B-17s produced prior to 1942: 632
B-17s destroyed at Pearl Harbor: 4
B-17s produced throughout war: 12,731
Total taken by Royal Air Force: 200 (20 pre-1943)
Total B-17 and B-25 bombers available prior to 1942: 892
As the B-17 Flying Fortress had the range and the payload to destroy Japanese carriers – I’m informed that the Japanese greatly feared them, their ineffectiveness at Midway notwithstanding – it seems the height of absurdity to argue that with 608 Flying Fortresses plus another 284 B-25s at its disposal USA did not possess the wherewithal to patrol and defend the West Coast against naval raids. The fact that the President and his military advisors made the decision to send most of these planes to Europe to be used in a future strategic bombing campaign indicates the extent to which they were not genuinely concerned about the West Coast’s vulnerability.
Nor can one argue that the USA’s production capacity was a mystery to the President. “In May 1940, President Roosevelt stated that he wanted the U.S. aircraft industry able to turn out at least 50,000 planes a year. This involved expanding from little more than 2,000 planes per year to 4,000 per month.” That number had already reached about 2,000/month by January 1942, and FDR’s target was reached by the end of 1942, hitting 7,150/month in 1943 while many Japanese-Americans still languished in internment.