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Spectre311

Airman
20
20
Oct 5, 2023
Las Cruces, New Mexico
With the arrival of the B-17F how long did the "E" stick around in the European theater? It was quite prominent in the Pacific and if i recall correctly, North Africa as well. While I can find some photos of them in Europe, I'm unable to figure out how long they were there before they were replaced by the newer "F" and "G" models or if they managed to soldier on until VE day.
 
IIRC there were only around 500x B-17E delivered between September 1941 and May 1942. B-17F deliveries began in May 1942, with around 12,000x B-17F&G models produced by the end of the war.

I would assume all B-17E were lost or worn out & withdrawn from service before the end of the war (but I could be wrong :)).
 
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I have the log book of a 97th BG pilot; he deployed to Europe with the B-17Es to Grafton Underwood in August 1942. When his squadron moved to Polebrook in early September they seem to have left the E models behind at that exact point and started flying B-17Fs. Because of their novelty in the UK, a number of photo opportunities were taken so pictorial evidence is reasonable, bearing in mind their short time in the UK.
 
From Joe Baugher's website which helps explain the B-17E fade from combat.

"The B-17F was externally almost identical to the earlier B-17E. Externally, the F could be distinguished from the E only by the use of a single piece plastic blown transparent nose. Apart from the optically-flat bomb aiming panel, the nose transparency was frameless. However, there were over 400 internal changes, designed to make the bomber a more effective fighting machine. A new ball turret was fitted, external bomb racks were provided, wider paddle-bladed propellers were fitted, an improved oxygen system, carburetor air intake dust filters, dual brake system, more photographic equipment, an electronic link between the autopilot, and additional ball-and-socket machine gun mounts in the nose. The engines were the newer Wright R-1820-97 Cyclones, which could offer a war emergency power of 1380 hp for brief intervals. Revisions to the engine cowlings were required to make it possible to feather the wider propeller blades. A stronger undercarriage was installed which allowed the maximum weight to increase to 65,000 pounds, and later to 72,000 pounds."

B-17E's were supposed to have a 53,000lb max gross weight. The B-17E could not fly as far with the same bomb loads as the B-17E which makes operational planning hard once they Start trying to bomb Germany and not France.
 
From Joe Baugher's website which helps explain the B-17E fade from combat.

"The B-17F was externally almost identical to the earlier B-17E. Externally, the F could be distinguished from the E only by the use of a single piece plastic blown transparent nose. Apart from the optically-flat bomb aiming panel, the nose transparency was frameless. However, there were over 400 internal changes, designed to make the bomber a more effective fighting machine. A new ball turret was fitted, external bomb racks were provided, wider paddle-bladed propellers were fitted, an improved oxygen system, carburetor air intake dust filters, dual brake system, more photographic equipment, an electronic link between the autopilot, and additional ball-and-socket machine gun mounts in the nose. The engines were the newer Wright R-1820-97 Cyclones, which could offer a war emergency power of 1380 hp for brief intervals. Revisions to the engine cowlings were required to make it possible to feather the wider propeller blades. A stronger undercarriage was installed which allowed the maximum weight to increase to 65,000 pounds, and later to 72,000 pounds."

B-17E's were supposed to have a 53,000lb max gross weight. The B-17E could not fly as far with the same bomb loads as the B-17E which makes operational planning hard once they Start trying to bomb Germany and not France.
Great post but I'm biased.
 
Production of B-17E ceased in May 1942.

Early 8th AF B-17 units
97th BG arrived 13 June, first mission 17 August (First 8th AF mission), last mission 21 October, non operational, to North Africa 18 November
301st BG arrived 9 August, first mission 5 September, last mission 8 November, non operational, to North Africa 26 November.
92nd BG arrived 12 August, first mission 5 September, became non operational training unit 10 October (until May 1943)
306th BG arrived 7 September, first mission 9 October
91st BG arrived 12 September, first mission 7 November
303rd BG arrived 12 September, first mission 17 November
305th BG arrived 12 September, first mission 17 November.

The first B-17E loss was on 1 August 1942, non combat, by the 97th BG, first B-17F loss was on 9 August 1942, non combat, by the 301st BG. Only the 92nd and 97th BG lost B-17E in combat, with the last losses on the 9 October 1942 raid on Lille. The 97th had lost its first B-17F on 6 September while the 92nd had B-17F when it returned to combat.

In 1942 the 91st, 301st, 303rd, 305th and 306th only lost B-17F, looking at the B-17E histories indicates any B-17E they had on strength were while in the US or for non combat uses. It is probable only the 92nd and 97th arrived in Britain with B-17E with the 97th at least starting the move to F models in September and it is possible the 92nd was selected as the training group because it still had E models, but to be sure you will need the relevant group records.

According to the B-17 histories, 5 B-17E served with the 91st, 40 with the 92nd, 65 with the 97th, 37 with the 301st, 34 with the 303rd, 10 with the 305th and 4 with the 306th (Some served with more than one of these units)
 
Production of B-17E ceased in May 1942.

Early 8th AF B-17 units
97th BG arrived 13 June, first mission 17 August (First 8th AF mission), last mission 21 October, non operational, to North Africa 18 November
301st BG arrived 9 August, first mission 5 September, last mission 8 November, non operational, to North Africa 26 November.
92nd BG arrived 12 August, first mission 5 September, became non operational training unit 10 October (until May 1943)
306th BG arrived 7 September, first mission 9 October
91st BG arrived 12 September, first mission 7 November
303rd BG arrived 12 September, first mission 17 November
305th BG arrived 12 September, first mission 17 November.

The first B-17E loss was on 1 August 1942, non combat, by the 97th BG, first B-17F loss was on 9 August 1942, non combat, by the 301st BG. Only the 92nd and 97th BG lost B-17E in combat, with the last losses on the 9 October 1942 raid on Lille. The 97th had lost its first B-17F on 6 September while the 92nd had B-17F when it returned to combat.

In 1942 the 91st, 301st, 303rd, 305th and 306th only lost B-17F, looking at the B-17E histories indicates any B-17E they had on strength were while in the US or for non combat uses. It is probable only the 92nd and 97th arrived in Britain with B-17E with the 97th at least starting the move to F models in September and it is possible the 92nd was selected as the training group because it still had E models, but to be sure you will need the relevant group records.

According to the B-17 histories, 5 B-17E served with the 91st, 40 with the 92nd, 65 with the 97th, 37 with the 301st, 34 with the 303rd, 10 with the 305th and 4 with the 306th (Some served with more than one of these units)

This pretty much answers my question perfectly. Thank you, Geoffrey and Sabrejet. If I may ask another question...do you have an idea of when the B-17F began standardizing the .50 cal in the nose? Memphis Belle for example I believe was a field mod rather than factory.
 

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This pretty much answers my question perfectly. Thank you, Geoffrey and Sabrejet. If I may ask another question...do you have an idea of when the B-17F began standardizing the .50 cal in the nose? Memphis Belle for example I believe was a field mod rather than factory.
Are you sure that the 50 cal was 'standardized via a production insert? The last F's had chin turrets.The early Fs had the cheek 50's with field mod single and double 50s mounted directly above C/L of the 'blown' nose.

I would be interested in seeing at least a stateside F before mod center with a mounted (and braced) C/L nose 50. IIRC the YB40 was an F with Chin turret in lieu of C/L mount? Then converted to F, with chin turret, then follwed by G.

As to the E's I agree SR comments regarding range limitations with caveat - while Wilheshaven at end of January 1943, I suspect that the last E's were capable of the shallow to mid range (i.e. Hamm), and that it was more about running out of E's than inability to do the job. Speculatively speaking, I suspect March-April 1943 probably marked last operational use in ETO, but equally suspect they labored on in SWP a little longer.
 
do you have an idea of when the B-17F began standardizing the .50 cal in the nose? Memphis Belle for example I believe was a field mod rather than factory.
The answer seems to be between it depends to not done.

According to Roger Freeman the 8th AF experiments with a nose 0.50 inch gun resulted in a request and design for the fitting being sent to the US in February 1943 but the July 1943 the staging list (modifications required before issue) still included nose gun fitting, meaning lots of modifications were done. The production lines switched to B-17G in August and September.

Boeing B-17
F-20 block removal of 0.30 mounts from nose, July 1942
F-27 block all 0.30 inch guns eliminated, August 1942
F-55 block installation of two 0.50 inch side nose guns, December 1942.

Douglas
F-10 block 0.30 nose gun eliminated, September 1942
F-15 block installation of two 0.50 inch flexible nose guns, November 1942.

Lockheed
F-35 block, single nose gun but it might be one nose gun and one cheek gun, or two cheek guns, April 1943.

Roger Freeman gives the early B-17F a radius of 320 miles using 8th AF tactics, 55,000 pounds take off, 1,760 US Gallons fuel, the take off, climb and first hour of flight using 380 gallons, fuel consumption to end bomb run 1,075 gallons, a five hour mission leaving 115 gallons after landing. Freeman also notes the B-17E and early F had the same fuel capacity. The Tokyo tanks being first fitted in the F-25 from Douglas (January 1943), F-30 from Lockheed (March 1943) and the F-80 from Boeing (March 1943).
 
As to the E's I agree SR comments regarding range limitations with caveat - while Wilheshaven at end of January 1943, I suspect that the last E's were capable of the shallow to mid range (i.e. Hamm), and that it was more about running out of E's than inability to do the job. Speculatively speaking, I suspect March-April 1943 probably marked last operational use in ETO, but equally suspect they labored on in SWP a little longer.
I would also speculate that a number of the B-17Es were kept in the US for training and in the spring/summer of 1942 units being moved to Europe got brand new B-17Fs to take with them and the B-17s were passed to the next squadrons/groups being formed up. With B-17Es going out of production in the Spring of 1942 there weren't that many units that were trained well enough to deploy with them.
 
Speaking of B-17E - I saw that B-17E 41-2395 was structurally tested to destruction in Wright Field in Oct '41.
Does anyone have the test report?
Jake
 

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