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Shoo Shoo Baby

May 2024
1min read

A Lucky Lady of the Sky

Photographs by Dan Patterson, text by George Merva; Patterson Productions, Dayton, Ohio; 24 pages.

The B-17 Flying Fortress was introduced by Boeing in 1935. The giant, long-range bomber was a success with the Air Force, and by the end of World War Two nearly thirteen thousand had been built. Almost a third of these were lost in combat over Germany and the Pacific; today fewer than a dozen combat-veteran B-17s are known to remain.

Among them is a B-17G built in 1944. Her story is the subject of a fine small book by Dan Patterson and George Merva. The plane, Shoo Shoo Baby , named for the Andrews Sisters’ hit, flew twenty-three successful missions over Germany before she was forced down in Malmö, Sweden, after a failed run against Nazi-occupied Poznań, Poland. From there her journey became complicated, if less dangerous. Purchased by the Swedish government and later sold to Denmark, the ship was renamed and converted into a luxury airliner for a few years. Later, refitted with ice shields and cameras, she mapped Greenland’s polar ice cap, then photographed the boundaries of French colonies in Africa and South America for the French National Geographic Institute. Shoo Shoo Baby was stripped for parts in 1961 and abandoned in a field at an airport north of Paris. There her story would have ended. Fortunately, Paul McDuffee, the ship’s first pilot, was determined to recover the plane in which he had flown thirteen lucky missions over Germany.

McDuffee found the plane with the help of an Australian historian interested in B-17s, then convinced the Air Force to put in a bid for the aging hull. The French responded by selling the bomber to the United States for the symbolic price of one franc. Painstakingly rebuilt by a volunteer team of Air Force reservists led by Ray “Mac” McCloskey, Shoo Shoo Baby was back in the air in August 1988, forty-four years after her odyssey began. She is currently on exhibit at the Air Force Museum in Dayton, Ohio.

This book is a testament to McCloskey’s work and a homage to the B-17 as well; the pictures are beautiful and informative; George Merva’s captions explain every detail of the plane’s operation; and the introductory text outlines the restoration process. It’s not an easy book to find, but like Shoo Shoo Baby , it’s worth the search.

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