USAAF Nose Art Research Project


Little Patches
B-17G-25-BO 42-31678

91st Bomb Group


Nose art painted by
Cpl Anthony L STARCER
91st Bomb Group
Bassingbourn, England

Little Patches

Read more about this aircraft:

Plane Names & Fancy Noses
91st Bomb Group 324th & 401st Bomb Sqns Codes: DF-L & LL-L
To USAAF : 6 Dec 43
To Kearney AAB : 19 Dec 43
To Presque Isle : 9 Jan 44
Arrived ETO : 18 Jan 44 (Nutts Corner)
Ass'd to 91BG : 27 Jan 44
Crew Chief : M/Sgt Arthur Hole

The name "Little Patches" was acquired after the aircraft's first combat mission with Lt William Major's crew when Frankfurt flak put many splinters through the ship. The damage was primarily cosmetic but the skin required numerous small aluminium patches prompting Lt Major to name the ship. Starcer's original pin-up painting portrayed a blonde wearing an Air Force cap.

"Little Patches" was considered a 'gas-hog' by the Major crew who were concerned on long haul missions that they might not make it home. The 21st Feb 44 mission to Poland prompted plans for an emergency landing in Sweden should it become necessary but the weather closed in that day and dictated a closer target.

After the 29th Mar 44 mission to Brunswick, "Little Patches" caught fire during maintenance and was so badly damaged that it was removed from operations and sent to the sub-depot for extensive repairs. It was not fit to return to combat flying until early in May when it was re-assigned to the 401st Bomb Squadron.

At least 34 different combat crews were assigned to "Little Patches" during its operational tour. The first pilot to take the ship after it was transferred into the 401st Sqn was Sam Newton -- immortalised in Bert Stiles' famous book 'Serenade to the Big Bird.' Stiles later flew as co-pilot with John Green on 29th July to Leipzig when "Little Patches" took 20mm cannon hits, caught fire and was forced from the formation to return alone. It flew to all the toughest targets including Schweinfurt, Regensburg, Augsburg, Munich, Merseburg, Frankfurt and Berlin (at least 8 times). Serious battle damage over Merseburg on 2nd November put the ship out of action for most of that month. Repaired, it was put back into combat and continued flying missions until the end. In the final month of war, "Little Patches" notched up nine raids -- the last being to Brandenburg on 20th April 1945.

Finally when it was all over, "Little Patches" landed just north of Berlin on 8th May to collect RAF prisoners of war and ferry them back to England. One month later, it took off from Bassingbourn for Valley in Wales on the first leg of the return flight to the USA and ultimate scrapping, piloted by Francis Breidenbach. After landing at Bradley Field, Connecticut, it passed on to Romulus Field, then Topeka and finally Kingman RFC, Arizona.

(EXTRACT FROM PLANE NAMES & FANCY NOSES) : 20th July to Leipzig. . . . in the top turret was Gilbert Bradley and his diary comments give a graphic commentary of events. "We were hit on the IP by Me109s and Fw190s. We had six attacks of about 50-75 each," he noted. "They hit the low squadron which I was in. After the third attack there was only two of us left and we were both shot out of formation. On the third attack we got two 20mm hits in No.2 fuel tank which shook the whole ship. It was burning very badly and I thought it was going to explode."

.... Gilbert's diary continued, "I shot down one Me109 and set another on fire. Ernie (Mock, tail gunner) shot down two which exploded in mid air. Bossert (ball turret) shot an Fw190 and the pilot bailed out." When they finally arrived back over Bassingbourn those on the ground were surprised to see them for they had been reported as lost in action. Gilbert concluded his diary entry for that day, "I guess I am a cat . . . I am living my third life!"

If anyone can offer further information on the missions of this aircraft please contact me.

  Additional image Of  
Starcer's original pin-up painting portayed a blonde wearing an Air Force cap. His artwork was probably based on the popular Gil Elvgren illustration entitled 'Net Results' painted in 1941 -- which was based on his earlier rendering called 'Forced Landing'.
  Additional image Of  
The fire damage affected the nose section of the plane and Tony Starcer repainted the pin-up girl at this time and made some slight amendments to his original imagery. The girl became slightly slimmer as well as a brunette, the Air Force cap was omitted and the dress received a different pattern. The title lettering however remained identical and untouched.

Read more about this aircraft:

Known Mission List

Date Pilot


11 Feb 1944Lt William MajorFrankfurtCat A battle damage
20 Feb 1944Lt William MajorLeipzig/Aschersleben?
21 Feb 1944Lt William MajorAchmer?
22 Feb 1944Lt William MajorBunde?
24 Feb 1944Lt William MajorSchweinfurtCat A flak damage
25 Feb 1944Lt William MajorAugsburgCat A flak damage
2 Mar 1944Lt William MajorFrankfurt?
3 Mar 1944Lt William MajorWilhelmshaven?
6 Mar 1944Lt Uwell McFarlandBerlinCat A battle damage
8 Mar 1944Lt William MajorBerlin?
9 Mar 1944Lt William MajorBerlin?
18 Mar 1944Lt William MajorOberpfaffenhofen?
20 Mar 1944Lt William MajorFrankfurt?
22 Mar 1944Lt Edgar DowningBerlin?
23 Mar 1944Lt Edgar DowningAhlen?
24 Mar 1944Lt Edgar DowningFrankfurt?
26 Mar 19441Lt Fred KnightMimoyecquesFlak damage
27 Mar 1944Lt Edgar DowningSt Jean d'Angeley?
28 Mar 1944Lt Edgar DowningReims-Champagne"Small flak holes"
29 Mar 1944Lt William MajorBrunswickCaught fire on ground
To sub-depot for Extensive Repairs
9 May 1944Lt Sam NewtonSt Dizier?
13 May 1944Lt Ray CableStralsund?
19 May 1944Lt William ThissellBerlinCat A battle damage
23 May 1944Lt David RyanSaarbrucken?
24 May 1944Lt David RyanBerlinCarried leaflets
25 May 19441Lt William ThissellNancy-Essey?
27 May 19441Lt Donald KnappLudwigshaven?
28 May 19441Lt Ray CableDessau?
31 May 19441Lt John FollettMulhouse?
15 Jun 19441Lt Harold KirbyBordeaux?
18 Jun 19441Lt Harold KirbyHamburg?
20 Jun 19442Lt Clarence FightmasterHamburg?
21 Jun 19442Lt Clarence FightmasterBerlinCat AC battle damage
4 Jul 19441Lt Charles VanAusdellTours?
6 Jul 19441Lt Charles VanAusdellAire?
7 Jul 19441Lt Charles Van AusdellKolleda/Mockau?
12 Jul 19441Lt Charles NeiswenderMunich?
13 Jul 19441Lt Charles NeiswenderMunich?
16 Jul 19441Lt Charles NeiswenderMunich?
18 Jul 19442Lt John GreenPeenemunde?
19 Jul 19442Lt John GreenLechfeld?
20 Jul 19442Lt John GreenLeipzig?
29 Jul 19442Lt Joseph LyonsMerseburg?
6 Aug 1944Lt R H DanekasBrandenburg?
7 Aug 19442Lt R E GardisterSens-Bourron-Marlotte?
9 Aug 19442Lt R N BroughtonElsenborn?
11 Aug 19442Lt Charles BuchananBrest?
12 Aug 19442Lt Charles BuchananBuc airfield?
25 Aug 19442Lt Charles BuchananNeubrandenburg?
26 Aug 19442Lt Charles BuchananGelsenkirchen?
27 Aug 19442Lt Joseph LyonsHeligoland?
5 Sep 19442Lt Charles BuchananLudwigshaven?
8 Sep 19442Lt Charles BuchananLudwigshaven?
9 Sep 19442Lt Charles BuchananLudwigshaven?
10 Sep 19441Lt Harry GarnerGaggenhau?
13 Sep 19442Lt Charles BuchananLutzkendorf?
19 Sep 19442Lt Charles BuchananHamm?
21 Sep 19442Lt Charles BuchananMainz?
26 Sep 19442Lt Edward FlandersOsnabruck?
27 Sep 19442Lt Charles BuchananCologne?
2 Oct 19442Lt Charles BuchananKassel/Fritzlar?
3 Oct 19442Lt Charles BuchananNurnberg?
14 Oct 19442Lt Charles BuchananCologne?
22 Oct 19441Lt Richard BroughtonBrunswick?
25 Oct 19441Lt HaroldPackardHamburg?
27 Oct 19441Lt Harold PackardMunster?
2 Nov 19442Lt Charles BuchananMerseburgSerious BD - 20mm
30 Nov 19442Lt Will CarterZeitz?
5 Dec 19442Lt Will CarterBerlin?
9 Dec 19442Lt William BatemanStuttgart?
11 Dec 19442Lt William BatemanFrankfurt?
12 Dec 19442Lt Will CarterMerseburg?
15 Dec 19442Lt Will CarterKassel?
24 Dec 19442Lt Will CarterMerzhausen?
29 Dec 19442Lt Will CarterWittlich?
31 Dec 19442Lt Will CarterBitburg?
1 Jan 19451Lt Will CarterKassel?
3 Jan 19451Lt Will CarterCologne?
5 Jan 19451Lt Will CarterKoblenz?
6 Jan 19451Lt Will CarterCologne?
10 Jan 19451Lt Will CarterOstheim?
14 Jan 19451Lt Will CarterCologne?
17 Jan 19451Lt Will CarterPaderborn?
21 Jan 19451Lt Will CarterAschaffenburg?
22 Jan 19451Lt Mike BantaSterkrade?
28 Jan 19451Lt Will CarterCologne?
29 Jan 19452Lt Marvin Goldberg (324BS)Neiderlahnstein?
14 Feb 19451Lt E M GastonPrague?
3 Mar 19451Lt Lewis EllisChemnitz?
7 Mar 19452Lt Francis BreidenbachDortmund/Geissen?
8 Mar 19452Lt Donald RosselleHuls?
9 Mar 19452Lt Donald RosselleKassel?
10 Mar 19452Lt Marvin Goldberg (324BS)Sinsen?
12 Mar 19452Lt Francis BreidenbachDillenberg?
14 Mar 19452Lt Francis BreidenbachVltho?
15 Mar 19452Lt Francis BreidenbachOranienburg?
18 Mar 19452Lt Hollis ForbesBerlin?
19 Mar 19452Lt Harry Camp (324BS)Plauen?
23 Mar 19452Lt Francis BreidenbachCoesfeld?
24 Mar 19452Lt Francis BreidenbachVechta?
28 Mar 19452Lt Francis BreidenbachSpandau/Stendal?
31 Mar 19452Lt Francis BreidenbachHalle/Aschersleben?
4 Apr 19452Lt Edward FlandersFassberg?
5 Apr 19451Lt Delmore OlsonGrafenwohr?
9 Apr 19452Lt Francis BreidenbachOberpfaffenhofen?
10 Apr 19452Lt Francis BreidenbachOranienburg?
13 Apr 19452Lt Francis BreidenbachNeumunster?
15 Apr 19452Lt Francis BreidenbachBordeaux?
16 Apr 19452Lt Phillip MillerRegensburg?
18 Apr 19451Lt George ShoupRosenheim?
20 Apr 19452Lt William LockwoodBrandenburg?
21 Apr 19452Lt Jack WalkerPilsen?
8 May 19452Lt Francis BreidenbachReturn of RAF POWs?
8 Jun 19452Lt Francis BreidenbachReturn to USA10 crew + 10 passengers

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© Ray Bowden 17 July 2024