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The Knockout Dropper: 75 Combat Missions

By Edited Sep 29, 2015 1 6

Recently some articles and books about World War II have got me refreshing my history about a specific B-17F that was considered a first and only bomber to have come through the war fairly unscathed. The mission most interesting to me was the 50th. The American crewmen of the 359thBS/303BG were thrilled to complete the mission on November 16th, 1943.

My father, Captain John P. Manning, was the pilot of the Knockout D

303rd emblem
ropper's 50th mission. He wasn't one to speak of the war much, so I have gleaned my information about that flight from old newspaper clippings, his journal, and much digging in the Hell's Angels site. That shows him as a 1stLt as pilot of the 50th mission, this shows him as Captain on another B-17F. The site also shows credited and non-credited missions, the different b-17Fs flown, and crew members bio's as well. If you are interested in researching about a person who served in the US Eighth Airforce, this is a great site to explore.

I also found some great books that I read and reviewed (for myself). Unfortunately the Knockout Dropper was scrapped in July 1945, at Stillwater, Oklahoma. I'm thinking that was typical of those days, to kill the planes when the war was over. Finding photos of it can be quite a task, and then most of them are copyrighted and for sale. AllPosters does offer some great photos of B-17Fs, the Flying Fortress and others. One other interesting view is a short video of a model of the Knockout Dropper by the son of the man who named the famous bomber, and was its first bombardier!

The Germans had invaded Norway and controlled the molybdenum mines at Knaben. In nearby Rjukan the hydrogen refinement plant that also produced deuterium was also invaded. The allies decided that the Germans probably wanted to use the heavy water plant to create atomic bombs, so it must be destroyed. The Flying Fortress was dispatched to bomb the area. The power station was hit and rendered useless, so the completed mission was a success. That was the 50th mission of the Knockout Dropper.

Two of the articles I mentioned were both about World War II pilots. One was hoping to recover his lost wings, buried in Germany. The other was about a fighter pilot's bracelet being returned to him from Germany. Again I was reminded of these brave heroes who served in WW II. I'm sure others, like me, have a loved one who didn't share about their service, and I think it's a positive honoring to share for them.

I also have an old black and white photo, very small, of me and my dad. I was a toddler, he was a very young man, still in his 20's. It looks as if he is showing me how to put my hands together as if I was to pray. I have it framed and hanging on a wall that I see everyday. I acknowledge my dad, and remember that he did tell me that he hung his rosary in his cockpit on every plane he flew in the war.

All in all the Knockout Dropper was a remarkable plane to be remembered for the specific part of the role it had while based in Molesworth, England, during WW II. The 75th mission was completed March 27th, 1944.



Feb 13, 2010 11:30pm
A fabulous story about that B-17! Those bomber crews and the British Mosquito bombers which attacked German heavy-water plants in Norway are some of the biggest heroes of WWII. Germany was far ahead in atomic bomb research. In fact, the fear of that spurred our development. But I believe they would have succeeded except for the determined and hazardous Allied attacks that denied them the weapon they would have used for world conquest. Those aircrews like your father's changed history from the bitter ending it would otherwise have had. Thanks for reminding us!
Feb 14, 2010 5:20pm
Thanks, its been stirring around inside me for quite some time. I have quite a few siblings that I wanted to honor with the story, too. There was just something about those WWII brave heroes that needs remembering. I'm so glad you commented.
Jul 31, 2012 11:41am
Hi Footloose, I came across your article while I was doing research on Knockout Dropper and some of her sister aircraft. You mentioned that finding photos is hard...I have a unique one, which is the core of my research project, and would be happy to share it with you and find out any other info on the plane and your dad that you might be willing to share. Friend request is on its way...
Aug 1, 2012 2:40pm
Awesome. I approved your comment on my blog and will contact you within next 2 days. Yes, I'm always interested in sharing, and have had some interesting contacts from others via my blog and IB. Thanks!
Jul 31, 2012 6:35pm
Extremely well written and thought-out piece--2 big thumbs up!!!
Aug 1, 2012 2:41pm
Marlando you are a wonderful commenter! Thank you so much as this is very near and dear to my heart.
Aug 1, 2012 2:41pm
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