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This is the story of the B-17G Punchboard.
 
The Vega-built B-17G Flying Fortress, AAF serial number 42-39974, was ordered against Contract AC-20290 and was delivered to the Army Air Force on October 22, 1943 by the manufacturer in California.  The next day, the airplane was flown to the Long Brach Modification Center for post-production equipment additions and changes.
 
The airplane left for Walla Walla, Washington on November 9, 1943, probably for crew training, and was assigned to Overseas Destination Code "SOXO" (Eighth Air Force, England) on January 11, 1944, where it was assigned to the 452nd Bomb Group, 731st Bomb Squadron.  The airplane was coded "7D-P".
 
On April 9, 1944, the B-17 was condemned by order of the Air Forces Materiel Service Command, but no reason was stated.  This is, of course, the day that the airplane was forced down in Denmark and was captured by the Germans.
 
The above information was partially taken from the Aircraft History Card on file at the National Air and Space Museum.  A scan of this document is below.
 
 
 
From the airfield in Vaerlose, the airplane was flown to Rechlin to be operated by the secret German Unit Kampfgeschwader 200 (KG200).
 
An eyewitness on the ground, J.M. Larsen, observed Punchboard as she overflew Denmark before landing at Vaerlose:
 
"On that day in April 1944 I was standing on the first floor of my parents' house at Holte.  I heard a noise from the engine of a heavy aircraft, looked out of an open skylight and shouted to my father, 'Flying Fortress!' - one could not be mistaken by its profile.  The Flying Fortress was between Vejlesa and Fureso (lakes) on a northerly heading.  It then turned to a westerly heading and it reappeared in the direction of Vaerloese.
Then I heard engine noise from a German fighter and a salvo was fired, presumably 20 mm, subsequently I didn't see the aircraft airborne again.
I borrowed a bicycle and drove towards Vaerloese.  When I got over the hill at the 'soldier's path' near Soendersoe (lake) I suddenly entered a taxiway newly made by the Germans and followed it almost to Bringe but couldn't see any big aircraft on the field.
I drove back and passed two farmhouses on  my right and on my left I had the big yellow building which at that time served as depot for equipment.  Just west of this building there was inside of the fence a steep slope towards the grass field itself - and here a B-17 was parked with its tail towards the fence and its nose towards the field.  Apparently the aircraft was unharmed apart from a missing hatch on top of the body about amidships and from a flat port main wheel.
I recorded the letters of identification and serial number of the aircraft on the back of a matchbox which I unfortunately later lost.
At the time I was a little involved in the underground activities and it was my intention that a report on the landing via the illegal mail service should have reached the American Embassy in Stockholm but this I didn't manage to get done as I on another occasion was arrested by Gestapo on the 10th of May and kept interned until the 5th of May 1945."
 
Lt. Racener, the pilot of Punchboard, gave this statement about the events of April 9.  The origin and date of this description is unknown to me, but this is a direct translation provided to me by Sune W. Nielsen, a Danish writer, and edited by me for presentation here.  Presumably, Lt. Racener gave this statement in English, and it was translated to Danish and now again back to English.
 
"We were hit in the No. 2 engine and we were losing fuel at an alarming speed. The navigator reported that if we continued losing fuel at this speed, we could only just reach Sweden. I asked for a course and we calmly left our formation and flew northwards. All ammunition and machine guns were thrown overboard, while we flew low over the sea. At last we reached land. At that time none of us knew the colors of the Swedish flag, but from the flagstaffs we saw a red flag with a white cross. Denmark was occupied and therefore probably was not allowed to use their own flag, we agreed that this had to be Sweden. After 10 or 15 minutes of flying we saw a lovely open field which was very suitable for landing. I was circling around the field to check it for ditches and fences, and when I was halfway across the field I suddenly discovered camouflaged planes with the Swastika on the rudder. I pulled the plane up and tried to turn away, but just then one of the gunners reported a ME-210, which was on our tail and the light flak became awake and fired warning shots. Without machine guns and ammunition we did not have a chance and I returned to the runway. From this day and after 13 months in a German POW camp I can assure that there were ten Americans that learned to know the difference between the Danish and the Swedish flag."
 
According to Thomas and Ketley in KG200: The Luftwaffe's Most Secret Unit, a member of the Danish Resistance, following the same path as described above, took a picture of Punchboard among the trees before she was moved from the airfield perimeter.  The picture can be seen on the "Photos of Punchboard" page on this site.
 
The details of the airplane after it left Vaerlose remain sketchy at best.  Punchboard was one of the only B-17Gs captured intact and flown by the Luftwaffe during the war.  In fact, it is believed to have been the last B-17 captured intact during the war.
 
Several sources indicate that the bomber was re-numbered by the Luftwaffe as A3+BB.  It was also repainted for night use: black underbelly and grey mottled camouflage on top.  It is also reported that a picture of a boy on a goose was painted on the nose of the ship, presumably taken from a Swedish children's story.
 
If it is the case that the above description is the correct one, the following photographs are of Punchboard in her new markings.  Note the absence of the ball turret in the photos.  The ball turret was intact at the time of Punchboard's landing in Vaerlose, so it is assumed that it was later removed by the German captors.  Note also that there are no traces of her former AAF markings, making it difficult to confirm that this is, without a doubt, Punchboard.  However, if it is the case that she was the only B-17G captured intact and flown by the KG200, then it is a reasonable assumption that the photos below are indeed Punchboard.  These photos were taken at Hildesheim in 1945.  The two Germans officers are Oberfeldwebel Rauchfuss and his radio-operator Feldwebel Monkemeyer.
 
 
 
 
 
Several stories exist of the bomber's ultimate demise, and although it is the current focus of my research, there may not be sufficient information available to resolve the questions and ambiguity.
 
One report is that the airplane crashed on takeoff from Stuttgart on February 9, 1945 carrying French Vichy agents in an attempt to escape to Spain.  Another theory is that the airplane was lost to German flak on April 6, 1945.  The airplane was attempting to evade advancing Allied armies, and there was no method of alerting the German anti-aircraft batteries that the B-17 was a captured ship rather than an enemy invader.  The airplane took fire and was destroyed.