B-17 Flying Fortress Military Aircraft History Against the Japanese

  1. B-17
  2. July 16, 2013 11:30 pm

The Boeing B-17 Heavy Bombers were involved at the outset of hostilities between the United States and Japan, when a small number of the B-17s were flown to Hawaii being involved in the attack on Pearl Harbor. Just days later, the US instructed a total of 53 B-17Es to be flown to Australia, Java, Philippines and Hawaii to help support the military combat against Japan in their subsequent invasion of the Central and Southeast Pacific. The US military bases in the Philippines had most of the 35 B-17C and B-17D bomber models and most were destroyed by Japanese fighters strafing the airfields.

The B-17s that had survived the Japanese attacks on the US Military bases on the Philippines were moved to bases in Java and Australia, with substantial B-17 reinforcements being flown in from the United States. These new reinforcements allowed the US military presence to conduct reconnaissance and bombing missions against Japanese shipping vessels. The B-17s long flight range of 2,000 miles (3,220 km), was one of the only military aircrafts in existence that could fly reconnaissance information on the vast and wide open stretches of ocean in reporting on the Japanese military movements.

The Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress was able to provide a superior military aircraft presence in the air. The Japanese military fighter aircrafts were only armed with two rifle caliber machine guns that shot 6.35 mm (0.25 in) armor piercing rounds. The Japanese fighter pilots found it just about impossible to bring down any of the B-17C or B-17D heavy bombers. The Flying Fortress had lived up to its name, providing superior armor plating for protection against the Japanese machine gun strafing. The B-17s would return from Japanese bombing and reconnaissance missions riddled with bullet holes, usually surviving air combat with the Japanese fighters.

The Japanese Zero, designated as Japanese Navy Type 0, was equipped with formidable 20 mm cannons that could inflict considerable damage to B-17 Flying Fortresses, however, due to the fact that the 20 mm shell fuzing would result in an impact explosion, only superficial damage to B-17s was sustained. Further, the Japanese fighters had a number of deficiencies making them vulnerable the B-17 offensive and defensive strikes. First, the fighters lacked adequate armor protection, and second, self-sealing fuel tanks. The B-17E’s tailgun were extremely useful in warding off Japanese fighter attacks, prompting Japanese pilots to make frontal assaults on B-17s where their defensive armaments were not as substantial.


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