August A. Byron
United States
Army Air Corp

United States 8th Air Force (Army Air Corp.)
8th Air Force
First Air Division
94th Combat Wing
351st BG (H)

(bombardment group - heavy)
854th Chemical Co

Polebrook AFB

United States 8th Army Air Corp, B17, Polebrook England WWII
B-17 Flying Fortress

There is a huge amount of information about the B17 in libraries, on the internet, and in many many books. I have put a few photos and some basic facts here as it relates to the 351st and the 8th Air Force. To find out more or see additional photos of this great WWII bomber check out the resources online for more. The small amount of information and photos here are just to supplement my dad's 8th Air Force memeorial page.

The B-17 was built by Boeing Aircraft (Seattle, WA) and was the most valued strategic bomber in WWII. They took on the name of "Flying Fortress" because they had gunner turrets top, bottom, rear and sides. A total of 11-13 machine gun turrets (depending on the model), .30-caliber , to protect the bomber from enemy fighters. It had a bomb payload of 4,000 pounds.

In the early years of the war our fighter planes could not go as far as the B17s due to their fuel capacity. So many times the B17s were on their own. This took a huge toll on them because the German fighter planes would cause severe losses to the squadrons. Later in the war the P51 mustang fighter plane was developed that had the added range needed to protect the bombers to and from their targets.

Other specifications
Span: 103 feet 9 inches
Length: 74 feet 9 inches
Gross weight: 65,000 pounds
Top speed: 287 mph
Cruising speed: 150 mph
Range (max.): 3,750 miles
Ceiling: 35,600 feet
Power: Four 1,200-horsepower Wright R-1820-97 engines
Accommodation: 2 pilots, bombardier, radio-operator, 5-6 gunners
Usually four officers and six enlisted men.
Armament: 11 to 13 machine guns, 9,600-pound bomb load
Front gun turret on a B-17 bomber
click for larger photo
A B-17 in active combat with german fighters

Above: Photo of a B17 in combat and showing serious damage (tail and nose damage) with a german fighter visible to the starboard of the bomber.
(click image for larger view)


B17 Cockpit pictured below
(click image for larger view)

B17 ciockpit



Over 12,000 B-17 Bombers were built.
Sadly, only a handful survived and exist today.


B-17 Flying fortress from the 351st at polebrook air base


The 854th Chemical Company was also in
charge of the fuel farm and oxygen supplies.

854th Checmical Co

How much fuel did it take for a combat mission?
A typical mission of 70 to 72 aircraft would consume 72,000 gallons of 140 octane avgas. Most stations had two fuel tank farms in order to have sufficient quantities on hand should the need arise.

B-17 Squadron pictured on the left.

This is a 351st squadron as it
shows the "Triangle J" on the tail.

Triangle J - 351st Polebrook England
This was the tail designation for the
351st B-17s, the Triangle J.
The triange denoted the First Air Division/First Bomb
Wing and the J was for the 351st.



The 854th Chemical Warfare Company was trained to load chemical, incendiary, and high explosive ammunition aboard heavy bombers. They spent many unpleasant hours wearing gas masks and impervious clothing. They also dealt with unexploded bombs as well (these days called EOD, Explosive Ordnance Disposal)

Bomb Disposal


Inside a restored B17
(click image for larger view)

Inside a B17


B-17 cockpit view
B17 Cockpit

351st Bombardment Group (Heavy)
351st Bombardment Group(H)
Polebrook AB, England


Many of the missions took the B17 squadrons above 25,000 feet for hours. The aircraft was not pressurized. The crew had to stay on oxygen masks the entire time to breath.


Temperatures got as far down as -50 degrees and bare skin would freeze to metal immediatly.

A typical medium range mission involved flying 8 to 9 hrs, covering 1,300 miles @ 200 knots



The B17 was legendary for continuing to fly and make it home even with huge portions of the place shot up or torn away.

It is truly amazing how some of them made it home after a mission. Here are some photos of damaged B17s that made it back after severe fighter damage.


tail section shot up on a B-17

Tail section damage from German fighter attack
(click image for larger view)

B17 severly damaged from combat

Entire nose section destroyed duing battle yet
this B-17 made it home,
This shows how the B17 got it's reputation!


nose damage from combat on a B17 bomber

Click the images to see in a new window
and much larger

cash landed B17

B17 bomber landed after tail shot up by german fighters


ail section damage from German fighter attack
(click image for larger view)

Damage to B17 from german fighters



For some WWII LIFE Magazine Photos of the B17s during WWII CLICK HERE








Half of the total U.S. Army Air Forces' casualties in World War II
were suffered by the Eighth Air Force alone.
26,000 dead and more than 28,000 held prisoner in Nazi camps


First Eighth Air Force
According to Air Command; “To man these aircraft the USAAF trained 193,440 pilots and washed out another 124,000 from 1 July 1939 to 31 Aug. 1945 while training 400,000 aircrew to man the bombers and transports with bombardiers, navigators, gunners flight engineers and other specialists.” The war began a revolution in the training of USAAF airmen

B-17 at the US Air Force Museum
B-17 at the United States Air Force museum


B17 - Inside the Whirlwind

The B17 Flying Fortress dropped more bombs than
any other U.S. aircraft in World War II.

Insignia patches of the squadrons assigned to the 351st
at Polebrook Air Base. Actor Jimmy Stewart was with the
508th Squadron.

508th bomber squadron
508th Squadron

509th bomber squadron
509th Squadron

510th bomber squadron
510th Squadron

511th bomber squadron
511th Squadron


Lots of WWII era B17 video
and other footage
can be seen on the
CLICK HERE to see more photos of the B-17 in 1943

to see a collection of LIFE photographer
Margaret Bourke-White B17 Photos.
Some great photos from 1943

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