North American B-25 Mitchell Color Photographs Part VIII – 321st Bomb Group

The 321st Bombardment Group consisted of four Squadrons – the 445th, 446th, 447th, and 448th.  They deployed to North Africa as part of the 12th Air Force and began combat operations in March, 1943.  They fought throughout the Italian Campaign and in support of the invasion of Southern France, receiving two Distinguished Unit Citations.

Most of the photographs here were taken during the Summer of 1944 when the Group was operating from Corsica.  The photographer focused on the nose art and mission scoreboards.  Many of the paintings are the work of an exceptionally talented artist so be advised that some might consider a few of the renderings to be a bit risqué.

Modelers note that these B-25Js were delivered in overall natural metal finish and several aircraft had the uppersurfaces camouflaged in the field.  The color appears very dark, much darker than the standard Olive Drab used on most USAAF aircraft.  I am curious to hear opinions on this color.

Ave Maria was a 448th BS B-25J with an impressive scoreboard, her serial was 43-27636. The significance of the yellow three-lobed marking behind the nose escape hatch is unknown, but similar markings can be seen on other Mitchells from the Group.
A nice aerial shot of Ave Maria which reveals a number of interesting details such as the faded condition of the wing insignia and high demarcation of the field-applied camo. While chipped and faded, the upper surface color appears much darker than a typical Olive Drab finish.
Mama! was a B-25J assigned to the 447th Bomb Squadron. Some sources cite the name as “Pistol Packin’ Mama” which the artwork certainly implies but is not painted on the aircraft.
San-Antoneo Rose was still in the NMF at the time of this photograph, although the aircraft in the background has been camouflaged.
Readie Teddie was assigned to the 447th, another Mitchell with an impressive tally of mission markers. The details of the nose escape hatch have defied model kit manufacturers – the bottom edge is not in line with the rest of the nose glazing, and the two braces aft of the red handle are internal.
OH-7 is seen here in North Africa in 1943, she is one of the 445th BS initial complement of B-25Cs. Her serial was 41-13207.
Stuff was B-25J serial 43-27680 assigned to the 445th BS. She has the external armor plate protecting the cockpit area.
Big Jamoke is a NMF B-25J. She carries no mission markers, but the odd three-lobed marking is present again, this time in green.
B-25J serial 43-27551 of the 447th BS. MMR were the initials of the pilot’s girlfriend. The green marking may represent the artist’s signature. The upper surface camo avoids the transparency framing and appears darker than the faded anti-glare panel in front of the cockpit.

B-25 Color Photographs Part IX here:


5 thoughts on “North American B-25 Mitchell Color Photographs Part VIII – 321st Bomb Group

  1. Thanks for posting the 321BG images. And thanks for opening a big ‘ol can ‘o worms…! Anytime you open a discussion of color interpretation from 80 year old photos you risk an unrestricted global thermonuclear exchange…

    I suggest Occam’s Razor be applied here…, apply the simplest solution: The aircraft were painted in field-available stocks of OD.

    OD exhibited a notoriously wide variation in color, particularly when exposed to the elements, but even on initial factory application. At the factory it was often mixed locally according to AAF directive formulas, but (it would be safe to assume) not always particularly diligently considering wartime production pressures. In the field, they applied what paint they got. I doubt the aircraft were carefully prepped (etched and primed) for painting and that could explain some color variation. The paint was relatively new and did not yet experience much fading. The lack of surface preparation would help explain the worn and chipped condition. The inflight image of “Ave Maria” shows very dark color over the engine nacelle and the wing root area. Oil staining could account for that; even clean oil will make surfaces appear darker.

    Also, I would suggest the photos themselves exhibit a color shift that might make the OD seem darker. All of the colors in the images seem darker, more saturated and greener than actuality. The sky tones are approaching turquoise in most of the images…, a very dark and odd color for Italian skies. I believe that most period color images are from Kodak color slide film. Processing, storage, environmental conditions and a host of other factors combine to make accurate color assessment unreliable.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I agree with everything you said, Jeff, I could have written what you said myself (and probably have at some point)! Lots of colors are OD, FSM ran an article a few years back where they identified 41 shades.

      Looking at the inflight photo of Ave Maria, the mission markers are in black, and the canvas boot on the waist gun is OD. The camo paint is somewhere in between, and you can adjust midtones on the photo and this relationship does not change. The paint may very well have come from a can marked “Olive Drab”, but given the amount of Luftwaffe supplies & equipment left behind in Italy I also wonder about RLM 70 & 71.

      The question is how best to model it? The OD paints on my bench would be a good match for the canvas boot. I’d likely mix a black with the OD and compare that to a faded RLM 70 or 71 and see how that looked before deciding.


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