This is another of those immediately recognizable types. The Flying Fortress is most famous for flying daylight strategic missions against Germany.
After the jump, a look at an American Heavy.
The Flying Fortress, along with the B-24 Liberator, was meant for precision, high altitude, daylight bombardment of an enemy’s strategic infrastructure. This turned out to be harder to accomplish than expected. Not only would it prove difficult to actually hit industrial size targets with any accuracy, but the skies over Nazi Germany would prove a very dangerous place for a four engine heavy bomber.
In particular, even though the American heavies were well armed and armored, they could not hold up against a determined and capable fighter defense. That may be one of the enduring lessons of the Second World War, a bomber needs to be protected from enemy fighters. Providing a capable long range fighter to do so would be one of the epic stories of the war (and its a story I’ll save for another post). Ultimately, the destruction of the Luftwaffe by American fighters may have been the most devastating effect of the American strategic bombing campaign. Once air superiority had been won; the bomber campaign began to prove its worth, especially in sustained campaigns against German transportation and the oil industry.
The debate between supporters of the B-17 or B-24 has been passionate since those battles were being fought over Germany. I think that debate starts with the B-17 being clearly favored in the American press. I think there’s no doubt the Flying Fortress was blessed with stunning good looks, especially compared to the more functional looking Liberator. But both types had distinctly different strengths and weaknesses. The Fortress was easier to fly, especially at high altitude, in formation. It also was far more rugged. Perhaps most important, it could fly at a higher altitude. Fortress crews apparently joked they didn’t need fighter escort on missions they flew jointly with the Liberators, because the lower Liberator formations would always take the brunt of an enemy attack.
Liberator crews liked to point out they took lower losses overall in the Eighth Air Force; but I do feel obliged to point out the B-24s of the Second Bomb Wing often went to secondary, diversionary targets while the B-17s of the First and Third Bomb Wings went for the primary targets. Eighth Bomber Command definitely considered the B-17 better suited to their mission. But the Liberator had real strengths too. It could carry a heavier bomb load, farther and faster than the B-17. This was especially a big deal in the Pacific where range was everything.
This particular aircraft was assigned to the 15th Air Force in Italy. Not as well known, and about a third of the size of the Eighth Air Force in England, the 15th carried out a similar mission. From Italy, they could reach the key oil targets in Romania, and industry of northern Italy, Austria and Czechoslovakia that were out of reach from England.
This was built from the Monogram kit. This is a classic kit, and was one of my very favorites as a kid. It still looks good, although fit and detail are a little short of modern standards. But this did not require nearly as much filler as my B-26 build! Still, I hope we see modern tool of this kit someday. The decals are by Eagle Strike.