Amazing WWII Story & Photos - LotusTalk - The Lotus Cars Community
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post #1 of 6 (permalink) Old 02-20-2018, 02:53 PM Thread Starter
glb
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Amazing WWII Story & Photos

A real miracle - from WWII




B-17 "All American" (414th Squadron, 97BG) Crew
Pilot- Ken Bragg Jr.
Co-pilot- G. Boyd Jr.
Navigator- Harry C. Nuessle
Bombardier- Ralph Burbridge
Engineer- Joe C. James
Radio Operator- Paul A. Galloway
Ball Turret Gunner- Elton Conda
Waist Gunner- Michael Zuk
Tail Gunner- Sam T. Sarpolus
Ground Crew Chief- Hank Hyland

In 1943 a mid-air collision on February 1, 1943,
Between a B-17 and a German fighter over the Tunis dock area,
Became the subject of one of the most famous photographs of WW II.
An enemy fighter attacking a 97th Bomb Group formation went out of control,
Probably with a wounded pilot, then continued its crashing descent
Into the rear of the fuselage of a Flying Fortress named"All American",
Piloted by Lt. Kendrick R. Bragg, of the 414th Bomb Squadron.
When it struck, the fighter broke apart, but left some pieces in the B-17.
The left horizontal stabilizer of the Fortress and left elevator were completely torn away.



The two right engines were out and one on the left had a serious oil pump leak.
The vertical fin and the rudder had been damaged,
The fuselage had been cut almost completely through
Connected only at two small parts of the frame,
And the radios, electrical and oxygen systems were damaged.
There was also a hole in the top that was over 16-feet long and 4 feet wide at its widest;
The split in the fuselage went all the way to the top gunner's turret.




Although the tail actually bounced and swayed in the wind
And twisted when the plane turned and all the control cables were severed,
Except one single elevator cable still worked, and the aircraft miraculously still flew!
The tail gunner was trapped because there was no floor connecting the tail to the rest of the plane.
The waist and tail gunners used parts of the German fighter and their own parachute harnesses
In an attempt to keep the tail from ripping off and the two sides of the fuselage from splitting apart.
While the crew was trying to keep the bomber from coming apart,
The pilot continued on his bomb run and released his bombs over the target.



When the bomb bay doors were opened,
The wind turbulence was so great that it blew one of the waist gunners into the broken tail section
It took several minutes and four crew members to pass him ropes from parachutes
And haul him back into the forward part of the plane.
When they tried to do the same for the tail gunner,
The tail began flapping so hard that it began to break off.
The weight of the gunner was adding some stability to the tail section, so he went back to his position.


The turn back toward England had to be very slow to keep the tail from twisting off.
They actually covered almost 70 miles to make the turn home.
The bomber was so badly damaged that it was losing altitude and speed and was soon alone in the sky.
For a brief time, two more Me-109 German fighters attacked the All American.

Despite the extensive damage, all of the machine gunners
Were able to respond to these attacks and soon drove off the fighters.
The two waist gunners stood up with their heads sticking out through the hole in the top of the fuselage
To aim and fire their machine guns.
The tail gunner had to shoot in short bursts because the recoil was actually causing the plane to turn.



Allied P-51 fighters intercepted the All American as it crossed over the Channel
And took one of the pictures shown.
They also radioed to the base describing that the appendage was waving like a fish tail
And that the plane would not make it and to send out boats to rescue the crew when they bailed out.
The fighters stayed with the Fortress, taking hand signals from Lt. Bragg and relaying them to the base.
Lt. Bragg signaled that 5 parachutes and the spare had been "used"
So five of the crew could not bail out.


He made the decision that if they could not bail out safely, then he would stay with the plane to land it.

Attachment 40050


Allied P-51 fighters intercepted the All American as it crossed over the Channel
And took one of the pictures shown.
They also radioed to the base describing that the appendage was waving like a fish tail
And that the plane would not make it and to send out boats to rescue the crew when they bailed out.
The fighters stayed with the Fortress, taking hand signals from Lt. Bragg and relaying them to the base.
Lt. Bragg signaled that 5 parachutes and the spare had been "used"
So five of the crew could not bail out.
He made the decision that if they could not bail out safely, then he would stay with the plane to land it.

Two and a half hours after being hit, the aircraft made its final turn
To line up with the runway while it was still over 40 miles away.
It descended into an emergency landing and a normal roll-out on its landing gear


When the ambulance pulled alongside, it was waved off because not a single member of the crew had been injured.
No one could believe that the aircraft could still fly in such a condition.
The Fortress sat placidly until the crew all exited through the door in the fuselage and the tail gunner had climbed down a ladder,
at which time the entire rear section of the aircraft collapsed.





This old bird had done its job and brought the entire crew home uninjured.


Please pass this on to someone who will also appreciate this amazing story.

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post #2 of 6 (permalink) Old 02-20-2018, 03:19 PM
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I've seen those pics and they are an amazing tribute to the B17 Build and the Pilots skill.....must have been a good time in the Officers Mess that night.

This is an amazing story too and there is a great book written from both perspectives...the German/US pilot met years later as both survived.....the story was quashed at the time as Bomber Command did not want to sow the seeds of trusting a German within the ranks....sadly, the Bomber crew never received the awards they deserved because of that.

WW2 German Ace Stumbled Across a Crippled B-17 and Escorted It Home
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post #3 of 6 (permalink) Old 02-20-2018, 03:40 PM
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News footage and my personal home video of my Grandfather in law and our flight on the Collings Foundation's B-17 Flying Fortress, the 909! Donated by The Collings Foundation - Preserving Living Aviation History - It was a childhood dream come true, a RIDE OF A LIFETIME, and I canít even express the GREAT HONOR it was to be a part of it.
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post #4 of 6 (permalink) Old 02-20-2018, 03:53 PM
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The 8th Air Force in Europe had more KIA than the total US Marine Corps in WW2......think about that.

Before the Mustang could provide round trip fighter protection B17's and B24's flew daylight raids....high and slow in formation without fighter protection on every deep bombing mission.

That is just the 8th Air Force stationed in the ETO...European theater...not the total AF KIA's.

The odds of completing your 30 missions was exactly nil prior to expanded fighter protection....and if you have ever been at 25000 ft. in an open aircraft on O2 you know how damn draining that must have been for hours on end....or if you took wounded....you had to deal with the wound and frostbite/freezing.

Hard men.
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post #5 of 6 (permalink) Old 02-20-2018, 06:39 PM
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Very cool story. Real heroes, the people that fight for our freedom
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post #6 of 6 (permalink) Old 02-25-2018, 01:46 PM
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I will never forget the ride experience. Nor the sacrifices made by that generation.

Kind of ironic, my mother is German and grew up in East Prussia (now Poland) and to escape the Russians her family made their way into Germany during the end of the war.. those that stayed (my other relatives) were shot and of course all the land was taken by Russia. She knows/cares so little about airplanes she does not know the difference between a jet or a propeller. However, when I was around 12 years old I was in the living room with my parents... we heard a plane coming (not uncommon)... I didn't think twice about it but my mom's eyes got as big as saucers. I was looking at her strangely wondering WTF was going on. She looked at me and said, "that is a bomber" (in German). I was shocked she had any clue but I immediately went outside to witness a B-17 fly over head (Addison airport is home to many WWII planes). She totally remembered the B17s flying over head and bombing them - she knew the sound.
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