Fortress' by Edward Jablonski. The above photo is there. Some additional info--pilot Frank Valesh used up seven (!) B-17's, each named "Hang the Expense". The ship above is Hang the Expense III.

    The mission Anonymous refers to was Robert Rosenthal's third on October 11, 1943. The 100th Bomb group put up 13 planes and Rosenthal's was the only one to make it back to base.

    It turns out that the story I recalled above was indeed Robert Rosenthal. A bit more detail--Early in his second tour, they flew a mission to Berlin. By now, Rosenthal was CO of the 350th squadron, and rode in the co-pilot seat as command pilot. They took some light flak on the way in, but nothing seem amiss. They were making their way home through quiet skies when suddenly the oil pressure on number one (far left) engine dropped (Oil pressure also drives the prop feathering mechanism and the prop speed governor). Rosenthal reached over to punch the feather button, but it was too late. The prop "ran away". This is extremely dangerous as the vibration from a runaway prop can literally snap a wing.

    Flames were beginning to show from under the engine cowling. The pilot was at a loss as to what to do, so he turned the plane over to Rosenthal, whose piloting skills were renowned. Rosenthal threw the plane all over the sky, trying to snap off the runaway prop. The good news was it worked. The bad news was that now it was a three-bladed frisbee skill saw blade. It crashed into the prop on the number two engine, shearing of half the length of the number two prop blades. It the sailed down the spine of the plane and sliced off the top half of the rudder.

    They were still airborne, barely. Then they saw three specks ahead in the sky. Fighters! But whose? One of the fighters approached slowly until they could see the silhouette. P-47's! With fighter cover, they could pitch everything out that wasn't bolted down. They were flying with two good engines on the right side running at full power and sucking down gas. Their fuel transfer system was out. Another engine ran out of gas as the crossed English coast at 3000ft. Rosenthal spotted and emergency strip and made for it. The last engine quit when they were about 20ft off the runway (I was in error above, the runway was not too short) . The landing was pretty much textbook. On the ground, the crew was able to examine the number one engine, and found were a small piece of flak had hit the oil reservoir.

    In September of '44, Rosenthal's plane was again hit by flak, and he was forced to belly land in a field in France. The force of the impact broke his right arm. They were rescued by the Free French.

    In February of '45, Rosenthal lead another mission to Berlin. Again his plane was hit by flak and on fire. He continued on to bomb the target. They were hit again. He hit the alarm bell to signal the crew to bail out. He held the ship level for as long as he could to give them time to get out, then set the auto pilot and jumped himself. He came down behind Russian lines. This was his last combat mission of the war, number 52.

    After the war, Rosenthal returned to work at his law firm. Shortly after, he accepted a position as an assistant prosecutor at the Nuremburg trials, and actually interviewed Herman Goring.
    The stuff of legends, indeed.
    C W, not trying to take over your blog. Just a topic near and dear to my heart. My dad was a B-17 pilot and flew 35 combat missions with this group---

    1. Wow, great stuff! For that, take over anytime.