Boeing’s Forgotten Bomber, the B-50

Although a solid aircraft in every respect, the B-50 was overshadowed (figuratively and literally) by the giant B-36, and the newer and more exciting jet aircraft then taking to the skies.  

92nd Fighter Squadron, 1947

As the jet aged dawned other USAAF squadrons were transitioning from props to “stovepipes” (as the jet engine was commonly called), the 92nd in Hawaii was defending the islands with the tried and true P-47 Thunderbolt. In fact, the “Jug” provided Hawaii’s air defense until well into the 1950s. This is not at all surprising: jets were needed in Korea, and besides, were someone to launch an aerial attack on Hawaii, it could not have been with jets (there were as yet no Soviet jet bombers, and the MiG-15 posed no threat to far-off Hawaii).

For fans of the B-25 Mitchell

Men and Mustangs: The 357th Fighter Group

One of the perks of being a general is… (2) (2)

…having a fighter plane to call your own. Major General William Kepner was no exception; as boss of the 8th Fighter Command, he got around in style in his P-47 (42-26637) nicknamed “Kokomo”. Here we see it wears the name of an additional city, “Buffalo”. Or, perhaps, it is referring to the animal of the same name. Before the war, Kepner was more associated with balloons & such rather than fighter aircraft. He held six ratings, most rather quaint: command pilot, combat observer, senior balloon pilot, zeppelin pilot, semirigid pilot, and metal-clad airship pilot.

The color photo is courtesy of Bob Livingstone from the sunburnt country, the Land Down Under.

Stinson Vigilant

The Stinson L-1 Vigilant seen here has had a long and interesting life. Delivered to the Air Corps in 1941, 40-3012 served all over the United States before being purchased at the war’s end by legendary Hollywood pilot, Paul Mantz. After decades of work as a camera plane, this airworthy craft now resides in the Fantasy of Flight museum in Florida. This photo shows the plane shortly after its sale to Mantz. The aircraft had last been assigned to the Air Transport Command (ATC) division in Alaska (that is the difficult to see totem pole insignia below the cockpit). (1)

This L-1 was a rare bird. Built as 41-18912 for the Army Air Force, it was equipped with floats and redesignated the L-1F. Only a handful were so converted.

26th Bomb Squadron, 1942 (4)

Pekoa Airfield, New Hebrides Islands, in the autumn of 1942. A duo of B-17Es of the 26th Bomb Squadron, 11th Bomb Group, await another mission. Note the wing and nose antenna of the SCR-521 radar. (6)

Ground crew reinstall a critical airframe component – the rear half of the aircraft. One can still see on the national insignia that its red center was painted over. (1)

The 26th Bomb Squadron scoreboard and Roll of Honor. (5)

This came with the photos: a hand-drawn version of the same scoreboard. The stars denote action at Hickam Field (the 26th was there December 7), Midway, and the Solomon Islands.

Mixed bag of B-29 Superforts

Remembering Pearl Harbor (2)img049_stitch - Copy

It is late November, 1941, and the men of Hickam Field’s 50th Reconnaissance Squadron pose for a photo to send home for Christmas.

These men could not possibly imagine that even as they smiled at the camera, plans were already underway for their demise. Nor could they imagine that some of them have less than two weeks to live. For those who do survive, it will be an event that will mark them for the rest of their lives.

One man who lived through the attack was PFC William P. Stroud Jr. (4th row, 4th from right in the group photo). A flight engineer in the 50th Recon Sq., Stroud was in the barracks when the attack began. (That barracks, just across the street from the flightline and hangars, bears to this day the scars of the attack.) Despite the madness of that morning, William Stroud kept his cool. Knowing where he was needed most, he raced across the street to the flaming flightline to lend assistance. The squadron’s aircraft were already destroyed, so he grabbed a rifle to get in the fight. And a fighter he was. Following the attack on Pearl Harbor, Stroud won his pilot’s wings, flew B-24s, and in his numerous combat missions earned the Silver Star and Distinguished Flying Cross. 

Stroud, soon to be tested in battle, was identified in the group photo by his granddaughter, and it is a pleasure to single out and salute such a courageous young man.

It is well that we remember both those who lived and those who lost their lives that fateful morning. As the original owner of this photograph indicates with his annotations, some would not survive December 7th, but they were never forgotten by those who did. 

~”They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old: 

Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.

At the going down of the sun and in the morning

We will remember them.” ~

Oddball Aircraft



460th Bombardment Group

It’s always fun to browse thrift stores for bargains; never know what you might find. The patches seen here illustrate that point: They were glued to a cheap imitation leather flight jacket that was priced $4.99. Alas, there was no name on the jacket – it no doubt belonged to a veteran who wore it to reunions and such. He would have flown the B-24’s of the 460th from their bases in Italy (the patches are Italian made). But the patches live on, and those mementos of a veteran’s service have been saved for all time.

Lightning Strikes: F-5’s & P-38’s (8)

F-5 42-13095 of the 12th Photo Recon Squadron zooms in for landing at its base in Italy. This aircraft carried three names: “Shark” on the nose. “Louise” on the left engine nacelle, “Vera” on the right. (6) (7)

Two shots of “Anna” landing in Italy. Note the local civilian onlookers. (9)

F-5 “Hoppy” flares for landing. (1) (4)

F-5F 44-26045 was transferred to the Chinese Air Force. The same thing happened to the B-24 in the background, 44-42270. Perhaps all of the aircraft pictured were similarly transferred (?)

P-38J 44-25605 was modified to a personal transport for General George Stratemeyer. Perched in the Plexiglas nose, he had the best seat in the house. (5) (2) (3)

Early P-38’s. Marvelous aircraft.

Civilian B-17’s (2)

The Bomber Gas Station (1947-91) of Milwaukie Oregon was world famous.  The aircraft was removed for restoration in 2014. I can proudly say that I did make a point of stopping there for gas on several occasions. I recall that the wings didn’t offer much protection on a windy and rainy day, but who cared. (1)

Starting life as 42-102715 (a B-17G), N66573 did a number of odd jobs before crashing as a fire bomber in 1979. (5)

Typifying the life of a surplus B-17, N117W started life as a B-17G (44-85806), went to the Coast Guard as a PB-1G, passed through several civilian owners and was destroyed in 1964. These 3 photos show it in when it was flown by the Biegert Bros. of Nebraska as an aerial sprayer. (4)

Unlike most civilian B-17’s, those operated by Sweden were combat veterans. SE-BAN (formerly USAAF 42-3490) of Swedish Air Lines came to that country courtesy of the 385th Bomb Group (and German flak) when damaged on a mission to Berlin. Opting for neutral Sweden, the crew was interned and the aircraft put into service at war’s end. Unfortunately it was scrapped in 1950. (3)

Another weary B-17G (42-3470) ended its days in 1962 while flying for the Colombian government.


  1959 ad from Flying Magazine. I did the math: $15,000 in today’s money is about $130,000.

B-17’s of France (3)

42-30177 started life with the USAAF but was donated to the Free French Air Force. Christened “Bir Hakeim” to honor the heroic Libyan battle where Free French forces held off the Germans for weeks in 1942, it was used as a transport by the commander at Bir Hakeim, General Marie-Pierre Kœnig. (1) (2)

After the war, the French Institut Géographique National (IGN) acquired B-17’s and began what was a decades long affiliation with the aircraft. Used for research and mapping, several of these planes soldiered on until the 1980’s. “BEEB” was not so fortunate; she crashed in 1949. “BEEC” was luckier. She continued to fly with the IGN until 1987 and then was sold to the Lone Star Flight Museum to be restored to a WWII configuration and renamed “Thunderbird.”