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July 2015 Edition
Bad day turns out good
B-17 -- FLYING FORTRESS MIRACLE!!!
In 1943 a mid-air collision on February 1, 1943, between a B-17 
and a German fighter over the Tunis dock area,
became the subject of one of the most famous photographs of WWII.
An enemy fighter attacking a 97th Bomb Group formation 
went out of  control, probably with a wounded pilot, 
then continued its crashing descent into the rear of the fuselage 
of a Flying Fortress named "All-American"
-- piloted  by Lt. Kendrick R. Bragg, of the 414th Bomb Squadron.
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When  it struck, the fighter broke apart, but left some pieces in the  B-17.
The left horizontal stabilizer of the Fortress and left elevator were  completely torn away.
The two right engines were out and one on the left had a serious oil  pump leak.
The vertical fin and the rudder had been damaged,
the  fuselage had been cut almost completely through
connected by only at two small parts of the frame.
The radios, electrical and oxygen systems were damaged.
There was also a hole in the top 
that was over 16-feet long and 4 feet wide at its widest.
The split in the fuselage went all the way to the top gunner's turret.
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The tail actually bounced and swayed in the wind 
and twisted when the plane turned. 
All the control cables were severed 
except for one single elevator cable that still worked.
Miraculously the aircraft still flew!

The  tail gunner was trapped because
there was no floor connecting the tail to the rest of the plane.
The waist and tail gunners used parts of the German fighter 
and their own parachute harnesses
in an attempt to keep the tail from ripping off 
and the two sides of the fuselage from splitting apart.

While the crew was trying to keep the bomber from coming apart, 
the pilot continued on his bomb run 
and released his bombs over the target.

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When the bomb bay doors were opened,
the wind turbulence was so great
that it blew one of the waist gunners into the broken tail section.

It took several minutes and four crew members
to pass him ropes from  parachutes 
and haul him back into the forward part of the plane.
When  they tried to do the same for the tail gunner, 
the tail began flapping so hard that it began to break off.

The weight of the gunner 
was adding some stability to the tail section,
so he went back to his position.

The turn back toward England had to be very slow
to keep the tail from twisting off.
They actually covered almost 70 miles to make the turn home.
The  bomber was so badly damaged
that it was losing altitude and speed
and was soon alone in the sky.

For a brief time, two more Me-109 German fighters
attacked the All-American.
Despite the extensive damage, 
all of the machine gunners were able to respond to these attacks 
and soon drove off the fighters.

The two waist gunners stood up 
with their heads sticking out through the hole
in the top of the fuselage to aim and fire their machine guns.
The tail gunner had to shoot in short bursts 
because the recoil was actually causing the plane to turn.

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Allied P-51 fighters intercepted the All-American 
as it crossed  over the Channel 
and  took one of the pictures shown.
They also radioed to the base describing 
that the appendage was waving like a fish tail
They reported that the plane would not make it and requested 
that boats be sent out to rescue the crew when they bailed out.

The  fighters stayed with the Fortress,
taking hand signals from Lt. Bragg
and relaying them to the base.
Lt. Bragg signalled that five parachutes
and the spare had been "used" so five of the crew could not bail out.
He made the decision that if they could not bail out safely,
then he would stay with the plane to land it.

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Two and a half hours after being hit, the aircraft made its final turn
to line up with the runway while it was still over 40 miles  away.
It descended into an emergency landing and a normal roll-out on its landing gear.

When  the ambulance pulled alongside, it was waved off because 
not a  single member of the crew had been injured.
No one could believe that the aircraft could still fly in such a condition.

The Fortress sat placidly until the crew all exited through the door in the fuselage
and  the tail gunner had climbed down a ladder, 
at which time the entire rear section of the aircraft collapsed.

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 This old bird had done its job and brought the entire crew home uninjured.

B-17 "All American" (414th Squadron,  97BG) Crew
Pilot-  Ken Bragg Jr.
Copilot- G. Boyd Jr.
Navigator- Harry C.  Nuessle
Bombardier- Ralph Burbridge
Engineer- Joe C.  James
Radio Operator- Paul A. Galloway
Ball Turret Gunner-  Elton Conda
Waist Gunner- Michael Zuk
Tail Gunner- Sam T.  Sarpolus
Ground Crew Chief- Hank Hyland

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~ From the John Tyner Collection

MAJOR JULY EVENTS
AT BRANDON'S COMMONWEALTH AIR TRAINING PLAN MUSEUM
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B-17 SENTIMENTAL JOURNEY ADVENTURE

 Manitoba Flight  :: Part I  ::  Part II  :: Part III

Museum Cruise Night


FROM OUR AIR SHOW SITE
B-17 Sentimental Journey Flight I: Leaving Winnipeg
B-17 Sentimental Journey Flight II: Arriving in Brandon
B-17 WWII Miracle Flight
CATP Museum Cruise Night
CATP Museum Air Show in the Press
The CATP Museum Air Show:
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