On December 12, 1942, twenty B-17 Flying Fortresses of the 303rd Bomb Group took off to join other Eighth Air Force bombers in a strike against Romilly-sur-Seine, France. The 303rd was new to combat and this was the group’s sixth mission. Flying that day was Lieutenant Paul F. Flickinger and his crew of the Wulfe Hound. Little did the men of Wulfe Hound know that on that cold winter day they were fated to give the Germans one of their biggest intelligence coups of the European Air War.

Of the twenty 303rd B-17s that took off that day, eight aborted before reaching the target, citing gun turret and engine failures, oxygen troubles and gas leaks.

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Original crew of the “Wulfe Hound”. Pilot, Lt. Paul Flickenger and Co-Pilot, Lt. Jack Williams stand in the back row 1st and 2nd from left. Not all of the crew pictured took part on the fateful December 12 mission. The bomber was part of the 360th Bomb Squadron of the 303rd Bomb Group (Photo via 303rd Bomb Group Association Archives)

Finding Romilly-sur-Seine obscured by cloud cover, the bombers proceeded to an alternate target, the marshalling yards at Rouen. German anti-aircraft fire was light, but the bombers were soon swarmed by over 40 German FW-190 and BF-109 fighters. One 303rd B-17, One o’clock Jump was hit by cannon shells from an FW-190. The bomber entered a flat spin and went down. Eight of the ten man crew bailed out. Three of them managed to evade capture and later returned to England.

The crew of Wulfe Hound found themselves singled out by five enemy fighters. Heavily damaged, they managed to drop their bombs on Rouen then fell out of formation to make a break for the English Channel. After losing their pursuers in some cloud cover, Wulfe Hound descended to 500 feet. Unable to keep the stricken bomber in the air, Lt. Flickinger and Lt. Jack Williams, the co-pilot, set her down in a hayfield near Melun, France amidst 10 or 11 startled French farmers. They made a perfect wheels-up landing after barely clearing some electrical high tension wires.

The crew worked quickly to destroy all valuable equipment on the plane then fled to the nearby woods. Lt. Flickinger and three other crew members were later captured by the Germans and spent two and half years as prisoners of war. Remarkably, the other six crew members made their way to Spain and eventually returned to England.

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The Wulfe Hound with Nazi markings surrounded by Luftwaffe personnel

Wulfe Hound provided the Germans with a wealth of knowledge. It was the first relatively intact B-17 Flying Fortress to fall into their hands. They transported the plane to the Leeuwarden airfield in the Netherlands and restored it to flying condition. The bomber was then carefully tested and evaluated by the German Luftwaffe who used it to develop fighter tactics against B-17’s.

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After being repaired by the Germans, the Wulfe Hound returned to the skies. The underbelly of the bomber was painted yellow

On September 11, 1943 Wulfe Hound was transferred to Kampfgeschwader 200, a Luftwaffe special operations group which allegedly used it and other captured Allied planes in clandestine missions involving radar jamming, secret bombing raids and infiltration of American bomber formations.

Through all of her adventures, Wulfe Hound managed to survive the war. She even escaped destruction when her former bomb group, the 303rd, attacked the Oranienburg airfield on April 10, 1945 where she was being housed. Wulfe Hound was later scrapped, but parts of her are preserved at the Sachsenhausen Memorial Store.

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  • Bill Getz says:

    There is even a bigger story on how the Germans were able to capture intact American bombers. I’ll send info when I get time. It takes more than a few words.

  • mike pollack says:

    this was the first bomber to make long flights into the Rhineland…They didn’t have any long range planes during ww2….

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