B-17 Flying Fortresses parked and awaiting the furnaces after World War II
B-17s served in every World War II combat zone. The aircraft is best known for daylight strategic bombing of German industrial targets.
The B-17 flew mostly out of England, equipping 26 of the 40 bombardment groups of the 8th Air Force.
After the end of World War II in August of 1945, the U.S. Army Air Corp found itself with thousands of surplus, and now obsolete, B-17 bombers.
The B-17 was quickly phased out of use as a bomber and the Army Air Forces retired most of its fleet.
Production of the B-17 ended in May 1945 and totaled 12,731 aircraft. Most of those still in service at the end of the war were sent to military aircraft boneyards for temporary storage, sale, or scrapping and smelting into aluminum ingots. Flight crews ferried the bombers back across the Atlantic and Pacific to the United States.
Some planes remained in use in second-line roles such as VIP transports, air-sea rescue and photo-reconnaissance.
However, most B-17 airplanes ended their service, not in combat, but in the smelter at locations such as Kingman Army Air Field in Arizona and Walnut Ridge Army Air Field in Arkansas.
Aerial view of B-17 Flying Fortresses in storage at Walnut Ridge, Arkansas, in November, 1945
(Photo by the Walnut Ridge Army Flying School Museum)
Rows of B-17 Flying Fortresses awaiting their final destiny at Kingman Army Airfield in LIFE Magazine
B-17G "Five Grand" S/N 43-37716 awaiting the scrapping process at Kingman AAF in Arizona.
This was the 5,000th B-17 built by Boeing in support of the World War II effort.
It was unique in that on it were written the signatures of Boeing workers.
In wartime action, it flew 78 missions with the 96th Bomb Group as reported in LIFE Magazine
B-17G-5-VE Flying Fortress "Leading Lady", S/N 42-39948, minus engines, at Kingman Army Airfield.
The plane became the first aircraft in the 305th Bombardment Group to complete 100 missions, and finally performed 133 successful missions in a career spanning 18 months before surviving the war. After WWII, in the fall of 1945, it was transferred to Kingman AAF and subsequently scrapped.
One of the three smelters, or furnaces, used at Kingman to melt
small aircraft pieces and parts into ingots
Stacks of aluminum ingots ...
the remains of the great American World War II bomber fleet
The author wishes to acknowledge the following sources of information used in the preparation of pages on this website:
1. Military Aircraft Boneyards, by Nicholas A. Veronica, A. Kevin Grantham and Scott Thompson
2. Surplus WWII U.S. Aircraft, by William T. Larkins.
3. AMARG: America's Military Aircraft Boneyard, by Nicholas A. Veronica and Ron Strong
4. Desert Boneyard, by Philip Chinnery
We highly recommend anyone with interest in this subject purchase these fine publications for additional historical information and detail.