The B-17G "Thunder Bird" of the 303rd Bomb Group enroute to Schweinfurt on its 80th mission.
"Thunder Bird", the 303rd Bomb Group's "New Crew" aircraft is shown on its 80th mission, a mission to Schweinfurt, Germany, which had claimed 163 four engined bombers and 1500 crew members on previous missions. This 9 October 1944 mission was the 303rd Bomb Group's fifth, and "Thunder Bird's" second visit to this dangerous target. It was to prove a respite, though crews daily faced the cold thin air...at 40 degrees below zero...in patched up worn out airplanes.
"Thunder Bird" had seen as many as nine and eleven sister ships lost to fighters on previous missions, but she was to carry a total of 539 crew members into combat before her retirement after her 112th bombing mission on 22 March 1945.
Now as we look back to the time period of WWII, it is important to realize just how young these pilots and crew members were. Most aircraft commanders and crew members were in their early 20s. Their generation rose to the occasion. To them we owe our deepest gratitude.