USAAF Nose Art Research Project


B-17F-35-BO 42-5137

301st Bomb Group, 32nd Bomb Squadron


Nose art painted by
301st Bomb Group, 32nd Bomb Squadron
England, North Africa & Italy


Pilot Ken Hamm picked this aircraft up at Smokey Hill, Kansas, in December 1942 and flew it down the coast of South America to Natal, across to the Ascension Island and eventually to Marrakesh and Biskra to join the 301BG there. Townsend painted the artwork at St Donat in April '43 using orange yellow for the titling, bright yellow for the bird and red for its beak. "For some time my B17 had no name," Ken Hamm recalled. "There was a theory that it was bad luck if we didn't name the plane and it was the insistence of my flight crew that brought it about. It was named after the nickname of our much respected crew chief Sgt Gardner. We looked upon him as the best in the squadron and honoring him satisfied all the crew."

In addition to at least 55 mission markers applied to the left side in four rows, "Leadfoot" also sported three swastikas for fighter kills (beside the navigator's rear window) and a bright flak patch between the titling and duck's head.

"Leadfoot" was lost on 30th October 1943 flying a mission to Turin's ball bearing plant. When the #4 prop was feathered but continued to windmill, Capt Charles Clowe was forced to leave the safety of the formation. When the engine caught fire and threatened to explode the fuel tanks, the crew bailed out over the sea. Air sea rescue was unable to locate any survivors.


© Ray Bowden 12 August 2022