WWII B-17 Flying Fortress History in “Hit the Target”

Photo portrait of Larry Mickow, bomber pilot and POW in WWII purple heart and other awardsThe B-17 bombers of WWII were called Flying Fortresses because they could take a lot of damage and still fly. I know from first person accounts of my father, who was a Captain of a B-17. His plane was shot down, however, and he spent 18 months as a POW in Germany. The commandant of the prison was given orders by Hitler to kill all the prisoners and refused, so my dad lived. Dad said that it was not nobility or justice or humanity that stopped their massacre, but the Russians were going to arrive imminently and they didn’t want to be killed themselves.

book jacket photos of bomber pilots from WWI Eighth Airforce Flying Fortresses B-17sHit the Target: Eight Men who led the Eighth Air Force to Victory over the Luftwaffe by Bill Yenne (2015) tells the tale of more famous pilots than my dad. Amazing men who really were born to fly. I actually listened to it on CD and it was read by an excellent narrator  — the author, I think, since the library catalog record does not state another narrator. This is well worth reading and listening to it on CD. Studying all the amazing pilots would be a good theme read.

I also read the great book on the Wright Brothers awhile back, so some of the names of the featured flyers were familiar to me. Of course, since my dad was a pilot, I long have read about planes and history so the names were also familiar to me for those reasons. I’m to lazy to type them in and hyperlink. Check the Goodreads link to the book to get the names.

The author describes the importance of the legendary Norden bomb sites. So valuable that the bombardiers slept with them.

group portrait photo of Larry Mickow's B-17 plane and crew
Dad kneeling on first row left.

The intensity of the flak was not sufficiently conveyed compared to my father’s description of it being “so thick you could get out and walk on it.” He also told me of the time, after returning from a mission, he found a piece of flak embedded in his pilot seat, penetrating to within an inch or two of his back, that’s how close life and death was with flak.

Because of this, I always thought of flak as mere shrapnel, but the author describes flak as exploding charges! Not sure then if there were two or more kinds, or what the deal was, but either way, flak ripped into the Fortresses on a massive scale and they still flew.

photo portrait of Larry Mickow in uniform WWII

This is my dad, Larry Mickow. I believe the photo is labeled 1943 before he left for England. He still looks happy not haunted.

I had a photo of him that they took of POWs, but cannot find it at the moment. We moved from the jaunty hat and cocky smile to subdued Captain about to fly B-17s against Germany.

I will add the POW photo when I relocate it. He was a POW for 18 months — until the war ended.

 B-17 photos I took from my ride to honor my father
B-17 flying in for people to see the Flying Fortresses and take a ride with a donation to support maintenance.
The real pity is that they just causally scrapped this magnificent machines immediately and rapidly after the war. Considering the Russians were already behaving badly, despite the war fatigue of everyone else, whoever ordered the B-17s scraped eliminated our chance to jump back in when they began their own world domination attacks on just rescued countries from the terror of Nazis to get stuck with the brutality of the Soviet Union.
Big wing of B-17 bomber
The bomb bays are open. Some kids are checking out the ball turret.


inside the B-17 Flying Fortress
Those are the bomb loads on either side of the very narrow walkway to the front. The bomb bay doors are open that is why there is white light coming up from below. We are parked at this time.


photo inside the B-17 Flying Fortress
View of the ball turrets I think.
Captain’s Seat
B-17 Captain's seat continued
B-17 Captain’s seat continued
looking towards co-pilot seat on B-17
looking towards co-pilot seat on B-17


B-17 Flying Fortress nose
B-17 Flying Fortress nose


Flying in a B-17 over Rochester

Rochester, MN from above in a Flying Fortress