Boeing B-17: The Fifteen Ton Flying Fortress

Published on
February 28, 2021
Review Author(s)
Book Author(s)
Graham M. Simons & Dr. Harry Friedman
Other Publication Information
Paperback,, 256 pages, 480 b/w within text
Product / Stock #
Company: Pen & Sword - Website: Visit Site
Provided by: Casemate UK - Website: Visit Site
Product Picture

I did not know what to expect when I started reading this book. I thought everything that could be written about the B-17 had been written. I was wrong.

This paperback book is written in an easy-to-read style. It does get technical at points, but it is easily understandable. The 256 pages are 9.25 x 6 of high-quality paper. It does contain almost 480 photos: many I’ve never seen before. So, with the preliminary information, let’s see what is inside of the book.

Developmental history starts well before the B-17, or Model 299, went to the drawing board. The stories that accompany the development are gold. The problems, drawbacks, and trials of developing an aircraft that was operating in the stratosphere at extremely low temperatures are each talked about. And the ways they were overcome or ignored.

The next chapter covers the B-17B/C. Not only are the growing problems that occurred in testing, but the British experience in actual combat missions are discussed. The British experience helped to shape the future of the B-17.

The B-17D/E is the next chapter and goes into the US Army combat debut. One thing that I really enjoyed is the one offs that were developed. Combat experience and the lessons learned. Maintenance experiences are discussed.

The B-17F was the bomber that the USAAF went to war with. It was not as well suited for combat as nostalgia-based version of the story. Things like the fuel tanks catching fire from combat causing the loss of the bomber. All the production batch changes are shown. Also, the numbering system and differences between the three production lines is shown in an easy way to follow. The Technical Orders are also highlighted so you can see how the airplane developed from experience. One great story in this section was the rescue of a B-17 from an ice cap by a PBY Catalina. It is really an amazing heroic story. Engine issues plagued the B-17 from the very beginning, and it wasn’t until the F model that they got it under control.

This section also addressed things like the YB-40 and the Reed Project modification or the six-gun lower chin turret. I had not seen this mod before. Did you know that the B-17 used glide bombs in combat? I did not. I knew they flew tests but not that they were used operationally with mixed results. How about a rocket bomb? Its talked about with pictures. Then there is Aphrodite. The beginning of drone use. Another British aircraft is a Radio Countermeasures aircraft. There is something in here for everybody. There are more variants than I mentioned here but they are not just discussed they are shown in photos.

The B-17G is the last version of the venerable bomber. Most of the bugs had been worked out by now. Production block changes are listed. The development of the G resulted in numerous variants that were called other designations, such as H, and PB for the Navy and Coast Guard. This chapter even covers the Turboprop test aircraft. If you want to see something strange look at the Rolls Royce Dart four engined turboprop.

Like any airplane the B-17 could not fly without the help of the maintenance crews. A chapter is dedicated to them and their sacrifice. Working long hours under some austere conditions the maintenance crews are the unsung heroes of the air war.

The next chapter compares and contrasts the B-17 with other four engined bombers like the B-24, Pe-8 and Lancaster. And the armament and bomb loads are discussed.

The final chapter is the pilot’s checklist. This is accompanied with some useful modeling photos.

I thoroughly enjoyed this entire book. I learned a lot about the Flying Fortress. This book addresses many of the myths and mystique surrounding the B-17. If there was a development of the B-17 I think it is in here. For those that love this bomber this is a must have reference.

Highly recommended

Thanks to Casemate Publishing and IPMS/USA for the review copy. You can obtain yours by contacting them at .


Add new comment

All comments are moderated to prevent spam

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.