Modelers’ Guide to the 447th

Modelers’ Guide to the 447th

by David Wayrynen

Although this section deals specifically with aircraft markings for the four squadrons of the 447th Bombardment Group, much of the information applies equally well to B-17s assigned to any of the groups within the 8th Air Force. The key to creating an accurate portrayal of any historical aircraft is thorough research. Hopefully the resources available on this site (and its links to other related sources) will make that possible.



Absent a rare original color photograph of the aircraft being modeled, one can only make assumptions based on images of comparable aircraft. In addition to specifics on the group’s markings, this guide may help correctly interpret that data. See the Color Aircraft Gallery in the Library

Only Gs?

As a rule, yes. Production of F-models had ceased months before the 447th was deployed in the European Theatre. However, one B-17E (41-9085) apparently was transferred to the 447th after repairs at the 3rd Division Depot, and flew with the Group for some time. In addition, RADAR-equipped Pathfinder aircraft from the 482nd Bomb Group were temporarily assigned to the 447th until the Group procured PFF aircraft of its own during 1944. Some of these early Pathfinders were F models. It is not clear if these aircraft carried the Square K markings while assigned to the 447th. 

O.D. Green or Unpainted Aluminum?

Midway through the production of the B-17G, the manufacturers (Boeing, Lockheed and Douglas) began delivering aircraft without the O.D. green finish associated with all F models (referred to as Natural Metal Finish, or “NMF”). This step was taken to cut costs, save time, and particularly to reduce the weight of the aircraft (and increase its fuel efficiency). The exact point of this change varies between the three companies producing B-17s, but occurs with aircraft delivered in early 1944 (arriving at Rattlesden in February/March). But be careful about falling into the same trap I did by looking exclusively at serial numbers. Serial numbers are not truly sequential. Each manufacturer was assigned a block of numbers for its production, and the planes were delivered on varying schedules. Look instead at delivery dates, included in our Aircraft Listing. For example:

Series Serial No. Delivered Assigned Notes
B-17G-5-BO 42-31225 10/4/43 11/21/43 Scheherazade photo – O.D. Green
B-17G-10-BO 42-32080 1/21/44 3/17/44 Virginia Helen/Too Tired photo – Unpainted
B-17G-15-DL 42-37873 9/28/43 11/25/43 No name  – Swiss Photo – O.D. Green
B-17G-55-BO 42-102651 3/23/44 5/3/44 Picadilly Ann II – Swiss photoI – Unpainted


Attempts were made to remove the O.D. paint from some aircraft. This proved to be too time-consuming, and was abandoned after only one or two of the 447th’s planes (unidentified) were stripped.

Take care when using any of the “restored” B-17s as source material. One might think considerable effort would go into the historical accuracy of these costly restorations, but this is not necessarily true. Case in point: No. 42-32076, Shoo Shoo Shoo Baby of the 91st Bomb Group (at the Air Force Museum, Wright Patterson AFB, Dayton, OH). This is one of the few existing B-17s to see active combat duty over Germany, and was interned in Sweden after a forced landing there in 1944.

Shoo Shoo Shoo Baby then (NMF)

Shoo Shoo Shoo Baby (OD) during the 447th BG reunion in Dayton; 2018

This aircraft had been converted into an airliner after the war. According to one source, the restoration required such extensive sheetmetal replacement that the restorers chose to paint the plane to hide the work.


General Markings:

Air Force Insignia: The blue and white device was used exclusively by the 447th on all aircraft. The older, red-bordered device was only in use for a few months in mid-1943, and the simple white stenciled device (white star flanked by white bars without border) and white star in blue circle (without bars) are from 1942 and early 1943.

Regulations stated the dimensions and locations for the device as follows:

* Port-side wing top and starboard-side wing bottom: circle of 70″ dia.; bars 35″ long (overall width: 140″) with the star center located 13 feet from the wingtip.

* Fuselage: circle of 50″ dia; bars 25″ long (overall width: 100″). Port-side: star center 50″ forward of the front edge of the waist window. Starboard-side: star center 50″ aft of the rear edge of the waist window. (Note: all G-models delivered to the 447th after February or March 1944 had offset waist windows.)

Although the 447th flew many missions in support of Operation Overlord (D-Day), including three missions to France on June 6, 1944, they never carried the black/white “invasion stripes” at any time. These markings appear to have been limited to aircraft of the 9th Air Force.


Group Markings: The 447th was designated by a square (3rd Division) containing a single capital letter “K” (See the top of this page for examples.) On O.D. finished aircraft, the square was white while the letter was nominally insignia blue, and sometimes black. On unpainted aircraft, the square was black, the letter was white.

* Tail: Square of 48″, located at the top-most portion of the tail. The letter was specified to be 36″ tall. In photos of the later aircraft with black square, however, the “K” is clearly larger — perhaps 40-42″ in height.

* Top of starboard wing: An additional “Square-K” (actually a rectangle measuring 57″ w x 72″), no less than 8 feet from the wingtip.

NOTES: Many photographs show that the precise specifications were not always followed. The tail square is most frequently seen as more of a rectangle. Not all aircraft carried the wing-top “K”, and some NMF aircraft had a black or blue “K” without any rectangular border.


Squadron Codes: 447th aircraft never bore the three-letter ID codes on the fuselage side. These 72″ bock letters (comprising the two-letter squadron ID and the single-letter aircraft call-letter spanning the waist windows, yellow on green, insignia blue on NMF) were initially used to conform with the RAF’s aircraft identification scheme. By November 1943 when the 447th took up station in Rattlesden, this was no longer deemed necessary. Rarely, photographs show aircraft which had been transferred to the 447th from other groups where these codes were used, but they were often removed before the aircraft flew in combat with the group. Near or after V-E day (May 1945) squadron codes and call letters were painted in black on the bottom side of the port wing. These were considered “anti-buzz” markings, and would allow for easy identification of an over-eager pilot who violated the strict regulations against “buzzing” (flying low).


Squadron Code Letters for the 447th

708th BS: CQ

709th BS: IE

710th BS: IJ

711th BS: IR


Serial Numbers and Call Letters: The aircraft’s serial number (drop the leading “4” and the hyphen: 42-32080 becomes 232080) were painted in 15″ numbers, generally 96″ below the topmost edge of the fin, and in front of the rudder assembly (which was doped fabric over an aluminum frame). A few exceptions are the 7-digit numbers such as 2107021, for which in some cases the last two or first two digits extended onto the rudder. Each aircraft’s single letter call sign (A-Z, excluding I) was painted, 24″ high, below the serial number. On O.D. finished aircraft, numbering and lettering was yellow; on NMF planes it was black.

A comprehensive list of 447th aircraft serial numbers, names and call signs (where known) is available in the Library

From December 1944 ONLY: The starboard wing group ID was replaced with a large chevron, signifying 4th Bomb Wing — arms of the chevron 36″ wide, meeting at the leading edge of the wing. For the 447th Bomb Group, the chevron was entirely dark blue. In some cases, the earlier wing-top Square-K remained visible under the chevron.

From February 1945 ONLY: The solid yellow tail (including the dorsal fin) was introduced to distinguish 3rd Division, 4th Bomb Wing, and two green bands for the 447th (24″ wide with 12″ separation) painted around the fuselage between the rear edge of the waist window and leading edge of the stabilizers. The blue chevron on the starboard wing was discontinued at this time, but not removed from aircraft on which it was already painted.

This is another example of the risk of using restored aircraft as an historical source: our own Fuddy Duddy based in Elmira, New York. This late-model B-17G was restored as a tribute to the 447th and to 42-97400, Fuddy Duddy, lost in a collision over Germany with 43-38473 on December 30, 1944 (two months before the yellow tail and green bands were in use). In its last few missions, the original Fuddy Duddy probably carried the blue wing-tip chevron on its last missions, but not the yellow tail and green bands.


Squadron Colors: Sometime in the spring of 1944, propeller bosses were painted in each squadron’s color. This proved insufficient for easy identification from a distance, so during that summer, the color scheme was extended to include the engine cowlings:

708th BS – Yellow Fuddy Duddy

709th BS – White Bit o’ Lace

710th BS – Red D-Day Doll (Kirkwood photo)

711th BS – Blue Lucky Stehley Boy (Kirkwood Photo)



One of our goals for is to create an image library of every aircraft photo that we can find. In the Aircraft Listing, I’ve tried to identify the names that can be directly tied to specific aircraft. See also the 447th’s Aircraft listings, the Color Collection, and The Pin-Up Girls of the 447th.


Tidbits and Details:

42-37873 “F” (unnamed or name unknown)

O.D., yellow lettering. Note that the tail de-icing boot has been removed (see notes below). Photo taken in Dubendorf, Switzerland after forced landing and internment on July 11, 1944. Rudder may have been completely recovered at some time, and shows signs of subsequent patching.


42-102651 “N” (Picadilly Ann II)

NMF, black lettering. Rubber de-icing boot is still in place. Also interned in Switzerland on July 11, 1944.


43-37979 “Q” (American Beauty)

Photo taken in Kingman, AZ in 1946; note that the yellow tail was painted around the original “Square K” and serial number. This rudder was recovered due to battle damage sometime between February and April, 1945, but not repainted yellow. Note also the replaced sheetmetal on the fuselage of the tailgunner’s compartment (same damage?). Also note the stencil “bars” in the “K.” Several aircraft photos show these, while they are clearly absent from others. De-icer has been removed.

44-8393 “Y” (Pathfinder, name unknown)

This also clearly shows the yellow painted around the original serial number. De-icer is installed.
(Photo taken on April 8, 1945 by John Kirkwood)


A mix of O.D. and NMF aircraft, taken in May, 1945. On the older 42-31225 “G” (Scheherezade), the original white/blue “Square K” and its yellow serial numbers were repainted in black over the yellow tail. This aircraft has also been modified with the later “Cheyenne” tail gun mount (see below).


Nuts and Bolts — about the planes:

In addition to the change from O.D to NMF fuselage, modelers should make note of several physical changes to the B-17G during its production run. Assigned to the 447th were examples of the entire production run, from the 153rd G-model built, through to some of the very last to be delivered before the war’s end.

De-icing boots: The B-17G was equipped with automatic de-icers, consisting of butyl rubber coverings on the leading edges of the vertical and horizontal stabilizers.* Over time, these would become damaged, particularly due to flak. Torn rubber de-icers would flap around in flight, potentially damaging the thin aluminum skin. As a result, de-icing boots were frequently removed and not replaced when damaged, and many aircraft can be seen in photographs (as shown above) where the black covering is missing. 

Tail gun: The Cheyenne tail gun mount, providing increased visibility, improved sighting technology and a wider field of fire, was introduced some time during the production runs B-17G-80-BO (43-38074 / 43-38273, delivered after June ’44), B-17G-45-DL (44-6126 / 44-6250, after May ’44) and B-17G-35-VE (42-97836 / 42-97935, after April ’44). Photographs demonstrate that many — though perhaps not all — of the older planes were equipped with the Cheyenne mount in field modifications.  As we compile mission records for these aircraft, we often see periods of two to three weeks between August and December 1944 with no missions flown — in which it is likely these aircraft were sent to the SAD (Strategic Air Depot) for this and other modifications.

Original gun mounts (from B-17G Flight Operating Instructions)

T/Sgt Sam Larson, tail gunner; Cheyenne mount on 43-39797 (photo taken 9/30/44)


Dorsal gun: In mid-1944, the crew of B-17s in England was reduced from ten to nine men, eliminating one of the two waist gunners. The radio operator, who previously manned the dorsal gun in the roof, acted as the second waist gunner during combat. Aerial engagements with the Luftwaffe had been reduced, and the dorsal gun had limited effectiveness anyway: it merely supplemented the top turret, while having a much more restrictive field of fire. The “flexible mount” dorsal gun was also fully capable of shooting off the top of the plane’s own tail (the top turret was equipped with a cut-out that prevented the guns from firing if the gunner swept across his own tail).

Dorsal guns were being removed in the field during that summer, and mounts were no longer installed in new aircraft by late 1944, with B-17G-105-BO (43-39074 – 43-39273), B-17G-75-DL (44-83236 – 44-83360), and B-17G-85-VE (44-8801 – 44-8900). On production models and field modifications, the roof hatch was enclosed with a plexiglas window without any gun mount. 

Detail of enclosed roof hatch on 43-39797 (Polansky crew – September 1944)

Mr. Bob Rohde, pilot with the 711th Squadron reports that as of July 14, 1944, 44-6016 was still equipped with an open roof and dorsal gun. See& Operation Cadillac


Waist windows: (Updated 1/22/03) Unlike the earlier F-models, equipped with sliding side windows kept open during combat missions, all G-models of the 447th were eventually equipped with fixed windows and integrated gun mounts. The earliest G-1-BO and G-5-BO series were not yet equipped with these new windows, as shown in the photo below. I’ve dated this photograph as probably mid-January 1944.

There are two distinct types of windows: an interim, three-panel frame and gun-mount, and a fully integrated, single-piece window.

The three-panel windows appear to have been installed on new B-17s being delivered by February 1944, and were installed in existing B-17Gs in the field.

The later windows appear sometime in mid-1944 on new, late 42-series aircraft. I have found no documentation of when the change was made, and instead have had to rely on photographic evidence. On that basis, the change took place sometime during the BO-40 or BO-45 series (42-97058 – 42-97407), during the DL-35 series (42-106984 – 42-107233), and after the VE-40 series (ending with 42-98035). Clearly all aircraft delivered under the 1943 and 1944 contracts (serial numbers beginning with 43- and 44-) were equipped with the later window and gun mount.

No Windows 42-37873; January 1944 ?

Old 3-panel window on Bit o’ Lace 42-97976 New single-pane window on Picadilly Ann II 42-102651



Make to check out some of the models built to honor the Fortresses from Rattlesden on our Kits of the Square K page.