The Sally B in Denmark in 2019


By Elly Sallingboe

The Sally B returned to Denmark in August 2019.

Being a Dane, I was very exited about bringing Sally B to my home country, and I was in no way disappointed.

Sally B was definitely the star of the show.

On our arrival, we were welcomed with a red carpet and a Guard of Honour and when we departed, we were escorted out of the country by two F16s of the Danish Airforce draped in the Danish flag,

Dannebrog. What welcome, what friendliness, I shall never forget it!

And Jon Corley, B-17 Pilot, added to Elly’s note on the time in Denmark.

A B-17 is a regular sight in the UK but in Europe it is somewhat of a rarity.

We were not the usual Boeing the controllers were used to!

As we made our way through the Netherlands crossing into Germany, Steve Carter asked where we were, “the map says Wilhelmshaven” I replied,

“WILHELMSHAVEN?!” he exclaimed “ that was Memphis Belle’s last but one mission, in 1943. It was at this point I started to reflect back to how bad it was for everyone back then. The conditions they would have been in, cold temperatures, flak, enemy fighters, and also the people on the ground hearing the drone of the engines above not knowing whether the aircraft were passing on to another target or if their home town was the target.

Flying over in the serenity of 2019 was delightful but full of remembrance

Arriving in Roskilde

Our flight took us further North into Denmark, and as we were getting closer to Roskilde it was becoming evident that we were quite a spectacle for them. The local press were previously aware of our inbound route and had announced to the public we would be flying through, near certain towns.

The number of people who had gathered on local bridges to get a view of us as we flew past was astounding.

3 hours 56 minutes after our departure from Duxford we landed at Roskilde, and as we taxied in, we noticed there was a surprisingly large crowd for a Friday afternoon.

We parked up on the ramp, and shut down our engines. To our surprise, we then had a VIP welcome from the Danish.

A red carpet was rolled out to the door of the aircraft, World War 2 reenactors lined up either side of the carpet, and at the end of the carpet was a Willys Jeep ready to take Elly and Peter away for a press interview.

From there on the hospitality was astounding, nothing was too much trouble for anyone, we were made to feel at home and very welcome

Our display and meeting the Danes

We had a display to perform that evening, so the ground crew prepared the aircraft for the next flight, checking fuel and oil levels. Surprisingly she hadn’t used that much oil, even our No.3 engine which was known for using more oil (it has now been replaced), it seems Sally B likes doing long trips.

We carried out the display that evening, which was very well received by the crowds.

Sally B was then covered up for the night while we were treated to some delightful Danish food.

Our day on Saturday consisted of attending the display briefing, and then ensuring the aircraft was ready for the display later that day.

Until then, we would be talking to the public and showing people around the aircraft, including VIPs such as the Danish Minister of Defence, and of course some of our own club members from Denmark.

Again, an air display carried out by Peter with his usual style of displaying the aircraft, once again well received by the crowds, but almost too well.

Once we had shut down we could see crowds of people flocking to the exit gates, much like what is seen in the UK once the Red Arrows have finished their display.

It seems that a lot of people at the show came to see Sally B, and once she had displayed it was time for them to go despite there still being another third of the show to go….

Sunday was much of the same, excellent hospitality, good food, showing people around the aircraft and engaging with the public. The weather on Sunday was particularly grim and looking at the weather radar we could see rain showers moving in throughout the day.

We were very fortunate again, we managed our full display and I think maybe one or two display acts after us managed, but then the weather worsened.

Some aircraft took off to try to display, but soon returned having not been able to see far enough to perform a safe display. The display ended in a gloomy grey skyline with moderate rain, but thankfully most of the event over the weekend had been a success.

Editor’s Note: We met the Sally B team at a B-17 event in France in 2015.

We are partnered with them and urge our readers to support the Sally B in any they can.

These two excerpts are taken from Sally B News, Issue 57, Winter/Spring 2019/20

Sally B News issue 57

The featured photo shows the Sally B flying over the Wilhelmshaven Docks in route to Denmark.

But in 1943, the flights of B-17s was a bit different.

Those first flights to Wilhelmshaven were described in January 27, 2010 article by Maj. Richard Komurek of the 8th Air Force public affairs.

BARKSDALE AIR FORCE BASE, La — On Jan. 27, 1943, 91 B-17 and B-24 bombers from 8th Air Force launched from England to conduct America’s first World War II strike against the Nazi fatherland. During this historic attack, 58 bombers reached their targets and dropped 137.5 tons of munitions on the port of Wilhelmshaven to destroy strategic naval construction facilities. The bold mission was also credited with downing 22 German planes (official post-war tally- seven planes). Amazingly, despite the disadvantage of conducting a daytime bombing mission against a counter-air force of 50 to 75 fighter aircraft, only three bombers were lost to Nazi attack.

These heroic 8th Air Force Airmen serving in England were the real-life inspiration behind the classic novel and 1949 film “12 O’Clock High”. Under the leadership of legendary leaders such as Col. Frank Armstrong Jr. and Maj. Gen. Ira Eaker, 8th Air Force bombers and Airmen took the fight to the German homeland with the goal of striking at the heart of the Nazi war machine with daytime bombing raids that posed a great risk to the bombers and their crew.

So what does this bold mission from nearly 70 years ago have to do with today’s Airmen serving in Afghanistan and Iraq in the battle against terrorism?

At first glance, there seems to be little in common between the warfare experienced by the Airmen of WWII and the Airmen of today due to drastic differences in battlefield geography, the type of enemy targets targeted and the technology employed. However, there is a commonality in the valor and dedication of our Airmen who volunteer to serve our nation, their great skill and competency in accomplishing the mission and the Air Force values that empower them to succeed in the face of great odds. 

There is also commonality in the basic aspects of life as an Air Force warrior. Just as the 8th Air Force Airmen of WWII who deployed to the front lines of war in Europe, Airmen today are forward deployed to the front lines of Afghanistan and Iraq. Then, as now, our Airmen sacrifice their families and personal lives and routinely go into enemy territory risking deadly attack. And whether it is a downed aircraft or an Improvised Explosive Device, our Airmen are injured, killed and lose comrades-in-arms just like they did in 1943. 

So, as much as things have changed in regards to the threats we face and the technology employed against them, such as the use of remotely piloted aircraft to attack insurgents hidden in the remote areas of Afghanistan, many aspects of life as an Airman during wartime are timeless.

“Eighth Air Force has a proud legacy that continues to this very day,” said Maj. Gen. Floyd Carpenter, 8th Air Force Commander. “The great professionalism, dedication and valor shown by our Airmen today are the same qualities that carried our nation to victory in WWII. So although the threats we face today are somewhat different than generations past, our greatest assets and strengths continue to be our Airmen and our Air Force values.”

(Historical data provided by 8th Air Force History Office)