The most potent U.S. force to hit the Nazis so far in this war is the Bomber Command, stationed in England. Operating Flying Fortresses, it is making attacks on German-occupied Europe as frequently as weather and operating conditions permit. To date, all the raids have been tremendously successful. From 25,000 feet, it has given a superb exhibition of precision bombing by hitting German factories, airfields, ships and oil refineries on the nose. In two months of operations, it has shot down more than 100 German fighters, lost less than six of its own bombers.
[NOTE: As the war dragged on, the bombers and their crews out of England would, inevitably, face steeper and more dramatic losses. On October 14, 1943, for example — "Black Thursday" — nearly 600 crew members and 60 Flying Fortresses were lost in a single raid against a ball-bearing factory in Schweinfurt, Germany.]
To photograph Bomber Command, LIFE sent photographer Margaret Bourke-White to the headquarters of Brigadier general Ira. C. Eaker, commander in chief of Bomber Command, and to one of the secret airfields from which the Flying Fortresses operate. . . . Miss Bourke-White's pictures arrived in the U.S. just when the Bomber Command was making its biggest sorties. Flying Fortresses roared out over the Channel and attacked German industries in the Lille region. Another group of six Fortresses a few days before dropped 600-lb. bombs directly on the German airfield at St. Omer, France. On the way home they were attached by 35 crack Nazi pursuits. When the brief fight was over, at least 13 Germans were plunging earthward and the six Fortresses were sailing on.
Bomber Command was ready. It was confident that although still small, it would grow and grow, and as it grew, the intensity and terribleness of the attack on Germany would grow with it, until the skies of Europe would be blacked and its earth furrowed with American bombs.
B-17 crew positions
|1. Bombardier||6. Radio Operator/Gunner|
|2. Navigator||7. Ball Turret Gunner|
|3. Pilot||8. Right Waist Gunner|
|4. Co-Pilot||9. Left Waist Gunner|
|5. Top Turret Gunner/Engineer||10. Tail Gunner|
The pilot and co-pilot
The pilot and the co-pilot must be able to start and to land the machine well and safe. They are two officers of higher ranks. Although the B-17 is a big machine she don’t need any more than a pilot to flying.
The navigator must up to the aim and again conduct the machine of the lift back to the base. He must know the exact position of the machine at every time. Although his work requires unusual precision and concentration, he must nevertheless be able to circulate in his station with the 0.50 caliber MG, know all other bomber systems and learn how the turrets and the radio equipment are operated.
The main task of the machine and her crew is the effective and exact bombing of the aim. The success of the mission hang fundamentally of the bomb marksman as of and of what he on the narrowest room and in the short time over the aim can do. He takes on the control during the approach to the bombing, till he he is and remains a commander so long if the signal “bombs dropped”! gives. The bombardier must know his bomb aim device, be able to operate the bomb equipment and instruments as well as be trained thoroughly for the aim reconnaissance. However, he also must be able to operate the chin turret gun which is below the bomb sight device.
His radio equipment must the radio operator into and know by heart. He must give position reports which always coordinate radio equipments correctly and lead a comprehensive logbook. The radio operator also must use the 0.50 caliber MG in the radio cubicle (if available).
The engineer/Top turret gunner
A good technician knows a lot about the machine, the engines and the arming like in his vest pocket. He is for the complete technical equipment and therefore also responsible for the lives of all crew members in the machine. He also must be a good gunner.
The gunners – defender of the B-17
The B-17 was developed as a well protected machine-gun platform. The performances of the gunners determine all the effectiveness of the B-17. Gunners must know the firing ranges of your weapons and her fast and for certain visors be able to. The gunners should master be and know of opposing machines in the reconnaissance, machine-guns work like yours. In addition, you must be able to take advantage of the visor facilities correctly. Good guners should be able to deal with all other positions in the machine.