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 Kendrick Robertson “Sonny” Bragg, Jr

Kendrick Robertson “Sonny” Bragg, Jr

Death 13 Oct 1999 (aged 81)
North Carolina, USA
Burial Savannah, Chatham County, Georgia, USA
Memorial ID 79958698 · View Source
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Pilot of the "All American," a B-17 bomber whose February 1943 bomb run over the Bizerta, Tunisia docks resulted in one of the greatest war stories, and photos, of all time.

As All American started its bomb run Feb. 1, 1943, an enemy fighter making a head-on attack of this 97th Bomb Group airplane went out of control, probably with a wounded pilot, striking All American.

When it struck, the fighter broke apart, but left some pieces in the B-17. The left horizontal stabilizer of the Fortress and left elevator were completely torn away. The two right engines were out and one on the left had a serious oil pump leak. The vertical fin and the rudder had been damaged, the fuselage had been cut almost completely through connected only at two small parts of the frame and the radios, electrical and oxygen systems were damaged. There was also a hole in the top that was over 16 feet long and 4 feet wide at its widest and the split in the fuselage went all the way to the top gunner's turret.

Though the tail bounced and swayed in the wind and twisted when the plane turned and all the control cables were severed, one single elevator cable still worked and the aircraft still flew. The tail gunner was trapped because there was no floor connecting the tail to the rest of the plane.

While the crew was trying to keep the bomber from coming apart, the pilot continued on his bomb run and released his bombs over the target.

The turn back toward their base at Biskra, Algeria, had to be very slow to keep the tail from twisting off. They actually covered almost 70 miles to make the turn home. The bomber was so badly damaged that it lost altitude and speed. For a brief time, two more Me-109s attacked All American. Despite the damage, all the gunners were able to respond to these attacks and soon drove off the fighters. The two waist gunners stood up with their heads sticking out through the hole in the top of the fuselage to aim and fire their machine guns. The gunners had to shoot in short bursts because the recoil was actually causing the plane to turn.

Other bombers in the formation formed a cordon around the crippled airplane as it clawed the air trying to get home.

Almost two hours after being hit and still almost 40 miles from home, All American made its final turn to line up with the runway. It descended into an emergency landing and a normal roll-out on its landing gear. When the ambulance pulled up it was waved off, because not a single crew member had been injured. No one could believe the aircraft could still fly. The Fortress sat placidly until the crew all exited through the door in the fuselage and the tail gunner had climbed down a ladder.

After the war, Bragg graduated from Duke University with a degree in architecture, moved to and practiced in St. John, Virgin Islands. He died at age 81 in North Carolina according to the "Savannah Morning News" of Oct. 17, 1999.

(Note: There are differing accounts of this flight, with details at variance, but the major points, of a bomber and its crew overcoming deadly odds to get home, remain true.)

Family Members

  • Created by: John Andrew Prime
  • Added: 6 Nov 2011
  • Find A Grave Memorial 79958698
  • Find A Grave, database and images ( : accessed ), memorial page for Kendrick Robertson “Sonny” Bragg, Jr (24 Mar 1918–13 Oct 1999), Find A Grave Memorial no. 79958698, citing Greenwich Cemetery, Savannah, Chatham County, Georgia, USA ; Maintained by John Andrew Prime (contributor 46621252) .