This is one of the best researched books I have found on the B-17. Johnsen is clearly an expert on his subject, and uses a much wider range of evidence than most books on this subject. This is evident all the way through the book as Johnsen supports his text with a good choice of quotes from contemporary documents.
Another benefit of this level of knowledge is the fantastic selection of diagrams taken from the service manuals for the B-17. If you have any doubts as to the nature of a particular feature of the aircraft, there is nothing better that the actually centenary illustrations to clear up any confusion. The book also benefits from a good selection of colour pictures.
Chapter One - Design of the Flying Fortress - contains the traditional technical history of the aircraft, taking us from the earliest Boeing precursors of the bomber through to the last production versions of the aircraft, and its use as the first airborne warning aircraft, just after the end of the war.
Chapter Two - First to Fight - looks at the Flying Fortress's first use in combat, with the RAF, focusing on the training of RAF flight crews in the United States and the fate of one bomber over Norway.
Chapter Three - In Harm's Way - looks at the B-17's combat record with the USAAC, from the early days at Pearl Harbor and on the Philippines to the massive armada of bombers operated by the Eighth Air Force. Not only did the size of the B-17 fleet increase massively during this period, so did the sophistication of the Eighth Air Force's operations. Johnsen traces that process from the small scale raids of 1942 to the massive, fighter escorted, pathfinder led, radar aided bombing raids of 1944-45
Chapter Four - Tests and Proposals - looks at the efforts that were made to improve the B-17 during the war. The chapter takes an unusual but effective approach to this topic. Rather than look at each model in turn, here Johnsen looks at the modifications from the point of view of the research and development teams that produced them. As a result we are given far more background information on the work that led to each new version of the B-17. Johnsen also provides some fascinating sections on proposed modifications that were never used on production aircraft.
Finally Chapter Five looks at the Postwar career of the Flying Fortress. Very few aircraft remained in military use, although a number were still in use during the Korean War. This chapter also looks as the career of the B-17 as a test bed, most notably a version with a fifth nose-mounted engine used by Curtiss Wright.
Author: Frederick A. Johnsen
Publisher: Voyageur Press
Year: 2001 (revised edition)