Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress Navigator Lt. Bob Swan Banner
Lt. Bob Swan, Boeing B-17 Navigator

B-17 Flying Fortress Navigator
Lt. Bob Swan
US Army Air Corps

B-17 Flying Fortresses In England and Over Europe
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Bob takes a celestial fix as a B-17 Navigator
Lt. Bob Swan,  Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress Navigator Takes a Celestial Fix

Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress Navgator Lt. Bob Swan

Bob Swan, my uncle, served as a navigator on B-17s over Europe during WWII. Bob was luckier than many as his Fortress was never hit by enemy fire.I think the story that stuck in Bob's mind the most was the first time they dropped cluster bombs over Germany. A cluster bomb is a bundle of smaller bombs held together with straps that in theory would release well after leaving the bomber's bomb bay and spread to fall over a wide area. As they reached the drop point the order to salvo the bombs was given. The cluster bombs left the bomb bay of his B-17 and immediately separated. The smaller bomblets, much lighter than the assembled bomb, were caught in the slip stream and blown into the 2 aircraft below and behind Bob's Flying Fortress. Both bombers were blown up and went down immediately with the loss of all their crew members. That experience stayed with him for the rest of his life.

He didn't talk a whole lot about his experiences navigating B-17s, but he did mention his group was the first to be attacked by jets. He also had the opportunity to visit a German airfield after war's end and photographed some of the remaining aircraft.

To get a better overall view of one of these bombers have a look at some photos of the Shoo Shoo Baby at the US Air Force Museum in Dayton, OH. In western NY state another Boeing B-17, Memphis Belle "The Movie" is on display at the 1941 Historical Aircraft Group aviation museum in Geneseo, NY. Their Memphis Belle is no hangar queen, but an airworthy Flying Fortress that visits airshows around the US. One more B-17 can be found at the Air Mobility Command Museum in Dover, DE. This examply is extremely well restored.