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8th AF - B-17 vs B-24

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Marlborough House
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2008/02/14 04:02:42 (permalink)
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8th AF - B-17 vs B-24

Guy's, forgive me if this subject has been covered before,
 
Why did the 8th AF want to to standardize on the B-17, other than
the obvious spares issue.
I understand the reasons behind the 3rd Air Div wanting to standarize on
one type for maintenace and operational issues.
Was the B-24 not as well suited to the role in N. Europe or was it
just some form of personnal preferance, I've read Doolittle was behind
the issue, is this true?
 
Malc
Mike.Simpson
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RE: 8th AF - B-17 vs B-24 2008/02/14 07:11:27 (permalink)
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When you compare the B-17 and the B-24 going to distant targets (deep penetrations into Germany), the B-17 carried about half the bomb load of a B-24.  Because of the earlier model design of the B-17's wings, they gave a lot of lift at the expense of a lot of drag.  The more drag you have to work against, the more fuel you burn to go a certain distance.  If you need more fuel, you carry less bombs.
 
The later design of the B-24's wing meant the aircraft was more fuel efficient and could carry more bombs deeper into Germany.  This came at a price:  at altitude, the B-24 could be a handfull to keep in formation.  Above 25,000 feet, she was trouble to fly when fully loaded.
 
It's no doubt that Doolittle preferred the B-17 - it was an aircraft that had been around for quite a while, was relatively easy to fly, had a higher service ceiling, and had the nickname of being a "Flying Fortress".  And it was a good looking aircraft!  The B-24 was often referred to as a "flying boxcar" because of the rectangular shape of the fuselage.  Interior space was much greater than the B-17, which made it easier to move around in while in the air.  The roll-up bomb bay doors meant the aircraft was more stable when the doors were open - nothing hanging down into the slip stream.  When you're the boss, you get to do what you want (him wanting an all B-17 force).
 
At the end of the war, there were 12,000+ B-17's built, compared to some 18,000+ B-24's.  There wer relatively few B-17's in the Pacific due to the distance to the targets.  Some B-17's carried 'Tokio' tanks in the bomb bay, reducing the bomb load by half.  Very early in the war, the limited production of B-17's and the decision that the European war would have priority meant that the B-17's would play a pivotal role in developing strategic air power in the ETO.  Those guys who flew against the best of the Luftwaffe in small formations without full-time fighter cover - my hat's off to them.  They are the bravest of the brave!

Mike Simpson
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jpeters140
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RE: 8th AF - B-17 vs B-24 2008/02/14 08:37:32 (permalink)
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Mike...I think there is something wrong in your statement that the B-24 could carry more bombx deeper into Germany....From Italy, the bomb load was EXACTLY the same as the B-17....12  500 lb bombs or  6 1000 lb bombs. for the longer ranges it was 4 1000 lb. (Both the B-17 AND B-24).

As for the larger number of B-24s produced, with FIVE factories producing the B-24 against only THREE producing the B-17. logic SHOULD tell you...of course the B-24 would be more numerous.

A secondary explanation would also cover the amount of rivets holding the two aircraft together...take a look at the WIDE spacing of the rivet pattern in the B-24 versus the much closer rivet pattern of the B-17....less total rivets...faster production.

A third reason for the B-17 being more sturdy is the shape of the fuselage...an oblong shape (B-24) does not have the strength of the circle (B-17) ...note the shape of the deep sea manned submarine research vehicles...in order to allow the deepest penetration of those research submarinss, the shape was that of a sphere ,where the outside pressure was equal in all directiions.

I will comment again about the fuel indication system and the installation of only ONE engine driven hydraulic pump on the B-24....for a later design. the B-24 suffered from the installation of the two glass tubes for the fuel indicating (similar to the familiar coffee maker) and the lack of a backup engine driven hydraulic pump..with only ONE engine driven hydraulic pump,..... lose the no 3 engine, and the B-24 was forced to rely on the backup electric motor driven arcing hydraulic pump located in the bomb bay, and with the early B-24s having fuel vapor problems, it seems to me that that was an accident waiting to happen.

Im my estimation, the Consolidated design engineers were working backward in their LATER design.

Structurally, the B-17 was a better design, even though the design was older by some 4-5 years.

So for those reasons and also that there were already two Air Divisions of B-17s, it made sense to change over completely to the B-17...for the reason of part procurement, and standardization of one type aircraft.

Now, having said all that, this in no way is meant to demean the accomplishments of the B-24 aircrews and aircraft maintainers.

Each aircraft had it's faults and advantages.

To go strictly by the totals of each type produced, is to slew the production figures in favor of the B-24, but when looking at the number of factories producing each type, the high production of the B-24s means LESS when the B-17's less production capability is taken into a more realistic account.

Again, the aircraft that brought you home was the best.

Jim  :-)

James S. Peters Sr. T/Sgt B-17 Flt Engr, 27 missions 99 BG, 348BS, 5th Wing, 15th AAF Tortorella, (Foggia#2), Italy My Tour was from 12/03/44-06/19/45 M/Sgt USAF (Retired)
Nextgen
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RE: 8th AF - B-17 vs B-24 2008/02/15 22:20:24 (permalink)
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I’ll wade into this with a couple observations. First is that the B-24, being a little bit later design was able take advantage of a number of improvements in technology. The wing design was a factor in the speed department, but I believe the biggest difference in efficiency was the engine design. While both had 1820 cu.in. radials of about the same power, but the B-17’s Wright had all nine cylinders in a single row. The B-24’s P&W engines were a double-row, nine-cylinder layout. The difference in frontal area (drag) was significant enough to account for most of the speed advantage.
 
The 3rd AD did start out with five B-24 groups mostly because there weren’t enough of either type to equip all of the groups at that point in time. Not only were the logistics of supply complicated but the operations were as well. The difference in optimum cruise speeds and altitude resulted in the five B-24 groups flying separate from the rest of the AD. Mike has already mentioned the altitude performance difference between the types. I’ve often wondered if the extra 5-10K feet didn’t explain at least some of the survivability of the B-17. I think the answer to Marlborough’s question about the 3rd AD going to all "17s" as opposed to "24s" may lie in the demand for "24s" in other theaters of the war. Bear in mind that the Navy was also flying them as PB4Y’s. The B-17 was adequate for reaching most of the important targets in Europe and you had the 2nd AD’s B-24s to cover the ones it couldn’t.
 
I’ve known quite a few guys who flew both types and predictably most had a favorite, but the number would be pretty evenly split. I’ve never had any of them tell be a B-24 was easier to fly than a B-17, but some were willing to trade the extra work load for more gas and little more speed. One pilot (later became a General) who was in one of the transition groups and flew missions both favored the Lib because it "road better in rough air" due to the flex of it’s long wings. If you want to get a discussion going, attend a reunion of one of the transition groups and start asking which was better in the hospitality suite.
My take? - It took both of ‘um to win the war.
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RE: 8th AF - B-17 vs B-24 2008/02/15 23:14:26 (permalink)
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I believe that Gen. Doolittle decided to go "all B-17" for the simplicity of a single type, both in combat and on the ground. As Nextgen stated, logistics became much easier by going to the B-17, and it would be simpler to convert a few Groups to Forts than a large number of Groups to the Lib. Logistics for B-24 units wasn't all that easy even then--those five factories didn't produce all that many parts that fit from one airplane to another! There was a reason that the Pacific theater got nearly all San Diego B-24s, parts commonality in a war zone far from the U.S.
 
Oh, by the way, the Pratt on the B-24 is a 14 cylinder, 1830 c.i. design.
 
Scott
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RE: 8th AF - B-17 vs B-24 2008/02/16 00:44:04 (permalink)
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If an aircraft returned from a mission but was written off on landing due to battle damage or was condemned after landing and stood down, was it considered a "lose" as in "aircraft losses" in the statistic reported for aircraft lost during the war?

How about the planes that returned with a bomb hung up in the bomb bay and the crew bailed out over the field with the plane set on autopilot to fly over the ocean and go down with the bomb? Was that a mission "loss"? I know that happened several times in Dad's group.

I wander how that would affect the comparisons of B-17 vs. B-24 losses?

More food for the discussion.

Ken

Ken Alexander
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WillowRun
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RE: 8th AF - B-17 vs B-24 2008/02/16 19:33:38 (permalink)
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Malcolm,   Welcome aboard!  I don't know if you have had the opportunity to read the postings on the Thread: B-24 versus B-17. Many of the key posters to this Site have responded on this extensive Thread and the topics are pretty varied. The distance, pay load capacity, altitudes and "ruggedness" being some of the key topics.  I have included the "link." Best Regards! Steven
 
http://forum.armyairforces.com/m_123916/mpage_1/key_/tm.htm 
 
 

 
Best Regards!
Steven P. Puhl
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RE: 8th AF - B-17 vs B-24 2008/02/16 19:55:30 (permalink)
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Malcolm,  Another thought about the differencs was that although both A/C's were well suited to high level distance bombing in the ETO, the Lib was more suited to the Pacific.  While well suited for high level bombing, it also functioned well on low level strafing missions.  The Vets will all say that the best A/C was the "one that brought you home."  Best Regards!  Steven

 
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RE: 8th AF - B-17 vs B-24 2008/02/16 20:13:50 (permalink)
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Mike,
 
   You mentioned the B-17's Tokyo Tanks being in the bomb bay;  they were actually in the wing.  Some B-24's had additional tanks placed in the bomb bay.
 
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RE: 8th AF - B-17 vs B-24 2008/02/16 20:45:49 (permalink)
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Logistics for B-24 units wasn't all that easy even then--those five factories didn't produce all that many parts that fit from one airplane to another! There was a reason that the Pacific theater got nearly all San Diego B-24s, parts commonality in a war zone far from the U.S.

 
Scott,  Good point!  When the US Government approached Ford Motor Company about the possibility of mass producing the B-24, the concept of "interchangeable parts" obviously was in the forefront of the manufacturing process.  The FO WR facility in most of its manufacturing and assembly processes was modeled on the Ford car assembly procss in much larger scale.  It was not a perfect manufacturing world, but a definite improvement.  I was also curious about your comment about the commonality of parts shipped to the Pacific.  Maybe I didn't understand it.  What with the interchangeableness of parts and the WR FO designs driven by Consolidated engineers, I guess I wasn't clear.  Or, does this refer to the shipment of parts from a "common distribution center" into which parts would have been processed from any of the five facilities?  Al Blue had once asked me about about a common parts distribution center here in the midwest, but as yet have found no record or literature on it.  Best Regards!  Steven 

 
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RE: 8th AF - B-17 vs B-24 2008/02/16 20:53:00 (permalink)
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The B-17 could carry bomb bay tanks...the same tank was used in the B-24..and we in fact carried one bomb bay tank on our ferry flight to Italy delivering a new B-17...the other side of the bomb bay was filled with K-Rations and a G.I tool box filled with special tools...that was one way to get the replacement tools to the theater. (tools wear out with use).

The B-17 was actually designed as a Medium bomber and was in competition with the Douglas B-18, only Boeing put four engines on the design and the B-18 had only two engines.

Keep in mind also,that the B-17 was designed in 1934-1935, so it was a major advancement at that time.
The B-24 was designed in 1939 and so, had the advantage of later knowledge in design.

Interesting...that the Boeing engineers compared the design of the WW II aircraft using slide rules with the latest computer design methods and found that the slide rules were  much stronger than needed...in other words...the WW II aircraft due to the slide rules were built like tanks in comparison to the current aircraft, which undoubtably accounted for their survivablility.

Jim :-)

James S. Peters Sr. T/Sgt B-17 Flt Engr, 27 missions 99 BG, 348BS, 5th Wing, 15th AAF Tortorella, (Foggia#2), Italy My Tour was from 12/03/44-06/19/45 M/Sgt USAF (Retired)
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RE: 8th AF - B-17 vs B-24 2008/02/17 08:11:22 (permalink)
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Basicall y, I agree with most of the comments. The main reason, in my opinion, that there were more 24s is the fact that
Henry Ford made good on his brag, and built 24s at a rate that was almost unbelievable.
Anyway, I loved my "4 engine whore"
RHD
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RE: 8th AF - B-17 vs B-24 2008/02/17 09:24:51 (permalink)
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Robert,  Thanks for the comment!  YAM in their monthly pubulication, Hangar Happenings,  keeps a running list of historical events be they aviation, military or significant world events.  Of note, and related to your post, is 28FE44 when FO WR approached its intended goal of "a bomber an hour" by producing "a B-24H every 100 minutes."  Again, based on the production struggles encountered over time, it was quite a feat!  Best Regards!   Steven

 
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RE: 8th AF - B-17 vs B-24 2011/04/27 00:43:24 (permalink)
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As a Pilot and one who has time in both the B-24 and P-51 the operations issue of escort coordination is something that's been under stated in this thread.  First, there were several squadrons of escort fighters who each had responsibility to find the bombers and then maintain coverage for an assigned sector.  How the fighters could do navigation with a wiz wheel, trigometry, fly the airplane in formation, find the bombers, fight the enemy, survive and then find your way home in overcast and then fly a crude instrument approach knowing there were hundreds of other planes in the clouds is a major feat.   It's not like everyone all took off at the same time and flew together as one happy family.
 
Second, How does a fighter group escort two types of airplanes that flew at different speeds and altitudes?  B-17s who flew at one speed, B-24's at a different speed you have to make choices.  Either you split escort duties between B-17's and '24's, some group gets none for some period of time, or something else.    The bomber groups weren't too interested in escort compromises and the complexity of finding "your" group is multiplied by the number of groups you need to find.  It's not like the fighter group could just fly up along side the bombers and say "is that you?"   At several miles distance, through goggles, plexi-glass, and glare it's pretty tough to tell a Mustang from a ME-109 and the bomber crews were understandably trigger happy since 20mm shells weren't kind to body parts or airframes.
 
Having the a single aircraft type in a group simplifies everything.  There is a reason Southwest Airlines flies only B-737's.  Parts, training, maintenance, and experience aligned around a single airplane increases the effectiveness of the group and their ability to execute the mission.
 
The idea that one plane or the other was better from an operational perspective has no statistical proof that was produced by the USAAC that I've ever seen.  If someone can cite a reference I'd love to see it.
 
On a different thread, my father's B-24 was made at Willow Run.  I have a copy of their orders to ETO and logs of the flight there.  It arrived 18 November 1944 and was placed in a replacement pool.  My dad and his co-pilot were sad to see it go, they loved their time in it.  It was shot down over Budapest on 2 December 1944 with all hands lost.  I have a picture of it framed with the aircrew in front of it when they picked it up at Topeka, KS.
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RE: 8th AF - B-17 vs B-24 2011/04/27 10:19:16 (permalink)
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In answer to your question...."Second, how does a fighter group escort two types of airplanes that flew at different speeds and altitudes?"...I would like to make a comment....in Italy, we had two different types of fighters....the twin engined P-38 and the P-51.
 
About two hour into our missions, if escorted by the P-38s, I was in the B-17 top turret and could see the P-38 escort approach us from the six o'clock position...they would form a a "Daisy Chain" or an apparent chain formation which consisted of flying a constant interlocking curve between the two groups of the formation ,and in addition would fly past in the first pass with three aircraft in formation and the fourth P-38 rocking from one side to the other, so we gunners could see the planform of the very distinctive shape of the P-38. They flew over our formation about a  500 to 1000 ft elevation higher than our formation.
I.E. they bled off their airspeed by a constant weaving...or circling over and around our formation.
 
It was a given that NO fighter point his nose at a bomber formation as the fighter would likely draw fire from the bomber gunners.
 
There was a captured P-38, that was flown by an Italian pilot on the side of the Germans,  that shot down several of our bombers.....the U.S. markings were left intact.
 
This an extract from Dick Drain's 5th Wing History of Aircraft Assigned :
 
15th AAF....301st BG....419th BS....42-30307...BONNIE SUE....Assigned 3 Jul 43...MIA 11 Aug 43...SHOT DOWN BY ENEMY P-38. on it's 14th mission.
 
Note...Our indicated airspeed in the B-17 was 155 MPH...and having talked with several B-24 pilots, the B-24 formations flew at 160 MPH  or a mere 5 MPH indicated airspeed higher.
 
Yes, the B-24s flew at a mere 5 MPH higher speed, where the escort fightes flew at a much higher indicated airspeed.  So, in my opinion, too much attention has been made of the slightly higher airspeed of the B-24 versus the B-17.
 
A B-17 formation flying as a seperate Group, was no more diffcult to escort tban a B-24 formation.
 
In addition, much has been made of the different ranges between the B-17 and B-24, along with  the oft stated design characteristics of the B-24 in that the B-24 was DESIGNED to fly father, faster, and HIGHER than the B-17...the HIGHER has been laid to rest, as the B-24 Service Ceiling was 28,000 ft with the B-17  Service Ceiling at 35,600 ft.
 
From all accounts that I have read on the B-24, the bombing altitude of the B-24 was at a stretch to achieve 24,000 ft with the B-24 almost uncontrollable at the 24,000 ft.
 
Again as to speed, I have been challenged on my statement that our B-17 formation  at an altitude of some 27,000 ft.....actually PAsSED the lower altitude B-24 formation at their 20,000 ft altitude.
I can personnaly attest to this as I have seen it occur.
 
This was explained by a pilot, as the difference in pressure altitude between 20,000 ft and 27,000 ft...the pressure at 20,000 at 6.79  with the pressure at 30,000 ft at 4.2...thus allowing the TRUE airspeed to be around 240 MPH, with an INIDICATED airspeed of 155 MPH. I.E. the higher the altitude, the lower the pressure allowing a hgher TRUE airspeed.
 
Another comment if you will....you,by your own statement have flown both the B-24 and P-51 I dare say that you have never flown either in combat in WW II.....and I am not attempting to insult you...only to point out that a either a B-24 or B-17 in aerial combat in WW II, in formation, is far different from flying a single aircraft,either a B-2 or a P-51, that was not flown in a formation.
IF you were not the lead aircraft, then the other aircraft in the formation were CONSTANTLY jockying their throttles to maintain the formation position.
I can add to this by an example...my crew had a co-pilot with only 50 hours, who would wait until he was EXACTLY in the correct position, before either advancing or retarding the throttles....in fact this is somewhat a bit humerous, in that on one mission, the right waist gunner called me on the interphone and told me that he knew when the pilot was flying and when the co-pilot was flying.He tjhen informed me that the pilot was flying,...I glanced over and sure enough the pilot was flying...he told me he would call me when the co-pilot was flying..he called me again about 30 minutes later and told me the co-pilot was flying...I verified this, and he explained that he was observing the waist gunners on either side, (we were lead of the second element) and if the waist gunners looked out and saw my pilot was flying, they would relax...but, if the co-pilot was flying, they would make a big show of adjusting their chute harnesses.
Apparently they could tell by the constant see-sawing back and forward action of our aircraft that the co-pilot was flying.
Did I mention that the only aircraft that was flown at a constant airscpeed was the FORMATION LEAD aircraft. All the others were constantly attempting to stay in their formation position.
 
The comparison too frequently has  been made of the supeior range of the B-24....as I mentioned earliier, the B-17 was actually in a MEDIUM competetion with the twin engine B-18, and flew some 5 years prior to the developement of the B-24. with the main tanks holding a total of 1700 gals...425 gallons per engine.
Later on the outer wings were fitted with the so-called Tokio Tanks which then gave a total of 2780 gallons.
 
I stand by my assertion that the B-24, even though a later developemen, had two major design flaws...one was the single engine driven hydraulic pump on no 3 engine...lose no 3 and the backup was the aux hyd pump located in an aft bomb bay, that because of the electrical brush design, would arc in the higher altitudes, and with any fuel fuimes present would lilkely cause an explosion. as evidenced by the practice of partiall opening the B-24 bomb bay doors on takeoff and landing.
 
The second design flaw in my opinion, was the fuel indication system....two glass tubes with gasoline in the cockpit versus the B-17,  auto type  electrical remote transmitter in the fuel tank, whth the cockpit fuel quantity indicator, was far safer, with NO FUEL in the cockpit,  even though an earlier design.
 
Jim :-)
 

James S. Peters Sr. T/Sgt B-17 Flt Engr, 27 missions 99 BG, 348BS, 5th Wing, 15th AAF Tortorella, (Foggia#2), Italy My Tour was from 12/03/44-06/19/45 M/Sgt USAF (Retired)
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RE: 8th AF - B-17 vs B-24 2011/04/27 10:23:16 (permalink)
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We knew what fighter support aircraft( markings etc.) would be escorting our section of the bomber groups. This information was covered in the mission briefing. At the time I was in the UK(1945) for the most part the fighter bases were in France and we would pick them up after crossing the Channel. We had a 15 minute period of time to make the connect. If we were late they would go home. On one mission to Berlin we were late and we made the trip without escort service. One escort aircraft would come in real close to be identified.  They flew their assigned section of the bomber stream in formations of four. The P-51s were on top, bottom and both sides of the stream. They stayed with us to the IP(start of bomb run), go around the target flak area and pick us up again on the other side and stay until we approached their base area on the return. Then one of the escort aircraft would come in real close and say," little brother to big brother give us a course
 home" Our navigator would reply, he would flap his wings a time or two and be gone.
 
The fighter escort was our comfort zone on each mission.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
france

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RE: 8th AF - B-17 vs B-24 2011/04/28 00:13:34 (permalink)
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My father's time in ETO was almost identical to yours.  Over the years I have acquired what I think is an amazing collection of artifacts.  For a number of his missions I have original bomb-strike photos, bombs released and heading down and bomb damage assessment photos.  I also have copies of most of the mission orders for the missions his (454th) flew.  

I have original sectional maps and the most rare map I have is the target map for Linz, Austria along with the crayon markings the bombardier made to set the IP and course to target.  When I pulled the target map out and showed my dad's co-pilot he was speechless for a while.  His daughter was with us and she said her dad had talked about his service in Italy for years and that was the first time she'd ever seen that reaction.

The BDA photos always include the altitude of the group; the altitudes I read were in a range between 22,000 and 27,200' for five of them.  All of the BDA photos have their own range, my dad said it there was because they stacked the box vertically to concentrate the drop.   He would have absolutely agreed that higher was better, in one interview we did he said when they saw mission orders they felt better or worse based on their position in the flight with high and first being regarded as the best place to be other than at home in bed.
 
There were many aspects of both the B-17 and B-24 that were really appalling from a design perspective.  Glass tubes in the cockpit made no sense to me.  The transfer of fuel in the B-24 is extremely complex and it was easy to set valves in a position that would strand fuel in cells.  My manuals for the B-24 make me wonder how that task was ever mastered.
 
Dad's copilot is still with us and I am going to give him a call.  I've got some new items in the collection to share with him (a package of chaff, more photos - with one of my favorites being the return of a flight of P-38's to base at low altitude with half of them pitching up to transition to the downwind leg of the landing pattern).  I will see what he recalls on missions with B-17's.  He shared my dad's view that the B-24 was the aircraft they were glad they were in compared to the B-17; I'll report back with it as I hear it.  
 
 
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