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303rd Bomb Group (H) Aircraft Markings
1st Air Division - 41st Combat Wing
Eighth Air Force - Molesworth, England

— View Illustrations of 303rd Aircraft —

B-17 AIRCRAFT FINISH

Original B-17Fs (Without chin turrets)
  • Dark Olive Drab and Neutral Gray factory finish. Most of the original B-17s had medium green blotching on the wings, tail and fuselage.
    Note: A few B-17Fs were delivered with the natural unpainted aluminum finish in late 1943. A very few B-17Fs were delivered with factory or modification center installed chin turrets.

Replacement B-17Gs (With chin turrets)
  • Many original B-17Gs were painted in Dark Olive Drab with Neutral Gray factory finish.
  • Natural unpainted aluminum finish first used on aircraft arriving in the U.K. in February 1944
  • The first B-17G was received by the 303rd BG(H) on 11 October 1943. B-17Gs were first used on 303rd BG(H) combat mission #82 on 16 November 1943.

EARLY B-17F - NO TRIANGLE "C" TAIL INSIGNIA - YELLOW LETTERING
#41-24559 Ooold Soljer 360th BS (PU-C)

303rd BG(H) TAIL INSIGNIA
on both sides of the tail surface

Original B-17Fs (October 1942)
  • No triangle group insignia.
  • Serial number painted in yellow. The first number of the full aircraft serial number was dropped, viz.: 41-24577 became 124577
  • Aircraft Radio call letter painted in yellow, 36 inches high, below the serial number. The 358th & 360th BS used "A" to "K", less "E" & "I". The 359th BS & 427th BS used "O" to "W". The size was reduced to 24 inches high around September 1943 By winter of 1943 the whole alphabet was used by all Squadrons. On a few replacement aircraft, the radio call letter was painted in white when yellow paint became unavailable.

Late June / Early July 1943 to August 1944 - Group triangle insignia added above serial number
  • Equilateral white triangle with a back letter "C" in the center of the triangle.
    Note: On some aircraft the letter "C" was painted in blue.)
  • Black letter "C" placed in center of the white triangle
    Note: When natural metal finished B-17Gs were introduced in March 1944, the Group Triangle "C" was changed to a black triangle with a white letter "C" on some B-17s . All 1st Division B-17 Groups utilized the triangle to identify the parent division. 2nd Division B-24 Groups utilized a circle and 3rd Division B-17 Groups utilized a Square. Each group had its identification letter that was placed inside the division triangle, circle or square.

B-17F - FUSELAGE LETTERING CHANGED FROM YELLOW TO GRAY
#41-24605 Knockout Dropper 359th BS (BN-R)

August 1944 - Red triangle "C" Group insignia adopted and new high visibility markings were mandated

  • Red equilateral triangle with twelve foot sides
  • White triangle with ten foot sides with two foot wide red border around the white triangle
  • Black letter "C" (rectangular shape) positioned in center of white triangle.
    Note: On some aircraft the black letter "C" was painted on a bare metal triangle formed by the red surrounding triangle
  • Squadron identification number painted in yellow at the apex of the red triangle, viz.:
    "1" 358th BS, "2" 359th BS, "3" 360th BS, "4" 427th BS
    Note: Squadron codes were not applied to many of the new B-17Gs during 1945.
  • Aircraft serial number painted in yellow on base of the red triangle
  • A 24 inch high yellow aircraft radio call letter was placed below the yellow serial number centered on the base of the red triangle.
    Note: In some instances, black was used for the radio call letter and on some aircraft this letter was omitted.
    Note: In late 1944 - Radio call letters "W, X,Y & Z" were reserved for lead PFF equipped B-17s. Non PFF B-17s that used W, X, Y or Z were assigned new letters.

B-17G - OLIVE DRAB AIRCRAFT - RED TRIANGLE "C" TAIL INSIGNIA
GRAY FUSELAGE LETTERING - YELLOW LETTERING ON TAIL
#42-38050 Thunderbird 359th BS (BN-U)

FUSELAGE IDENTIFICATION
on both fuselage sides

SQUADRON CODE LETTERS & AIRCRAFT RADIO CALL LETTER
  • Squadron Code - Double letters, 48 inch high, rectangular shaped - Placed forward of the waist gunner window and after the national insignias, viz.:
    "VK" 358th BS;   "BN" 359th BS;   "PU" 360th BS;   "GN" 427th BS
  • Aircraft Radio Call Letter -Single letter, 48 inch high, rectangular shaped - Placed aft of the waist gunner window
    Note: In making radio transmissions to or from lead aircraft, other aircraft, control towers, etc the aircraft was identified by using the radio call letter plus the last three numbers of the serial number, i.e. "Cowboy leader this is Q-590"
  • Fuselage letter colors - Early B-17Fs - Yellow, late model B-17Fs and early B-17Gs with Dark Olive Drab and Neutral Gray factory finish - Gray, B-17Gs natural metal August 1944 - Black


U.S. NATIONAL INSIGNIA
Placed between the Squadron code letters and aircraft radio call letter

  • 1942-1943 - Blue circle with five pointed white star inside blue circle
  • 1942-1943 - Yellow border placed around the blue circle
  • 29 June 1943 - "Star & Bar insignia" adopted - White rectangle bars, with red borders, placed on each side of the Blue red bordered circle
  • 14 Aug 1943 - Red border around insignia removed. Blue border around white side bars.


    1942-43

    1942-43

    1943

    1943-47
GROUP IDENTIFICATION ON WINGS OF THE B-17

U.S. National Insignia - Lower side of right wing. Upper side of left wing
  • 303rd BG(H) Triangle "C" Insignia - Upper side of right wing and lower side of left wing. The wing device did not carry the aircraft serial number or the squadron identification number
    Note: Triangle "C" insignia was not placed on wing surface until late June/early July 1943 when the 303rd BG(H) group insignia was adopted.

B-17G - NATURAL METAL FINISH - FUSELAGE LETTERING CHANGED TO BLACK
B-17G Sweet LaRhonda 359th BS (BN-J)

IMPORTANT NOTICE - MANY VARIATIONS EXISTED
  • Authorized and mandated changes in aircraft identification were not implemented overnight. It sometimes took several weeks to implement all of the changes.
  • Some Squadrons made variations in colors, letter placement and size on some B-17s. The aircraft markings shown apply only to the 303rd Bombardment Group (H). Other Bombardment Groups and Divisions had substantial differences from the 303rd in their aircraft identification marking
INFORMATION SOURCES
  • Mighty Eighth Warpaint & Heraldry by Roger A. Freeman, London, England, Arms & Armour Press, 1997, ISBN 1-85409-373-8
  • Air Force Colors, Vol. 2 ETO & MTO 1942-1945 by Dana Bell ' - Carrolton, TX, Squadron/Signal Publications, Inc., 1980, ISBN 0-89747-108-3
  • B-17 Flying Fortress in Color by Steve Birdsall, Carrolton, TX, Squadron/Signal Publications, 1986. ISBN 0-89747-180-6
  • Pride of Seattle, The Story of the First 300 B-17Fs by Steve Birdsall, Carrollton, TX, Squadron/Signal Publications, 1998, ISBN 0-89747-389-2
  • Eighth Air Force Story ... In World War II by Kevin C. Rust, Terre Haute, IN, Sun Shine House, 4978, ISBN 0-911852-81-6
  • Heavy Bombers of the Mighty Eighth by Paul M. Andrews & William H. Adams, Eighth Air Force Memorial Museum Foundation, Project Bits and Pieces, 1995
[Illustrations courtesy of the Mark Styling]