B-17E bomber resurrected as memorial to World War Two soldiers

A B-17E bomber, which is an early model of the World War Two famous Flying Fortress, is the only remaining aircraft of its kind the world.

Known as Sal, the B-17Es survives today only because in 1942 she got lost in a storm as she was making her way across the Atlantic to join the Allied war against Nazi Germany in Europe.

Now, today, Sal is to become a permanent memorial to all of those Air Corps servicemen who gave their lives during World War Two and the surviving veterans.

The B-17E will be known as the Ultimate Sacrifice Memorial and the local authorities in Blue Ash, Ohio, hope that it will attract many visitors from around the world.

At the moment, Sal is undergoing extensive renovations in a hanger, where a team of aircraft engineers and volunteers are working hard to overhaul the aircraft. Sal’s last flight was more than 60 years ago when she made a crash landing onto ice in Greenland.

Many of the volunteers working on the renovations are veterans themselves and they can vividly remember the dangerous missions they had to undertake on aircraft just like Sal during the war.

Bob Beringhaus is now 79 and one of the volunteers and says that he piloted several B-17s over a total of 35 missions in Europe, the Enquirer reports.

Mr Ready from Blue Ash is spearheading the project and hopes to situate the aircraft onto a recreated ice cap to mimic her last landing, and as she appears in the last known photograph of her.

For veteran air crew chief, Bob Patrick, Sal’s inaugural flight remains fixed in his memory, as Bob and the crew left the military airbase in Maine for Europe in 1942.

They were accompanied by 12 other bombers and had planned several refuelling stops before they landed in England. Each aircraft was flying their own route in order to not create a formation and target for the Nazis. As they each departed from a fuel stop at Goose Bay Bob says that the weather took a turn for the worst and they had to find somewhere nearby where they could land. They found an airstrip in Greenland.

The crew tried to land three times but failed due to the low visibility. But by then they were running short on fuel, and after looking for an alternative nearby landing strip had to make a crash landing on the ice with the airplane’s wheels up.

Fortunately the whole crew survived. They eventually hiked to a nearby location where they could be airlifted out. Of the bombers that had left the US that day, three ended up crashing in Greenland.

Sal remained on the ice until 1998 until a salvage team came to rescue her, funded by Mr Ready.

Ian Harvey

Ian Harvey is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE