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Overrated? Underrated?

December 2023
1min read


Fredric Smoler’s position on overrated and underrated aircraft of World War II seems certain to raise a firestorm of controversy among surviving airmen who flew and fought in those aircraft. In finding fault with the designers’ claims, Mr. Smoler failed to take into account the time factor between the design criteria and the deployment of those aircraft. All the aircraft cited were designed in the mid- to late 1930s, a time when most of the world’s air forces were equipped with slow open-cockpit biplane fighters with fixed landing gear, armed with one or two machine guns of about .30 caliber.

The B-17 might well have held its own against fighters of this type, such as the Italian Fiat C.R.32 or the Russian Chato or Rata, which were then heavily engaged in air battles in the Spanish Civil War. To call the B-17 a failure when measured against the 20mm- and 37mm-cannon-equipped fighters that were just then coming off the drawing boards in Germany and Japan is both specious and unfair. A better evaluation of the B-17 may be found in the postwar writings of surviving Axis airmen who had to attack that bomber.

The Flying Fortress often lived up to its name by surviving incredible amounts of battle damage and bringing home many aircrews that would have been lost in almost any other type of aircraft. This accounts for much of its lasting popularity.

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