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Building the B-17 Flying Fortress

Building the B-17 Flying Fortress Book Review

By David L. Veres

Date of Review June 2021 Title Building the B-17 Flying Fortress
Author Bill Yenne Publisher Specialty Press
Published 2021 ISBN 9781580072717
Format 240 pages, softbound MSRP (USD) $34.95


Don’t rashly reject Building the B-17 Flying Fortress as “just another B-17 book”. Author Bill Yenne commendably concentrates on a neglected facet of the aircraft’s history – its manufacture.

Subtitled with understatement “A Detailed Look at Manufacturing Boeing’s Legendary World War II Bomber in Original Photos”, narrative navigates Flying Fortress variants in almost mind-numbing fashion.

Contents commence with introductory notes and two background chapters on US bomber designs, evolution, designations, nomenclature, and production.

B-17s enter the picture with the Boeing 299 prototype and earliest “YB” models in Chapter 3. And the evolution, manufacture, and modification of production versions consume five subsequent sections:

  • B-17B
  • B-17C and B-17D
  • B-17E
  • B-17F
  • B-17G

Coverage underscores the ongoing interplay of aircraft design, manufacturing capacity, facilities management, and combat experience in achieving maximum production efficiency.

Commentary on defensive gun positions, for instance, proved intriguing. Did you know that, in July 1940, Boeing was actually approved to install power-driven turrets with .50-caliber guns in B-17C and D variants?

Period photos, close-ups, archival images, drawings, diagrams, color art, and extended, explanatory captions season the study. Modelers will love all those variant interior details.

Everything underscores the profound impact of B-17 manufacturing decisions and practices on the “Arsenal of Democracy”.

Just look at the vast assembly-line shots: B-17s as far as the eye can see. With, as Yenne notes, that “remarkable miracle of American wartime aircraft production”, how did Axis powers ever hope to win?

Just kn ow that, aside from citations within text, Yenne includes no selected bibliography or annotations. So you’re mostly on your own for further research.

Still, I utterly enjoyed Building the B-17 Flying Fortress. Make room in your reference library for it.


With thanks to Specialty Press for the review copy!