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Splasher 6 Newsletter

Believe It Or Not

By Bill Carleton
Splasher Six Volume 32, Winter 2001, No. 4
Cindy Goodman, Editor

I believe it was in April 45 that a coincidence occurred which proved the flying ability of the B-17. We were near the tower when the group flew over in loose formation and Parm (John Parmentier) cried out, "There is one without a tail!"

"Whadaya mean without a tail," I said?

"That’s right, Capn, the right horizontal stabilizer is missing"

"Naw," said Seidal, (Edwin G. Seidal) in his slow Texas drawal, "there’s one there awright, but it’s the left stabilizer that’s gone!"

Since the formation was no longer that close, a friendly argument ensued as to who was correct. It turned out they both were. We had two planes with one stabilizer broken off at the fuselage, but on different sides. One of the planes also lost a sizeable portion of the vertical stabilizer, with the top third including the Square "D" gone.

I doubt that any other plane before or since could withstand that type of impact and damage and still fly hundreds of miles to land safely at its base.

While in Colorado Springs for the dedication of our Memorial at the Air Force Academy, I recounted this incident to Russ Madsen. Russ said he not only recalled it, but also was sure he had pictures of it. Sure enough, he did! With number 514, you can just see where the tailpiece was attached. It makes you wonder what the other guy looked like! (The damage was caused by a collision with German fighters threading their way through our formation.)

I do not remember similar damage either before or after this twin occurrence. It is a remarkable testimony to our planes and the skill of our flying crews!

As a footnote, these planes would be combat ready within a few days, and that must have been a shock to the enemy if he were counting and checking kills.