B-17G-35-BO 42-32076, now registered OY-DFA was bought by the Danish Army Air Corps in April 1948 to be used for aerial photography assignments on Greenland for the Danish Geodetic Institute (DGI). The plane was rebuilt with 3 cameras in the nose - one for vertical shots and two to oblique recordings - plus space for a photographer behind a pivoting glass covered nose. An additional 1,400-liter fuel tank was installed in the bomb bay, and finally the plane got the registration 67-672 and was named “Store Bjørn” (“Big Dipper, or Ursus Major”).
Here she is back in military colors:
In 1949 it flew a navigation tour to Sweden and Norway, went to Greenland and Canada to examine the route and alternate aerodromes. After returning the plane had an overhaul, and from July to September it was stationed on Greenland, where it flew a total of 108 hours of aerial photography for GI. When the Navy vessel “Alken” disappeared on Greenland, “Store Bjørn” assisted in the search from 23 October - 12. November and flew 48 hours total as a SAR aircraft. 1950 was a busy year, from July to the end of September it flew a total of 137 hours of aerial photography. Moreover, on the 14th-17th September it flew again as a SAR aircraft for 25 hours in search of Loftleiðirr’s missing DC-4 “Geysir”.
Here she is in action over Greenland:
The Danish Geodetic Institute (DGI) did aerial photography and surveying on Greenland using “Store Bjørn”. In 1950 low-level vertical aerial photography was carried out in the region around Mestersvig, with the main purpose of constructing detailed topographic maps in connection with lead-zinc prospecting. Oblique aerial photography was also carried out over much of the region between latitudes 69°–81°N in the years 1950 and 1952.
After the Royal Danish Air Force was established in 1951 “Store Bjørn?” was assigned to 721 Squadron at Air Base Værløse. It flew a rescue flight to Greenland to evacuate a seriously injured man. During the summer photo flight on Greenland, June to September the weather was not co-operating and only 56 hours of aerial photography was flown. In 1952 54 hours of photo flight was done again on Greenland. When the great flood disaster in Holland happened in 1953 “Store Bjørn?” flew blankets, boots and rubber boats from Heathrow to Valkenburg. During the 1953 summer Greenland flight, from June to September it flew a total of 101 hours of aerial photography for DGI and on the first October of 1954, the plane was officially decommissioned.
Here is what I painted:
The plane was in storage for two years and was then sold to the Institut Geographique National, a French aerial mapping company based in Creil outside Paris, and it was flown there by a Danish crew on 5 april 1955. After the sale to IGN, 42-32076 was again modified so that it would corresponded to the rest of IGN’s 12 B-17's, with the installation of 2 cameras in the belly for Aerial Photography Survey. IGN put the aircraft into service in January 1956 with registration F-BGSH and used it for its worldwide aerial photography program until 15 July 1961, when the aircraft was damaged in a collision and was stored in a corner of the airfield in Creil with a total flight time 3364 hours. Here, the plane was slowly cannibalized to keep the other IGN B-17's flying.
Here she is back in civilian clothes:
and after the accident, slowly being cannibalized:
and here is what I painted:
In 1968, the ancestry of F-BGSH was discovered by the Australina aviation historian Steve Birdsall, who notified the USAF museum, that this was a combat veteran that had flown operational missions, in contrast to most other surviving B-17's. Following negotiations, the B-17 was donated to the US by the French Government. Interestingly, its Swedish heritage attracted interest from Sweden as well, but nothing came of this. The aircraft was disassembled at Creil and trucked to Frankfurt and flown to the US in 1972, where it arrived, packed in 27 crates.
Here she is, being swallowed by a C-5 Galaxy:
No plans or funds for restoration were present at the time, but in 1977, Mike Leiston, a technician at Dover AFB contacted the museum about the possibility of restoring one of the museum's aircraft by volunteers at Dover AFB. With the project approved, 42-32076 was transported to Dover, with the aim of restoring it to a stock wartime B-17G.
Upon arrival, Paul McDuffee, who had flown her for 13 missions, was present, and the reunion was clearly an emotional one as he commented "I've just got to go over and kiss her", which he did.
Here she is, undergoing restoration at Dover AFB:
The restoration continued to 1988,and after some 60.000 ma hours, "Shoo shoo shoo baby" took to the skies again for the first time on 11 september.
Here she is back in the air:
On 14 october 1988, she flew for the last time, to the USAF museum near Dayton, Ohio, where she can still be seen.
Here she is in the USAF museum:
Even the nose art was recreated by the original artist, Tony Starcer, although she looks a bit different from 1944. I tried to replicate this in my paints too. The main difference however with her wartime looks is the fact that she currently sports an olive drab camouflage paint, which was necessary due to all the metal work needed to bring her back to a stock B-17G condition.
and finally, here is what I painted:
So there you have it, the amazing story of one B-17 combat veteran that survived to the present day.
The paints are nearly finished, a bit more patience please.