The sad end of the Liberty Belle

It was a fine, old machine. The B-17 that I flew in over downtown St. Paul a few weeks ago was a traveling museum, dedicated to the bomber crews that flew her in World War II.

But the Liberty Belle is no more. It crashed made an emergency landing and then burned this morning in Illinois

b17_after.jpg

Everybody who was aboard got out.

Last week, the Confederate Air Force’s B-25 and three P-51s were lined up on the ramp at South St. Paul’s Fleming Field, when the B-17 made a thrilling high-speed low-pass tribute, just feet above the runway, before rising quickly and lumbering off for Chicago.

  • Derek

    That is incredibly sad. There can’t be that many flying B-17s anymore.

  • Bob Moffitt

    Just heard this morning from a fellow looking for more information about his father, who he never met. His father and my uncle may have been in the same workplace during WW II.

    That workplace was a B-17 bomber.

    Interestingly, he found me via NewsCut.

  • Bob Collins

    We’re a full-service blog here, Bob.

  • Brian

    Your video was way cool. It was interesting to watch the propellers as they spun vs. the frame rate of the camera. There were a few points on the ground when it looked like they weren’t spinning at all.

    Sad to know that there are so few left.

  • Roger

    There were 11 B-17s still flying worldwide; I suppose that now makes it just 10. We have just one still airworthy here in the UK, ‘Sally B’, which starred in the film ‘Memphis Belle’. And just one of our own Lancaster bombers still flies, the best heavy bomber of WWII in the European theatre in many ways, ‘City of Lincoln’ (there is one other still flying in the world, in Canada). But so glad all the crew escaped; that’s not always the way with vintage aircraft crashes.

  • Roger Marsh

    There were 11 B-17s still flying worldwide; I suppose that now makes it just 10. We have just one still airworthy here in the UK, ‘Sally B’, which starred in the film ‘Memphis Belle’. And just one of our own Lancaster bombers still flies, the best heavy bomber of WWII in the European theatre in many ways, ‘City of Lincoln’ (there is one other still flying in the world, in Canada). But so glad all the crew escaped; that’s not always the way with vintage aircraft crashes.

  • Jim Shapiro

    Bob – I think flying is really cool too. I’ve used planes for work and recreation. Even jumped out of a couple of perfectly good fixed wing-aircraft.

    But the B-17 was a “death from above” kinda tool, used in carpet bombing missions that caused many more civilian deaths than those of enemy combatants.

    Some might say that an emotional attachment to that genre of inanimate object warrants some reflection. ( Like the “swords into plowshares” guy.) But what the hell do I know? 🙂

  • Bob Collins

    //Some might say that an emotional attachment to that genre of inanimate object warrants some reflection. ( Like the “swords into plowshares” guy.) But what the hell do I know? 🙂

    Oh, I kind of think you know the B-17 is an emotional attachment to the kids who flew in it.

    Yes, the war in Europe was a terrible thing.

  • Jim Shapiro

    Bob- Thanks for the civil and simultaneously rational and heart-felt response to my intentionally incendiary comment.

    Well played, sir.

  • Stan

    Still think the B-24 was the workhorse of WWII. Got shoot down on dec 28,1943 on my 25th Mission.

  • Jim Shapiro

    Stan – Thanks for your service in the war that was definitely worth fighting.

  • Bob Collins

    Would love to hear more about it, Stan.

  • Robert Altman

    Gentlemen:

    Hats off to all of you for a great conversation and meaningful, heartfelt comments. I have become so annoyed with the ubiquitus presence of narrow-minded, one-sided, and often vitriolic comments in such conversations that I rarely bother to read them any more.

    Today, at least, I am privileged to share in a conversation between thoughtful intelligent people who are as willing to embrace another’s viewpoint as they are to present their own.

    “Well played” to all of you!

  • Mary Wiley

    Mr. Shapiro,

    I am an associate member of the 8th Air Force

    Historical Society and have flown on 3 B-17s.

    The B-17 did not “Carpet Bomb”. The British

    did the carpet bombing in their Lancasters.

    The Americans did “Precision Bombing” and

    killed fewer civilians.

    Mary Wiley

  • Ton funderburk

    My friend Mary Wiley posted just prior to me is an avid B-17 fan and 8th AF staunch supporter. She has tons of pix and autographs of B-17 crews. She knows much of the episodes of WW2.

    I was a B-17 Pilot who flew 17 missions. Sad to see the Liberty Belle die before our eyes. I saw lots of Forts go down but this one is as sad as any but thank God no one was hurt..

  • Beverly

    Stan and Ton Funderburk, God Bless You and Thank You both for your service. I would love to hear more about your experiences during the war. We’re a group of WWII reenactors and among our reenactment events (most recently the WWII Weekend and Airshow at Reading, Pa. June 3-5) we attend a monthly WWII Roundtable in Hershey, Pa. the 1st Thurday of each month. We are blessed to have WWII Veterans like yourselves share their experiences to a very receptive audience of Veterans and history buffs. Are either of you from the Central PA area? I would love to hear from both of you.

    I was very saddened to learn of the crash of the B-17, such a loss and so few left, just like our WWII Vets, but so happy that none of the crew were lost.

  • Chris Bagley

    I cannot allow Mary Wileys sweeping comment on the Royal Air Force and carpet bombing go unchallenged. She would do well to read the history of 617 Squadron, who after the Dams Raid in May 1943 perfected the art of pricision bombing. They achived the bombing average of under 100 yards from 20,000 ft. a remarkable achivement given the technology of the day. Towards the end of the war 617 dropped the largest conventional bomb of the war, the 10 ton Grand Slam.

    The Lancaster could only carry one, so it was hardly a carpet bomb.