Early Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress

Boeing Y1B-17
YB-17’s are distinguished by the small ball turret for the .30 gun in the nose.  Note the high reflectivity of the Aluminum skin.  (U.S. Air Force photo)
13 YB-17’s were produced, S/N 36-149 through 36-161.  Not many, but enough for the USAAC to begin to develop tactics and gain experience in heavy bomber operations.  The Army was well aware of the public relations value of these aircraft and they were the focus of many newsreels and photographs. 
An outstanding series of color photographs of B-17B’s was shot for Life Magazine at March Field.  Modelers should note the pristine condition of the markings and overall cleanliness of these aircraft.  Little weathering is evident.
39 B-17B serial numbers were divided into five batches because of budgetary reasons. S/N 38-211 through 38-223; 38-258 through 38-270 ; 38-583 through 38-584 ; 38-610 ; and 39-1 through 39-10.
Note the high reflectivity of the polished Aluminum fuselage.  Duplicating this is a challenge for scale modelers.  The key lies in the surface preparation, each layer must be buffed to a high sheen and all imperfections removed.  What works best for me is to prime with Mr. Surfacer 1200, polish, and then apply a base layer of Alclad black primer and polish again.  Alclad Bright Candy Apple Base is the final coat.
38215_Boeing B-17B at Esler Field[1]
In 1940 B-17B 38-215 and 38-216 were sent to Ladd Field outside of Fairbanks, Alaska for cold weather trials. Note the high visibility orange paint to aid search and rescue efforts.
A detail shot showing the polar bear making applied to the Cold Weather Test Detachment B-17s.  Later 38-215 would be nicknamed “Old Seventy” and would become the only B-17B to see combat, serving in the Aleutians.  An outstanding history of “Old Seventy” by Steve Dennis here:
The B-17C was developed by installing more powerful engines, a “bathtub” ventral gun position, and flush waist gun positions replacing the teardrop glazing. 38 B-17C’s were produced, receiving S/N 40-2042 through 40-2079.  Twenty of these were modified with self-sealing fuel tanks and a .50cal nose gun and used by the RAF as Fortress I’s.    The remaining US Army C’s were later modified to B-17D standard, making the Serial Number the only sure way to distinguish between the two versions.
42 B-17Ds were produced with several changes over the C. Most of these were improvements in armor and armament which are not obvious in photographs.  The most obvious external difference is the addition of cowl flaps to the engine cowlings.  S/N 40-3059 through 40-3100. (U.S. Air Force photo)
The only early “shark fin” B-17 which survives is B-17D 40-3097 “The Swoose”. Here she is during the war with armament removed serving as a transport.  “The Swoose” is currently under restoration at the National Museum of the US Air Force in Dayton, Ohio.


B-17C/Ds prepare to leave the US for the Philippines as part of the 19th Bombardment Group. Note the mix of natural metal and Olive Drab camouflage.
Half of the 35 Flying Fortresses in the Philippines were put out of action on the first day of the war. Here is a B-17C/D fuselage wearing a field-applied camouflage, likely at the edge of an airfield in the Philippines.  An interesting modeling subject if more information could be found.