1943 – Miracle to Remember – God is in Control

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The term “Greatest Generation” doesn’t mean just people but can be equally applied to some of the finest aircraft designs of all time; the C-47 transport, P-47 Thunderbolt and P-38 Lightning, both superb fighters! And of course the B-24 Liberator, the F4U Corsair (the Navy’s greatest carrier fighter), the P-51 Mustang (arguably the finest fighter aircraft of its time) and finally the B-17 who’s crews said would bring them home in almost any condition and here’s one of those conditions! Tough Bird
A mid-air collision on February 1, 1943 between a B-17 and a German fighter over the Tunis dock area became the subject of one of the most famous photographs of World War II… An enemy fighter attacking a 97th Bomb Group formation went out of control, probably with a wounded pilot then continued its crashing descent into the rear of the fuselage of a Fortress named All American, piloted by Lt. Kendrick R. Bragg, of the 414th Bomb Squadron.  
When it struck, the fighter broke apart, but left some pieces in the B-17. The left horizontal stabilizer of the Fortress and left elevator were completely torn away. The two right engines were out and one on the left had a serious oil pump leak. The vertical fin and the rudder had been damaged, the fuselage had been cut almost completely through connected only at two small parts of the frame and the radios, electrical and oxygen systems were damaged. There was also a hole in the top that was over 16 feet long and 4 feet wide at its widest and the split in the fuselage went all the way to the top gunner’s turret.
Although the tail actually bounced and swayed in the wind and twisted when the plane turned and all the control cables were severed , except one single elevator cable still worked, and the aircraft still flew-miraculously! The tail gunner was trapped because there was no floor connecting the tail to the rest of the plane. The waist and tail gunners used parts of the German fighter and their own parachute harnesses in an attempt to keep the tail from ripping off and the two sides of the fuselage from splitting apart.
While the crew was trying to keep the bomber from coming apart, the pilot continued on his bomb run and released his bombs over the target. 
When the bomb bay doors were opened, the wind turbulence was so great that it blew one of the waist gunners into the broken tail section. It took several minutes and four crew members to pass him ropes from parachutes and haul him back into the forward part of the plane. When they tried to do the same for the tail gunner, the tail began flapping so hard that it began to break off. The weight of the gunner was adding some stability to the tail section, so he went back to his position.
The turn back toward England had to be very slow to keep the tail from twisting off. They actually covered almost 70 miles to make the turn home. The bomber was so badly damaged that it was losing altitude and speed and was soon alone in the sky. For a brief time, two more Me109 German fighters attacked the All American. Despite the extensive damage, all of the machine gunners were able to respond to these attacks and soon drove off the fighters. The two waist gunners stood up with their heads sticking out through the hole in the top of the fuselage to aim and fire their machine guns. The tail gunner had to shoot in short bursts because the recoil was actually causing the plane to turn.
Allied P51 fighters intercepted the All American as it crossed over the Channel and took one of the pictures shown. They also radioed to the base describing the empennage was waving like a fish tail and that the plane would not make it and to send out boats to rescue the crew when they bailed out. The fighters stayed with the Fortress taking hand signals from Lt. Bragg and relaying them to the base. Lt. Bragg signaled that 5 parachutes and the spare had been “used” so five of the crew could not bail out. He made the decision that if they could not bail out safely, then he would stay with the plane and land it.
Two and a half hours after being hit, the aircraft made its final turn to line up with the runway while it was still over 40 miles away. It descended into an emergency landing and a normal roll-out on its landing gear.. When the ambulance pulled alongside, it was waved off because not a single member of the crew had been injured. No one could believe that the aircraft could still fly in such a condition. The Fortress sat placidly until the crew all exited through the door in the fuselage and the tail gunner had climbed down a ladder, at which time the entire rear section of the aircraft collapsed onto the ground. The rugged old bird had done its job.
H/T to The Lord God Almighty, the Brave Crew, the Rosie the Riveters who built the plane, and to Kelleigh who always emails the very best! 
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0 responses to “1943 – Miracle to Remember – God is in Control

  1. I was born in 1943, and I’m continually amazed that I’m still alive today, after my all-too-many brushes w/death and accidents. Some days I feel the same as this plane looks: should be packing it in, but here we still are!

  2. Amazing. Simply amazing.

  3. Great stuff. I once got to know a beautiful French lass I met on the beach in Santa Barbara on D Day, and I didn’t even have to get my feet wet. Now that is a miracle, though I doubt if would be recognized by the Catholics.

  4. Just amazing this plane made it back safey w/their crew. Wow…

  5. I don’t know where you got this from, but….
    It is no less impressive for the very poor research:-
    London to Tunis is 1132 miles
    The plane landed some “two and a half hours after being hit”, but
    didn’t come straight home – it still did its bombing run.
    Never mind – say two and a half hours flying time – for say 1100 miles
    = 440 m.p.h.
    From https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/B-17_Flying_Fortress
    Maximum speed: 287 mph (249 kn, 462 km/h)
    Cruise speed: 182 mph (158 kn, 293 km/h)
    Hmmmm… some Bird !
    From https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:B-17-battle-casualty1.gif)
    her home base was actually in Biskra, Tunisia, so references to
    “England” and “the Channel” are fiction.
    Pity, that – it casts undeserved doubt on the whole story.
    Not entirely your fault, of course….

  6. Actually Biskra, Algeria. The photo was taken by another B-17 in the formation, not a P-51. No bombing run, they steered for their base immediately. The Boeing company and the crew get the credit, god is as fictitious as much of this account.

    • You Brian are entitled to your opinion, as are we to believe in God.
      Boeing made this spectacular machine, the crew handled it magnificently, and God watched over them. We give credit to all that made this possible.


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