B-24 Spotted Ape Graphics Set

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B-24H-10-DT 41-28697 Z5 Z

Spotted Ape, Spotted Ass Ape, or Wonder Bread were but a few of the names for the 458th Bomb Group’s second assembly ship.  After “First Sergeant” was destroyed on May 27, 1944 in a flare accident on the runway, B-24H-10-DT 41-28697 Z5 P named Dixie Bell II was removed from combat operations after only eight missions with the 754th Squadron, and decorated in the same paint scheme as her predecessor.  All but one of the eight missions were flown by Lt Watson’s crew.  By a strange coincidence, Lt Watson was the assigned pilot on the day that First Sergeant went up in flames.

Spotted Ape had a long career in forming the 458th in the crowded skies above East Anglia on mission days.  With colored flares and a lighted fuselage, the 458th would form on this aircraft which could be easily spotted from far off.  After the group was in proper formation, the assembly ship with its scaled down crew would return to base, their job complete.

The crew would usually consist of a pilot, co-pilot, radio operator, and a flight engineer.  Records indicate no less than 59 pilots from all four squadrons drew assembly ship duty on Spotted Ape between May 1944 and March 1945.  Several times a command pilot from the group would also tag along either as co-pilot or observer.

Spotted Ape’s career as the group’s formator came to an end on March 9, 1945.  2Lt William B. Cheney, Jr., pilot, along with 2Lt Kenneth O. Gilbert as co-pilot were assigned to fly the ship that morning.  Landing upon their return to Horsham, the plane skidded off the runway and ended up on her belly.  The aircraft was written off as salvage.

The 458th put up only two more assembly aircraft on the remainder of their missions, one on March 12, 1945 and one on April 6th.