B-17 "All American" (414th Squadron, 97BG)

Pilot Lieutenant Kenneth R. Bragg

Navigator 1st Lt. Harry C. Nuessle


Site Edited and Maintained by Doug Cook 

Last update August 6, 2016

Contacts from 97th BG and 414th Squadron Welcome!



Original references:





http://www.daveswarbirds.com/b-17/photos/body/b17allamerican.jpg           http://www.daveswarbirds.com/b-17/photos/tail/tail1.gif

               At right, not the All American but a similar incident where the plane appears to have landed with mortal damage.  This brings to mind a quote from Gen. Jimmy Doolittle’s book where a B-17 tail section was similarly torn up and the tail gunner survived. Doolittle asked the tail gunner “You were in there when this happened?” Response which made Doolittle blush: “Where the hell do you think I was?”


"The B-17 "All American" (414th Squadron, 97BG SN 124406) flown by Lieutenant Kenneth R. Bragg (see roster below), its tail section almost severed by a collision with an enemy fighter, flew 90 minutes back to its home base, landed safely and broke in two after landing."

The ONLY reason that machine broke apart on landing is that, notice, the rear landing wheel has been carried away, and all the weight is being put on the bottom of the rear gunner's station. The machine is not designed to do this with such structural damage.

The rear surface control cables are remarkably tough. Two sets of overhead control cables can be seen in the waist photos. I wonder if there is another port and starboard set under the floor. Hard to see how they remained functional otherwise, the top of the fuselage is gone so far down.

Losing the port stabilizer left the starboard stabilizer functional, apparently. Cannot see how the machine could be controlled otherwise. This was designed in, otherwise impossible.  A machine designed, intended, for war.



Note Bragg (pilot) and Nuessle (navigator) and Burbridge (bombardier) on the roster.

Col. Wm. Ross collection


Comp=Completed 50 missions to rotate home!



414th Squadron, 97BG

Navigator 1st Lt. Harry C. Nuessle

Material below from contributions from his daughter

Last update January 18, 2015 by Doug Cook 

More contact from the Nuessle family appreciated.

These submissions have prompted many emails to me to get more information on the

“All American” story captured on the 414th logo.




From: Lindamae [mailto:oldgeneralstorewestfall@yahoo.com]
Sent: Friday, November 11, 2011 11:45 PM
To: Cook, Douglas J.
Subject: reddog1944 site info


Thank you Doug for your great site.

I would like to update your info however, as my father was the navigator on the All American in 1943 when it sustained injury. Mom kept a wonderful scrapbook and I have more photos to send you if you wish to post them. But for today, in honor of Veteran’s Day and all veterans...here is the list of crew members and a note from my dad. Let me know if you would like more, including his written account of the incident.


Linda Nuessle



“All American” Navigator 1st Lt. Harry C. Nuessle




Note DFC incident was 5/31/43

Back Row, L to R----Elton Conda, ball turret gunner; Mike Zuk, waist gunner; Hank Hyland, ground crew chief; Joe James, engineer; Sam Sarpoulos, tail gunner; Paul Galloway, radio operator.


Front Row, L to R----Harry Nuessle, navigator; Godfrey Engle, co-pilot; Ken Bragg, pilot; Ralph Burbridge, bombadier.


We do have the scrapbook with a lot of info, the sheet music from "A wing and a prayer", a list of the crew, and without getting into too much of it today, a newspaper article from Lansdowne in which Mom-Mom talks about Dad's Distinguished Service Cross.

Crew:   Pilot                                   Kenneth R Bragg, Jr

            Co-Pilot                             Godfrey Engle, Jr.

            Navigator                                       Harry C. Nuessle

            Bombardier                                    Ralph Burbridge

            Ball Turret Gunner            William Conda  (Elton Conda)

            Tail-Gunner                                    Sam T. Sarpolus

            Engineer                                        Joe C. James

            Radio-Operator                 Paul A. Galloway

            Waist Gunner                    Michael Zuk

            Ground Crew Chief            Hank Hyland          












Note DFC incident was 5/31/43.


Mom-Mom's version, in the Lansdowne, Pa. paper:


"The All-American", although badly damaged when the picture was taken [Feb 1, 1943], was later repaired and has had additional close calls since then. 

On one such occasion, when the plane caught fire 20,000 feet in the air, the navigator earned the Distinguished Flying Cross [5/31/43].  I know all about the All-American because the navigator is Harry Nuessle, my son."  Mrs. Carolyn Nuessle, Lansdowne, Pa



And although lengthy, here is another newspaper article, with a letter from Dad to his brother Albert:


Allied Headquarters in North Africa - One of the most remarkable tributes to engineering skill and American Airmen's courage was disclosed today in the exploit of a Flying Fortress surviving a collision with a Messerschmitt 109. The tail gunner, Sam Sarpolus, of St. Clair, Mich., stayed at his guns although the ship threatened to break in two at any moment.  He told how the pilot, Kenneth Bragg, of Savannah, Ga., brought the craft home safely. 


The above was the story as released by Associated Press last week.  In a letter to his brother Albert, Lieutenant Harry C. Nuessle, of Lansdowne, navigator of the fortress, tells in his own way of the dog fight which resulted in one dog almost losing a tail!  He writes:


"Hi Bub: - Back again at the front after a hectic two-week stay over at Casablanca where we conferred with Messrs. Roosevelt and Churchill and got some engines changed - and what an experience we went thru on our first raid after returning from the West Coast.  Originally scheduled for the tail end of the formation of 13 planes, we moved up to No. 3 position when the No. 3 ship dropped out because of some mechanical failure. [Note DFC incident 5/31/43; Huge tail damage was 2/1/43]


Winston Churchill and VIP’s in 97th BS Briefing Casablanca 5/31/43

Col. Wm. Ross collection

Seated 1st to left of  Churchill is Robert Anthony Eden, 1st Earl of Avon Secretary of State for War.  Eden was UK Prime Minister from 1955 to 1957.

Seated 3rd to left of  Churchill is Sir Alan Brooke-  Chief Imperial Staff   2nd to left of Churchill is believed to be Gen. George C. Marshall United States Army Chief of Staff during the war.





"Long after we had left the target, after having sustained two different attacks by ships coming out of the sun, we saw two unidentified planes climbing alongside of us about 2 miles to the right.  They continue well in front of us and suddenly cut in to attack - one directly at the nose of the lead ship, one at us.  Burbridge (the bombardier) covered the one coming at us with the nose gun; I took the other with the gun 45' out the side of the nose. 


"It was the first time we had ever experienced this sort of attack - an infrequent tactic due to the extremely high rate of closure between ships coming head-on.  Between my own fire and fire from the lead ship, the Jerry going for the latter was last seen smoking off in the distance.

Meanwhile I could see this other Joe coming at us, his wings looking as though they were afire from his flaming guns. 


"About 300 yards out he began to roll over in order to be able to pull down and away after his attack - but somewhere about half way around, Burbridge's fire or fire from the lead ship must have gotten the pilot or disabled his plane because he never completed his intended roll and rapid pass under our ship - for one horrible instant he was right there inches in front and above us - I ducked instinctively though God knows had he hit us head on no amount of ducking would have saved any of us.  But he passed over us with a distinctly audible swooch, followed by a tremendous jar and a whoomp!  Our plane began to dive, I reached for my chute and called to the pilot on the interphone to see whether the dive was due to casualty in the cockpit.  He called back and said "All O.K. here - how were we?"


"Before we could answer, the radio operator called up and said they were all O.K. in the rear, but that there is a hole in the side of the ship big enough for a jeep to ride through - that damn Jerry plane had lopped half our tail completely off, and the other half and the rudder looked as though they would shake loose any moment!  Miraculously none of the crew was hurt but somewhere in the shuffle the lead ship had gotten lost and there we were -- scheduled last, leading the whole shebang home with only half a ship to fly in! We all got our 'chutes on and prepared to "git & go" if the rest should fly off-but we somehow made it home and got safely landed; although the tail wheel wouldn't go down and we skidded the last 100 yards or so. Fortunately one of the boys in another ship had a camera and shot us in the air, or we'd never make anyone believe the thing would fly with only half the horizontal stabilizer and a very wobbly rudder."



" An expert from the plane factory remarked:  'According to our figures a ship hit like that can't fly'.  The next day when someone opened

the door, the whole fuselage broke in half."




Return to Index