The AB Davis Flying Fortress
August 25, 2006
Richard J. Garfunkel
The letter below is from my friend, Paul Court, a Mount Vernon alum, who is currently the Social Studies/History Lead Teacher at Mount Vernon H.S. He is the advisor to the Jon Breen Fund and for a number of years now he and I have worked closely on the Jon Breen Essay Contest and the Henry M. Littlefield Memorial History Award. I had sent him the piece below from the AB Davis Class of 1956 website, which was written by Linda (Young) Shapiro. I had inadvertently identified the AB Davis as a B-24 (known also as the Flying Box Car and the Flying Coffin). He supplied the pertinent remarks regarding the name AB Davis and our warplanes in the letter directly below my piece on the B-17 and Robert Rosenthal.
The Flying Fortress AB Davis was a B-17E. There were 12,731 Flying Fortress manufactured between 1935-45. Boeing built 6981, Douglas built 3000 and Vega (Lockheed) built 2700. 4750 were lost in combat. The Fortress carried a crew of 10 and had 8 .50 caliber machine guns along with one .30 machinegun. The B-17E had a wingspan of 103' 9.4” and its length was 73' 9.73″. The earlier models were approximately 67 feet long and the later models E, F, G; H had a rear gun turret. The B-17E had 4 Wright Engines, and a gross weight of 40,260 lbs. Its top speed was 318 MPH and it usually cruised at 226 MPH. It had a range of 3300 miles and a service altitude of 35,000 ft. There were 512 B-17E's built.
I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Major Robert Rosenthal, of Harrison, NY, one of the heroes featured in Edward Jablonski's (1923-2004) seminal history of the B-17, “Flying Fortress”, published in 1965 by Doubleday. Major Rosenthal, the winner of the DSC (extraordinary heroism), the Silver Star (with cluster for gallantry in action), the Purple Heart (with cluster), the Air Medal (with seven clusters) and the DFC (with cluster for extra ordinary achievement in flight) amongst his 16 other decorations, along with a Presidential Unit Citation for his Squadron, The Bloody 100th,” is today 89 years old. He graduated from Brooklyn Law School, entered into the US Army Air Force in 1941and rose to fame as the pilot of Rosie's Riveters and the Royal Flush. His bomber group carried the first American airmen to bomb Berlin.
“Thirteen planes from the 100th Group took off for Munster (Germany); only one, Rosie Riveters, returned.” and “except for Rosie's Riveters, not one of the 100th planes had succeeded in reaching the target. They were attacked just as the formations were approaching the IP, just when the P-47s (fighter escort) had to turn around (lack of adequate range). Without fighter escort the Fortresses were now open to attack.” As they proceeded into Germany, “Over Munster Rosenthal completed his bomb run; his two engines (out of four) were already out, both waist gunners were wounded, one seriously. The interphones were out and the oxygen system was shot up; a rocket had gone through the right wing, ripping a large ragged hole in the skin. The flak was heavy as the plane dropped its bombs.”
“In his diary, tail gunner William J. DeBlasio summarized the depleted emotions of his crew; by the grace of G-d we were the only ship to come back, our pilot brought us home safely.” (From the “Flying Fortress” by Edward Jablonski)
He along with Paul Tibbits, the legendary commander of the 509th Air Squadron and pilot of the Enola Gay were considered amongst the greatest pilots produced by our Air Force during the Second World War.
Richard J. Garfunkel
From: QuartzPc@aol.com [mailto:QuartzPc@aol.com]
Sent: Monday, March 13, 2006 7:24 PM
Subject: Re: The Mount Vernon Library and the B-24 Bomber The AB Davis
There were several warplanes purchased by the students and citizens of Mt. Vernon. I have seen a photo of a Boeing B-17E Flying Fortress with the name “Purchased by students of A.B.Davis” painted on the rear fuselage. The date would have to be 1943 or early 1944. I also received a copy of the Boeing B-29 Super Fortress and her crew also dedicated to A.B.Davis High School (in recognition to the outstanding success of their war bond sales drive). The photo was from the late war effort…. perhaps even Korea! US Air Force markings changed in 1947 and a black night bombing scheme was used in Korea on the undersides of these bombers. My guess is 1950-1952. I heard about a Grumman Hellcat fighter, which was delivered to the school and parked near the flagpole parking area as a token of the school's war bond sales success. It was reputedly stripped for souvenirs and was eventually taken away sometime later. Interesting tale but I haven't got too much information on this tale. I never heard of a Consolidated B-24 Bomber being named after AB Davis…that's a new one on me. Did you know that an AB Davis graduate was an original member of the Eagle Squadron (Yanks flying for Britain BEFORE pearl Harbor), he was later shot down and listed as KIA while flying with the USAAF in 1943 or 1944. He's on the roll of honor.
[Richard J. Garfunkel]