B-17G Mary Alice

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 Mary Alice. 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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This aircraft was named by pilot Knight after ths mother, Mary Alice Knight. This crew completed their tour on 25 June 1944. The plane was badly damaged many times, reportedly suffering more repairable battle damage than any other 8th Air Force B-17. The plane eventually flew 98 missions and was scrapped at Kingman, AZ.

I thought you might be interested in seeing a couple of examples of how I communicated my research to our fantastic decal artist, Tom Tullis. The first pic shows the results of of the horrendous battle damage Mary Alice frequently received. I annotated the photo to show Tom some of the seemingly minor but very interesting and different details of Mary Alice’s markings.

Note the very non-standard shapes of the "8" and "3" in the serial number. Note the stroke and size of the large "S" in the white triangle, which was quite different from some of the other ships in the bomb group. We always paid extremely close attention to these kinds of details and never used "standard" insignia shapes when they were not correct for the specific plane we were modeling. Detail changes like this occurred on literally every decal set, often multiple times. It always stunned visitors to Meteor when I described and illustrated the markings details and variations from the official standards.

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The next photo shows the specific demarcation line between the olive drab and neutral gray camouflage colors. This line varied with production blocks and field repaints; also note the very narrow overspray between the two colors. Other ships had very broad overspray, wavy or irregular demarcation lines, etc.

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Although this next photo is truly crappy, it was helpful in showing Tom some of the nickname highlights details.

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Finally, this photo of Mary Alice’s "pumpkin" tail turret (commonly called the "Cheyenne Turret" in IPMS circles, but "pumpkin" turret to the Army Air Force) provides another example of how she got the shit kicked out of her on one of her missions. Note the destroyed and loose sheet metal around the gun mount and totally destroyed gunner canopy enclosure. This was a great photo illustrating the size and shape of the "tail turret artwork" for me to send to Tom. Of course, he captured it precisely in the decal set artwork.

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Other crews that regularly flew Mary Alice were piloted by 2nd Lt Harry Haskett, Lt R. W. Callaway, and 2nd Lt George Cacraft.

The B-17G on display at the Imperial War Museum, Duxford, England, is painted to represent Mary Alice. Note there are numerous markings differences: the name on the nose, the code letters, etc. Our decal set provides the WW II markings, NOT the Duxford version.

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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Famous B-17s #1. B-17G-35-BO, “Mary Alice,” 42-31983, IY*G, 401 BG/615 BS – Note: this is the same aircraft as seen at IWM Duxford, but our markings are for the original WW II aircraft and NOT as redone by the IWM; B-17G-1-BO, “Stingy,” 42-31053, BX*W, 96 BG/338 BS (photos of this bird show up in nearly every B-17 book ever published!); B-17F-60-DL, Carolina Boomerang, 42-3430, BX*U, 96 BG/338 BS, lost at Schweinfurt.

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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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