Naturally, I had to go inside the B-17 to take some pics, if only because Old NFO did so last week with another B-17 in Manassas.
Aw, heck, who am I kidding? There's no way that I wouldn't have done it.
Once up the ladder, you come into the bombardier's workspace. He sits up in the glass nose and actually flies the plane on the final bomb run while looking down through the bombsite. And all of the forward-firing machine guns are because he's the guy--along with the pilots--that the enemy fighters are trying for, often with a head-on run.
Nearly every day during the last half of the war, hundreds of these bombers flew from England over Germany, each carrying ten young American men. Some came back, but many did not. It was tough enough to fly for hours at 30,000 feet, with temperatures so cold that if your electrically-heated flying suit or your oxygen system failed, you'd likely die in your position because no single bomber could leave the formation lest it become a sitting duck for every enemy fighter out there. And if your plane was hit by those fighters, or cannon fire from the ground, or it collided with another bomber or just had a mechanical problem, you'd be lucky to get out of the falling aircraft and luckier still to reach the ground alive by parachute, where, hopefully, the citizens on the ground might not kill you. It was a rough way to fight a war, indeed, and my hat's off to all of those men who did it when America called.
The Nine-O-Nine below as we flew out later.