From World War to Star Wars: The B-17 and the Ghost

In a few short weeks Star Wars Rebels premieres on Disney Channel and Disney XD. It will introduce audiences to a new band of heroes in their struggle against the Galactic Empire in the dark times before the events of Star Wars: Episode IV A New Hope. The home base for these new adventures is an all-new Corellian ship, a modified VCX-100 light freighter named the Ghost. Although the ship is new, its design cues stem from the past.


Whereas the Millennium Falcon shares visual similarities to the larger B-29 bomber, the Ghost was inspired by an earlier American bomber. Lucasfilm story team member Pablo Hidalgo explains that the Ghost is like the Millennium Falcon in many ways, “and much like a lot of things in Star Wars it draws its inspiration from this tactile, real world history that we always look at.” Executive producer Dave Filoni says, “You’ll see that its pretty much a cross between a B-17 bomber cockpit centered with the Millennium Falcon.”


The Boeing B-17G Flying Fortress (US Air Force photo).

The B-17 was known as the Flying Fortress thanks to its arsenal of defensive machine guns. Military planners sought to arm the bomber so heavily that the crews could defend themselves from fighters on the way to and from bombing targets. They felt so confident in the Fortress’ defenses that early raids were sent without fighter escorts through much of the mission. Left to their own, it was up to the crews manning the bomber’s machine guns to fend off enemy attackers.


Sound designer Ben Burtt recording in front of a B-17. Note the chin turret of the bomber.

The Ghost is similarly armed to the B-17 as well. At the front of the Ghost lies the nose turret gunner station armed with a twin laser chin gun. It mirrors a similar armament found on the B-17G, the most common Flying Fortress variant in the skies of World War II. Earlier B-17s lacked the chin turret, leaving the bomber defenseless against direct frontal attacks.

Atop the Ghost is a 360-degree dorsal laser cannon turret. From here, the Rebel crew fight off fighter attacks from above. The turret is like the powered B-17 dorsal turrets of World War II.  In addition, a small shuttlecraft known as the Phantom protects the Ghost from rear attacks. When docked with the larger Ghost, the shuttle can use its laser cannons to fire from the stern. B-17s were similarly armed thanks to a rear gunner who protected the bomber from fighter attacks behind the plane.phantom_gunner

A ship is nothing without its pilot, and Hera Syndulla owns and flies the Ghost. Styled with an orange flight suit, Hera also wears World War II style goggles.


Cole Horton is an R2 builder, historian, and creator of From World War to Star Wars, an ongoing series of lectures at Star Wars Celebrations. He has also worked as World War II historian for Marvel Comics Augmented Reality app. You can find him on Twitter @ColeHorton.