Courage beyond praise - the story of B-17 ‘Ten Horsepower’

Attempting to land a stricken Flying Fortress, two crewmen died attempting to save their badly injured captain. Dominic Ward salutes a tremendous act of heroism

Today, Polebrook is a sleepy village on the Northamptonshire/Cambridgeshire border, but during World War Two it was a hive of activity thanks to its adjacent airbase, RAF Polebrook, aka USAAF Station 110.

Polebrook was used by the RAF until the USAAF arrived in 1942, when it became headquarters for the 97th Bombardment Group, the first USAAF heavy bomber detail in the UK. On August 17 that year, operations began with the 97th taking part in the Eighth Air Force’s first act of war, an attack on the marshalling yards at Sotteville-lès-Rouen in France. Leading the strike was Boeing B-17E Flying Fortress 41-2578 Butcher Shop piloted by Col Frank Armstrong, with Maj Paul W Tibbets as co-pilot – the same Tibbets who would fly Boeing B-29 Superfortress Enola Gay on the famous atomic bomb drop on Hiroshima.

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