Crews of the B-17 Flying Fortress (and other bombers) had a tough row to hoe. Complete 25 missions and you get to go home. But casualties were unbelievably heavy. According to the WWII Foundation: "In 1942-43 it was statistically impossible for bomber crews to complete a 25-mission tour in Europe."
After watching the movie Fortress over the weekend, and re-familiarizing myself with the rules, I set up a plane and crew and ran them through their first mission.
Movie Trailer for Fortress
The Bomber and Crew
Bomber: Naughty Nellie
Pilot: Cpt. Ben Edwards
Co-Pilot: Lt. Bert Sandoval
Navigator (Port & Starboard Cheek MGs): Lt. Milton Garner
Bombardier (Nose MG): Lt. Bill Warren
Engineer (Top Turret MG): Mst. Sgt. Tim Barber
Radio (Radio MG): Sgt. Darnell Allen
Ball Turret MG: Sgt. Andy Alvarez
Port Waist MG: Sgt. Carl Evans
Starboard Waist MG: Sgt. Jason Daniels
Tail MG: Sgt. Angelo Manning
It's November 1943, and the crew's mission is to fly over the channel into France to bomb a rail yard near Amiens. It's not a long flight, so in theory it should be a comparatively easy mission. Nellie is slated to fly in the middle of her squadron (comparatively safe), but the squadron is posted to the lower part of the formation (comparatively dangerous). You can't get everything.
Over the Channel
The formation takes off and flies across England toward the channel. Once over the water, friendly escort is less than effective, and Nellie gets hit with a first wave of enemy fighters.
"Where the hell is our fighter cover?"
Five Me 109's, none of which is driven off by fighters, scream into sight. They come from practically every direction with one each at 12:00 level, 1:30 high, 3:00 high, 6:00 high, and a last one coming straight down in a vertical dive.
Nice Shootin' Boys!
Lt. Warren working the nose MG opens up on the fighter at 12:00 level and destroys it. Lt. Garner damages the enemy at 1:30 high with the starboard cheek MG, and Mst. Sgt. Barber up in the top turret polishes off the one at 6:00 high. The starboard waist MG, tail MG and radio MG all miss.
The three remaining 109's attack. Two of them miss and break off, but the third one coming in at 3:00 hits, putting one shell into the starboard wing and another into the bomb bay. Both hits are superficial.
The third 109 comes in again at 3:00 level, but Sgt. Daniels on the starboard waist MG takes him out.
Here They Come Again!
The crew barely have time to catch their breath before a second wave hits. The fighter escort is still ineffective, and two Me 109's and a Me 110 break through to take on Nellie.
Garner switches sides to the port cheek MG and damages a 109 coming in at 10:30 level. Lt. Warren is on a streak up in the nose as he takes out his second 109 of the day, coming in at 12:00. No one gets a shot at the Me 110 coming in at 10:30 low.
One Hell of a Pilot
Letting the Me 110 come in unhindered has unfortunate consequences. While the damaged 109 misses on its attack run and breaks off, the 110 goes on a tear and puts two shells into Nellie. One is a superficial hit to the bomb bay, but the other one is a direct hit to the Norden bomb sight in the nose.
The 110 comes in again at 12:00, emerges unscathed through the crew's defensive fire, and this time puts two more shells into Nellie – one into each wing. Luckily the hits are ineffective.
On the Me 110's third pass, Mst. Sgt. Barber in the top turret puts a few rounds into the enemy fighter, and the pilot breaks off his attack.
The Norden Bomb Sight
We Didn't Even Make it to France
Capt. Edwards' voice crackles over the radio: "Report! What's the damage?"
Warren's voice replies: "It's no good Cap. That 110 took out the bomb sight. There's no way we can put our load on the target now."
"Alright, we'll abort."
Edwards drops out of formation, turns around over the channel and starts back to England.
Evans looks over at Daniels in the waist of the plane. "Hell, man, we didn't even make it to France."
Thick as Pea Soup
Nellie heads back to 8th Air Force's base. On approach, the weather turns foul. The poor conditions make the landing trickier than normal, but Edwards brings Naughty Nellie down safe and sound. The crew steps off disappointed but unscathed. One mission down, only twenty-four to go.