Sioux City, Iowa --
A piece of Air Force living history from the 2nd World War flew into Sioux City, Iowa over the past weekend. A B-17 bomber from the Commemorative Air Force was available for viewing at the airport during the short stay.
Charles Williams volunteers as a B-17 co-pilot with the non-profit CAF when he is not flying Boeing 777s for a major airline. The U.S. Air Force veteran says the aim of the CAF is to preserve historic military aircraft along with the stories of the people who flew them.
“We keep history alive, we honor World War II veterans and we teach history,” Williams explained.
Pilots from the CAF make stops around the nation with the Flying Fortress, giving tours and telling the rich history about the aircraft. Interested enthusiasts were also able to purchase a once in a lifetime ride on the historic aircraft.
Originally developed in the mid-1930s the B-17 became an iconic symbol of American air power during the Second World War. Before the wars end, the United States manufactured nearly 13,000 Flying Fortress aircraft.
Long range heavy bombers like the four engine B-17 were the first of their kind that allowed the U.S. military to project air power well beyond the borders of the North American continent. During the war the B-17 could deliver up to a 6000 pound payload deep into enemy territory. The long reach of the B-17 allowed allies to target war manufacturing facilities in Germany and Japan.
“This airplane is one of the reasons we speak English and not German, we put the Third Reich out of business,” Williams added.
One of the many unique features of the B-17 was the Norden Bomb site that was a closely guarded secret during the war. Bombardiers were required to take an oath to protect the bombsite with their lives if necessary.
During the 2nd World War the Sioux City airport served as a U.S. Army Air Corps training base for B-17 and B-24 crew members. Ten member B-17 aircrew teams were put together in Iowa before they were sent to their overseas deployments.
The aircraft was named the flying fortress because of the large number of .50 caliber machine guns mounted around the aircraft.
The Flying Fortress had guns mounted in the tail that covered attacks from the rear. Two guns were mounted on either side of the glass nosed bombardier compartment as well in the aircraft chin. Guns were mounted on each side of the fuselage, on the top of the aircraft and bottom where the iconic ball turret gun is mounted.
“The Germans nicknamed the B-17 the porcupine because of all the machine guns,” Williams explained.
The B-17 is one of nearly 200 aircraft that are part of Commemorative Air Force with locations around the United States. The CAF goal of preserving history is especially significant this year as the Air Force celebrates its 75th anniversary since its founding in 1947.
According to the CAF website their mission is to “save an example of every aircraft that flew during World War II ~ a mission no one else was undertaking.”