North Florida B-17 Crash
by Susan Sapronetti
In July of 1944 a Flying Fortress crashed near the St. Marks Lighthouse in Florida. The crash happened approximately four miles east of the lighthouse in a dense swamp. This B-17 had left Avon Park Air Force Base on a routine flight and was on its way to an undisclosed location. It was believed to be flying in formation.
The lone survivor managed to parachute to safety. He wandered for sometime through the dense swamp until he came to a country dirt road. As he walked along this road, he met a boy with a mule. This boy offered him a ride. After riding on the mule for awhile they came to a paved road. The survivor walked until he hitched a ride to the Coast Guard Station at the Lighthouse. He told the authorities he did not know exactly what had happened, but he believed that the plane might have been struck by lighting. Strong afternoon thunder storms had rolled in along the coast that day.
A crash crew from Dale Mabry Air Field in Tallahassee and the St. Marks Coast Guard Station were sent to the scene. They reported that the bomber was completely destroyed by fire. The bodies of the other crew members were recovered the day after the crash.
The B-17 “Flying Fortress” first flew as a prototype in 1935. In 1941 the planes saw combat for the first time. By the end of the war its service was known in all combat zones. The plane featured four 750 horsepower engines and a low wing monoplane with wings equally tapered and rounded tips. It had a long narrow fuselage with gun turrets on both top and bottom. This was Boeing’s first military airplane with a flight deck and the first long range bomber. This plane was designed for high altitude precision bombing of targets. It could carry up to 4000 pounds of bombs load and nine 30 cal. Machine guns.