The B-17G has a remarkable story. One filled with daring missions and personal sacrifice. More than just an airplane, the B-17 is living history that holds a remarkable connection to the past and is the most iconic image of World War II. These are stories of those who have or will come aboard EAA’s Aluminum Overcast.
At a B-17 tour stop in Topeka, Kansas, the family of Henning F. Elsasser shared with EAA a heartwarming story about his military service. On December 7, 1941, Henning was on assignment at Hickam Air Force Base when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor. He was in his bunk sleeping when his friend shook him awake to warn him of the enemy airplanes. The pair ran outside just moments before their building was strafed by Japanese aircraft. Henning immediately began helping get P-40s in the air.
Back at his home, in a small town outside Omaha, Nebraska, his parents and girlfriend had heard of the attack and were awaiting news of Henning’s safety. Henning’s mother vowed that if her son had died, the family would not be celebrating Christmas.
Days later, the family received the news that Henning was alive, and the whole town came out to cheer as the Elsassers drove home with a tree tied to their car.
Henning went on to serve in the 5th Bomb Group, 23rd Bomb Squadron on B-17Es in the Pacific and was awarded a Silver Star for shooting down a Japanese aircraft during the Battle of Midway. He was the first in his town to come home alive. He married his girlfriend right away in the town church where there was standing room only.