The 323 Bomb Group had the distinction of being the first Marauder group to see action in the European Theater, flying their first combat mission from Earls Colne, Essex on 16 July 1943. The Group was known as the “White Tails” due to the white stripe on the vertical fin. 41-34955 was named “Mission Belle”.
A close-up of “Mission Belle’s” nose art, showing 95 mission markers.
“Rock Hill Special” was a B-26C assigned to the 323rd BG, 454th Bomb Squadron. Here Serial Number was 41-3485. Most sources include “Lucky Graki” as part of this Marauder’s name, but I have to wonder if that wasn’t the nickname of the bombardier.
Another view of 41-34854 which shows additional details of her nose art.
A series of four photos of the 454 Bomb Squadron’s “Flaming Mamie”, serial number 41-34997. A close examination of the nose camouflage reveals several variations of the tone of the Olive Drab paint.
Canopy details of “Flaming Mamie”. The side panels could be opened for ventilation while to overhead panels hinged to the side to facilitate a quick exit.
Sgt. John Daily poses atop Mamie’s starboard engine. The outboard engine panel has been replaced with an uncamouflaged example. The nacelle and leading edge of the wing offer a good example of paint chipping for modelers wishing to duplicate the effect. 41-31961 in the background was shot down by flak over Caen, France on 06JUN44.
The starboard side of “Flaming Mamie” shows more chipping and her pin-up nose art.
“Little Lulu” shows an impressive tally of 61 mission markers. She was assigned to the 323 BG / 454 BS.
B-26C serial number 41-34969 of the 456 BS being towed by a wrecker, diorama material. Note that the ground crew is well-supplied with sheepskin “bomber jackets.”
Marauder 41-31951 of the 454 Bomb Group carried “Thunderbird” on the port side of her nose and “USO” to starboard.
Officers pose by the nose of “Bingo Buster”, serial number 41-34863. Most modelers, myself included, depict bombs with a fresh coat of paint, and sometimes even the prescribed markings. Many photos show the condition of bombs to be much different, with worn paint due to storage outside in all weather conditions.
The 455 Bomb Squadron’s “Bat-outa-hell” displays 56 bomb and 3 decoy mission markers, along with crew names by each station.
Part I here:
The Model 307 Stratoliner was an attempt by Boeing to re-engineer their successful B-17 design into a civilian airliner. This was done by marrying the engines, wings, and tail surfaces of the B-17C with an all- new fuselage optimized to carry passengers. The design first flew on 31DEC38. Three months later the aircraft crashed killing all ten people aboard; analysis of the crash led Boeing to increase the vertical tail surfaces by extending the fin along the top of the fuselage. This feature was introduced into B-17 production starting with the E model Fortress.
Despite the crash the Stratoliner entered production, Pan Am receiving their first aircraft in July 1940. TWA ordered five, on this example the B-17 heritage is obvious in the shape of the wings and tail.
Ten Model 307s were produced before America’s entry into the war curtailed all commercial aircraft production. TWA’s five Stratoliners were purchased by the Army for use as trans-Atlantic transports as the C-75. They were modified to carry additional fuel and served shuttling VIPs between America and England until replaced by the Douglas C-54 Skymaster in 1944, when they were returned to TWA. (LIFE Magazine photograph)
Flight crew consisted of a Pilot, Co-Pilot, and Flight Engineer. Passenger capacity was 33, which was increased to 38 after the aircraft were converted back to civilian airliners.
Both Pan Am and TWA sold off their Stratoliners in 1947 to other airlines, replacing them with faster types which could carry more passengers. Airnautic operated its Stratoliner in commercial service until 1974, flying routes out of Corsica.
Millionaire Howard Hughes purchased NC-19904 for an attempt at breaking his own speed record for an around-the-world flight. His attempt was abandoned with the start of the Second World War. He christened his Stratoliner “The Flying Penthouse”.
In an unusual twist, the fuselage of Hughes’ Stratoliner was ultimately sold and converted into a boat and named the “Cosmic Muffin”. She operated out of Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
The last surviving Model 307 is NC-19903. On its flight to the Smithsonian on 28MAR02 it was ditched at Seattle, Washington. The aircraft was successfully recovered, restored to flight-worthy condition, and the second time the donation flight was successful. The aircraft is currently on display at the Udvar-Hazy Center in Pan Am markings.
B-17 color photographs here:
James H. Howard was a Naval Aviator, a Flying Tiger, and the only fighter pilot to be awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor in the European Theater of Operations during WWII. His most famous exploit is best described by his Medal of Honor citation below:
For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity above and beyond the call of duty in action with the enemy near Oschersleben, Germany, on 11 January 1944. On that day Col. Howard was the leader of a group of P-51 aircraft providing support for a heavy bomber formation on a long-range mission deep in enemy territory. As Col. Howard’s group met the bombers in the target area the bomber force was attacked by numerous enemy fighters. Col. Howard, with his group, at once engaged the enemy and himself destroyed a German ME. 110. As a result of this attack Col. Howard lost contact with his group, and at once returned to the level of the bomber formation. He then saw that the bombers were being heavily attacked by enemy airplanes and that no other friendly fighters were at hand. While Col. Howard could have waited to attempt to assemble his group before engaging the enemy, he chose instead to attack single-handed a formation of more than 30 German airplanes. With utter disregard for his own safety he immediately pressed home determined attacks for some 30 minutes, during which time he destroyed 3 enemy airplanes and probably destroyed and damaged others. Toward the end of this engagement 3 of his guns went out of action and his fuel supply was becoming dangerously low. Despite these handicaps and the almost insuperable odds against him, Col. Howard continued his aggressive action in an attempt to protect the bombers from the numerous fighters. His skill, courage, and intrepidity on this occasion set an example of heroism which will be an inspiration to the U.S. Armed Forces.
As a U.S. Navy Ensign Howard flew the Grumman F3F-2 with VF-6, operating from the USS Enterprise (CV-6). Howard flew the third aircraft in the fourth section, coded 6-F-12. The aircraft was painted in the standard overall Aluminum dope with yellow upper wing surfaces. Enterprise aircraft carried blue tails. Fourth section carried black stripes on the upper wing, and as the sections’ third aircraft the lower half of the cowl would also be black.
Howard was recruited from VF-6 to go to China and became the Assistant Squadron Leader of the Second Pursuit Squadron “Hell’s Angels” with the American Volunteer Group, the Flying Tigers. He was credited with six victories with the AVG. His Curtiss Hawk 81 carried the number 57 on the aft fuselage. Howard is on the right in this photograph. He was one of two Flying Tigers who would go on to earn the Medal of Honor, the other being USMC Major Gregory “Pappy” Boyington.
While the deployment of the P-51B was intended to be kept secret at the time, the USAAF was eager to capitalize on the propaganda value of Howard’s January 11th exploits. Here is a posed color photo which reveals several interesting details of the markings of 43-6315. Note the repainted area under the “Ding Hao!” lettering, the white tail stripe, as well as the color of the main spar visible in the wheel bay.
Another press photo shows Howard and Staff Sergeant Marcus Hanson examining the kill markings. Ding Hao is a Chinese phrase for “very best”. Howard was the commander of the 356th Fighter Squadron, 354th Fighter Group. When asked why he single-handedly defended the B-17s against 30 German fighters, he said, “I seen my duty and I done it!”
An interesting photograph in many respects. On the 11JAN44 mission 43-6315 was fitted with the early framed canopy, this picture shows the details well. Fuselage stenciling is clearly seen, as are the details of the victory markings.
His is a later photo of Howard in the cockpit of 43-6315 to compare with the previous picture. The framed canopy has been replaced with the bulged Malcom Hood. The victory markings have been re-painted, this is most easily seen by comparing the fourth Japanese flag in each picture. There is also chipping seen on the first flags in each row. Howard’s name and that of the crew chief, S/SGT Trice have been added ahead of the windscreen. The censor has removed the aircraft type details from the data block.
An overall view of Ding Hao! With the Malcolm Hood. Already a popular modeling subject, Howard’s P-51B is featured on the box art for the new Arma Hobby P-51B kit and is one of six aircraft included on the decal sheet. Parts are provided to model the aircraft fitted with either canopy option.
Another color photo which shows the Malcolm Hood to advantage, the improvements to head room and visibility are apparent. There is chipping to the Ding Hao! Lettering, and broom symbols representing five fighter sweeps have been added above the exhausts.
The Vultee Vengeance was an American dive bomber produced in Nashville, Tennessee. While it did not see front-line service with the USAAF, it did see combat over Burma with the RAF and in the South Pacific with the Australians.
An error in calculating the wing’s center of lift was corrected by a unique reverse sweep to the outer wing panel, resulting in the appearance of a gull wing from certain angles. Another unusual (but less apparent) feature was the wing was mounted with zero incidence to the fuselage on early versions to enable a vertical dive-bombing run.
In the USAAF the type was designated the A-31. It was used for training, liaison, and target-towing duties in U.S. service.
The Vengeance had a heavy gun armament for a dive-bomber, with four .30-calibre machine guns in the wings and another pair on a swivel mount facing the rear. Even so, it was expected to be vulnerable to fighter interception and was assigned to theaters where enemy air opposition was light.
Vultee increased the engine horsepower and changed armament to .50 caliber machine guns, the most obvious external difference being the switch to a four-bladed prop. In USAAF service the redesigned Vengeance was designated A-35, the RAF called it the Vengeance IV. (NASM, Hans Groenhoff collection)
In RAF service the Vengeance gained a reputation as an effective dive-bomber, rugged and easy to fly. It served in the direct support role against the Japanese in Burma and was deemed to be very effective. It was phased out in mid-1944 in favor of fighter-bomber types, which were more versatile.
The Vengeance was also popular with the RAAF, where it was valued for the high accuracy of its dive-bombing attacks. The RAAF withdrew its Vengeances from front-line service in the spring of 1944, the units converting to the B-24 Liberator.
A total of 1,931 Vengeances were produced, the vast majority at Vultee’s Nashville, Tennessee facility.
There have been several Vultee Vengeance kits produced in 1/72 scale, the most recent from Special Hobby. AZ Model and Dora Wings offer kits in 1/48 scale, and Combat Models made a vacuform kit for 1/32 scale modelers.
Production line photographs here: