The Man who Painted the Largest Number of WWII American Nose Art Images

Gorgeous research from Clarence Simonsen…


The Man who Painted the Largest Number of WWII American Nose Art Images

Today you will find a number of Websites dedicated to the ‘best known nose artist’ of the Second World War, Anthony [Tony] Starcer, 16 September 1919 – 9 June 1986. My history is not from the Internet, or copied from books, it is in fact from the lips and words of Tony, the letters he sent to me, his newspaper clippings, and photos of his nose art I collected to send back to him, as he did not process any images of his WWII paintings.

This really began with a few Americans who trusted an unknown Canadian, and the first became an ex B-24 pilot who flew with the Mighty 8th Air Force from England during WWII. Without the friendship, trust, and support of John Woolnough, this history would not be possible, and my story is dedicated to John.

John Woolnough

John Woolnough


John was born and raised in Chicago Heights, Ill, and joined the U.S. Army in 1941, assigned as a photography instructor. Later he completed flight school and was assigned to fly B-24 Liberator bombers assigned to the 466th Bomb Group at Attlebridge, England. He completed 30 missions over Europe and left the USAAF in 1946, returning to the Air Force in 1949, he completed 15 more years service and retired in 1965. In 1975, John founded the 8th Air Force Historical Society, and became the editor of the 8th Air Force News, with over 20,000 subscribers. In 1976, I became an associate member and exchanged letters with John concerning B-17 and B-24 nose art history. In 1978, John published a 224 page book titled “The 8th Air Force Album”, containing 1,157 illustrations, including nose art photos.



These nose art images contained no information, so I wrote to John and ask if he would start a nose art column in the 8th Air Force News. There was a rich history connected with each 8th A.F. nose art image and it should be saved for future generations of Americans. John answered, giving me a 1/3 page nose art column, which I could edit myself. The result was huge, and at times I feared I had taken on more than I could chew. [100 to 200 letters a month]


Suddenly, I found the nose art column gave me powers to connect with ex-8th Air Force members, who normally would not answer letters from a Canadian. I then began a quest to make contact with my very first WWII nose artist, Cpl. Tony Starcer of the 91st B.G. My first letter to the 91st Bomb Group Association, placed me in contact with editor and historian Paul C. Burnett and next I received the address of America’s greatest nose art painter Tony Starcer.

 letter 1

The first few letters from Tony Starcer were full of surprises, such as the fact he had not picked up a paint brush since the war ended in Europe in May 1945. “When I came out of the service the competition in art was real strong and I wanted to get married, so I just got a job and gave up art.” Starcer worked in a warehouse for the May Company, a distribution center for May D & F Stores in California. Tony had no ego, and he didn’t wish to become famous, he only wanted to enjoy the freedom he had fought for.  

In my first letter from Tony, summer 1979, he explained how he obtained regular house paint, which he drained off all the oil base and then added linseed oil to the mixture, working with basic colors of White, Yellow, Red, Blue, and Black. He mixed all his own colors to produce different shades and then went to work. He listed 45 nose art images he completed from memory and later send a completed lists that totaled over 130. He also painted some 200 images on the back of the A-2 jackets, and recalled – “There was a ten man crew in the B-17 and after completing the nose art painting, most of the crew requested the same art on their A-2 jacket.” As I completed the A-2 jacket art, I would stack each leather jacket on top of each, beside my bed.” The pile soon grew to the height of four feet, and then I realized these B-17 crews were either killed in action or a prisoner of war.” I attempted to give some away but they were bad luck and nobody wanted them.” ” They were burnt and forgotten.”

I was also honored when Tony ask me to locate any photos of his old nose art, books on the Vargas girls, and anything else I could find to assist him with repainting the forgotten nose art.


 letter 2


Thanks to my new nose art column in the 8th Air Force News, I was able to feature the history of Tony and this resulted in finding many of his lost and forgotten WWII nose art images. Army General [and future President] Dwight D. Eisenhower had christened his namesake with a bottle of Mississippi river water in April 1944.




This U.S. Army Air Force photo appeared in National Geographic magazine showing the artistic talent of Tony Starcer. The man in photo was not a pilot but in fact Crew/Chief Master Sgt. Mc Daniels who took care of B-17G-40-BO, serial 42-97061. code letter “B”, 91st Bomb Group, 323rd Bomb Squadron.

Ike B-17

This letter came in March 1980, and it is the beginning of the rebirth of Tony Starcer and his WWII nose art paintings.

letter 3

Some Websites credit the 1990 movie “Memphis Belle” as the rise of Tony but that is false. The movie came out in 1990, and Tony died 9 June 1986. It was the B-17G “Shoo Shoo Baby’ that made him famous again, plus the video release of the 1943 William Wyler classic film which featured the original Memphis Belle. Released in April 1944, it was shown in 16,000 theatres in the United States and today is in the U. S. National Film Registry. Forgotten is the fact this extraordinary WWII color footage also captures the images of original Tony Starcer nose art.

 Pueblo Star Journal

Boeing built B-17G-35-BO was assigned serial number 42-32076 when she rolled out of the Seattle plant on 23 January 1944. The next day she was flown to the USAAF Wright Field, Ohio, and delivered to 8th Air Force Depot at Burtonwood, England, arriving on 2 March 1944. All B-17 aircraft manufactured after 1 February 1944, remained in natural finish, giving them longer range, due to no wind resistance on the painted surface. B-17G #42-32076 was one of the last bombers assigned to the 91st Bomb Group, 401st Bomb Squadron, wearing camouflaged paint. She was assigned to the crew of Lt. Paul McDuffee, at Station #121, Bassingbourn, England.

 Hank Cordes

Paul McDuffee

T/Sgt. Hank Cordes was assigned as 8th Air Force Crew/Chief for the newly arrived B-17G, and he was the one who named her “Shoo Shoo Baby” after his wife’s favorite song, a 1943 version by the Andrews Sisters on Decca label. Corporal Tony Starcer was asked to paint the name on the B-17 nose over the camouflaged paint, and the lettering was “Gothic script.” Tony wanted to painted the Blonde Vargas girl with the name but it was never completed due to the fact the bomber camouflage paint was ordered removed. After the removal of the camouflage paint, Tony went to work and repainted the name “Shoo Shoo Baby” and the famous Vargas blonde nose art. The new B-17G flew her first mission on 24 March 1944, and Lt. McDuffee and crew completed 19 more in Shoo Shoo Baby, the last to Berlin on 25 May 1944. The B-17 was now turned over to Lt. Robert J. Guenther and five days later they developed engine trouble and landed in Sweden, finishing her missions at 22. 

In December 1944, the United States Government officially gave Sweden seven B-17 aircraft as a gift, and Shoo Shoo Baby became one of them. The proud bomber now became a Swedish passenger liner carrying fourteen passengers and cargo. In November 1945, she was sold to Danish Air Lines and became OY-DFA, with nickname painted on nose “Stig Viking.” In April 1948, the Royal Danish Air Force took possession and she was given serial number 672 and nose art of Viking pulling a Viking boat with name “Store Bjorn” [Great Bear]. The B-17 was fitted with special radio equipment and made flights between Greenland, Iceland, and Goose Bay, Canada.

On 6 June 1949, she returned to U. S. for one flight. [It is believed she was involved in spying on the new Soviet threat to world peace.] Officially retired by Danish Air Force in January 1953.

Royal Danish Air Force Nose art on B-17G 42-32076

Royal Danish Air Force Nose art on B-17G #42-32076

Photo Dana D. Lakeman 1980

Photo Dana D. Lakeman 1980

In 1955, the Babb Company of New York purchased “Shoo Shoo Baby” and resold her [for profit] to the Institute Geographique National in Paris, France. She flew as a survey aircraft until 15 July 1961. As a friendship gesture the French gave the B-17 to the U.S. Air Force in 1971.  She was disassembled, crated, and flown to Ohio in a C-5 transport, arriving in May 1972. From June 1972 until July 1978 she remained in 27 crates at the Air Force Museum at Dayton. In 1979, the 512th MAW at Dover, Air Force Base began the task of restoring the B-17G to her WWII condition. That is where I entered the history with artist Tony Starcer and a major ‘nose art’ problem was developing.

Photo taken by Dana D. Lakeman  Dover Air Base 1979

Photo taken by Dana D. Lakeman  Dover Air Base 1979 1

Photos taken by Dana D. Lakeman  Dover Air Base, 1979

 letter 4

 Sweden 1944

 Sweden June 1944

This original photo was taken from the original negative in Sweden in 1944, and shows three “Shoos” in nose art painting by Tony Starcer. Image from Dana D. Lakeman, 14 January 1980, came with above letter.

Upon making letter contact with  Tony Starcer, I learned that the original pilot Lt. Paul McDuffee was most upset that his B-17G was being repainted using three “Shoos” in the nose art. Being an ex-police officer, I contacted Paul to learn his side of the story. I believe it is only fair to all aviation historians to see what Paul McDuffee wrote to me in August and September 1982.  These letters have never been published before.

I have been repainting replica WWII nose art for the past fifty plus years. Please look closely at the top “Shoo” and it is clear to see the “S” and “O’s” are not the same quality or style as the bottom letters. The top music note is not the same as the bottom one. I believe the top “Shoo” to be the artistic work of a different artist, but that may never be determined. Tony Starcer could not recall, so the powers that be ordered it repainted with three Shoos.

Two websites state that McDuffee was forgetful and could not support this photo proof. I do not believe that is fair to the original pilot, this was his aircraft and his original nose art. A photograph should not lead readers to conclude that Paul McDuffee is crazy or incorrect. Like a court of law, please read what he has to say, then decide. It was truly important to pilot original McDuffee and he is gone and forgotten.

 letter 5

letter 6 letter 7

  Shoo Shoo Shoo Baby

 The Steve Birdsall photo from Dana Lakeman, which caused all the problem.

Shoo Shoo Shoo Baby 1

In March 1980 , Dana Lakeman and nose artist Starcer joined to send me an original strip of skin from B-17G #42-32076, “Shoo Shoo Baby”

Boeing B-17G 

United States Air Force photo Dayton, Ohio

Today this famous B-17G remains in the National Museum of the United States Air Force at Dayton, Ohio, painted showing three “Shoos.”

I became indirectly involved in this aviation nose art conspiracy that greatly affected the original pilot Lt. Paul McDuffee. Paul felt insulted and betrayed by the post-war historical revisionists who never flew in the bombing campaign, and had nothing to do with the naming or painting of his “nose art.” In our phone calls, [1982] he expressed anger, frustration, with his endless struggle to have his own B-17 painted as “Shoo Shoo Baby.” In the end this brave pilot lost his battle, but his letters can now carry on, I hope.

plate 1

Boeing B-17G #42-32076 was named by the crew chief, the favorite song title his wife loved so much. Lt. McDuffee flew her in camouflage as “Shoo Shoo Baby” in black Gothic lettering only. He then flew her in natural finish with name “Shoo Shoo Baby” and April 1944 Varga girl painted by Starcer, until 25 May 1944.

Historians should record history for the learning of future generations, and never, never, change history to what they believe.

plate 1 - Copy (9)

This was the retirement letter from Tony and you can see he became totally involved in the restoration project of the Memphis Belle. On replacement aluminum skin squares he painted nose art of Shoo Shoo Baby and Memphis Belle which were sold as a fund-raiser. I sent him negatives and photos of his lost nose art and he never forgot me.

plate 1 - Copy (8)

Images sent to me from Tony painting [Shoo] Shoo Shoo Baby and England 1944, painting his “Thunderbird Marnita No. 2” B-17G serial 42-5724, code LG-T.

 plate 1 - Copy (7) plate 1 - Copy (6) plate 1 - Copy (5)



Tony used the pin-up ladies from the Esquire Inc. “Varga” calendar as his inspiration, this from February 1944 issue became “Mount ‘N Ride” serial 42-31585, career ended in Switzerland.


 plate 1 - Copy (4) Madame Shoo Shoo



When cartoonist Milton Caniff introduced a new hidden identify for Miss Lace in the strip created for serviceman only, she was named “Madame Shoo-Shoo, and Tony painted her on B-17G.

plate 2 - Copy (2)


This original “Memphis Belle” Orange Juice label was sent to me from Tony. It was created during the Memphis Belle war bond tour across the United States in 1944.

 plate 2 - Copy (3)

Tony also created many insignia, this completed for the Southern California Wing of the Confederate Air Force, with headquarters in Van Nuys, California.

plate 2 - Copy (4)

This signed artwork by Tony hangs with pride in my home in Airdrie, Alberta, Canada.

 plate 2 - Copy (5) plate 2 - Copy (6)


This was the last nose art painted by Tony Starcer, which he mailed to me in January 1986.

The local chapter of the Confederate Air Force had ask Tony to paint the nose art on the restored C-46 Commando, and he finished his work in December 1985. The aircraft was originally christened “Humpty Dumpty” but members felt it was too whimsical. The new nose art reflected on the C-46s that flew over the “Hump” in China and Madame Chiang Kai Shek, the China Doll.

His next nose art was slated for Chino airport with the name “Piccadilly II”, then in May 1986, Tony was admitted to Kaiser Hospital in Hollywood with Leukemia. Tony required massive blood donations and many members of the aviation community stepped forward. Tony then suffered a stroke which left him paralyzed on his right side and he did not respond to treatment. He passed away at 5:10 am, 9 June 1986.

Tony had planned to repaint the Memphis Belle nose art, just like he had painted the original in England. Some websites state that nose art on the Memphis Belle was painted by Tony Starcer.

That is not correct.

 plate 2 - Copy (8) plate 2 - Copy (7)



In 1988, I wrote to ask permission to use the Tony Starcer history in my new Nose Art publication. Phil Starcer was kind to inform me he had repainted the nose art on Memphis Belle, and this print appeared in the October 1987 issue of “Flypast” magazine in England.


 plate 2 - Copy (9)

Replica nose art painted by Phil Starcer and still on the Memphis Belle


In 1983, I wrote to Dr. Harry Friedman Director of the Memphis Belle Memorial Association in Memphis, Tennessee. They were stripping eight layers of old paint off the Memphis Belle B-17 during the first part of the restoration and this would expose the original Tony Starcer nose art completed in England. It was impossible to save this art work but I ask if he would please take photos for me.

plate 2 - Copy (10) plate 2 - Copy

Images from Dr. Harry Friedman 1983

The last letter I received from Tony, March 1986.

plate 3 - Copy (2)

plate 3 - Copy (3)

 plate 3 - Copy (4)

The April 1941 “Petty” girl, from Reid Stewart Austin in Simonsen collection

plate 3 - Copy

 The Greatest American Nose Artist from the Greatest Generation

Well done Tony.

15 thoughts on “The Man who Painted the Largest Number of WWII American Nose Art Images

  1. More information taken on the Internet

    Document created: 31 October 03
    Air University Review, January-February 1973

    The Return of Shoo-Shoo Baby

    William G. Holder

    A vast majority of the B-17s met a rather inglorious end following World War II. Most either faced the scrapper’s torch or ended up as aluminum ingots. Almost all these combat-weary Flying Fortresses met their demise across the waters; very few made their way back to the States. This fact is sorely realized today, what with the burgeoning of aircraft museums around the world. In fact, to the best of our knowledge, there are only three Forts left in existence that actually saw combat. These are the Swoose, which is awaiting the day it will be displayed at the Smithsonian’s Air and Space Museum. Then there is the Memphis Belle, displayed in Memphis, Tennessee. The third Fort, which like the Memphis Belle served with the 91st Bomb Group, has just returned to the States, eventually to be restored and displayed in the magnificent new Air Force Museum. Yes, after almost thirty years, the Shoo-Shoo Baby has come home.

    The Baby was (or should we say “is”?) a late-model B-17G, serial number 42-32076, that was assigned to the 401st Bomb Squadron of the 91st Bomb Group. Lieutenant Paul C. McDuffee was assigned as her original pilot. The favorite song of Crew Chief Hank Cordes was “Shoo-Shoo Baby”; hence it was inevitable that the song title would adorn the nose of the then-new Fort, along with a rather scantily clad young lady.

    In all the long list of 340 missions made by the 91st, surely the strangest entry of all was this notation: “9–4–44, Gdynia—recalled” and immediately below, on the same date, was “1 A/C Marienburg, Completed.” Though in the early days the group sometimes had to struggle to get more than half a dozen planes in the air, this was certainly the only case in Eighth Air Force history for which a group got mission credit with only one aircraft participating.

    And it all started out as a perfectly normal morning for pilot Paul McDuffee and the crew of the Shoo-Shoo Baby. At briefing, the weight was hanging way up on the wall, so everyone knew at once it would be a long, mean one. Gdynia, a Polish rail and shipping center, was the target. The group was to assemble at altitude over East Anglia and proceed from there.

    As usual, the weather was miserable, with fog, zero visibility, and a heavy overcast. The crews went through the “set and sweat” period, waiting for a mission scrub that never came. Instead, the planes took off, only to be swallowed up immediately in the overcast.

    Shoo-Shoo Baby cut through a thin layer of overcast into clear air at several thousand feet, without another plane in sight, and then plunged into a layer above that seemed endless. McDuffee and the crew kept looking and climbing higher and higher, reaching for the top, scared stiff at the thought of several dozen other Forts struggling just as blindly through the mess and likely to make contact at any moment.

    At 30,600 feet the plane broke clear, almost in the middle of a group of B-24s. “We were within wing tip distance of the last plane in the formation,” McDuffee recalled, “and the slipstream bounces nearly tore the wings off. We were all petrified!”

    Except for the 24s, there was not a plane in sight. They flew in circles for some minutes, looking in vain for other 91st planes. Checks indicated that Baby’s radio was working, and no message of any change in plans or a recall had been received.

    Finally, far off in the distance appeared a group of B-17s, and Shoo-Shoo Baby headed for an intercept. When she closed up, however, the crew could see it was not the 91st but another First Division group. At the moment, McDuffee was not choosy and decided to tuck in where he could and ride with the herd. The only open spot was deputy lead, so Shoo-Shoo Baby slid in there, despite protestations and general shaking of fists by the other pilots in the formation. With radio silence ordered, that was about all they could do.

    “We’d found a home,” McDuffee declared, “and we weren’t about to be dispossessed!”

    The group was apparently going to a target other than the one assigned to the 91st, for the heading was approximately 40 degrees, which carried them up near the tip of Sweden before they swung right on a 145-degree heading.

    “When we approached the coast the navigator immediately picked up Gdynia and Danzig, which obviously were not the targets, and we changed to a course of 190 degrees. About that time we hit a terrific flak barrage and hundreds of fighters,” McDuffee remembered. “We opened the bomb-bay doors and headed for the target when the others did, though we really didn’t know what it was. After turning off the target run, we noticed that six B-17s had been lost.”

    On the way to the coast, Shoo-Shoo Baby encountered a mystery that no one to this day has been able to explain. “A shell burst ahead and above us, emitting what appeared to be a big puff of brown smoke. Immediately, another burst just above us, and the whole plane was covered with what looked to be brown tobacco juice. The windows and windshields were completely covered, and the wipers only made it worse. The only way we could see to fly for the rest of the trip was to slide back the windows a bit and sort of stick one eye out.”

    About halfway across the North Sea coming back, Shoo-Shoo Baby left her unknown friends and set course for Bassingbourn. The plane landed safely after 12 hours and 55 minutes in the air, and all four engines quit simultaneously on the taxi strip—all the fuel was gone.

    In talking to the tower, McDuffee asked how many others had gotten back OK. “Nobody,” said the tower man, and then before shock could totally overwhelm the crew, “Nobody else went. We had a recall.”

    “Waiting for us to come in was Colonel Claude Putnam and some major general,” McDuffee recalled. “We were sure that our names were mud! When I stepped out of the plane after all those hours of flying, I fell to my knees; and when Colonel Putnam came up, I asked him not to be too hard on us, since I was already on my knees.”

    “He just laughed and said that we’d been to Marienburg, that our flight reflected honor on the 91st, that the general was pleased and had said the 91st would get group credit for our [lone] mission.”

    Why didn’t Shoo-Shoo Baby get the recall? A freak accident had disabled the radio so that it appeared to function normally but did not receive. So the crew never got the recall.

    The “tobacco juice”? They never did discover what it was. All his buddies claim that McDuffee flew through a blivet for sure, but, as he says, “Who ever saw a blivet flying at 30,000 feet?”

    McDuffee flew his 30th mission in the Baby on the 24th of May 1944, having flown several missions with Lieutenant Robert J. Guenther as his copilot, preparatory to Guenther’s taking over the aircraft commander post.

    Then commander duties were handed over to Bob Guenther, who would be Baby’s second and final military boss. It was then, supposedly, that the nose got the additional “Shoo” that appears in the only known wartime picture of the plane. But there appears to be some uncertainty about this.

    After several missions with Guenther at the helm, the Baby was faced with an extremely tough one: a mission to Poznań, Poland, that approached the capacity of the B-17. The mission length was approximately 1450 miles. The flight is well remembered by one of the crew members, J. M. Lowdermilk:

    “The navigator always got to the plane late, as the rest of the crew was ready to go, and I remember that as I walked up to the plane Bob [Guenther] asked me if I knew the way to Sweden because we might run out of gas. I stated that I did and that I had the course charted. This was all in jest, but I have often wondered what would have happened had this been overheard by the ground crew, since actually we did go to Sweden.

    “We had trouble on take-off with a full gas and bomb load. The supercharger on number three engine overheated but after take-off was operational. We rendezvoused with many other B-17s over the English Channel, and the plotted course was toward Berlin, then doglegged around Berlin, to Poznań, where the bombs were to be dropped, north to the Baltic Sea, out across Denmark, and finally back down the English Channel to home.

    “Soon after we crossed the German border, we lost number three engine, I believe because of losing oil pressure. Bob could not get the prop feathered. It continued to windmill the entire trip with no vibration. We attempted to stay in formation with three engines but found this impossible and had to drop out. We continued on course to the best of my ability. We were losing altitude but continued to the target and dropped our bombs. Flying alone toward the Baltic Sea, we saw many German fighters attacking formations of B-17s and could not understand why they didn’t pick us out as a straggler. Before we reached the Baltic Sea, we lost the second engine, and the decision had to be made to go to Sweden because we could not make it back to England. Bob asked for a course to Sweden, and I charted one to a little town called Ystad in the very southernmost part of Sweden.

    “All loose equipment, including machine guns, radio equipment, and clothing, was thrown overboard in order to lighten the ship. An attempt was made to drop the ball turret, but it wouldn’t move.

    “As we approached the coastline, Bob was interested in knowing whether or not it was Sweden. I confidently stated that it was, but after the flak started coming up as we got over land, I wasn’t so sure. All of it was low, and I believe the Swedes were just telling us ‘Don’t try anything.’ Just before we reached land we lost the third engine, and we were losing altitude fast. A Swedish fighter came up and led us to Malmö, Sweden, where a B-24, also in trouble, landed just ahead of us. Actually, we had to swing wide to keep from colliding.

    “At this point I blew my chance to be a hero. The B-17 carried a navigational aid called a Geebox. This instrument had a red button that was to be pushed in case of emergency, to prevent certain information from falling into the hands of the enemy. I was so glad to get down on the ground and out of the plane that I failed to push the button.

    “We were removed from the plane by Swedish soldiers with rifles and machine guns. Most of us were wearing heated flight suits over long underwear, and we were a sorry-looking sight coming off the plane.”

    The pilot, Bob Guenther, now a resident of Scottsdale, Arizona, explains: “None of us except the engineer ever saw Shoo-Shoo Baby again. The engineer went along with the Swedes to help them take her to the internment area.

    “We were taken into a building, where we submitted name, rank, and serial number. We were told that the American authorities would be informed of our presence. Within the next few days, we were transported to a resort camp called Lokabrun near Ludvika. Treatment there was good. We had two men to the room and maid service. There was a detachment of Swedish soldiers in the camp, but things were very informal. We soon bought civilian clothes and bicycles, and each week we were allowed a 24-hour pass from camp and a 3-day pass each month. We went to Stockholm a number of times, were arrested there for taking pictures of the naval harbor, and generally had a good time.

    “During late October, 1944, we were taken to Stockholm, and on October 29 a white B-24 with a civilian crew took us out at night under cloud cover across Norway and into northern Scotland. I was loaded into the bomb bay with what seemed like 30 other men. We returned to our base in England and then back to the States.”

    Following the war, the Baby was officially given to Sweden by the United States. She was modified into a transport by SAAB, served with the Danish Air Lines, and then with the Royal Danish Air Force. In 1954 the plane was sold to the Babb Company and then to the Institute Géographique National in France for work as a survey aircraft. Her last mission in performing that function was in 1961. She has not flown since.

    Steve Birdsall, the Australian air historian, traced her through years of hard tracking. He found her engineless and parked on the ramp at Creil, France, in a somewhat battered condition. He brought his find to the attention of the 91st Bomb Group Memorial Association and initiated efforts to save Shoo-Shoo Baby from the scrap heap. As Birdsall pointed out, “This veteran was the last combat B-17 to survive, and she deserves a better fate.”

    When found, the Baby had undergone a number of rather extensive modifications to perform the many jobs she had done since the fateful Poland raid. All the original equipment had been stripped out, and seats had been installed. The waist-gun positions had been closed up and windows with curtains put in. The complete nose section had been removed and a considerably longer nose installed. A military-type nose will be installed when the aircraft is restored. There were also some windows” installed in the floor for the geographic missions she performed. The tail turret was completely “metaled” over. Her sides carried the SAAB commercial markings.

    French officials, as a gesture of friendship between the United States and France, presented the B-17 to Secretary of the Air Force Robert C. Seamans, Jr., for preservation by the Air Force Museum. The journey from France to the Air Force Museum required the assistance of the United States Air Forces in Europe to disassemble and crate the plane for truck shipment to Germany and eventual airlift to the United States. From Rhein-Main Air Base in Germany the Baby was flown directly to Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, home of the Air Force Museum. Baby traveled in style, in the belly of a giant C-5A transport.

    On hand at Wright-Pat were several of Shoo-Shoo Baby’s old friends. Wartime pilot Paul McDuffee, now a Tampa, Florida, insurance man, and retired Major General Stanley T. Wray, once 91st Bomb Group Commander, were waiting among the reception committee.

    “It’s been twenty-eight years,” said McDuffee as he watched the disassembled bomber being unloaded. “I’ve just got to go over and kiss her.” And he did it!

    The Air Force Museum, over the next two or three years, plans to get the Baby back as near as possible to her fighting trim. Then she will probably replace the Museum’s present B-17, which did not see combat.

    The 91st Bomb Group Memorial Association is quite excited about the acquisition and plans to hold one of its upcoming reunions at Dayton so the members will be able to see her. The organization boasts some 1700 veterans of the group, commonly known as Wray’s Ragged Irregulars.”

    As one 91st veteran put it, “When we flew in the likes of her, we were nothing but a bunch of pimply-faced kids. But she now sure brings back a lot of memories to a lot of old fifty-year-olds.”

    Welcome home, Baby!

    Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio


    Recently photographs are by Len Pytel, and all are by courtesy of the Air Force Museum.


    William G. Holder (B.S.A.E., Purdue University) is a space systems analyst with the Foreign Technology Division, Air Force System Command, Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio. He has worked with the Boeing Company on the Bomarc B and the Saturn V. As a lieutenant in the U.S. Army, he served three years as an air defense guided missile instructor. Mr. Holder is the author of numerous technical and historical articles and books, including Saturn V—The Moon Rocket (1969).


    The conclusions and opinions expressed in this document are those of the author cultivated in the freedom of expression, academic environment of Air University. They do not reflect the official position of the U.S. Government, Department of Defense, the United States Air Force or the Air University.


  2. My father-in-law, F/O Paul Pinkerton, flew this airplane March 29, 1944 while his usual aircraft, Liberty Run, was unavailable. A cntrl-f search on this page will yield his name. Shoo Shoo (Shoo) Baby is listed only as AC 076 in these reports, so a search for 076 would yield some of her combat history. Sorry, I don’t have any photos that I haven’t found on the internet, and Maj. Pinkerton passed away last year.

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