Tag Archives: World War II

Here’s how Israel managed to get three second hand B-17 Flying Fortress bombers

When the Egyptian Air Force started attacking Tel Aviv on May 15, 1948, the day after Israel announced independence, the Jewish state felt the need to respond to the Egyptian air raids. In spite of the large U.S. market of World War II surplus equipment, the only heavy bomber that was readily available and could procured was the Boeing B-17.

The B-17 Flying Fortress bombers were acquired thanks to Al Schwimmer, a World War II USAAF (United States Army Air Force) flight engineer that during the second half of 1947 purchased and delivered the surplus transport aircraft that eventually built up the Israeli Air Force Air Transport Command.

Schwimmer (the founder and first CEO of Israel Aerospace Industries) found the future Israeli bombers among the Flying Fortress aircraft already flying with the numerous start-up airlines formed after the end of WWII.

As reported by Bill Norton in his book Air War on the Edge, A History of the Israel Air Force and its aircraft since 1947, two B-17s (s/n 44-83851 and 44-83753) were acquired for 30,000 USD from Charles Winters which used them for his freight business between Florida and Puerto Rico, while two more planes were purchased from Donald H. Roberts of Tulsa. The four B-17s were legally registered, commercially modified and above all, they were airworthy airframes, meaning that they could fly on their own power all the way from the U.S. to Israel.

Planned route for the Flying Fortress was Miami to San Juan, Puerto Rico; San Juan to Santa Maria, Azores; and Azores to Zatec Czechoslovakia, for an epic 10,600 kilometer flight of at least 38 hours duration over the Atlantic Ocean and across the Iron Curtain.

The first three B-17s took off on Jun. 11, 1948 and their ferry flight was explained by David Goldberg, who was the co-pilot of one of the three bombers. Goldberg released his impressions for Wing Magazine Volume 11, February 1981. The same story was later reported also in Shlomo Aloni & Zvi Avidror book Hammers Israel’s Long-Range Heavy Bomber Arm: The Story of 69 Squadron:

“I had flown B-24s with the 15th Air Force in Italy during the war. While making cargo runs out of Miami in the spring of 1948, I was contacted by phone and asked if I’d be interested in earning $ 1000 to ferry an airplane to Europe. I said sure. […] A few days before we were to depart I was asked if I’ d fly as co-pilot instead of pilot, since they now had found a colonel who was supposed to have had a great deal of B-17 time, and, also, his name would look better on the documents. The money was the same, so I agreed. Our flight from Miami to San Juan, Puerto Rico, was uneventful. Besides the colonel and myself we had picked up a navigator and about ten young men classified as ‘cargo handlers’.”

The rest of the ferry flight was quite a scary adventure which saw Goldberg flying the B-17 most of the time: “The colonel got roaring drunk at San Juan and stayed that way up to departure time. The next morning we have managed to pour him into the plane, and the navigator and I flew it out. From San Juan we were heading to the Azores Islands. That would take 21 hours, and we had 24 hours of fuel on board. When we were about 10 hours out the colonel was coming around to relieve me so I could get some rest. I had just fallen asleep in the back when I was awakened with a great deal of excitement and told that Cohen, the navigator, had fallen through a glassed-over section in the floor of the nose that had been put there for aerial photography. The guy was barely hanging on, and was slowly being sucked out by the slipstream. I ran back to the cockpit to get the aircraft slowed down. Col. B— had gone to pieces and was shaking like a leaf. I slowed the plane down and put it on auto-pilot and went down to help pull the navigator back in. We succeeded, but he was absolutely useless after that, and we now had to find the Azores without him.”

Incredibly Goldberg and his aircrew were able to find the Portuguese islands: “By a stroke of luck we were able to pick up the airway radio beacon from Santa Maria after 20 hours of flying – but the weather had turned bad and the ceiling was low. The island is covered with mountains, and Col. B— then announced that an instrument approach would be too risky, so he was going to ditch the plane off the coast. I said that was crazy, and that I would make the approach. He refused to get out of the left-hand seat. It was time for some drastic action. I grabbed a fire extinguisher and told him I’d crush his skull if he didn’t get out of the f—-ing seat. He left, we landed safely… And I completed the rest of the flight to Czechoslovakia alone in the cockpit!”

As already said, after reaching Santa Maria, Azores, the three B-17s were planned to fly to Zatec, Czechoslovakia, but since the American authorities were not far behind, the bombers had to move on quickly. So, with the prior consent of French officials the crews filed a flight plan for Ajaccio, Corse, but instead they landed at Zatec on June 17, where the Israeli airlift was going on in earnest.

However the American press reports had already uncovered the affair from June 16, when news circulated that several American surplus warplanes had departed from Ajaccio to Palestine: moreover, despite arrangements, the French would not confirm the arrival of the aircraft at Ajaccio and they were declared missing.

The public exposure of the three B-17s’ epic flight made the delivery of the last bomber really difficult: in fact the fourth Flying Fortress never reached Israel since, at the request of the United States, Portuguese officials impounded the aircraft indefinitely at the Azores.

However three B-17s arrived in Israel and thanks to them the Israeli Air Force was able to respond to the Egyptian bombings only two months later, when the three Flying Fortress raided Cairo: these bombers were also the first aircraft flown by the legendary 69 Squadron Hammers, that today flies another Boeing product, the powerful F-15I Ra’am (Thunder).

Image credit: Wiki

 

Typhoon with D-Day invasion stripes among Duxford D-Day Anniversary Airshow highlights

Here are some of the highlights of Duxford D-Day Anniversary Air Show.

The first airshow of the season at Duxford celebrated the 70th Anniversary of the Normandy Landings.

Among the highlights of the D-Day Anniversary Air Show there was a flypast made by a Eurofighter Typhoon of the 29 Sqn from RAF Coningsby, representing its namesake predecessor (the Hawker Typhoon), and a Spitfire of the BBMF (Battle of Britain Memorial Flight).

Both aircraft were painted with the characteristic “invasion stripes”, alternating black and white bands painted on the fuselages and wings of allied aircraft during WWII Normandy campaign to increase recognition by friendly forces and reduce friendly fire incidents.

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Other interesting aircraft attending the air show were five DC-3/C-47 Dakotas, including “Whiskey 7,” a veteran of the air drops over France in 1944, which crossed the Atlantic Ocean to attend the D-Day celebrations.

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A Boeing B-17G-105-VE Flying Fortress.

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A North American P-51D Mustang flying with a Vickers Supermarine Spitfire.

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A Hispano HA-1112-M1L Buchon (a Spanish-built Bf-109 with Rolls-Royce engine).

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More images of the numerous interesting warbirds that attended the Air Show can be found here.

All images credit: Alessandro Fucito

 

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Photo comparison shows D-Day beaches as they were in 1944 and as they are today

RAF reconnaissance planes have taken shots of the D-Day beaches after 70 years. With today’s stand-off technology and higher resolutions.

RAF Tornado GR4 jets from II (AC – Army Co-operation) Squadron from RAF Marham have used today’s technology to emulate their World War II counterparts that, on D-Day, Jun. 6, 1944, took the first pictures of the Normandy landings.

The two Tornados flew at 400 mph and 20,000 feet over Gold, Juno, Utah and Sword beaches, replicating the images the same squadron and their Mustang brought back during the 36 reconnaissance sorties flown on D-Day.

70 years ago, II (AC) Squadron used bulky cameras loaded onto the bottom of the Mustangs to get panoramic images of the beaches. Today, a single Tornado sortie provides much better results using the RAPTOR (Reconnaissance Airborne Pod for Tornado) which takes aerial images and the Litening III Advanced Targeting Pod that is able to capture Full motion video.

Here’s the comparison between the quality of images taken today as compared to those of 1944.

 

Image credit: Crown Copyright

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Army Air Force Video explains how to evade Flak (anti-aircraft fire) in WWII

Over Germany, Italy, Japan, “Flak” (anti-aircraft gun) was, along with enemy fighters, the main threat to Allied bombers.

An Army Air Force training film explains FlaK (from the German word for Anti-aircraft gun – Flugabwehrkanone): how heavy, smal caliber and automatic gun worked, the way they could aim at aircraft formations flying at 27,000 feet and 320 mph and evasive maneuvers for bomber pilots to avoid being hit by anti-aircraft fire.

Obviously, technology behind AAA (Anti-Aircraft Artillery) has improved a lot since 1944 with radar guided bursts, but concepts like continuously pointed fire and predicted concentration are still used as a base of calculations required to shot down air intruders around the world; hence, even if you won’t face flak over Japan or Germany like U.S. pilots did 70 years ago, anti-aircraft artillery batteries still pose a threat to modern warplanes equipped with cutting edge EW (Electronic Warfare) suites and stealth planes.

 

H/T to Matt Fanning for the heads-up.

 

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Dramatic World War II Color Air Combat Footage

This is what aerial combat during World War II over Europe looked like

A video producer by the name of Loudon Maverick has compiled a color video including fighter gun camera footage, dogfights, flak fire, kamikaze attacks, aerial combat between fighters and bombers, carpet bombing and huge explosions from above taken during WWII.

Regardless of the side, it took so much courage to fly and fight against the enemy in the skies over Europe, the Mediterranean Sea, North Africa or the Pacific, where some of the dramatic scenes you can see below were filmed.

 

H/T to @MaxHigh32 for the heads-up

 

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