In response to the growing crisis in the Pacific, most B-17s had been deployed overseas.The 6th Bombardment Group based in the Canal Zone had eight B-17Bs and received eight new B-17Es in the first week in December.The 42nd Reconnaissance Squadron based in Newfoundland had 9 B-17Bs.The 7th Bombardment Group based at Salt Lake City, Utah had 35 new-model B-17Es, but preparations were under way for this outfit to be shipped out to the Far East.Six B-17Cs and 29 B-17Ds were serving with the 19th Bombardment Group based in the Philippines.
The 14th Squadron of the 19th Bombardment Group had been transferred to the Philippines in September of 1941 in a spectacular trans-Pacific flight to Clark Field, and two more squadrons had flown to the Philippines in October.
The 5th Bombardment Group based at Hickam Field, Hawaii had 12 B-17Ds.The other six heavy bomber groups in the USAAC were equipped with a total of 12 YB-17s, 22 B-17Bs, and five B-17Cs.
The B-17 was to achieve its first taste of combat in American hands at Pearl Harbor.On December 7, The 38th Reconnaissance Squadron with four B-17Cs and two new B-17Es was inbound from Hamilton Field, California to Pearl Harbor on their way to the Philippines to reinforce the American force there.None were armed.They arrived at Pearl Harbor at the height of the attack (radar operators mistakenly thought that the Japanese attack force was this flight arriving from California).Some of the planes managed to land at a short fighter strip at Haleiwa, one set down on a golf course, and the remainder landed at Hickam under the strafing of Japanese planes.
Twelve B-17Ds of the 5th Bombardment Group were parked on the ground at Hickam Field during the attack.Five of these B-17s were destroyed, and eight were damaged.
The B-17Es of the 7th Bombardment Group based at Salt Lake City, Utah left Utah on December 5 for deployment to the Far East.Six of them arrived in Hawaii just after the Pearl Harbor attack, but the rest of them were ordered to remain in the USA to defend California against the Japanese threat, since in the hysteria of the moment the Japanese fleet was expected to show up off Santa Barbara at any time.Only 19 B-17Bs could be spared to be sent to Spokane to help defend the Northwest, and two B-17Bs were sent to Alaska.
Note--the 13th and 20th Air Forces came along later.13th is commonly refered to as the "Jungle Air Force". The 20th was equipped mostly with B-29 Super Fortresses.