This is the second part of a nine part series on the markings of the VLR Mustang squadrons. Six of the nine squadrons changed their markings during their time on Iwo Jima after the 7th Fighter Command ordered the VLR Fighter Groups to adopt more simplified markings. The 47th Fighter Squadron was one of those squadrons.
The fuselage numbers for the 47th Fighter Squadron Mustangs were 150 through 199. During their time in the Central Pacific, the 47th FS adopted the nickname the “Dogpatchers”, and began naming their aircraft for the characters of the then popular comic strip “Li’l Abner” by Al Capps. When the 47th received its Mustangs, the squadron emblem was painted on the left side of the cowl, and the comic strip character on the right side.
Early Squadron Markings. Most references indicate that the early squadron markings for 47th FS Mustangs were yellow bordered black bands on the fuselage, wings and elevators; tails that were adorned with a yellow bordered black chevron; and yellow/black/yellow spinners. Black and white photos would seem to confirm this belief, but this might not be entirely accurate.
Please note that Eduard suggests that the bands and chevron were not actually black, but most probably very dark blue. I do not have any squadron records in my possession to either confirm or deny this suggestion. Eduard’s recommended paint for this very dark blue is GSI Creos (GUNZE) Aqueous H328 or GSI Creos (GUNZE) Mr. Hobby C328, which are Gunze’s water based acrylic and lacquer based paints for U.S. Navy Blue Angels Blue.
I would like to suggest some alternative colors for this “very dark blue”. The 47th Fighter Squadron’s initial Mustangs were painted while the squadron was stationed on Hawaii before being deployed to Iwo Jima. The darkest blue paints they most likely had access to on Hawaii were the U.S. Navy’s stores of either Semi-Gloss Sea Blue (ANA 606), Non-Specular Sea Blue (ANA 607), or Glossy Sea Blue (ANA 623). Below is a plastic spoon painted with Vallejo Model Air Glossy Sea Blue 71.300 (ANA 623/FS 15042). Now that’s a very dark blue.
An advantage of using these late-war U.S. Navy blues is that they are readily available to the modeler through most model paint manufacturers. AK Interactive, Ammo of MiG, GUNZE, Hataka Hobby Paints, Humbrol, Mission Model Paints, Mr. Paint, Tamiya and Vallejo all carry at least one or two of these colors.
Now one more twist on the color of the bands: purple. What? Purple? Below is a still of color 16mm film taken on Iwo Jima after a 47th FS crash that Mark Stevens forwarded to me while I was doing research for this post. Mark stated that several members of the 47th FS indicated that the darker portion of the bands was either dark blue or purple. All very interesting; but not sure what to think about using purple.
While I am not personally searching for a purple model paint, I would not question a modeler’s choice of purple based on what I see in the above photo and comments from veterans. I am really intrigued about using Glossy Sea Blue for the 47th FS bands and chevron.
Spinners: Under the early squadron markings, the spinners were either yellow at the very tip, then black (very dark blue or purple), and natural metal at the back; or yellow at the very tip, black (very dark blue or purple), and yellow at the back. Below are photos of 150 Li’l Butch and 167 Pappy Yochum clearly showing the back portion of the spinner being unpainted.
The next two photos show the back portion of the spinner being painted. Always check reference photos for the markings of the particular plane you are modeling as there was a surprising lack of uniformity between planes in the same squadron.
The front and back colors of the spinner on Hairless Joe appear to the be same color.
If you are going to build a 47th FS Mustang with the early markings and the flaps dropped, please note the two photos below. It appears that the 47th FS painted the bands on the wings with the flaps lowered.
So, would it be wrong for you to use black for the bands, chevron and spinner? In my opinion, black is still an option. Other than the movie still above with what looks to be a purple fuselage band a tail chevron, the use of very dark blue or purple by the 47th FS appears mostly anecdotal. Therefore, I believe it is difficult to arrive at a definitive conclusion unless squadron records were to provide the answer. No criticism here if black were to be used.
Late Squadron Markings: The simplified squadron markings for the 47th FS were black tips on the wings, horizontal stabilizers, and tail, and an all black spinner. These squadron markings provide some credibility to the opinion that the bands and chevron of the early squadron markings might have been black.
Below are two photos of 47th FS Mustangs with all black spinners. Note on the second photo that right landing gear leg and the inside of the landing gear door appear to have a dark band painted on them. Unfortunately, the ground crew are standing in front of the left landing gear.
The photo below shows three rows of 47th FS Mustangs with Mt. Surbachi in the background. This is an interesting photo due to the varied markings on the planes. The drop tanks between the second and third rows are the 165 gallon P-38 type tanks.
I have zoomed in on each row to show the period of transition between the early and late squadron markings. This first row has a Mustang with late squadron tail and wing tips, but with the early squadron black and yellow spinner; a Mustang with no markings except the squadron emblem; a Mustang with complete simplified late squadron markings; and a Mustang with the early squadron black and yellow spinner and chevron but with no fuselage or wing bands.
The second row has three Mustangs with the early squadron black and yellow spinner and chevron but with no fuselage or wing bands, and a Mustang with the simplified late squadron markings. I cannot make out the markings on the last Mustang.
The third row has three Mustangs with the early squadron black and yellow spinner and chevron but with no fuselage or wing bands, and a Mustang with no markings. Removing the early squadron markings had to be a tedious and unpleasant task.
The squadron emblem was a devilish looking hornet breathing fire, riding a lightning bolt on a blue background.
Below is a nice photo of 150 Li’l Butch showing the size and location of the squadron emblem.
You may have noticed that the photo of Col. James O. Beckwith’s Squirt and Eduard’s profile of Lt. Col. John W. Mitchell’s Annie Lee have non-standard two digit fuselage numbers even though adorned with 47th FS markings. After Col. Beckwith became the commanding officer of the 15th Fighter Group, all of his planes had 15 for a fuselage number to signify his leadership of the group. Lt. Col. Mitchell became the commanding officer for the 15th Fighter Group after Col. Beckwith’s successor, Lt. Col. Jack Thomas, was killed in action on the July 19, 1945 strike mission. I am not aware of the reason or significance of the fuselage number “11” on Annie Lee.
As always, a big thank you to Mark Stevens of the 7th Fighter Command Association for all of his assistance.
1. The Long Campaign: The History of the 15th Fighter Group in World War II, John W. Lambert, Schaffer Publishing Ltd. (2006).
2. The Pineapple Air Force: Pearl Harbor to Tokyo; John W. Lambert; Schaffer Publishing Ltd (2006).
3. Very Long Range P-51 Mustang Units of the Pacific War; Carl Molesworth; Osprey Publishing Limited (2006).
Next up: A comparison of Eduard instrument panels.
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