Whether the original "Boots" was an aircraft or the nickname of a person is not yet known but 96BG had at least three B17s which sported this title. "Boots II" was the first known and was originally assigned to 381BG where it was first called "Messie Bessie" and later "Carol Jane". This latter title was embellished with a raunchy half nude torso painted by an unknown artist. It also carried a smaller emblem featuring cowboy boots in a circle positioned below the pilot's windows. This may have been the source of White's later nose art painting. Transferred into 96BG on 6th July '43, this B17F crashed on take off on 5th January 1944.
"Boots III" (42-30227) arrived in 96BG in mid June '43 and seems to have also carried the title "Wabbit Twacks". The latter name is mentioned in a news article relating to the raid on LeBourget airfield in France on 10th July 1943. On that occasion, it lost an engine and in the sustained fighter attacks the crew claimed nine enemy aircraft shot down or damaged. The B17 was transferred to 401BG in mid December of the same year.
"Boots IV" reached Snetterton in early October 1943 and Johnnie White painted an enlarged motif displaying the cowboy boots and (curiously) a red and white striped top hat. Mission symbols were added in a circle around the outer rim of the design. More than 22 missions were completed and at least five of these sustained battle damage, the last so far recorded being from Berlin flak on 24th May '44. At some time after this date, "Boots IV" was transferred out of 96BG and sent to the Mediterranean area. No record has been found of combat flying with any of the 15AF's 5th Bomb Wing units and it is assumed that the veteran Fort was taken off operations and used as a liaison/training plane.
However, by March 45, Boots IV was back in England and based at Bovingdon with the 1402 Base Unit. On 31st March, Capt Walter Hottenstein took off on a local training flight with a co-pilot and two flight engineers, one of which was WAAC Emma Jane Windham. As the aircraft climbed away after take off it collided with a C47, severed the tail of the transport, and plummeted to earth killing all four on board.
(My thanks to Ron Strickland for the information on the final flight and loss of this B17).