When the men of a WWII heavy bomber group boarded a B-17 for a day’s mission, they became one. Nine* souls bonded into one crew and were united with their aircraft. For that day, it was their flying fortress, “their fort.” They were closer than brothers and worked as one unit, the beating heart of the aircraft.
High above the ground, hooked together by electrical and oxygen lines, the men and the B-17 were literally linked together as one entity. The men depended upon the aircraft for their survival and the aircraft depended upon the men for her protection. A loss of the aircraft or one of the men destroyed the whole of this single entity.
A sudden collision on September 28, 1944 between The Lead Banana and Lazy Daisy over Magdeburg, Germany ripped apart the two forts and their beating hearts.
The two flying fortresses, which were formerly deliverers of death and destruction, and the dream of victory and freedom, became nothing more than burned, twisted metal coffins on the soil of rural Germany.
Four men survived, but a piece of each of them perished that day along with the fourteen aboard who were lost, as at the time of the collision, the crews were one. The four who returned from the war did not return whole, as a piece of each of their souls remained with their brothers and their aircraft in an eternal war.
World War II ended quickly for the casualties of September 28, 1944, but it lasted a lifetime for the survivors.
Note * – Early in the war, a B-17 crew was comprised of ten men, but by September of 1944, only nine made up a crew with the number of waist gunners was reduced from two to one.
© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2017