Bill Curtis B-24 Liberator Prints 2

In the early morning hours B-24's and B-17's would take off with a full load of  fuel and bombs and fly up through heavy clouds trying to avoid other aircraft. The 466th Bomb Group would normally fly north to the coast town of Cromer where they would assemble their formation. They would line up on a brightly painted Assembly Ship called "Ready & Willing". She may have been ready and willing but she was a war weary bird who had flown too many combat missions already, and was now stripped of all armaments, and weapons. She was now used daily to line up all the 466th B-24's for their combat missions. The crews affectionately called her the "Striped Ass Ape". She would lead the bombers counterclockwise in a large circle over the North Sea.  The assembly process would often take an hour and a half. When they were all in formation, the assembly ship would peel off  and return to base while the bombers would head west to Germany and other targets. 

Minicraft Models INC is using one of my pieces for the box cover design of a new 1:72 B-24-D Model Kit that is scheduled for release this Spring. The kit will include a detailed set of decals for the striping on "Ready and Willing," the 466th Formation Ship. 

466th Bomb Group "Ole Tom Cat"  B-24 # 42-52555 Caverne Crew # 517  was shot down on their very first mission April 9, 1944. All 10 crewmen were KIA. This print was created for a brother of one the lost crewmen. 

B-24 Liberator Prints 

So what are these concoctions of fake and real and how and why do I take the time to do them? 

  All of the B-24 and B-17 prints here are made up of layers of photographs. The bottom layer of each print is a photo I take with a 9 mega pixel digital camera usually from an airliner using a polarizing filter to cut the glare. I also use aerial photos I have taken in the past from helicopters while working on video projects. The B-24's in my prints are with a few exceptions, four model B-24 airplanes I assembled and painted in either the drab green camo color or gray for the unpainted airplanes. The first B-24's used in the war were painted in the drab green, but later airplanes were left unpainted. This eliminated over 600 pounds of unnecessary weight in paint. For the most part all graphic markings on the airplanes are added in layers in photoshop as well as layers of side and wing decals. The models are photographed in natural soft outdoor light from as many different angles that I can think of. I try to blend the real with the fake to make it look as real as possible. The P-51 fighter in a lot of my pictures is a real airplane that I photographed of at an air show. All of my B-17 photos were from the same air show. The German jet fighters were from photos I took of an airplane at the Naval Air Museum in Pensacola. I shot it from as many different angles as I possible could. For the background of  a burning city, I have used a combination of an aerial view of a rail yard near Chicago with soft focus shots of a campfire in Michigan. I also try to use old images and WWII photos of B-24's on a mission when I can and add color to them. 

   Often I am asked to make prints of a specific airplane. If I can find an old Black & white photo of the airplane, I make a copy of the nose art and blow it up and then put a clear layer on top of it in photoshop and trace the image and color it the way it might have looked- nobody remembers the exact colors any more....  I then can paste the nose art and size it on the B-24. 

     My reason for starting these projects came from a conversation at an 8th Air Force Reunion with a B-24 veteran complaining that at our reunions each year, there are always all sorts of posters and pictures of B-17's but almost no B-24's. So not being an artist, who can drawn and paint, I decided to do what I can do- photography. When people saw some of my prints, I started getting requests from children and grandchildren of veterans for prints of their airplane.

 Some of these requests were from children who had never known their father because he never returned from WWII. ...  These prints are the result.

The Colling's Foundation owns and tours with what is probably the last flying B-24 Liberator "Witchcraft". I had the opportunity to walk through the airplane a few weeks ago (March 2014) and take a photo from the waist gunner window while it was on the ground. I used that photo as a foreground, and pirated a flying photo of witchcraft from the internet and then added 466th Bomb Group Airplanes and used a mountain aerial view to represent the Austrian Alps and layered it all together in photo-shop.

 B-24's include "Three Liberators From Attlebridge Field" the 466th Bomb Group' home field, and a"No Name" aircraft #42-110062 from the 392nd Bomb Group, "Black Cat" the 466th B-24 featured on a postage stamp, The 491st Bomb Group B-24 "Green Hornet",  and "Gallopin Ghost" in memory of pilot Richard Baines.

The photo above is Gallopin' Ghost B-24-H #41-29439, 784th Squadron, and is dedicated to its pilot and former President of the 8th Air Force Historical Society and the 466th Bomb Group Association, Richard Baynes, who passed away last year and is buried at Arlington National Cemetery. Dick was a great man and a good friend. I have recently learned that he flew this aircraft on his first mission only and had major engine problems on his return. The aircraft was not flown after that mission. 


Another view  of Dirty Gertie returning from Munich on July 12, 1944   

 

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