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"B-17 C & D Defensive Armament" Topic

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Jemima Fawr Inactive Member15 Dec 2011 10:23 p.m. PST

I've been trying to work out exactly what the defensive armament was on USAAF B-17 C & D variants – specifically in the Phillipines and Dutch East Indies, circa 1942. Everything I can find is vague and/or contradictory.

Does anyone have good info on how many guns were carried, of what calibre and in what positions? Ta.

Kaoschallenged Inactive Member15 Dec 2011 11:00 p.m. PST

Try and look for the armament diagram on page 27 of the (1940) T.O. 01-20EC-1 Handbook of Operation and Flight Instructions for the Model B-17C Bombardment Airplane. In that Manual's Armament Diagram it looks like there is there is one nose .30 CAL MG. Twin belly .50 CAL MG. Twin roof .50 CAL MG. And a left and right side single .50 CAL. MG. Robert

Personal logo Wyatt the Odd Supporting Member of TMP Fezian15 Dec 2011 11:35 p.m. PST

The B-17D had the same armament. The E model was the first to have the tail gun.


Jemima Fawr Inactive Member16 Dec 2011 12:26 a.m. PST


Thanks. I did read one reference to the C having five .50s (presumably left, right, dorsal, ventral and nose), but another referred to four .50s and a .30, so presumably the .30 was in the nose. Any idea whereabouts in the nose? Was it sticking directly out of the front perspex nosecone, or was it mounted somewhere above or below?

A reference to the D model upgrade talks about 'replacing the single nose gun' (from a .30 to a .50 perhaps?) and 'doubling up on the other guns, bringing the total to seven'. My maths isn't great, but 'doubling up on the guns' should come to more than seven! Presumably then, they mean doubling the dorsal and ventral guns? That would essentially be what you describe above.


Thanks also. Yes, I've got a lot of info on the E and later models, but hard facts on the C & D models are quite elusive.


Kaoschallenged Inactive Member16 Dec 2011 12:37 a.m. PST


Well it looks like the nose gun is in the front of the perspex nosecone In the diagram in the manual. I would assume that since the manual came out in 1940 the twin .50s were in the dorsal and ventral positions already. The manual give a total of 5 .50s and one .30 Cal MG. Though these drawings have what looks like a second gun in the nose.


Personal logo Doms Decals Sponsoring Member of TMP Inactive Member16 Dec 2011 3:05 a.m. PST

From Joe Baugher's site; the guy's a serious researcher on aircraft, and usually my go-to on these things:

The B-17C differed from the earlier B-17 versions in having the gun blisters removed from the sides of the rear fuselage and replaced by flush, oval-shaped windows. Each of the oval windows had a port for a single 0.50-inch machine gun cut into its edge. The belly gun blister was replaced by a larger metal "bathtub" housing carrying a single 0.50-inch machine gun. The dorsal blister located at the radio operator's position behind the pilot's compartment was replaced by a flush panel into which a single socket for a 0.50-inch machine gun was cut. The nose gun mounting was changed from a single socket in the forward window to six sockets mounted in side windows. The nose 0.30-inch machine gun could be fired from any one of these sockets.

The B-17D had paired guns in the belly and top positions, bringing the total armament to one 0.30-inch and six 0.50-inch machine guns. The external bomb racks were deleted.


Jemima Fawr Inactive Member16 Dec 2011 7:45 a.m. PST


There is a mention in 'Bloody Shambles' of B-17Cs being brought up to D standard in the field with additional guns and armour, so a rough rule of thumb might be that the D had twin dorsal and ventral guns, while the C had singles?

I imagine that there were many variations in the front line, which might lead to confusion in the sources – particularly if they were retrofitting them in the field.

Personal logo Doms Decals Sponsoring Member of TMP Inactive Member16 Dec 2011 7:57 a.m. PST

Sounds about right, and yes I'd imagine there was a bit of confusing cannibalisation and field upgrading going on.

Jemima Fawr Inactive Member16 Dec 2011 10:16 a.m. PST

Cheers Dom. I'd also just like to take this opportunity to say:

All I want for Christmas is magnets.


Kaoschallenged Inactive Member16 Dec 2011 11:41 a.m. PST

Always interesting to see the differences between official sources and the field isn't it :). Robert

Jemima Fawr Inactive Member16 Dec 2011 12:33 p.m. PST

Tell me about it. I was trying to work out Sunderland armament through the war, but I've found that having arguably the world's top Sunderland expert (with a gigantic flying boat archive) as a good friend and knowing quite a few former Sunderland crew only makes things MORE complicated!

Kaoschallenged Inactive Member16 Dec 2011 1:09 p.m. PST

I can imaging LOL. "Flying Porcupine" ;). I really wish I could have posted the diagram. The manual is just chocked full of information :). Robert

Kaoschallenged Inactive Member16 Dec 2011 5:53 p.m. PST


Kaoschallenged Inactive Member16 Dec 2011 10:07 p.m. PST

Also from Joe Baugher's site about the D model,

"Forty-two more B-17Cs were ordered on April 17, 1940. However, these planes were sufficiently different from the original batch of B-17Cs that the Army decided on September 6, 1940 to give them a new designation of B-17D. In reality, the B-17D was only slightly different from the B-17C and bore the same company model number (299H). Externally, the B-17D differed from the C in having a set of engine cowling flaps to improve the cooling. Internal changes included electrical system revisions and the addition of a tenth crew member. The B-17D had paired guns in the belly and top positions, bringing the total armament to one 0.30-inch and six 0.50-inch machine guns. The external bomb racks were deleted.

The first B-17D flew on February 3, 1941. The B-17Ds were delivered to the Army from February to April of 1941. First priority was given to overseas units, with most of the B-17Ds going to units based in Hawaii or in the Philippines. The batch of B-17Cs which did not get sent to Britain were later modified to B-17D standards and redesignated B-17D.

Starting in March of 1941, the Army began to paint its B-17s in olive drab and grey camouflage paint. By the time of Pearl Harbor, virtually all B-17Cs and Ds were in warpaint.

The only "shark-fin" B-17 known to still remain in existence is B-17D 40-3097 (known as *Swoose*). It is currently in storage at the Paul Garber facility at Silver Hill, Maryland.


Boeing B-17D Fortress 40-3059/3100

Specification of B-17D:

Four Wright GR-1820-65 (G-205A) Cyclone radials rated at 1200 hp for takeoff, 1000 hp at 25,000 feet. Performance: Maximum speed 318 mph at 25,000 feet. Service ceiling 37,000 feet. Dimensions: wingspan 103 feet 9 3/8 inches, length 67 feet 10.6 inches, height 15 feet 5 inches, wing area 1420 square feet. Weights: 30,963 pounds empty, 39,319 pounds gross. Armament: Armed with six 0.50-inch machine guns and one 0.30-inch machine gun. A single 0.50-inch gun was carried in each of the two waist positions, and a pair of 0.50-inch machine guns were mounted in each of the dorsal and ventral positions. There was one 0.30-inch machine gun which could be fired from any one of six sockets in the nose. A maximum of 4800 pounds of bombs could be carried in an internal bomb bay. "


Jemima Fawr Inactive Member17 Dec 2011 7:55 a.m. PST

Cheers Robert. I think that wraps that up nicely – just as I've finished painting three of them. :o)

Personal logo svsavory Supporting Member of TMP17 Dec 2011 10:35 a.m. PST

The only "shark-fin" B-17 known to still remain in existence is B-17D 40-3097 (known as *Swoose*). It is currently in storage at the Paul Garber facility at Silver Hill, Maryland.

The Swoose is currently undergoing restoration (along with the Memphis Belle) at the National Museum of the US Air Force.





zippyfusenet Inactive Member17 Dec 2011 1:28 p.m. PST

Fantastic photos Scott. Thanks. Can't wait for Swoose and Belle to go on display.

Kaoschallenged Inactive Member17 Dec 2011 1:48 p.m. PST

The story of the "Swoose" for those interested. Robert

"This aircraft is the oldest surviving B-17 Flying Fortress and the only D model in existence. Originally named Ole Betsy, this B-17D participated in several bombing missions in the desperate weeks after Pearl Harbor. Later named The Swoose, it also served as a transport for the commander of Allied air forces in the Southwest Pacific, Lt. Gen. George Brett.

The Army Air Corps accepted this aircraft and assigned it to the 19th Bombardment Group at March Field, Calif., in April 1941. In May it participated in the first mass aircraft flight from the mainland U.S. to Hawaii. In September, the aircraft flew from Hawaii to the Philippines in the longest mass flight to date.

Within hours of the Pearl Harbor attack on Dec. 7, 1941, Ole Betsy flew on the first U.S. combat mission in the Philippines. During the following three weeks, it struck at the Japanese forces invading the Philippines. After transferring to Java, it continued to fly combat missions.

On Jan. 11, 1942, three Japanese fighters caused heavy damage to Ole Betsy -- but lost two of their own in the process -- during a running 35-minute engagement off the coast of Borneo. Maintenance personnel in Australia replaced the damaged tail with one from another B-17D, replaced the engines, and converted the aircraft into an armed transport. The new pilot, Capt. Weldon Smith, gave it a new nickname after a then-popular song about a half-swan, half-goose called the "Swoose."

In the spring of 1942, Capt. Frank Kurtz, the personal pilot for Lt. Gen. George Brett, took over The Swoose. (His daughter, famed actress Swoosie Kurtz, was named after the aircraft.) The Swoose traveled to forward air bases in the combat zone, and sometimes the crew had to man the guns against enemy fighter attack. The aircraft also set two point-to-point speed records and carried several famous passengers, including Lt. Commander Lyndon B. Johnson (future president of the United States).

Gen. Brett came back to the United States in the summer of 1942 and brought The Swoose with him. The aircraft was stripped of weaponry and unnecessary equipment, overhauled and used as his personal high-speed transport until he retired in late 1945. Remarkably, The Swoose had perhaps the unique distinction of being in operational service from Pearl Harbor to the end of the war.

The Smithsonian Institution accepted possession of The Swoose in the late 1940s and it remained in storage until the National Museum of the United States Air Force acquired it in 2008. After a complete restoration, The Swoose will be placed on display at the museum."

There is also an 18 photo slide show here,

Kaoschallenged Inactive Member17 Dec 2011 3:22 p.m. PST

And you are most welcome Mark. Glad to be of some help :). Robert

Oddball18 Dec 2011 6:55 a.m. PST

That's great about the B-17D.

I read an account of the first bombing missions in New Guinea with B-17E. The Japanese pilots were used to the D model with no tail guns or belly turret. The Japanese planes flew up behind and a bit below the bombers then cut speed as they most likely felt this was a safe approach.

The opening fire from the B-17 shot down 5 Japanese fighters in a few seconds. The rest scattered. Tough way to learn there's a new bomber on the block.

Kaoschallenged Inactive Member18 Dec 2011 1:20 p.m. PST

IIRC kind of similar to what happened to some German fighters that attacked some Boulton Paul Defiants thinking they were Hurricanes and not knowing about the rear turrets LOL. I happen to love the smooth lines of the B-17C/D :). Robert

Kaoschallenged Inactive Member18 Dec 2011 6:01 p.m. PST

Like this.


But I really love the look of the Y1B-17 Better.



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