During the last year of World War II and shortly thereafter, the US Navy acquired 48 former USAAF B-17s for ASW patrol work. Initially these aircraft operated under their original USAAF designations but at the end of July they were given a Navy designation of PB-1W. The B stood for Boeing and the W stood for anti-submarine warfare. This was actually a misnomer as the B-17s in question were built either by Douglas or Lockheed but Boeing had been the primary designer.
Eighteen B-17Gs were set aside by the USAAF for transfer via the US Navy to the Coast Guard to be used as search and rescue aircraft. Rework began to convert the aircraft in question for search and rescue duties. On 1 January 1946, the Coast Guard was returned to the Treasury Department, but nevertheless, the Navy continued to rework the B-17s and transferred the first of 18 to the Coast Guard in July of 1946. These aircraft were Lockheed-Vega and carried Navy serial numbers. An additional PB-1G was obtained directly from the USAAF in 1947 and it served with a truncated AAF serial number. Two additional aircraft PB-1R configured for VIP operation and one aircraft configured for photo mapping were also provided.
The PB-1Gs were stationed throughout the hemisphere and were used primarily for search and rescue purposes. They were also used for Ice Patrol. The photo aircraft carried a nine-lens, 1.5 million dollar, aerial camera for mapping purposes. Interestingly, the Norden bombsight, used by the B-17s in the bombing campaign against Nazi Germany was retained and was used to pinpoint targets for the camera.
The PB-1Gs utilized for search and rescue initially carried the droppable life boat. The PB-1G carried no armament and the B-17 chin turret was replaced by a search radar. The USAAF had made several successful lifeboat drops during the war but no record of an actual Coast Guard drop could be located. The Coast Guard PB-1Gs served well over a period of years – the last was not withdrawn from service until October 14, 1959.