Ol’ 666 and the Eager Beavers

A B-17 Flying Fortress full of heroes that refused to quit

Using a wrecked B-17 from a junkyard, a group known as the Eager Beavers put 16 .50 cal machine guns in it, and used it for a photoreconnaissance gunship. No one wanted to use the B-17 due to the numbers 666 being included in the tail number (#41-2666), but the Eager Beavers took it into battle against 30 Japanese fighters, with no escort, on a photo reconnaissance mission.

Badly needing photos of Bougainville Island in the South Pacific, Ol’ 666 was sent into a hornets nest of Japanese fighters that were located on Buka Island. . At 25,000 feet they could see the Japanese fighters taking off beneath them to intercept, but they continued their mission: knowing they were going to be attacked. They all agreed to continue the mission. What followed is the account of the most decorated air crew in history with two Medals of Honor and the rest of the crew winning the Distinguished Service Cross. One Medal of Honor recipient was awarded posthumously.

The B-17 was hit by machinegun and cannon fire, the cockpit was on fire, and its occupants wounded by shards of metal being ripped apart around them. The pilot was nearly unconscious from leg wounds, and the backup pilot had to land the plane with no rudder pedals or brakes. The bombardier had manned his machine gun post, horribly wounded, fighting till he bled out.

It takes Valor to stay at your post knowing you will die, but knowing your mission will save many more lives.

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