Built by Lockheed/Vega as c/n 6010, 42-5714 was assigned to 91st BG, 332nd BS, and named *Old Faithful*. This was an older aircraft that normally flew local missions (over England) for the 323rd Bomb Squadron.
On October 14, 1943 “Old Faithful”, commanded by 2nd Lt. Robert M. Slane, took off from an airfield at Bassingbourne, England to attack the ball-bearing factories at Schweinfurt, Germany. This day was later referred to as “Black Thursday” due to the extremely high losses of 8th AAF aircraft. A total of twenty-four B17s were lost from the units attacking Schweinfurt and another thirty-six from the units assaulting a Messerschmitt complex at Regensburg on the same day. American losses totaled 19 percent with a loss of over 600 crewmen.
German fighters and fighter-bombers attacked the bomber formations, of which “Old Faithful” was part, both inbound and outbound from the target area. As the 389th approached Schweinfurt, Germany, they began to encounter extremely intense AAA and flak. “Old Faithful” was hit by flak in the #4 engine (starboard wing, outboard engine). The engine was feathered and the aircraft continued to fly in formation on three engines. As enemy fighters attacked the bomber formations leaving the target area, the #3 engine (starboard wing, inboard engine) on the aircraft was hit by enemy fire and also failed. “Old Faithful” could no longer maintain altitude and began to fall behind the B17 formations. Enemy fighter planes repeatedly attacked the aircraft but the crew continued to fight. [N 1]
As “Old Faithful” struggled to reach the enemy coast, Engine #1 (port wing, outboard engine) lost power and Lt. Slane ordered the crew to bail out. Incredibly, all but one of the crew were able to successfully leave the aircraft. As the plane began a slow, controlled spiral to the ground, a JU-88 continued to attack, raking the fuselage and cockpit area with additional hits. Lt. Slane managed to perform a crash landing in a clearing close to a wooded area near Nancy, France. The Germans managed to repair “Old Faithful” using parts salvaged from other B17s shot down over Germany. The plane was painted with German markings and designated “DR+PE”, after which the aircraft went to KG.200, before passing to Zirkus Rosarius.
- ↑ It is estimated that the gunners on “Old Faithful” shot down at least four enemy aircraft during this flight.