12 - B-17 Crash Landing

B-17 Crash Landing

a diorama by Bjørn Jacobsen

The Story

The 4th of March 1944, the heavy bombers of Mighty Eight (US 8th Air Force) set out, for the first time, to bomb Berlin in the heart of Nazi Germany.

The Germans was perhaps a little surprised that the Mighty 8th dared attack Berlin in broad daylight and was not fully prepared for the first B-17 attack on the capital.

After the first attack, however, the Germans were fully alerted and a rough reception could be expected if the Forts approached Berlin again.

On the 6th March, 730 B-17 and B-24 and 801 P-38,

P-47 and P-51 escort fighters were dispatched to target heavy industries in the suburbs of “Big B”

Among the many aircraft taking to the air this day, was our B-17 (code A-LD) which was part of the 418sq of the 100th Bomb Group (see “BUILDING of B-17 MISS CONDUCT” on another page on this website). “Miss Conduct” did not enter service till September 1944, but I use her in this scenario anyway.

The bomber column of 730 heavy bombers, stretched for 60mls (96km) and soon crossed the English Channel and the Dutch coast, heading for Berlin.

They were almost over the German border when the storm broke.

The 1st Division was attacked by fighters that concentrated on the leading groups which were given a thorough going-over.

The 457th Bomb Group was met by a head-on attack from Bf109s and two Forts went down.

Next, it was the 3rd Division which felt the weight of Luftwaffe’s fighters and then the 13th Combat Wing caught the full venom of the German fighter attacks.

It was a black day for the 100th BG in particular. The Bloody Hundredth lost a total of fifteen B-17, including the entire high squadron (350th) of ten B-17s

In 30 minutes, the German fighters shot down twenty-three Fortresses of the 13th Wing or damaged them so badly that they were forced to ditch or crash-land on the continent.

The Fortress gunners and the American fighter pilots claimed over 170 German destroyed, but in reality, Luftwaffe lost "only" 66 fighters that day.

The Americans, on the other hand, suffered record losses: 

All together 102 bombers failed to return to England and 347 bombers were badly damaged but made it back. Many had to make a forced landing.

As a result of the raid, mainly due to overcast, the bombs fell on a 5 mile stretch of Berlin suburbs. The bombs created huge fires, but only destroyed gas, power and telephone services – which was not exactly what the raid was all about.

One of the stragglers

"Home Alone" was our B-17

She was badly damaged by both Flak and enemy fighters with huge damages to the mid-section which badly wounded the radio operator but survived due to the Flak West

Tail, rudder and port wing were damaged and engine #3 on fire.

The plexiglass nose cone was shot away by exploding 20mm shells wounding bombardier and navigator.

With only 3 engines running, the stricken bomber could not keep up with the formation.

Damages on B-17. All these planes got back to home base.

These pictures “inspired” the damages which were inflicted on the B-17 in this diorama.

This was the moment many German fighters were waiting for:

Without the protection of the enormous firepower from the dense bomber formation, a lone bomber was easy prey for the Bf109 and Fw190, and few damaged bombers escaped the wolf pack.

Luckily, our damaged Fort succeeded to get away by diving for the clouds, trailing black smoke from the burning engine. Maybe the German fighters believed she was going down.

Anyway, in the battle mayhem, she got away and continued the home journey at treetop level flying as the crow flies, hoping to avoid deadly Flak and German fighters.

Fortunately, the fire in the engine extinguished after a while, and she could carry on towards the English Channel on tree engines, but without the conspicuous smoke trail.

Arriving at the 100th BG base at Thorpe Abbots in Norfolk (England), she had problems getting the main wheels down and made a forced landing, settled down nicely on her belly.


Again the B-17 proved to be an incredible machine, withstanding major damages and still bring her crew back.

Prelude to the Diorama:

Preparing for takeoff at Thorpe Abbots (England)

In the air, on her way to "Big B"

Over the Reich, the German fighters were out in force, creating havoc among the bombers

Badly damaged and trailing smoke, but determined to reach Home Base

Homebound at treetop level, hoping to stay clear of Flak and German fighters

The Crash Site:

...and then, the rescue vehicles arrived:

  Making of the Diorama:

The Plane

The first I did was to prepare

the aircraft for the slaughter. 

The aircraft was the 1:48 scale

B-17G “Miss Conduct” which I

build a year ago

(You can see the building of

Miss Conduct on another

page on this website).

This model had a clear port side

which is no good in this

scenario. I therefore had to

paint the clear side with

aluminum color and weathered

it like the rest of the aircraft.

Looking at pictures of battle

damaged B-17 gave me an

idea of the kind of damages I

had to inflict on the plane.

The damages had to be

realistically and believable and

extensive enough for the plane

to struggle to get back to


The plane was already painted

and weathered so it was just

for me to start making holes in

the fuselage and wings caused

by exploding Flak grenades

and 20mm cannon shells from

German fighters.

Of course, the aircraft skin in a

plastic model is far too thick to

be realistic.

The thickness of the plastic is

between 1,5 and 2mm, which

correspond to about 8cm (3,2”)

in scale.

There is no way this thickness

would look anything like


I therefore had to glue thin

sheets of metal on the sides

of the holes.

For this I used the metal from a

tube of mayonnaise (sponsored

by my wife).

The holes in the aircraft also

exposed the structure

underneath the aluminum skin

and this structure had to be

made by the help of styrene.

The rudders were covered with

"silver dope" over an aluminum

skeleton and the holes here

had to be treated differently

than the holes in the aluminum

covered fuselage.

I used paper strips to give the

illusion of fabric around the

holes in the rudders.

The engine fire had also set its

mark on the starboard wing and

balance rudder which of course

was highly stained by the

smoke from the burning


The Diorama Base

Before I started, I needed an idea for how the diorama should be, and I made a mental sketch: The plane ended on a grassy field, and skidded along till it came to a standstill quite near a dirt road, which made it easy for the recovery vehicles to quickly reach the downed plane.

I chose not to have any fancy buildings in the diorama, but concentrate on the necessary and realistic surroundings.

Here are some pictures of the building the diorama base

      The idea                                                       The chipboard                                                              The Paper Mache

     Painting                                                                Adding static grass                                                       Bushes and trees

I used chipboard as base for the diorama.

First I painted both sides so it would stay flat and not curve due to moisture from whatever wet stuff I put on the plate.

Then I build up some terrain by help of more chipboard and Styrofoam and then started to cover everything with paper Mache.

The whole surface was painted to give a colored base for static grass.

This incident happened in the beginning of March, so there was not many green leafs on trees and bushes, and the grass would have been rather dry. I have to take this into consideration when choosing colors.

After applying the grass, I added some bushes and trees and the plate was ready to receive the plane.

The Vehicles

I used the following vehicles (all in 1:48 scale): A Jeep, a Mig Productions Dodge WC54 Ambulance and two 2 1/2- Ton Cargo Trucks from Tamiya which I scratch build to be a fire/rescue truck and a Wrecker Truck

Together with rescue personnel, I placed the vehicles around the downed aircraft.

The Pictures

I feel that pictures of a model in its natural environment

are essential to a presentation. I always try to make the

pictures as life like and realistic as possible and I have

often been asked how I do it.

It has been written books about this subject, but in reality,

it’s rather simple.

What you need is a camera where you can manually

adjust aperture settings and shutter speed, a tripod,

and a photo editing program (I use Corel PaintShop)

and a couple of ordinary reading lamps for lightning.

Masking, correcting colors, correcting exposure, and

so on, is easily done in Windows Live PhotoGallery.

Do not use flash, use ordinary lamps or go outside if

possible (but not in sunshine, overcast is better)

Always use a very small aperture for as much depth of field

(sharpness) as possible. The drawback is of course that you will have a rather long exposure (that’s why the tripod) – especially when the light source is bad. I often use f22 and 5-10 seconds.

If you have some kind of base and a background, it’s great. I often use wall decals as backgrounds as well as backgrounds I have painted myself. Especially for dioramas, the background is essential.

Example of sequences in the picture making

A photo editing program is always useful for adding something to the picture (for example smoke from a burning engine). 

I also use it for “melting” two pictures together. What I actually do is cloning one part of a picture (for example the model) and places it in another picture. As you can see, this was done with the picture of the bomber formation and the low-flying B-17

I do not feel to be cheating in doing this, because I do not alter the model in any way.

I have seen too many beautiful models photographed on a workbench full of tools - and I don’t like it.

With very little effort, the images can almost always be much better.

I hope you enjoyed this website!

Thank you for visiting!

Please do not hesitate to ask if you have questions


Bjørn Jacobsen

November 2014

This diorama will be on display at

the new WWII hanger at