The Dakota Demon was a YB-40 Fighter Destroyer. The YB-40 was a derivation of the standard B-17 Bomber in which additional firepower and armor was added in hopes that these heavily-armed B-17s would be able to “escort” the other bombers, protecting them from enemy fighter attacks when beyond the range of friendly fighter escort. Lockheed-Vega had the task of doing the conversion work on the Boeing B-17Fs and only twenty YB-40s were made.
Changes included a remotely-controlled chin turret (which later became standard on the B-17G model), twin .50 caliber guns in the waist positions (instead of the single guns), an extra twin gun power turret in the radio operators position. Extra armor was added to the engines and crew positions. The bombs and bombardier were left behind, and extra ammo for the guns was carried. Even with the reduction in weight without the bombs, and added weight of guns, armor and ammo made the aircraft heavier and slower. As a result, once the other bombers had released their bomb-loads, the YB-40s were outpaced by their lighter brethren, and so failed in their role as escorts. Only one squadron was equipped with the YB-40, this was the 327th Sqd. of the 92nd Bomb Group. The YB-40s flew only around fifteen missions before the project was discontinued.
Major George Ott was one of the pilots picked for the YB-40 project. In early May of 1943, soon after the YB-40s had arrived in England, George and his crew were working on their YB-40 George had named “Dakota Demon”. An order came down and Dakota Demon was instructed to fly to Bassingbourn, home of the 91st Bomb Group. George landed at Bassingbourn and was told to follow a jeep to one end of the airfield where they parked near a B-17. George and his crew exited the YB-40 and George noticed the crew standing in front of the B-17 were dressed in their Class A dress uniforms, George and his crew were in their work uniforms. George also noticed the pilot of the other plane was Robert Morgan, Morgan had previously belonged to the 92nd BG back in the states and was a friend of George’s. As George and his crew were scratching their heads and wondering what they were doing there, several staff cars drove up and then a Rolls Royce. From the Rolls Royce emerged King George VI and Queen Elizabeth!! The other plane was the “Memphis Belle” and the King and Queen had come to congratulate the crew on just completing their 25th mission. After meeting the Memphis Belle crew the Royal couple turned to view the Dakota Demon and meet its crew. If George would only have known, he and his crew would also have been in their Class A uniforms. George actually got to shake Queen Elizabeth’s hand!!
After the end of the YB-40 program George started flying regular bombing missions in the B-17 as the 325th Squadron Commander. It was in this capacity that he flew as deputy mission leader for Mission 115 to Schweinfurt, Germany, Oct.14, 1943. (See the story “Black Thursday”)
George’s plane was shot down and he spent the rest of the war in a POW camp.
After the war George farmed near New England, ND, and raised a family. George Ott is now retired and lives in Dickinson, ND.SOURCES: Personal interview with George Ott, Phone interview with Robert Elliott – 92nd Bomb Group Historian.