Amanda Honigfort

During World War II, thousands of B-17 Flying Fortress bombers took to the skies daily. The planes were a crucial part of campaigns, from the bombing of Dresden to D-Day, and were flown by the likes of Clark Gable, Jimmy Stewart and Lt. Col. Basil Hackleman.

Hackleman, who now lives in Springfield, Mo., was the original pilot of the Nine-o-Nine, a celebrated B-17 that is said to have never lost a crew member or abort a mission because of mechanical failure. The plane was scrapped after the war.

Rachel Lippmann/St. Louis Public Radio

In September 1944, just nine days before his 23rd birthday, 1st Lt. Don Nicholson boarded the B-17 bomber known as “Little Chum” for a run over Germany. It was his 26th mission navigating the plane referred to as the "flying fortress."