The Radiated B-17s of "Twelve O'Clock High"

Discussion in 'Stories' started by Njaco, Oct 1, 2012.

  1. Njaco

    Njaco The Pop-Tart Whisperer
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    The other day I was watching the movie "Twelve O'clock High" with Gregory Peck. Curious about how the movie was made, I checked Wiki for info. Among all the stuff on the page I found this passage;

    Twelve O'Clock High - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

    Wow! Researching further, I found out more about the B-17s used during the tests at Bikini including a book that was published about the events. So here is the story about the B-17s that were radiated and used for a movie!

    Operation Crossroads - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

    Operation Crossroads was a series of nuclear weapon tests conducted by the United States at Bikini Atoll in mid-1946. It was the first test of a nuclear weapon after the Trinity nuclear test in July 1945, and the first detonation of any nuclear device following the Fat Man detonation on August 9, 1945. Its purpose was to investigate the effect of nuclear weapons on naval ships.

    In May 1946, sixteen new B-17s were drawn from storage at South Plains Army Airfield, Lubbock, Texas. and were flown to the San Antonio Air Depot, Kelly Field, Texas. All defensive armament and turrets were stripped; the bomb bay doors being sealed along with the waist gunner openings. Then, the aircraft equipped with radio, radar, television and other equipment. Six of the aircraft were fitted with drone director equipment to control one drone aircraft and the capability to back up one other director aircraft.

    Radio-controlled autopilots were installed in eight B-17 bombers, converting them into remote-controlled drones which were then loaded with automatic cameras, radiation detectors, and air sample collectors. Their pilots operated them from mother planes at a safe distance from the detonations. The drones were able to fly into radiation environments, such as Able's mushroom cloud, which would be lethal to live crew members.

    The aircraft were tested at Clovis, then attached to the 509th Composite Group at Roswell Army Airfield, New Mexico. and were set to deploy to the Marshall Islands for use in Operation Crossroads. Their mission was atmospheric sampling collection and atmospheric research, to fly though the mushroom cloud and take measurements. In June 1946, both the Director and Drone B-17s were flown to Eniwetok Airfield, Eniwetok Atoll in the Marshall Islands, some 200 miles west of Bikini Atoll where the Crossroads tests were to take place. On 1 July 1946 Test Able took place and the aircraft were flown and though the mushroom cloud for sample collections successfully. An extensive post-test inspection was conducted on the aircraft and all was found to be well. Test Baker took place two weeks later and again inspections were conducted. The aircraft returned to Roswell in August.

    The success of the drone B-17s led to the development of other types of sampling methods and establishment of other squadrons for a wide variety of programs. In September 1947, the B-17Gs were re-designated as QB-17 for drones and the DB-17 for the controller aircraft.

    Operation Crossroads, the official pictorial record : United States. Joint Task Force One : Free Download Streaming : Internet Archive

    http://garypeakadventurestories.net/B-17.html

    B-17G 44-85738
     

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  2. Airframes

    Airframes Benevolens Magister

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    So that's why they seemed to glow when I watch the movie!
    Great info Chris. Incidentally, this movie used to be used (and still might be) at the RMA Sandhurst, as a training aid in command and decision.
     
  3. vikingBerserker

    vikingBerserker Well-Known Member

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    Never heard of that, great post!
     
  4. kettbo

    kettbo Member

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    One of the best movies...ever
     
  5. Matt308

    Matt308 Glock Perfection
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    Great post, Njaco!
     
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