|Sioux City Sue as she sat in 1947 at the Sioux City Airport.|
Sioux City Sue was a Boeing-built B-17G, serial 42-102542. Nothing that I can find is known of its war-time career, but at some point it was converted to a TB-17G trainer, likely stationed at Sioux City, Iowa. During the war, Sioux City Army Air Base was one of the primary locations for B-17 heavy bomber basic flight qualification training, and it was here that then-Captain Jimmy Stewart and his crew trained.
That's where our three photos were taken. The processing dates on the back of the photos indicate that they were taken in May, 1947. The photos were taken by one of the friends of the gals shown, and the photos were then placed in a photo album with captions indicating that the plane was visited by this group of teenagers on a school "ditch day". Sometime later, some probably well-meaning person decided to update the album in the currently popular scrapbooking style. The photographs were cut up using popular specialty scissors, the backs slathered with white glue, and the prints affixed to scrapbook paper. The images were then further damaged as the album was taken apart once again. I almost passed them up. As damaged as they are, though, they still show a remarkable B-17. And so, the first lesson of the day: friends don't let friends cut up vintage photos!
What happened to the photos kind of mirrors what happened to the aircraft. While in general, it's a good thing to have a war memorial, and at the time a B-17 must have seemed like a good thing to use for the memorial, what didn't seem to be considered was how to maintain that memorial. As can clearly be seen in the photos, the plane was open to the public, and in the six years that it sat there, it was pretty thoroughly trashed. It had only been in place for about a year when these photos were taken, and already damage is evident (note, for instance, the broken plexi in the upper turret). And this is the second lesson of our story: don't let vintage aircraft just sit and rot! (I write this with the B-17 in Tulare, California in mind...though fenced off from vandals, its condition continues to deteriorate.)
An article titled “Flying Fortresses at So. St. Paul” by Noel Allard in the February 2010 edition of On Final, the newsletter of EAA Chapter 25, Minneapolis/St. Paul, MN, describes what happened subsequently. “Sioux City Sue...had been derelict at the Sioux City airport for many years, and was in very bad condition. So much so that a local junk dealer would only offer $300 for it."
At this point, a man named Jack Lysdale, the owner of Lysdale Flying Service and operator of South St. Paul’s Fleming field, enters the story. Lysdale was authorized by the government to purchase and refurbish surplus aircraft from the War Assets Administration. He had already refurbished two other B-17s. Allard's article continues: "The plane was owned by the local American Legion, which had purchased it after the war and Lysdale bought it [in 1952] from them with the intention of cannibalizing it for parts. To ferry it, Lysdale had to deal with missing and torn control surfaces, five years of bird nests in every cranny, and a smashed tail caused by its being moved several times on the airport, being pushed by a bulldozer! A daunting task, but Lysdale was up to it and it soon [in 1953] arrived at South St. Paul. The plane was rebuilt in 18 months and sold for over $100,000 in 1955 to Aero Service Corp. of Philadelphia."
|Also taken the same day by the kids ditching school, was this Mid-Continent|
Airlines DC-3 at the Sioux City Airport
Update: It has come to the attention that now even the Iowa Air National Guard is looking for Sue...as is detailed in this article.
[Big tip o' the hat to Noel Allard and On Final editor Pete Gavin for permission to quote from the newsletter!]