The B-17 Flying Fortress Story: Design-Production-History
By Roger A. Freeman with David Osborne
Hardcover in dustjacket, illustrated, 319 pages
Published by Arms and Armour August 1998
Dimensions: 9 x 1.2 x 11.2 inches
This book is not for everyone, it is intended to be a researcher’s reference. It does not contain crew interviews, unit histories, color profiles, or mission reports. If you read reviews of this book, in several cases there is a disconnect between what is covered and what the customer hoped would be covered.
It is helpful to view this book in two parts. The first part is a design history written by Freeman which describes the technical details and design evolution of the B-17. This includes several annotated factory drawings which identify every window, access panel, and interior component, something which is sure to please even the most pedantic B-17 aficionado. Each modification to the armament is described and illustrated regardless whether this was a factory change or developed in the field. Production changes are listed by the factory block number and U.S. Army serial number ranges. There were three factories producing B-17s during the war (Boeing at Seattle (-BO), Lockheed Vega at Burbank (-VE), and Douglas at Long Beach (-DL)). Each manufacturer assigned production blocks differently, and introduced production changes at different times, so a B-17F-25 from one factory differs in detail from those produced at the other two even though they share the same block numbers. Using the serial numbers the changes can be determined for each individual aircraft.
Performance data is presented in a large table which makes it easy to determine the relative capabilities of each variant. There is also an interesting section on post-war service and developments applied to the surviving Fortresses. The B-17s served in a wide variety of roles after the war with various operators and these are some of the more interesting modifications and are not widely described, such as engine test beds, air/sea rescue, and civilian airliners.
The second section of the book is devoted to Osborne’s research into the individual record cards for each of the 12,731 B-17s produced. This is arranged by U.S. Army serial number and gives the locations and dates detailing the movements and unit assignments preserved in the records. Fates and aircraft names are listed where known. Here you get a good feel for what happened to the aircraft within the United States, but the information recorded gets less detailed as it gets further away from the U.S. Obviously, this is a massive undertaking and can never be complete, but here a researcher has a place to start when tracking down any given B-17 serial. A table allows correlation with the manufacturers’ production numbers as well. This section comprises the bulk of the book and totals almost 250 pages.
As I said earlier, not a book for every reader, but an invaluable asset for a researcher or a modeler who wants to get every little piece of equipment right for a particular aircraft. If that’s you, this is your book!