Martin B-26 Marauder Color Photographs Part IX – 323 Bomb Group

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:

Bell P-59 Airacomet Color Photographs

The Bell P-59 Airacomet was America’s first jet fighter design. It used a copy of Britain’s W.1 engine, which was produced by General Electric as the GE J31. It flew for the first time on 01OCT42. Pictured here is the prototype at Muroc Dry Lake in late 1942.
Like most early jets, the P-59 was underpowered and had a short range. Engine reliability was also an issue, constant maintenance was required. In fly-offs the P-59 was out-matched by both the P-38 Lightening and P-47 Thunderbolt.
On the other hand, the Airacomet was designed with a heavy armament carried in the nose. The first aircraft were equipped with two 37mm cannon. This was later changed to one 37mm cannon and three .50 caliber machine guns.
Cockpit layout was conventional. This is a photograph of the restored P-59B cockpit at the National Museum of the United States Air Force at Dayton, Ohio.
A total of 66 Airacomets of all types were built, including 20 P-59A and 30 P-59B production aircraft. The lackluster performance prevented the type from ever being used in combat and the Lockheed P-80 Shooting Star being selected for service.
Two YP-49A development aircraft, 42-108778 and 42-108779 were delivered to the Navy for carrier compatibility trails. The Navy designated the type YF2L-1 and assigned them BuNo 63960 and 63961 respectively. Here 42-108778 is being examined by Navy personnel.
A fine study of two YP-59A’s in flight. While the type was not successful, it was used for training and familiarization flights to introduce USAAF personnel to the new technology.
This overhead view shows extensive wear to the Olive Drab over Neutral Gray finish of one of the the YP-59A development aircraft.
A 1947 photograph of a YP-59A named “Mystic Mistress” at an open house at Wright Patterson AFB. If you look closely, you can see an open observer’s cockpit has been fitted forward into the armament bay. Five Airacomets were converted in this manner, and were used during flight tests and to control other Airacomets configured as drones.

Republic XF-12 Rainbow Color Photographs

The Republic Rainbow was designed to fulfill a 1943 requirement for a reconnaissance aircraft able to reach an altitude of 40,000 feet (12,000 meters), a speed of 400 mph (640 kph), and a range of 4,000 miles (7,400 km). All these criteria were exceeded. The design used four Pratt & Whitney R-4360 Wasp Major 28-cylinder engines, each developing 3,250 horsepower. The prototype made its maiden flight on 04FEB46. (NASM Rudy Arnold collection)
The Rainbow’s design emphasis was on minimizing drag, and the result is considered by many to be one the most beautiful aircraft of the time. Cooling air and turbocharger exhaust was discharged through the back of each engine nacelle, the resulting thrust was calculated to produce the equivalent of an extra 250 horsepower per engine. Pictured is an unmarked Rainbow prototype along with a P-47 Thunderbolt and RC-3 Seabee for comparison.
The Rainbow lacked cowl flaps, which would have increased drag. When additional engine cooling was needed the entire cowling moved to open a slot to increase airflow. Another novel feature seen in this photograph is the pressurized cockpit visible behind the clear aerodynamic nosecone, which was unpressurized.
Two aircraft were built, serials 44-91002 and 44-91003. The fuselage contained a fully-equipped photo lab so that photographs could be developed on the return leg of a reconnaissance flight. The second prototype performed a mapping demonstration dubbed Operation Bird’s Eye, which mapped a swath of the continental United States from coast to coast in less than seven hours. The finished photo mosaic was 325 feet (99 meters) long. (NASM Rudy Arnold collection)
The Rainbow came too late to serve in the Second World War. Despite its impressive performance, jet-powered designs held greater promise and the USAAF decided to make due with modifications of existing types until the jets entered service. The second prototype was lost after an engine explosion on 07NOV48, while the first was retired in June 1952 and expended as a target.
No Rainbows survive today. For those wishing to add a Rainbow to their model collection, Anigrand produces a resin kit in 1/72 scale. While a little pricy, it is a large model. (NASM Rudy Arnold collection)

Sikorsky HNS-1 / R-4B / Hoverfly Helicopter Color Photographs

The Sikorsky HNS-1 is generally considered to be the first successful helicopter to enter military service in series production. It was known as the HNS-1 by the USN, R-4B by the USAAF, and Hoverfly in British service. It flew for the first time on 14JAN42. (NASM Rudy Arnold collection)
This is BuNo 39040 flown by Coast Guard LT Stewart Graham in 1943. Graham made the first successful helicopter sortie from a ship on 16JAN44, taking off and returning to the British freighter SS Daghestan. Notable in this photograph is that the helicopter is fitted with landing skids instead of wheels.
The Coast Guard was interested in developing the HNS-1 as a rescue platform, but convinced the Navy department to fund the program as an anti-submarine aircraft. Here is BuNo 39040 again, demonstrating the rescue hoist for the press. The helicopters were dual-serialed, Navy BuNo 39040 was also listed as USAAF s/n 43-46525. The Coast Guard used the last two digits of the Bureau Number as the side number. (NASM Rudy Arnold collection)
The HSN-1 could also be fitted with inflatable pontoons for landing on the water, details of the pontoon installation are visible in this photograph. (NASM Rudy Arnold collection)
More details of the pontoon installation can be seen here on BuNo 39043 / s/n 43-46544. The helicopter has been fitted with a canvas-covered litter on the starboard side. (NASM Rudy Arnold collection)
The Navy and Coast Guard operated their HSN-1s on the East Coast, developing operational procedures for the SAR and ASW missions. The first successful helicopter combat rescue was performed in the China-Burma-India theater in APR44, extracting four survivors from the jungle after an aircraft crash. The R-4 was also deployed to the Pacific for liaison flights by the USAAF in May44.
The steamer Governor Cobb was converted by the Coast Guard to evaluate shipboard helicopter operations. She was fitted with a flight deck and armament and commissioned as USCGC Cobb (WPG-181) on 20JUL43. She landed her first helicopter on 15JUN44, but the poor condition of her engineering plant limited her effectiveness. She is seen here with HNS-1 (R-4) on the right and HO2S (R-5) helicopters.
With the official end of the war in Europe on 09MAY45 German forces were ordered to cease hostilities and surrender to the Allies. The Type IXC/40 submarine U-858 was operating off the U.S. coast and surrendered to the U.S. Navy on 14 May. Here is the U-858 with a prize crew off Cape Henlopen, Delaware with an HNS-1 and blimp overhead. Modelers note the amount of chipping on the conning tower of the submarine.

Boeing Model 307 Stratoliner Color Photographs

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:

North American P-51B Mustang “Ding Hao!” of James H. Howard

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.

Vought V-173 Flying Pancake Color Photographs

The Vought V-173 was a concept demonstrator designed by aeronautical engineer Charles Zimmerman. It was a lifting body with an unusual circular planform which led to the nickname “Flying Pancake” or “Flying Flapjack”, and several reports of UFO sightings. The U.S. Navy became interested due to the promising characteristics of the design, including its structural strength, maneuverability, and low-speed handling. First flight was on 23NOV42. (NASM, Rudy Arnold Collection)
A major source of drag from a traditional airfoil is due to wingtip vortices generated by higher-pressure air spilling over the ends of the wings. Zimmerman’s design countered this phenomenon by mounting propellers at the extreme forward edges of the body and gearing them so the tops of the propeller discs would rotate outwards. The direction of the prop wash would therefore cancel out the wingtip vortices and increase pressure on the underside of the aircraft’s body, increasing lift and reducing drag. (NASM, Rudy Arnold Collection)
The aircraft was able to fly at very low airspeeds, what would be termed STOL (Short Take-Off and Landing) today. To maintain control at low airspeeds traditional elevators were not used, the entire horizontal tailplane was moveable. Test pilots, including Charles Lindbergh, found the aircraft to be very maneuverable and almost impossible to stall. (NASM, Rudy Arnold Collection)
Because of the nose-high attitude of the aircraft the underside of the nose was extensively glazed. This was not an optimal solution, as pilots still had difficulty seeing the runway due to the approach angles required. Nevertheless, the V-173 proved the viability of the lifting body concept and suitability as a STOL design. It flew for the last time on 31MAR47, after 190 flights. (NASM, Rudy Arnold Collection)
The V-173 is preserved, and is on display at the Frontiers of Flight Museum in Dallas, Texas.
The Navy asked Vought to develop the concept into a prototype fighter aircraft, which resulted in the XF5U. Two were constructed, each using two Pratt & Whitney R-2000 radial engines mounted in the fuselage. The design was promising, but after the war the focus shifted to jet aircraft and the project was cancelled on 17MAR47.

Vultee Vengeance Production Color Photographs

Here are a few photographs featuring Vengeance dive bombers under construction at Vultee’s Nashville Tennessee plant, showing some interior details and primer color of the A-31.  There was a significant effort to recruit women into war production plants.  In 1940 women made up 1% of the workforce in aviation production plants, by 1943 they comprised 65%.  “Rosie the Riveter” is still an icon today, and actual production workers were featured in contemporary press articles to encourage women to enter the workforce.  Interesting photographs which are hopefully of use to modelers. Photographs from the Alfred Palmer collection, Library of Congress.

Vengeance color photographs here:

Vultee Vengeance Color Photographs

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:

Brewster SB2A Buccaneer Color Photographs

The Brewster SB2A Buccaneer has the dubious distinction of being regarded as one of the worst aircraft designs of the Second World War. Its performance was unspectacular, its structure weak, it lacked maneuverability, and it was overweight.
Desperate for aircraft to combat the German invasion, several countries placed orders for the design before the prototype had made its first flight. France ordered 250, the Dutch 162, Britain 500, the US Navy 140, and Australia 243. The British named the type the “Bermuda”, shown here are FF841 and FF840 in British colors. (NASM, Rudy Arnold collection)
Australia cancelled their order in favor of the Vultee Vengeance when the Bermuda’s problems became obvious. Britain took over the French order, the USAAF took over part of the British order as the A-34. Shown are a flight of Buccaneers in the U.S. Navy camo of Blue Gray over Light Gray and 1942-43 markings. (NASM, Hans Groenhoff collection)
Brewster suffered from poor management, unskilled labor, and worker strikes. The problems interfered with production and became so bad that the Navy seized Brewster in April 1942, but even this did not completely rectify the deficiencies. Brewster-produced aircraft gained a reputation for poor construction and workmanship among pilots and ground crew throughout the war. (NASM, Rudy Arnold collection)
Buccaneers were deemed unsuitable for combat. Most were used in second-line duties as trainers, target tugs, or hacks. Several were scrapped right off the assembly line or left derelict instead of being repaired. (NASM, Rudy Arnold collection)
Wartime propaganda efforts tried to give the impression of serviceability, but no Buccaneers or Bermudas ever saw combat.
Despite its dismal record and obscurity, kits are available of the SB2A. 1/48 scale modelers have a vacuform kit from Vac Wings, and Special Hobby offers a 1/72 scale kit.