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A Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress of the 365th Bombardment Squadron of the 305th Bombardment Group flies over England in February 1944. The American bomber was one of the “heavies” (along with the Consolidated B-24 Liberator) that the U.S. used to bombard Europe.

The hope was that strategic bombing could bring Nazi Germany to its knees without the need for an invasion of the European mainland; that hope proved unfounded. The Forts and Liberators of the U.S. Eighth Air Force suffered agonizing losses during the daylight bombing raids, with more than 47,000 casualties, including 26,000 dead by the end of the war.   

The United States produced nearly 13,000 B-17s. When the prototype, the Model 299, made its public debut on July 17, 1935, a reporter for the Seattle Daily Times noted its turrets and other gun positions and labeled it a “flying fortress,” a name that stuck.

Today only 45 B-17s remain and only a handful of those are in flying condition. Two have crashed in recent years, the Commemorative Air Force’s Texas Raiders destroyed after an inflight collision with a P-63 Kingcobra at an airshow in 2022 and Nine-o-Nine, owned and operated by the Collings Foundation, in 2019.