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Heavy Bomber “Firsts”

On May 13, 1943, the 303rd BG B-17F Hell’s Angels became the first heavy bomber to complete 25 combat missions over Europe, four days before the Memphis Belle’s crew.  After flying 48 combat missions, it returned to the US for a war bond tour, but not until 1944.

On May 13, 1943, the 303rd BG B-17F Hell’s Angels became the first heavy bomber to complete 25 combat missions over Europe, four days before the Memphis Belle’s crew. After flying 48 combat missions, it returned to the US for a war bond tour, but not until 1944.

The Memphis Belle was not the first USAAF heavy bomber to finish 25 missions—it was the first to complete 25 missions over Europe and return to the US.  A small number of heavy bombers finished their 25th missions before the Memphis Belle, including:


B-17E Suzy-Q

The Suzy-Q, a 19th BG B-17E, was the first USAAF heavy bomber to complete 25 missions and return to the US.  It flew combat missions early in the war in the Pacific from February-October 1942, when it returned to the US for a war bond tour.

 

 

Suzy-Q nose art—the circled areas highlight combat damage repair.

 


 B-24D Hot Stuff

In February 1943, the 93rd BG B-24 Hot Stuff became the first Eighth Air Force heavy bomber to complete 25 combat missions.  It flew about half of its approximately 30 combat missions over Europe, with the remainder being strikes in Africa and patrol missions over the Mediterranean.

 

Hot Stuff crew: (standing, l to r) Lt Robert Jacobson, Capt Robert Shannon, Lt James Gott, Lt John Lentz; (kneeling, l to r) Sgt Grant Rondeau, Sgt Joseph Craighead, Sgt L.F. Durham, Sgt Paul McQueen, Sgt Kenneth Jeffers, Sgt George Farley.

On May 3, while en route to the US for a war bond tour, Hot Stuff crashed in Iceland in bad weather.  The impact killed 13 of the 14 onboard, including Lt Gen Frank Andrews, a senior USAAF general and important US military leader.

Lt Gen Frank Andrews, head of all US forces in Europe, bidding farewell to Prime Minister Winston Churchill before leaving on the fateful trip back to the US.


B-17F Hell's Angel

Flight crew, ground crew, and armorers pictured with the Hell’s Angels.

Related Fact Sheets

The Memphis Belle: American Icon and 25th Mission

Memphis Belle Crew

The “Memphis Belle” and Nose Art

26th Mission: War Bond Tour

Memphis Belle: A Story of a Flying Fortress”

Heavy Bomber “Firsts”

Combat Aircraft to Museum Artifact

Crippling the Nazi War Machine: USAAF Strategic Bombing in Europe

Enabling Technologies

Key Leaders

Early Operations (1942 to mid-1943) - Eighth Air Force in England

Ninth/Twelfth Air Forces in the Mediterranean

Combat Box/Communication and Life at 25K

Keeping them Flying: Mechanics and Armorers

Combined Bomber Offensive: Summer 1943 to Victory

Bigger Raids, Bigger Losses, and Crisis

Deadly Skies over Europe (Luftwaffe defense)

Bomber Crew Protection

Operation Tidalwave (Ploesti, 1 Aug 43)

Regensburg/Schweinfurt (17 Aug 43)

Black Thursday/Schweinfurt (14 Oct 43)

Fifteenth Air Force (created Sep 43)

Gunners

Women’s Army Corps

Fighter Escort: Little Friends

Big Week (20-25 Feb 44)

Target Berlin

Operation Frantic: Shuttle Raids to the Soviet Union

Blind Bombing

D-Day Support

Strategic Bombing Victorious

Epilogue

 

Return to B-17F Memphis Belle Fact Sheet

Return to WWII Gallery List

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