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.
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.
These days I try to conduct a sweep of the Web every so often just to see of anyone or anybody has written anything new about the 44th Bomb Group or any aspects of history that might touch on my research. Today (May 17th) I was leafing through the website of the American Air Museum in Britain http://www.americanairmuseum.com/ when I noticed their entry for the 506th Bomb Squadron had an entry for 42-50535, there was the picture above. One copy was in the collection of the late Roger Freeman (the man who I believe coined the term “Mighty Eighth”) and another was in the squadron collection. I was able to register, log in and put a few details on the bare bones. Somehow the pic in the Freeman collection repeated same error that Joe Baugher originally noted, claiming that the Jalopy failed to return from a mission in March 24th, 1945. What no doubt happened was that someone noticed the MACR for the Jalopy’s only casualty, Sgt Anibal Diaz, who lost his life on March 23rd 1945, and assumed the MACR related to the loss of the aircraft. This may also account for a couple of other articles which state that March 24th, 1945 was the Jalopy’s final mission.
For the uninitiated, an MACR (Missing Air Crew Report) was filed whenever aircrew went missing in action. This may be a result of an aircraft being shot down or observed to crash, but it also applies, as in the case of Sergeant Diaz, to individual crew members who bailed out (or in Diaz’ case fell out) of the aircraft even though the aircraft returned home. I have seen cases of aircraft being associated with two MACRs. These were generated as a result of crew members bailing out of a stricken aircraft, which later made a safe landing in allied hands.
Anyway, I’m happy to have registered on the AAM site. I’ll try not to be a nuisance. 🙂
A thought occurred to me. The old blog had a Yahoo email address attached to it, which I hadn’t checked since Yahoo said that the account’s security might have been compromised in the Great Hack of 2013-2016. In any case it’s all re-secured. The last Jalopy email to that account was received in 2011.
If you have a burning desire to contact me please use the comment form or look at the “About” page for more details. If you really want to use the old email account please feel free, it’s still active. It may take me longer to reply since I need to remember to check it.
If you have twenty minutes to spare (or even if you don’t) take a look at this. A little original footage of the 44th Bomb Group at war which was assembled from various bits of footage taken at different times, but fascinating nevertheless. Col. Leon Johnson (Group CO, Medal of Honor winner) can be heard narrating. The train spotters will see a mixture of B-24H and J models in various markings and finishes.
I found a couple of references to Modification Centers for B-24s while looking through the Web recently. This short list is an excerpt from The Modification of Army Aircraft in the United States, 1939-1945. (Available on the Internet Archive https://archive.org/details/a529946)
It’s an interesting list for a couple of reasons. I’m fascinated to see that Republic Aviation ran a Modification Center in Evansville, presumably in fairly close proximity to their other operations like churning out large numbers of P-47s.
Birmingham, AL – Betchel-McCone-Parsons Corporation – B-24, C-87, C-109
Evansville, IN – Republic Aviation Corporation. – B-24
Louisville, KY – Consolidated-Vultee Aircraft Corporation, B-24
St. Paul, MN – Northwest Airlines, Inc. – B-24, C-109, F-7
Tucson, AZ – Consolidated-Vultee Aircraft Corporation. – B-24, C-87, F-7
Tulsa, OK – Douglas Aircraft Company. – B-24, C-87
There are several references in the website of the Minnesota State Historical Society (www.mnhs.org) to the Modification Center at St.Paul, MN being established to accommodate the stream of B-24s coming off the assembly lines at Willow Run. The State Historical Society has a very nice article on its website about the St.Paul Modification Center, which was operated (as shown above) by Northwest Airlines. This leads me to speculate that the Jalopy would have been flown to St.Paul for combat modifications in May 1944. I do not have any evidence to corroborate this theory, however.
The other aircraft designations mentioned in the list above are specific versions of the basic Liberator airframe. I refer (and defer) to Joe Baugher for the detail.:
C-87 Liberator Express was a transport version of the B-24D bomber
The designation C-109 was assigned to existing B-24Js and B-24Ls that were converted into fuel transports to support B-29 operations out of China. Unlike the C-87 cargo/passenger transport, the C-109 fuel transports were not new aircraft, but were conversions of existing B-24 bombers.
The F-7 was a photographic reconnaissance version of the Liberator, obtained by converting existing B-24 airframes at Army modification centers.
And since you’ll want to know the serial number of C-87, C-109, and F-7 conversions, here are the links to those pages:
During its career with the 506th BS, 44BG Joplin Jalopy flew with 29 different crews on 66 operational missions. One mission was flown to Austria, 5 to France, and 60 to Germany.
The captains of crews who flew the Jalopy on operations are listed here. The rank quoted is the individual’s rank at the time of the mission. The number after the rank indicates the number of missions flown in Joplin Jalopy, not the total number of missions completed by the crew.
Quickly searching through the Web this evening and came across something which I sought long and hard in 2006. The Green Nosed Flying 8-Balls: A History of the 506th Bomb Squadron – originally written by Norm Kiefer, a 506th veteran. The book was as rare as hen’s teeth. Although I never met him and I’d have to look through my old Yahoo mail account, I don’t think we ever communicated, I believe he passed away while I was researching the first time around. His book was a vital tool to get the individual mission stories of the 506th into some kind of order for the period of Joplin Jalopy’s operational career. Now I note that the Kiefer Family Trust have put together a very professional looking website and made the book available online, dedicated to Norman Carl Kiefer and all the veterans, past and present. Link to the book/site here and in the blogroll opposite.