Here are some nice color shots of the interior of a Boeing B-17E Flying Fortress showing aircrew at their positions. These are of the thirteenth B-17E produced, serial 41-2405 with the Sperry remote turret in the ventral position. The pictures were taken by famed aviation photographer Rudy Arnold on 25JUN42.
A couple of notes. While the descriptions associated with the negatives in the NASM archive all describe the aircraft as being 41-2405, there are a few photographs in the series which are obviously of other Fortresses, so take that identification with a grain of salt on the interior pictures. Several of the negatives in the collection have water damage so if you notice unexpected color shift or mottling it is possibly a defect on the negative.
All photographs credit National Air and Space Museum Archives, Rudy Arnold Photo Collection unless otherwise noted.
Ordinance crew are bombing up 41-2405. The Norton bombsight in the nose was almost always seen covered when on the ground for security reasons, even though by this time several examples had been captured intact by the Japanese on Java. Note the grounding wire attached to the pitot tube on the port side of the nose, a necessary precaution against sparks when arming or fueling the aircraft.
An exterior view of 41-2405 warming up her engines in the pre-dawn twilight. Even though the colors are washed out, the Sperry remote belly gun turret and sighting dome show clearly.
Pilot LT Arthur H. Little poses at the controls, showing details of the colors of the flight controls and cockpit. The cockpit interior was lined with sound-deadening insulation and covered with a dark green canvas. A B-24 Liberator can be seen in the background.
Co-Pilot LT Douglas H. Busky at his station. The cockpit side windows could be slid to the rear to allow for ventilation or an unobstructed view. Notice that the sliding portion is a single piece of molded Plexiglas and is unframed.
The Navigator, 2LT Robert W. Wert at his station in the nose. The nose compartment of the early Fortresses was also covered in the sound deadening insulation with dark green canvas covering, but later production Forts dispensed with the insulation in the nose except for the bulkhead separating the nose compartment from the cockpit. The underlying interior was unprimed. If you can see the structural ribbing on a Fortress interior, it should be in natural aluminum!
Aft of the bomb bay is the radio compartment, where SGT Leslie T. Figgs is pictured at his station. This compartment was also provided with the interior insulation on the B-17E. Note the color of his table, and that none of the airframe or fittings are primed.
The after fuselage looking forward, where the waist and belly gunners relax with a bottle of milk and a sandwich. The belly gunner laid between the feet of the waist gunners facing aft to look though his sight. The crowded conditions interfered with the efficiency of all three men, and using the periscopic sight was disorienting and nauseating for the ventral gunner. The Sperry remote turret was not a success and no kills were credited to gunners using the system. In this view the sight is covered with plywood and parachutes for security reasons.
The same view, but here the photographer has switched to another camera loaded with black and white film which shows additional details. Note the structural support for the belly turret at the top of the frame, and the canvas covering for the vertical support.
Here is a Boeing factory photograph showing the Sperry remote turret and associated sight more clearly. It is easy to imagine the waist gunners stepping on and tripping over the belly gunner in combat. The remote turrets were removed from most aircraft in the Pacific sometime during the Summer and Fall of 1942 and replaced with the manned Sperry ball turrets. (Boeing photograph)
A posed photograph showing the waist gunners with their .50 caliber machine guns aimed aft. The lack of space for the gunners to work is obvious, some crews flew with only one waist gunner, especially later in the war. The interior of the aft fuselage was not provided with the insulative covering, and was left in unprimed Aluminum (as was the bomb bay). Restored warbirds are generally seen with primed interiors as a preservative measure which has led to an erroneous perception among modelers.
A photograph from the Michael Ochs Archives showing an early Fortress with the hand-held .30 caliber machine gun mounted in the nose. The relatively weak defensive armament in the nose was quickly discovered by both the Germans and the Japanese. Efforts by Fortress crews to increase the forward firepower were frustrated by heavier guns cracking the Plexiglas panels which also served as mounts. Various field modifications were tried in an effort to absorb the recoil from heavier nose guns.
Link to Part I here:
Link to Part II here: