Many years ago, I read an article in the British aviation history magazine FlyPast about some British air cadets from East Anglia who undertook their summer camp beside an American airfield during the Second World War. Some of the cadets managed to get rides on a few of the B-24s that were stationed there. Shipdham, in Norfolk (also known to the USAAF as Base 115) was home to the four squadrons of the 44th Bomb Group, Second Air Division, United States Eighth Air Force.
One of the B-24s in which the cadets flew was listed in one cadet’s flying log simply as number 535, but elsewhere in the article the aircraft was said to have been nicknamed Joplin Jalopy. A small photograph in the article showed an unidentified airman standing next to a “silver” (natural metal finish, or NMF in the jargon) B-24. The caption said that B-24J 42-50535 Joplin Jalopy survived the war and was displayed at the Joplin Municipal Airport until the late 1950s when she was scrapped.
Joplin? I live 30 miles from Joplin, and worked in Joplin when I first came to the United States. I am an aviation enthusiast of long standing with a great interest in military aviation history. The idea that there was (or had been) a combat veteran B-24 standing on an airfield a short drive from where I now live was tantalizing in the extreme.
What was the story of the Joplin Jalopy? How did she end up in Joplin? How did she get her name, and what ultimately happened to her? Were there any written records of her time in the 44th Bomb Group and her time in Joplin?
In January 2006 I started a blog documenting my efforts to research the aircraft and its history. Sadly all that remains of that blog are a couple of pages in the Wayback Machine of the Internet Archive. Recently, however I was inspired (transitively and intransitively) to get some of the information I’d gathered over the years back into some kind of order. And then, over 11 years after I started the original blog, the opportunity arose – and here we are.