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Fortress Under Fire

This is me at the National Aerospace museum in December of 1981.

In the background is the life sized mural by Keith Ferris, “Fortress Under Fire”. Life sized in that from the viewing platform (where I’m standing) the B-17 is scaled to have the nose just touch the wall as if it’s was flying into the room.

Keith Ferris specializes in historically hyper accurate paintings.

This image is the 25 foot high by 75 foot wide mural in the World War II Gallery of the National Air and Space Museum, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC. The B-17G, 42-38050, “Thunder Bird” of the 303rd Bomb Group, based at Molesworth, England, is seen at 11:45 AM, 15 August 1944, over Trier, Germany, on its return to base from a mission to Weisbaden. B-17Gs “Bonnie B”, “Special Delivery”, and “Marie”, are seen below as a Messerschmidt 109G and Focke Wulf FW 190 attack “Thunder Bird’s” element. Ferris’ research for the mural revealed the names and aircraft identities of all U.S. and many German participants in this battle in which the 303rd lost nine Fortresses in this attack by Luftwaffe fighters.

“Thunder Bird” was to continue on as a “new crew” aircraft to reach 112 bombing missions. A total of 539 crew members flew bombing missions in “Thunder Bird.”

A woman once took her adult son to see the mural, As they stood there she explained that his father was a B-17 pilot during the war in which he was killed. “Your father flew a bomber much like this”, she told her son. Upon a closer look she exclaimed, “My God, that IS your father in the cockpit!”

Ferris had researched the crew that day and did in fact paint portraits of each crew member visible in the mural.


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