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 Dropper'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.