UPDATE #3: Once again, thanks again to our fellow modeler Mike Hammill whose Dad was crew chief on Madame Pele, more fascinating (and scary) info on the ship and crew:
“The following story taken from the book “Grey Geese Calling”
Damage Assessment and Return Flight of Ap 951
Ap #951, “Madame Pele”, flown by Lt. R. D. Fackler and crew on mission #11- 188, 2 February 1945 was seriously damaged by bombs from another plane while over the target. Ap #951 had #2 position in “A” flight. As the planes, flying the 12 aircraft stagger formation and each carrying 48×100 pound incendiary bombs, jockeyed for position turning from the final approach (350°T) to the bomb run (330°T), Ap #362, flying #1 position in “B” flight, had a bomb bay malfunction and bombs of this plane fell when bomb bay doors were fully opened. Cause undetermined. Formation was intercepted by 2 S/E fighters, one destroyed, before the bomb run.
On the final approach Ap #951 was pulling 2400 RPM and 38″ manifold pressure dropping to 2200 RPM and 31″ turning onto bomb run. At exactly 0800Z, leveling off for the bomb run, bombs began falling around and through wings and fuselage of this plane. The impact of the 100 pounders was felt throughout the plane. The right waist gunner was thrown to the floor slightly dazed. Instrument panel was erratic. Pilot struggled with the controls. No. 3 prop was torn off and flew through the air. The co-pilot called the engineer, operating the top turret, to turn off the fuel to #3 engine.
Crew reports approximately 20 bombs were believed to have glanced off or torn through this plane. No. 3 prop was torn off. Another bomb mashed the flap behind #3 engine. A bomb mashed in #4 engine nacelle. One bomb dented and tore fuselage above the right waist window, binding rudder control cables. Right aileron was ripped through by a bomb. No.1 prop bent. A bomb mashed its imprint in fuselage. Left side of fuselage ripped at wing junction and a bomb went through trailing edge of left wing. Denting leading edge of right horizontal stabilizer and left vertical stabilizer was dented approximately one foot deep at top edge.
The crew was busy jettisoning equipment. Two men began working on the ball but could not locate the two special socket wrenches to release same. Jettisoned equipment as follows: all guns, except nose and ball turret 50 cal.; all flak vests and 8 flak helmets; all ammo and ammo boxes; camera hinge drop type well; bomb hoist, shackles; two oxygen cylinders (broken from positions by bomb impact) ; all tools boxes, then tools; LORAN and SCR 521 sets; all radio tuning equipment; all extra radio equipment (except Liaison, Command, VHF and radio compass equipment — kept “Gibson Girl ” and emergency equipment as briefed in ditching lectures).
After the plane was lightened as much as possible all crew members were called forward to “sweat out” Saipan.
Landed at Saipan at 021210Z. Approach was made at approximately 155-160 IAS. As it was uncertain whether there was enough hydraulic pressure (#3 engine out, and possible pumping through open center system) wheels were let down using the star valve in bomb bay. Ap #951’s wheels touched the ground and rolled down the runway at 140-145 IAS. Brakes were applied once as still not sure of hydraulic pressure. As pilot felt confident that he would not crash land, the crew rode forward , on the flight deck or catwalk in the bomb bay directly behind flight deck, to keep weight in the nose. The plane flew approximately 736 statute miles in its crippled condition.
Ap #951 known as “Madame Pele”, was purchased through bonds bought in the sum of $250,000 by the students of McKinley and Kaimuki High Schools of Honolulu, who named the plane and donated it to the 7th Air Force in a ceremony at Hickam Field, May 1, 1944. The plane was accepted in behalf of the Air Forces by Brigadier General Douglass, Commanding General of the 7th Air Force. The plane was later assigned to the 98th Bombardment Squadron (H) of the 11th Bombardment Group (H). Lt. Raymond H. Fagerman and crew ferried the “Madame ” to the forward area. Upon arrival to the 98th BS that crew was assigned to “Madame Pele”. The “Madame” carried them safely through their forty missions.”
UPDATE #2: Thanks again to our fellow modeler Mike Hammill, we now have some additional material on the crew of the rather famous B-24J Madame Pele. Mike sent the photos and crew info shown immediately below:
UPDATE #1: Every once in a while (and it happens more often than you might think), I receive a really nice note from a person related to the pilot or one of the crew members of an aircraft we’ve created a decal set for. A few days ago I received the following note and photos:
My father was the crew chief for the B-24 Madame Pele. I have a nice picture of him with his crew taken in next to the Madame. I would like make a nice model of his plane to go with the photo.
This is what the Madame Pele looked like in 1944. My father John Delbert Hammill was the second one from the right. He was the crew chief and this was his crew.
The money for the B-24 Madame Pele ($340,000.) was raised by high school kids in Hawaii. They raised the money, they gave her its name, Pele the Hawaiian fire goddess.
(Son of John D. Hammill)
During my research in the National Archives for more material on the Ploesti, Romania, oil refineries low-level bombing mission, I came across a couple of original 8″ x 10″ prints of these photos of Madame Pele. They’ve probably been published in books and on websites before, but I’m offering them here in significantly higher resolution than ever before available.
(Click to enlarge)
This aircraft was paid for by the schoolchildren of Hawaii and named in honor of the volcano goddess of the islands. Given the style and subject of the artwork actually painted on the plane, one wonders whether any of the children were allowed to see photos of this Liberator until they were, say, 34 or 35 years old!
The name “Madame Pele” has occasionally been represented in color profiles as yellow, which it most certainly was not. Our best guess is that the name was orange to coincide with the orange lava flowing from the volcano.
(Click to enlarge)
Some time after the nose art was applied, a mounting plate with four dipole “stick” antennas was mounted on each side of the nose. On the starboard side this long rectangular plate partially overlay the nose art as you can see in the photo at the top of this page. A template for making this mounting plate is given in my decal set instructions (see below).
The deicer boots on the wings and vertical stabilizers were extremely worn at the time these photos were taken. They were not removed, as was common in some units, but were actually abraded away, leaving areas of oxidized aluminum showing through patches of worn black rubber deicer boot.
(Click to enlarge)
The photo above seems to imply the underside color was very dark, perhaps even black. This is NOT correct, but is actually an artifact of the photo which is a greatly enlarged small segement of a much larger photo (the remainder of the photo was irrelevant to us here).
Here’s the PYN-up Decals set we did in 1/72 & 1/48 for this ship; have a few of each available.
PYN-up Decals Liberated Chics #1 PYN-UP! NOTE NOTE NOTE: If you tried to order this decal set earlier but it would not appear in your shopping cart, I apologize–the problem is now fixed. B-24J-120-CO, “Madame Pele,” 11 BG/98 BS; B-24H-10-DT, “Jamaica?” (play on the words “did you make her,” with different artwork on each side of nose), 466 BG/785 BS, Lt Larry Booth. Truly incredible nose art, executed in our unparalleled PYN-up technology!
PYN-up B-24 Liberated Chics #1. Liberators with dramatic nose art: B-24J-120-CO, Madame Pele, 11 BG/98 BS; B-24H-10-DT, Jamaica? (different artwork on each side of nose), 466 BG/785 BS, Lt Larry Booth.
B-24 National Insignia – Early. This set includes all the early national insignia applied to B-24s, including the original 65″ cocarde-only star (Freeman “Type 1″ US national insignia), the original star with yellow outline as applied to many aircraft flying from British bases for better identification by British defense forces; and the RED-outlined 45” star-and-bar used from June 1943 to September 1943 and later (Freeman “Type 3”). Since the 8th Air Force (and some factories at certain times) painted out the white in the star (or star-and-bar) with light gray paint to reduce visibility, we’ve included light gray overlay decals in case your model requires them. Please note that my second set covering later B-24s (CED48272) will be available in the next increment of decals I make available.
B-24/PB4Y National Insignia – September 1943 to 1947. This set includes the late war national insignia applied to B-24s, PB4Y-1s, and PB4Y-2s, including the 45″ fuselage and wing US national insignia (stars & bars) in Insignia Blue and Insignia White applied to nearly all B-24s and the huge 65″ fuselage stars applied to the early Willow Run built B-24Hs. Since the 8th Air Force (and some factories at certain times) painted out the white in the star (or star-and-bar) with light gray paint to reduce visibility, we’ve included light gray overlay decals in case your model requires them. In fact, many photos exist showing natural metal Liberators with grayed out national insignia (kind of defeats the purpose, but regulations are regulation!) We’ve also included a nice selection of Hamilton Standard prop logos. Finally, don’t forget that you’ll need national insignia for the 1/48 PYN-up Decals sets, which do not include them.
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