B-17G Little Miss Mischief

During my research in the National Archives for more material on the Ploesti, Romania, oil refineries low-level bombing mission, I came across an original 8" x 10" print of this photo of Little Miss Mischief–my favorite Flying Fortress of all time. It’s been published in books and on websites before, but I’m offering it here in significantly higher resolution than ever before available.

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When “Little Miss Mischief” joined the 91st Bomb Group on 15 June 1944, she looked just like any other natural metal replacement B-17G. Her first pilot, Joe Bessolo, named her Little Miss Mischief and went on to fly 27 of his 28 combat missions in her.

Her nose art, based on one of George Petty’s Esquire centerfolds, was painted by the 91st Bomb Group’s Tony Starcer,. Upon finishing his task, Starcer told Bessolo “I outdid myself on this one!” Few people would have disagreed that LMM was one of the best of the more than 130 creations that came from the brush of one of the war’s most famous nose art artists. But she would be remembered for more than just great nose art—unlike the typical B-17, she combined an amazing combat history with an unusual appearance.

LMM did her job well, and after Joe Bessolo’s crew completed their tour she was taken over by other crews. Lt Paul McDowell was flying her on the 15 October 1944 mission to Köln (Cologne) when she became a victim of antiaircraft fire. Flak blew a large hole in the left side of the fuselage just above the ball turret, trapping gunner Sgt Ed Abdo inside. The same explosion wounded right waist gunner Glenn Slaughter. The rudder and trim cables were shot through as well.

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McDowell salvoed the bombs while flight engineer Jim Hobbs grabbed and repaired the control cables flapping in the waist. Ball turret gunner Abdo was given blankets and oxygen bottles, and administered himself morphine, amazingly surviving the whole ordeal. The aircraft dropped down to lower altitude and flying at only about 100 miles per hour eventually made it home to Bassingbourn. Before landing the crew had to crank the landing gear down by hand. The fact that the aircraft had suffered such major damage, yet stayed intact long enough to bring her crew home, was a testament to the strength of the Flying Fortress and the indomitable spirit of the people who built them. But, it certainly appeared that LMM had flown her final mission.

At the 441st Sub Depot, the service unit attached to the 91st Bomb Group, Col Frank Kamykowski decided to make an extraordinary effort to repair this ship. He combined its undamaged front portion and wings with the rear fuselage from an older aircraft, most likely 42-31405 “Walleroo Mk. 2,” a camouflaged B-17G-15-BO that had served with the 303rd Bomb Group’s 359th Bomb Squadron and was salvaged on 12 August 1944. By the time they were finished the repaired plane incorporated parts from 13 different aircraft!

LMM’s “half and half” finish made her one of the most conspicuous aircraft in the Eighth Air Force. After yet another raid on Köln, she was forced to make an emergency landing at Merville, France, on 6 January 1945, remaining on the continent for about a month. She rejoined the 91st upon her return, but lost an engine on 4 April 1945 while setting out to attack Fassberg, Germany, and was forced to abort the mission. Upon return to Bassingbourn her landing gear collapsed on landing and she again suffered major damage.

Repaired yet again, she transferred to the 306th Bomb Group at Thurleigh in May 1945. Presumably she was eventually scrapped—a sad end for one of the thousands of aluminum warriors that refused to stop fighting. All told, she flew more than 50 combat missions.

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I was very pleased to have received the note below from a man who recently read this page:

Dear Dave,

Thank you for writing the detailed information about “Little Miss Mischief.” My name is Gary R. McDowell and I am Lt. Paul R. McDowell’s youngest son.

I guess my Dad made it possible for the 8th Airforce to have its only two-toned B-17 bomber after his October 15, 1944 mission over Cologne. Thank you for sharing his story. My Dad became a mechanical engineer in real life and worked for Boeing and later on in the Space Program under Werner Von Braun in Huntsville, Alabama.

He once told me that flying on “Little Miss Mischief” was the highlight of his life. He passed away in 1991.

Gary R. McDowell

Neither LMM nor the B-17 that contributed its rear fuselage (“Walleroo Mk. 2”), had the staggered waist gun windows that appeared on later B-17Gs. These were introduced on the Boeing and Vega production lines at Block 50 at both plants. The photo above of LMM’s starboard side that confirms this.

While many B-17s were retrofitted with the improved “Pumpkin” tail turret (typically called the “Cheyenne Turret” in IPMS circles), LMM was not. Although artists’ representations of LMM have often included this modified turret, no photos exist that show it was ever actually fitted to this plane. It is certainly true that a natural metal replacement tail turret enlivened the camouflaged aft end of LMM; but it was without doubt of the ORIGINAL type and not the improved “Pumpkin” type. There are plenty of photos that show LMM’s tail turret as being the original type installed on the B-17E and on–see above. Of course, it is slightly possible a Pumpkin turret was installed as part of her final rebuild just before she went to the 306th BG, but again, no photos, no proof.

Note the “faded” bombs in the mission tally. Photos confirm this, although they can be difficult to see in some of the books showing LMM’s nose. All these bombs were originally red, as can be seen on this ship earlier in her career. We’ve provided PYN-up Decals for these faded bombs; simply apply the PYN decal over the top of the gray bombs on the standard decal sheet. They really look GREAT!

We’ve shown the national insignia on our profile with the darker blue outline where the original red outline was overpainted with fresh, darker Insignia Blue paint. The B-17G that provided the rear fuselage (42-31405) was produced at Boeing at the tail end of the period when the red outlines were being applied at the factory, so the darker blue outline is reasonable. In most photos it appears the national insignia has a darker blue outline, but it’s not so obvious in other photos, so as usual, check your own references.

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Although never shown in profile form before, the replacement camouflaged (olive drab over neutral gray) port outer wing is confirmed by a photo we found. The national insignia on the wing top cannot be seen, so we don’t know whether it had a dark blue outline. In addition, some cowling panels were replaced with camouflaged sections as shown in our profile and top view. So, LMM had not only a camouflaged rear fuselage, but also a camouflaged left outer wing and some camouflaged cowling panels! What a colorful bird!

Color photos of LMM show her 91st Bomb Group red fin was extremely faded; actually it was more of a pink than bright red. In addition, it has visible darker red vertical lines in it, although whether they are from undulations in the metal surface or from double color coverage as a spray gun was swung back and forth to paint the red tail is not clear. In any case, this effect is quite striking.

The B-17G that donated its rear fuselage, Walleroo Mk. 2, had the unit codes BN*X of the 303rd BG/359th BS. After this section was attached to the front end of LMM, the old codes were overpainted with Medium Green paint (ANA 612) EXACTLY as we’ve shown in our profiles. Although the codes on the port side were completely overpainted, the “B” on the starboard side was clearly showing through the Medium Green overpaint. To replicate this on your model, first apply the “B” decal in the position shown in our profile, then overspray it with Medium Green, allowing most of the outline of the “B” to show through your overpainting. After the Medium Green is completely dry, apply the fuselage national insignia on top, again as shown in our profile.

Note the natural metal areas on the rear fuselage, and the natural metal rear crew entry door are confirmed by clear photos.

This particular B-17 did NOT have a “blown” astrodome installed on the fuselage top immediately in front of the windscreen. Instead, a simple flat circular Plexiglas plate was put in the dome’s place. This was far more common than you might think, and you’ll do well to carefully examine photos of any B-17 you wish to model to determine whether it had a dome or flat panel in the astrodome fairing.

Here’s the decal set we created from the above research (plus a bunch not shown here!). I have a few still available.

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PYN-up Decals B-17 Boeing Babes Part 4. This set has gone on eBay for over $350! Last handful available. Two famous Fortresses! You demanded unique and remarkable decal schemes for your models, and this set certainly delivers. The truly “patchwork” B-17G-35-VE named “Little Miss Mischief” is know to us all for having been heavily featured in one of the first Squadron/Signal “In Action” books on the B-17. Everybody remembers this one! This amazing markings set is based on review of several newly-uncovered photos, including a couple in color. In fact, it breaks new research ground on the ship’s markings and camouflage, including the fact that the left outer wing was a fully camouflaged replacement (obviously the aft fuselage, which came from a crash-landed fully camouflaged B-17G), the natural metal aft crew entry door and battle damage repair panels, the overpainted but still visible previous code letters, etc. You’ll get the documentation on the undersized individual code letter “F” on the left side as well as the oddly spaced and slanted “DF” codes on the right side. You get confirmation the waist windows were NOT staggered on this bird, as sometimes reported, and no Pumpkin (Cheyenne) tail turret was fitted as often seen in profile paintings. You get the very faded red bomb mission markings on the PYN-up sheet. This will be a “contest killer” when you build it! The second ship in this set is the equally famous B-17F-20-DL “Miss Ouachita” (pronounced “WASH-it-tah”) which was shot down by Heinz Baer on 21 Feb 44. The Luftwaffe propaganda photos of Baer’s visit to the bellylanded Fortress have been published far and wide. Very careful review of the many photos, some available only from some fairly obscure sources, revealed and corrected a great deal of previously published information. You’ll note the overpainted previous unit markings on the fuselage, and the fact her current codes, OR*Q (she was assigned to the 91 BG/323 BS), were in fact painted on at the time she went down. You can see the odd shape of the individual code letter “Q” on the fin, the personal names on the front fuselage, and the fact that she had TWO aircraft data blocks stenciled on the nose (the original was partially oversprayed due to damage repair)! Note the B-17E type top turret, the lack of a blown astrodome. Finally, careful study of the Luftwaffe photos prove this ship did NOT have the red fin and wingtips often shown in profile paintings. In any case, they were not instituted until July 1944, more than five months after she was shot down. I can tell you with some pride that reviewers have acknowledged this is the most accurate and complete decal set ever produced for Little Miss Mischief and Miss Ouachita.

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$42.97


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B-17 Standard Insignia #1. Insignia used until August 1942, including 56″ fuselage and 74″ wing cocardes with separate red centers (Freeman “Type 1” US national insignia). These markings were used on B-17s from the start of the program until the introduction of smaller star/blue circle/no red dot cocardes in mid August 1942. This set also includes the “U.S. ARMY” for the wing bottoms in the correct Insignia Blue (they were NOT black!), as well as prop logos and Orange Yellow 15″ individual numbers for the fin serial. Note that officially, the red center dot was removed from US insignia as of 1 June 1942, so it’s possible to see B-17s with the large “Type 1” insignia without the red dot! Please note that we have never seen documentation of a B-17E (including the prototype) with the red/white/blue rudder stripes, so they are not included on this sheet.

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B-17 Standard Insignia #2: August 1942 to June 1943. This set includes 50″ fuselage cocardes and 70″ wing cocardes (Freeman “Type 2″ national insignia), with separate 3″ and 6” yellow surrounds (Freeman “Type 2A”). It also includes optional light gray stars to replace the white stars in the insignia as was very frequently seen in the field. Prop logos and Orange Yellow 15″ individual numbers for the fin serial are also included. Note that the yellow surround to the cocardes was OFFICIALLY 2″ wide, but most photos we’ve seen show much wider surrounds. These were invariably hand-painted, and wide variations were seen. Please note that these yellow surrounds were NOT Operation Torch (North African invasion) markings as usually reported, but rather were in response to a British request to help make the US cocardes more visible in the ETO. Practically, the “Type 2A” insignia was only painted on aircraft until about December 1942, but some in-service aircraft carried the insignia after that date.

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B-17 Standard Insignia #3. June 1943 to September 1943 and even later. This set includes 50″ fuselage and 70″ wing stars & bars with RED outline for use until late September 1943 (Freeman “Type 3”), AS WELL AS the same size insignia with lighter blue (faded) cocardes with darker blue surrounds to represent Type 3 insignia converted to “Type 4″ insignia. The set also includes prop logos and Orange Yellow 15” individual numbers for the fin serial. Note that these markings will allow you to show accurate and high-quality star markings on any of your B-17 models from this period, regardless which decals you use, and that most 1/48 Cutting Edge and PYN-up Decal B-17 sets do not include national insignia so we can include the maximum number of specific markings in each set. *** Also please note that I will make the other three types of B-17 national markings (CED48260, B-17E/F Early Insignia (simple cocardes with and without the center red dot used through August 1942, with huge “U. S. Army” for the lower wings); CED48261, B-17E/F Early Insignia used from Aug 42 to June 43 (simple cocarde with and without center red dot, with optional yellow outer ring, and with optional “grayed out” white star); and CED48263, B-17E/F/G Late Insignia with the standard “star and bar” including optional “grayed out” white areas and optional red bars for postwar markings) available at a later time. I will also make available in the near future CED48270, B-29 National Insignia; CED48271, B-24 National Insignia (Early), and CED48272, B-24 National Insignia (Late).

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B-17 Standard Insignia #4: September 1943 to the 1950s. This set has the 50″ fuselage and 70″ wing stars & bars in Insignia Blue and Insignia White, and includes separate red bars for post-1947 B-17s. In addition, the set has optional separate light gray stars and bars to replace the white for “grayed out” insignia, which was often seen on B-17s, including Forts that left the factory in the natural metal scheme! Prop logos and 15″ black individual numbers for the fin serial. Note that this is the final B-17 national markings set out of the four we created to cover the entire operational history of the Flying Fortress; the other three sets were previously offered to you in past increments.

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