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Dec 16, 2006
I am looking for any info relating to the B-17 "Sweet 17 The Spirity of St. Louis" I am particularly looking for photos and crew member info. Any leads to other sites or places to go would be appriciated.
I just bought an original A-2 jacket with original paintings in the back and 2 original patches in front (One from the 91st and the 2nd the 323rd)
I was wondering if you have any information about the Plane Sweet 17 and the people that served on her. The name of the guy on the jacket is W.J. ZAUNER (spelling?).
On the back there is a painting of the sweet 17 heart with wings with 4 german crosses at the bottom (kills?)
I just received the jacket so I haven't taken pictures yet but I can send some to you once I have them.
Let me know,
Thank you,
· SSGT Nick Possnack, ball turret gunner, 323rd Bomb Sq, 91st BG.
· TSGT James Brashears, right waist gunner, 323rd Bomb Sq, 91st BG.
· SSGT Robert Fife, flight engineer/top turret, 323rd Bomb Sq, 91st BG.
· TSGT Maxie Arledge, left waist gunner, 323rd Bomb Sq, 91st BG.
· TSGT Gerald Tastad, radio operator, 323rd Bomb Sq, 91st BG.
· SSGT Bert M. Mullins, tail gunner, 323rd Bomb Sq, 91st BG.
· CAPT Charles Sloat, bombardier, 323rd Bomb Sq, 91st BG.
· 1LT Richard F. Kaymen, navigator, 323rd Bomb Sq, 91st BG.
· 1LT John H. Sprinkle, copilot, 323rd Bomb Sq, 91st BG.
· 1LT Alexander Thomas, pilot of the 323rd Bomb Sq, 91st BG, with his crew in front of "their" ship.

B17G 42-97276 "Sweet 17" (coded OR-S) of the 323rd Bomb Sq, 91st BG. The ship's nickname was derived from the assigned call letter ("S" standing for "Sugar" in the phonetic alphabet of the day). "The Spirit of St. Louis" subtitle was in recognition of pilot LT Alex Thomas' home town

Footnote Viewer


SWEET 17 The Spirit of St. Louis
91/323 OR-S/B

Arriving at Bassingbourn on 7th March. 1944 this silver Boeing-built B17G survived more than a full year of combat in the freezing skies over Northern Europe. Named by her first crew, whose pilot Alexander Thomas hailed from St. Louis Missouri, Sweet 17 sported an unusually austere piece of nose art for one painted by Tony Starcer whose reputation as an artist had, by this time, been well estabished. The Spirit of St. Louis was, of course, the name of Charles Lindberg's famous plane in which he had made his pioneering flight across the Atlantic single handed in 1927. Many of the young and inexperienced aircrews that took off from the east coast to fly across thousands of miles of featureless sea must have felt as though they, too, were taking that first pioneering flight into the unknown.

Sweet 17's first mission was not flown by the Thomas crew but by that of 1/Lt. Benjamin Bruce. He took the ship to Brussels in occupied Belgium on 1Oth April to bomb a coking and chemical works. It was not until the fourth mission, on 18th April to Oranienburg, did Alexander Thomas fly his Sweet 17 into battle. It was the first of 14 missions he would fly in the plane including two trips to Berlin.

Almost exactly one year after its first combat sortie, Sweet 17 flew its last mission of the war to Neumunster on 13th April 1945. By then the veteran Fortress had flown more than 84 missions with at least 36 different crews. One crew that flew the ship in late December and through January was John Flynn's. Sitting beside Flynn was George Kesselring and he recalled several missions in Sweet 17, the first was Christmas Eve to strike airfields at Frankfurt. In his diary he described the mission as "horrible" As a consequence of the instrument takeoff in poor weather and the accurate flak they encountered over the target. Landing back at Bury St. Edmunds they spent the night there before returning to Bassingbourn the following day.

The first day of the New Year saw George Kesselring back in the seat of Sweet 17, this time heading for Kassel. "A plane blew up on takeoff all killed," he wrote, " Two planes collided over the Channel, one ship went down in flames. There were eight chutes but poor kids couldn't possibly last more than 10-15 minutes. The other ship ditched and life boats were seen." This was a 398th Bomb Group plane and six of the crew were rescued.

George continued "Flak on entrance into Denmark. Couldn't bomb primary so went to secondary. On second pass over target - flak! We got 5 different bursts.... shot out glycol system in No. 2 engine - couldn't feather. Just missed the No. 4 gas tank. A hole 3 inches in diameter within 8 inches of ball turret. A hole 2 inches in diameter about one foot below my seat!!... fighters were seen but none attacked our group". It was a rugged mission and George concluded "What a day, what a way to start the New Year!"

Sweet ]7 was repaired and patched and sent back into action five days later, again with Flynn's crew. But as the plane climbed away after takeoff, to assemble for the mission to Cologne on 6th January, a fire started in the top turret. Quick action by pilots Kesselring and Flynn turned the fully laden ship around and brought it back to, Bassingbourn without too much damage. There was another mission in it on the 10th and then on 14th January George noted "We caught flak at the front lines and were under fire for 15 minutes. Longest and most accurate flak encountered.... our No. 2 wing ship blew up..." He continued. Flynn had 4 holes close to him. One grazed his hand - I thought he'd had it! Three holes in right wing, two in left wing, chunk out of prop, hole in waist upper turret.... worst mission yet!!"

One month later, after several more missions for both Kesseiring and Sweet 17, he was back over enemy territory in the ship again on 14th February. "Boy, what a mission!" he wrote, "Just about wilted when we saw the target ....... The target that day was Dresden but a combination of high winds, navigational errors and towering smoke from RAF night bombing took the formation to Prague instead. "We went over the target and started back.... found ourselves about 150 miles off course. We had gotten very little flak over the target but we were running short of gas. We finally came to our lines (Rhine River) and started to get lots of flak. John caught a piece in his right thigh that came up under my seat Curtiss got John down from the cockpit.... I kept Russell in the cockpit just in case.... I dropped out of formation and leaned out the mixture to save gas.... decided to land at the nearest available field." They made it and John Flynn was hospitalized with his wounds. Sweet 17 had 178 holes in her and had to be left there in Belgium while George and the rest of the crew went back to finish their tour in other planes. They would not fly in the ship again but others would, although not for six weeks and after a liberal sprinkling of flak patches and other repairs.

"Story taken from Plane Names Fancy Noses, by Ray Bowden"

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