Death Is Now My Neighbor

During the summer break I have been re-reading the Inspector Morse novels of Colin Dexter, many of which are significantly different from the excellent television drama we all remember and mostly love.    It’s been a quiet time for everyone and will get crazier in the weeks to come as we all get ready for a new semester.

A couple of weeks ago I was looking for pictures of RFC scrapping sites at Kingman and Altus. There are a plethora of Kingman pics, and not many of Altus. I think I saw one in Nick Veronico’s  Military Aircraft Boneyards (MBI Publishing Company, 2000) a couple of years ago.    Oh, and by the way – Nick if you ever read this,  thanks for including the piece about the Jalopy (and the acknowledgement) in Hidden Warbirds II  (Zenith Press, 2014) which was the outcome of a few exchanged emails we had a few years ago.

Googling idly through rafts of sadly familiar images of B-17s awaiting the smelter at Kingman,  I found a few pictures of a specific group of B-24s waiting, and being scrapped there in 1947. I cannot track down the original article but I understand the photographer was Peter Stackpole of LIFE magazine,  and that the pictures were taken in about 1947. Like most images on the web they come and go, so finding them tends to be a hit and miss affair, although many of them have been “pinned” on Pinterest.

The picture below is sad enough, and seems to show a great many engine-less NMF B-24s, most of which don’t wear any group or theater markings at all. Somewhere else,  there  is a picture of a man painting out the US ‘star and bar’ national insignia with black paint (as you can see here on the port wings).   Other pictures in the portfolio show  B-24s which seem to have had operational careers or at least some kind of career which resulted in the usual range of nose art.

Partially dismantled B-24s awaiting scrapping at Kingman, AZ 1947
Partially dismantled B-24s awaiting scrapping at Kingman, AZ in 1947
Probably a LIFE Photograph by Peter Stackpole


What seized my attention most was the picture below.  Those of you who have the same train-spotting genes as me will understand why it caught my breath.   This is B-24J-1-FO  42-50536, which seems to have had no operational career at all, perhaps staying stateside from the day it was built,  in 1944.   It’s Ironic because the aircraft that (probably)  preceded it on the production line at Willow Run had a varied operational career in the Eighth Air Force and almost met the same fate at Altus, OK.  The picture bellow is the recorded demise of Joplin Jalopy‘s neighbor on the production line.

B-24J-1-FO 42-50536 being scrapped at Kingman, AZ
B-24J-1-FO 42-50536 stands in front of one of the three smelters at Kingman, AZ
Probably a LIFE Photograph by Peter Stackpole