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B-24D Chug-A-Lug
Markings Conundrum

by David H. Klaus

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B-24D Chug-A-Lug


B-24D-CO 41-11766 Chug-A-Lug of the 345th Bomb Squadron, 98th Bomb Group, is one of the 30 B-24D subjects included (or about to be included) in my new group of PYN-up Decals in 1/48 & 1/72.  The artwork for the remaining decal sets is ready to go to the printer, but a rather serious problem has surfaced and I need your help.  I’m hoping somebody has a clearer copy of the photos below, or specific official documentation that explains the conundrum.


What’s Wrong With These Pictures?

Available photos seem to show the same aircraft carried two completely different types of RAF fin flashes at exactly the same time, which is impossible. 

Chug-A-Lug returned from the 1 August 1943 TIDAL WAVE attack on Ploesti with a barrage balloon cable cut to her right wing leading edge and Flak damage to her right vertical stabilizer and mid & rear fuselage.  This is documented in the 98th BG report of battle damage per airframe, the 8th Air Force recap of battle damage to all B-24s that participated in the TIDAL WAVE mission, and various personal accounts.

Here’s the rub:

This oft-published photo shows a ship claimed to be Chug-A-Lug with a barrage balloon cable cut in the outer right wing:



Note what appear to be 1941-style RAF fin flashes with equal width red, white, and blue bars.  This is clearly a pink (Sand) colored B-24, which by definition means the 98th or 376th Bomb Group. 

Even better is this nice color shot confirmed to be Chug-A-Lug.  Unfortunately the right vertical stab has already been removed.



Now see this oft-published photo that claims to show Chug-A-Lug’s right side fin with a large hole from a Flak round that penetrated but may not have exploded on contact.  The 1942-style RAF fin flash with the narrow white stripe is obvious.



Given the different flashes, it seems obvious these photos cannot show the same aircraft photographed within a couple of days.  This is a real conundrum.  I’ve discussed this at length with Dana Bell and other experts, and we can’t explain it.   I sure hope somebody has much clearer copies of these pics!

So, is the discrepancy a function of the film used?  The way the cut wing photo was processed & printed that makes the white stripe appear wider than it really was?  Do they show two different ships?


The Empirical Evidence

According to the official damage reports, seven B-24Ds that returned to Benghazi after the mission struck balloon cables.  These reports exclude ships lost on the mission, several of which were reported brought down by balloon cables by other aircrews.  The seven reported were:

  • 98th BG:

    • 41-11766/V Chug-A-Lug: Struck cable 8’ outboard of #4 engine (right wing)
    • 42-40402/W The Sandman: Struck prop of #3 engine (right wing); minor scratches on prop blades and fuselage side
  • 44th BG:

    • 41-24232/M-bar over, “Calaban”: Struck wing leading edge between #2 engine (left wing) and fuselage; severed the pitot tube, scratched side of fuselage, and cut into the wing leading edge but not as far back as the wing spar
  • 93rd BG:

    • 42-40127/O (unnamed): Struck 3-1/2’ from tip of left wing; sliced through leading edge back to spar
    • 41-23810/S TARFU: Struck 5’ from tip of left wing; sliced through leading edge back to spar
  • 376th BG:

    • 42-40203/81/L Little Isador (name unconfirmed): Crew reported striking cable, but inspection found no damage or evidence of impact
    • 42-40660/56/A Little Richard: Struck prop of #3 engine (right wing) with minor damage to prop, cowling, and wing leading edge

So, only one ship struck a balloon cable with its right outer wing: 766/V Chug-A-Lug.

Back to the photos. Since TIDAL WAVE was the only mission on which any 9th AF B-24 struck a balloon cable (the other missions were flown high above the balloons’ altitude), the wing strike photo above must be Chug-A-Lug. 


The Cable Strike Photo

The wing strike photo above does show a balloon cable cut consistent with being 8’ outboard of the #4 engine on the right wing and is also consistent with the color photo.  Therefore we can accept this b/w pic shows Chug-A-Lug within a few days after the 1 Aug 43 Ploesti mission.  It can’t be any other ship. 

Especially note the tall, dark rectangular fabric patch on the right rudder. 


The Fin/Rudder Pic

The fin/rudder pic above We can accept the fin/rudder pic above also shows a pink (Sand) colored B-24, as the serial number (Radio Call Number) is clearly yellow and the contrast is inconsistent with this being a yellow serial on an olive drab background. 

Of great interest is the tall rectangular fabric patch on the rudder.  It is of consistent size and shape with the patch shown in the wing strike photo.

The Flak hole is indicative of either an unexploded medium (37mm) or heavy caliber (88mm) shell passing through the metal without exploding, or a light (20mm) shell that’s exploded low order. Furthermore, this shape of hole most likely would have come from a shell traveling more-or-less horizontally, as if shot from the ground at a very low-flying B-24.  An unexploded shell shot into a ship flying at high altitude would make a highly elongated hole.

The serial (RCN) is only partly visible in this pic, and is 1117XX, with the bottoms of the two “Xs” consistent with the numeral “6,” which could make the serial 41-11766 (Chug-A-Lug). 

Most B-24D-COs in the 41-117xx range went directly to the RAF, so what other B-24D-CO aircraft had 1) serials consistent with 1117XX, and 2) were assigned to the 98th or 376th Bomb Groups?  According to Bob Livingstone’s breathtaking B-24 serials master list, these are the only candidates in the 41-117XX range:

  • 41-11761 The “Squaw”/Sleepy (98/343)

  • 41-11763 San Antonio Rose (98/345) Lost 21 Aug 43

  • 41-11764 Root of All Evil/Rosebud (98/415)

  • 41-11765 (no known name) (98/415) Lost 10 Mar 43

  • 41-11766 Chug-A-Lug

  • 41-11767 Shanghai Lil (98/345)

  • 41-11768 Kickapoo (98/344) Crashed on takeoff for TIDAL WAVE

  • 41-11744 Chief (98/345)

  • 41-11776 Jersey Jackass/Bashful (98/343)

  • 41-11779 Li’l Abner (98/344)

  • 41-11786 Alice the Goon (98/344)

  • 41-11787 Zombie (98/415) Lost 11 May 43

  • 41-11794 Rowdy (98/344) Lost 9 Aug 42

  • 41-11796 Miss Incendiary (98/415 and possibly 376/512)

  • 41-11797 Natchez To Mobile/Natchez to St. Joe (98/344)

  • 41-11798 Pink Lady (98/415) Lost 18 Mar 43

From the lower shapes of the last two serial digits, the only candidates for this photo (1117XX) are:

  • 41-11763 San Antonio Rose (98/345) Lost 21 Aug 43

  • 41-11766 Chug-A-Lug

  • 41-11786 Alice the Goon (98/344)

  • 41-11796 Miss Incendiary (98/415 and possibly 376/512)

Given the shape of the Flak hole, this photo must show a TIDAL WAVE veteran.  Of the four ships above, only 766, Chug-A-Lug, participated.  Therefore this must be a pic of Chug’s fin.

How can this be?  (Or WTF in the parlance of today’s kids . . .)  The rudder patches match, the battle damage matches the official reports, but the fin flashes certainly appear to be completely different.

Can you help facts in the form of better or more pics, or official documentation?  If this conundrum remains unexplained, I’ll include both fin flashes in my 1/48 & 1/72 decal set that includes Chug.  TIA!

You can drop me a note on support@Low-Level-Ploesti.org 

Text Copyright 2019 by Dave Klaus
Page Created 22 May, 2019
Last Updated 22 May, 2019

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