TYPE: Heavy long-range bomber, in service as Assembly ship
ACCOMMODATION: Crew of five to six
POWER PLANT: Four Pratt & Whitney R-1830-35 turbocharged “Twin-Wasp” radial engines, rated at 1.200 hp each
PERFORMANCE: 290 mph
COMMENT: In February 1944, the 2nd Division of the Eight Army Air Force in Europe authorized the use of “Assembly Ships” (or “Formation Ships”) specially fitted to aid assembly of individual group formations. They were equipped with signal lighting, provision for quantity discharge of pyrotechnics, and were painted with distinctive group-specific high-contrast patterns of stripes, checkers or polka dots to enable easy recognition by their flock of bombers. The aircraft used in the first allocation were B-24Ds retired by the 44th, 93rd and 389th Groups. Arrangements for signal lighting varied from group to group, but generally consisted of white flashing lamps on both sides of the fuselage arranged to form the identification letter of the group. All armament and armor was removed and in some cases the tail turret. In the B-24Hs used for this purpose, the nose turret was removed and replaced by a “carpetbagger” type nose. Following incidents when flare guns were accidentally discharged inside the rear fuselage, some assembly (formation) ships had pyrotechnic guns fixed through the fuselage sides. As these aircraft normally returned to base once a formation had been established, a skeleton crew of two pilots, navigator, radio operator and one or two flare discharge operators were carried. In some groups an observer officer flew in the tail position to monitor the formation. These aircraft became known as „”Judas goats“.
The assembly ship shown here belonged to the 389th Bombardment Group (Heavy) “The Sky Scorpions” stationed at Hethel, UK from 1943 to 1945 (Ref: 24).