Randy Treadway

YB-17 at the GGIE

6 posts in this topic

A visitor to this board sent an email inquiry, which I thought may be of general interest, along with the answer I was able to research:

Could you please advise me how the YB1-17 bomber was brought onto Treasure

Island in 1939 & 1940. I didn't think there was a runway, so was it barged

to the island. I visited the fair with my family in 1940 but I only have

vague recollections of some of the exhibits. Later on I spent 1 year on the

island attending a Naval School. Thanks for any information.

Anecdotal evidence that it was probably barged from Oakland-Alameda Naval

Air Station to Treasure Island:

There were 13 YB-17's built. 12 went to Langley Air Base in Virginia, and

one went to Wright Field in Ohio for testing. We know that the one at the

GGIE was the one assigned to Wright Field. All of these planes were mostly

seen flying around the eastern states. Yet, there is one photo of a YB-17,

dated 1939, and identified as "Oakland". What would it be doing on the west

coast, if not being sent to the GGIE?

Although the Navy has moved out, the runway at Oakland-Alameda NAS is right

next to the water. You can see it on the tv show Mythbusters- they use the

runway all the time for their experiments. There are also a number of huge

cranes nearby, which could easily lift a plane from the runway onto a barge.

Some barges also include a crane on the barge itself. This might have been

necessary to unload the plane at Treasure Island.

At the GGIE, the YB-17 was displayed next to the Federal Pavilion, on the

water side- facing east. There was a large boat ramp there.

So it stands to reason that it was barged directly from the Oakland-Alameda

runway to that boat ramp on the east side of the Federal Pavilion.

A couple of other interesting notes:

On opening day in February 1939, the opening ceremonies were held right

there on that east side of the Federal Pavilion. There was a huge

grandstand right where the YB-17 sat. Either they built the grandstand OVER

the YB-17, or they temporarily towed it into one of the nearby huge airplane

hangers (built as hangers for flying boats for the hoped-for follow-on use

of Treasure Island as a San Francisco International airport (flying boats

only). That never happened- the Navy took it over because of the war. The

two huge hangers are still there though.

In 1939 the YB-17 was displayed in standard polished aluminum colors.

Between the two GGIE seasons when the fair was closed, the YB-17 was taken

to Mather Air Base near Sacramento and repainted into an early war readiness

camouflage pattern. It was then returned to Treasure Island for the 1940

season, and shown in that camouflage paint. How did they get it to Mather

Air Base? We would presume they barged it back to Oakland-Alameda and flew

it from there to Mather, then returned it with the new paint job.

1939

YB-17-1939.jpg

1940

YB-17-1940.jpg

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Flying into Crissy Field in a B-17 in 1939 must have been quite an adventure. Grass runway... and it had been CLOSED two years earlier, because of the construction of the onramp leading up to the Golden Gate Bridge, which made approaches from the north too perilous (to say nothing of takeoffs in that direction!). Army operations were moved to Hamilton Field. Since the crew of the expo bomber came from Hamilton, it stands to reason that some of them were probably very familiar with Crissy, and decided to try it. They had to have flown in toward the northwest, over the bay, and if they didn't get it set down... GOOD LUCK !!! No second chances.

Thanks for sharing this story Bill. I had already found that Hamilton Air Base was one of the first to receive B-17B's straight from the factory, in the summer of 1939... so maybe some YB-17's were sent their way beforehand so the crews could train in them. I believe Hamilton was up and running with the first B-17 squadron on the west coast by late 1939.

Crissy field reopened during WWII to handle light scout planes (the size of Cessnas) and later helicopters. It even got a paved runway in the 1950's (now removed). But this Expo YB-17 might have been the last big plane to visit Crissy.

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The story is also interesting, that the flight crew first planned to land on Treasure Island itself, in the parking lot, but construction crews misunderstood and put up light poles prematurely.

A couple of years later the Navy did exactly that- put in a runway across that very parking lot- during WWII. But in the late 40's that runway was abandoned and the Navy built on top of it. Planes would never land on Treasure Island again.

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Came across this site while googling for the location of an old photo I got at an estate sale in San Francisco a few years ago. Thanks to you guys I see it's the first-state (aluminum before the camo paint_ YB17 seen here. I was not sure of the location because I could not ID the large stanchions until I began seeing GGIE pics. Anyways, thanks for the cool site and the info, and here's my old pic from someone, unknown, who was there.

Cheers!

http://www.billschuch.net/pictures/yb17gge1940.jpeg

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Thanks for sharing that, and welcome!

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