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  • Writer's pictureEthan Brackin

The History of Lucky Thirteen

Lucky Thirteen is a B-17F that saw combat during WWII and is one of the only F models left in the world. It is currently being rebuilt by restoration museum, Hanger Thirteen. Merlin Models has partnered with Hanger Thirteen to produce a fully accurate statue and model kit of Lucky Thirteen. It's been an amazing opportunity and experience for us. So today we want to pull back the curtain and talk about the history of this iconic bomber.


Lucky Thirteen began her Air Force career on July 28th, 1943 when she was delivered to Dow Army Airfield in Bangor, Maine. In August she was assigned to the 546th Bombardment Squadron and given the code letters "BK". Although not known for certain, it is speculated that it was given the name Lucky Thirteen because it's call letter "M" is the thirteenth letter in the alphabet.

Lucky Thirteen began flying missions in August of 1943. Altogether it flew seven missions over France and Germany. On it's final mission in September of 1943, it was shot down over Beauvais, France. The main target that day was the city of Stuttgart in southern Germany. Lucky Thirteen took off shortly before 7:00 am and reached the coast near Berck-sur-Mer at around 7:30 am.

Things were going according to plan until the weather took a turn for the worse. Thick clouds and fog forced the bomber group to split up. Even though the weather wasn't favorable, the mission continued. The bomber group was initially escorted by a group of fighters that was forced to turn back due to their limited range. Without protection, the bomber group continued east towards Germany.

It didn't take long for the Luftwaffe to appear in the skies, and then the fight was on. The time was now 9:30 am and only about 150 bombers managed to reach Stuttgart. Lucky Thirteen was one of them. The bomber group climbed to around 22,000 feet to began their bombing run. Lucky Thirteen is reported to have made three passes over the city. It survived the initial Luftwaffe assault and flak bombardment and turned around to go home. Lucky Thirteen was at the heart of the return formation of bombers. The formation began spreading out and Lucky Thirteen was hit by both flak and machine gun fire from German fighters. This led to the loss of two of her engines. The crew attempted to save fuel that was being lost due to the damage. But the loss of fuel and the multiple passes that they had made over the city were too much. They knew that they didn't have enough fuel to make it back to England. The pilot set a westerly course in an attempt to return to French airspace. They did successfully reach France, but were forced to break formation in the Reims area.

For a moment it looked like they might be able to reach the shores of the English Channel. The crew began to throw their ammunition and radio equipment overboard in an attempt to lighten the aircraft. However they were attacked again by a FW-190 fighter. It came at them from the front, injuring the pilot and two of the gunners. It was now clear that they would not make it back to England, and the order was given to bale.

All crew successfully baled out of Lucky Thirteen at around noon. Six of the crew were captured by the Germans and taken to prison camps until the end of the war. Three others were luckier and were collected by the French and returned to safety.

Lucky Thirteen continued on it's course and finally crashed into the trees of Bois des Moines north of Clermont.

We at Merlin Models are so excited to support Hanger Thirteen's efforts to rebuild Lucky Thirteen. As they do their work, we collect their data and use it to reproduce all of the components and structure in statue-form. As part of our partnership with Hanger Thirteen, 25% of the profits from our project will go towards their efforts. We will be releasing Lucky Thirteen in sections, beginning with the rear ball turret. It will be available as both a model kit and as a finished painted statue on Kickstarter in April of 2024. You can sign up on our website to be notified when our super-early bird sale goes live. Its the best way to ensure that you get the biggest discounts!

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