“For one horrible instant he was right there – inches in front and above us. He passed over us with a distinctly audible swoosh,” over the roar of the B-17’s Wright Cyclone engines, “followed by a tremendous jar and a ‘whoomp.’”Bragg quickly informed the crew that there was a hole in the rear and the side of our ship. That Jerry plane had lopped off half of our tail section completely off. The other half and the rudder looked like they would shake loose at any moment.“Miraculously,” says Burbridge, “none of the crew was hurt, but somewhere in the shuffle the lead ship was lost.” The 10 men aboard his plane put their parachutes on and got ready to jump in case the rest of the tail started to break off.When other crews saw that it was still airborne, “they put the crippled All American in formation and stayed with us until we were out of enemy territory,” while American fighters provided protection overhead.Once beyond enemy fighter range, the rest of the planes returned to base ahead of them. Now flying alone, “it seemed like the trip back took 10 years but the base wasn’t really that far. Somehow Kenny nursed the damaged plane and got us home later than everyone else.”
via Local B-17 Bombardier Recalls ‘Wing and a Prayer’ Mission on the All American | The Waterland Blog for Des Moines, WA.