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In May of 1940, foreseeing American involvement in the war in Europe, President Roosevelt called for the production of 50,000 planes. In response to this authorization, four months later, the Materiel Division awarded contracts to Boeing for 512 B-17E's and to Consolidated for 408 B-24's. This was the opening of the Air Corps heavy bomber production.

The Boeing B-17E was an extensively modified and improved version of the basic B-17D design. The most obvious change was the redesigned tail with its distinctive vertical stabilizer and fairing. A tail gunner was added because combat experience showed the earlier models extremely vulnerable to attack from directly aft. The waist gunner windows were changed from teardrop to larger rectangular shaped windows. The ventral "bathtub" turret of the D model was initially replaced by a Bendix remote-controlled and remote-sighted belly turret. The Bendix turret was replaced by a Sperry ball turret starting with the 113th B-17E built. A Bendix turret also was added to the top forward fuselage just behind the cockpit.

A total of 512 B-17Es were built by Boeing in 1941 and 1942. The basic E model design was constantly being modified to incorporate needed improvements pointed out, in part, by combat crews whose lives depended on the aircraft.

The production was started without delay, the first B-17E served as a prototype. Although by this time the assembly lines of the companies Douglas and Vega were put into operation, they were not intended for the release of model E. The B-17E was first delivered to the combat units of the 7th AF in early February 1942 and these vehicles completed their the first combat raid on April 20 to the Andaman Islands. The attacks on the ships in the Philippines were carried out by parts of the 5th AF from Australia and the 7th AF from India about ten days later. B-17E were also active during the battles at Midway and in the Coral Sea. The first parts of the 8th AF arrived in England on 12.5.42 to "quarter" and prepare for a campaign of unscattered daily accurate bombing. Despite the warnings of the senior RAF commanders who had combat experience, the headquarters of the 8th AF began training. The first Army Air Force bombing mission in Europe was carried out by B-17Es of the 97th Bomb Group against the Rouen-Sotteville railroad marshalling yards in France on August 17, 1942. Twelve aircraft dealt a real blow, and the remaining six performed a distraction on the coast.

The subsequent strikes against coastal targets were in essence more military training flights than a serious attempt to damage the enemy, and did not greatly alarm Luftwaffe. The staff of the 8th AF became more cautious in their beliefs. On September 20, 1942, the famous General Jimmy Doolittle formed the nucleus of the 12th AF in England, and in early October the 97.99.301th and 2nd BG were transferred to the new unit.

Type Number built/ converted Remarks B-17E 512 Improved B-17D Serial numbers: 41-2393 to 41-2669 and 41-9011 to 41-9245 Note: Boeing Model 299O SPECIFICATIONS: Span: 103 ft. 9 in. Length: 73 ft. 10 in. Height: 19 ft. 2 in. Weight: 51,000 lbs. gross weight (actual - normal load) Armament: One .30-cal. and eight .50-cal. machine guns and 4,200 lbs. of bombs Engines: Four Wright R-1820-65 turbo-supercharged radials of 1200 hp. each PERFORMANCE: Maximum speed: 317 mph at 25,000 ft. Cruising speed: 226 mph Service ceiling: 36,000 ft. Range: 3,200 miles (maximum ferry range)

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