The 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.
Hit 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.
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.
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.
Rochester, MN from above in a Flying Fortress