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The Story of Old 666

Old 666

Old 666, B-17E 41-2666, was assigned to the 43rd Bomb Group in 1943 and was piloted by Lieutenant Colonel (then Captain) Jay Zeamer on the mission that would earn him and bombardier Joseph Sarnoski each a Medal of Honor. Every other member of the crew earned a Distinguished Service Cross.

By 1943, Old 666 (tail number 12666) had gained the reputation as a cursed bomber, often coming back from missions with heavy damage. Grounded, it was parked at the end of the runway where other aircrews could cannibalize it for needed parts. A military photographer told Captain Zeamer, who was desperately seeking to secure an airplane for his crew, "I know where there's a bomber, but no one will fly it anymore because every time it goes out it gets shot to hell!"

Zeamer had the bomber towed out of the "boneyard," and with enormous effort, not only restored the badly battered aircraft to flight status but made many changes, adding machine guns to make it the most heavily armed B-17 in the Pacific Theater.

Click here to ride along with the crew of Old 666 on its most famous mission.


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