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They do not make man or machine like this anymore IMO
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B-17 "All American" (414th Squadron, 97BG) Crew 
Pilot- Ken Bragg Jr. 
Co-pilot- G. Boyd Jr. 
Navigator- Harry C. Nuessle 
Bombardier- Ralph Burbridge 
Engineer- Joe C. James 
Radio Operator - Paul A. Galloway 
Ball Turret Gunner- Elton Conda 
Waist Gunner- Michael Zuk 
Tail Gunner- Sam T. Sarpolus 
Ground Crew Chief- Hank Hyland 
In 1943 a mid-air collision on February 1, 1943, between a B-17 and a German

fighter over the Tunis dock area, this became the subject of one of the most
famous photographs of WW 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 Flying 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; the split in the fuselage went all the way to the top gunner's turret. 
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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 miraculously still flew!
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. 
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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 Me-109 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. 
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Allied P-51 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 that the appendage 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 to 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. 
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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. 

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This old bird had done its job and brought the entire crew home uninjured. 

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An awesome story. Makes me proud. 

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I really enjoyed reading about this. I thought my husband would like to read it so I asked if he’d heard of the famous picture of the WW ll plane and before I could say anything else he asked if I meant the B-17. He’s such a know it all. He did enjoy reading it though as there were details here that he hadn’t read before. 

He then asked if I’d heard of another B-17 that landed while on autopilot without the crew. I think he reads to many Facebook posts. The pages he likes consists of tractors and war history. 

Those men were very brave.

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