There was also a passenger/cargo version called the C-87 (RY-1 in Navy service). According to William Green, 276 of these were built.
According to my sources: C-87 was the transport modification of B-24D (280 copies), C-87A - transport modification with 10 sleeping accomodations (6 copies), AT-22 - "flying class" (5 C-87 were converted, later reequipped as TB-24), RY-1 - C-87A analogue for the navy (3 copies), RY-2 - C-87 analogue for the navy (5 copies), Liberator C.Mk.VII - C-87 analogue for RAF (24 copies).
Among 18482 B-24s of all types and modifications 17104 were built as serial heavy bombers. Were used by US, Australia (12 B-24D, 275 B-24J, 2 C-87), UK, USSR (1 B-24D, 25 B-24J - all repaired by Soviet workshops, in service since April 1945, never used in combat)
Although the B-17s (and B-24s) did face night fighters from time to time, it wasn't an everyday event.
Yes, this is truth as B-17s were used in Europe during the day time mainly. Usual fighters Bf109s and FW190s were also a big problem for US bombers, especially when they flew without escort during air raids. Nevertheless, as B-17s had strong defense armament (11-13x12.7mm MGs on B-17G) bomber gunners also knocked down/damaged many German fighters. But I don't have an exact data as it is very hard to distinguish German fighters, damaged by B-17s fire from damaged by US escort fighters fire, also official USAF combat reports about German fighter losses were very overevaluated often.
For example, B-17s gunners reported about 288(!) knocked down German fighters after the raid to Schweinfurt, Frankfurt and Regensburg 17.07.1943, but German sources mention only several fighters were knocked down. During that raid 60 B-17s from 376 were lost.
Only in 1945 the losses of B-17s decreased significantly as German fighters had not enough fuel for operations - during the raid 22.02.1945 only 1 bomber was knocked down by fighters and 4 - by AA fire from 1411 B-17s, participated in the raid. During the last raid against Berlin (18.03.1945) with 1327 heavy bombers, only 8 were knocked down by 50 Me-262s, 16 more were knocked down by AA fire, 16 were damaged and landed on Soviet territory. On another hand, 05.04.1945 only 5 Me-262 could knock down 2 B-17s (+1 escort fighter P-51), 5 B-24s and heavily damaged another 2 B-17s. Bomber gunners could knocked down one Me-262 which was extremelly hard using 12.7mm MG turrets.
The B-17s usually flew at altitudes around 20,000 feet or more, which is actually relatively high for WW II bombing.
Yes, this is also true, of course. Maximal altitude for B-17 was near 11-11.5 km. But when I wrote that high losses of B-17s were also the result of relatively low combat altitude I meant the air raids of 1943 when B-17 operated at medium altitudes quite often and were vulnerable for the strong AA fire.
Average B-17 made ~21 combat flight until it was knocked down in 1943.
The "Box" formation was carefully worked out to maximise coverage of every quarter by the planes' MGs.
Yes, "box" close formation of heavy bombers was quite good for defense against attacking German fighters and for square bombing of industrial centres. But close formation led also to high losses from heavy AA guns, fired fragmentation shells with delayed explosion, also upper bombers quite often damaged lower bombers by their own dropped bombs. Individual planes could not engage in evasive maneuvers.
The B-17s, like all bombers, were vulnerable to fighters. You'll notice that the heaviest losses were when escorting fighters were not present. The key to success for the bombers was to provide escorts.
Yes, exactly. The most heavy losses of B-17s (as the losses of all other types of bombers I guess) happened when there was no fighter support or it was insufficient. Nevertheless, AA fire caused many losses also.
This may be misleading. The actual record for total missions by a single B-17 was quite a bit over 25, though I don't have the precise number at hand. But many B-17s lasted more than 25 missions.
Memphis Belle was the first B-17 to reach 25 missions (and was promptly shipped back to the US), but I too am confident that there were many others that subsequently reached and surpassed that total. Especially from late-44 onwards.
Probably, yes. As I've already metioned today the average B-17 made 21-23 combat flights even in 1943, when German AA defense was very strong.
As for "Memphis Belle" B-17F no. 41-24485 (324th bomber squadron, 91st BG) - that was the first B-17, completed 25 missions (till 17.05.1943). That bomber was returned back to USA for US War Bonds advertising flights, later it was used at McDill Field (Florida) as training plane, In August 1945 Reconstruction Finance Corporation wanted to scrap the bomber, but fortunately one man recognised famous "Memphis Belle". Bomber was saved, preserved several years in Memphis (Tennessee), but was damaged by weather conditions and hoodlums. Since 1987 as completely restored airplane preserved under protective dome.
You need to check that again. I think the B-17 had more or less disappeared from the PTO by early 1943 to be replaced by the B-24, whose longer range made it better adapted to the Pacific.
B-17 was the main US heavy bomber in Pacific in 1941-1942 (Hawaii, Philippines - 1941, Java, Coral Sea, Midway - 1942, based in India since 02.1942), used also in 1943 until were replaced by B-24 (mainly in summer 1943). B-24s had better range, more bomb capacity and higher speed at medium altitude, whereas more high-level altitude B-17s were optimal for European theatre.
But not very much. The RAF didn't like them for bombing and I think quickly relegated them to exclusively flying airdrops to resistance groups. I'm not aware of them operating them in Africa at all, although they might have.
Yes, but the first combat case of B-17 was the British air raid against Wilhelmshaven in June 1941. RAF used B-17s in small groups during the bombing raids over Hamburg, Emden, Duesseldorf, Oslo, Brest. Since October 1941 British B-17s were used only by Coastal Command as recon/patrol/anti-submarine planes in Europe. But they were used till May 1942 in Africa (air raids against Tobruk, Benghazi in Libya).
Info about lost British B-17s:
16/08/41 Brest AN523
08/09/41 Oslo AN533 AN525
24/05/44 Bomber Support SR384
21/06/44 Bomber Support SR382 SR381
25/08/44 Bomber Support HB763
12/09/44 Bomber Support HB702
06/11/44 Bomber Support HB788
15/11/44 Bomber Support HB787
16/01/45 Bomber Support KJ103
08/02/45 Bomber Support HB796
24/02/45 Bomber Support HB805
07/03/45 Bomber Support KJ106
14/03/45 Bomber Support HB802
15/03/45 Bomber Support HB803
20/03/45 Bomber Support KB785
21/03/45 Bomber Support KJ112
03/04/45 Bomber Support HB815
Michael, 100 Group also used them for EW, but all told I think there was only a squadron or two of B-17s in RAF service.
90 squadron used 20 B-17 since May 1941, 100 Group (214 squadron) used 85 B-17G (Fortress III for Radio Counter Measures).
Watton (Suffolk): 90 Squadron 3 May 1941 - 15 May 1941
West Raynham (Norfolk): 90 Squadron 15 May 1941 - 30 August 1941
Polebrook (Northamptonshire):90 Squadron 30 August 1941 - 10 February 1942
Sculthorpe (Norfolk): 214 Squadron 16 January 1944 - 16 May 1944
Oulton (Norfolk): 214 Squadron 16 May 1944 - 27 July 1945