B-17s went head to head with 200 German fighters in World War II. But, unfortunately, there were only 27 of them, and they had no fighter support.
Three American bomber groups came out of Italy, flying into Nazi Germany. One of the top turret gunners was with them, Army Air Corps Tech. Sgt. Ernest Merle Hancock.
The Germans barely resisted the first two sets of B-17s but threw everything they had at the third bomber unit.
Even though the German’s were firing heavily on the Americans, Hancock and his fellow gunners did not back down from the fight. Instead, they gave it their all.
Hancock was hit by Messerschmitt 109 and Fw-190 fire and was injured. However, he continued to fight, striking the German fighter formation.
Hancock took out three, including an Fw-190. He eventually took out a fourth.
Fire erupted in Hancock’s bomber, but he did not bail until he was told to. When he did, Hancock parachuted from 23,000 feet, landing in German territory on a border that they shared with France.
However, the German’s captured him after he landed. He was sent to the Stalag Luft IV Prisoner of War Camp. For the remainder of the war, he was a German POW.
In February of 1945, the Allies moved forward toward the camp. They were freed in April. Hancock received a Silver Star in 1945 and was honorably discharged in October of the same year.
Hancock did return to the service in 1952, becoming a member of the Air Force. He received many awards, from the Silver Star to a Purple Heart. He also was awarded the Air Medal with two Oak Leaf Clusters.
Hancock was not awarded his Silver Star until March of 2014. He was given the medal by the Virginia General Assembly, along with a commending resolution.