Curtiss-Wright P-40 Warhawk Production Color Photographs Part III

A series of color photographs detailing the production of early P-40 Warhawks at the Curtiss-Wright Plant at Buffalo, New York, Summer 1941.  With war in Europe and U.S. Army Air Corps orders exceeding the normal capacity of the plant, production spilled out into the open air around the factory.  LIFE Magazine photographer Dmitri Kessel took this series of pictures, part III.

A finished P-40 taxis at the Buffalo Airport.
Running up the engine during final assembly.
Delivery pilots in flight gear, with brand-new Warhawks.
A fitter at work inside a fuselage at the Curtiss plant.
Final engine adjustments.
A good view of the radiator assembly under the engine.
Details of the propeller markings.
A Warhawk on a test flight. “247” is marked on the cowling ant the vertical tail.
“247” again, showing the standard four-position placement of the national insignia.
A new Warhawk in formation with another Curtiss design, an SBC-4 Helldiver.

Curtiss-Wright P-40 Warhawk Production Color Photographs Part II

A series of color photographs detailing the production of early P-40 Warhawks at the Curtiss-Wright Plant at Buffalo, New York, Summer 1941.  With war in Europe and U.S. Army Air Corps orders exceeding the normal capacity of the plant, production spilled out into the open air around the factory.  LIFE Magazine photographer Dmitri Kessel took this series of pictures, part II.

A busy photograph showing aircraft in various stages of completion outside the Buffalo plant. This photograph is often shown reversed, but the fuselage access door under the insignia was on the aircraft’s port side.
A good view of workstands for the diorama builder.
Workers posing for the photographer with an unpainted Warhawk.
Several details visible here, the engine has leaked a lot of fluid.
Watertower with the Curtiss logo. A wide variety of completion progress between the airframes visible here.
Two fuselages on stands outside the plant.
Even the area outside the plant was crowded, although not as badly as inside.
Another photograph normally seen reversed, given away by the pitot tube on the port wing of the aircraft in the background.
Details of the engine, with the assembly number marked on the cowling.
A view of the paint shop, with components being coated with zinc chromate primer.
The transportation arrangement for the trip to the Buffalo airport.
When transporting the aircraft by truck wasn’t fast enough, the aircraft were flown to the Buffalo airport from the Curtiss parking lot. A P-40 takes off in the background.

Curtiss-Wright P-40 Warhawk Production Color Photographs Part I

A series of color photographs detailing the production of early P-40 Warhawks at the Curtiss-Wright Plant at Buffalo, New York, Summer 1941.  With war in Europe and U.S. Army Air Corps orders exceeding the normal capacity of the plant, production spilled out into the open air around the factory.  LIFE Magazine photographer Dmitri Kessel took this series of pictures.

The assembly line moves outside, which makes engine tests a bit easier.
Tail assemblies in primer.
Wing assemblies, showing useful details of the flaps and wheel wells.
Fitting the canvas cover into the wheel well in the wing. These were sometimes removed in the field.
Working on the underside of the wing panels. Flap details are visible again in the background.
Crowded conditions inside the plant. Note the style and color of the “ARMY” lettering under the port wing, “U.S.” was under the starboard.
Stacks of wing spars.
Fuselages early in the construction process.
Fuselages in various stages of completion, again note the crowded conditions.
Engine tests outside. Note the identification code taped to the fuselage in the foreground.
Tanks in the paint shop receiving primer.
A bonus photograph of a wingtip from another Curtiss design, a rather obscure type in production at the same time as the Warhawks. Any guesses as to the aircraft?

De Havilland DH.98 Mosquito Color Photographs Part II

A beautiful in-flight photograph of a Mosquito B Mk. IV. DK338 was later issued to No. 105 Squadron.
This is NT181, a Mosquito FB Mk. VI assigned to No. 620 Squadron at East Wretham.
NT181 again, from the front. The wear to the spinners and nacelle is interesting and would pose a challenge to the modeler.
Rockets proved especially effective against shipping. The armorers here wear leather jerkins, each man is attired slightly differently.
A Mosquito is “bombed up” with a little canine assistance. Compare the appearance of the bomb fins with that of the bomb bodies.
A South African Air Force FB Mk. VI of No. 60 Squadron photographed at Bari, Italy, September 1944. Note the spinners are different colors.
Another view of the same aircraft, serial number HP968.
One of the more attractive Mosquito schemes is the overall PRU Blue, as seen here worn by PR Mk. XVI of RAF No. 684 Squadron at Alipore, India. NS645 was written off in after belly landing at Saigon in November 1945.
Another beautiful shot of a Mosquito in PRU Blue. This is PR Mk. XVI MM364 at Mount Farm, Oxfordshire. This aircraft was passed on to the USAAF, where she served with the 25th Bomb Group.
KB424 served with No. 162 Squadron RAF, she was a Mosquito B Mk. 25.

De Havilland DH.98 Mosquito Color Photographs Part I

A fine aerial study of a Mosquito F Mk II of No. 456 Squadron Royal Australian Air Force in flight. The Mosquito was one of the most versatile aircraft designs of the Second World War and operated in a wide variety of roles. (World War Photos)
Wing Commander John B. Selby, DSO, DFC, poses in front of a Mosquito of No. 23 Squadron at Luqa, Malta, 27JUN43. He claimed four victories on the Hurricane, scoring his fifth with No. 23 Squadron on the Mosquito to make ace. (Imperial War Museum photograph)
Another posed Malta photograph from the same sequence, this offers several details useful for modelers. Note the chock with individual aircraft letter, uniforms, and the ubiquitous Malta stone revetment. (Imperial War Museum photograph)
Another No. 23 Squadron Mosquito over Malta. A fine view which conveys a sense of speed. (Imperial War Museum photograph)
A view of the de Havilland factory floor at Hatfield, Hertfordshire during 1943, where the largest share of Mosquitos were produced. Note the mix of camouflage on the wings. In the left rear of the photograph is an odd mix with a PRU Blue fuselage and camouflaged wings!
A factory-fresh Mosquito at Hatfield being “inspected” by workers for the benefit of the photographer. A total of 3,326 Mosquitos were built at Hatfield.
The USAAF operated several Mosquitos under reverse Lend-Lease. This is a PR Mk XVI of the 654th Bomb Squadron, 25th Bomb Group. The Group painted the tail surfaces red after one of their aircraft was shot down in error by a P-51 Mustang. In the background is a reconnaissance version of the Lightning, the F-5.
Another Mosquito of the 654th Bomb Squadron, 25th Bomb Group. The Mosquito currently on display at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force is painted in 25BG markings: https://inchhighguy.wordpress.com/2020/08/09/de-havilland-dh-98-mosquito-mk-xvi-walk-around/
Count on the Americans to apply nose art! This is “Pamela”.
MT482 was an NF.Mk 30 operated by the USAAF’s 416th Night Fighter Squadron. It was lost with both crew members on 22APR45 while operating from Pontedera Air Base, Italy.

Martin B-26 Marauder Color Photographs Part IV – 344th Bomb Group Continued

A fine example of nose art with an impressive mission tally is “Yo-Yo Champ”, a B-26B of the 497BS.
Ground crew pose with the 497BS Marauder “Lethal Lady”, 42-95986. The bicycle was ubiquitous around air bases in England.
“Six Hits and a Miss” is a reference to the six-man crew of the B-26. She served with the 495BS. Modelers note the highly-polished surface of the oleo strut on the nose gear and dual alignment scissors.
The panel below the cockpit of “Mary Ann” has received a fresh coat of Neutral Gray prior to the artist beginning his work. This is 42-10754 of the 494BS.
Major John Caitlin poses with flak damage. “Flak” is an abbreviation of the German word Flugabwehrkanone which translates as anti-aircraft gun in English.
“Shopworn Angel” of the 495BS would make an interesting diorama subject. Her serial number is 42-95917, side codes Y5-J. She appears little damaged except for her prop blades and the open roof hatches would allow cockpit details to be easily seen.
“Smilin’ Joy” of the 497BS. Note the bombs and equipment stacked casually in the background, a common feature of operational airfields.
The artwork of “Piccadilly Willy” is applied to the camouflaged armor panels while much of the remaining paint has been stripped.
Another example of camouflaged armor panels on a stripped aircraft is “You Can’t Miss It!” of the 494BS.
“Rum Buggy” was serial number 42-95924 of the 495BS.
“Maffrey’s Mottled Marauder” lacks the crew names which adorned most of the aircraft of the 344BG. ATC refers to the Air Transport Command.
“Tom’s Tantalizer” exhibits an uncommonly clean appearance, the result of being completely uncamouflaged with the exception of the paint serving as to reduce glare on the nose forward of the cockpit.

Martin B-26 Marauder Color Photographs Part IV – 344th Bomb Group

The 344th bomb Group was composed of four squadrons, the 494th, 495th, 496th, and 497th Bomb Squadrons.  They operated from Stansted Mountfitchet, England from February through September 1944, where the majority of these color photographs were taken.  After the invasion they relocated to Cormeilles-en-Vexin which was just outside Paris until April 1945, finishing the war in Florennes Belguim.  The Group was assigned to the Ninth Air Force and operated the Martin B-26 B/C.  Most mission assignments were tactical targets in support of ground operations, the Group was very active during the invasion of Normandy and the ensuing breakout.  These photographs display a selection of nose art applied to the Marauders.

Most USAAF aircrew applied names to their aircraft, and many featured accompanying artwork as well. “Valkyrie” of the 497BS features particularly professional examples of both.
This Marauder was 42-95875 assigned to the 495BS. Her port side carries her mission markers along with the name “Bunny’s Honey” …
… while the starboard side of 42-95875 carries the name “The Buzzard”. One has to wonder how many aircraft carried nose art or inscriptions on both sides, the markings on the unphotographed side which could now be lost to history.
The work of a talented artist, this is 42-95952 of the 497BS “You’ve ‘Ad It”. Airmen were conscripted from all walks of life, resulting in professions and trades from every part of society being represented in the ranks.
Often the aircraft carried humorous nicknames, this is “Facsimile” of the 496BG, which advertises “All the Comforts of an Airplane”. Many of the 344th’s aircraft featured very professionally applied lettering.
“Johnny Come Lately” shows off an impressive mission tally but no artwork. She was serial number 42-95896 assigned to the 497BS.
The 344th must have possessed a professional signmaker in their ranks, as evidenced by the quality layout of the logo on “Rosie O’Brady”.
Two ships from the 495th ready for take-off, “Rosie O’Brady” (Y5-P) in the background and “Lak-a-Nookie” (Y5-O) in the foreground.
A series of shots showing the “Terre Haute Tornado” 42-95906 of the 497Bs over time. Here she is after completing four missions.
The “Terre Haute Tornado” again, showing Lt. Jack Havener in April 1944 with his finger in a shell splinter hole. While the Marauder enjoyed to lowest combat loss rate of any USAAF bomber type, they were not invulnerable to enemy fire.
The “Tornado” again, showing an impressive mission tally and painted-out invasion markings on her wing.
Another spectacular example of nose art, this is 42-95903 “Hard To Get” of the 497BS.

Martin B-26 Marauder Color Photographs Part III – 322nd Bomb Group Continued

Easily the most well-known Marauder is B-26B-25-MA “Flak Bait” of the 449 Bombardment Squadron. She holds the distinction of having survived more combat missions than any other American aircraft of the Second World War, with 206 missions completed. Flak Bait was preserved after the war, and is currently undergoing restoration at the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum.
Flying low over the English countryside is the 450th BS “Bag of Bolts”. At the end of the war, the Marauder boasted the lowest combat loss rate of any USAAF bomber type.
A typical scene as Marauders of the 450th BS taxi into position for take-off at Bury St. Edmonds, England.
“Bluebeard II” begins her take-off run. The B & C subtypes were essentially the same, the B models were manufactured at Baltimore, Maryland, the C’s were built in Omaha, Nebraska.
“Clark’s Little Pill” at the head of a line of 451st BS Marauders awaiting their turns to take off. A total of 5,288 Marauders were produced.
Diorama bait! Engine maintenance in progress in the open. Note the paint wear and fading on the cowling in the foreground.
Bombardier Clayton Allen displaying his flight gear and details of the flexible .50 caliber nose gun. Crews often painted their flight jackets with mission tallies, nose art, and squadron insignia.
Squadron formations were the norm, and often all four of the Group’s squadrons would be assigned. Note the use of Neutral Gray to make the national markings and side codes less conspicuous.
The mission’s payload is being delivered. The stabilizing tail fin assemblies were separate from the bomb itself, and weren’t necessarily finished in the same color. Many bombs show signs of rough handling and outdoor storage such as dirt and corrosion.
Another airborne shot of “Bag of Bolts”. The US Olive Drab paint faded to a variety of shades, often reflecting the differing paint mixes used by various sub-contractors. No aircraft component was ever rejected for deviating from the color standard for Olive Drab paint.
The “Renegade” returns from a mission. The landing gear legs appear longer in this view because the oleos are fully extended without the weight of the aircraft to compress them. This is where the Marauder gained her reputation as a “widowmaker” – the required landing speed was much higher than other types, and inexperienced pilots who slowed below the recommended 150 mph (241 Km/h) speed stalled.
The crew chief directs his Marauder into the proper spot on the parking apron. With the mission complete, the crew can de-brief and get some rest, but the maintenance work was just beginning.

Martin B-26 Marauder Color Photographs Part II – 322nd Bomb Group

The 322nd Bombardment Group (Medium) was composed of the 449th, 450th, 451st, and 452nd Bomb Squadrons.  Their initial combat operations were as part of the Eighth Air Force operating from Bury St. Edmonds, England.  They operated Martin B-26 B & C Marauders during the spring and summer of 1943, when photographers from LIFE Magazine took these color photographs.

A group shot in flight gear in front of a B-26B of the 450th BS, Pappy’s Pram. This photo shows the USAAF B3 sheepskin jacket to good advantage, along with other details of equipment and gear. Given that all these men are posing with cameras and show no insignia or markings on their gear they may well be the LIFE photographers who took this series of photos.
Marauders of the 322ndBG taxiing into take-off position. The red surround to the national insignia was authorized only during the summer of 1943. Note that the side codes and insignia are painted in the same Neutral Gray color as the undersurfaces to subdue the markings.

Nose art of 41-18022 “El Diablo”, ER-U, assigned to the 450th BS.  Modelers note the hard demarcation between the upper and lower surface colors as well as the chipping on the nose wheel door.
Details of the defensive armament are visible as this B-26B taxies by. There were three gunners located in the aft section of the B-26 – a tail gunner, a dorsal turret gunner, and a gunner operating single hand-held .50 caliber guns in the lower fuselage to defend the beams.
A fine study of Lil Joe II of the 452nd BS in the air. The Olive Drab paint used on the upper surfaces was notorious for fading to a number of different shades, this was particularly apparent when component manufacturers used different paint mixtures. This B-26B shows significant wear and chipping to her finish, as well as evidence of touch-ups around the cockpit and ventral turret areas.
“Colonel Rebel” of the 449th BS in the air.
A clearer shot of “Colonel Rebel” taxiing on the ground. She was a B-26B, serial number 41-18289.
Some Marauders were fitted with additional forward-firing .50 caliber machine guns, aimed by the pilot and serviced by the bombardier. This is reportedly the starboard side nose art of 41-31744 of the 449th BS, which carried the name “Hank’s Yanks” and mission tally on the port side.
A formation of 449th BS Marauders with 41-31757 “We Dood It” in the foreground. Three-ship groups formed larger squadron and group sized formations to concentrate their defensive firepower for mutual support.
Nose art of the 450th BS “Fightin’ Cock”, showing twenty mission markings as well as two decoy runs.
Nose art of the 449th BS B-26B 41-31767 “Ginger” showing nineteen mission markers and six decoy runs. Another study in uniforms and flight gear, the pilot is seen wearing a “flak jacket” and apron, designed to protect against shrapnel but an obvious liability in the event of a water landing.
Ginger’s pilot and co-pilot pose in the cockpit for the photographer, showing details of the glazing. One might be tempted to think of the upper surface color as a uniform Olive Drab, but study of close-up shots such as this one reveals several different tonal variations to the paint as well as areas which have been re-painted.

Martin B-26 Marauder Color Photographs Part I – 320th Bomb Group

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A formation photograph of Marauders from the 320th Bomb Group’s 441st Squadron. Modelers note the variety of camouflage and markings, remaining paint where the cheek gun packs have been removed, and the extensive oil staining under the nacelles.

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A beautiful study of B-26F 42-96322 of the 441st Squadron.

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Although not the highest quality photo, it is comparatively rare to have photographs of both sides of an aircraft – let alone in color.

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A 441st Squadron formation banks away while their target burns in the background.

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Another 441st Squadron ship, this is 41-34891 “Missouri Mule”, a B-26C. The red cowling faces and propeller hubs are a Group marking.

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Thumper II is another 441st Squadron ship. She is B-26C 42-10778.

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Here is a close-up of Thumper II’s nose art, note the mission markers extend to cover the landing gear door.

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“Bell Ringer” was B-26C 42-107534. One of the cheek gun fairings remains in place on her port side but does not carry a gun.

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A close-up of “Belle Ringer” nose art and scoreboard, which also extends to the landing gear cover.

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A 442nd Squadron B-26G seen from above, showing fading and wear to her olive drab uppersurfaces.

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Most of the 320th Bomb Group’s 444th Squadron carried shark’s mouths in addition to nose art applied by the crews. This is B-26C 42-107733 “My Darling”. Her formation number was 99.

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Another 444th Squadron Marauder with the shark mouth is 42-10782 “Ol’ Folks”, which carried formation number 98.