1997 32¢ B-17 Flying Fortress
Classic American Aircraft
Issue Date: July 19, 1997
City: Dayton, OH
Printed By: Stamp Venturers
Printing Method: Photogravure
Before World War II began, some aviation experts claimed long-range bombers, capable of wiping out cities, and destroying an enemy’s ability to go on fighting, were the most advanced weapons in the world.
But the flimsy, lightly armed B-17s supplied to the Royal Air Force for high-altitude bombing raids hardly supported that theory. Later versions, however, heavily armored with turrets and guns, could take enormous punishment – thus earning the nickname “Flying Fortresses.” By 1943, B-17 armadas were taking the war to the heart of the enemy around the clock. The price was high – the 8th Air Force alone lost 4,148 B-17s during the war. But American industry kept churning them out – producing nearly 13,000 in 1944 alone. And pilots kept flying them until the experts were proven right – more than any other airplane, the B-17 symbolized American aerial might.
The 90-foot-long, all-metal strategic bomber went through many versions and thousands of modifications before achieving its final form. Engineers learned how to supercharge its four 1,000-horsepower engines so that it could carry 5,000 pounds of bombs over a thousand miles. But perhaps its most innovative feature was its one-piece, molded, clear-plastic nose cone, with room for two .50 caliber guns to defend against frontal attacks.