Z-Car

B-17 E-Z Goin’ and the Sonderkommando Elbe – Buchen Raid

Laurence J. Lazzari Crew
Kneeling L to R: Sgt. Laurence W. Donnelly (BTG), T/Sgt. Robert J. Steele (ROG), 2nd Lt. Charles W. Staiger (NAV)Sgt. Joseph G. Allen.  Standing L to R: Sgt. Richard H. Heritage (NG/TOG), T/Sgt. Charles A. Weiss (TTE), 2nd Lt. Laurence J. Lazzari (P),
2nd Lt. Guiher G. Greenwood (CP), 2nd Lt. Daniel J. O’Connell, Jr. (TG).
100th BG Photo Archives

This website recently received a comment from USAF Colonel Guiher G. Greenwood (retired) who served with the 351st Bomb Squadron, 100th Bomb Group, regarding a picture posted in our gallery. He identified the plane pictured as that of the B-17 E-Z Goin’ piloted by Joe Martin with co-pilot Henry Cervante on the Buchen raid of April 7, 1945. Interestingly, Col Greenwood and Joe Martin lived through one of the more infamous “suicide” attacks by the Germans in their last desperate days of the war.

The Sonderkommando Elbe was a special squadron of the German Luftwaffe, a Luftwaffe task force assigned to bring down Allied bombers by ramming German aircraft into the Allied bombers. Sonderkommando means special command, and Elbe is a river that runs through Germany to the North Sea. The Sonderkommando Elbe was formed at Reichmarschall Hermann Goering’s insistence that the Reich’s defense units should start ramming bombers as a last resort. This group of fighters was not solely tasked with ramming bombers, but that was their last ditch option. In theory this was not a suicide mission, they were only supposed to ram an Allied bomber if there was a chance to bail out alive. Unlike the Japanese kamikaze pilots, the inexperienced German pilots brought a parachute with them while flying their striped-down Messerschmitt Bf 109’s, if the pilot survived the collision, he could use the parachute.

The only documented mission, often called Rammkommando Elbe (ramming) or Werewolf, was on April 7, 1945 when a total of 120 pilots took off in their fighters and attacked several formations of U.S. bombers heading towards the Germany heartland. These young German pilots were motivated to destroy Allied bombers by any means necessary, they had seen their country decimated by the relentless Allied bombing campaign. Although the Luftwaffe had an amply supply of airplanes, even in April 1945, they lacked trained pilots and aviation fuel. Many of the Sonderkommando pilots had only 50 hours of training, and their lack of experience was as likely to get them killed as the P-51 Mustangs that protected the Bomber Armada.

This last ditch effort of the mighty Luftwaffe resulted in only 15 Allied bombers attacked with eight successfully destroyed. Several planes barely limped back to base, these included the E-Z Goin’ flown by Joe Martin’s crew. Their left stabilizer was ripped off, and the rudder substantially damaged. In addition to having little control of the plane, they also lost engine #1. Somehow the crew was able to return to England, and landed successfully.

 


 


Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress

The B-17 Flying Fortress is one of the most famous airplanes ever built. The B17 prototype first flew July 28, 1935. Few B-17s were in service on Dec. 7, 1941, but production quickly accelerated. The aircraft served in every World War II combat zone, but is best known for daylight strategic bombing of German industrial targets. Production ended in May 1945, and totaled 12,726.


In response for the Army’s request for a large, multiengine bomber, the B-17 (Model 299) prototype, financed entirely by Boeing, went from design board to flight test in less than 12 months. General features on the B-17 include its mid-wing monoplane design, aluminum-clad exterior, four radial engines, massive wing structure and heavy armament. It was the first Boeing airplane with the distinctive, and enormous, tail for improved control and stability during high-altitude bombing.

Although many U.S. airmen and craft contributed to the Allied victory in World War II, the B-17 has become especially symbolic of the self-reliance, daring and sacrifice of American airmen during the war. American confidence in the B-17 became the cornerstone for the Air Corps doctrine of strategic “daylight” bombing in German-occupied Europe.

The G series could hold a crew of 10, including pilot, co-pilot, bombardier, radio operator, navigator, dorsal turret gunner, two waist gunners, ball turret gunner and tail gunner. Typical for B-17Gs are the four 1,380-horsepower Wright GR1820-97 Cyclone air-cooled, nine-cylinder radial engines equipped with exhaust driven turbochargers.  General features include the raised cockpit section and Plexiglas nose cone. Characteristic of all B-17s, starting with the E series, is the massive dorsal fin, which gracefully sweeps to merge with the fuselage. All B-17s have retractable tail-wheel landing gear. The empty weight of the airplane is 32,720 pounds. Fully armed and loaded, B-17s weigh 65,600 pounds. Payloads of 4,000-5,000 pounds were typical but up to 17,600 pounds could be carried for less than maximum range. The maximum speed was 300 miles per hour at 30,000 feet.

While the B-17s were used in the Pacific, by 1944 the B-29 had replaced the B-17 for use in the Pacific Theater. While in the Pacific, the planes earned a deadly reputation with the Japanese, who dubbed them “four-engine fighters.” The Fortresses were also legendary for their ability to stay in the air after taking brutal poundings. They sometimes limped back to their bases with large chunks of the fuselage shot off. B-17s were initially intended as a fast, land-based bomber, which could patrol at sea and intercept naval vessels.

The B-17 went through several alterations in each of its design stages and variants. By the time the definitive B-17 G appeared, the number of guns had been increased from seven to 13, the designs of the gun stations were finalized, and other adjustments were complete. The B-17 G was the final version of the B-17, incorporating all changes made to its predecessor, the B-17 F, and in total 8,680 was built, the last one on 9 April 1945. Boeing plants built a total of 6,981 B-17s in various models, and another 5,745 were built under a nationwide collaborative effort by Douglas and Lockheed (Vega). Many B-17 Gs were converted for other missions such as cargo hauling, engine testing and reconnaissance. Initially designated SB-17G, a number of B-17Gs were also converted for search-and-rescue duties, later to be re-designated B-17H.

Late in World War II, at least 25 B-17s were fitted with radio controls, loaded with 20,000 pounds (9,000 kg) of high-explosives, dubbed “BQ-7 Aphrodite missiles”, and used against U-boat pens and bomb-resistant fortifications.

Specifications

Wing Span: 103 feet, 10 inches
Length: 74 feet, 4 inches
Height: 19 feet, 1 inches
Weight: 55,000 pounds loaded
Armament: Thirteen .50-caliber machine guns with normal bomb load of 6,000 pounds
Engines: Four Wright “Cyclone” R-1820s of 1,200 horsepower each
Cost: $276,000
Maximum speed: 300 mph.
Cruising speed: 170 mph.
Range: 1,850 miles
Service Ceiling: 35,000 feet

EASTERN EUROPE -- The vapor trails from two Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress  aircraft light up the night sky. The B-17 is one of the most famous airplanes ever built. The B-17 prototype first flew on July 28, 1935. Few B-17s were in service on December 7, 1941, but production quickly accelerated. The aircraft served in every WW II combat zone, but is best known for daylight strategic bombing of German industrial targets. (U.S. Air Force file photo)

Vapor trails from Boeing B-17 Flying Fortresses.The Flying Fortress is one of the most famous airplanes ever built. The B-17 prototype first flew on July 28, 1935. Few B-17s were in service on December 7, 1941, but production quickly accelerated. The aircraft served in every WW II combat zone, but is best known for daylight strategic bombing of German industrial targets. Production ended in May 1945 and totaled 12,726.


Boeing (McDonnell Douglas) F/A-18 Hornet and Super Hornet

The F/A-18 “Hornet” is a single- and two-seat, twin engine, multi-mission fighter/attack aircraft that can operate from either aircraft carriers or land bases. The F/A-18 fills a variety of roles: air superiority, fighter escort, suppression of enemy air defenses, reconnaissance, forward air control, close and deep air support, and day and night strike missions. The F/A-18 Hornet replaced the F-4 Phantom II fighter and A-7 Corsair II light attack jet, and also replaced the A-6 Intruder as these aircraft were retired during the 1990s.

The F/A-18 has a digital control-by-wire flight control system which provides excellent handling qualities, and allows pilots to learn to fly the airplane with relative ease. At the same time, this system provides exceptional maneuverability and allows the pilot to concentrate on operating the weapons system. A solid thrust-to-weight ratio and superior turn characteristics combined with energy sustainability, enable the F/A-18 to hold its own against any adversary. The power to maintain evasive action is what many pilots consider the Hornet’s finest trait. In addition, the F/A-18 was also the Navy’s first tactical jet aircraft to incorporate a digital, MUX bus architecture for the entire system’s avionics suite. The benefit of this design feature is that the F/A-18 has been relatively easy to upgrade on a regular, affordable basis.

Making the first flight in November 1978, the F/A-18 and its two-place derivative [subsequently redesignated the F/A-18B]

underwent most of their development testing at the Naval Air Test Center under the new single-site testing concept. While much attention was focused on development problems, these were largely typical of those in any new program, with their resolution being part of the development process. For the most part, these occurred in the basic aircraft hardware rather than in the digital electronic systems.

The original F/A-18A (single seat) and F/A-18B (dual seat) became operational in 1983 replacing Navy and Marine Corps F-4s and A-7s. It quickly became the battle group commander’s mainstay because of its capability, versatility and availability. Reliability and ease of maintenance were emphasized in its design, and F/A-18s have consistently flown three times more hours without failure than other Navy tactical aircraft, while requiring half the maintenance time.

The Hornet has been battle tested and has proved itself to be exactly what its designers intended: a highly reliable and versatile strike fighter. The F/A-18 played an important role in the 1986 strikes against Libya. Flying from USS CORAL SEA (CV 43), F/A-18s launched high-speed anti-radiation missiles (HARMs) against Libyan air defense radars and missile sites, effectively silencing them during the attacks on Benghazi facilities.

Following a successful run of more than 400 A and B models, the US Navy began taking fleet deliveries of improved F/A-18C (single seat) and F/A-18D (dual seat) models in September 1987. These Hornets carry the Advanced Medium Range Air-to-Air Missile (AMRAAM) and the infrared imaging Maverick air-to-ground missile. Two years later, the C/D models came with improved night attack capabilities. The new components included a navigation forward looking infrared (NAVFLIR) pod, a raster head-up display, night vision goggles, special cockpit lighting compatible with the night vision devices, a digital color moving map and an independent multipurpose color display.

F/A-18Cs have synthetic aperture ground mapping radar with a Doppler beam sharpening mode to generate ground maps. This ground mapping capability that permits crews to locate and attack targets in adverse weather and poor visibility or to precisely update the aircraft’s location relative to targets during the approach, a capability that improves bombing accuracy. New production F/A-18Cs received the APG-73 radar upgrade radars starting in 1994, providing more precise and clear radar displays.

The F/A-18C Nigh Attack Hornet has a pod-mounted Hughes AN/AAR-50 thermal imaging navigation set, a Loral AN/AAS-38 Nite Hawk FLIR targeting pod, and GEC Cat’s Eyes pilot’s night vision goggles. Some 48 F/A-18D two-seat Hornets are configured as the F/A-18D (RC) reconnaissance version, with the M61A1 cannon replaced by a pallet-mounted electro-optical suite comprising a blister-mounted IR linescan and two roll-stabilized sensor units, with all of these units recording onto video tape.

On the first day of Operation Desert Storm, two F/A-18s, each carrying four 2,000 lb. bombs, shot down two Iraqi MiGs and then proceeded to deliver their bombs on target. Throughout the Gulf War, squadrons of U.S. Navy, Marine and Canadian F/A-18s operated around the clock, setting records daily in reliability, survivability and ton-miles of ordnance delivered.

The multi-mission F/A-18E/F “Super Hornet” strike fighter is an upgrade of the combat-proven night strike F/A-18C/D. The Super Hornet will provide the battle group commander with a platform that has range, endurance, and ordnance carriage capabilities comparable to the A-6 which have been retired. The F/A-18E/F aircraft are 4.2 feet longer than earlier Hornets, have a 25% larger wing area, and carry 33% more internal fuel which will effectively increase mission range by 41% and endurance by 50%. The Super Hornet also incorporates two additional weapon stations. This allows for increased payload flexibility by mixing and matching air-to-air and/or air-to-ground ordnance. The aircraft can also carry the complete complement of “smart” weapons, including the newest joint weapons such as JDAM and JSOW.

The Super Hornet can carry approximately 17,750 pounds (8,032 kg) of external load on eleven stations. It has an all-weather air-to-air radar and a control system for accurate delivery of conventional or guided weapons. There are two wing tip stations, four inboard wing stations for fuel tanks or air-to-ground weapons, two nacelle fuselage stations for Sparrows or sensor pods, and one centerline station for fuel or air-to-ground weapons. An internal 20 mm M61A1 Vulcan cannon is mounted in the nose.

Carrier recovery payload is increased to 9,000 pounds, and its engine thrust from 36,000 pounds to 44,000 pounds utilizing two General Electric F414 turbo-fan engines. Although the more recent F/A-18C/D aircraft have incorporated a modicum of low observables technology, the F/A-18E/F was designed from the outset to optimize this and other survivability enhancements.

The Hughes Advanced Targeting Forward-Looking Infra-Red (ATFLIR), the baseline infrared system for the F/A-18 E/F, will also be deployed on earlier model F/A-18s. The Hughes pod features both navigation and infrared targeting systems, incorporating third generation mid-wave infrared (MWIR) staring focal plane technology.

The aircraft made its debut at Patuxent River (Md.) Naval Air Station in September 1995. The F/A18-E/F has achieved many milestones since its debut. The most significant was initial sea trials aboard USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74), the Navy’s newest aircraft carrier. These first Super Hornet carrier qualifications occurred in January 1997 off the coast of Florida, and consisted of a series of tests including catapult launches, arrested landings and various other system evaluations conducted by flight deck crews.

The Super Hornet is fully capable to conduct both air-to-air and air-to-ground combat missions. This includes air superiority, day/night strike with precision-guided weapons, fighter-escort, close air support, suppression of enemy air defenses, reconnaissance, forward air control and refueling. The Super Hornet has greater range/endurance, can carry a heavier payload, has enhanced survivability, and a built-in potential to incorporate future systems and technologies.

Specifications
Wing span: 37 feet 5 inches
Length: 56 feet
Height: 15 feet 3 1/2 inches
Weight: Fighter mission takeoff: 36,710 pounds
Attack mission takeoff: 49,224 pounds
Speed: more than 1,360 mph
Ceiling: approximately 50,000 feet
Range: Fighter mission: 400 nautical-mile radius
Attack mission: 575 nautical-mile radius
Ferry range: more than 2,000 nautical miles
Power plant: two GE F404-GE-400 low-bypass turbofan engines
Crew: F/A-18A/C models: one; F/A-18B/D: two
Contractor: prime, McDonnell Douglas; airframe, Northrop