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This B17 was purchased by $300,000 of War Bonds from students and staff at Lane Tech High School in Chicago in March 1943. The name has long been associated with the serial number 42-39836 but this is believed to be an erroneous link since the only known photo with the title shows a B17F but #836 was a Vega-built B17G. It was due to be presented at Midway Municipal Airport on 17th October 1943 when members of the school attended an air show there.
There are confusing accounts of the presentation day which suggest that, due to the massive losses incurred by the 8th Air Force earlier in the month, the intended Fortress may have been diverted for immediate despatch overseas as a replacement. One witness recalled seeing a brand new olive drab Fort at the show but newspaper reports do not list any B17 amongst the aircraft types on show. Another witness intent on "christening" the school B17 with a bottle was diverted to an ageing B24 (probably "Wash's Tub"). Perhaps the War Bond Fortress was there but left early in a hurry -- we may never know.
"Lane Tech of Chicago" was probably intended to be a brand new B17G but detailed study by Dutch researchers Nico Kwakman and Teunis Schuurman shows that the only known photo shows a B17F model and was a duplicate used for at least one other War Bond Fortress - airbrushed with the intended title. This "trick" was used by the War Dept on increasing occasions as the war heated up and became more demanding of urgent replacement aircraft and crews. "Lane Tech..." may never have existed beyond that photo.
If "Lane Tech...." was in fact the B17G 42-39856 then it underwent a change of name at sometime when it was assigned to the 96th Bomb Group and became "Wacky Woody". This Fortress completed eight combat missions and sustained considerable damage in doing so. Assigned to the 96BG at the end of October 1943 is was seriously damaged by flak on November 5th over Gelsinkirchen and again over Bremen on 16th December. In February '44 over Brunswick it was caught by flak and 20mm cannon fire and took such severe damaged that it had to be repaired at the sub-depot before returning to combat. Then, finally, on 8th April, flown by the crew of Lt Gecks, it was once again hit by flak and shot down by fighters. The Fort crashed near Emmeloord in the Netherlands but five of its crew managed to evade capture and eventually return to Allied control. The other five crew men spent the rest of the war as POWs.
However, until and unless a photo surfaces showing the "Lane Tech..." title on a B17G it must always remain a query as to why the War Dept issued a photo of a B17F with that title.
No mission listing is currently available for this aircraft
© Ray Bowden 15 November 2019