In The Library: Assembly Ships

By Don Allen

Along the back wall of the library is what at first glance seems like an odd sight: brightly, dare I say garishly, painted plane models in glass display cases. Kids love them, drawn to the colors and the cases. But parents aren’t typically sure what exactly they are, as these B-24’s are clearly too brightly colored to have been effective bombers as painted.



Two of the glass cased models in the Library


Well, for those of you who have seen them but  have no idea what they are, wonder no more. They are known as assembly ships.



B-24D Liberator Assembly Ship model for the 445th out of Tibenham (Serial Number: 41-24215) alternately nick-named the “Lucky Gordon” and “Dogpatch Raider”


Picture of “Lucky Gordon”/”Dogpatch Raider” courtesy American Air Museum in Britain. (Click here for link)


Assembly ships were used exactly for what their name implies, to assemble the planes in air in proper formation at the beginning of their bombing runs. These assembly ships helped the other bombers in their group get set up in the proper direction for that days mission, and their bright colors and distinct markings made it easy for the group to see where they were lining up in nearly any type of weather.



B-24D Liberator Assembly Ship model for the 492nd, out of North Pickenham (Serial Number: 42-40793) nick-named “Zebra”


Picture of “Zebra” in flight (approx. 1944-1945) courtesy of the American Air Museum in Britain. (Click here for link)


These aircraft were veteran planes that had deteriorated to the point that, while they could still fly, they could no longer handle the long and harsh miles required, let alone enemy flak. Most would be stripped of their guns, and when the group was in formation and headed towards their target, the assembly ship would turn around and fly back to base.

When visiting, don’t forget to look under the models for more information about the bombing group. The boxes contain two folders, with one the Roll of Honor for each Bomb Group, and the other containing scans of newspaper clippings, pictures, and correspondence regarding the group.





One particularly interesting piece I found while looking through the 492nd’s Memorabilia folder was this citation from the French government, honoring the 492nd’s service.


When translated (with Google Translate) it says: 

French Republic

War 1939-1945


Excerpt from Decision No. 332

The President of the Provisional Government of the French Republic,

Cited by the Army

-492nd Bombardment Group (H)

Magnificent unit distinguished by its gallantry, bravery and spirit of sacrifice.

During the period from January 4 to September 17, 1944, over unprotected aircraft, more than 2,000 day and night war missions over French territory still occupied, ensuring under conditions made perilous by fighter aviation and a very vigilant enemy DCA, numerous parachutes of weapons and material for the benefit of the French forces of the interior.

Thus contributed largely to the allied war effort and the Liberation of the French Territory.

These quotations include the award of the 1939-1945 war cross with palm.

Paris, September 17, 1946.

So pop in and see the assembly ships for all the bomb groups of the 2nd Air Division. The paint can be pretty, well, lets say interesting, at times. One’s even yellow with red polka dots!




Which BG had this paint job? Come in and look to find out!





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2 responses to “In The Library: Assembly Ships

  1. Alex Mena

    Good article Don, but would like to make one observation. The citation issued by the French government was not for the original 492nd BG which flew daylight bombing missions from May11 through August 6th, 1944. That original group was so decimated by losses that it was removed from combat and it’s various bombers and crews dispatched to other groups. A few weeks after the 492nd’s breakup, the 801st/492nd BG was formed. The Carpetbaggers. They flew a completely different mission. Their liberators were painted black and they flew night missions while serving for the OSS. The award was given to the 801st/492nd, NOT the original group. 73 years after the original 492nd BG flew their last mission, many of it’s friends and supporters are trying to get it’s long overdue recognition. The assembly ship in your article was definitely used by the original 492nd, but obviously not by the 801st.

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