94th BG, VIII Air Force
“At the Very End”
by Joe Lyons
Photo, Courtesy Squadron/Signal Publications.
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“Advise all combat crews that 94th Group of 4th Wing will be seen flying B-17 airplanes on combat missions on which ball turrets and chin turrets have been removed. These airplanes have yellow tails marked with one vertical red stripe and letter A in black square. They are friendly.”
4th BD memo of 29 March 1945 - Bell, Reference a
94th Bombardment Group
The 94th began operations in the spring of 1943 and continued to do so until the end of the war in Europe.
First Mission: 13 May 1943
Last Mission: 21 April 1945
Total Credit sorties: 8884
Total Bomb Tonnage: 12,924.6 tons
E/a claims: 342
A/C MIA: 153
Major Awards: DUC – 17 August 1943 (Regensburg)
DUD – 11 January 1944 (Brunswick)
Stations: Bassingbourn, Earls Colne, Bury St. Edmunds
B-17 Flying Fortress
Equipped the 94th throughout its wartime existence.
The Aircraft Replicated by the Model
The references provided the inspiration for this model. The 94th BG towards the very end of the war experimented with a weight reduction program for some of its aircraft. The visual indications were the removal of the chin and belly turrets and the installation of a flexible .50 gun in the nosepiece ala´ B-17F. Photos of these “experiments” survive, and I picked one of them to serve as guide for the model. The color photos are apparently not in the Public Domain but can be found on pp29-31 of Reference b. B-17G-95-BO (43-388825 nose art, if any, unknown), “F” of the 331st BS, is the aircraft.
The Monogram 1/48 scale B-17 is claimed to have been in continuous release since its introduction in 1974, and of course has no peer as a “G” chin turret model. Many pine for a newer kit of this airplane. My advice is, be careful of what you wish for, you may get it and then the Rending of Garments shall truly begin. If you can afford it.
Past my own modeling skills (such as they are) what made this model possible was the Koster B-17 conversion offering in 1:48. The kit does a good job of presenting us with an early production aircraft with non-staggered waist windows and the original tail gun position.
Koster gives us the Cheyenne tail gun position and the waist windows appropriate for late model ‘17s with staggered waist guns.
The Big Modifications. (Departures from OOB)
- A new waist window must be carved out of the starboard fuselage half in the correct staggered position, cut to allow a close fit of the new waist Koster window.
- The original port kit waist window must be replaced by its Koster equivalent.
- Waist gun mountings upgraded to the later ‘coffee can’ version.
- Tail gun position modified to accept the “bal” tail gun mounting and the enlarged Cheyenne clear piece.
- Removal of the chin streaming lining fairing behind the now-redundant turret.
- Covering with sheet plastic of the ball and chin turret opening.
- Modification of the nosepiece for the flexible gun.
Minor Departures (starting with the nose and working aft)
- Nose compartment
- Nose gun from spares box
- Metal reinforcements to support the nose gun.
- Ammunition chutes for nose and cheek guns; sights for all three.
- Top Turret - .50 cal ammo belts (Tom’s Model Works) between the guns, feeding into the gun breeches.
- Waist compartment: guns sights and ammo chutes
- Tail gun position: armor glass from plastic sheet: scratch-built gun sight
- Wire fin-to-radio room radio antenna.
- Wire under-fuselage “clothes line” antenna
In common with most USAAF late-war production warplanes (and all such B-17s), “F” was delivered in overall NMF finish with anti-glare panels in front of the cockpit and on the sides of the cowlings and nacelles. Model Master Metalizers (two shades, to emphasize various inspection panels and airframe sections) were used overall, with anti-glare panels were done in someone’s OD. The engine cowling “hot” sections were done in a darker metalizer.
…. In December 1944,a red chevron was painted on the upper surface of the right wing and the under surface of the left. The apex of the chevron was at the wing leading edge, with the two arms 36 or 48in wide. Positioned opposite the aileron, the Square A marking was removed form the upper right surface prior to painting the chevron.
In January 1945 the 94th Bomb Group experimented with a new 4th Combat Wing marking, and when this was approved all the Group’s aircraft were so painted during the first weeks of February. Wing tips and all the tail surfaces were painted yellow. The Square A was retained on the tail and the tail number was either reinstated on the tail and the tail number was either reinstated or painted round [the latter was done for “F” of the 331st]. The call-letter was also reinstated on the yellow fin in black. Around the rear fuselage, and encompassing the access door, a 36in wide red stripe was painted to identify the Group within the 4th CBW. When these markings were introduced so were squadron colours. The front of each cowling, approximately 24in back, was painted dark blue for the 331st, red for the 332nd, bright green for the 333rd and yellow for the 410th. SD110 squadron codes were gradually removed from fuselages and not painted on replacements, but fuselage call-letters were retained.
Freeman, Reference d
I have found four, color photos of the January 1945 markings change. Two anomalies are revealed: (1) not all aircraft of the 410th BS got the chevrons, and (2) the “A” inside the black square could have been left NMF, or painted yellow.
Other anomalies: All three of Freeman’s references are in disagreement as to whether the elevators were left unpainted. Bell’s color illustration shows yellow paint for them, Freeman (reference d) does not. Freeman quoted above at least implies they were, and displays an immediately postwar color photo of at least one B-17 that appears to confirm. HOWEVER, in the same photo is one that is not. So what’s a poor modeler to do? Since other 4th CBW BGs going to the yellow tail scheme display unpainted elevators, and since I think it was common practice not to load up control surfaces with multiple layers of paint, “F” of the 331st has elevators devoid of yellow paint. Note also the inner edge of the wing tips did not encroach on the ailerons for 4th CBW aircraft, either. So there.
The yellow tail was done in MM Chrome Yellow, the black square on the fin in someone’s black (with the yellow “A” masked) and a masked section of NMF for the abbreviated radio call 38825. The chevrons and fuselage stripe were painted Insignia Red. The Blue cowl rings were done in Insignia Blue.
Weathering: Oil thrown by those Wright Cyclones constitute the source of the streaks behind the nacelles, top and bottom. Done with pastel chalks. Perhaps overdone.
Decals Kit decals were used for the national insignia, with the letters and numbers coming from at least one generic sheet for same.
Fairly high up on my list of places to which I might want to travel back in time to, has to be:
Place: Kingman Arizona
Time: Sometime in 1946
Just for an hour or two, with a camera, to wander about those rows of B-17s. Who knows? I might encounter 43-8825.
[All photos are mine, except where separately credited.]
Bell, D. (1980). Air Force Colors Volume 2 ETO & MTO. Carrollton, TX: Squadron/Signal.
Freeman, R.A. (1992). The Mighty Eighth in Color. Stillwater, MN: Specialty Press.
Freeman, R.A. (1970). The Mighty Eighth Units, Men and Machines (A History of the US 8th Army Air Force. New York: Doubleday and Company.
Freeman, R.A. (1997). The Mighty Eighth Warpaint and Heraldry. London: Arms & Armor Press.
Text Copyright © 2008 by Joe Lyons
Page Created 18 February, 2008
Last Updated 18 February, 2008
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