It was a routine mapping mission in June 1943 for the crew of the Flying Fortress, a.k.a Old 666, or as routine as any flight over a Japanese-held Pacific island could be during WWII. Sure enough, the Japanese on the ground had spotted them flying at 25,000 feet and fighters were readying for take off. There was no avoiding the dogfight that was coming. The pressing question was, would the Flying Fortress survive the battle?
Pilots and aircrew can be a superstitious lot. And flying an aircraft with the tag “666” could well be asking for trouble. That number is, of course, known as a symbol that’s linked to Satan. This superstition is said to have its roots in the New Testament’s Book of Revelation, where 666 is the “number of the beast.”
Fanciful beliefs aside, there’s no doubt that this particular Flying Fortress, or B-17E 41-2666 to give its full identifying number, had seen its fair share of bad luck. In fact, so much so that the plane had actually earned the nickname “Hard Luck Hattie.” But for the purposes of this piece, we’ll stick to the friendlier name of Old 666.